An all new season of Project Runway All Stars has returned to Lifetime, bringing back some of the reality competition’s best and brightest stars. Among them is fäde zu grau, a designer who originally appeared on season 13. Among his eccentricities, zu grau likes to write in all lower case letters. We had the opportunity to chat with the Coral Gables based designer on evolution, his journey from East Berlin, and how he finds inspiration from the South Florida community – all lower case of course.
Alexander Kacala: What was the process of getting invited to be on this season of Project Runway All Stars?
fäde zu grau: there was no auditioning or anything like that. i imagine that designers were chosen based on their past performance on project runway as well as their style and personality. the producers contacted me a couple of weeks before filming began, asking if i’m interested to be on the show and i said “YES!”
AK: How have you evolved as a designer since the last time you were in the competition?
fzg: i’m a company now! so i evolved from designer to business owner since i was last in the competition. i found investors and we started producing and selling “fzg-geär” through the all new fadezugrau.com website. everything that can be purchased are one offs only! no two garments are the same. everything is hand-made and hand-printed right here in coral gables. the sewing studio has expanded and we hired a clothes maker who helps me work on the several lines custom orders. also, we are talking with local boutiques in wynwood and wilton manors that hopefully soon will offer our geär.
AK: Going into this season, who did you expect to be your fiercest competition?
fzg: every designer on the show is a serious competitor, but it also depends a lot on the challenges. no designer can just do their thing and be fine. one might be great at construction but falters in a challenge using alternative materials. so it is anybody’s game, really.
AK: Tell our readers your journey from East Berlin to Coral Gables.
fzg: at the age of 19 – still before the wall came down – two friends and i escaped from east-germany. an exciting but also very dangerous adventure that lead us through several countries until we finally reached west-germany. it was very weird and surreal! after some time adjusting to this new life, i started working as a graphic designer and 10 years later i planned my next big move – trying to get to america. on a south beach vacation i brought my design portfolio with me and went to almost every advertising agency in town. by the end of that vacation i had two job offers, flew home, sold my stuff within a week and came right back to start working in a coral gables agency. that is now 18 years ago.
AK: What about South Florida inspires you and your designs?
fzg: the ease of life inspires me. there is a simplicity here that i really like. and i love the climate. most of the year you can just run out of the house without worrying much about the weather. also, south florida has this off-vibe that i find very creative as an artist. it is this off- and ease that reflects in my creations and that, i believe, many people appreciate about my clothes. turn the garment inside out and throw it in the wash. PENG! done! no dry cleaning, no ironing, steaming. nothing. very simple. my husband and i live extremely simple and healthy and south florida is the perfect spot for doing that.
AK: Regardless of winning this season of All Stars, what is next for you?
fzg: a lot of work but i won’t complain because running my own company is also fun! we’re already working on the next cut of fzg-geär, possibly something graffiti-influenced since my look from the first challenge on “all stars” had such a big resonance with people. that look was inspired by the berlin wall. the top reflects the wall from the west side, covered in graffiti, while the bottom of my look represents the east side of the hated structure, mainly looking gray because people could not get close to it without fearing to be shot. in fact, that look from the first episode is leading the poll at “blogging project runway” right now! i might win after all.