Project Runway’s Caitlin Crisp on dealing with the haters, failure, and life after reality TV

28 November 2018
By Fashion Quarterly

Caitlin gets real with Miss FQ on the realities or reality TV and life after Project Runway New Zealand.

She’s your typical designer-next-door with more southern charm than you can shake a stick at. Having wasted no time in gaining the trust of thousands of Kiwis on the debut season of TVNZ 2’s Project Runway New Zealand, Caitlin’s relatable style and energetic attitude fast-tracked her to favourite status as she pushed her creativity week after week in the competition. The blonde from Christchurch was a steady contender until the avant-garde challenge in week five saw her rock-off in the bottom two. Thankfully, Caitlin’s journey didn’t end there. This second chance ultimately fueled the fire motivating two back-to-back wins during the athleisure and bridesmaid dress before-and-after challenges in weeks seven and eight, respectively.

As the competition drilled down to the top six, Caitlin was left vulnerable (and without immunity) during the Pascoes jewellery challenge. Producing a jumpsuit that lacked vision, the 22-year-old was sent home in an exit that shook the nation. As Caitlin’s final episodes drew to a close (even though we had no idea it was coming), the undeniably talented designer was subject to scrutiny from her fellow competitors having established a keen working friendship with fellow contestant Benjamin.

Following her elimination in week nine, Caitlin chats to Miss FQ on dealing with haters, failure, plus what we can look forward to from her namesake label:

How has your life changed since Project Runway?
I used to be stuck in a routine but since Project Runway every day is different. It made me realise that this is definitely the industry for me and I’m going to give it my best shot.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen about yourself on social media?
What have you seen that I haven’t!?

When and where was the first time someone recognised you?
Benjamin and I were meeting a friend in town for lunch during the week after the first episode aired, and a random lady asked for a selfie… I think that might have been Ben’s first ever selfie too!

Your friendship with Benjamin caused a lot of beef with the other designers. Did this bother you?
It didn’t bother me at all because Benjamin and I had such a great friendship that I knew was going to go beyond the show, and it has! He had my best interest at heart as I did I his, so sticking with him and ignoring the negativity was the best way about it.

A fellow designer described your work as mimicking Benjamins. How did you remain focused and what advice would you give to other young creative or entrepreneurs developing their aesthetic or brand?
It’s reality TV — they show what they want you to see and that’s what I signed up for. Although I felt it was an unfair accusation, at the time I ignored it because, to be honest, those people’s opinions don’t matter to me. I was actually oblivious to the fact that people were saying or thinking it because nobody said anything to my face!

My advice would be that talent alone isn’t going to make you successful, it’s your attitude, resilience, work ethic and a great support team that is going to make your dream a reality. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Being told no, being rejected or failure in general is a hard reality we all face at some stage. How do you cope with failure?
I learnt to use failure as fuel. It’s motivating, you learn from it and you don’t make the same mistake twice. Of course, being told you’re not good enough is hard but you have a quick cry, eat some choccy and put your big girl pants back on pronto!

What’s something our audience didn’t see or know about you on Project Runway?
I think the way I was portrayed on the show is true to my personality. Sure I’ve been through my fair share of hardships but they’ve made me who I am and I’m proud of that person. Oh, that and they managed to edit around the gastro and hefty dose of food poisoning I got while we were filming [avante-garde week]! But I guess that was better kept off the screen!

What has been your favourite outfit in the series (of yours and from another designer)?
I loved the first dress I made, the peach silk cocktail dress. I have since made a slightly altered version of it that I hope to get into production soon – so watch this space! My favourite from another designer is a tie between Judy’s Avant Garde look, (that was outstanding!) and Benjamin’s bridesmaid dress reworked for Gracie; that was just the cutest thing and was 110% suited to Gracie.

And the $50,000 question… what would you have done with the cash if you won?
I would have used it to go towards starting my own label, which I’m still planning to do.

What’s next for you?
At the moment I am putting a collection into production for Autumn/Winter next year.

Photos: Supplied, Instagram

WATCH: Meet the designers that worked alongside Cailtin on TVNZ 2’s Project Runway New Zealand

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