I’m so upset you couldn’t make it to lunch! I was so looking forward to meet you. You are my favorite people. Thank you for everything. You two are amazing. Every time my husband is reading your blog to me, because I don’t have time to read it, you know, I’m always touched by the things you guys and your readers write about me. You guys have an amazing following; your readers are so into Project Runway. It’s fantastic.
Hi Gordana, how are you, darling?
Well, thank you so much. They all love YOU. Did you watch the last episode? Was it hard?
Of course it was hard even though I knew what the outcome would be and I knew when I was doing that challenge what the outcome would be. You know what? What I’m proud of is that I walked away not being ashamed of anything that I had done; I’m proud of who I am as a human being and I never gave them a chance to represent me anything else other than what I am. I am proud of the fact that I was able to reach so many people, which was my goal in the first place. If I had shown on Project Runway when I was growing up, it would have made such a difference in my life; it would have given me the wings to fly. I have received emails from kids all over the world saying just that to me. It’s the biggest gift that Project Runway has given to me.
Speaking of growing up, it was very touching to hear you talk about your humble upbringing on the show.
My parents are survivor children from WWII and their motto is, "If you have land, that means you can survive." I don’t know how God or the universe, whatever you want to call it, misplaced me to be born in a village where people only care about corn and potatoes. I’m the skinniest kid ever dreaming about the bigger world; dreaming about fashion. Not to mention that I didn’t have any resources, nothing. I’m grabbing the scissors and just cutting anything I can possibly cut. As I said in the last episode, I was using onion peels to dye whatever it is that I had like my dad’s old shirts. I was using berries and beets and all kinds of stuff.
To be able to make it to Project Runway in the first place, I always had to remind myself where I came from and that somehow I made it to that stage. It doesn’t matter, all the criticism, I made it. And my mom was burning my clothes when I would make something because it was so out of the norm. I really feel like I had created my role in my childhood and it was in my dreams. In my mind, I knew there was a bigger world out there and I wanted to taste that so I ran away from it.
It is an achievement to make it on the show and to make it this far, no doubt about it.
Absolutely! It’s also human nature, you know, you become kind of greedy when you make it so far. First you’re like “Oh my God, if I make top six how challenging it is,” then you get to top six and you’re like “Hmm.”
I don’t know, even if they didn’t put me in the top three, which I understand, whatever, I kind of saw who the favorites were in the beginning. In the middle of the show, I already knew that there was no way they were going to give me that opportunity, but I still kept on going, and what helped me was that in that last challenge, I completely disregarded the judges and I said, “OK, I’m going to create something for me and my family and friends." I kept thinking about the cathedral and what that represents to a lot of people. It's a place of hope, some kind of salvation. It really gave me such a great opportunity to create my vision. The angel, that was what I wanted to create.
The funny thing is that they never showed me making the dress. You don’t just buy fabric like that. I bought flat organza, I was working on connecting the colors and layering them over to make them look like the same colors of the painting, to use brush strokes in a way. I textured the fabric, heating it up and drying it. I used a spray bottle with water to mold it so that the strokes would look equal. They never showed any of that. And the outfit that I was wearing, I actually made it that same day. I made the dress and the outfit I was wearing.
Many or our readers feel that Heidi had a problem with you, that she never really warmed up to you. Do you agree with them?
I kind of felt the same way and I’m not trying to make excuses by any means. I don’t know if it was the fact that I’m European and she was making sure that the viewers didn’t think that she was showing any favoritism or maybe she didn’t like the fact that I was older. I don’t know. When I did my paper challenge and the costume challenge and they put me on the bottom and they didn’t really know what they were criticizing me about and that was kind of weird to me. I love to watch So You Think You Can Dance and when I see the judges criticizing the contestants with such respect, so constructively. So kind. It put me to tears. Why can we not have the same respect?
I’m not making excuses. I admit when I’m doing something wrong. I remember for the Cristina Aguilera challenge I was very sick. The reason why I broke down is because I was already starting to feel that I wasn’t feeling well, my nose was bleeding, I was getting a fever, you know, when your system goes down, then I’m crying for my family. You have to understand, and you two know that, they are filming every day. You watch it once a week, but for us it’s every day and thank God I had immunity and that I was still able to create anything to send down the runway. Anything.
I was really lucky that I won the previous challenge and that I was safe. When Heidi said that Irina was safe and that she had done a good job and then when she came to me and all that criticism that she gave me, I was like, “OK, as long as I can just get off the stage go lay down, that’s all that I care.” But then when I watched the episode at home and saw the closeup of Heidi’s face, it was almost like of hate, disgust or something. It really affected me and shook me to a point that I couldn’t sleep that night. OK, I didn’t create a great dress, so what? It’s not the first time in Project Runway’s history that somebody has created something bad. It was really a tough pill to swallow.
How was it watching the episodes at home and seeing the other designers talk about each other in the confessionals? Was it tough to hear or did you just brush it off?
