What prompted you to audition for Project Runway?
I’d been at the same job for 4 years and while it paid well, it wasn’t very creatively fulfilling. I’d always loved the show and I thought, “I could do that.” I’m going be 40 soon and I just thought that I could do more with my career so I took a chance. Life is short so rock it out!
What was the audition process like?
It’s very intense and arduous. Each designer has to bring in 3 original, self-made designs and a full portfolio. You are evaluated multiple times before you even get to see Tim Gunn and the other judges. If you are lucky enough to get to that stage they are pretty hard-core about making sure you have the skill set to be on the show. You have to be able to sketch, drape, pattern draft, know fabrications and style models all while looking pretty and seeming moderately interesting while completely sleep deprived. And if you don’t have a clear point of view as a designer—forget it. If you make it past that audition you have to do a video and then a personality exam and on and on. It was very stressful.
What qualities – personal and professional – do you feel landed you the highly coveted spot among the cast?
Well I can illustrate like a mofo so my portfolio presentation was pretty fierce if I do say so myself. Personally I hope I’m likable and witty so I come across pretty well on camera. My video submission had some sass and I love self-deprecation so I didn’t come off as a pompous ass. Though there are some of those peeps as well.
Describe the moment you learned that you were selected for Project Runway. How did you feel?
My inner monologue was “Holy Shit!” But it’s a really strange situation because I had signed such a strict confidentiality agreements that I couldn’t tell anyone. I was walking on the street when I got the call and I just jumped up and down on the sidewalk like a lunatic. No one in New York even looked up. Also I was nude.
What did you worry most about?
Hmmmm. I’m not really a worrier. It’s wasted energy unless you can do something about it. And I rather use that energy perfecting my fire baton routine.
What excited you most about the opportunity?
Honestly—I wanted to see if I had the balls for it. It’s 100 times harder than it seems on TV. We are sleep deprived and there is NO help at all. If a machine breaks—too bad. The time flies by. I was also just excited to be a part of television history. I love the show and I am just so glad to be on it. I also think that because of my openness about my positive HIV status I can do a lot of good for HIV awareness and education. That makes me happy.
What inspires you as a designer? Why?
Well I’ve never been a couture designer or one of those esoteric types that says, “ I saw a golden leaf fall from the branch of a wise old oak tree and right then I envisioned my entire collection.” PLEASE! In truth, I’m very observant. I absorb all visual stimuli around me and I know what looks good. That’s inspiration enough. Oh…and the leaf.
Which designers do you admire?
Kit Pistol, Christian Siriano, Victorya Hong and Kevin Christiana.
They are very up and coming. You may have heard of them.
Which fabrications do you love to work with most?
I don’t have a favorite fabric but I prefer wovens over knits. Wovens are very rigid and usually don’t stretch so you have to be very meticulous about fit. I like that challenge. Knits are more forgiving because they stretch but they can also be a pain in the ass to sew.
What is the color of the moment? Aubergine
What item in your closet can’t you live without? Well I collect sneakers and I have about 70 pair. If I came home one day and they were gone I think I’d have an aneurism.
Tell us something about Heidi Klum that surprised you.
No surprises really. She’s exactly like she seems on the show.
How many times – and under what circumstances – did Tim Gunn have to tell you to: “Make it work?” Never really. I was never in the bottom 3 and I won the menswear challenge so generally my critiques rocked. Snap!
Now that you are recognized as a Project Runway star what it the best thing that’s happened to you, off the set?
Well I met Dale Levitski from Top Chef who I adore so that’s hot. Beyond that I have really amazing letters and messages from my family members saying how very proud of me they are. That always makes me cry. I’m a big sap in that respect. I also get really phenomenal emails from viewers that are struggling with their own issues who somehow see me as a role model. I love that and I write back to everyone that takes the time to email me.
What is your future vision – personally and professionally?
We’ll this whole experience has been a wild ride. I’m not married to any ideas just yet. I would love to partner with a drug company or a charity and do some HIV education. I think it’s desperately needed. Of course I will keep designing. For now I will stay in menswear. I made a line of samples which you can see on my website jackmackenroth.com but I’m not sure what I want to do with them yet. Mass production is a HUGE undertaking. Backers? Anyone? (Crickets heard here)
I wouldn’t be opposed to doing more television either. I could sell hot glue guns on QVC and host red carpet events, or maybe Dale and I could have our own show where we just run around in our underwear, Bravo seems to like that about me. I will be seeing more of Dale. That’s for sure.
How would spend your last $20?
Lets see…I would buy eyelash glue, a hair scrunchie, a roll of tape and a D battery and then I’d call MacGyver.