Local fashion designer Christopher Straub, a contestant on season six of "Project Runway," generally gives this bit of advice to aspiring designers:
"Know your fashion identity. If you're doing what other people are doing, people are less likely to take you seriously. If you're coming at it with a new idea, people are going to pay attention to you."
Straub will talk about his design philosophies and his experience on the competitive reality show at Eagan's Wescott Library from 7-8 p.m. Thursday.
Straub's own fashion identity is marked by a love of nature, graphic elements and bold designs. He works with modern prints of foliage, shells and in his most recent collection, giant honeycombs and bees.
"I'm inspired by nature first and foremost," he said.
The Shakopee resident considers himself a "sculptural designer" and loves playing with texture and volume. He sometimes uses upholstery and canvas for sculpted pieces -- "I love how you can manipulate heavier fabrics," he said -- as well as lightweight fabrics to create airy showstoppers.
A recent favorite -- a fluttery, petal-textured teal ball gown created for a Minnesota Fashion Week runway show last fall -- took about 50 hours to make, as he sewed on each fabric petal individually.
"My favorite pieces are the ones that are the most artistic," he said -- "the ones that get people to open their eyes."
After appearing on the television show, Straub went on to open an online store of his fashions. He also designed two collections for the women's store Maurice's, which still sells some of his accessories and a fragrance. That process, he said, taught him a lot about business.
"I learned about manufacturing on a mass scale and tailoring items to a certain customer," he said. "I learned about their customer. She's fashion-forward, but you can't give her something she hasn't seen before."
Going forward, Straub said he would like to continue do a variety of projects, including a combination of one-of-a-kind pieces and mass-market, ready-to-wear items for stores.
"I thrive on it," he said, speaking from Miami, where he was assisting with a photo shoot for a modeling challenge. "I love challenges and deadlines."
Prior to the Thursday talk, a group of teens will present their garments to Straub for critique.
In his presentation, he plans to recall some of his experiences being cast and appearing on "Project Runway." People often want to know about the celebrities, he said, but they also ask about details such as how much time contestants get to do challenges and how much time it takes to film segments.
He said of his appearance on the show: "It changed everything. It gave me confidence."
Also, he added, "Having a 12-week commercial for your own fashion label is never a bad thing."
The Christopher Straub event at the library is part of a "Made in Minnesota" series of programs at the Dakota County libraries, which features programs presented by the Textile Center and the Minnesota Center for the Book Arts, as well as talks by master gardeners, fiber artists, authors and musicians.
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.