Ask Christiane King what makes her a fierce competitor for Project Runway Season 7 which debuts today on Lifetime TV, she will tell you, “She has great hair,” “Tim Gunn wants her,” yes he really does, “She is 29 years of fabulous” meaning 30 and the most important reason, “she will bring THE DRAMA!”
Indeed with fierce competitors on the show, an even more aggresive push on radio and TV about Project Runway, and New York’s Fashion Avenue being renamed “Project Runway Avenue” in honor of the show, we do expect the drama.
WHO IS CHRISTIANE KING?
Christiane King was born and raised in Abidjan, the capital city of Côte d’Ivoire, a French colonized nation in West Africa. She is the second oldest of her four siblings (two sisters and a brother). King attended Lycée Moderne de Lakota high school in Côte d’Ivoire and later obtained a Bachelor’s degree in International Trade in Abidjan.
While King has always known she wanted to be a fashion designer, the Côte d’Ivoire of her youth simply had no place for fashion design as a profession. So, after graduation, the sexy beautiful King with “great hair” was stuck interning at an oil refinery!
Thankfully, she came to her senses. Realizing fashion, great hair and oil refineries do not go well together, the young King moved to the USA to pursue her dreams. In the USA she got down to the business of fashion enrolling at Woodbury University in Los Angeles subsequently graduating with honors with a Bachelor’s degree in fashion design. Yes, she is also a smart cookie.
Christiane King granted to Ladybrille Magazine, www.ladybrillemag.com, the first worldwide exclusive on everything “29 and fabulous” about her and her Project Runway participation. Read on . . .
CHRISTIANE KING’S BACKGROUND
LADYBRILLEmag.com: (I am still practicing how to say Côte d’Ivoire the way you do. Lol! Before we really get into it,) what is your favorite memory of growing up in Côte d’Ivoire as a child?
Christiane King: I like to reminiscence on how “free” I felt. I wandered a lot… around the house, in the neighborhood, enjoying nature. I also went on lots of adventures with my brother.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: When did you decide you wanted to become a fashion designer?
Christiane King: I remember having a strong interest in fashion and in design as a teenager. I would sketch a lot, but nothing more at the time. Coming from a country where fashion is highly underrated, the odds of me actually pursuing a career in fashion were slim. It was not until I moved to the U.S. at the age of 21 that I decided to go to school to become a fashion designer.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: I know you had a strong interest as a teenager but have you always known you wanted to be a fashion designer?
Christiane King: I knew that I wanted to be a fashion designer, but I probably wouldn’t have become one had I not moved to the U.S.
Ladybrillemag.com: The USA, a land of opportunities indeed. Who were your fashion influences as a child? Who are they now?
Christiane King: I’ve always had a wild imagination as a child and would usually “daydream” my designs… if that makes any sense. Yves Saint-Laurent was a designer I admired. Today “Marchesa” and “Balenciaga” are amongst my favorite designers.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Of course it makes sense. It is one of the criterions, I think, to be a great designer. Lol! So, I understand you earned your BA in International Trade in Côte d’Ivoire but then ended up interning for an oil refinery? What was that about? Lol!
Christiane King: Well, let’s just say I didn’t get as much counseling as I should have before going to college. Lol!
Christiane King: I’ve always wanted to travel and see the world so I decided to pursue a degree in International Trade because it sounded so. . . “international”!
Christiane King: Four years later with bachelor’s degree in hand, I came to the brutal realization that a degree in International Trade meant dealing with lots of paperwork for customs, frequent trips to ports to work on clearance issues and such… I have a headache just thinking about it. Lol!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Yikes! When did you leave Côte d’Ivoire for good?
Christiane King: I left in 2000.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: When you left Côte d’Ivoire, you headed to Paris, correct?
Christiane King: No. I have taken multiple trips to Paris, but I came straight to the U.S. from Côte d’Ivoire.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Oh . . . got it! Whenever you visited Paris, how long would you stay and what kind of design work did you do there, if any?
Christiane King: I was able to travel to Paris on a few separate occasions for short periods of time. The most work I did there was… shop!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Good on ya! (Lol!)
Christiane King: I’m always inspired by the feel of the city, the architecture, the history and of course the haute-couture. I produced some great sketches while I was there.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Okay just so I get my timeline right, when did you move to the USA?
Christiane King: I moved to the U.S. on November 9th 2000, 4 days before my 21st birthday. George W. Bush had just become president!
