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Designer Q&A: Project Runway's Kimberly Goldson

Catching up with the "Project Runway" finalist.
If you tuned-in to this past season’s “Project Runway,” then there’s no way you could’ve forgotten finalist Kimberly Goldson. From the moment this Brooklyn native was turned away three season’s ago by Judge Tim Gunn, she didn’t give up without a fight.

Fast-forward to season 9, and this self-taught designer had models strutting her Spring ’12 looks down the runway at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.

Inspired by the “around away girl,” Goldson stays true to her roots — translating how girls dress the real way onto the runway. Here, we chat about BK style and her love of Oscar de la Renta.

ESSENCE.com: What was life like pre-Project Runway?
Kimberly Goldson: Prior to Project Runway, I was designing custom garments for private clients.  I had only been designing for 4 years before I auditioned for Season 9 of the show.  I went to an open call for Season 6 in Miami but was declined by Tim Gunn, who said I needed more experience at that time and rightfully so.

ESSENCE.com: You’re originally from Brooklyn NY, how does this influence your personal style and your line?
Goldson: Being from Brooklyn has everything to do with my personal style and my line. I grew up in BK during the emergence of hip-hop, so you’ll always see me with big earrings, the latest handbags and sky-high shoes. I got nailed for that styling on the show, but they just didn’t know how to relate to that look. The aim for my line is to bring credit to the place where a lot of fashion begins. In the mainstream fashion industry, African-Americans are underrepresented and not given the recognition for our sense of style. I’d like to help change that.

ESSENCE.com: From where do you draw inspiration?
Goldson: My mother is my main source of inspiration. I remember her style when I was a child as being quintessential ‘70s style. I wanted to emulate everything that she wore, go the places she went and exude the lifestyle I thought she was living; all because of what she was wearing. So this inspired me to not only have a fashion line but to embody a full lifestyle through my designs.   

ESSENCE.com: Who is the Kimberly Goldson girl?
Goldson: The Goldson girl is one from an urban setting. I’ve had this debate on what it means to be “urban” and for me it just means from a city environment. Not necessarily the inner-city. My girl has a career and a social life that she has to dress for and she wants to be fashionable for all occasions.

ESSENCE.com: Which celebrity would you most love to be your muse?
Goldson: I would love for Zoe Saldana to be my muse. Aside from her amazing body, her fearless sense of style is refreshing. I love that she takes risks and is not afraid to go where most people won’t with fashion.   

ESSENCE.com: Who are your favorite designers and which were you most influenced by?
Goldson: I love Oscar de la Renta. He influenced me the most when I began and was figuring out my strengths as a designer. I fell in love with his amazing structure and his timeless class but that each collection brings so much excitement. That’s what I want for my line: classic pieces that have major excitement to them. I also love Alice + Olivia, Christian Siriano and L.A.M.B.

ESSENCE.com: With which of those designers could you see collaborating?
Goldson: I would love to collaborate with Gwen Stefani. I love her personal style and the way she has translated that for her L.A.M.B. collections. I think we have a similar focus in fashion that could make for a masterful team.

ESSENCE.com: As a self-taught designer, in what ways has the show and its intense challenges transformed you?
Goldson: The show has transformed my aesthetic. I’ve always had the style that I have, but being on the show, I have learned how to translate that into a clear point-of-view. I have discovered who my customer is and what I think she wants to wear. The invaluable critiques from the experts have taught me how to rein that in and make it distinct. From the first challenge to my final collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, you can see my evolution. An evolution that I’m sure would have happened but never as fast and as intensely as it did.   

ESSENCE.com: How has life been post ‘Project Runway,’ and how do you plan to make sure the world doesn’t forget your name?
Goldson: Life post “Project Runway” has been great. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to travel and speak at various events and that within itself have been a dream come true. However, now comes the hard part: turning the exposure from this moment into a long-lasting career as a mainstay in the fashion industry. I’m up for the challenge. In fact, I welcome it. This is only the beginning.