Johnathan Kayne Gillaspie loves rhinestones. He loves the glitter and the glamour and that’s probably why he’s Gown Crazy. Now, the top five finisher on Project Runway 3 is about to star in his own one-hour special. Gillaspie embarks on the road to the Miss Oklahoma pageant — no, not as a contestant, but as the gown designer for three of the women competing for the prize.
inside scoop? I got Kayne to take the pins out of his mouth and chat with me about his brand new special for TLC. Listen in as this sassy, Southern boy talks about glitz, glam and going for it.
Gaga for Gowns
SheKnows: I got to ask. Why gowns?
Johnathan Kayne Gillaspie: I started doing gowns more out of necessity than choice because that’s what was paying the bills. When I first had a store here in Oklahoma, I could make
dance costumes and less expensive things all day long but I kept getting tons of customers wanting my evening wear. It was supply and demand. Then, when I was on Project Runway, it was a whole different market. I got hired by a formal wear
shoe company and now my shoes are in twenty-two hundred stores. Then I got hired by a prom line and that’s in about six hundred stores and I’m their sole designer. And it just kept leading me back
into that niche. I’m just securing my place in those markets, building my brand and slowing moving into the other areas. It think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been successful since Project Runway
because I’m not trying to be the next Calvin Klein or Donna Karan — yet. I will, as part of my master plan, but my lines are doing well, so why not run with this.
SheKnows: You also profess a love of rhinestones. What’s that all about?
Johnathan Kayne Gillaspie: I absolutely love the glitz and glam side of things. I’ve always been enamored with what women were wearing on the red carpet and in the old movies. My
favorite person in the world is Dolly Parton, so hello – wearing rhinestones at eight o’clock in the morning. It’s part of my past, growing up in Nashville, loving my country music singers and you
know it’s kind of who I am and I’m loving my life and being able to do it.
SheKnows: You’re designing for three contestants in the Miss Oklahoma Pageant. How do you decide who gets what?
Johnathan Kayne Gillaspie: When the girls come in I try to feed off their personality. I’ll have designs that I’m working on or I’ll get a new fabric in that I’m super excited
about and I try to feel out what the girl is wanting. I already know a lot of these girls, so I know their skin tone and their hair color and what color I’d love to see on them. Some of these girls
I’ve worked with for a couple of years so it’s like, what have we done in the past and what can we do to top that. I treat all my clients as if you were going to the Oscars. What would I put you in
to walk the red carpet?
SheKnows: On Gown Crazy, one girl raves about how she loves the dress, then immediately suggests a drastic change. Does that happen often?
Johnathan Kayne Gillaspie: A lot of girls think they want one thing but then, by the end of the process, they really didn’t want that. That’s what great about my fitting process.
When they come in, it’s a pretty raw fitting, a basic lining shell of the dress to get the lines and the fit. Some of my girls say, go with it, I trust you. Some of the girls need a little bit of
reassurance. I try to please my customer but not lose any of my design integrity when I do it.
Pageant gown 101
SheKnows: Many pageant gowns are very old fashioned. Are there rules for pageant gowns?
Johnathan Kayne Gillaspie: The Miss America Organization is the more conservative of the pageants. That being said, they are starting to come around on what’s in and hot in fashion
and even trying to step up their game on allowing the girls to be a little sexier. But there are still a lot of taboo things versus the Miss USA or Miss Universe system, — you can kind of wear
anything you want. They want to be cutting edge and stand out, using a great design and designer.
SheKnows: Did you have any reservations about letting cameras follow you around while you work?
Johnathan Kayne Gillaspie: It’s one of those things where I would be lying if I said I didn’t love it. One of my best friends who was on Project Runway with me, Robert Best, the Barbie designer, we’ve
remained friends and the week after we left we were kidding each other like, where’s my camera man and where’s my sound crew. We loved our crew people, I love TV. I did theater in high school and
always loved movies. So for me, it was kind of fun. Just more people in my house — I don’t want to say party, because it wasn’t a party atmosphere — but it was fun. I love being around people who
are inspiring and hard working and talented in their field.
SheKnows: In the show, one of your clients jokes about you doing your best work under pressure.
Johnathan Kayne Gillaspie: I wear so many hats and I try to get so many things done, but when the pressure is on I know I have to turn it on and get things done. It’s not my best
trait, but I’m a Pisces and we’re very aloof, scatterbrained, artistic people for the most part. I learned that a long time ago so I surround myself with people on my staff who are very Type A so
they can keep me on track because I tend to flutter off into my own world doing my own thing. But I always manage to get things done. I also have a habit of not saying no and biting off more than I
can chew. But my staff is awesome and they help me out when crunch time is on.
SheKnows: Creative work and running a business comes from two different sides of the brain. How to make it all work?
Johnathan Kayne Gillaspie: It’s one of those things where, in my own little world, I would just love to create beautiful things all day long with no deadlines and enjoy what I’m
doing. It’s hard to accommodate that side of the business because it gets a little crazy to wear both hats. I don’t like being the boss and then there’s that whole other aspect of not only managing
your time but everyone else who works for you. It’s a learning process. I’m thirty-years-young and still learning what’s the best way to make it successful in the shortest amount of time.
SheKnows: What do you want people to take away after watching Gown Crazy?
Johnathan Kayne Gillaspie: I want them to see that I’m a real person doing real things. If you speak it into existence and you have the passion and the drive you really can do
anything. I am a gay boy in Oklahoma running several quite successful fashion lines. If you work hard and you believe in it and put the time in, you can pretty much do anything. Sounds easy and
stupid but it’s the truth. I want people to see that you can do it and I’d like to be an inspiration or at least entertainment for people.
I’m here to tell you that he is both — an inspiration and entertaining. Watch Gown Crazy Friday, August 14 at 10:00 on TLC.
More Project Runway news
Christian Siriano tackles Payless