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Interview with Project Runway Star and Wedding Dress Designer Austin Scarlett

Austin Scarlett Designs Wedding Dresses for the Kenneth Pool/Amsale Line

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Interview with Project Runway Star and Wedding Dress Designer Austin Scarlett

Austin Scarlett in the Amsale workroom, standing next to his Mozart Wedding Dress

Nina Callaway
Fans of the hit Bravo TV show Project Runway will no doubt remember the darling of the first season, blond and intriguing designer Austin Scarlett. Many viewers believed that his romantic and classical aesthetic prevented him from winning the competition, but were devastated to see him leave.

In spite of not winning, being on the show helped Austin land what might just be his ideal job – designing wedding dresses for legendary wedding dress designer Amsale, under her Kenneth Pool line. Starting with the spring 2007 collection, the entire Kenneth Pool line will be Austin Scarlett original designs.

I was lucky enough to meet with Austin Scarlett himself, see his wedding dresses, and find out more about his work and experiences with Project Runway.

The Wedding Dresses

The Kenneth Pool line is known for its luxurious glamour, beautiful fabrics and hand-beaded details. "To me the line is about over-the-top opulent luxury and decadent splendor," says Austin. "Fabulous huge ballgowns are one of our trademarks, but we do it in a very sexy, young way."

The dresses are made to order in the New York showroom, so a bride of basically any size can wear a Kenneth Pool wedding dress. They cost between $4000 and $11000, which is about average for a wedding dress with comparable amounts of hand beading, fine fabrics, and detail work. Of course, if you want a true Austin Scarlett original wedding dress custom designed especially for you, that's certainly available, assuming you can afford it.

Austin said that the collection was very true to his own heart, although the beading was a new and exciting challenge for him. He has also been enjoying working within the basic constraints of creating 18 white satin dresses with full skirts, while making each one unique and special. Austin added, "That's the challenge of the job, but within the specification there is a lot you can do. It's all about the fine details."

Currently, the young designer is bringing the dresses to brides with a series of trunk shows, and they will be available in stores nationwide this fall. Click Here to See a Photo Gallery of Austin Scarlett's spring 2007 wedding dress collection for Kenneth Pool

2007 Wedding Dress Trends

When we met, Austin was in the middle of designing the dresses for the fall 2007 line, and I got a sneak peek at some of the trends we'll be seeing. Dresses were form fitting, showing off the bride's figure through the hips, before filling out with a full dropped skirt, or a trumpet skirt. You'll also see some sleeves and off-the-shoulder options. "We're hearing brides asking for options," says Austin Scarlett. "And so we're fulfilling that desire for something beyond strapless, although strapless dresses will continue to be a big part of our line." The Kenneth Pool dresses will still feature intricate beadwork, all hand-designed, and hand-beaded.

Austin Scarlett's Memories of Project Runway

Reality TV fans know that most producers have a strong hand with editing in order to add to drama and create more compelling story lines. Some fans of Austin's feel he was unfairly edited to appear as a crying fop. Yet I found him to be a thoughtful person who was strategic about his time on the show. "I never thought I was going to win," said Scarlett. "I knew they would probably want a more ready-to-wear designer. I didn't necessarily cater to the judges." But the fact that he stuck to his couture aesthetic of glamour is what ultimately is making him successful today. "I knew it was not the way to win the show, but I saw it as an opportunity to share my philosophy."

And indeed, that is how Amsale Aberra came to notice him, when she appeared as a judge on the wedding dress challenge episode. While his strange teal wedding dress for the challenge appealed to the model client for whom he designed it, it was, by his own admission, not his best work. But fortunately, Amsale saw the rest of the show, and thought his aesthetic was well suited to creating wedding dresses. When she needed a designer for her Kenneth Pool line, she called him up.

Ironically, it has meant that Austin has reached success faster than the winner of Project Runway Season 1, Jay McCarroll, who won't show his first collection until this fall. Austin has the advantages of a fully-established company at his disposal, freeing him from the worries of production, marketing and business. He just gets to design.

This Season on Project Runway

Project Runway has just started its 3rd season on Bravo, and the competition is already exciting. Austin Scarlett is still watching, and I got him to divulge his favorite: Michael Knight. Austin raved, "His work has a fun sense but also is very refined. It's adventurous and colorful without being too flashy or cheesy."

Project Runway appears on Wednesday nights at 10pm EST on Bravo.

Look for Austin Scarlett's designs for Kenneth Pool by Amsale in a bridal salon near you this fall.

Published August 16, 2006.
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