You know, in the beginning, designers were coming up to me in the workroom and saying, "That's stunning," and then I'm in the bottom three a couple of times and then maybe they think, "Oh, the judges don't like her," and they don't want to look bad, so... I just brushed it off. I have proven to myself that I have survived for the past ten years, I’m actually living a pretty good life off of my designs and off what I’m doing. Maybe the others think that I am not talented but the rest of America thinks differently otherwise people wouldn’t be buying my clothes.
You have two stores, right?
Yes, I have one in Charleston, South Carolina and I moved actually, when we filmed the show I never left California, I opened a store in San Diego.
How are the stores doing?
They’re doing fine. The one in San Diego, I’m trying to get to something bigger. I would love to have an opportunity to maybe do some sort of after-school program, like something called Design with Gordana. I’m very much connected to young people and I feel that a lot of times if you don’t get straight A’s or if you not good at math and science, you’re kind of labeled as not very intelligent. There are so many kids out there who are so creative. I can knit, I can crochet, I can make jewelry, I can design…if I could have some kind of program with gifted children…I know, because when I was thirteen years old and I designed this unbelievable outfit and I wore it out and I got so much attention, it gave me an identity, it put me on the map. If I could do something like this for somebody else it would be a big deal.
Even though most of your pieces were intricate and full of details, some people, including the judges, thought you were too safe on the show. The judges kept waiting to see more from you.
It’s kind of a tricky situation because you saw what happened to Ra’mon. They want something bigger, they want this and that, but as soon as you do it, you’re giving them the opportunity to kick you out. As I keep saying, it’s very sad that you’re kind of designing out of fear. I feel that if I didn’t have all this on top of my head and being criticized all the time, yes, maybe I would come out of my box a little more.
For example, when I made that jacket for the previous challenge, I really liked it, I don’t care what anybody says. Ideally, I would have designed it with tight pants or leggings with high boots or something. But if you design leggings, you're going to be chastised. You can’t design leggings; you know you’re going home. They all hated leggings. And the Macy’s wall, give me a break, they don’t really have much accessories to offer you. Then you start over-thinking, I can’t do this and I can't do that and the time is ticking, you get yourself tangled up in the situation.
In the real world, the circumstances would be different.
Of course, I feel that I’m a very creative person in the real word. Also, when people see me on the street now, the first thing they say is “Oh, my God you look so much better in person.” [Laughs] It’s the truth, it’s easier to bounce back when you’re nineteen or twenty years old after sleepless nights, but when you’re forty-five you need a little bit more time to get back to your usual self. It was really hard for me physically to keep up. In my private life, I have a great sense of style, people love my clothes. I’m completely confident in my style, in what I personally wear and design. When you’re on the show people work differently and under different circumstances.
Do you think you achieved what you wanted with this competition?
To some extent, yes. I wish I had gotten the opportunity to show at Bryant Park. In the history of Project Runway I am the only designer who has finished in fourth place and didn’t get the opportunity to show. Even if they didn’t show it on TV, people would still have gotten an idea of who I am as a designer. It’s much easier to design when you have somebody giving you nine thousand dollars and saying, “Knock yourself out,” you know. For any struggling designer, nine thousand dollars is a lot of money.
I kind of feel like maybe I was robbed out of it. I wish they had given me the chance even if I didn’t make to top three, but give me the chance to showcase something. I would have created some beautiful designs had they given me the chance. I know that Christopher wanted it too. I felt that they kind of cheapened out on me, you know? It's like, for God's sake, what's nine thousand dollars? I don't know, I felt a little bit robbed. I’m not trying to put the top three down by any means, but I really don’t think they’re any better than me. I’ll tell you one thing, any one of them the minute they would be criticized, they would fall apart, I was dealing with that practically from the first episode.
The good news is that you are going to be featured in VOGUE Knitting. That’s awesome.
I know, and that’s thanks to you guys. It was such a great surprise. It’s going to be, I believe, the spring issue. As soon as it comes out, I’ll let you guys know.
Knits are very important to me; it was kind of like my gateway to fashion. I remember ripping apart some old sweaters that my mom had and making a new one. I remember she was so impressed with the fact that I knitted a sweater, although she didn’t like my style, you know, because it was the '70s, with the big sleeves and the pocket on the front [laughs].
You do incorporate a lot of knitting in you work.
Yes, I love knits. It’s something about comfort. When you have something that’s so soft, it puts your mind at ease. I knit so much it’s like meditation to me. I’m very spiritual; very connected to nature and sometimes when you look back in life and the things that you wanted so much that didn’t happen, turns out that something even better will happen. I’m a big optimist and who knows? Maybe the whole experience will work in my favor.
It was so nice to see you on the show. We wish you all the best.
Thank you so much, guys, for all your support and your honest words. All your critiques, good and bad; it’s all welcome. And a big thank you to all the people blogging about this show, who are taking their time to voice their opinion. And if you ever come my way, please let me know. I’d love to give you a big “mama hug.” [Laughs] Good luck to you and everything you do.
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