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Intown Rundown: Do it with style
June 9, 2011 - April Diodato
My, do I have a plethora of information for you this week! On the agenda: an interview with a “Project Runway” contestant who was recently in town for a photo shoot, a review of the new “X-Men” movie and your guide to an action-packed weekend in Chautauqua County. It will be hard to decide what to do with a calendar so full, but no matter what you choose to do on these delightfully-warm late spring days, do it with style.
MAKING IT WORK
What happens after the credits roll? I spoke to Christopher Straub, a designer featured on “Project Runway” season six, who has made considerable headway toward making his dreams come true since his appearance on the show. Straub, the celebrity judge in Maurices’ Main Street Model contest, came to Fredonia on Monday for a shoot with the winning model, SUNY Fredonia student Alyssa Buckley. Here’s the dish on what Tim Gunn is really like, Straub’s new line for Maurices’ (to debut later this year) and why the small town life is the life for him.
How did Maurices’ approach you about doing your upcoming line?
C: We share a small-town philosophy. I’m proud of being from a small town and I’m a self-taught designer, and I decided after the show that I wanted to stay in my small town but do big-city things. I still wanted to do product development, I still wanted to put on fashion shows and I didn’t need to go to New York or LA to do it.
What made you decide to stay in Shakopee, Minn., instead of relocating to somewhere like New York City?
C: I’m such a small-town person and I truly feel like I’m the type of person that New York will chew up and spit out. I feel a lot more comfortable in an environment that feels like home. The reality, too, is that I built my house and I really like where I live, so it really made sense for me. I can always travel to do business – I work with overseas manufacturers a lot – so I can do all of that stuff from my home actually.
How does your hometown of Shakopee compare to Fredonia?
C: They’re very similar – they both have a lot of charm to them. Fredonia is about 50 minutes outside of Buffalo and my hometown is just about 40 minutes outside of Minneapolis. It’s far enough away from the big-city clutter but it’s close enough so that if you wanted to go out and experience that life, it’s easy.
Can you give me some details on your new line for Maurices’?
C: It’s going to follow the collections that I’ve done that people may be familiar with from “Project Runway.” I’m definitely inspired by nature and I like to do pieces that are more evening and more fun. So the pieces that are in the store are going to be these accessible versions of what people expect from me, which is really fun textural treatments and really light fabrics.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
C: My aesthetic is a focus on texture and volume but also really easy silhouettes… which makes them relatable.
You have no formal training and made your first garment at 14 -- what made you want to become a designer?
C: I was always an artist – I had worked a lot with other mediums. I had done a lot of sculpture, I was drawing every day, all day. And I would draw outfits, I would draw fashion, but up until when I was 14 years old, I hadn’t really had an opportunity to put something together – to actually make them come to life. Once that happened, I really felt connected to fashion.
When you got the call that you had been selected for “Project Runway,” were you surprised?
C: Not so much surprised because I knew that my story was unique – I’m self-taught, from a small town, I hadn’t made a name for myself yet and I was just determined. So when I was chosen, it made sense because they cast the show in a way that showcases a range of lifestyles. I thought mine was unique enough to differentiate myself from the other designers that had gone the classic route of, “I went to school and interned under these fabulous designers and now I’m going to do it myself.” Mine was really a story of struggle.
You won the first challenge of the season, with Lindsay Lohan as a guest judge. I want to hear all about the judges!
C: I definitely loved having Lindsay Lohan there. She liked my dress so obviously I like her! We actually didn’t really get to meet (the judges) but it was great to see them. Like, Christina Aguilera was on our season but we didn’t actually get to hug her, or talk to her or anything like that. They keep the judges really separate from the contestants.
You did get to work with Tim Gunn. What is he like?
C: That was a side-by-side kind of thing – that was really wonderful. He’s exactly how he seems on the show. Very nurturing, very helpful but he lets you think for yourself.
What do you think about the way you were portrayed on TV?
C: I actually felt really good about what they made my character on the show. A lot of my friends had come up to me after the program aired and said, “I was worried that on television you’d be a whole different person,” but they all felt like they were just watching me. So everything that I said, did, my mannerisms, they didn’t manipulate me to be someone I’m not and they didn’t really edit out any of my personality. I feel really fortunate actually!
What challenge did you learn the most from?
C: It was that first challenge! Because as a budding designer, I really didn’t know what people would respond to because I hadn’t really put my stuff out there – I had private clients. What was great about that first challenge was, I did what I would do – I did my feminine touches and I did my panel treatments – and they responded well to it, and so I thought, “This is awesome! People get me!” Before that, I wasn’t quite sure if people would understand my point of view.
