Christina Exie On Being A Project Runway All Stars Competitor
This past season of Project Runway All Stars featured an all-winners cast for the first time in the show’s history; moreover, the victors were from across the globe. Among the international champions was Christina Exie, who won Season 4 of Project Runway Australia. The Melbourne-based professional menswear/womenswear fashion designer has over ten years of experience in the industry, mainly focused on luxury, high-end creative direction, design, pattern making, and product development. Before graduating from RMIT University's renowned fashion school in her hometown, Exie decided to complete an exchange program at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. From there, she competed on Project Runway Australia, launching a luxury streetwear brand of her own following her win. Currently, Exie offers creative and technical services, as well as custom-made luxury clothing for local and international clients. Not to mention, she made it all the way to week ten of Project Runway All Stars Season 7. Get to know Exie as she discusses her passion for fashion and Project Runway journey.
How did you first become interested in fashion?
As a child, I used to read Vogue Bambini and was totally in love with everything about it. I didn't even know what fashion really was, as I was so young. When I moved to Melbourne from the beach (the state of Victoria, about two hours from the city), I enrolled in modeling school. That's where my world opened up to fashion.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Minimal, which crosses over between masculine/feminine and commercial/couture. It’s artisanal, in essence.
How did you work to improve your craft?
I studied to receive a degree in fashion design. After competing and winning the fourth season of Project Runway Australia, I had lots of clients come to me for custom-made products. There were some clients I wanted to help, but I realized I didn't have the skill to do the designs and have them fit exactly how I wanted or they wanted. I decided to perfect my craft by taking private classes in tailoring and dressmaking, which I started in 2015 and am still studying to this day. I can now confidently create anything I want from a blank piece of paper.
What was your strategy going into Project Runway Australia?
When I went into Project Runway Australia, I was fresh out of a university. I went in hoping to learn more about myself and go on a fun journey. I honestly did not have some grand strategy to win the show. I just tried my best to stay as authentic as I could to my own design philosophy, and it resonated with the judges.
How did it feel to become a winner of the franchise in your country?
It was such a surprise to win Project Runway Australia. I couldn't believe it, and I was so honored they had chosen me. It really made me feel confident and gave me legs to stand on in the Australian fashion industry. I went from being nothing to everyone knowing who I was.
What made you decide to be a part of the all-winners season of Project Runway All Stars? Did you feel intimidated going into it?
When I was contacted by Project Runway All Stars to do the all-winners season, I was working in a great company as a senior designer full time. It took me weeks to decide whether I should compete or not. Although I was hesitant, I decided to do the competition, as I felt I had nothing to lose, and I also wasn't happy with my job overall. It was intimidating to go back on Project Runway because it’s a very stressful competition. When you’re there, you’re literally designing and sewing all the time, then you go on stage and get torn apart --or loved! You can't predict who will like or hate your work. It takes thick skin and a certain type of person to do a competition like this.
How did you work to stand out amongst a cast of winners?
My aesthetic is refined, modern, dynamic, and minimal, so I think amongst the other designers, it stood out because it was unique. I also pushed myself each challenge to make something different. I didn't want to put the same shape or garment category out each week, like a slip dress over and over again. I not only wanted to do well, but I also wanted to challenge myself to learn skills and see what I could produce in such tight time frames.
What was your favorite look you made during the season and why?
My favorite design I produced was for the Southwest Airlines unconventional materials challenge. I made a sporty, luxe-style outfit: a vinyl jacket, shorts, and a top made out of seatbelts. I was so set on my look from the beginning that I executed it perfectly and loved what I did. I didn't make it into the top three that week, but in my mind, I was the winner.
What’s your secret to conquering the unconventional materials challenge?
My secret was being very clear with what I wanted to achieve. For the Southwest Airlines challenge, I loved the materials I got and could sense how they would look best in garment form. I also had the advantage of working with seatbelts a few times before, so I knew what I could and couldn't do with them. With a challenge like this, you really just need to be instinctive and go with your gut.
Now that the competition over, is there anything you would change? Do you have any regrets?
The JC Penny challenge really threw me, and I wish I had approached that challenge in a different way. But even now, when I think about it, it's still so challenging to know how I would tackle the same garments I got. We are given rules for each challenge, and I really stuck to them. Some people bent them a bit, and I strictly followed them so I wouldn’t be criticized. However, from doing that, I got myself into trouble--it was a double-edged sword. I was eliminated after Episode 10, the climate change challenge, and I wish I thought about my transition more. But it got to a point in the competition/show where I wasn't determined to get to the end anymore. I actually lost the drive to push more because I didn't enjoy the environment. In hindsight, I wish I pushed myself more to see how far I could take the transition part of the challenge.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
The owner of my own successful company, making clothing but for the right reasons. I want to help the fashion industry evolve for the better by producing sustainable designs, supporting eco-friendly designers, and trying to integrate artificial intelligence and technology. Furthermore, I want to educate people to be kinder and more empathetic in this industry. It's such a dog-eat-dog world; the industry produces so much pollution, yet there's still a race to get the hottest thing into stores faster than everyone else. We have become blindsided as an industry and very few people are doing anything to make a change. I want to be an advocate for this.
This or That:
Avant-garde or unconventional materials challenge? Avant-garde.
Project Runway Australia or All Stars in the United States? Project Runway United States.
Dresses or skirts? Dresses.
Brocade or lace? Lace.
Design a dress for Katy Perry or Lady Gaga? Lady Gaga.
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Photo Credit: A+E Networks/Lifetime