Project Runway’s Mychael Knight speaks to St. John’s students

Best known for his appearance on season three of BRAVO’s “Project Runway,” the German born and Atlanta based fashion designer, Mychael Knight, shared with St. John’s students his journey to success and the fashion business through his eyes on Thursday April 24, 2008 in the Little Theatre.

He spoke about his personal experiences and answered student’s questions concerning the fashion industry and his participation in the popular designer’s contest “Project Runway.”

After watching an episode of Soul Train at the age of 8-years-old, breaking into the fashion industry became a dream for Knight that fortunately became a reality. “I wouldn’t work unless it was in fashion,” he said.

He likens breaking into the fashion industry to breaking into the music industry. “First you come up with somewhat of a demo,” he said ” a collection or two, shop different labels, find investors that believe in you and see your vision and potential to front you the money…It’s pretty parallel and it’s just as grimy.”

Knight began to make his mark in fashion by going through the music industry. He became a fashion stylist to music artists such as Jagged Edge, 112, Queen Latifah, and Kelly Clarkson. “You’ve probably seen my stuff but didn’t know it because I wasn’t known like that,” he said.

After being denied an opportunity to compete on season 2 of “Project Runway,” he returned again for season 3. “I went back and tried to sharpen my skills and really hone in on who I am as a designer. I went back to season three and I made it. The rest is history. It’s been an incredible ride.”

The fashion industry is full of glitz and glamour and is dream to many to be part of it. “It’s a real fine line you have to know how to walk,” he notes to anyone trying to break into the fashion industry. “At the end of the day, it’s a business.” “In order to make it, you have to really work towards it. There’s a lot of grit u have to go through before you get to the glamour.”

The fashion industry has a handful of popular and successful African American designers. Being both African American and male, Knight considers this duality a plus. “It’s great! Off the bat you get attention…Every now and then I may get an individual who may not believe it and then its like ‘wow,”’ he said. “I want more [African Americans] visual [in the field of fashion]… I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

When asked about his Project Runway experience he said, ” If I had to do it all over, I definitely would. It was such a learning experience for me. I honed in on who I was as a designer. I saw who I didn’t want to be like and I saw who inspired me to be better.”

One student asked him if he’d had any regrets concerning the show. He responded, “No— Yes, I’m lying. I wish I never made that damn couture challenge dress.”

Knight recognizes that the show is his claim to fame but said that due to his “go-getter” demeanor he believes he would still be successful in fashion had he never been featured in it. “The show was not the beginning of my career by far. I’ve been doing this a long time,” he told students. “I’ve always known I wasn’t meant for mediocrity…when you’re dealt the cards you’re dealt [in life] u got to know how to play them.”

He discussed his life after the show as a designer . “I did get a little attention [from the show],” he said. “I’m continuing to produce collections and find investors to back me. More than just backing me, it’s important to me that they see my vision. I find that if they don’t see your vision, later down the line, they try to sway your vision. They want you to move that way. I have to play the game the way I want to play it. You have to be conscious of that”

He is currently working on his self-named collection, Mychael Knight and used his $10,000 prize as fan favorite toward his unisex fragrance, “Magic.”

He also works with a group of 5 female dancers given the name “Kitty’s Litter,” who market his intimate apparel line “Kitty and Dick.” “[Kitty’s Litter] is a hot group of girls that dance… they’re like the Pussycat Dolls meets Charlie’s Angels meets the fly girls from “In Living Color,” he said. The dancers perform at cabaret shows for special celebrity guests.

One member of the dance group, Candis Osborne, was a former student at St. John’s University. “She’s great! She’s really good!” he said in reference to her skill as a performer.

Junior, Talia Rodgers, said that Knight’s lecture taught her not to compromise for anything she wants in life. ” I want to work in the music industry,” she said. “That’s a tough field to break into and be really successful in but its what I want and he’s an inspiration to just go for it.”