Rogers City native Melissa Fleis survived the first challenge of “Project Runway All-Stars” as the show debuted last week. Designing a punk outfit featuring a white leather jacket and a blue dress, Fleis advanced to the second episode of the show.
She answered questions from Advance publisher Richard Lamb about the first episode.
1. What was your feeling coming into this, knowing the caliber of the other designers, including three former winners? Did you feel more pressure the second time around or was it easier (speaking of the first challenge only) knowing how things worked?
I felt just as nervous going into All Stars as I did going into Project Runway Season 10. I had a better sense of how things worked from my time on Season 10 – however, I knew that this time the bar would be raised even higher. I knew that I would definitely be facing some familiar faces, and that would be a battle within itself. I felt more pressure in the sense that I knew I had to really step outside of my comfort zone as a designer, yet still stay true to my aesthetic. All of the contestants are All Stars in their own right, and are each extremely talented in their own way. I knew what I was getting myself into would not be easy!
2. The punk look seemed like it came right in your wheelhouse, to use a baseball term. Did that seem like a good way to start the show for you?
I was ecstatic when Alyssa Milano announced the punk challenge! I thought to myself, “Now this is something I know how to do. Is this too good to be true?”
3. You commented at one point on the lack of time to complete the job, yet the part you said you felt worse about, the dress, drew compliments. Going into the competition, did you have a plan for working faster?
Time management was a crucial element for me on Season 10, and it definitely affected my final look for the punk challenge. However, I still feel the look I created was in true punk rock form. I didn’t feel bad about my dress, but of course, there are always a few elements I would have changed if I had more time. I am used to taking my time with my custom pieces, and when I’m in the zone, it’s easy to lose track of my minutes! I had to be working as fast as I could just to keep up with some of the designers who’ve been sewing a lot longer than me!
4. When you were asked to return to all-stars, how did you feel? You told me–and a questioner at the chamber event last year–you would not hesitate to return. You must have felt leaving your business for the time it took to film the show was worth it, right?
I definitely had to take the time to think it through! I had just launched my brand, and the harsh realization that I would have to do this all over again, and right now – rather than two or three years in the future, was not exactly a cut and dry decision for me. I decided that there would likely never be an “easier” time for me to do the show, and made the call.
In the end it’s all worth it to me, and my biggest wish is to see my brand succeed. Project Runway has been influential in catapulting my brand to amazing heights in such a short timeframe – and I’m very thankful for that. I do know that I was put on this earth to design, and that’s what I’m going to do!