Lifetime Channel's Project Runway is entering into season 16 on Aug. 17.
Thanks to host Heidi Klum and fashion mentor Tim Gunn, this talent competition remains popular. Finalists are eventually allowed to present at New York Fashion Week and also win prizes along the way, such as a fashion spread in Marie Claire and $100,000 to launch their own line.
Gay designer Vincent Yu is nicknamed after the Chinese word for a "annoying bird," with ChaCha. He studied fashion and garments at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Originally from Taiwan, he recently left Chicago to pursue his dreams in New York City, and he talked about his experience.
[Editor's note: Yu talked with Windy City Times before the first episode, in which he was cut from the competition.]
Windy City Times: How long have you been living in New York?
ChaCha: I just moved here two weeks ago.
WCT: Did you grow up in Chicago?
CC: No, I grew up in Taiwan. I moved to Chicago by myself from there, then went to the School of the Art Institute. I studied fashion. The school there taught me a lot of things, but it is primarily an art school.
I did learn that my viewpoint is the most important thing to focus on during that time period in school. My work needs to speak for itself another thing I learned. I got better at incorporating different materials and textiles into my work. I learned to transform art into design, and to work from the heart. It may sound silly, but that definitely helped me on Project Runway.
WCT: What was your journey to being cast on Project Runway?
CC: I watched it when I was a little kid. At the time I didn't know much English, so it was difficult to understand. I just watched the fashion. I knew I wanted to do that so that is why I applied.
I applied last season, but I was in school so maybe that is why I didn't make it. This year I had a much more sophisticated work.
I went online to apply. I had to make a video. They have questions for you. If they pick you then you go to the casting. They only go to four cities so it was good that Chicago was one of them.
You then bring designs that you make and it lets the judges know you can sew. Mondo Guerra was there and he liked my work. He thought it was wacky, but creative.
I was nervous, but trying out the previous year helped me. They had me pick out one last garment. I loved them all so much it was hard to choose! I described the clothing as my friends and I think the judges liked that.
WCT: Was it weird to see Tim Gunn standing in front of you?
CC: I just love him and Heidi Klum so much. I couldn't believe I was there. I had watched the show for so long that the experience was overwhelming.
WCT: Were there other gay cast members this season?
CC: Yes, I wasn't the only one.
WCT: Are your parents supportive of your fashion career?
CC: They don't really know what I do. They wanted me to study education instead of fashion in school. After I graduate college I told them that is what I wanted to do.
WCT: Are they supportive of you being gay?
CC: It is a secret. You can write about it because they don't read English!
WCT: Favorite food from Chicago?
CC: I like deep-dish pizza. I also love Garrett Popcorn.
WCT: What are you working on now in New York?
CC: I need to get a job. I want to continue with my fashion career. I might have something in the works soon!