Christian Siriano has truly emerged as a designer for all women. Just look at the ladies who opted to get all dolled up in Siriano confections at Sunday night’s Tony Awards; he dressed everyone from 27-year-old Mean Girl Taylor Louderman to 62-year-old Laurie Metcalf to 82-year-old Glenda Jackson, who both won Tonys for their work in Three Tall Women.
Body types. Race. Age. Whatever. Siriano’s got a dress for you.
The busy 32-year-old Project Runway alum and red carpet darling — 17 of his gowns appeared at this year’s Academy Awards — was in town Sunday to slice the fondant-iced rainbow layer cake Sunday at SugarHouse Casino’s Pride after-party in the Fishtown Hops brewery.
You might remember how Siriano came to comedian Leslie Jones’ rescue when he designed a slinky, red off-the-shoulder number that she wore to the 2016 Ghostbusters premiere. Remember that cobalt blue, cap-sleeve dress that Michelle Obama wore to speechify at the 2016 Democratic National Convention? That was a Siriano, too.
Those of us who do not make the rounds at Tinseltown award ceremonies probably know Siriano for his collection of Payless shoes.
But he’s also one of the designers who consistently diversifies New York Fashion Week’s runway with models of color and women from average to plus size. For that, he made the 2018 Time 100 List.
“I mean, it’s crazy to be up there with amazing people like Oprah,” Siriano told me over a foamy beer. “I feel really proud, like I’m helping change the industry and what their thoughts are on what’s beautiful in fashion. I hope other people follow. It feels good.”
So in between launching a home goods and fashion line at TJ Maxx and putting the finishing touches on his his new concept store, the Curated NYC, wrapping up a tour for his coffee-table book Dresses to Dream About, and celebrating his 10th anniversary in fashion, Siriano chatted with me about diversity, body image, dressing Cardi B., and how he convinced Whoopi Goldberg — the first celebrity he ever designed for — to wear a fuchsia pantsuit at last week’s CFDA Awards.
You’ve done a phenomenal job working with real women in Hollywood. Tell me how and why you made that your focus.
That’s just who my customer is … Always since the beginning I’ve had a really wide range of women wanting to wear the clothes. They come in different varieties, different shapes, different backgrounds. As I became more present, it became important to showcase that being a good designer is about representing all types of beauty. Now the focus is about celebrating people. Getting dressed should be the easy part of the day, not the challenging part. Clothes should make you feel great.
Folks often argue that fashion has no place in politics, or entertainment, for that matter. What are your thoughts on this?
Fashion is a visual thing. It is very powerful. It is the first thing that people see when they see you, so it can be very emotional. The moment somebody wears something, it can take on meaning. Like what if people wore T-shirts that said, ‘I hate people’? It will make an impact. Fashion is something that emotionally changes your mind about things.
Speaking of T-shirts, your shirt says, “Self-made Man” What does this say about you? And tell me about your tattoos; those are pretty amazing.
Well, I got home at 2 a.m. last night after flying in from Chicago, so it was the first thing I grabbed [Laughs]. But, seriously, I think it just says it all about how I got to where I am. My tattoos? I’ve had them for a little while. I love them. I just love mythical marine life because we really don’t know that much about it. On my right arm is a jellyfish. On the left is an octopus.
You’ve also managed to make high fashion very wearable and maintain the excitement. Tell me about that.
I love to have a balance. I think it’s very important. I think you can start one place at this fantasy dream world and you can take it in all directions. We just started partnering with TJ Maxx, we are going to be doing clothes, home goods, accessories, rugs, pillows, dresses, tops. I’ve been doing Payless for almost 10 years now. Can you believe it? I put my shoes on the runway. I love pairing a $10,000 dress with a $20 shoe. That’s what fashion is. That’s what style is.
Now on to the fun stuff. Let’s start with the fuchsia pantsuit Whoopi wore to the CFDA Awards. How did you make that happen?
We had a crazy moment. Honestly, it was super-simple. I was like, ‘Would you want to wear a fuschia suit with a big hat?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah. I’ll do whatever you want me to, baby.’ She’s easy to dress.
How did you get her out of black, though?
I know. It was tough. But we did it. She was really excited … Whoopi loves fashion, but she also likes to be comfortable. It’s a balance.
What was it like working with Cardi B?
I love Cardi. I was one of the first people to dress Cardi… They reached out to me and I jumped on it because I was a fan. She’s wild online. But she’s really sweet and genuine. We’ve worked together four or five times.
Who is the most memorable person you designed for?
There are so many. Michelle Obama. Oprah. Gwyneth to Gaga. Angelina Jolie. Everyone has their own thing. I have great memories.
Any last words on celebrating women of all sizes?
I’m all about celebrating the body beautiful. I love that my collection goes from size 2 to 28. I think it’s really special. My goal is to help all women feel special and comfortable.