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Fashion Star Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Lisa Hunter

This is an interview with Lisa Hunter on April 4, 2012 about the show Fashion Star.

Question:
Would you have done anything differently from the beginning to the point where you left? Or would you have just stayed exactly like you were?

Lisa Hunter:
Of course I would not have stayed exactly as I did because I was thrown off on Week 4. So yes, I've had eight months of hindsight. And I think that I could've been a little more usefulness in my designs, I could have made my designs a little more edgy. I think there's a lot. I've been thinking about it a lot for the last eight months, absolutely. Some things I could've done differently.

Question:
Did you feel that during the designer portion of the episode you got enough feedback from the mentors in order to create a really good runway? Or did you feel like you didn't get enough?

Lisa Hunter:
I feel that I got enough from the mentors. I know that there were some comments about the yellow color with black buttons on my coat. And that's a coat that I had been selling in more store extremely well and women have loved that coat. And so I went with my gut and I went with yellow and I don't know. Should I have paid attention to them? I'm not so sure. But I definitely went with my gut on that one.

Question:
What's next for you?

Lisa Hunter:
A lot, I hope. I just have had my one store in Seattle and I'm looking to expand that. I'm looking to get back into the wholesale market, albeit in a very small way. The last time I was in the wholesale market I think I just tried to do too much at once, and this time I would love to get back into wholesale and have a small collection of dresses.

I've learned a lot about expanding my brand from the TV show and I now have martini glasses to go with my cocktail dresses. And so I'm definitely interested in expanding the brand. But with the recession and the way things are going, everything has to be mapped out very carefully and take it one step at a time. So that's what I'm doing.

Question:
After the runway you got some great comments from Nicole and Jessica about your coat. So were you feeling quite confident that you get bought at that point?

Lisa Hunter:
I think I was feeling pretty confident. I adore that coat. My customers adore that coat. I felt that I was putting something very strong on the runway. The fabric for the printed coats was absolutely gorgeous, it was very high end, it felt and looked very high end. And I had some design elements in that coat that were just beautiful. The yellow fabric was not my favorite shade of yellow. I had a hard time finding the right shade of yellow for that coat. But I really wanted to do a fun yellow coat, so I went for it. And yes, I was feeling pretty good, yes. So I was pretty much blindsided.

Question:
Ronnie has never had a sale so far during the competition whereas you have. So were you a bit frustrated that you went out before him?

Lisa Hunter:
That had not even occurred to me. What had occurred to me was that they had compared Edmond's dress to Russell Crowe in the Gladiator and they had compared my coat to Tory Burch. And so that is what resonated with me. The Ronnie thing didn't even occur to me because I feel like they see the potential in designers. Whether or not they were bought they still see the potential in someone. But when one designer is compared to Russell Crowe and one designer is not that was more of a shock.

Question:
Which of your fellow designers are you hoping will go all the way and win the show?

Lisa Hunter:
Interesting question. I guess I really enjoyed working with Nzimiro and I feel that it's not so easy to make a statement in menswear. And I just really feel that he has an interesting vision with menswear. And for someone who has had no technical training in fashion, he has some really amazing ideas and he's very innovative. So I think it'll be interesting to see Nzimiro. And also, of course Ronnie is from San Francisco and that's where I'm from originally. So yes, can't help but root for him as well.

Question:
How hard was it to stay true to who you are as a designer, but also be more commercial with current trends?

Lisa Hunter:
Not at all hard because I am pretty clear on who I am as a designer. I love the late 50s, early 60s. Audrey Hepburn is sort of an iconic figure that's always in the back of my head when I'm designing. And this was no problem at all to stay true to my brand and my vision. And my customers have been telling me for the last five years, your clothes should be in department stores.

And I'm not exactly rocking the boat with fashion, but I'm offering my customers something that's very wearable and sellable and feminine and they love that. So staying on top of the trends maybe my designs are not particularly trendy, so maybe that's something I could've pushed a little further on the show. But I'm not into designing clothes that are trendy. I like to design clothes that are going to be in the closet for a long time that you don't get tired of.

Question:
Can you talk about what it was like to see your designs at Macy's and the confidence it gave you?

Lisa Hunter:
It was amazing because the designers, we just didn't expect that there was going to be this new element when the show airs of whose clothes sell out. That was just something that we hadn't considered because we just wanted to be bought by the department stores. But then when the show aired and my dress sold out before the show even aired on the West Coast, I just, I mean, it was just tremendous. I can't even explain to you how exciting that was for me. And yes, it was utterly amazing. I wish I could've gone into Macy's to see my dress, but unfortunately it was only in the New York location. And I tried to buy it and it was sold out. So that was a little strange.

Question:
I know that the show was filmed last year. But now that it's airing on television and it's been four weeks, I'm just curious has any of the exposure of your presence on the show transferred over to your own fashion line, the House of Fashion?

Lisa Hunter:
Definitely there's been an uptick in business in my retail shop in Seattle. And we now have a shopping cart on our Web site. Being on Fashion Star, it was my motivation to get the shopping cart going and we've had some sales on the shopping cart and that's been really exciting and it's something that I've wanted to do for many, many years but I just wasn't ready to do it. So yes, yes definitely. You know, I don't think it's blown the roof off the business, but there's definitely been an uptick.

Question:
I know this week you had a difference of opinion with the jacket that you created you said to go with the yellow. I know that in another week when you created the empire waist dresses, I know that the mentors kind of suggested that you change the design and you did, you gave it a lower neckline. Were the mentors helping or were they hindering your style?

Lisa Hunter:
Definitely helping because when I changed the neckline on the Trudy dress, that's when I got bought. So I'm very happy that I changed the neckline. Maybe they would have bought it with my original boat neckline. But John Varvatos suggested I open up the neckline and I did and the dress was bought. So that was great.

He was concerned about my yellow coat with black buttons and he made some sort of Paddington Bear comments which I thought was completely strange and bizarre because I had sold that coat in my store yellow with black buttons and it never has appeared cartoonish or anything and it's a great selling coat. But I believe I did change the buttons to all yellow because I got a little scared. So yes, unfortunately the coat was not bought, but I thought it looked really beautiful out on the runway.

Question:
What was the atmosphere like in the design studio that week?

Lisa Hunter:
It's interesting because I feel that I was kind of in my own little world worrying about my own problems and not paying attention to other people's problems and drama so much. So I can't say exactly what was happening with other designers in that regards. But for me being 47 years old and being around in the fashion business for a little bit, I feel like when I was given that assignment it was a no-brainer that I was absolutely going to get a handle on this. And it was very clear to me what they meant by high end and low end.

Question:
What's the most important lesson you've learned from your experience on Fashion Star?

Lisa Hunter:
I would say to stay true to yourself and work on the brand. Work on branding and work on expanding the brand. So that's definitely helped me with getting my shopping cart up and working on other elements in design getting my little glassware line going and just expanding the business. But not too quickly. Not too much at once.

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