Atlantan Zayden Skipper: From sleeping in his car to ‘Project Runway’ season 19

Atlanta's Zayden Skipper is one of the younger contestants on season 19 of "Project Runway," debuting on Bravo October 14, 2021. BRAVO
Caption
Atlanta's Zayden Skipper is one of the younger contestants on season 19 of "Project Runway," debuting on Bravo October 14, 2021. BRAVO

Credit: BRAVO

Credit: BRAVO

Now 32, the SCAD grad is seeking greater recognition for his fashion.

“Project Runway” season 19 contestant Zayden Skipper came to Atlanta in 2005 to attend SCAD but didn’t have enough money for housing. His solution? He lived in his car for a couple of months.

“I was determined to make it work,” he said. “And I didn’t tell my family in Chicago.”

His back story is very Tyler Perry-esque. Now the question is can Skipper convert his skills into reality show success and $250,000?

“Project Runway,” which was forced to delay production a year due to the pandemic, is back for the first time since 2019. Christian Soriano, arguably the show’s most successful alum, returns as mentor, joined by judges Nina Garcia, Brandon Maxwell and Elaine Welteroth. (Karlie Kloss is not coming back.)

Skipper is competing with a diverse mix of 15 designers from Michigan, California, Mississippi, Texas, New York City, Miami, Philadelphia and Japan.

The first challenge last Thursday featured two randomly selected teams assigned to make cohesive outfits, each focused on a different color. One team featured “warm” colors and the other “cool” colors.

Skipper, by luck or pluck, ended up on the “cool” team with all women except him.

“I was raised by a tribe of strong women,” he said on the show early on. “So I know this group of ladies I’m working with, me being the only male, I have to play it safe and not [upset] any of these women! If I do, they’re coming after me!”

The connection for the collection was supposedly a bow but a day into the two-day challenge, the team still lacked a cohesive storyline. Skipper was frustrated, saying, “Everybody is throwing out every idea and it’s still not making sense.”

Two of the team members ditched the bows and in the end, there was little to no cohesiveness among the looks compared to the other team. (The warm team’s leader Bones not only had one of the best looks but also helped cobble together a last-second dress for a fumbling teammate that was also picked as a top three best look. Bones won the first challenge.)

Skipper’s first outfit, a tight green dress with bows on the sleeves and an exaggerated collar, did not receive any on-air critique since he was on the losing team and his was not one of the three worst looks.

“My model looks like what I wanted her to look like,” he said on the show. “She just looks effortless. I’m happy.”

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"Project Runway" first challenge dress by Zayden Skipper. BRAVO

Credit: BRAVO

"Project Runway" first challenge dress by Zayden Skipper. BRAVO
Caption
"Project Runway" first challenge dress by Zayden Skipper. BRAVO

Credit: BRAVO

Credit: BRAVO

During week two that aired Oct. 21, Zayden landed in the top three during a streetwear challenge.

“I grew up in the streets,” he said. “I didn’t have very much. Streetwear was the dopest thing to have. Also I intertwined ‘Say their names.’ I wanted to take this opportunity to show a little bit of my DNA and what I’m passionate about.”

Judge Elaine Welteroth said she had never seen a top like that before: “You can see how original your ideas are.”

“I love the coat. I love the layers,” Nina Garcia said. “Each and every one can stand by itself.”

“Everything really comes together,” said guest judge Wisdom Kaye. “You’ve expressed this really powerful message through your clothing. It’s an amazing look. I really do like it.”

Zayden starts to get teary eyed. “It means so much to me. The trials and tribulations, I keep fighting. I’m proud to be here and I’m glad that you see something in me.”

Caption
Zayden Skipper (left) showing off his streetwear look during week two that the judges felt was among the top three. BRAVO

Credit: BRAVO

Zayden Skipper (left) showing off his streetwear look during week two that the judges felt was among the top three. BRAVO
Caption
Zayden Skipper (left) showing off his streetwear look during week two that the judges felt was among the top three. BRAVO

Credit: BRAVO

Credit: BRAVO

Here is a quick look at Skipper:

Raised in: Chicago

Lives in: Atlanta, in Buckhead

Age: 32

Instagram: @zaydenthedesigner

Self-described aesthetic: “Urban avant-garde streetwear.”

Graduated: HBCU Alcorn State University in Mississippi, where he majored in business administration with a concentration on finance to prepare himself for a career in fashion.

Career: He first entered the corporate world, working at Walgreens. Then in 2015, he got into SCAD Atlanta to pursue a graduate degree in fashion, graduating in 2019. His thesis collection theme was misperceptions of Black designers and how they are often seen as less talented than others or only good at streetwear. He is proud he was able to design avant-garde and couture fashions as well. In 2019, he was asked to design a dress for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for the Swan Ball, but COVID-19 canceled the event. He hopes she wears it this Friday for the 2021 ball.

Working a show like “Project Runway”: “I’m a very competitive person. I like a good competition. I was really impressed how well I was able to work so fast. It was a turn on to me.”

His goal: “Being as successful as Christian and being able to show the world my talent. I want to show that if you have talent and passion and a work ethic, you can get here.”


ON TV

“Project Runway,” 9 p.m. Thursdays, Bravo

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