Local designer wins 1st ‘Runway’ challenge

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter

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— Being a father gave SethAaron Henderson an advantage on Thursday’s episode of “Project Runway.” The challenge was to create a look for a young girl and a complementary outfit for an adult woman, and the Vancouver designer used his 12-year-old daughter, Megann, as inspiration.

On TV

• “Project Runway,” 10 p.m. Thursdays, Lifetime

Henderson was one of 11 contestants remaining out of the initial 16, and many of his colleagues went for more of an Easter Sunday aesthetic. Henderson instead emphasized comfort, and it paid off. He won the design challenge for that week’s show, a first for him, while Portland contestant Janeane Marie Ceccanti was sent home.

“Today’s little girls are very fashion conscious. They want to be active and comfortable,” he said in a Friday telephone interview.

Henderson created a wool houndstooth-check black-and-white vest for his 6-year-old model, complete with an oversized zipper, grommet details and pink accents. He layered the vest over a black-and-pink striped turtleneck and paired it with a black denim skirt with grommet details. The model especially liked that he made her a little purse.

“At that age, it’s all about the handbag,” said Henderson, 38.

For the adult model, Henderson made a bold black-and-white jacket with an asymmetrical zipper, paired with skinny jeans with stud details.

Though he’ll have immunity, which means he can’t be sent home on next week’s challenge, Henderson said that won’t affect his work ethic.

“I pretend it’s not there,” he said. “Obviously, you want to do your best. I don’t think using (immunity) as a crutch will help you improve at all.”

Henderson has more to celebrate beyond Thursday’s win. On Feb. 12, he was among 10 finalists who showed collections at Bryant Park for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City. Last year only the top three finalists showed collections, and Henderson appreciated that this season’s approach was more inclusive.

“It was probably the most amazing show I’ve ever seen. The fact that I was in it made (the experience) that much better,” he said.

Contestant Maya Luz didn’t have a collection in the show, leading bloggers to speculate that she would be eliminated on Thursday’s episode. Instead, it was Ceccanti, who did participate in Fashion Week.

Henderson played it coy when asked about Luz’s absence.

“Very strange. You’ll have to watch and find out,” he said.

Henderson’s collection at Fashion Week played off his go-to color palette of black, white, gray, cherry red and canary yellow. He said his inspiration was 1940s Germany and Russia, which stirred some controversy.

“It’s not like I sat down and looked at a book of Nazis and said this is my inspiration. It’s just elements from that time,” he said, adding, “I have absolutely no love for the Nazi movement.”

Henderson, who says he likes a little controversy, imagined his models as warriors stomping the competition.

“My whole concept was my girls are there to dominate. They’re there to kill you. They’re soldiers.”

Though the runway show was a dream come true, the day was tinged with sadness. On Feb. 11, Henderson learned that famed British designer Alexander McQueen had died at age 40. Henderson previously had identified McQueen as a designer he most looked up to, and said he related to his edgy aesthetic.

“He was, in my mind, one of the greatest ever,” Henderson said. “It was truly a sad day. But we said, in honor of him, the show must go on.”