Project Runway’s Nick Verreos talks to F about dressing real women, Macy’s, and hosting L.A.’s “Fashion’s Night Out”
By Thania Rios
Thania Rios: You’re here at Macy’s today hosting one of your Fashion Director Events. You’ve done many of these in the past — what does the event entail?
Nick Verreos: I love doing the Fashion Director/Fashion Challenge Events at Macy’s. I’ve gone all over the country, and what we do is pick unsuspecting — as well as willing — fashion victims/audience members that want to style models. I give them two minutes to pick out clothes that are already pre-selected from racks from the fall or spring wardrobe — depending on the season — and I give them three challenges. Macy’s e-mails me and says “What three challenges would you like?” I’m the one that says, “I would love the challenges to be ‘How do you dress for a red carpet event?’ or ‘How would you dress to go to a Madonna concert?’ so we can use the Material Girl line that’s specifically at Macy’s.
We give the audience members two minutes to solve the problems; they go backstage and then come out, and the audience and myself vote. The winner gets a $100 Macy’s gift card and we also discuss: “What were you thinking? Do you really want to wear that fur chubby to your job interview?” It goes on and on, and everyone gets to have fashion fun, and the whole time I’m educating them and helping them with trends. A lot of the time the working moms or working ladies are too busy to know what the trends are for each season, so in a fun way I’m telling them, “Oh, by the way, metallics are in! Oh, by the way, a nice pump would be great! Oh, by the way, military is a beat for the fall.” In a fun way, as opposed to being a dictator about it.
TR: While browsing your blog (http://nickverrreos.blogspot.com/), I noticed that this is just one of many things you’ve done with Macy’s over the past year. It seems that you have a pretty strong partnership with them. How did that begin, and how is that influencing your work?
NV: That’s a great question! I have kept myself out there, do a lot of red carpet events, am a designer and a teacher of fashion, and because of Project Runway — they thought all these things made for a great fit, and that I would be a good spokesperson for their fashion challenges. I could show women what trends are in — in a friendly, approachable way, as opposed to a very high-powered fashionista coming in and going, “Ladies! You need to have a pencil skirt!”
I think Macy’s recognized that I actually do have a resume that makes me qualified help women out. As far as how it’s changed me and my designs: it’s been a great chance to meet real women. Normally I just have contacts with size-zero, Amazonian six-feet-tall models from runway shows. So my eye has changed in that I don’t think, “What’s sellable?” but “What will highlight a woman’s waist? What will hide certain areas or flaws that women think they have?” I’m more conscious of this, but I still keep within my aesthetic. A lot of the time designers are, “I’m going to design a one-shouldered asymmetrical backless number!” and now I think, “Is that really going to be flattering for a woman?” In a way, Macy’s has educated me to know real women and real women fashion issues.
TR: You mentioned doing red-carpet events earlier. You just hosted a fashion show for L.A.’s Fashion’s Night Out, didn’t you? How did you approach that?
NV: Not a surprise: I like being stage. So I love hosting the fashion shows and meeting people and describing the ensembles. I feel right at home. If I could, I’d be out there describing my own fashion shows. [L.A.] was great, because it was for Fashion’s Night Out, and the fact that they asked me to host that event, Macy’s did. … I was honored. It only happens once a year. So part of me wondered, “Was Jessica Simpson not available?” but I was very happy to be there.
TR: Have you been watching Project Runway? If so, what’re your thoughts?
NV: I actually write all the recaps for MyLifetime.com, so I have to watch them. I get the DVDs early — so I can blog on time — so I know what happens! But I cannot say anything. You’re going to have to give me a lot of money before I divulge. So, yes, I have been watching it. I like it. A lot people are saying, “Oh, I don’t watch Project Runway anymore, since it went to Lifetime,” this and that, but it’s back! It’s gotten the highest ratings of the last three or four seasons. The fact that the drama is back may relate to that, but at the same time, it keeps its integrity.
I am so happy, proud, and honored to be a part of that brand. I had no idea any of this would happen. Trust me. When I did the show, one of my good friends — who’s no longer my friend — noticed how I was a presence on the show during my season and said, “Nick, you have thirteen minutes left of your fifteen.” And part of me was like, “that isn’t very nice.” And the other was, “I’m going to prove you wrong.” I’m just so happy that here I am, five years later, still being called, still doing events, hosting these events for Macy’s. For me, it was something that I never expected. So I’m very proud of the brand. Every season they’ve called me back — for the last five seasons — and I’ve judged the castings. I’m very happy to be a part of a show that is loved by so many people, and also a show that involves talent. It’s not just like we’re getting in a hot tub and having sex and getting drunk. For people to recognize me for something I actually did, something that took talent, is wonderful for me.
TR: Do you still keep in touch with any of your cast mates from season two?
NV: In fact, I just got a message from Chloe Dao, the winner of my season. She has a huge line with QVC, making tons of money, and we get in touch every now and then. I saw her at a Macy’s event in Houston; I had five hours to kill before an event, so I told the taxi cab to take me to Chloe Dao’s boutique in Houston — I stalked her. I also keep in touch with Andre in L.A. A lot of Project Runway alum get in touch with me. There’s something about me that leads them to say, “I want to talk to you!” And I’m very happy to bring them into the Project Runway family.
TR: Speaking of boutiques, you were in Chicago a while back, and you mentioned Cinnamon and Perchance as two boutiques that you liked. Did you have any other local haunts, or are those the only two you’re willing to endorse?
NV: I would say that Perchance and Cinnamon are the two that I feel the most familiar with. I don’t know others that I would give my stamp of approval to, but I’m sure there are a lot that are fabulous. But I really loved Perchance — I bought myself a leather wristband with silver studs there — I loved it, loved the area, and Cinnamon as well: cute boutiques. If I were to say what would be my favorite two boutiques in Chicago, those would be it. Aside from Macy’s.