Jillian Lewis Proves There's Life After ‘Runway'

Look at that posture!

On last season's Project Runway, finalist Jillian Lewis’s feminine sportswear apparently wasn’t fierce enough to beat out Christian Siriano. But it did, thankfully, garner her enough attention to jump-start her career. This Sunday and Monday, she’ll be sitting in on the Guggenheim’s “Works and Process” series to speak about her costume design (we have sketches!) for choreographers Brian Reeder and Pam Tanowitz’s new work, A Two-Part Affair. Lewis chatted with us about life post-Runway (yes, it really does exist).

So how are the costumes coming along?
I’m like still in the beginning stages, it’s so last minute, it’s funny to talk about it while I’m still far from the end result! We’re full force working on it, but we just started yesterday. Hopefully it’ll be done by the night of the performance!

How did you get involved with Brian Reeder and Pam Tanowitz, the choreographers?
Actually, Brian and Pam were fans of the show. They contacted me through the Website. Then I met them, and they were really down-to-earth, really cool.

Do you have a dance background? I always noticed you had very good posture on Project Runway.
I have classical training as a dancer, I stopped when I was 17 and transitioned right away into becoming a fashion designer. It was like a choice between the two. I was really serious about it. I invested as much time into it as I do fashion.

What do you think of the current crop of Runway designers?
I watch every few episodes. It feels more like season one now, more experimental and less of a progression from the last season. I like Leanne. I think she has a lot of talent. She thinks about clothing more as an artist than a designer, and I really appreciate it. I really loved what she made for Diane Von Furstenberg — it seemed like she has experience when I saw that come out of her. I really think she’ll actually win.
(See the collections from this season's finalists.)

Is it easy or hard to move on to other things after the show?
It’s a little bit of both. It makes things easier in that people know who you are. If they’re a fan, they look for something you’ve done. I would never have gotten this project without Project Runway, and then with my private clients who I design dresses for, the same thing. On the other hand, you’re kind of tossed back into the world as if the eight months never happened. Financially it’s very difficult, and I think that’s why a lot of designers struggle. No one was joking when they said it takes money to make money.

Did you see Christian's runway show?
I saw it online, I didn’t see it in person because of my own deadlines. I thought it was fantastic. He really stepped up and did an amazing, real collection. I was truly impressed.

For showtimes and ticket info, go to Guggenheim.org.

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