'Project Runway' Exit Q&A: Kenley Collins
Few contestants on Project Runway have been as reviled as this season’s loud-mouthed villainess, Kenley Collins. She regularly sassed back to judge Heidi Klum and mentor Tim Gunn and could sometimes be found pumping her fist on the runway, to the chagrin of the other designers. Well, last night she got her comeuppance, as she placed third to winner Leanne Marshall and runner-up Korto Momolu. EW.com checked in with her after the cast off, and guess what? Not surprisingly, the sassy designer had lots to say, including that her designs were not taken from Balenciaga or Alexander McQueen, and, of course, she was the rightful winner of Project Runway.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I know it’s been a while since last night’s episode was taped, so how are you feeling now that you’ve had a little time to digest how it all went down?
KENLEY COLLINS: I’m feeling good. I’m okay with it. I came on the show to get to Bryant Park and show my line, and that’s what I did, and my website is up, and I’m selling things, and I went back to teaching, so it’s exactly what I wanted. My website is very successful.
Did you say you’re teaching?
Yeah, I teach sewing in New York. It’s in the Fashion District, on 37th Street, called Sew Fast, Sew Easy. I teach a beginner’s sewing class and intermediate pattern-making. I’m just trying to make some money right now. I lost all my money because I did Project Runway, and I’m just trying to get my money back, plus more. And it’s working. I’m gonna expand my website and keep selling dresses.
So the Web venture is proving successful so far?
It is very successful, my headpieces are selling like crazy. I get at least five headpiece orders a day, and they’re about $35 to $55. Then, my dresses, I’ll get about one dress per week sold. And the dresses are about $350 each, so it’s a pretty good chunk of money. It’s solid, continuous — it’s good.
As far as the finale goes, I was a little shocked to hear them say your name first, for you to be the first one out. Did that surprise you too?
Yeah, that was shocking, I expected at least second. Korto sent really bad, unfinished pieces down the runway, and underwear was showing, too. I don’t care if you have the best line in the world, if your stuff is showing underwear, and it’s unfinished, that’s unacceptable at Bryant Park. That was really insulting, to have my beautiful, couture-made line come in third next to that was really insulting. Yeah, and really, second, third, same thing.
Do you feel that, ultimately, you should have won?
Of course. It was the best line; it was my dream line. It was really creative, and I put a lot of thought and work into it, and it was a beautiful, inspired collection. I think that it showed.
NEXT PAGE: ”It’s crazy to think that dress looked like Balenciaga. I didn’t know what they were talking about at the time, but then I looked it up, and it looks nothing like it.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: During those eight weeks you had to make your collection, were you working on it night and day? How much time did you spend on it?
KENLEY COLLINS: Night and day. I worked so hard. It was draining. We only had a month, because you want to take a week break, and once you get started, you have to design it, you have to get inspired, you have to be in the moment. We had a month to do 11 pieces, and that’s no time, that’s crazy. I was scared about time. I never slept. We got a lot less time than any other season.
Now, you got to defend yourself a little last night, but I want to hear more about how the judges dinged you because that one dress supposedly looked like a Balenciaga, and your wedding dress was reminiscent of Alexander McQueen.
It’s bulls—. I mean, seriously? You could accuse anyone of stealing from any other designer; it’s all been done. It’s crazy to think that dress looked like Balenciaga. I didn’t know what they were talking about at the time, but then I looked it up, and it looks nothing like it. Either way, it’s my design, and it was inspired from other things. It’s really annoying and totally insulting to have them say your work is a copycat, which wasn’t the case.
What did inspire that dress then?
First of all, you see me do that silhouette all the time, with the collar. It’s a simple, ’40s-’50s silhouette, and I hand-painted it with roses, and I was inspired by Alice in Wonderland, the Victorian ”painting the roses red” theme. And I started painting the fabric and rouging these roses, and I decided to make the dress a simple dress with rose leaves. It’s very simple. And to say that it was taken from something that looks nothing like it — that looks like structured armor — it’s nothing like it.
I think a lot of viewers are wondering whether you spend a lot of time looking at other designers’ lines, other fashion stuff, Vogue, and whatnot?
When I worked hardcore in the fashion industry a year ago, we would get WWD [Women’s Wear Daily], it was our job to look on style sites. That’s all I did all day long, research other designers’ lines, and after that I never really looked ever again. That was a job for me, and I was designing crappy missy wear and we had to keep up with the trends. I even told the judges, You know, you’re right, I have been out of the loop for a year because I haven’t been able to afford magazines or had the time for them. I strictly researched the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s and put an inspired twist on it, and that’s it.
NEXT PAGE: ”I guess I offended the other designers. I stood up to the judges and Tim, but that wasn’t against them. I was shocked by the way they treated me, because I was nothing but nice to them.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You definitely took on the role of the villain — or the person that people love to hate — this season. Do you have any regrets about the way you were portrayed or your attitude?
KENLEY COLLINS: I don’t really understand. I guess I offended the other designers. I stood up to the judges and Tim, but that wasn’t against them. I was shocked by the way they treated me, because I was nothing but nice to them.
I did all the exit interviews with the cast-off designers this season, and when I talked to the others, they would say, ”Oh, Kenley’s so full of herself, she doesn’t take critique well.”
Full of myself? I just laughed and had fun. It was a light, fun thing in the beginning. When I saw the eyes roll, and I saw the people talk, like, ”Oh, she’s so annoying,” I stayed away from those people. And it bothered them even more. I came out of this competition with my two best friends, Stella and Daniel. Those people were awesome. Other people just didn’t handle me as well, the aggressive, New York kind of upfront, forward behavior.
So you and Stella and Daniel are a tight little group now?
I heard you’re living with Daniel right now.
No, Daniel’s living with me. Daniel’s subletting from me for a little bit. And I talk to Stella every day. I was just with her last night. I had to go to the screening for the show last night, and I brought Daniel with me and my boyfriend and my best friend, and we went to the party, and Stella called me, and I told her to come, and she came.
You said you’re teaching sewing again, and you want to make money. But is there another next step for Kenley or is it literally like, This is it right now, let’s recoup some funds. Where will we see Kenley next?
Mmmm, no. I mean, you can go to my website, www.kenleycollins.com. I’m working in my studio, doing my thing.
More Project Runway on EW:
Project Runway: The Great Debate!