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FASHION Christopher Palu, 'Runway' alum talks designing for drag
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2019-06-26

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JourneyCare Foundation is presenting for the first time an Allstars of Project Runway event with designers from the hit TV show. Five former celebrity designers are coming to town and raising funds with a runway show including their 2019 collections.

Among them is Christopher Palu, who competed on season 10 of Project Runway, winning four challenges and competing at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. He returned to the series on season three of Project Runway All-Stars, finishing fourth.

In 2016, he launched Christopher Palu New York and has shown at New York Fashion Week ever since.

Windy City Times: Where in the world are you?

Christopher Palu: I'm in Jersey City, technically. I just moved from Brooklyn. This is my first time out of New York. I am just 20 minutes from the city.

WCT: You were raised in New York?

CP: Yes, I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Long Island.

WCT: Where is your last name from?

CP: It's an Italian name.

WCT: When did you come out?

CP: I came out freshman year of college.

WCT: Were you studying fashion then?

CP: I had myocarditis after high school and I missed class so my art teacher failed me. I didn't get into the Fashion Institute of Technology because of that. I went to a community college for a semester then eventually got into FIT.

WCT: Was it tough to get on Project Runway?

CP: I was a receptionist at a hair salon while in college. One of the stylists encouraged me to get on the show. The application process was a crazy nightmare. There was a clause that said if I died on the show that they weren't liable for my death!

I just wanted to be on TV. People will sign anything when they are that young and want an opportunity. The contract was very intimidating and long.

From there, I had to go through rounds of interviews including a psychiatric test. I met with a producer then another round where I went to the hotel and met with past contestants. I had Seth Aaron and Mondo Guerra on the panel for Road to the Runway. Seth Aaron won my All Stars season and I am really good friends with Mondo so I am in the group. It's so weird!

WCT: It sounds like it's easier to get on RuPaul's Drag Race than Project Runway.

CP: I did Shuga Cain's final look. That's what I have been doing the past few years. I make custom designs for the queens and some Broadway stars. I did a couple of gowns that were on the Tonys. It is very client based and I'm not really focusing on the runway shows.

What you will see in Chicago at the event is my latest collection over a year ago. How I do my collection is that the different aesthetics can be mixed and matched together. I will pull pieces from four different collections and put them all together.

The main theme of it will be Joan of Arc. I blew up a stained-glass picture of Joan of Arc from a church in London and I printed it on fabric. I used that for a dress and a really long gown. I did it right before the Met Gala with Heavenly Bodies. I did a whole catholic church collection.

That gets me out of my comfort zone. I love black, sequins and feathers. I will incorporate those elements from my other collections into this collection. It will all make sense!

WCT: What did you think of Project Runway being back on Bravo and the new season?

CP: I haven't watched it much. When Christina Siriano was announced as mentor I had to shut the TV off. I was so distraught I couldn't even look at it.

He's worked very hard to get where he's at, but on the other hand they gave him the money to start his line because they were seeing drops in people auditioning for the show. They made him succeed so people would want to be like him. Stupid me at 23 years old said on the audition tape that I wanted to be just like him!

WCT: Nina Garcia told me he hustled after the show and sent out his work to become noticed so that is why he did well.

CP: Absolutely he does now because he has a team to send out gowns to red carpets. With Tim Gunn leaving the show, it all rolled into a beautiful bow for him, which is crazy because we are all working that hard.

They should set up every winner the way they set up him. They had an amazing party after he won. They didn't have that any other season. Isn't a little ironic how successful he is? Hello!

Michael Costello, who was on season eight, is finally now dressing JLo and Beyonce. Christian started immediately after his season.

WCT: Do you think the casting is more about personality than design?

CP: You have to think of it from a producers point of view because they have to make a show. They have to balance the creativity with a personality. If they didn't, you would see amazing work, but it wouldn't be entertaining. You need the sassy, fun and the drama or you don't have a show.

They hit gold with Siriano and his catch phrases. On my season you had Dmitry Sholokhov, Fabio Costa, me and Gunnar Deatherage. There were so many big personalities.

WCT: What did you think of the YouTube videos of your funny moments?

CP: Those clips are so fun. I'm so happy people took the time and made them. I'm honored by that!

WCT: What are you working on next?

CP: Just working with private clients. I did Miz Cracker, Eureka O'Hara, Monet X Change and Alexis Michelle.

WCT: Is it different dressing a drag queen, as opposed to other clients?

CP: I treat a genetic female the same as a drag queen. We meet, we sketch and talk about budget. We talk about timing and when we will have the next fitting. It's a business. It's not like we have more fun necessarily. The clothes are fun, but it's professional.

Working with a queen, they know what they want and what is best for them. It does take time to suit up for a fitting. Sometimes there's a corset, padding and tights. There can be a whole production with a fitting. They blur the lines between fashion and costume.

I always take a client shopping with me. We will meet for coffee and show them sketches. From there, we will go look at the fabric in person. To me, that's part of the experience. I love the collaboration.

WCT: Alexis Michelle will be at Pride in the Park the same night you are in town!

CP: I have never been to Chicago before so I want to take advantage of the festivities. We should all meet up. How fun to have multiple reality show contestants all together celebrating Pride.

Catch Palu on Friday, June 28, at 6 p.m. at the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, 11 E. Walton St., for a VIP cocktail meet-up or at the main event Saturday, June 29, at 5 p.m. at Theater on the Lake, 2401 N. Lake Shore Dr.; visit JourneyCare.org/Runway.


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