Hey, fans of Tracy Reese’s pieces: tonight’s episode of Project Runway features a special treat! The designer will appear as a guest judge. With a loyal following that flocks to her NYFW shows and a fan base that extends to Michelle Obama (remember when the First Lady donned a silver and pink dress of Reese’s to the Democratic National Convention last fall?), Reese is definitely qualified for the small screen gig. Fittingly, she’ll be judging a challenge that’s all about print design. Last eve, Reese dished to us at a screening of the episode at her West Village boutique about the process of choosing the challenge winner, what she gets judge-y about, and what kinds of Reese frocks Mrs. Obama could be wearing next! (Vacay threads, anyone?)
In one word, what was it like to be a guest judge on Project Runway?
How might you have fared early in your career if you were on the show?
I don’t know if [the show] would’ve made a great difference. I think there’s a lot to be learned from surviving those challenges! It probably builds some inner strength and commitment in each designer. That’s probably the biggest takeaway.
What are you most judgmental about?
When people have a lack of compassion; people who you can just tell all of their actions are ‘me’ driven. We’re all here together! Things work better when we all work together and have compassion for each other.
Are there any other reality competition TV shows that you think you’d be a good judge for?
I always like design-oriented shows. My palate isn’t advanced enough to be a Top Chef Judge. I love the show, but I don’t like gizzards or offal or stuff like that, so those challenges would be hard for me to judge.
How long do the judges actually confer on Project Runway before deciding on a winner?
It isn’t very long, actually. We chatted for about five or 10 minutes. Everybody was very clear! We were all on the same page, most of the time.
You just seriously revamped your site last month. What made you decide to do that now?
I’m very happy with the outcome. Our site has been through different phases. When we first launched our site 10 years ago, it was strictly a beauty and information site. It was very pretty and the brands were beautifully represented, but you couldn’t shop. Then we went to e-commerce about five years ago; we had to really strip down all the pretty stuff and just go to a very straight format. We were using a very elementary format, which was just boring. We wanted to bring back some of the beauty and make the site more interactive. We wanted to offer more of our brand and inspiration to the customer. It was a fun process to be able to build these additional pages! It’s like night and day.
What kind of women do you want to lure to the website?
We just need to be able to reach our girl wherever she lives. It’s not always possible to walk into a store in any town and buy our clothes. So we’re trying to access the person who doesn’t have access. Or the one who’s too busy to run around and take off her clothes in stores.
Any new designs planned for Michelle Obama?
We just sent some things to her, so I don’t know. I had the impression from what they selected that she was maybe going on vacation…So we’ll see if something pops up soon!