pho t os by Alex a Pence
There was never anything after that to me.” He took the summer to find himself and realized he needed to get back to Louisville – the city he had fallen in love with since high school. It was in responding to a Craigslist ad for a job managing a fashion boutique on Bardstown Road that he met another important mentor in his life. “Michelle Pellerin, the owner of The Pink Door, plucked me from depression, taught me so much about running a business and saved me from turning into somebody who was just burned by reality TV.” One day, on his way across the bridge to Jeffersonville, the phone rang. “It was a blocked call from Los Angeles and I knew what I was getting myself into before I even answered the phone.” Project Runway asked Gunnar if he would audition for Season 10 of the popular series – a rare second opportunity. “I turned my car around before I even got across the bridge and went to Hancock Fabrics and bought everything I would need to make a collection.” For Gunnar, it was time for redemption. He arrived at auditions this time armed with an impressive collection called Spy-Wear, a reinvented look (hair he had died half black and half white often evoking Cruella de Vil references) and a new strategy for how to approach this competition: “I was easily deemed the villain of that season, and while it might have appeared that I embraced that role, it’s hard to hear and read some of that criticism about yourself. I came home and distracted myself from the onslaught of social media attacks by falling in love for the first time.” His Season 10 experience wasn’t completely mired by the public’s reaction to his onscreen persona. It culminated on fashion’s largest stage in the country – New York Fashion Week in the tents of Lincoln Center. What the casual viewer of the show doesn’t see is that the top seven contestants actually get to create and produce a runway show, not just the top three (or sometimes four) which is what is shown on the edited version on Lifetime. In a time of online spoilers, this is done so the guests of the fashion show won’t know and leak who the actual top three designers are before the eliminations have a chance to play out on television. That year I happened to be covering fashion week in New York for Nfocus when I received a call from Project Runway producers saying I had been invited to watch Gunnar Deatherage’s collection. It was quite a profound moment. Well, it was a profound moment wrapped into a very long eight hour experience that began at 4:00 a.m. I got but a glimpse into how taxing the production of such a show must be for the competitors (days that Gunnar explains are sometimes 22 hours long silently awaiting your fate). I watched seven competitor’s collections walk the runway three times each so that the cameras could capture every angle,
every detail. Each walk must be conducted like it is the most important. Then the tent filled with all of the VIP guests and celebrity judges and the collections show again – this time just once, to capture reaction shots from judges and fellow competitors. When Gunnar stepped onto the most coveted platform in fashion to announce his aboriginal-inspired collection he said, “This is for everyone from a small town with a dream.” I wished every young creative child that felt at one time like they didn’t fit into the mold could have witnessed that triumphant moment. Two years later, the phone rang again with that blocked Los Angeles number, this time while Gunnar was shopping for plants in Lowe’s with his roommate Cassandra in the middle of a conversation about how he needed to make a change in his life. “I hung up and looked at her and said, ‘Remember that thing that gave me intense angst for a year of my life? Am I really going to do that again?’” He hadn’t sewn since New York Fashion Week, and he was no longer in the relationship that had distracted him from the anxiety of public opinion. But he thought, “I’m 24. Why not?” This opportunity was to compete for Project Runway All Stars (now airing on Lifetime, Thursdays at 9/8c) and while contracts with the network require him to be discreet about specifics of the competition, he can confirm that he left unscathed this time (with the exception of forming a dangerous and expensive shopping habit at Barney’s during down time). “I got to have incredible conversations with very established designers for whom I have a lot of respect. I went in thinking of them as competitors and left thinking of them as allies.”
Midwest Fashion Week and Beyond Since returning home from Project Runway All Stars, Gunnar has fallen in love with his craft again. He has been busy designing and creating two collections containing well over 200 pieces of clothing. One is a ready-to-wear collection currently for sale at gunnardeatherage.com, and the other, Destination Hydra, closed the show to much enthusiasm at Midwest Fashion Week in Indianapolis in October. He’s already conceptualizing his next collections, all of which are different. “Some marketers would say that is a mistake because you can only make money from knowing your clientele, but I’m not motivated by money. Money makes people miserable. I enjoy doing it and if it doesn’t sell, I’ll donate it. The relief is that I’m not afraid to fail. I’ve failed nationally on television before!” I’m not certain what the future holds for Gunnar or where his talents may take him; but, I’m certain that his work will always have a piece of Louisville in it. And Louisville will always be able to claim Gunnar as one of our all stars.
14 >> DECEMBER 2014 | nfocuslouisville.com Gunnar.indd 14
11/19/14 3:38 PM