Project Runway's Andy South Produces New Line
The New South: From Waianae High School to Project Runway to Neiman Marcus, 24-year-old fashion designer Andy South has come a long way—and he’s just getting started.
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The fall 2011 collection of SOUTH by Andy South debuted in March and will be available for sale at Neiman Marcus Ala Moana’s contemporary women’s department this August. Thirty-three pieces appeared in the collection (South hopes about a third of them will be manufactured and available for sale), which boasts mostly neutral tones of black, grey and white—with a lone jolt of bright yellow used in the show-stopping final gown.
“I had just finished Project Runway,” says South of the process of designing the collection last fall. “I felt like I was constantly running, constantly going. So if you look at the clothing, a lot of it has a bit of motocross influence, which was subconscious. A concept of going in motion.”
More specifically, the signature chevron—or south-facing “V”—appears as the line’s logo and is also on nearly every piece in the collection. “It’s a directional arrow, our take on the compass,” he says of the logo, designed by his best friend and right-hand helper, Jill Misawa. “It’s a conscious business move to incorporate the branding into the design, where we don’t lose the design quality but we maintain the sense of a brand—because that’s what sells. Anybody can make clothing, but it’s whether or not you can sell a brand that will determine whether you survive in the industry."
The line includes mostly natural fibers designed in the edgy, modern silhouettes that Andy exhibited during his tenure on Project Runway. The tank tops and the long maxi dress are made of a comfortable bamboo Lycra, while the remaining pieces are made with 100-percent silk, cotton or leather.
“I’ve got a few synthetic fibers in there, but as far as what’s touching your body, it’s all natural,” says South, who always makes a point to try on his designs himself—and has the slim, dancer’s body to pull it off. “It helps me. Some things that designers put women in are beautiful to look at but they’re not comfortable, or getting in and out of them is a hassle.”
Attentive Project Runway viewers may notice key pieces in the collection that also appeared on the television show. The black wool jacket unveiled during his televised audition and lantern-sleeve silk top submitted during the “Marie Claire Woman” challenge both appear in the SOUTH collection. The drape drawstring pants that made a commotion during Episode 8 for being inappropriate for Jackie Kennedy (and causing the otherwise erudite contestant mentor Tim Gunn to utter one of his most memorable remarks: “Jackie Kennedy would not have camel toe.”), have since been tweaked and stand out as a “signature Andy” component within the new collection.
Finally, the slouchy cardigan and off-the-shoulder slouchy tee are similar to the winning designs South contributed to Heidi Klum’s active-wear line for the “New Balance” challenge. South’s personal style didn’t go unnoticed, either; the collection’s dropped-crotch harem sweatpants have been included, not because they were once designed for a challenge, but because he himself wore them on the show and received a clamorous response from fans to bring them to market.
“The collection was meant to be more neutral, basic,” South explains. “I wanted pieces that would sell in order to lay a foundation for future seasons. My aim was to do a soft launch, a smaller collection, just to get the brand started. The main goals were to provide pieces for customers that, one, they already loved from seeing them on the show and, two, were available at a mid-price point so that more people could afford them, as opposed to going completely high fashion.”
If the standing-room-only crowds at the Ala Moana Centerstage premiere of his collection in March were any indication of shoppers’ interest, South should be able to count on a great deal of support from his wide local audience. Some of his greatest fans include Gov. Neil Abercrombie and first lady Nancie Caraway, who established a working relationship with South when he designed Caraway’s December 2010 inauguration outfit.