Reality TV star turned top designer, Austin Scarlett, talks signature style, everyday inspiration and how Project Runway helped prep him to become the designer for the Kenneth Pool collection. —Cari Wolfert
How did your experiences on Project Runway prepare you for the bridal world?
Well I think in the bridal world you definitely have to be on your toes at all times. The different challenges each day on the show helped me to quickly come up with something professional that would work for the bridal industry. Brides have very individual requests and needs and I need to be able to cater to those at all times. Project Runway definitely helped me to be constantly prepared for anything at any time, and to be sensitive to the needs of the client...
You have a background in theater and costume design. How has this translated into your wedding work?
There is definitely correlation between theatre and wedding fashion. Bridal is very much a performance—it is the one grand event in every woman's life. For theater, the fashion had to have a certain grandeur that would read on the stage, while also flattering the actress. The same thing applies when doing a wedding dress, but the treatments can be more delicate and there can be much more detail.
How do you keep your collection feeling fresh each season?
When designing a collection that is traditional, that has one specific sort of garment like a white dress, I think just being constantly attuned to trends really help. Living in New York I get inspired by what young women are wearing—everything from high fashion to street fashion. I can see first hand what they are and are not willing to try. Each season I try to incorporate something new that corresponds to the timing and the trends in everyday fashion.
It's obvious you have fun with your personal style—and scarves are one of your signature accessories! How do you encourage brides to express their individual style on their wedding day?
I love when brides tell me they want to do something special and unique, but I'm not a fan of doing anything too crazy. Sometimes I think it can look too costume-y and cluttered. I love intimate details like lingerie, something like a gorgeous silk stocking or exquisite slipper. Include a personal touch like having your grandmother embroider your initials on a handkerchief, or include something heirloom in your attire.
If you could start a new trend in wedding dresses, what would it be?
I love the tradition of changing gowns throughout the reception. I know it's a little extravagant but why not—it's your moment. It doesn't have to be a $20,000 dress. Maybe you have your one big dress, but then you build up a wardrobe of dresses for honeymoon or the early days of your marriage.
Bonus question: Do people still recognize you from Project Runway?
Yes. Especially living in New York with a lot of design students and everything I still do get recognized a lot from the show. But the best part now is that people are starting to appreciate my designs and recognizing me as a designer first. It was great to have that opportunity but now I'm happy to progress from the show to a real working designer.