At this year's annual FashionistaCon in New York City last Friday, Executive Editor Alyssa Vingan Klein sat down with keynote speaker Christian Siriano to get his story on establishing himself as a designer, as well as his take on continuing to advocate for diversity in fashion. "My whole career is totally unconventional," began Siriano, whose eponymous label took off in 2008 after winning a certain reality TV show — "Project Runway" — which led to rapid demand and multiple collaborations across footwear, home and plus-size fashion with brands ranging from Payless to Lane Bryant.
Starting a business is no small feat for any young designer, so when it came to building his A-team, Siriano made sure to be selective. "I wanted to make sure everyone was as creative as I was in their own way," he said. "We had a lot of people giving us advice that I'm happy we didn't listen to. Unfortunately, not everyone in the industry will give you the best advice because it's based on their experience of what has happened before. Everything I do is different from anybody else."
Inclusivity is truly at the heart of what Siriano does, whether that's casting models of every shape and size on his runway or dressing non-sample size celebrities. "We have dressed such a diverse group of women on the red carpet, which I love and am so proud of," said Siriano, whose gowns have been worn by everyone from Christina Hendricks to Michelle Obama to, more recently, Leslie Jones, who donned a custom gown by the designer after voicing her struggle of red carpet dressing when you're not a size zero. "Over the years, that's my favorite part of red-carpet dressing," he said. "We try to celebrate as many people as we can."
To say that diversity in all its forms is of particular importance to Siriano would be an understatement; it's a tenet he takes seriously in every aspect of his brand. "We're trying to make it where it isn't necessarily a conversation anymore and [get to a point where] that's just what it is," he said. "I try not to talk about it too much because it is a topic, but I wish it weren't a topic."
He continued: "We're showing a runway that is diverse because that's what we are. That's what we see in this room. We have customers from all over the world, all walks of life, all ages, so I cannot imagine alienating one group because it's such a crucial part of our world." Trends may come and go, but advocating for a more diverse industry is something we'll always support.
Homepage photo: Arnold Soshkin/Fashionista