Standing in front of a building just outside LA’s art district, I wondered what Project Runway contestant, Under the Gunn mentor and author of Passion for Fashion Nick Verreos would be like in person.
The feelings of nervousness began to mount when his co-author, David Paul, opened the door to let me in. There was the usual, casual chit chat, “How was the drive?”, “Where did you drive from?”, but all I was thinking was, “Please don’t let me embarrass myself in front of a Project Runway designer, who has dressed Katy Perry and Beyonce.”
I walked into a small room and there he was, sitting at his computer, dressed sharply in a colorful suit, which fans have come to expect from him. Verreos stood up and greeted me with an infectious amount of happiness, which instantly quelled most of my nerves. I was overcome with a sense of relief that he was as nice as I had hoped.
Now at ease, I looked around the room to take in my surroundings. I was standing in a room decorated by couture dresses and “looks” Verreos had completed or was working on. I have never in my life seen anything like it in person — the beautiful fabrics perfectly tailored … and to think, the man standing in front of me had sketched and crafted each of these looks. I was in awe.
Somehow I managed to regain my focus as we sat down and began the interview.
When I mentioned I was an English major, Verreos brought up that he struggled with his writing, because he himself was not an expert in grammar. He explained how he thought there were “grammar generals” reading his book, scouring it for errors, as they do online. Other than grammar, Verreos said he found difficulty in his book transitioning from one event to the next. His topics range from finding his love of fashion, going to fashion school and Project Runway.
Throughout his experiences Verreos said he wanted to achieve one thing: learn to teach. He believes he has the innate desire to teach and to help others due to his own personal experiences. When he was unsure of where to begin on his NIKOLAKI line, he asked other friends in the industry for help and soon realized he was on his own and did not want other designers to have to go through the same struggle.
This brought to mind a question I had about the fashion world ever since I first watched Project Runway: was the fashion industry really as cutthroat as they say? When I asked, Verreos said that “you have to carry flowers in one hand, and something sharp in the other.” He went on to explain that he got further in life by being nice, but that he also needed to put his guard up. “Be strong, realize who you are, and don’t forsake yourself. Just be aware.”
Verreos claims that the worst comment from a judge he ever received came from Michael Kors. Kors described the jacket from the complete suit he sent down the runway as “something from Golden Girls.” I couldn’t help but giggle as Verreos added in, “but I like Golden Girls.”
Verreos’ main goal was to make his mom and dad proud, but he worried that he had been an embarrassment while on the show. It took some time, six months to be exact, but once the show aired he realized he was completely fine.
It has become difficult for designers to have celebrities wear their gowns to events such as the Oscars because they usually go with big name brands like Valentino or Givenchy.
Verreos was the first Project Runway designer to dress an Academy Award winning actress at the Oscars. Verreos mentioned that Katy Perry and Heidi Klum were two of his favorite celebrities to dress, but the one that stood out to him was Academy Award winning actress for Child of a Lesser God, Marlee Matlin, the only deaf actress to ever win Best Actress in a Leading Role. Matlin’s gown was significant for him because she wore it to the 2008 Academy Awards and it was later featured in InStyle Magazine’s “Best Gowns of the 2008 Academy Awards” issue.
Verreos has come a long way since Project Runway even if he didn’t win. He is a fabulously successful fashion designer on the up with a book out and is even becoming an important part to the Project Runway brand, recapping each episode for the series. Verreos continues to take any opportunity to help others and achieve his goal, even reminding me that it is important not to take learning opportunities for granted.