Survive Fame: An Interview with Carlie Wong
"When they scream and run toward me, I have no choice but to acknowledge it," says Carlie Wong of her fans. Find out how things are going for this Project Runway Canada Season 1 designer in this revealing post-show interview.
Tell us about your life after Project Runway Canada.
Life after PRC has been chaos. I returned to my job, only to quit a few months later, following the airing of the episode that I was eliminated on. (Truly a coincidence.) Since then I have been working non-stop for my own company; showing at L’Oréal fashion week last March and again this October. Being a one woman show has been a lot of work and very little sleep. I keep having to remind myself I am doing what I love and as long as I stick to it, no matter how draining it is; it can only get better.
What's the most significant thing that's changed since being on the show?
The most significant thing that has changed is that I'm no longer able to go out; I am married to my work. The show gave me the push I needed to start living my life on my own terms, but the adjustment has been difficult. Perhaps the strangest thing to me, is that people want to help me; sometimes out of the goodness of their hearts and sometimes for their own personal gain. The show has changed me in a way that I have to keep my guard up more than ever before. But on the positive side, being on the show allowed me to be more confident in my career path; so I'm able to make decisions that I would be too afraid to make before.
What did you learn most about yourself from being on the show?
I learned that I need to be cocky in order to survive in this business. I learned that I have a personality for TV despite my constant denial. I learned that even I have a breaking point, no matter how strong I think I am. I learned that I can deal with negative criticism and prevail in the end. I learned that I'm severely emotional and that sometimes I act on those emotions. But above all, I learned that being successful in my career matters to me and that I was meant to do this.
How do you think the show changed the fashion landscape in Canada?
The show made people more aware of Canadian fashion. It proved to people that Canada has talent in design; encouraging people to buy Canadian design and therefore making Canada more of a fashion hotspot than it was prior to the show's existence. It brought fashion to the mainstream; whereas before, Canadian fashion was arguably only of interest within the industry and relatively unknown to the masses.
Which designers from season one do you keep in touch with most?
I keep in touch with Biddell mostly. We were the 2 youngest and had the most to learn about this business; so we bonded on the fact that we can learn together. I also keep in touch with most of the other designers, but rarely, as we are all so busy with our own careers. This is an all-consuming profession. It’s nice when we can get together, but it's hard living so far away. The days of all 12 of us together are long gone.
Has fame changed you? Do you get recognized?
It is weird to equate myself with being "famous", so no; fame hasn't changed my personality. I am still dumbfounded when people recognize me on the street, so I'm usually discreet about it. When people say "you look familiar" I say that I come here a lot. But when they scream and run toward me, I have no choice but to acknowledge it. My favorite is when they say "OMG, are you Carlie Wong from Project Runway Canada?!" So I nod, yes.
How has being on the show helped your career?
The show has helped my career in the sense that I was able to start my company knowing that I had broken into this seemingly impenetrable industry. Without the show, I may have never had the courage to do so on my own and it would have been a much more difficult process. That being said, the rest is up to me. I'm now focusing on delivering strong collections season after season; proving that I'm worthy. Being on Project Runway Canada began the first step, but my work will determine my longevity in the fashion world.
What projects are you working on you can tell us about?
I'm working in partnership with LG Canada to launch 3 phones on the day of my Spring/Summer 2009 show at L’Oréal Fashion Week this October. It’s an exciting prospect to bring technology and fashion together on one stage. I will also be featured in a designer profile on Fashion Television. The FT crew will be profiling me in the days leading to fashion week, while I prepare for the big show. It has always been a dream of mine to be on Fashion Television and now, not only will I be on but I will be featured as well. It’s a dream come true.
What's the one piece of advice you would give to season two's contestants?
It’s hard to pick the most important piece of advice for ALL the contestants, since it will be a unique case for each, so I will say this: stay humble and be grateful, no matter when (or IF) you "don't measure up". Things will come easy, and they will go easy. You will feel the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Be prepared and know that BOTH will pass and when everything is said and done, you will need to count on your own strength to survive in this life and in this business.
Don't forget to catch up with MG, Lucian, and Biddell!