Sunday, August 16, 2009

On the runway: Temple native designs a way to get on TV

Telegram Staff Writer

She says she has a dark nature.
'I like things that are spooky and creepy,' said Carrie Jackson of Dallas, one of the 16 fashion designers who will appear in the new season of Lifetime's 'Project Runway.' 'I'm also a horror film fanatic, and I am always collecting weird doll parts.'
So for Internet chat rooms and social networking sites, she wanted a screen name that would fit her 'twisted, quirky personality.'
'I went with Louise Black,' Mrs. Jackson said. 'Louise is my middle name, and Black fits me.'
She liked her online identity so well it became her professional pseudonym. The clothes she designs and sells come under the label of Louise Black - and that's the name she'll be competing under on 'Project Runway.'
Her parents, Patricia and Rueben Harrell of Temple, can't wait to see the Thursday's show premiere.
'It'll be a fun day,' Mrs. Harrell said. 'We've been looking forward to it for so long.' Filming for the show took place last year.
'We've been waiting to see it since October,' she said. 'And with re-runs being on all the time, we'll be ready for a good show by Aug. 20.'
The anxious mom is proud of her daughter.
'We always knew she would be successful,' Mrs. Harrell said. 'She was creative and competitive growing up. In grade school, she always had to be one who won. So it's no surprise this has happened.'
'Project Runway' is a reality TV program that features a random group of fashion designers competing for a trip to Paris and a $100,000 cash award to go toward the start-up costs of a fashion line. The August show will launch the program's sixth season.
'I've always been a fan of the show,' Mrs. Jackson said. 'So getting to be on it was a blast.'
Meeting her competitors was a joy of its own.
'Conversing with the other designers was way fun,' Mrs. Jackson said. 'You got to learn new ideas and inspiration.'
Even though it's been more than six months since filming ended, Mrs. Jackson has stayed in touch with several of her co-stars.
'A bunch of us friended each other on Facebook,' she said.
And working with Tim Gunn, the fashion consultant who mentors the Runway competitors, 'was the happy, icing on the cake.'
'I love him. He's absolutely great,' Mrs. Jackson said. 'And of course I was glad to be in L.A. I had never been there before.'
Due to a confidentiality agreement with the Lifetime cable network, Mrs. Jackson did not share the results of the contest. The winner will be announced at the end of the season.
Appearing in Season 6 is the result of Mrs. Jackson's second application to the show.
'I tried out for Season 2,' she said. 'My roommate encouraged me, but I got started really late. I only had three days to get everything together.'
In a frantic rush, she was able to submit her fashion designs by the deadline.
'But I got on the wrong subway,' she said. 'And was late for the personal interview.'
So she didn't make the cut.
'I was crushed for a while,' Mrs. Jackson.
And then she devoted her energies to developing her Louise Black clothing line. It started as an online venture where her clients could order custom-made outfits.
'It started really slowly,' Mrs. Jackson said. 'I had no funding, so couldn't buy lots of yards of fabric and mass produce. So everything was a prototype.'
But since 2004 her business has grown and so has her reputation, so her Louise Black line is able to pay the bills.
'Project Runway' wasn't on her to-do list at all until she relocated from New York to Dallas.
'I was an intern with Jan Strimple in her design company,' Mrs. Jackson said.
Ms. Strimple was a fan of Mrs. Jackson's work from the start.
'I liked her creativity and edge,' Ms. Strimple said.
So Ms. Strimple submitted Mrs. Jackson's name to 'Project Runway' as a possible contestant.
'I was taken aback,' Mrs. Jackson said.
Everything since then is pretty much a blur of excitement for the Temple native.
About the show
Season 6 of 'Project Runway' premieres this month on the Lifetime channel.
With the first episode set to air at 9 p.m. Aug. 20, the reality TV show will document a grueling competition between 16 fashion designers, each vying for the most exposure at New York Fashion Week, a trip to Paris and a $100,000 cash award to go toward the start-up costs of a fashion line.
Two of this year's competitors have ties to Texas. Carrie 'Louise Black' Jackson, 32, was born and raised in Temple, and Shirin Askiri, 24, lives in Garland.
The host of 'Runway' will be model Heidi Klum, and fashion consultant Tim Gunn will serve as advisor and mentor the competitors. Judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia of the Marie Claire magazine will determine the winner.
The Season 6 competition took place at the Los Angelos Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.
Producers were the Weinstein Co., Miramax Films, Bunim-Murray Productions and Full Picture Productions. A spin-off series called 'Model of the Runway' will debut after 'Project Runway.'
Did you know? Carrie 'Louise Black' Jackson graduated Temple High School in 1995 and went on to study art and clinical lab science at Temple College.
She was one semester away from her bachelor's degree in clinical lab studies at Southwest Texas State University when she left in order to purse a career in fashion.
She worked as a full-time pharmaceutical technician until her Louise Black fashion line became profitable.

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