nee-jerk reaction tells you Project Runway season 14's Laurie Underwood would be an aspiring singer-she grew up singing in the Baptist church, and she is from Motown after all. But anyone who's ever stepped foot in one of our city's illustrious Black churches knows that Christ and couture go hand in hand.
"Going to a Baptist church is like going to a fashion show," she says. "I'd be sitting in the pews and for me it's like watching a runway show, because who people go to church in Detroit dress to the nines."
If Underwood plans to come out on top in the style-focused reality TV competition, she'll need her faith and fashion sense.
Here, the 30-year-old designer talks inspirations, Detroit style, taking risks and what's to come on this season of Project Runway.
What were your first steps to becoming a designer?
I first started with fashion illustration, just drawing. I was really good at drawing, so I said, "I can draw fashion, too."
I remember my mother came home with tickets to go to the Ebony fashion fair. That was the first fashion show I had ever been to and I thought I was in heaven. I remember being at the Fox Theatre and I just adored it. So that was one of the huge experiences for me as well.
What was the first thing you actually designed?
I took furniture fabric samples and I made handbags. I would sell them for like $5 or $10. I made the handbags to raise money for my prom dress.
You did not make your prom dress?
No! I wasn't there yet. (Laughs)
Did you ever think you would end up on Project Runway?
Absolutely not! I would get people saying, "Oh, girl you should go on that show where they design and are judged." And I would be like, "Project Runway? Not a chance!"
What made you change your mind?
This year, I guess I had an epiphany. I work in a corporate 9-to-5 and I am a mother, so there's a lot going on there and a lot of attention couldn't really be focused on fashion.
One day I was at work and I asked myself: What am I here for? What's my passion and how can I take that passion to lead me to my purpose? I always got emails from Project Runway casting, and I would never respond. And after that day I got the email and I said yes.
I wanted to stop being so safe and just really step out on faith and just go with it-with this fashion thing-because this is what I want to do, you know? So it's like you got to take risks in order to get where you want to be.
What's your design expertise? Ready-to-wear, couture, church?
It's not church fashion! No offense to it. But it's just not. It's ready-to-wear and that's something I was influenced by growing up.
I make pieces for women who have to work but love to play, pieces that can go from day to night. I am all about the feminine silhouette and sophisticated but sexy pieces. So that's my take on my design aesthetic.
If you could design one clothing piece that says 'Detroiter,' what would it be?
A white dress for an all-white party, because you know (we) love white parties. Something sexy that shows the curves because (Detroit girls) are all about their curves. I would want to accentuate that. Not too short. Not too long.
What's the drama this season?
I can say that this is an entertaining season. The personalities are amazing. It's a lot of entertainment. And if you are ready to be entertained while looking at great fashion, Project Runway season 14 is the way to go.