project runway spotlight: sarah donofrio

Libby

Season 15 of Project Runway premieres tonight and we had a chance to sit down with girlboss and portland-competitor, Sarah Donofrio. Not only is Sarah an incredibly creative designer, but she’s also a music enthusiast who spins vinyl at night clubs (though not lately) and plays indie tunes for OPB music.

LB: What inspired you to begin designing clothes?

SD: I became interested in fashion from a young age. Early on in life I began collecting records and was extremely influenced by music. I was in a band and would listen to Scott Walker while cutting up band t-shirts and music really began to inspire my designs. I loved The Smiths, ABC, The Cure… alot of post-punk, new wave and pop. I also admired Madonna’s clothing designer, which got me to thinking, “how can I do this?”

Given my love for music and my obsession with the new romantic period of the 80s, I responded to this thought by starting my line, One Imaginary Girl, inspired by The Cure and their song, Three Imaginary Boys.

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LB: You’re competing on Season 15 of Project Runway. What encouraged you to pursue this opportunity? What are you most looking forward to about the experience?

SD: I’ve been watching the show since it aired and had thought about applying, and then finally I said, “Fuck it. Let’s just do it.”

Being on the show, I really enjoyed the challenges and the work I got to do. It was inspiring to see what everyone else did with their ideas, using leather, animals, denim, etc. Also, Tim Gunn gave really great advice that was applicable. All in all, I learned that I’m an amazing designer, not a TV star.

They applauded my energy and described my work as being really commercial, like Equipment or Kate Spade. So, I decided not to focus on sell-ability and to focus instead on the quality of my ideas, and I made a dress entirely out of records. I really learned to take risks, even stupid things, to put yourself out there and don’t worry about what people think. 

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LB: What are your all-time favorite fashion trends?

SD: Everything from the 80s: the boxy blazers, strong silhouettes, nipped waist, the textures, the bold risk-taking prints and high-waisted denim. I also like the 90s take on the 60s. I was 13-14 at the time and loved mod dresses. You also can’t deny the antithesis of norm core aka Kanye West.

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LB: Where do you get inspiration?

SD: Music, pieces that my friends wear that they feel confident in, taking risks with colors and the Memphis Milano movement of the 80s. I really love art, specifically Gilbert and George and other British artists. I’m also inspired by Damien Hirst – his Saatchi collection, use of color, crystal skulls, and his wall of cigarette butts and pills. I’m mesmerized by intricacies like that. 

LB: What can you tell us about your line, One Imaginary Girl?

SD: One Imaginary Girl emerged from the practice of thinking outside the box. I design my own prints and use vintage fabrics to create interesting silhouettes. For my spring 2017 collection, I wanted to integrate inspiration from women role models of the 80s, such as Dale Bozzio, Les Rita Mitsouko + Debbie Harry. You can expect to see jumpsuits, polka dots, bright colors, neon geometrics, and things I used to be shy about doing. 

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LB: Why do you think fashion is important?

SD: Because it gives people confidence and shows their individuality. You can go to HM and buy a shirt, or you can go to a vintage shop and get a Karl Lagerfield dress and that really speaks to you and in turn you speak to other people. Showing people your personal style intrigues people. Putting on something that’s unique to you shows you have personal style and then people want to get to know your personality.

LB: Tell me more about your passion for music. In what way does your taste in music inspire your designs?

SD: My dad had records and saw The Beatles 6 times, and he really inspired me. At age 14, I loved British pop and found blur and pulp to be super influential. America was about grunge, but British musicians were wearing suits or track jackets or polos and girls were wearing mod dresses.

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LB: Favorite album to listen to on vinyl?

SD: Primary Colours by The Horrors because it’s appropriate for anytime of day and appeals to lots of different moods. I also love The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths. 

LB: What can you tell us about this dress made of records?

When I was applying for Project Runway, I considered what types of challenges I might be up against and I realized my dream challenge would be related to records. And then it occurred to me, “What if I made a dress out of records?”

So, I smashed up old records and reconstructed them in to a dress, and I’m making a skirt as well. People don’t know it’s records until they look super close, but I’m interested to see who the customer will be. 

Be sure to watch Sarah on this season of Project Runway! Sarah- best of luck from the V+V team.

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