Fallene Wells on Project Runway, Mondo Guerra and the value of persistence

Though the initial Project Runway pool of twenty contestants is not exactly exclusive to better-known capitols of design, it's certain that Denver made a huge impact on the show last year in the form of Mondo Guerra, who came in second place in the running and first place in everybody's heart. So perhaps it's no accident that this next season of Runway grabs another quirky Denver designer: Fallene Wells, best known as the mastermind behind Forever Darling (and 2010 Westword Mastermind, incidentally). Still, as Wells herself would inform you, Runway is no easy sell, and she got in and got by on the value of her own considerable expertise.

It's been a long time coming, and season 9 of Project Runway finally debuts tonight. In advance, we caught up with Wells to chat about the show, and how if at first you don't succeed, you should try again.

Westword: So how did you end up on Project Runway?

Fallene Wells: This was my second time auditioning, actually. I just did it again this year, and it seemed to go pretty well, and that's how I ended up on the show. But it was a long process, definitely.

What was the first time you auditioned?

I auditioned last year in the spring, and I just had a different collection back then. And then speaking to Mondo in Novemeber, I asked him, like, should I try it out again? Is it worth it? And what he told me is that he had tried a bunch of times, too -- it seems like a lot of designers on the show have to try a few times before they make it on; it's really about how much you want it. So i tried again this year with a different collection, and I think it was more what they were looking for.

Speaking of Mondo, he definitely made a big impact on the show last season -- what was it like to follow that? Like, did you feel like you were living in the shadow of Mondo or anything?

I think that -- I hate to say that I'm in the shadow of Mondo. We're totally different designers and totally different people. We both tried out last year, and If I had made it instead of him, then I would have paved the way for Mondo. It was just his time last year, I think, and this year it's my time. But also, I think it's really great, because I have somebody in Denver that I can talk to about this experience, and I think that's pretty rare. And I think that any press for Denver fashion is really great, and I look forward to more designers from Denver on Project Runway, and I wouldn't really think of it as them being in my shadow. I think it's just a different journey.

So you've already wrapped up filming on the show, and you already know the winner, but nobody else will know until the end of the season, which is months away. What's it like to have to keep that kind of secret?

I actually don't know the winner -- I won't know that until Fashion Week. To be honest, it's sort of like when you watch a really great movie, and you're telling somebody about it and you don't want to spoil the ending. I think it's been like, the most dramatic season this year, and why would I want to spoil that for everybody? I do have a big mouth, and especially being a hairdresser, you can imagine how many people ask me. But I don't want to ruin the results. That's just not that cool.

Actually, I was wondering: Now that you've done Project Runway, do you think you'll keep doing hair, or are you basically just going to do design going forward?

You know, I really enjoy doing hair. I think that it keeps me sane. A lot of the designers don't have as much social interaction as I do with doing hair, and I think that's a good thing to have. So I think I'll move my hair business to kind of a part time thing, but I still want to do it. My goal with Project Runway is really just that I think it's great to have the exposure for Denver's Fashion scene, and also for the show that I do in September [Forever Darling], but I still want to keep doing what I'm doing.

So, the last thing I wanted to ask you was, you named Jay McCarroll as your favorite previous Runway designer, which I was a little surprised by. Was that a conscious effort not to go with the obvious choice, or do you just really like Jay?

Yeah, that pissed a lot of people off! I really like Jay. I like Mondo, but I just like Jay's fashion sense. I thought his collection was the most stand-out to me of all the seasons -- but that's just my opinion. Fashion is so subjective, and it's something you can't be too sensitive about -- especially on Project Runway. So it wasn't a personal attack on Mondo, and I'm sure Mondo will watch this season and I won't be his favorite designer, either -- I might not even be my family's favorite designer -- but obviously we're friends, otherwise he wouldn't be helping me throw this viewing party tonight. But I don't think that should really be an issue. Just because he's in my town, what if he's a horrible designer? Do I still have to pick him? He's not, obviously, I like his designs, but I just think to each his own.

You can ask Fallene for yourself at the Project Runway viewing party tonight at 6 p.m. at Beauty Bar. Can't make it? Just watch it at home on the Lifetime Channel at 9 p.m./8p.m. central.

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte

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