The CultureMap Interview
Christian Siriano's craziest year: How hot designer became the go-to guy for red carpet fashion
It's been quite a year for Christian Siriano — both professionally and personally. The 31-year-old designer dressed nine stars for the Emmy Awards, which certainly must be some kind of fashion record, and came to the rescue of Leslie Jones after she complained that no one offered to dress her for the Ghostbusters premiere because she isn't a sample size 00.
A champion of dressing women of all sizes, he drew a lot of attention when he featured several plus-size models in his New York fashion show in September. He has also launched new handbag, eyewear and bridal collections for his namesake brand and entered into a successful collaboration with Lane Bryant. And he dressed first lady Michelle Obama several times.
On top of this, he found time to marry his longtime partner, singer/producer Brad Walsh, this summer in a lovely outdoor ceremony officiated by actress Kristen Johnston.
"We've had some great moments," he said about his whirlwind year. "It flew by. It's so crazy that everything happens so fast."
In Houston recently for an appearance at Elizabeth Anthony, where he presented his spring 2017 collection of chic separates, watercolor-print dresses and gowns in bold orange and turquoise in an outdoor setting in front of the Uptown Park boutique, Siriano talked about how marriage has changed him, what's next on the horizon and why he's the go-to designer for red carpet fashion.
CultureMap: Have you done an outdoor fashion show before?
Christian Siriano: A few times. It's nice. It just feels different and you don't feel stuffy. And the clothes move with the wind. I like it.
CM: You also brought all the models out at once at the end of the show. That seems to be your trademark.
CS: I think you get to see the whole story all together. And that's super important. You get to see them in a different way.
CM: Why do you think you've been the go-do designer for awards shows?
CS: I love the unconventional person. We don't go after the new "it "girl. I'm also very familiar with customization for different bodies, so that also helps because I think a lot of different actors and actresses now, especially those women who are not sample size, they definitely need a different take. Even if they're a size 6 or 8, they need a little tweaking and that's been kind of fun.
CM: At the Golden Globes last year, Bryce Dallas Howard said she had to buy her gown off the rack because designers couldn't outfit her — and she's a size 6.
CS: I've dressed Bryce before, and she's like, 'You know what, it's just easier sometime because you don't have to deal with the back and forth.' That's why I think at the Emmys we dressed so many women because I make it easy for them. They're like, 'Can I have this dress?' and I go, 'Yeah I can make it in a couple of days.' We sent it and it works. So I try and make it not dramatic. Some stylists and teams can be very intense.
CM: You've gotten so much attention this year for having full-figured models and dressing women of different sizes. It really seems to have struck a chord. Does that surprise you at all?
CS: It has a little bit because nothing has been supercalculated. People are funny though. Things that are different, people obviously focus on. I guess it's different. But I don't think it should be different, which is why we just to keep going and hope it works.
CM: Why don't more designers do it?
CS: I don't know. It takes time. Proportions are different. It's a lot of work to make clothes in all these different sizes, for sure. It's money, it's a lot of things. And you can't always celebrate everybody. You just can't. But we do our best. Also you have to train people a little bit because if someone thinks, "I don't think this would look on this body," well, it's not really that it wouldn't look good, it's just different.
CM: How has marriage changed you?
CS: I think it's nice. I mean it definitely is the same.
CM: How long have you been together?
CS: About 10 years. So it definitely does take a little bit of stressful things out of your head. You do think about it's a family and it's kind of forever. Things like that. You think a little more about the future. I don't know, it's easier. It's not the day-to-day things. It's just simple little things.
CM: I read somewhere where you said, "My whole career is totally unconventional." Do you still feel that way?
CS: Yeah, it is for sure. And I love that. I like that we're doing our own thing, we're making our own decisions, there were lots of people that didn't want me to do (a collaboration with) Payless. We've sold hundreds of millions of dollars (of shoes). Lane Bryant is one of the best collaborations I've ever done. I'm sure there are people that think that plus size on the runway is strange even though they want it but they don't. There's always a contradiction a little bit and it makes me nuts.
CM: How will you remain unconventional?
CS: I don't know — just try to keep going with it. Every season I'm not really sure what that will be. You just kind of go with the flow. There are some little fun things that I want to try and we'll see if it works out.
CM: How important is social media in your overall plans?
CS: It's hard because the customers are much more involved in what's happening, which is good and bad. Opinions can be sometimes too many people giving their thoughts. But on the other side, we're selling clothes right off of Instagram. We're selling $10,000-15,000 gowns custom-ordered from other countries and they haven't even seen the back. It's crazy.
It's important but what's interesting is when you think about here (at Elizabeth Anthony), their top-selling customers aren't looking at Instagram. They don't really care. They're busy and they need to look good and they want to look fabulous. I like social media, sure, but I think their top few women don't care, they just want to buy fabulous clothes. That's an interesting thing.
CM: What social media do you look at every day?
CS: I like Instagram, I think it's visually beautiful. I like Twitter. I do think that Twitter right now is interesting because what happened politically. It's a very boisterous place for things to move and happen.
CM: Look at the whole Leslie Jones thing.
CS: Exactly. That really happened because of online (comments). I didn't say anything. It got pretty crazy. But everything is beneficial in its own ways.