Two contestants with Seattle ties are among the competitors on Bravo’s “Project Runway,” the show’s 18th season (which premieres at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5) and second round to feature host Karlie Kloss and mentor Christian Siriano, a former “Runway” winner.
Jenn Charkow, who grew up in Fresno, California, and is currently from Belltown, and Melanie Trygg, formerly of Seattle and now living in Eastsound on Orcas Island, are among the 16 designers in the running for a $250,000 grand prize and potentially career-boosting opportunities like a feature in Elle magazine.
Trygg, 29, who grew up largely on Bainbridge Island, describes “Project Runway” as an “out-of-body experience” due to timing: She gave birth 10 months prior to going on the show and her mother passed away in the interim.
“I was just feeling like, if everything is gonna change this year, maybe I should throw my hat in the running for this show, too,” says Trygg, who applied to be on “Project Runway” in February and was in New York for filming by June. “It was really just me diving back into my solo, independent, creative self. While I was there, if I started thinking about my husband and kid, it made me sad. I just had to focus on getting through what was in front of me.”
Trygg, whose past work included a stint doing interior design in Seattle, describes her line of Scandinavian-inspired clothing, Kläd Apparel, as “minimalist statement wear. It’s clean lines, organic, draped garments with architectural detailing.”
Charkow, 41, moved to Seattle in 1996 to attend the now-shuttered Art Institute of Seattle. She worked in fashion design for Nordstrom, Tommy Bahama and Eddie Bauer before moving into merchandising for Target, a job she left to focus on her brand Stone Crow Designs, the same day she received word that “Project Runway” wanted to fly her to Los Angeles for follow-up interviews after she applied to be on the series for the third time.
Charkow describes her style aesthetic as “modern goth.” She manufactures mostly ready-to-wear separates — a unisex tee is her bestseller — that she sells online and at Sassafras, 2307 First Ave., in Belltown, where she also has a work space. (Sassafras will host an open studio 5-9 p.m. Dec. 6.)
“Now that I know all these amazing designers [who were contestants on the show], it’s made me level up in a way,” Charkow says, noting her goal is to slowly grow her business by adding more commission work similar to the “parachute gown,” made from a parachute, she’s already created.
Trygg says she and Charkow did not know one another before “Project Runway” but now all the season-18 competitors keep in touch via a group text.
“Just hearing other designers’ experiences, it helps me know I can definitely do it,” Trygg says. “Being on the show made me realize I have to be clear about my vision and point of view so people can follow it and want to purchase it season after season.”
Trygg’s goal is to offer a five-piece collection twice a year — fall and summer — that would be ready-to-wear and sold in small West Coast boutiques.
Living on Orcas Island helps Trygg focus on time management. She avoids wasting time in city traffic but she’s still working on finding the “most sustainable supply chain possible to get materials to me because obviously there are no fabrics here.”
One morning earlier this month while working, she broke a twin stretch needle.
“Now I have to wait to get an Amazon delivery,” she says, noting on such occasions she misses the convenience of city life. “Two-day delivery is available to Orcas Island. I feel morally compromised every time I do it, but yes, it is available.”
“Project Runway,” season-18 premiere at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, on Bravo.