With the Project Runway Season 13 reunion show airing this week, I thought now would be a perfect time to catch up with my darling friend (and Season 13 finalist), Emily Payne, about her time as a contestant on the show this year and what life is like now that it's over.
Payne is a San Francisco-based designer and full-blown visionary. Overseeing two fashion houses of her own creation -- Leathertongue and Devon Rose -- and balancing motherhood and newfound mainstream television fame, Emily is riding the Project Runway rollercoaster with a level of grace fans of the show have not seen before. If you caught any of this season, you have no doubt already fallen head-over-heels in love with this sweet, talented creature.
Watch Emily Payne's pre-season designer home visit video, then read our chat below - and be sure to tune into Lifetime Thursday for the reunion. The trailer promises fireworks!
Logan Lynn: Hey Emily! Thanks for chatting with me today. Anyone who has been following your run on this 13th season of Project Runway knows that you took your final bow as a contestant on the episode just before the finale. How does it feel to finally be able to talk about it after having to keep so painfully quiet for so long?
Emily Payne: Well, my family already knew and the friends and random people who approached me afterwards had so many things to say themselves that I was left just nodding, smiling and saying "thank you". A lot of people seemed really passionate about the fact that they thought I should have gone to Fashion Week, and everyone thanked me for being gracious in my elimination and never becoming involved in the drama.
Lynn: Yes! Zen master realness. I keep going back and forth between feeling glad that you made it so close to the end and then feeling like that must also have been difficult on some level to be so close to the crown and then be eliminated. How has that been?
Payne: It's actually been ok. I pretty much knew halfway into the competition that I wouldn't be able to win because the judges just didn't appreciate my aesthetic -- but I also knew I had to just keep doing me because my main goal was to get my real work out in the public eye and get orders. I ended up getting overloaded with requests for the hoodie that I got eliminated for, and it ended up auctioning off with the highest bid for any of the designs that season, so I'm happy.
Lynn: You played that just right, dude -- and, being a finalist/decoy, while they weren't televised, I know you got to enjoy some of those finale perks.
Payne: Yes! You still get to show your collection at Fashion Week and none of the press know who is actually still in the competition or not. So you still get all the exposure and, at that point, way less stress since you are no longer being judged.
Lynn: That sounds kind-of perfect, actually. What was getting to show at New York Fashion week like?
Payne: It was incredible! The funny thing is, I had written in my planner six months ago that I would be taking a trip to NYC to check out the collections this year and try to network. It made me smile when I saw that. I would have never guessed that I would actually be showing at fashion week instead of just watching!
Lynn: Well, I could have guessed that...but it's still so amazing. It seems like the exposure piece has been working so far, too. I saw that you were just photographed with Patricia Field and had a show in Benicia. Are things blowing up for you post-Runway?
Payne: Things have definitely become very busy, which I love. The worst thing for me is having an empty appointment calendar! The show in Benicia was so much fun. It was great hanging out with Richard Hallmarq from season 11, and the ladies who threw the show set myself and my daughter Devon up in a really cute hotel in downtown Benicia. It was a wonderful mother/daughter bonding and fashion weekend all in one.
Lynn: So sweet! Many moons ago when we were both living in San Francisco you had a line called Brick, as well as one called Minette. These days your design efforts are divided between your children's line, Devon Rose, and your killer women's line, Leathertongue. How would you describe each of these for a consumer who may not be familiar with your work?
Payne: Leathertongue is very hard-versus-soft. It's tough, but still has a femininity to it. I like minimal, sleek and sculptural looks. I use very expensive fabrics with a lot of texture and sheen and pay attention to all the little details of construction to make every piece special. The kids line "Devon Rose"is the mini version of my women's line but with a quirky, colorful edge to it.
Lynn: They are both gorgeous. This season on Project Runway you made a name for yourself not just for your forward-thinking looks, but also for the way you were so kind and welcoming to your fellow contestants and your grace with the judges. Even in times when they were critical of your work, you handled yourself beautifully - a rarity in the reality TV genre, and a refreshing change of pace for Project Runway fans. How did you stay so impossibly calm and lovely the whole time?
