Project Runway's Louise Black stitches her way into Austin fashion

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Editor's note: This is the final part in a three-part series profiling designers participating in this year’s Austin Fashion Week, which began last Saturday and ends tonight.

Season 6 “Project Runway” contestant and fashion designer Louise Black moved down to Austin from Dallas this May and caught up with The Daily Texan on what her plans are now after the television competition.

Although she’s still settling into her new home in south Austin with her husband Chaos, UT’s Textiles and Apparels Department has discussed possible lectures in the future.

Recognized for her gothic flapper-esque designs on the show, Black hopes to go in a more avant-garde, stylized direction with her designs. She currently sells designer corsets, accessories and dresses online at Etsy.com.

She and other designers, retailers, stylists and photographers nominated for the Austin Fashion Awards will be walking the red carpet tonight at the Long Center.

Daily Texan: Why did you decide to move to Austin?

Louise Black: I was just finally done with school [at El Centro in Dallas] and picked up my diploma [in fashion design and pattern making] this summer. We had always planned on moving back once I finished fashion school; we just didn’t know when it was going to happen, and “Project Runway” kind of pushed everything back. I had to take off six weeks from school.

DT: When were you first in Austin?

LB: My husband and I initially started dating here. I was getting my degree at Southwest Texas University for clinical lab science and I was about six months away from completing my degree. It was always my heart, though, that I wanted to do fashion. So I would come home and start sewing skirts and corsets and sell them on eBay for extra cash. People started repeat buying my stuff and getting custom orders so it just grew from there. My husband taught himself how to make a website and do photography and it just blew up from there.

DT: What have you been doing since being on “Project Runway?”

LB: My husband and I just got inundated with orders for corsets and dresses after the show. When we were living in Dallas we had hired a regular girl and a part-time worker. But since we moved to Austin, I’m still looking for a seamstress. So now we’re just now looking to get back into the swing of things.

DT: If you could go back on “Project Runway,” would you do anything differently?

LB: I was happy I got that far. The Macy’s challenge was just unfortunate. I can’t explain to people how exhausted we all were, everyday. The only way we kept going was drinking lots of Red Bull. At any given time I was hysterical from sleep deprivation.

When I picked Nicholas to be my partner, it had completely slipped my mind that he had immunity [from being eliminated]. He just took that as an opportunity to axe his competition. It was a team challenge, but he refused to finish his garments. He would tell me everything is fine, but when he would go into the interview room he told everyone that he hated my dress. I was being sabotaged and not realizing it.

I don’t know if I would have really wanted to make it to the end. When I finished "Project Runway," I had so many orders I needed to fill and my husband couldn’t tell them why I was away. Everybody just thought we were being rude. So I had to immediately start cranking out the corsets.

DT: When did you first discover fashion?

LB: I started reworking clothing when I was in junior high. Just little things like denim jean shorts and bespangling shirts with sequins. Then when I got into high school I got into the whole Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love grunge phase.

DT: So what’s in the future for you?

LB: I don’t really know yet. It all depends on the help we get, and we have about 50 back orders right now. Once we get someone helping us we can start branching out from there. After that I really want to do a clothing line. Accessories are so quick and lucrative, though. It’s a good way to turn a profit, but you can’t get your name out there. There’s so many who do that so you have to do something unique like my skeleton corset.

DT: What are your main influences in your designs?

LB: Usually music. It’s changed my style a lot recently. Whereas I was interested in historical fashion for a long time, doing frilly lacy flapper dresses with a goth feel, I want to go in a ready-to-wear version of what Lady Gaga wears. I’ve always been a club kid at heart, but I haven’t been able to go as much since I moved down to Austin with Fashion Week.

I’ve also been getting glam rock and watching Brian Eno videos. Along with my recent hair color change, I really want to start making newer, weirder modern clothes.

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What: Austin Fashion Awards
When: tonight, 5:30 p.m.
Where: The Long Center for Performing Arts
How Much: $30 - $60