Isabella, "Izzy", a finalist on "Project Runwau Junior", season 2.
Isabella, “Izzy”, a finalist on “Project Runwau Junior”, season 2.

Eeeekkk! I’m so excited to share my interview with Izzy, a finalist on “Project Runway Junior”, season 2, on the blog today! As you may recall, this is my first time watching a season of “Project Runway Junior”, although I have watched “Project Runway” since season one (you can read the full story here).

The appeal for the “junior” track is 1. contestants are 16, and already talented AF, and 2. they aren’t tainted by the fashion world, or frankly, any world quite yet – they’re innocent and their designs reflect 100% originality. It’s fantastic!

Izzy, as she’s called on the show, is nothing short of that – she even blew up a Japanese trend by wearing a sprout on her head during the season premier (you can buy your own here). She’s fun, incredibly creative, and now she’s going into the season finale (part one airs tomorrow night on Lifetime). Here’s my interview with Izzy!

Are you still in school and/or living in Mount Pleasant, Michigan?

Yes, I’m a junior in high school.

When did you start designing and sewing? 

I learned how to sew when I was 10, and then I started designing when I was 12.

How did you start?

So there’s this thing in my town called Dream Key Design Academy, which is an after-school sewing place, I took after-school lessons there, and they were like ‘Oh wow, she has potential’, so they really took me under their wing and I started taking private classes there. I took classes there for four years and that’s where I learned how to sew and pretty much learned everything for designing.

It seems like the contestants on ‘Project Runway Junior’ have an innocence about them. Do you all notice that in yourselves? 

Yeah, we definitely notice it. It feels really good to be alive as a ‘Project Runway Junior’ contestant. I don’t know what to say but people always tell us that. This one time in the studio, we were filming, and whenever we film, either our mom or our dad is there, and Zac Posen was there that day, and he talked to our parents. He went up to our parents and was like, ‘I’m just so proud of your guys’ kids, they’re doing such great jobs, coming up with their own design styles, don’t let them look at fashion magazines or anything so they can really develop their own styles and change the fashion industry.’ That was really sweet to hear.

The look that sent Izzy to the finale of "Project Runway Junior". Follow Izzy on Instagram @Izzyshanghai
The look that sent Izzy to the finale of “Project Runway Junior”. Follow Izzy on Instagram @Izzyshanghai

How did you find out about ‘Project Runway Junior”?

I was at my aunt’s house over winter break and we were just chillin’, watching ‘Project Runway’ ’cause that’s what we love to do and it was ‘Project Runway Junior’ and I was just like ‘Omigosh, I can do this, I’m so much better than them!’ And we watched episode two, and I was like, ‘Okay, what the heck, these guys are really good!’ So then I looked up the application online, it was a super-sketchy website, so I filled out the application, and then I had to send in a 3-minute video, so we did that and then I got a call back. They wanted to do an interview over the phone and that was like the best day of my life, honestly. And then a few weeks later, they emailed me and said ‘Congrats you’re a semi-finalist’, and we flew out to New York for the semi-final audition, and about a month later I found out I made it onto the show.

What was the most difficult part of being on the show?

Definitely coming up with new designs, because, something that people don’t realize is you will 100% sure get designer’s block. It happens to everyone because it’s just the same repetition of doing your work in the work room, and you don’t really get time outside of the studio – as kids we got a lot more time than the adults because we had to follow child labor laws, we can only work for 9 hours a day – but just feeling uninspired, and losing your sense of design, but it will come back to you and it really forces you to push yourself out of your box. That was a really hard part but also the part that I’m really thankful for.

How has being on the show changed you as a designer?

It changed me so much. I want to push myself more, be more innovative. It’s taught me to always have fun with your designs and be true to who you are and to never be afraid to try something new or push the boundaries. Just because something has been done this way for the past 20 years doesn’t mean a 15-year-old designer can’t change it. You can always push the boundaries.

In the season premier, it seemed like everyone was so excited to see Tim Gunn. Was he everything you hoped for?

Absolutely! Tim Gunn is honestly the most amazing person, I know I almost cried, because that’s when I realized this was real. He’s the nicest person you’ve ever worked with on TV, he is so sweet, and he just cares about everyone so much. People say that he always remembers everyone’s names; the way he is in front of camera is the way he is all the time. He was trying to help everyone as much as he possibly can. It’s really cool because a school in my town has a fashion design program and they have their end-of-the-year fashion show and Tim Gunn is actually coming to guest judge, so it’s really cool that I’ll get to see him again.

What inspires you?

Current events… honestly everything. ‘Project Runway’ taught me you can get inspiration from every single thing.

What are you working on right now?

I have a website – IzzySprout.com – and I’m trying to whip out some really cool designs for that at the moment. It’s really sad because I haven’t gotten a lot of time to sew since the show because I have a job as a lifeguard at a water park. I just made a bunch of really cool bomber jackets, because my mom had all of this fabric she was never going to use, so I’m trying to incorporate those textiles (Chinese embroidery) into different pieces of clothing. I’m making an Ursula costume for my school’s musical.

Is it weird being back at school?

My friends are really into the show. I go to a really small school, it’s a private catholic school, so there’s only 35 people in my whole grade, so we’re all super close. They all kind of make fun of me about it, but they don’t treat me any different than they did before. People in my town are being awesome and super supportive. I’m just ready to be in college, because I had such a taste of freedom and being independent on ‘Runway’, because I was in charge of my fate. Now I’m back at school and everyone is in charge of me, so I’m ready to be a free bird again.

Where are you looking to go to college?

I’m looking to go to Parsons or FIT, and they’re both design schools in New York City.

So, what about the water park?

The water park is so funny. I don’t really even need to work there because I don’t do anything or buy anything, so I don’t need money. I’m also super busy, so I don’t even know why I work there. I was about to quit after about a month and a half because it made me sick; chlorine will poison you if you’re in there too long. But my best friend and another friend just got a job there, so I’m staying. It’s really fun and quirky. This is going to sound strange but you know how teenagers have that job where they’re like ‘Oh, that was so horrible’, or they have antics from it? That’s my current job right now. Also, I’m never going to go to a water park again because I’ve seen people throw up in the river and they don’t shut it down. It’s disgusting.

I saw on your blog that you went to a women’s march last month. I know you want to make fearless, feminine pieces; where does fashion meet politics?

I’m so #Feminism! That’s so interesting, and so sweet of you to ask that question. I have so much responsibility as a young 16-year-old to answer that question, and no one has ever asked me. I definitely think the fashion industry is taking a fantastic stance on it. The CFDA – Council of Fashion Designers of America – did this whole ‘stand with Planned Parenthood’ campaign and I was so incredibly proud of them for making such a strong move. Obviously, we’re all fashion designers, we’re liberal, and we want equality for all. Do you, express yourself, unity for all! It’s such a fantastic community to be a part of and to be a member of such a diverse, creative, and accepting community – I am very proud of that.

I think fashion is so cool because – sometimes there’s that controversy about showing more skin – what should a strong, independent woman do? Is she conservative or should she put herself out there? Once you delve into the fashion stuff, it’s about whatever you want, because that’s what is right. Don’t let someone else influence your decision. If you feel that way, you are right.

Watch Part One of the “Project Runway Junior” finale on Lifetime, tomorrow at 8pm EST/7pm CST. 

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