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August 2008
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Project Runway The Bootcamp For Sewing

PhotoKelli Martin couldn’t wait to get out of Columbus, Ohio when she graduated from Westand High School in 1998. After two stints at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, thanks in part to a $20,000 Bob Mackie scholarship, she returned.

For the past several weeks, Martin brought national attention to the city to which she thought she’d never return as a contestant on Project Runway, the Bravo network’s search for the next great American designer.

When Martin left Columbus this time — to compete on the show in New York City — she was again confident that it was the right thing for her to do, but she also knew she’d come back. In late 2006, the Clintonville resident opened her own boutique, Black Market, 2579 N. High St., just south of Clintonville.  “Why not come back and open the store I always wanted when I was younger that never existed?” she said.

“I’m really into contrast,” Martin said, adding that she favors feminine silhouettes with raw edges and tears.  “I like to be very feminine and pretty, but at the same time I want them to look rough and confident. For the most part, I really draw a lot of inspiration from the streets and people watching and sub-culture and sub-sub-cultures that blend together.”

Martin began exploring fashion at a young age, donning looks that weren’t always met with approval at school, such as brightly dyed hair. Her principals thought she was a “crazy heathen troublemaker,” she said.

She couldn’t buy the things that suited her tastes when she was younger, so she relied on her own innovation.  “I scoured thrift and vintage stores and mangled together what I like,” she said. “I like to ‘MacGyver’ stuff to my liking.”  The designer taught herself how to sew, said her grandmother Jeanette Kelley. When Martin was a girl, she had Barbie dolls with handmade leather outfits, the proud grandmother recalled.

She has since put her creativity to use to win the first challenge on Project Runway.  On the show, aspiring fashion designers complete weekly challenges, designing and sewing garments to be modeled for a panel of judges that includes model and producer Heidi Klum and fashion designer Michael Kors.

The Columbus woman’s creativity came in handy in the first week’s challenge when the designers had to shop at a grocery store for their materials. She won that challenge.  Martin survived three more challenges before being eliminated for an outfit she designed for Brooke Shields to wear on the television show Lipstick Jungle.

Martin said she was thankful to be able to show the world her point of view through an experience she described as the “boot camp of sewing.” Designers usually have just one day to dream up and make their designs.

“I felt like, it’s what I love to do, so other than the lack of sleep and the heat, I was loving it, she said. “I really did feel almost as if it was a vacation for me. I was there doing what I love to do … I didn’t have the stress of every-day life.”

Since July 16, Martin’s every day life has been a little more stressful — in a good way.  “My business has been absolutely out of control,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more than the flash of the store that they showed on the first episode.”

At Black Market, Martin sells things that she designs and makes herself, as well as other new and vintage items. With the boon to her business from the show, she had to hire a seamstress, she said. She hasn’t been able to keep her own designs in stock.  Read more about Kelli’s story at the Columbus Local News page.

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Author, Instructor & Pattern Designer


One Response to “Project Runway The Bootcamp For Sewing”

  1. Lovely article. My daughter wore things “not normal” that she makes herself and would love to design and sell Gothic fashions!

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