Monday, October 6, 2008

Interview with Suede

Several weeks back, I asked Stephen Whitney Baum, a creative director for Lee Jeans (you know him as Suede), if I could interview him for my blog and he graciously agreed. Then Fashion Week came up and caused him to be quite busy, followed by the episode of Project Runway in which he was auf'd. So in the interim, he might have answered a few of my questions on other venues, including Laura K's fab podcast with him at Blogging Project Runway, but I'm still including them all here for your reading enjoyment.

1. So, Suede's probably not your real name. Why do you go by that name, what does it represent?
Suede is a nickname I was given during my college years at Kent State University. I was the only guy in a class of about 16 girls. We were all stressed out over a HUGE project and I rallied the ladies to the swatch bin. I told them we all should pick a swatch and be that swatch for the day. I was SUEDE.. and it really stuck. I even used my online screen name as Hunky Suede so SUEDE has been part of who I am for at least 15 years. A fact a lot of people don't know.

2. It's clear that you miss the male influences in your life. Were
your father and grandfather especially supportive of your career in design?
Unfortunately, my grandfather passed before I began my career in design. Since he was always supportive of me, I have no doubt he would have embraced my choice.

My dad was absolutely not supportive of me being an actor, but he did warm up the idea of a career in design. This career choice was something more tangible for him since he was an engineer.

3. Your designs thus far make it appear that you prefer to create fitted dresses with flared skirts - but you're a sportswear designer with leanings toward denim. Why haven't we seen more sporty looks from you?
Lets face it Project Runway is about growing and moving forward. I have been extremely successful in the sportswear arena so in my eyes, been there done that. I needed to move myself forward and step outside of my comfort zone. I had not sewn in 15 years and had not challenged myself to create things with such tight deadlines and crazy twists. So everything I did was where I am at during this point of my life. Designers are artists and we need to evolve to move forward so the world really got a look at me in evolution. I am so proud of the body of work that I have brought to Runway and know that it will bring amazing things for me.

4. What attracted you to fashion design in the first place?
I actually fell into fashion design. I wanted to be an actor and had planned to goto NYU to study acting. My parents were not interested in me moving to NYC at the age of 17 so they basically told me I need to rethink what I wanted to do and find other options. I had remembered that Kent State University (which is about 45 minutes from my parents) had a Fashion Design program and I thought, "Let's give it a shot!" I ended up loving it and clearly have excelled in the industry and now to have this incredible opportunity on Project Runway. I am very very blessed.

5. You live in NY, went to school in Ohio. Where are you from originally? Are you happy you left?
Originally I'm from Seven Hills, Ohio. Because I chose to go into design there was no other place for me to be but NYC. I do of course miss my friends and family who still reside in Ohio, but I get back when I can and get to spend time with them.

6. Let's talk about the blue faux-hawk. Are you a little bit punk, or do you just want to stand out from the crowd? And what was that "hedda ocean" comment all about in the drag queen challenge?
Well here is another one that people do not really know so I am SUPER glad you asked. I actually change my hair style and color very often. I have had just about everything from box braids that went to the middle of my back, to my naturally super curly (almost afro) style, to just about every color under the sun. Heidi actually wanted me to change my hair often during the show but there just was no time for that. I of course do stand out from the crown from my personality, my style (which includes my hair), or as I said on my audition tape from my head down to my toe-ohh ohh ohhh (Madonna reference - Dress You Up!). I will be posting some of my looks throughout the years very soon on my Official Home Page - so be sure to check it out.

OK - the Hedda Ocean comment really just meant that I had hair color that is blue like the ocean, and since Hedda Lettuce (with her Green hair) was in fact Hedda Lettuce I was just being me and quirky and saying Hedda Ocean.

7. Why does Suede sometimes speak in the third person?
Because its fun, quirky, true to who I am and it should really not be taken so seriously. Come on, the world is in major turmoil! We have a government running the country that has the lowest approval rating in history; the environment is unstable and being destroyed; we have been at war for years and lose valuable precious lives on a daily basis; we are coming into an election year where quite frankly some of the choices are utterly disturbing to think about them being in office; and the economic market is in crisis! So if I can find some solace and humor in speaking in 3rd person so be it. I'm actually more worried about the people who are so obsessed and bothered by it. CLEARLY, we have bigger issues in this country that require much more attention then the tense that Suede speaks in.

8. You listed "a great hoodie" as a fashion must. What constitutes a great hoodie and why is it a must?
I adore hoodies because they are modern and versatile. Layering pieces are an amazing way to change your wardrobe. For me a great hoodie ALWAYS has some type of embellishment on both the front and back. I am anti "coffin tops!" If you are not familiar with that phrase its a garment that only has detailing on the front. I mean come on, garments have a front and a back. So for me, that is a big part of the rules of hoodies.

9. If you could make over Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin, how would you dress her? How about Michelle Obama? Hillary Clinton?
First off I have to respect my clients and want to work with them if I'm doing a make over. So I'm going to respectfully decline any make-over for Ms. Palin - someone with her thought process and I definitely would not be compatible and I would have to consider rotten lettuce or something random for that type of make over.
Michelle Obama - I think she is a beautiful woman and it would be an honor to work with her. I would dress her in styles that really showed off her great figure.
Hilary Clinton - I'd love to work with Hilary to bring out a modern femininity. I feel that her power-suits can be too hard for her look. I mean an infusion of "Jackie O" never hurt anyone.
Sarah Palin --- I respectfully decline.

10. Do you read the blogs? If so, what do you think of your portrayal on them?
Oh boy, the Million Dollar question. I thought I would read the blogs when I first started this journey and I quickly changed my mind. I no longer see the need to read the blogs and have to respect that people have their own opinions. I was raised under the thought process that if you do not have something nice, constructive or kind to say you really do not need to say it. It is easy to sit at home hiding behind your computer passing judgments and writing about people you have never met. One of the promises I made to myself when I joined Runway was that I was not going to rip anyone apart and I was going to be the kind, loving soul I am. I stayed true to that promise and am happy I did. The entire cast this season was extremely talented. Our challenges are just that - challenges! Just because someone went home before another of us it does not make them less of a designer or not at talented as the rest. So in closing all my love to the cast of this season and many thanks to all the fans.



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