Interview with Project Runway winner Chloe Dao

When I was getting ready to move back to Washington, D.C., one of the last remaining bucket list items I had was to have an interview with Project Runway winner Chloe Dao. The universe has been so great to me and because Chloe is so awesome, I was able to make my dream come true.

Now, anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I’m pretty heavily invested in Project Runway. Someone of you may call it obsessive I call it a “Passion for fashion” and the creative process. I would pass by Chloe’s Rice Village boutique Dao Chloe Dao all the time and think “Maybe she’s there? Nah probably not” and never have the courage to go in there. It wasn’t until I attended a Houston Tidbits event at Chloe’s store, that I finally had a chance to meet her.

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Project Runway winner Chloe Dao

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Selfie time at Chloe’s boutique, Dao Chloe Dao.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how approachable and down to earth she was. After numerous selfies and making my friends take pictures of me next to Chloe, I rambled on and on about all things Project Runway and asked her a ton of questions regarding Heidi, Tim and all the juicy behind the scenes drama. My friends stood there like: “Ok girl wrap it up”. Chloe was so engaging and awesome to talk to. You would think after a quick conversation she would never remember me but to my surprised, every time we saw each other at events around town, she always greeted me with a hug and a smile.

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I contacted Chloe to let her know I was leaving Houston and that one of the last things I wanted to do before I left, was to have a quick interview with her for the blog. Chloe was awesome to let me come into her store after closing on a Saturday night and ask her some questions. As she tagged items, priced garments and rang up tallies for the night, we got to chatting.

Having the pressure of the judges, production, fellow competitors around you, how did you block that all out and stay true to your creative vision?
“I was 34 years old when I went on that show and worked in New York City for 8 years in the real, brutal world of fashion and high end market. Additionally, I had my own business before that for 4 years. so let’s say 12 years in the business already. Project Runway to me was kinda like a vacation, I did it more because I was a fan of season 1. I knew what my aesthetic was, I knew what my skill set was and I actually challenged myself to make things I hadn’t made before. All my Project Runway designs were literally fresh, I didn’t repeat anything. I had an established client base here in Houston and I didn’t want them to say “Oh she made that dress before”.

Did you get people asking you for the designs after the show?
All the time. Actually my finale gown, someone is wearing that design for their wedding anniversary coming up soon. People still ask me about the 13th challenge dress. The reason why there is so much demand is because they are timeless designs.

You won the mentor-ship with Banana Republic, how was that experience?
I didn’t take it. *Cue Patty’s high pitched REALLY?!?!* Yes, because I think I was vain at the time and you have to remember I already had 8 years of New York fashion industry experience with production, designing, fashion shows and done all the trade shows. I was not a fresh fish out of the water, so I didn’t think I needed it. Back then, after you win Project Runway you’re bombarded with so many outside projects and with Banana Republic, the winner had to contact them. I did contact them once but no one ever called me back. You have to hustle to get that mentor-ship, the mentor-ship teaches you about super mass market. I should have gone though, honestly looking back that’s one thing I regret is not going.

What was the first garment you ever created?
A vintage dress that I bought in junior high, I deconstructed it and made it into a sundress.

Do you still have it?
No, I wish.

Is there a genre of design you want to delve into? Like Avant Garde or menswear?
No, just because I know what I’m good at. I mean I can do menswear. That’s the one thing I can do really well because it only requires minor tweaking. But Avant Garde, I just can’t do it. Every time I try, it just seems to messy for me, too many elements. I wanna do it, but would never do it.

What advice do you have for designers/entrepreneurs that want to open a boutique right away? One piece of advice that you never got that you want to share with someone else.
First know your client and know your numbers. Know that your client is willing to pay those numbers and your numbers can cover your bills.

What is your favorite item in your closet right now?
My stripe romper from Arc & Co. I wear it all the time. Once I like something I wear it to death, it’s embarrassing. I don’t like to think about my clothing because I’m so busy. I do like to put outfits together.

What does Style mean to you?
Effortless Ease. I think to me that’s great style. When you can’t tell that it took forever to put that outfit together and it carries an effortlessness and ease to it.

Thank you universe for giving me the opportunity to meet Chloe and have insightful conversations with her about business and the fashion industry. She’s given me great advice on being in this industry and I’m very appreciative of those pearls of wisdom. Chloe is the type of successful business woman I aspire to be. Very humble, open, honest, engaging and always aware of her surroundings.

Thank you so much Chloe for sharing your thoughts with us and for being such an awesome person to talk to. Miss you! Happy belated birthday Chloe XOXO.

Keeping it Confident – Patty

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