Among the 16 eager contests are two Brooklyn-based designers to represent the borough’s vibrant style: Marquise Foster and Geoffrey Mac.
“There’s a unique vibe in Brooklyn that I am in love with,” Foster explained. “The many different cultures in the city makes me want to try new ideas with fabrics that I typically wouldn’t use, and that is what pushes a designer to be different, creating something unexpected.”
Foster and Mac compete with designers from all over the country, as well as Korea and Moldova, for a grand prize of $250,000 courtesy of Bluprint and a chance to be showcased in one of its digital series.
The winner will also receive a feature in ELLE magazine, $50,000 compliments of Pilot FriXion Erasable Gel Ink Pens, and an invaluable mentorship with the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
“It has been intense,” Mac said of the competition experience. “I learned to stop doubting my gut. Designing on the fly really brings out the truth as to who you are as a designer.”
Karlie Kloss returns as the show’s host, along with Christian Siriano as mentor. Returning judges Nina Garcia, Brandon Maxwell and Elaine Welteroth are joined by guests like Cyndi Lauper, Laverne Cox and Leslie Jones in deciding which contestants have what it takes to advance in the competition.
Fans will get a piece of the action too, voting on the outfits they like best. Both the judges’ winning look, in addition to a fan-favorite look, will be manufactured in the U.S. by Nineteenth Amendment (a production platform that produces sustainable clothing), and sold on Bravo’s website.
Each week, the 90-minute episodes will present quintessential New York City locations such as the TWA Hotel at JFK, The Vessel at Hudson Yards and Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue.
In true NY style, this season will include diverse perspectives, featuring a nonbinary model, a trans model, a DREAMer and the oldest designer to compete on “Project Runway” to date.
Season 18 of “Project Runway” premieres Thursday at 9:30 p.m. on Bravo.
Born in Oakland, Foster was a self-proclaimed “artsy kid.” To stay out of trouble on the rough streets of his hometown, Foster moved to live with his dad in Louisiana at 13.
There, he channeled his creative energy into fashion, eventually venturing to NYC in 2009, with the dream of pursuing the outlet as a career. Foster taught himself sewing, construction techniques and everything else related to making original clothing from his new home in Brooklyn.
Foster brought his talents to several internships with local designers before eventually deciding to launch his own self-titled brand. His brother, who was shot and killed in 2011, was a huge influence in Foster moving to New York City to pursue fashion, and continues to be a motivation for the designer to keep pushing forward with his brand.
“I do this for the love I have when seeing others in my garments, I do this for my family who is proud of how far I’ve came, and I do this for my brother Bill, who made sure I was focused on learning how to be a great businessman,” he said.
Also a part of the city’s vivid House and Ballroom scene, Foster’s collections range from menswear and womenswear to avant-garde gowns. His designs have been showcased at NY Fashion Week 2017 and 2018, as well as Philly Fashion Week 2018.
He was also a finalist at the Out Magazine Vanguard Awards in 2017, and has dressed celebrities like Indya Moore and Dominique Jackson from “Pose.”
The versatile designer aims to create fashions that celebrates body positivity and would make anyone wearing them feel important. Foster passes down these intentions and his self-taught skills to the industry’s next generation, teaching fashion design to high school students in Harlem.
For Foster, the biggest takeaway from “Project Runway” has been learning to overcome doubts about his abilities as a self-taught designer.
“I sometimes feel that my work isn’t good enough and no one would recognize that quality that goes into my work,” he said. “The experience has given me a better confidence about what I am capable of doing. I knew things wouldn’t be easy on the show, and I was ready to be pushed to limits that I’ve never dealt with before.”
Mac made a decision to pursue fashion design and construction 20 years ago, and he has never looked back. After earning a BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999, he launched his own brand called Geoffrey Mac, which he continued to cultivate over the past two decades.
“Designing is everything to me,” said Mac. “Whether it’s a print or a sculpture, design has been a part of me since I was a child. It’s the medium that my obsession with aesthetics is fulfilled. I am a designer and artist, it’s who I am.”
The inspiration for Mac’s designs comes from the various places he lived growing up in a military family, as well as 90s rave culture. His collections, which range from quirky costume to luxury couture, have been featured in many fashion shows, including 2018 Dark Collection, Feb 2016 Sonar, and February 2016 Ice Cream Truck Underwear.
Over the years, Mac developed an impressive portfolio of celebrity work. His clients include icons such as Britney Spears, Debbie Harry and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sharon Needles.
The dedicated, ambitious designer is able to tackle immense challenges on tight deadlines, a critical skill set to possess working in the world of fame. For instance, he once made 24 garments in four days for Lady Gaga’s dancers on tour. Mac’s designs were also featured on an episode of America’s Next Top Model, which aired in 2011.
Even for an accomplished designer such as Mac, the “Project Runway” competition challenged his limits and forced him to face personal fears.
“I am a private person and have a bit of social anxiety, so letting go and accepting who I am has been a big part of this,” he said. “I never sketch in front of people, let alone everyone on set and on TV.”
With this invigorating experience now under his belt, Mac will pursue his dreams to one day own a boutique in Manhattan.