Fashion designer Christian Siriano shows his diversity in SCAD FASH show

The “Project Runway” winner has spent the years designing for the masses, the glamorous and all shapes and sizes.

For some Christian Siriano will always be known as the elfin 21-year-old with the punkish haircut, spouting his token “fierce” catchphrase as the winner of the 2008 reality TV phenomenon “Project Runway.”

But Siriano, now 36 — still boyish, still ebullient — has far exceeded his pop culture 15 minutes of fame. Named one of Time magazine’s most influential people in 2018, Siriano has proven an incredibly resilient force who has parlayed early lessons learned working for fashion legends Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood into a successful career in the very fickle, mercurial world of fashion.

Credit: Aman Shakya

Credit: Aman Shakya

And now he’s being celebrated in a solo exhibition at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film. Dressed in his signature thick black glasses and a patent leather jacket, Siriano’s look is very different from the matador reds and confectionary layers of tulle and taffeta he’s known for creating for the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Oprah. “I make clothes all day long,” he admits. “So I’m kind of sick of them at the end of the day,” he says of his utilitarian basic-with-a-bite black wardrobe.

Siriano sits amidst the 60 plus outfits highlighted in his show, ”Christian Siriano: People Are People,” curated by director of fashion exhibitions Rafael Gomes, which includes dresses worn by Michelle Obama, Janelle Monae, Lizzo and Ariana Grande, among many others.

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

Demonstrating a strong work ethic and business acumen, Siriano in his post-”Project Runway” days kept his couture business going by creating fast fashion lines for Payless, J. Jill and Lane Bryant. Mixing the accessible and the glam, Siriano forged his fashion-is-for-everyone image by dressing ordinary women along with divas like Janelle Monae, Lady Gaga and Billy Porter whose outsize personalities aligned perfectly with Siriano’s taste for voluminous shapes and bold primary colors. “Fabric really is my form of creating sculpture and form,” says Siriano.

His talent won Siriano admittance into the exclusive Council of Fashion Designers of America (CMDA) — that is after they initially turned him down. But despite industry acceptance, Siriano has proven himself an against-the-grain iconoclast in an industry founded on images of unattainable glamour. He has pushed back against fashion’s color, gender orientation and size barriers, as when he defiantly dressed six-foot comedian Leslie Jones in a sexy red gown for the “Ghostbusters” reboot premiere that highlighted her enviable curves when no other designer would bother.

“I think clothes are important to kind of transform yourself in a way,” says Siriano, who has helped people others have marginalized feel powerful and beautiful.

Credit: Aman Shakya

Credit: Aman Shakya

Siriano also created the first-ever dress for a male attendee when he created “Pose” star Billy Porter’s elegant-meets-outrageous formal look for the 2019 Academy Awards. Siriano paired a crisply tailored tux jacket with a lavish velvet gown. And though he’s not thrilled about naming just one outfit to define his style, when pressed Siriano admits that that look might go down as his most definitive moment.

“It was everything,” says Siriano. “It was masculine. It was feminine. It was powerful. It was conscious of the world culture. It was all the things.”

And “People Are People” reflects that enduring belief in making clothes that conform to their wearers rather than forcing people to make their bodies fit into a size 2 or 4.

“There’s probably not many historical moments where you will see in one room, from one brand, all these different types of sizes, shapes, ages,” says Siriano. “And I think that that is really important.”


“Christian Siriano: People Are People”

Through Oct. 9. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays; noon-5 p.m. Sundays. $10; $8 senior citizens and military; $20 family of three or more; $5 college students with ID and alumni; free for under age 14, SCAD students, staff, faculty and members. SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, 1600 Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta. 404-253-3132,