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Who needs NY? Project Runway winner still believes Houston is best for career and a good life

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Chloe Dao, Project Runway Vietnam
Designer Chloe Dao built her collection  in Houston, but extends the brand as a judge for Project Runway Vietnam. Photo by Jay Marroquin
News_Heather_Dao Chloe Dao_March 2012
The Dao ChloeIDao boutique is a Rice Village staple. Photo by Kennon Evett
017, Fashion Houston, Chloe Dao, November 2012
Chloe Dao designs seasonal collections, showing in Houston twice a year. Photo by © Federico Villamayor/CultureMapSNAP.com
Chloe Dao Fashion Show May 2013 Mama Dao
Chloe Dao and mom at her fashion show last year. The importance of family is one reason why Dao has remained in Houston. Photo by © Charles Richard/Visual Culture
News_Fashion Houston_October 2011_Chloe Dao
Creating a comfortable living through her design career makes Chloe Dao truly happy. Photo by Federico Villamayor
Chloe Dao, Project Runway Vietnam
News_Heather_Dao Chloe Dao_March 2012
017, Fashion Houston, Chloe Dao, November 2012
Chloe Dao Fashion Show May 2013 Mama Dao
News_Fashion Houston_October 2011_Chloe Dao

Project Runway just started its lucky 13th season on Lifetime and as the lights come up on the runway, so do the expectations that somewhere in the group of colorful competitors, the next great fashion designer is waiting.

Well, that’s the hope anyway.

Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan recently went behind the seams of the franchise, profiling the success stories and looking deeper into the show that redefined how aspiring designers get to the next level in the industry.

“You have to be OK with your definition of success,” Dao said. “People expect so much of me because of Project Runway, but success in the press doesn’t equal to dollar success.” 

Among those featured was Chloe Dao, winner of Project Runway’s second season. Rather than move to New York to continue building her business, Dao returned to Houston, where she expanded her boutique and had a clothing collection on QVC. She unveils new collections each season and is a prominent figure in Houston’s fashion scene.

Givhan asked how one defines success in fashion, especially after launching from Project Runway’s pad. In the article, Dao explains success is essentially being able to make a comfortable living doing what she loves. She shared additional thoughts with CultureMap.

“You have to be OK with your definition of success,” Dao said. “People expect so much of me because of Project Runway, but success in the press doesn’t equal to dollar success.”

Dao’s business-minded perspective is just as crucial as her sketching and design skills. That’s one of the reasons why the Project Runway judges crowned her back in 2007. Her collections are based on the current season, so she can sell what women want at that very moment and her dress designs fit and flatter most body types.

She doesn’t buy the idea that a designer can only be successful in New York, but also doesn’t rule out establishing a presence in the city.

“You don’t need to be based in New York. You need to be willing to travel and do what it takes for your brand, but most designers are based in their hometowns,” Dao said. “Besides, I still think I can go to New York if I want to. Why not?”

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