Project Runway’s Chloe Dao: Where is She Now?

by | August 20, 2009 at 5:29 AM | Project Runway: Where Are They Now, Where Are They Now

Chloe Dao in 2007 (Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

Chloe Dao in 2007 (Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

It’s been nearly four years since Chloe Dao won Season Two of Project Runway back in 2005. Find out what she’s up to now, and why she turned down the All-Star Challenge.

Name: Chloe Dao

Age: 37

How You Know Her: Dao won season two of Project Runway, the first woman to do so, following Jay McCarroll’s win season one. She showed an impressive collection of chic evening wear during the finale at Olympus Fashion Week taking home $100,000, a Saturn Sky Roadster, a spread in Elle Magazine, and a mentorship from Banana Republic beating out fashion prodigy Daniel Vosovic and loud mouth Santino Rice. “I think a month or two after was the craziest time of my life, but the day after they announced my win was the longest interview day of my life from 6 AM to 7 PM so I can’t imagine how the American Idol people do it! Lord have mercy!” she recalled. “It was constant traveling and constant opportunities coming and you don’t know which ones to filter out and mainly there was a lot of press. Now, it’s been three years, it’s amazing, I’m still shocked at how much press we do.”

Where She’s Been: After winning Runway, Dao headed back to her hometown in Houston Texas, where she runs her high-end boutique, Lot 8. Since winning, Dao has focused on expanding the Lot 8 brand, which includes a salon, and a wholesale line, DAO Chloe Dao, but also made time for some more high profile endeavors. In 2007 her designs were featured in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum, and she served as a national spokeswoman for Dove. She’s since launched a collection for QVC called, “Simply. Chloe Dao.” “Sizes at QVC range from an XS to a 3X and the typical customer is female age 45-60something, but I was actually the first contemporary designer brought in two years ago, and now we’re getting girls in their twenties and thirties because the style I use is cute and contemporary and it’s about fashion that fits a lot of people,” she said. “For my store, Lot 8, we only do sizes 0-12, and I do a lot of backless and sleeveless detail, but on QVC I really can’t do that, so there’s a huge, huge difference. With my stuff in the store, there’s nothing much below $100 besides a line of T-Shirts and with QVC everything is under $100. It’s really, really nice to do be able to do QVC and reach a much bigger range of customers.”

Did You Know: That the store name “Lot 8″ is named after Dao’s and her seven sisters? The eight siblings emigrated to the US with their parents from Laos in 1979 and call Houston home. So did Dao ever consider relocating away to New York or LA after winning? “Nope,” she told us. ” I had done 8 years in New York City and it wasn’t a smart move for me to move there [after the show] because I know what it takes to be successful there and it takes a lot of money and $100,000 doesn’t go anywhere. I had a very successful business already in Texas and I go to New York almost every two weeks now anyway for QVC. Even now Tim Gunn says that was a really smart move to come back to Houston. There are moments where I wish I was in New York so people could see me and know I’m still alive, but at the end of the day, I can be in that world anytime I want, I just need to fly up there. But it’s nice to have the opportunity to step away from it and not always be in it too.”

Project Runway Powerhouse: Dao won challenges in the second and tenth episodes, and placed in the top three for the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth shows. But it wasn’t until the 13th challenge curveball thrown in during the finale that really made Dao question her surroundings. “We all felt like, holy crap, they screwed us over with the 13th challenge. That was the only time we felt like characters in a scripted play. We were pretty much thrown to the lions for the amount of work we had to achieve in two days. I think that was the only time we felt like it was about creating drama and seeing how much we could handle. But it made good television, and honestly, it made us better designers because we had to step it up and do the impossible. And guess what – we did it!”

Why She Turned Down the All-Star Challenge: “I was considering it; I was asked, but my schedule was too much of a conflict and I couldn’t do it. To be gone for all of my projects for even a week would just be too insane. But the pressure of coming back and living it all over again was freaking me out too much. But I would have done it if it was for charity because I think coming back and competing for cash again would be too insane. Doing it for charity would have been so much fun and much less pressure.”
Is She the Next Great American Designer?: “I think you can’t win a show and be the next great American designer. I think it takes a lot of hard work and takes 25-30 years to win that title, if you can survive fashion that long. I just don’t think winning this show makes you the next great American designer even though that’s what the title of the show bestows on you. In reality, you just won Project Runway, you haven’t conquered the industry yet. I love Project Runway and it’s given me so much opportunity but at the end of the day it takes making the industry your life over many, many years to earn that title.”
What’s Next: “My biggest project right is probably my QVC line for spring 2010. It’s exciting and we’re actually doing a QVC live show from the tents of Fashion Week so I’m doing that on September 12th. I’m also working on production for fall 2009, and I’m doing a mini fashion show in October at the Four Seasons in Houston for the Dress for Success charity event. And I’m doing all of this at the same time!” She’s also partnered with Nuo Technology to create a line of laptop cases that are now sold nationwide at retailers such as Target and Office Depot – “it’s doing very well,” she says – and is now focusing on expanding her brand into more stores, salons, and wholesale work. “My goal is to open up more stores and build up my wholesale business. We have the salon, which my sister runs, which is really easy one stop shopping and they’re both so close you can walk between the store and the salon.”