He was the first winner of Project Runway, pinning the new reality show on the map with his outrageous style, personality and talent. What has he been up to since his win?
Name: Jay McCarroll
Where We Met: He was the Project Runway pioneer, who not only appeared on the debut season, but took home the win of top designer. He was loud, flamboyant, outspoken, and always hilarious – the original “Santino” or “Christian” who set a high bar for all designers to come. “I was running a vintage clothing store and summer is slow in the retail world and I thought I’ll do this show for the summer; I’m made for television, I have an opinion and a personality, and I’m just gonna do this f***ing show. And it seemed fun and I was excited to be in New York for a month and not have to pay for anything, and eat good food, and hang out with people, and do the work. And there were no expectations because it could have been the sh***iest show on television and if you break it down, you have all these freaks, and then you have Heidi Klum, who people only sorta knew, and you have this alien man, Tim Gunn, who no one knows, and it could have been the freakiest s**t on planet Earth. It was just a lot of fun. We filmed the whole show in 3 weeks and you were really forced to be motivated on camera or else look like lazy f**k.” He also famously turned down the prize winnings of $100,000 and a Banana Republic mentorship after learning that accepting it would forever give the Weinstein Company (one of the show’s production companies) a ten percent stake in his brand. “I would make that decision one billion more times,” he said. “I have no regrets about that. I could go to Atlantic City and f***ing piss away $100,000 in a weekend. If it’s a million I might have some trepidation, but $100,000, f**k that, I could blow that so fast.” We told you he was outspoken. The Weinstein Company has since dropped the clause from their contracts.
“I like clothes but I don’t like playing games, and I find that fashion is kind of like that movie Heathers and I don’t feel like being a Heather. I’m much more like that fat girl who wants to blow up the school. Wait, that’s Christian Slater.”
Where He’s Been: McCarroll now runs his own brand, The Colony, via his website, JayMcCarroll.com, which he envisions as a one stop shop housing his work alongside other like-minded designers. “I just kind of wanted to start selling other people’s things because I like many other people’s work. All of my stuff is on my website which is a really great place to be right now in this economy because we don’t have a lot of overhead so my business partner and I just make whatever we want, and do whatever we think we want to do, and pump it out fast to people all over the world, where as a brick and mortar shop in the city would make it hard for people from, say, Greece, to order things. The idea of The Colony is just having a unified group of people either supporting it, or buying or selling; it’s this whole kind of beehive mentality, because it is collaborative. I’m also going to be starting my fabric line soon within the next couple weeks and my second line comes out in August, and I’m working on my third line now. I’m kind of really liking that because I think fashion sucks a little bit now. I like clothes but I don’t like playing games, and I find that fashion is kind of like that movie Heathers and I don’t feel like being a Heather. I’m much more like that fat girl who wants to blow up the school. Wait, that’s Christian Slater. I’m much more Christian Slater, or the fat girl, but I’m definitely not Shannen Doherty.”
Life Post Runway: “It’s not very different now. Right after the show it was. I was living in the country at my parent’s house and then I was kind of splashed all over television and moved to New York and went to like, 9 million parties and met all sorts of f***ing people. But I’m really kind of back to where I was before the show started, but a lot wiser, and I’ve been pretty aware of not letting the whole experience take over my life. I did get offers for a lot opportunities for things I don’t feel comfortable doing, i.e., commentary, I’m not interested in doing any of that stuff, and I’d rather just be an artist again on a lower level. I just think all the fame and fake bulls**t was too much for me to handle. I still support the show. So many people think I’m bitter but I had a fabulous time making the show. The aftermath has just been tricky, but that’s life.”
How the Show has Changed: “I think every season has had a different vibe. Season one was really, really magical. Austin Scarlett, and the Wendy Pepper character, and Kara Saun, and the whole gang filming it, it was very new, no one knew what it was, it wasn’t on TV, there was no formula. And I think subsequently, as the seasons progressed, it’s become more savvy and chic. You know, Tim Gunn is on a tie commercial, and Heidi Klum is selling everything to diarrhea. So it’s just become really savvy. And I’m actually liking what Lifetime is doing, it looks like they’re taking it to a more personal level, and I’m loving the commercials. It seems they’ve made it more about people, and reality, and these are designers, who all have stories, and families, and all struggle, and I think that’s really nice. I feel like with the current climate of Bravo’s programming right now of Real Housewives, Miami Social, NYC Prep, it would have been a joke. I’m actually supportive of the move. It just got too big, I think. And it is that big still, obviously, but I hope some of the magic gets injected back into it with this move.”
