The auf'd designer with the blue mohawk and a love of the third person gives us the scoop about the finicky judges, disrespectful Kenley, and Suede's curious speech habit
Credit: Barbara Nitke/NBC

Last night on Project Runway, the top five designers — Kenley, Jerell, Korto, Leanne, and Suede — put together looks for one another, inspired by musical genres from punk to country. Suede, who created a patchwork vest and low-cut T-shirt with skintight pants for Jerell, got the boot. The judges said it just wasn’t enough. How does he feel? He called up to talk about that, the heinousity of Kenley’s spat with Tim Gunn, and that whole talking-in-third-person thing.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was it strange to actually be on the runway rather than on the sidelines in last night’s episode?

STEPHEN ”SUEDE” BAUM: Well, I modeled when I was in high school, so that brought back memories from long ago. But no, it was actually really fun. I think you could tell I had a good time.

I could! You were really working it up there.

I was working it for Korto. I think I have a career in modeling. [Laughs]

So let’s talk about the look you created for Jerell. Do you think Jerell’s personal style did affect what you put together? It did have a sort of Jerell-ness to it.

Of course it did. He was my client. Shame on me if it didn’t have a Jerell style because I was designing for him. The one thing he did say to me was, when I was making the tank top, that it be very low-cut. He calls them ”man dresses.” I prefer to call it a deep V because that’s a little more masculine. But it was designed for him, so it should reflect his personal taste. I loved what I created for him.

If you had the chance, would you have changed anything? Would you have amped up something here or there?

I mean, of course, I would have loved to make it to the top three. But in hindsight, if I had known what the judges were looking for, if they wanted something a little more over-the-top, of course I would have. I’m not a fool. But if they’d said, ”We want something over-the-top,” I totally would have taken it over-the-top.

That’s a hard balance to find. I’ve talked to all the previous contestants and they always say, ”We never know what the judges want.”

You don’t. You really don’t. The reality is that I was true to what I believe and what I think is smart for a rocker look today. I think that if you turn on MTV, you go to any show to see Chris Daughtry, they’re not showing in some kind of costumey thing. They’re showing up in jeans and a T-shirt. They’re showing up in something that looks nice but isn’t necessarily costumey. It’s something they could go out and buy. So I stayed true to myself and what I think rockers look like today. If I designed for a woman, I think the outfit would have been different, a little more flamboyant, because you can get away with that with them. But not for guys.

And didn’t you say something about not wanting it to be ’80s or something?

Yeah. Jerell was talking about doing Kiss, you know, 1980, and he wanted vinyl, flames, a cape. And seriously? That could have gotten me killed. But now, after what they said last night, maybe that is what they wanted.

NEXT PAGE: Suede talks more about the difficult challenge and designer sabotage

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So do you think this assignment was challenging enough for a top five? What made it or didn’t make it so?

SUEDE: I think it definitely was challenging since we were designing for each other. Even Jerell commented on the show that he was thinking about sabotaging. So you have that element where you have to worry about that. And then you have the element where not only are you designing for someone else, but someone else is designing for you. Meanwhile you need to be working and they need to be fitting you. And on top of that, there’s this musical genre you’re supposed to be designing for that you may not have ever done. And let’s face it, I would have loved to have done punk rock, because…just the color I could have thrown into it. Korto did an amazing job without color, other than the color in my hair, which isn’t a surprise. And, like, Leanne doing country for Korto, that was a stretch, and Leanne wearing hip-hop. So we were all challenged at every level.

Do you think Leanne sabotaged Kenley with her walk on the runway? I feel like she wasn’t into it so much.

Well, Kenley had originally asked her to do that. But that’s not who Leanne is. She’s very quiet. I think she was trying to do what I did, naturally. But I don’t think Leanne really believed in the outfit that much. But that’s a question you have to ask her.

Yeah, it’s weird. Usually you can kind of tell who’s going to be auf’d, because the episode is edited to tell one person’s story more. So last night it seemed like Kenley’s night. So did you feel like you got your story night?

Oh, totally. I’ve gotten so much coverage; I can’t leave my house without getting noticed.

NEXT PAGE: The auf’d designer talks about his fans and what’s up with Suede talking in the third person


ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, what do people say when they come up to you?

