For Sario, 'Runway' a springboard
By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
As Season 7 of Lifetime's hit reality show "Project Runway" comes to a close tonight, Hawai'i's first contestant, Jay Nicolas Sario, who graduated from Mililani High School and learned fashion skills at Honolulu Community College, is forging forward with his fashion career, madly designing and sewing his spring 2011 collection.
Although Sario was narrowly eliminated from the competition last week, he made his mark as a designer in New York and is now prepared to take on the world of fashion.
We caught up with him by phone in San Francisco.
Asked if he was disappointed when eliminated, Sario said, "I knew from the beginning that it was a win-win situation. 'Project Runway' was a platform to tell the world that I am a legitimate fashion designer."
Sario said he never doubted his own talent, but he had put his dreams of designing aside for a career in visual merchandising with Gap corporate headquarters in San Francisco.
" 'Project Runway' pushed me to want it even more. I'm pushing myself all the time now. I'm about to venture out and do fashion design for a living," he said.
Sario is currently working on his spring collection.
"I got amazing reviews out there. It makes me want this even more," he said. "I was written up everywhere: fashion media, from the Wall Street Journal to the New York fashion press — they all rooted for me as a top designer for the season. It's real. That made me feel like I'm the winner of the competition."
Sario plans to launch his spring 2011 collection in San Francisco. He calls it "the perfect place to start small and be recognized."
New York is also a possibility. "I've been getting a lot of e-mails from people who represent designers in New York, and agents, too, and they want to help me show in September," he said. "I really want to get into that, because it's for people interested in buying the line."
The inspiration for Sario's current collection is an unusual shade of green called endive, like the delicate, pale leaves of the vegetable.
He says it's a collection that would work well in Hawai'i.
"It's a light, clear green with sophistication and richness," he said. "It's green with a hint of gold, black and brown. It's that feeling of pale paints that are dripping off the wall, textural and fragile and light.
"It's still gonna be structured and with femininity. It will be better than my fall collection," Sario said.
Sario said he got fit and worked out regularly before he went to New York to face the "Project Runway" crazy schedule, sleep deprivation and demanding challenges. His demanding job at Gap also helped him prepare.
"You have to not just be creative, but you have to have the skills to sew fast and conceptualize fast and buy fabric fast, and you have to be able to handle all that," he said.
Sario said the hardware-store challenge was his favorite, showing off his innovation. Of course, it helped that he won it. The pants he made from strips of garbage bags looked like couture and completely wowed the judges.
Sario's innovative, well-constructed pants were often praised by both Tim Gunn and the judges. Yes, he would love to do a collection of pants some day. "Oh, and jackets, too."
Since the show's end, Sario has maintained friendships with two of the other competitors: Seth Aaron Henderson and Anthony Williams. Henderson, who lives in Vancouver, Wash., will be visiting Sario in San Francisco in the next few weeks.
Sario talks and texts with Williams on a regular basis. "Anthony doesn't even try to be funny. He's just naturally funny. He was approached by some of the producers to do a spinoff but I don't think they're prepared to pay him what he would want," Sario said.
The high-energy Sario has not given up his day job to pursue his fashion career. In fact, when he returned to San Francisco, he was promoted by Gap.
He now oversees all the flagship stores and heads up the team of visual merchandisers for the hip new 1969 stores, which he describes as "boutique-like Gap stores."
"There's one in Hollywood and I'm off to Chicago in May to open another one," he said. "It's a more edgy and contemporary version of Gap."
When Sario judges a Honolulu Community College fashion show this week, he will also be showing three to five garments of his own. They will not be "Project Runway" garments; those are owned by the show.
But at least two of them will be garments he made for his audition.
"I can't wait to come home," Sario said wistfully.