“I don’t think [Christian Siriano will] ever be taken seriously in the fashion world ever. I know a lot of fashion insiders, that when they see him at parties, are repulsed.”
On Christian Siriano: “I don’t think he’ll ever be taken seriously in the fashion world ever. I know a lot of fashion insiders, that when they see him at parties, are repulsed. Christian Siriano wants to sell $2500 blouses and that’s absolutely positively not my market, and I don’t want it to be. Plus I don’t like shiny shit like that. [He became] a characterization of what fashion designers are, and there’s kind of misconstrued notion that we’re all actors and that we can act and easily be thrown into Ugly Betty and memorize scripts and s**t. I think for someone like Christian Siriano, he’s young, and it’s very alluring to him. It’s a lot of hard work and I think he has a definite passion for fashion and his particular aesthetic, but I also feel like the climate was much different for him than it was for me. By the time it hit season four, they really needed to get a personality. And I remember sitting in the audience at the season 4 finale and seeing Rami Kashou’s work come down the runway, and all the designers sitting together were like, ‘wow, that is beautiful work.‘ And Christian’s came down and it made a statement, but we all collectively thought Rami should win. But it is reality television and I think Christian was maybe a little more marketable for them. You can’t forget it’s reality television at the end of the day.”
He’s Not Just a Contestant – He’s also a Fan!: “F**k yes! I’m a reality television junkie, and I’m not an elitist, and I love that f***ing s**t and I watch it over and over. Every single person that was on it has talent or else they wouldn’t be there. I think there are different degrees and levels of talent and fashion is objective; there’s no one who can say that pant is wrong. But I wish Michael Kors would just stand up and say, ‘hey, listen people, this show’s only been on air for five years, it takes time.’ I don’t know how long it took him, but he had a label for 15, 20 years, before he was on Project Runway. It took Project Runway to get my mother in middle america to know who the f**k Michael Kors is. It exposes designers for their product and they’re otherwise unknown and I’m really happy designers get to show their work.
“I’m just at the point where I don’t give a f**k about what anyone thinks about what I’m doing with my life.”
He’s More Than Just That Guy Who Won Project Runway: My problem is I was outed on national television for being a fashion designer, so that’s something I’m interested in, but I’m also interested in organic gardening, and doing interior projects, and I feel like I’ve been pigeonholed into, ‘Oh! You’re doing this, and you haven’t shown at fashion week 1900 times, and you’re not selling at Bloomingdales, then you’re a failure!” And I’m just at the point where I don’t give a f**k about what anyone thinks about what I’m doing with my life.
Don’t Ask Him to Critique Your Closet: [I've been] asked to do 19,000 makeover shows, red carpet things, or look in my f***ing closet, I don’t give a s**t, that’s Tim Gunn’s show, that’s not my show, I would never do a show like that. I think if you want to wear a greek mumu with a f***ing yellow shoe I don’t give a f**k. Wear what you want to wear. We’ve all been pigeonholed to be in this position where we’re experts at style, and some people are, but how dare you tell me, because sometimes I dress like f***ing Claire Huxtable and look like an old African woman, who’s to tell me a 34 year old man is not supposed to wear African jewelry. Go f**k yourself.
Or Call Him a Fame-Whore: “I worked on Project Jay for Bravo and they weren’t able to get in as much as we wanted to in that one teeny weeny episode, so they said if you ever do a show in New York Fashion Week we’d love to film that process. They kind of low budget loosely followed me around for year and half and made it into [the documentary] Eleven Minutes. Everybody thinks they know who I am, that big fat obnoxious fame-whore Jay McCarroll. But for me, after Project Runway, everyone thought I could just make dresses in a day and a half, and there are months of preparation that go into putting a line of clothes out and getting it in stores and showing at fashion week. So I just wanted to show the whole process on what that takes and everything that goes into it and it will be on DVD this winter. I would love to do another docu-series like that because I’m best when I’m filmed in my own element. I’m not a fame-whore, I just like to show people what goes into things. Because of Project Runway, there’s a whole generation of girls who think they can be a fashion designer now, and I’ve met them because I was a college professor [at Philadelphia University], and I think because of that show, everybody thinks fashion is easy and it’s really not. And it’s very selective and a tough, tough industry.
Intimidation Factor: “It’s like summer camp, you grow up and move on, and don’t necessarily talk to everybody. I’ve heard several times through the grapevine that people are scared of me and thought I was such a d**k and a scary person to talk to, and I’m intimidating, and I don’t get it. I’ve read about the all star challenge, but putting me in a room with Santino, I think the walls would just fucking explode. Thank God I’m not doing that show.”