Christiane King: My mother had moved to the U.S. a year before and the opportunity presented itself for my siblings and I to come over to pursue a higher education. I was originally coming to get an MBA, but saw the opportunity to become a fashion designer so I went for it!
WHY CHRISTIANE KING AUDITIONED FOR PROJECT RUNWAY + DOES TIM GUNN REALLY WANT HER?
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Good for you Christiane and here we are! You are about to get exposed to the world for “doing you” and pursuing your dreams. That is HUGE. So, let’s talk Project Runway! I do feel very blessed for the life I have and the things I’ve accomplished so far. But I want so much more out of life! I saw Project Runway as the ultimate platform to get my designs out there in front of the world and to share my design philosophy with a broader audience. It was an opportunity that I could not pass by.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: From my view and I am sure the view of our readers and millions who will be watching you on Project Runway Season 7, you appear to have everything. A fashion line, celebrities wearing your clothes a nice life with your hubby, why enter a show like Project Runway?
LADYBRILLEmag.com: I know you say you will “bring the drama” but what are you really hoping you accomplish from your exposure on Project Runway?
Christiane King: Ha-ha! I was in a very playful mood when that was filmed. In reality you might think I’m the most “drama-free” person you’ve ever met. As we all know, the fashion business is really competitive. There are a lot of talented designers out there and being different and getting noticed is key to a successful career. I’m hoping that the audience will see and connect with my creations and hopefully they won’t get hung up on my “bring the drama” comment. I had no idea how much attention that one little comment would receive!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Are you kidding? When a gorgeous black woman gets on television and says she will bring the drama? Err . . . it gets attention. Lol! By the way, from your audition video clip, it appears you had auditioned numerous times and was rejected? How many times did you audition in the past? Lol!
Christiane King: Yes, I am officially a “Project runway” audition veteran! I auditioned 5 times before getting on the show. I made it to the final stage in the audition process many times but never made it to the final 16 until now. I don’t take no for an answer!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: I guess persistence pays off! lol!
Christiane King: It absolutely did! I think the main thing in life is to know your own worth. Once that’s established, nothing can bring you down. I kept going back because I knew I had what it takes. And that’s the same attitude I’ll always have no matter what I’m pursuing.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Let’s just clear the air. Is it true Tim Gunn really wants you? lol!
Christiane King: Ha-ha! I get lots of reaction from that statement! Some people take it way too seriously when I was obviously joking. Having auditioned so many times and submitted so many videos, I had to spice it up a bit and be creative! I guess it worked! Lol!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: It sure did. It got me cracking up. I visualized Tim saying “Carry on! Oh! Christiane I want you.” Lol! On a more serious note, weren’t you a tad bit nervous especially meeting and getting critiqued by Nina Garcia?
Christiane King: The whole experience is a bit nerve-racking, but I was more anxious than nervous about being critiqued. The fact that you never know whether the judges will like your designs or not made me anxious.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: You’ve got “good hair,” a hot body and a neat style sense, basically the whole enchilada. Lol! You are the girl many love to hate. Lol! Why do you have to rub it in on Project Runway. Lol!
Christiane King: Well, thanks for the compliments! Lol! But I hope the world doesn’t really see me in that light. Deep inside I’m a very humble little girl from Africa trying to achieve her dream! I guess I was just having fun with the whole process!
CHRISTIANE KING FASHION DESIGN INSPIRATION
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Your sense of humor is refreshing and I think will keep many watching. On a bit more serious note, what about your designs do you think sets you apart from others?
Christiane King: The woman’s body is my greatest inspiration and because of that I think that I’m able to create designs that are in tune with what a woman wants. I also consider myself a very versatile designer and my edgy, flirty and feminine designs are very unique. I feel very privileged to have experienced so many different cultures, which allows me to draw inspiration from allover and create fashion that the whole world will love.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What are your favorite fabrics to work with?
Christiane King: I love silks of all weights. Chiffons, crepes, organzas… anything silk goes!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Any indigenous Côte d’Ivoire fabrics?
Christiane King: Not at this time. That is definitely something I’m considering using at some point. I just don’t have the resources on hand right now. But I can definitely say that my love for color stems from my Ivorian heritage.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: I know you enjoy the whole design process from conception to execution. Briefly walk us through what it takes to produce a Christiane King design collection.