If you could dress anyone, who would it be?
C: Emma Watson … She is adorable!
What are your goals?
My goal since the show has been to land my product in a mainstream store, whether that be a department store or a specialty store like Maurices’ – and then here I am! It was just a great partnership from the very beginning because I think we’re both going to benefit from this relationship.
REEL TALK: 'X-Men: First Class'
Over the years, the films in the “X-Men” franchise have ranged from magnificent to downright awful. The latest film, a prequel, might be the best one so far. “X-Men: First Class” is stylish, exciting and delivers on those spectacular special-effects enhanced action scenes for which the series is known.
It isn't necessary to be a diehard comic book fan or a superhero movie devotee in order to enjoy this film. For starters, there's plenty of eye candy, no matter what your flavor – woman, man or mutant. The breakout star, however, is Michael Fassbender as Magneto, for whom the casting was spot-on. He’s like a combination of James Bond and Don Draper – expect big things from this man. The weak link among the group, hands down, was the breathtakingly beautiful January Jones as Emma Frost. She has the ice queen act down pat, no doubt honed during her years playing the ultimate battle-axe Betty Draper on “Mad Men,” but really, a mannequin could have done just as well.
I would be remiss not to mention the fashion. Oh, the fashion! Can every superhero film from now on be set in the 1960s? The male mutants looked sharp in their suits while their female counterparts went mod; the real standout, however, was Emma Frost. What Jones lacked in substance she made up for in wardrobe, with white catsuits, white platform boots and an over-the-top fur hat that elicited giggles from the audience as soon as it appeared onscreen.
So far, it’s been a summer with more hits than misses. Can the next big-budget action blockbuster continue this winning streak?
“X-Men: First Class” is now playing at the Dunkirk Movieplex.
GET OUT OF TOWN
VWLS, Sleep Close Death and Wooden Waves will be at the Mohawk Place on Friday. VWLS is the solo tape manipulation and drone project of Buffalo's Bobby Griffiths. Griffiths is an artist and graphic designer as well. Check out his work at www.guttermagic.net.
Also playing are Sleep Close Death. They bring some underground hip hop to the show and are the duo of Jesse Witt on the microphone with Mac Lethal on the turntables.
Wooden Waves end the night with their undersea inspired post-rock. They would appeal to fans of Tortoise or Sleeping Kings Of Iona.
The doors open at 9 p.m. and the cover is $5. The Mohawk Place is located at 47 E. Mohawk St., Buffalo.
- Go for baroque this weekend. The Bach & Beyond Festival will be held at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House, with performances by top-notch baroque specialists at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Also coming up at the Opera House: a presentation of “Madame Butterfly,” on Wednesday, June 15, at 6:30 p.m., part of the Live at the Met ENCORE Series. Go to www.fredopera.org for all of the details.
- Walleye Willie's live music line-up for this weekend is as follows — Thursday: Big Tone, Friday: Widow Maker and Saturday: White Chocolate featuring Mrs. America 1998 Lisa Christie as lead singer. Also, every Tuesday, Walleye’s will be featuring Brain Storm Trivia along with “Don't Forget That Lyric” hosted by DJ Doc from Felony Entertainment. It will be a competition with prizes to be awarded to the winners each week.
- The annual Merritt Winery Strawberry Festival will be held Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m., at the winery in Forestville. Music on Saturday will include Side Effect with Gina V, Black Widow and Sean Patrick McGraw; and on Sunday, Fool's Errand and Willowcreek Band. Expect an appearance from Buffalo Sabres alum Rob Ray, a car and motorcycle cruise, raffles, vendors and, of course, the Sangria Wine Slush. It’s best to attend the fest with a D.D. already reserved.
- The Juneteenth Festival will be Saturday and Sunday at the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds. Festivities will include an ice cream eating contest, activities for the kids, a performance by the African dance troupe from Dunkirk’s African Cultural Center, a Gospel Fest with performances by The New Gospel Sounds of Dunkirk, Judah and Vizion of Rochester, and much more.
- Chautauqua County’s roller derby team, the Babes of Wrath, take on the Eerie Roller Girls of Erie, Pa., in the Summer Bruise-In Sun-day at the Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena. The tailgate party starts at 2 p.m., followed by the pre-bout ceremony at 3:50, the bout at 4, and an after-party at 5:45 p.m. Go to www.babesofwrath.com to learn more and find a link to the Babes’ Facebook page. These girls are fierce. Don’t miss it!
April Diodato is the OBSERVER Lifestyles editor. Send comments and events to firstname.lastname@example.org
VWLS will be at the Mohawk Place in Buffalo on Friday night. Photo by Justin Goetz