“Project Runway,” the hit reality-television competition, kicked off its new season on July 18 and this year two Queens residents are vying to be a top designer.
Alexander Pope of Ridgewood and Karen Batts of Rego Park have revved up their sewing machines and are trying to “make it work” against 16 other designers in a world where you’re “in” one day and “out” the next.
Though the two live nearby, they couldn’t be more different from one another.
Pope, originally from Hollywood, is all about the “wow” factor, pairing bold color-blocking with romanticism for an avant garde feel reminiscent of Alexander McQueen and Vivian Westwood — two of his idols.
“I was really into fashion all my life but I fought it when I was younger and became a makeup artist instead,” Pope said. “But I still felt the pull into fashion.”
Though his fashion is over the top, Pope doesn’t utilize too much color in his day-to-day life.
“I wear black all of the time,” he said. “On hot days it can be tough but that’s what I like to wear. I’ll throw a pop of color in here and there but all black is just striking and contrasts well with my hair and skin color.”
Pope moved to Ridgewood five months ago to be closer to his friends and to have the luxury of working from home.
“To be in Manhattan, you sacrifice space and I really like to have my home also be my place of work and living in a loft in Ridgewood lets me do that,” he said.
Batts, on the other hand is a bubbly ball of energy who is attracted to bright colors and classic looks along the lines of J. Crew.
“I know people always say don’t design for yourself but I definitely design for myself,” she said. “I am what I wear.”
Batts, who works as a nanny, had applied for “Project Runway” last year but was turned down.
“I was super nervous the first-time around,” Batts said. “This time I missed the paper application deadline so I had to go to a casting call and I went in with a completely different mind-set. I felt like showing my outgoing, crazy and funny personality was the best thing. I wanted to let them see who I am as a designer but let myself be the quirky person I am.”
And while Batts doesn’t consider herself avant garde like Pope, she said there is beauty in simplicity.
“I’m very much a classic and commercial person and that is how I design,” she said. “I can appreciate the look of a well-tailored pocket and find the intricate design of that breathtaking versus the ‘in your face’ stuff.”
Pope, who has done costume work for a number of Broadway shows including “The Lion King” and “Wicked” said he’s not afraid to admit that his designs are extreme.
“I try and design pieces that create emotions,” he said. “When I show my pieces to someone, I don’t get a ‘meh’ or a ‘that’s okay,’ I get an ‘I hate it’ or ‘I love it.’ It gets such strong feedback whether it’s good or bad.”
Over the next few weeks, Pope, Batts and the other designers will compete for a prize package including $150,000 from GoBank, $50,000 of next generation technology from HP and Intel, a year’s supply of Resource spring water, a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine and more.
“Project Runway” airs every Thursday at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.