SUEDE: Oh, I get hugs, I get kisses. People say they love when I talk in third person. I’ve only had one person who came up to me and actually told me he thought I was an asshole because I speak in third person. And I was like, ”Really? That’s funny to me.” And he was like, ”Why’s that funny?” ”Because the world that we’re living in today, first, it’s not that serious to speak in third person, it’s funny and quirky. I mean, I’m 40, and I have blue hair. I dress very youthful, and my collection is very youthful and exuberant. Like, we’re living in a world where the environment’s at risk, we’re at war still, we have this huge economic crisis, we have an election coming up where there are people who might be voted into the White House who are terrifying to think about in the White House. And you’re worried about how I’m speaking?” And he stopped and said, ”I love you. Can I get your number?” And I was like, ”Not so much.” Thanks for the time and thanks for the lovely compliment.

What’s the third-person-talking thing? When did that start?

Actually, it doesn’t happen as often as it seems on the show because they have to edit hours and hours out. I may say it once every few hours, if I even do that. I might not even say it at all in a day. I say it because it captures attention. I mean, I’m on TV. And it’s funny. And if you watch a lot of these interviews, people talk in third person. People come up to me and say their boss talks in third person. I’d be curious to see if kids in school are doing it now and their teachers are hating me because of it. And it seems to me like adults are more polarized by it than kids. Kids seem to embrace it more and think it’s hysterical. Adults, for some reason, it makes them uncomfortable. Like, the more conservative they are, the more ”roar” or whatever.

NEXT PAGE: ”Kenley’s very young and she needs to accept the fact that she doesn’t know everything.”


ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So let’s talk about Kenley for a minute. Last night there was a discussion about whether she was disrespectful when she was talking to Tim. Do you think she was?

SUEDE: Absolutely. I feel like she was incredibly disrespectful. I feel like he’s there to help us. I came on to this show trying to grow. I was in imports for the past 15 years. I was designing and sending overseas, but I hadn’t sewn anything in forever. So any input I got from Tim was gold. I embraced everything Tim and the judges said to me, whether I liked it or not. It was feedback. Kenley’s very young and she needs to accept the fact that she doesn’t know everything.

Was she always like that?

Yeah, what you see is what you get. We’re all who we are on the show. Nobody’s any different, it’s just more concise.

Was there a lot of rooting for her to go down?

I couldn’t even answer that really because I wasn’t there for the drama. I mean, I had a lot of awkward moments with other designers, but I didn’t get into it with them because that’s not in my personality. I’m about love and taking things to a happy place. None of us need that negative, negative stuff.

NEXT PAGE: What’s next for Suede


ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I was at Bryant Park a couple weeks ago for the show. Just for our readers, can you tell them what your vision was for that?

SUEDE: I was really inspired by winning the Bluefly challenge. That was such an honor. Linear was a big thing that helped me with that because I just created the big strips across the bodice. So my collection was very linear styling, as well as strips that would either be hanging down or on angles. And colors, I was really inspired by happy colors. My collection is really exuberant and young. I know that not everybody got it, and that’s fine. It’s true to who I am right now, and as a designer, I’m an artist. You grow.

Was it difficult designing a collection you knew wouldn’t be in the competition?

Not at all. I was ecstatic to be showing. I would have loved to be in the top three, so that was hard for me, but I made it to the top five. I got to show at Bryant Park. That’s something designers spend their lives trying to do. I’d never been to Bryant Park before, so not only was I at frickin’ Bryant Park, I frickin’ showed at Bryant Park. Don’t feel sorry for me.

Do you have a prediction for the winner?

[Laughs] I don’t think I can answer that because I already know.

Was it hard to keep it a secret?

No, I kept my world a secret. My friends were calling me last night crying, ”Why didn’t you tell us?” So it’s not hard for me.

Where will we find you next?

Well, to keep up to date with all things Suede, go to Next week, I’m doing a charity function with Ashley Judd; it’s an AIDS benefit for children with AIDS. So many doors are opening. I’m really interested in continuing in the film and TV direction. Of course, I’ll still dress people. I wouldn’t rule out showing another collection.


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