Amanda Valentine is a rock-star fashion designer based in Nashville, Tennessee! You might recognize her from her time on Project Runway! She was first on season 11 and then was runner up on season 13 when the fans voted for her to come back. Since then, Amanda has been busy making her dreams come true and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Here’s our Q&A with Amanda Valentine:
My mother made/mended a lot of clothing for us (I’m the youngest of 5 kids) growing up. I was fascinated by the process. She was also an amazing quilter and painter; she has always lived a very creative life. I asked her to teach me to sew and I fell in love with the craft. Sewing was a way I could, as a middle class girl in Nebraska, participate in fashion. I could make what I saw in the magazines or alter hand me downs and thrift store clothes… It was very freeing!
Can you describe your own personal style and how it reflects in your own designs?
I feel like I’ve been dressing essentially the same way since I was about 14… which was 1995, if that explains anything! My personal style has always been pretty subconscious and effortless. Meaning, I really don’t think about it a lot. I just trust my instincts and gravitate towards certain things. I’ve always turned my nose up at having to have certain labels. And I love vintage. I dress like a Gemini, always thinking about opposites. If I wear a great crisp pair of slacks, I will pair it with a worn out old t-shirt. I like to look dramatically casual.
Is the style of your collection any different than your own wardrobe?
What’s funny is that I’m watching it get closer and closer to the same thing. I never used to exclusively design for myself, but now in my mid 30’s, I’m becoming a lot more selfish I suppose! My last collection (spring 2017) is VERY much what I want to wear. In fact, I keep wearing the samples, which leads me to believe I did good on this one…
What’s one of your favorite pieces of clothing that you have designed?
Honestly, this newest collection features a pair of high waist cropped knit pants that are divine. The vertical stripes make me feel 6 feet tall and everywhere I go someone comments on them. They are so casual and comfortable, but still bold.
Your Fall 2016 collection is coming out soon! Can you tell us a little about it and what we can expect from it?
I love the dresses! Tons of batwing sleeves and bright, bright color blocking! It’s very 1970’s glam. I even have a crème wool wrap coat that is lightweight and super warm that I’ll be wearing alllllll winter I’m sure.
You’ve been very vocal about how fashion is for every type of body. Sometimes, it’s difficult for women to realize this when looking at the same type of overly slender, tall model at so many fashion shows. What would you say to a woman who might not think that she can be fashion forward due to her body type?
The thing that needs to be understood about traditional models is that they serve a very specific purpose. This sounds insensitive, but it is a model’s job to be a clothes hanger. I love “shape” in my clothes for SURE, but the reality is, when you are showcasing a collection, you want the clothes to be the primary focus, not a gorgeous, healthy body. But, in the REAL world, I’m obsessed with all types of women wearing my clothing.
I think you have to do the work trying on different garments and figuring out what works for you. I don’t have much of a waist or bust, so I prefer masculine shapes. I tend to design towards my own shape, but I’m constantly trying to push myself towards more universal shapes. As a small independent designer, at some point you also have to realize you can’t be all things to all people. And you have to make difficult choices about sizing and shape offerings. I’m constantly revising my sizing and adapting to the feedback of my customers.
Where do you see yourself and your career in five years’ time?
I am in the thick of things and it is nearly impossible for me to see that far ahead! I’m such a small company and I need to work so, so hard for every cent I make. I would just love for things to be a little bit more automated so that I can have more of a life! Or even a hobby! I think the real reason I wanted to work for myself was so that I could have the life I want…
You were on not just one season of Project Runway, but two! What was it like going through all of that? (Especially since you were on the ultra-difficult season that focused on team challenges.)
Well, my two experiences were SO different. The first time around, I still hadn’t grasped the idea that I was on actual television believe it or not! I was so uncomfortable and on my best behavior. It really affected my work in a negative way. The second time around I knew the drill, so I was able to relax and enjoy the experience a little bit more which only serves the work. It’s by far the most intense experience I’ve ever been through, but it gave me so much confidence, it’s insane! I’m forever grateful for the way it changed me and gave me a career.
Do you have any insight on how the behind the scenes were on Project Runway?
Shockingly, behind the scenes we are mostly all friends. The conflicts are real for sure, but I think at the end of the day we all understand the pressure and that we are all in the same boat. Some of my very, very best friends are from that show.
Everyone thinks you have to live in New York City to have a successful career as a designer. You have obviously proven that’s not always the case. What’s it like to live in Nashville, Tennessee as a designer?
Well, I’ll be honest. It’s IDEAL to live in New York City as a fashion professional. It has always been and will always be the fashion capital of the world. Living outside of New York City was just a personal choice for me. I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and moved to Los Angeles when I graduated from college. Essentially, Nebraska was too small, LA was too big, and Nashville was just right. New York City was never an option for me personally.
I’m an introvert and a bit of a control freak and just can’t see myself comfortably living in the city. (Though I love, love, love to visit!) That’s part of the reason I went on Project Runway. I’m at a disadvantage being “outside of the fashion bubble,” so I had to figure out a way to set myself apart and to get on a national and even international platform. You have to figure out the kind of life you want and then make everything around you work. I also am a bit of a rebel and I like the idea that being a “Nashville designer” sets me apart.
You’ve been married for five years now! Both you and your husband are very creative people. Is there overlap in your different career paths allowing you to collaborate on projects together sometimes?
Sometimes! My husband released a short film this year that I costume designed for. I usually edit his scripts. I’m sure I’ll work on all his subsequent films. We work really well together!
Family seems to be really important to you. Has your family supported you throughout your career as a fashion designer?
Always. My parents let us be involved in whatever we wanted to. They said “If this is what you want to do, then be really, really good at it.” My father always encouraged me to “Build my own empire, instead of fortifying someone else’s.”
What’s something interesting about yourself that most people might not know about?
I used to be in an all-girl garage rock band in Los Angeles. I am music OBSESSED.
A lot of women are told they can’t have a career in what they want to do. Whether it is in business, science, something creative, or anything in-between. What advice would you give women who might be worried about following their dreams when it comes to their career?
We live in a different era. Most of the women I know are the breadwinners of their family. I consider it my duty as a woman to make up for lost time. I think women are inherently equipped both emotionally and socially to work in this post-modern, post-industrial world. It’s not about building and brute strength. The modern work force is about relationships and networking, flexibility and multi-tasking, which women are naturally gifted at. It’s literally the way our brains are wired. So it’s really our time to shine.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT AMANDA VALENTINE AND HER FASHION LINE, CHECK OUT HER OFFICIAL WEBSITE!