Ha! We knew all along that Selden’s Jillian Lewis would make the finals and on Wednesday night’s 11th episode of Project Runway, she easily clinched her spot, making us, and all of Long Island pretty darn proud.
So, what’s going on in Miss Thang’s head these days? Jillian takes a moment to give Newsday fashion writer Anne Bratskeir all the fashion 411.
AB: Woo-hoo!! You did it. You’re a finalist. How did you feel when you nailed it?
JL: It was so exciting. I’ve known for awhile, and it was hard not to be able shout it out to the world. For me it was a huge feat to make it to that point. I felt bad for Sweet P, though so I tried to be supportive.
AB: Guest judge, Roberto Cavalli, said he’d like to hire you. What do you think of that?
JL: It was the ultimate moment for me. I’ve worn a couple of Cavalli outfits while I’m on the show. He’s a big person in this industry and it was really cool. For me it was something I was really proud of.
AB: You did this little dance number with Christian behind the screen when you clinched it, but earlier in the show you wanted to kill him. What’s up with you and him?
JL: We’re like brother and sister, I love him. I told him during that show, “I don’t need you to monitor my progress.” I was really bitchy. He was like, “Ew, don’t be bitchy.” But they didn’t show the part where we kissed and hugged and made up. Sometimes I love him, and sometimes he’s just so annoying.
AB: Do you think the judges diminished the title at all by tying Rami and Chris and having four finalists instead of three?
JL: For me and Christian, we were really proud, because we felt like we were the final two. I hate to say it, but I was just glad not to be in that position of making a final collection and then not getting to show it. It was really a great privilege to be the only two that the judges confirmed.
AB: Did you have a victory party?
JL: Can I be honest? Because of the lack of sleep, I came home and had to recover. I’ve spent 14 hours a night sleeping for this whole week. I really needed to go out, and I missed it, so I watched it at 1 in the morning. I went to this folk-singing event, and people were like, “Oh my god, aren’t you from Project Runway? What are you doing here?
AB: We saw your collection during Fashion Week at Bryant Park. We think you had a very specific point of view. Tell us, who’s your customer?
JL: I kind of design for myself. Lauren Browne, my model is my first muse, other than myself. It came out to be a very wearable collection. It’s definitely for the fashion conscious person, someone who enjoys fashion and dressing up, someone who has the guts to wear it, and is urban or urban conscious.
AB: What was your concept?
JL: I was inspired by European armor, extending off the last challenge. I was so inspired by the experience of being in the Metropolitan Museum. Although they just showed one part, there was a lot of information in that painting to go by. I didn’t want to give up on it because I thought it had so much potential, and there’s so much interest in armor. It’s functional and beautiful.
AB: What was your favorite look in your collection? And your least favorite?
JL: I love the little dress with the silverish/bluish border and the pleated shorts and pleated pants. I was concerned about the black and white sweater with the fluffy sleeves, and that it didn’t fit with everything. At the time I thought it was weak but in the end it was my favorite.
AB: Did you plan to skip down the runway at the finale taping?
JL: Actually, I couldn’t keep up with Lauren, my model. My legs are short and she just was taking these huge strides with her enormous, long legs, and then I was like OK and started skipping to keep up with her.
AB: Did you make that cute little strapless sweater dress you wore that day? We want it and we think our readers would like it too.
JL: I have to say wearing that was one of the smartest things I did. My boyfriend [Lewaa Abdulkhalek], left his job, and now we’re business partners and that was one of the pieces we designed. I had the producer saying his wife wants one. It was inspired by a poncho that I had worn. It’s made of extra fine Merino wool in ivory and it will be in stores under the Jillian Lewis label in August. I kind of assume it will be around $498, accessible but a little expensive.
AB: Who do you think is your biggest competitor?
JL: In this case, I shift back and forth. I think Rami is amazing, breathtaking and solid and Christian is great. We all have different strengths.
AB: Is your life much different than it was before you started this whole journey?
JL: It is. I think there are good things I’ve taken out of it other than my fashion career. I’ve become more comfortable with myself which you’ll see when you see the last few episodes. When I showed up I could not have been more terrified. I am shy, and I’ve finally overcome this little battle I’ve had with myself, when I have to stand up and say something and present myself to the judges. It was a battle for myself, a personal thing I’ve gone through. Win or not, this whole experience was what my career needed. I didn’t want to be another name or tag in a store that no one cares about. I’ve got the momentum, and got the product. The only regret that I have is that I wish I was more pleasant on the show. My personality couldn’t shine.
AB: Do you think you and any of the other contestants will be friends for life?
JL: I think that Rami will be my friend for life, absolutely. And my model Lauren. And Christian, I’ve grown to love the kid, and I think he loves me. We’re like brother and sister and keep scratching at it.
AB: Do you think you’ll win the whole shebang?
JL: I was really confident. If you believe so much in what you’re doing, you feel like the whole competition belongs to you. It’s your baby, and you will always think that your baby is the most beautiful one, even if it’s not.
AB: Sorry to lead you into this but didn’t you think Newsday’s coverage of your whole deal was excellent?
JL: I think you guys really went above and beyond. My mom and dad love your stuff and you should come have dinner with my family sometime.
AB: On our reader poll as to whose collection was better, Long Islanders had you beating out Christian. Aren’t LIers are the best?
JL: Yeah -- shout out! Because of the great reaction and support of the people here, I want to make sure my clothing gets in the stores on Long Island. We really appreciate the interest and support. So many people I went to school with, I danced with have been in touch. This is really close to my heart.
– Anne Bratskeir