Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.
Philadelphia native Dom Streater, 24, won Project Runway Season 12. She's the second Philadelphian to win the show.
Where does your artistic influence come from and when did you start making clothing?
I grew up in West Philly at 58th and Chestnut Streets. I was very much an artist since I was a child. As long as I can remember, I was always painting and drawing. My mom was very supportive of it. I grew up in a good atmosphere that nurtured my interests. When I was younger, I remember we didn’t have a ton of money. My mom was a single mom. If I wanted new clothes or if I didn’t have something, I would make them.
When we were kids, my brother and I were allowed to pick one thing from the huge JCPenney catalogue every Christmas. When I was 8 or 9 years old, that Christmas, I picked a sewing machine. It was a tiny pink sewing machine. I would make clothes for my Barbie doll. That’s the first thing I remember designing as a young person. I kept every sewing machine I ever owned.
Everyone has to start somewhere. What was your first job?
While I was in college, I was looking for a job. It was really, really hard to find a job. It was impossible. I literally could not find anything in the design industry. I got a job doing animal care at the University of Pennsylvania. I had some animal care experience. It was a strange part of my career.
How did you get on the television show Project Runway?
There were times I was ready to give up. I didn’t think I was ever going to get a job. I had already applied to Project Runway Seasons 10 and 11 and was not cast. Maybe I would stick with animal care and that would be my career, I thought. Last year, I was an alternate finalist. No one dropped out before they started filming. This year, they asked me to apply again and I got lucky. I made it. It was a tedious application process. It was so long and a lot of work. We started filming this season in June of this year and we got done mid-July. It started airing in July and ended a couple of weeks ago. I was lucky enough when I got back that I had so many requests for commissions that I didn’t have to do that (animal care) anymore, which is awesome. With the added bonus of winning, I don’t have to do the animal job anymore.
What was the best advice you got from the judges and what did you win?
The judges were a lot of fun. Heidi Klum shared with us to just have fun with fashion and make fashions that are fun to wear. I always kept that in mind when I was designing. (Dom won a prize package worth a half a million dollars, including $150,000 to begin her fashion collection and a 2014 Lexus, not bad). It was very hard to keep my win a secret. I would get asked all the time. I can’t tell you, I'd say, you have to watch to find out. At the same time, it was nice to keep people guessing. I could not talk to anybody. We didn’t have cell phones. The show was filmed in Manhattan at Parsons. It could have been in China.
What was the most memorable challenge?
The challenge we all remember (or stood out) the most was the first. We were so doe-eyed. We were in a van blindfolded and we were hours away. We didn’t know where we were and where we were going. We had no idea what was happening. It was really nerve-racking. We are standing out there in the middle of the airfield. We expected something big but you really never know what to expect going into challenges. Skydivers came down and delivered parachutes and we had to make clothing out of the parachutes. I made a white t-shirt, pink ribbon shirt and a black jacket.
I won two challenges, one was the Belk challenge. We had to design a dress for a Southern woman. They sent the bottom three people back to the workroom to make another dress. That was really insane. Somehow in the 60 minutes I was able to make a dress. I was in the bottom. I thought I was going to go home and I actually won that challenge. It was a huge polar opposite. It was a really, really crazy challenge. The first dress was blue and green charmeuse. They were disappointed that I didn’t use prints. I started from scratch and made a new one. It was a black and white stripped dress. Belk is going to make the dress next year; it will be out in March.
Expound the Project Runway show experience.
It’s incredibly stressful. It’s so hard to explain it. Your life is in front of a camera -- your entire life and personality. It’s so strange. It’s really fast. It’s a lot faster than I personally thought it would be. It’s hard -- emotionally and physically it takes a toll. In the moments of the chaos and as crazy as it was, there were a lot of fun moments. I don’t know how they managed to find 16 people who liked each other. There were light moments to balance out the stressful moments we had.
As hard as it was, I think it was totally worth it. I really had an amazing time. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I was so grateful to be a part of it. I would do it again as hard as it was. That’s because the experience was so great with 15 other awesome designers.
How do you describe your fashions and style?
My aesthetic is a happy mix of exuberant and joyful clothing. It’s a city girl chic. There’s an edginess in the way that I dress, but I make it feminine at the same time. I use prints and a lot of my silhouettes are retro.
How did you develop your interest in fashion design?
I went to Bodine High Scool for International Affairs at 4th and Girard Streets. I actually got very much involved in art. I was always in the art room. I remember my art teacher actually recommended that I take a fashion course for high school students at Moore College of Art. I loved it. It jumped started my idea to go to college for fashion design.
I did a ton of college visitations. I went to lots of different campuses, Pratt and Parsons and MIT. Moore was the only school I really liked. I was in love with New York, but really liked Moore.
I remember getting to college and studying for a bachelor's in fashion design. I was so detached from the art world. My family wasn’t involved in the art community. When I got to college, I was able to do art every day. It was really strange. My school was an all-women’s art college. I didn’t have the distraction of boys being there. Everyone was very focused on their work. It was a serious school. I got a very good college education because I didn’t have to worry about distractions. I graduated in 2010.
What is it like working for yourself now and who is your dream client?
I love working for myself. I prefer to be my own boss. I don’t mind working on teams. I do like being able to have the say in the design direction and things that I create. That was my ultimate goal always. I wouldn’t mind working for someone else but do prefer working for myself.
I’m already working on my own collection. I started designing my fall/winter collection for next year. It will show at Philly Fashion Week, and hopefully it will get picked up by new stores. I hope to have a brick and mortar location soon.
My ideal client is the singer Cassie, or even hip hop and pop music singer Rihanna. I would like to make clothes for them.
What advice do you have other aspiring fashion designers?
I think it’s very important that young designers don’t give up on your dreams. It’s very easy to get discouraged from where your goals and passion lie. The moment you do, you will miss out on the opportunity where you will actually make it happen.