Payne: Well, thank you! I hate to say it, but I think it was easier for me because of age! (laughs) I'm just very fortunate to have a really strong, supportive family that I kept in my mind the whole time I was there. I also knew that my daughter would be watching and I wanted to set a good example for her.
Lynn: You set a good example for all of us, doll -- and other than a few very notable moments between a couple of the contestants, this year's group of designers seemed to really get along. Was this a surprise to you?
Payne: Yes! I felt very fortunate to be in a cast with so many nice people. I really thought I would be having to deal with a lot of cattiness and stupid drama. There really was very little to none of that.
Lynn: As a viewer, it seemed like the judges were generally harder on folks this year than in previous seasons -- and not particularly open to designs which may have strayed from the beaten path. I was pleased that you stayed true to your design aesthetic throughout, but did you feel that the judges were harder to navigate than you had expected?
Payne: Yes. Zac in particular...and his opinion mattered to me the most, since he was the only one of the judges that was actually a designer. It was nice that he appreciated my construction and noticed the little details, but for the most part he wasn't feeling me. It makes sense to me now, looking at his work. We have very different tastes.
Lynn: I am going to bite my tongue about all of the mean things I feel like saying right now. How was working with Tim Gunn as your mentor? It seemed like you two had a special thing going.
Payne: I really love and admire Tim. He is a genuine, good guy. I always noticed how he tried to say "hi" to everyone. I was so happy that he seemed to get me most of the time. It gave me the confidence to keep going.
Lynn: He totally loved you! Smart man. With the grand finale having just passed -- which was much less grand because you weren't there -- who were you rooting for? Did you have a favorite designer (or designers) this season?
Payne: I'm back and fourth on Amanda and Kini. I really wanted both of them to succeed because, not only are they very talented and hard working, but they are both really sweet people who deserved to win. They both possess the professionalism and dedication to take that $100,000 and really create something amazing! I hope to hang out with them in the near future.
Lynn: I'm guessing being away from your daughter Devon and husband Isaac (who I introduced you to many years ago) for so long was difficult, on top of the stress of the show. How has your reunion been with those two?
Payne: It was beautiful! They met me at the airport and Devon came running at me and jumped on me. Isaac rented a car and drove us to Saulsalito and we had lunch by the water. He couldn't stop staring and smiling, and Devon couldn't stop talking. (laughs)
Lynn: That sounds cute. What has been your favorite part of being on this season of Project Runway?
Payne: That's a hard one. I think my favorite part was just knowing that I was able to do it. I had been wanting to be on that show for so long, and I really thought that it was one of those dreams that would not be realized. Now I can say that I did it, and I'm proud of the results. It changed my life and I feel like it's been a really positive journey for me and my family.
Lynn: How has being suddenly thrust into the public eye been for you? Fame is a bit strange, no?
Payne: It is weird! I think I get noticed a lot more because of my hair.
Lynn: If the opportunity comes to be on Project Runway: All Stars, would you take it?
Payne: I would. It's different judges and now I know the routine.
Lynn: Who are some of your style heroes and fashion influences?
Payne: I am totally all about Haider Ackermann right now. He's so street and romantic at the same time. In the past it's been Isabel Marant, Jean Paul Gaultier and, in the beginning, Thierry Mugler. My favorite fashion movies are always Romantic period. I love the new Anna Karenina with Keira Knightley and Aaron Tyler Johnson. Cheri with Rupert Friend and Michelle Pfeiffer is beautiful to look at as well.
Lynn: Who would you love to collaborate with or hope to dress moving forward?
Payne: Alice Glass from Crystal Castles -- and I would love to make some guys stuff for you, Logan! You always wore the men's stuff I used to make for Brick so well!
Lynn: Oh my god. Sign me up. I'm guessing you have opportunities coming your way left and right! What can we expect from you next?
Payne: I'm working on a new kids collection which will be available for purchase online in Mid-November. It's being shot by an amazing kids magazine in Helsinki called Rawr. We have an "Indie go-go" campaign in the works to raise money to get our own brick and mortar boutique -- something my husband and I have always wanted to do. I'm also doing a new collection for the women's line which will debut on Valentines day at "Lovesick", Alexandria Von Brommson's show. I also try to get new items up every week in our Etsy boutiques, so make sure to check back often.