Having three older sisters, the 23-year-old Aucklander came onto Project Runway with a discerning competitive instinct.
Jess was arguably a slow burn on TVNZ 2’s debut season of the internationally-recognised show. The first few weeks were merely warm-ups for Jess; taking the briefs fairly literally and leaving each elimination safe somewhere in the middle. But as the show filtered through the talkers from the walkers, Jess was able to push herself and create some unique, fun and punchy designs. To the point where she was giving the top contenders and run for their money and leaving the judges (and us) eager – no, not eager, hungry – to see more.
It was an emotional rollercoaster for the retail assistant with her refreshingly honest and, at times, comical side stealing the spotlight. Overall, she was a delight to watch and a deserving candidate to come second in the series.
Jess speaks to Fashion Quarterly following the final:
How has your life changed since Project Runway?
My expectations of myself have skyrocketed. I definitely left the competition on a high feeling like I can be or do anything I put my mind to, so I’m trying to ride that wave out.
In your opinion, how important is having friendships on the Project Runway? Do you think they help or hinder the process?
I think it’s important to stay friendly with people on the show if there are internal dramas between people it’s only going to take your attention away from the work you need to be doing.
How did reality TV meet or not meet your expectations? What was it like watching yourself on the show?
It was way more fun than I thought it was going to be dealing with camera people and directors and talking behind the scenes with judges and contestants, we all meshed so well and the people working on the show made the process so easy and natural. It’s so funny seeing myself on tv I was scared I was going to be shown differently than who I am but I think I was portrayed very authentically which I am grateful for.
When it comes to your designs, who are they intended for? Describe your muse:
My muse is someone strong-willed who wants to feel cool and confident when they walk out the house in the morning. They’re able to adapt to all situations throughout the day and night and they never feel out of place.
How did you remain focused in light of challenges that pushed you beyond your style?
I just thought of all my supporters back home who believe in me and that helped me to focus on the challenges at hand.
What advice would you give to other young creative or entrepreneurs developing their aesthetic or brand?
Something I learnt recently is you’re not always going to be doing your best work. You need to keep creating even if what you’re making isn’t the best if you are pushing yourself to create and design all the time you will find your aesthetic.
Being told no, being rejected, and failure, in general, are hard realities we all face at some stage. How do you cope with failure?
Every failure is a chance to learn something new about yourself. It’s an opportunity so you just have to be strong and not take anything too personally.
What has been your favourite outfit in the series and why (of yours and from another designer)?
My favourite outfit was the one I created in the semi-finals as I feel it was just such a fun and artistic representation of me as a designer. My favourite outfit by another designer would have to be Caitlin’s activewear look, maybe because I would wear this myself, it was just so fun and futuristic.
The $50,000 question… what would you have done with the cash if you won?
I think I would have spent a few thousand on new clothes and the rest I would save until I have a proper purpose for it.
And lastly, what’s next for you?
I am open to all possibilities, at the moment I am working in the costume department for a tv production company and I am learning loads of new things, I’m excited for what the future might bring!