It’s hard not to be won over by Christopher Collins. Within seconds of meeting him he was gushing over a feather hair extension I was wearing, that launched him into a discussion of a niece’s obsession with hair tinsel — all part of a look he calls “Pocahontas chic.”
You may remember Christopher from Season 8 of Project Runway. The super sweet and sincere and photogenic San Francisco fashion designer made it to the top four but was auf’d for a challenge designing sports wear for Heidi Klum. But that hasn’t stopped this talented designer from making it work!
The Christopher Collins Collection is based and made in San Francisco. Just how local is his line? A couple years ago Christopher drove around the Mission banging on warehouse doors until he found a company that could produce his clothes in SF. While the sewing and manufacture is done in the Bay, he goes to great lengths for the luxurious fabrics and detail, including France, Italy and Japan. You’ll find his clothes to be modern and fresh with a flattering fit and silhouette. What I loved most were the details — as you spend more time with his clothes, you may keep finding fun accents like pockets and new ways to wear certain accoutrements.
I had the opportunity to meet him at a trunk show last Saturday at Sala, where he sells a few pieces from his Spring 2011 collection. Sala is an artsy boutique located in the Gourmet Ghetto of Berkeley, California.
Christopher opens up exclusively for MODE, about his thoughts on fashion week, trends for 2011, his inspiration for his designs, and the top secret Project Runway alumni club.
MODE: What was your inspiration for your Spring 2011 collection?
Christopher: It was about lightness, after coming from the show [Project Runway] I wanted to go with a lighthearted type of material — like jersey. Like the jersey dress (note: the one I got to try on!), there’s a little weight from the glass beads so it’s bouncy, it’s gentle and playful. It’s like I can’t take myself too seriously right now, I just went through one of the most intense life situations ever, so it’s bright and easy. I also went with a lot of prints like a dark blue swirly print, you know like the idea that circles are never-ending.
M: With the jersey dress, I noticed that the scarf with the two glass beads can wrap around in a circle, similar to an infinity scarf.
C: Yes, I heard a quote about wedding rings. Before you get into the business every photographer starts out shooting weddings, just like every designer at one point or another designs wedding gowns, and it’s not particularly my favorite thing to do but I did it a lot and I started researching the history behind weddings. I read that you wear the ring on your left hand because there’s a vein that connects to your heart. Also, the ring represents a circle, like the constancy of love, so I thought that was beautiful. I am a firm believer that things in motion stay in motion, so I’m really taken by ideas of things that are never-ending and of flight, and all those romantic notions.
M: You just came back from fashion week, was there a trend that you think will be big this year?
C: The things I got a good response on from my collection were the basics. A pencil skirt, asymmetrical tops and long cardigans. One of my designs that went over well was a big chunky knit cardigan that went almost to the knees.
M: Kind of like the one I’m wearing right now.
C: Yeah! But it’s a lot longer, and I have one that I designed that is shorter. It’s all about versatility. Things that can be worn more than one way, for example if it’s reversible, because people really like that bang for their buck. Like the jersey dress here can be worn in many different ways (Christopher demonstrates by wrapping the bead/scarf detail into a bow), you can pair this dress up with leggings, jacket, belt, it’s like the gift that keeps on giving.
M: Sooo you were recently on Project Runway. Do all the designers keep in touch or meet up? I imagine there’s like this secret club where all the alumni hang out.
C: Yes we are all like underground [laughs]. No, we all talk, get together on facebook, we shoot messages back and forth, we are always communicating, because we make really good friends [on the show]. It’s like 5th grade camp but a lot longer … We can’t talk to anyone during production, they take away our cell phones, Internet, televisions, you can’t talk to anyone outside of the show even the production people don’t talk to you. You can’t even talk with other designers unless a camera is on you, that’s one of the rules.
So when you go though this special thing you create bonds. And I definitely feel like we are a little fraternity. Even with the designers from past seasons, a lot of us just become friends because we share something unique.
M: Being based in San Francisco, does the city affect they way you design?
C: No, I love San Francisco but I do what I do. Although, I will say that the weather has an influence. I love the water element and the clouds. I live in Marin, so I’ll take the bridge into the city. It’ll be clear one minute but then the fog can roll in. So, I like the idea that the closer you get to somebody the more you see what’s going on. And I think that’s reflected in my clothes, it might look simple from far away, but there’s a lot of detail when you get in close.
Be sure to check out the Christopher Collins Collection. You can find his newest collection at his boutique located on 1116 Sutter Street in San Francisco. He will be showing in Palm Springs El Paseo Fashion Week on March 23, 2011 with two other Project Runway season 8 contestants, Mondo Guerra and Michael Costello. Start looking for pieces from his Fall 2011 collection to pop up on your radar in July!