Melissa Fleis, a contestant on Lifetime television’s “Project Runway” answered a few questions from Advance editor Richard Lamb about the latest episode of the reality show. Rogers City’s favorite fashion designer made the top seven last week, as one designer is eliminated each week.
ADVANCE-How did your mother’s arrival affect your thought process? And having her look over your shoulder? Knowing your dad, bet he would be a good designer of patterns.
MELISSA-At this point in the competition, everyone’s emotions are running really high. By now, it’s the second phase in the competition – and for me, the place where the stress first started to really show itself. As soon as I saw my mom I couldn’t stop crying. It had been almost a year and a half since I last saw her, so I was completely overwhelmed with joy. My mom has never seen me actually design or sew, and all I could think was that I really wanted her to love everything I was designing. And we cannot forget my dad too! Seeing them was a bit of a distraction, but it was a good distraction. It really reminded me of how grateful I am for my family, and how far we all have come. I mean, from the small town of Rogers City, to this? Who would have imagined it? My dad definitely has an eye for patterns…maybe I should let him create a few for me!
ADVANCE-Have you ever designed a fabric pattern and had it produced to use in a garment? Is that something you did before in design school or in your business?
MELISSA-I studied Textile Design when I was at the Academy of Art University. However, the textiles I created were merely swatches for ideas of what an entire garment would like. I had never physically created an entire garment out of one of my textiles. I love to draw though, so I just designed a pattern that would translate well with my own work.
ADVANCE-How was it different in the workroom this week with the challenge and only eight designers left? A bit quieter making it easier to work or is the pressure mounting because it is so quiet?
MELISSA-Even though there were only eight designers left, there is still enough personality to fill the entire work room! There was definitely more space to work, and more sewing machines available. We were all still in this competition to win it, so that pressure never left the room. Knowing that we were the final eight was an incredible feeling. You could cut the intensity in the workroom with a knife!
ADVANCE-The judges say you stretched yourself as a designer with the color and style of your design. Did you feel that way too and how do you feel about the results?
MELISSA-I just about died when Michael Kors said, “Who knew you could do Park Avenue!” I knew in my heart that I had definitely stretched myself as a designer, and I really tried to think outside my comfort zone. I also was really thinking about my family, which is so important to me. This was a heritage challenge, and my mind never lost sight of that. The color and style was something very new to me, and something I dedicated to my family. I was very surprised at the results! I really didn’t know if I was going to be on top at all. When I was, all I could think about was winning. This was a textile challenge, and I thought myself, and Sonjia really expressed that to the fullest extent.
(The complete story about this episode is in the print version of the Advance, September 20, 2012.)