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Q&A: Althea Harper, Designer

We saw down with Project Runway runner-up Althea Haprer to get the scoop on the Project Runway experience, her eponymous collection, and what’s next for this breakout design star!

Q&A: Althea Harper, Designer

Project Runway fans probably remember Althea Harper, the Season 6 runner-up. According to Tommy Hilfiger, her work was genius. According to Tim Gunn, she was the “tall blond beauty” set to “blow people away,” which is just what she’s been doing since the show ended. In fact, these days you’ll probably find her putting the finishing touches on collections for her eponymous line, which now regularly shows at New York Fashion Week. We sat down with Althea to get the scoop on the Project Runway experience, her eponymous collection, and what’s next for this breakout design star!

1. When did you first become interested in fashion?
I first became interested in fashion was I was young, watching the ice skaters and movie stars at the Oscars. I always loved to draw and I would sit there and imagine new looks for them.

2. You were the runner up on Season 6 of Project Runway. What was your entire Project Runway experience like and what did you take away from it?
Project Runway was definitely an interesting experience. It was a lot more intense than I thought it would be. I was on the show at a good time in my career because I came straight from school and it taught me a lot about becoming a professional designer, not just a student designer.

3. What were your first steps after Project Runway?
I began working for Tory Burch and learning about the fashion industry as an employee, not just an intern.

4. You launched your eponymous line in 2009 at fashion week. What was it like to show your collection for the first time?
It was great to be able to show my collection as a professional and as my career. There is a lot of pride in that and I was so happy that I forced myself to do it, even though I was working at Tory Burch at the time and was beyond stressed doing both labels!

5. What was your first big moment when you realized you were making it as a label?
I am still waiting for that! I am still in the early stages so I have to always be on my game! Every new success brings a new challenge and with every goal I reach, I have 500 more that are waiting!

6. What was the biggest challenge when you started?
Funding is hard because you have to come up with all these samples first, and then if you get orders you have to front the money to get those made until delivery. Also, you have to learn all the ins-and-outs of production, sales, etc. There are a lot of things that design school doesn’t teach you.

7. In the past, you have worked with Tory Burch, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Zac Posen and Anna Sui. How have these experiences influenced you?
Every designer that I have worked for has influenced me in a different way. I learned about marketing and pricing from Tory Burch, draping from Vivienne Westwood, conceptual design from McQueen, patterning from Zac Posen, and fabrics from Anna Sui.

8. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from all kinds of different things. It can be a book, a person or a place. My last collection was inspired by sound waves and the one before that was inspired by the Futurism movement.

9. Who is the Althea Harper girl?
I really don’t have a specific “girl” in mind. It’s more about the woman who is confident and believes that she can have it all. She can be sexy and chic, tailored yet relaxed. She can go from the office to dinner to dancing and still have a great family life. She doesn’t need one label, because she can have it all.

10. Can you walk our readers through a day in your life?
Every day is different but on an “average” day I would say that I wake up around 6:30/7am, go to the gym, and then grab a muffin and cappuccino before heading to the studio. I often times spend the morning getting all my emails done. Then I usually have to run uptown to get fabric for an order, or stop in at production. Then I do shipments, etc., and then I either design, or finish emails, depending on the day, and if it is during sales or shows.

11. Where do you see the label in five years?
I see Althea Harper on the contemporary floors at all the major department stores, and a line shoes and handbags!

12. Finally, do you have any other ventures in the pipeline?
Right now I am just focused on getting my signature collection into some major retailers, and launching my organic bamboo jersey line Sittella.

Images: Brian Lynch

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