Designer Christian Siriano has put some pretty big names on the best-dressed list. But it’s his fashions for women of all shapes, shades and sizes that give him a unique style. Serena Altschul has more:
When it comes to fashion, one name that’s trending is Christian Siriano. And with awards season in full swing, the 31-year-old is starting to feel the pressure.
“It is a big moment,” he said of the Oscars red carpet. “Because so many people watch and so many people judge. There’s a lot of red carpet commentary, some unwanted!”
Judging from this year’s Golden Globe Awards, where three stars (Angela Bassett, Rachel Bloom and Issa Rae) wore his designs, and the Emmys, where he dressed nine, his clothes are wearing well.
“So that’s a record then?” Altschul asked.
“I don’t even know if it was a record, but it was quite a lot!” he laughed.
Siriano’s client list is impressive. It includes a galaxy of stars, some of whom may shine at tonight’s Academy Awards. But when asked to share who might be wearing Siriano tonight, he demurred. “I can’t, because I don’t know!”But he does know fashion. Siriano recently revealed his fall line during New York Fashion Week. The theme was “The Desert,” and backstage he was surprisingly cool.
“I try to be a little Zen. I really can’t stress myself out so much. But that five minutes before, when we’re really, like, getting dressed and ready, that’s when it’s scary.”
Fashion is a high-stakes business, but Siriano is willing to take risks. Take a close look at the runway models: they are all shapes, shades and sizes, and it’s all by design.
“I don’t care what size they are, I don’t care where they’re from. I just want them to feel good in what we’re creating for them,” he said.
That attitude is what brought Siriano to fashion in the first place. Born in Annapolis, Md., he was 13 when he started designing clothes, inspired by his size 16 mother and size 2 sister.
“I had every color, ethnicity, every size, every person around me. So it just wasn’t different. I think that that’s what I’m trying to get people used to, that it should just be the norm. It doesn’t have to be, like, a topic.”
Siriano’s creativity was encouraged by his parents, and in 2004 he moved to London where he interned with celebrated designers Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen.
But when Siriano returned home, he struggled to find work, until he auditioned for the fashion competition show, “Project Runway.”
His highly-theatrical approach to clothing earned him a lot of attention. He became the show’s youngest winner, an experience he looks back on with mixed emotions. “That’s like an actress who can’t stand to be known for a film that she did her whole career, you know? That can be frustrating. But I definitely think now I probably wouldn’t do it.”
“But you wouldn’t be where you are,” Altschul said.
“I definitely would be in a different place than I am now.”
Siriano has had his hits and (some think) misses, like this dress worn by actress Christina Hendricks at the 2010 Golden Globes (left).
“We got a lot of hate on that dress. Tons of hate. People hated it! [Someone] said, ‘Don’t put a big girl in a big dress.’”
But it meant the world to him last summer when Michelle Obama appeared at the Democratic National Convention clad in a classic blue dress he designed. “I’m okay with saying that that definitely changed my career.”
Emboldened by success, Siriano willingly broke the high-fashion mold by dressing “Saturday Night Live” actress Leslie Jones, for her 2016 “Ghostbusters” premiere, after her tweet revealed that other designers declined.
And he capped the year off with his marriage to singer-songwriter Brad Walsh.
On the red carpet, the runway, or anywhere, Christian Siriano has made his mark as a designer for every body, like it or not.
Altschul asked, “So when people say, ‘Oh, how could you do that?,’ of course you’re going to take it personally?”
“Yeah. You take it really personally. But then you do it again!” he laughed. “My always thing is, if I waited around for certain people to come around and support [me], I’d still be waiting.”