Christiane King: I love nature and that is usually the best environment for me to be in at the start of a collection. I usually pack a picnic bag, armed with a blanket, a sketch pad and pencil and go sit at a park or botanical garden for hours. After I’ve laid out what think is a solid collection I think about the type of fabric/trims that will allow me to bring my sketches to life. I usually start draping right away, which helps determine how many yards will be needed per style before I go off and actually buy the fabrics/trims. The next step is to create a mock of the style to ensure proper fit and do the final correction on the pattern. Then it’s full force sewing time!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Christiane we are so used to seeing English speaking African countries represented across fashion and entertainment in the USA. You have basically bucked this trend with your debut on Project Runway. How do you feel about that?
Christiane King: I’m very proud to have come so far in my career and to now be one of the 16 designers on Project runway. I hope my story inspires other people to go after their dreams regardless of their backgrounds. The sky is truly the limit!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What is your philosophy when it comes to fashion as a creative art?
Christiane King: My design philosophy is to create clothes that are flattering to the woman’s body and bring forth her best assets. I love to use layers, textures, volume and draping to achieve that.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What about fashion as a business?
Christiane King: Fashion is a business. It’s the business of making people look and feel their best through your art. I think fashion can be a very successful and rewarding business if you are in it for the right reasons. Because it is so competitive and cut-throat you have to be passionate to get into it. I also think that the key to a successful fashion business is to have a strong identity (signature look) and be in tune with your clients’ changing needs. It’s great to design some outrageous gowns once in a while for red carpet events, but when it comes down to it, you’re also going to need to sell some styles to sustain the business.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: How would you describe your design style?
Christiane King: My design style is to stay on the creative side of classic!
CHRISTIANE KING’S RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MUSIC, FOOD, SHOPPING AND PLACES TO HANG OUT IN COTE D’IVOIRE!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Alright “Ms. Tim Gunn wants me” Lol! Why don’t you answer some fun questions for us so we can check out some fashion and entertainment when visiting your country since it will now be in the spotlight!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Who are the hottest fashion designers to buy and shop from?
Christiane King: Gilles Touré and Nawal El Assad are my favorites!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: The hottest boutiques?
Christiane King: Things have changed a lot since I left, but I would say go to “The Blvd. Latrille” to find some of the hottest boutiques.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What place would you recommend for delicious, excellent meals in Côte d’Ivoire ?
Christiane King: L’allocodrome is the most authentic place you can go to while visiting. It’s in the neighborhood of “Cocody”. It’s an outdoor area with about 50 different BBQ areas. You can order BBQ chicken, meats, fish… the best you’ll ever taste! You should have it with “alloco” (fried plaintains) and “attiéké” (similar to couscous made from cassava). Yum!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What about a great place to go dancing?
Christiane King: “La Piédra” was my favorite before I left. It’s probably called something else today but most people will know what you’re talking about. In general, the night clubs in the neighborhood of “Plateau” are pretty hot!..I’m feeling a little home-sick now. lol
LADYBRILLEmag.com: The most amazing beach resort in Côte d’Ivoire is . . .?
Christiane King: Assini! Crystal clear water… white sand… it’s just like one of those “Corona” commercials! Lol!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Lol! Awesome, I have made a mental note of that. What three top Côte d’Ivoire artists are currently playing in your Ipod or in your car?
Christiane King: Alpha Blondy, Petit Denis and Meiway!
RANDOM QUESTIONS FOR CHRISTIANE KING
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What is the one fashion item you can’t do without?
Christiane King: Can’t go without a scarf! Best accessory especially when you’re always cold! And coming from the Côte d’Ivoire where it’s always warm, I definitely need my scarf to fight off the cold in the U.S.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What is your favorite lipstick color?
Christiane King: I’m more of a lip gloss kinda gal. My favorite is the “Red velvet” by Philosophy. It’s pretty yummy!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What are your favorite hobbies?
Christiane King: I love nature so hiking is on the top of my list. I also like cooking, decorating and traveling.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: How many languages do you speak?
Christiane King: French is my first language. I also speak a little bit of “Boualé” which is my parents’ dialect. And of course English. Some people say they can’t detect my accent, but I think it’s pretty obvious.
LADYBRILLEmag,com: Do you go by any nick-names?
Christiane King: My mom and aunts call me “Kiki.” Some of my close friends call me “Chris”.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What is the one thing you wish people knew about you that they don’t?
Christiane King: I make the best Nutella strawberry crepes ever!
To see Christiane’s work, visit Christiane-k.com
PROJECT RUNWAY SEASON 7 PREMIERES TODAYJanuary 14TH at 10 PM ET/PT on LIFETIME. Visit Lifetime for details now!
~Interview by Uduak Oduok
~Courtesy Photo Christiane King
Christiane King Castings
Christiane King’s Home Visit
Christiane King’s Closet Tour
Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.