Every week we are firmly planted in front of our tv sets to catch the crazy challenges that await the remaining designers of Project Runway’s 5th season. There are only a few episodes left and we’ve got our eye on Korto Momolu to make it to the top! With quiet determination and a penchant for designing modern, tribal infused classics that real women can wear she has established a true ‘one to watch’ presence on the show. We caught up with Korto to talk fashion, work/life balance, and embracing her curves.
Clutch: How did you feel when you got the call back saying that you were chosen to compete on the fifth season of Project Runway?
Korto: I was so thrilled I thought I was dreaming. It was the moment I always wished for and here it was right in my face. Words can’t even describe…
Clutch: As women we wear many hats and play an important role in the lives of our loved ones. How was your life affected during the taping of the show?
Korto: Well unfortunately my daughter Alyse (4) was most affected. She didn’t understand why I left, why I wasn’t coming home everyday and it was a hurting pang every time I spoke with her. It’s a struggle to be a woman going after my career and balancing my family and friends. But I do it and we communicate (my husband and I) so I always know if they feel neglected in ANY way. It’s hard but we make it work. I have a great husband.
Clutch: Being one of the only three African (American) contestants on this seasons show did you feel any added pressure or responsibility to win?
Korto: I really feel it’s time for an African American not to just be in the top 3 but to win. We don’t have many fashion designer role models and it’s a huge statement to say this person made it to the top 3 AND were going to go against the norm and finance a career that can possibly be one of America’s future top designers. I hope I can be that person. I carry many things on my shoulders because being Liberian I am also a role model for those coming out of the civil war and living here in America. They need to see me going after my dream, dusting off the past and moving on. I am so proud to represent them in a positive manner and give them the hope that they too can do it!
Clutch: Having gone through Project Runway and knowing what you know, if you could, would you do it all over again?
Korto: I would do Project Runway again, as for any other show….naw. The show was done with much class and professionalism that I always said this is the only reality show I would do. It’s only about the work not the home drama….hot tub scenes….mess…..it was about the integrity and work needed to be done to show your design skills.
Clutch: When did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer and how did you get started?
Korto: In my senior year of high school. My art teacher actually guided me to the design program and I knew it was the right choice.
Clutch: When you’re not designing, what is something you love to do?
Korto: I love to make jewelry — it’s so calming. I cook traditional African dishes or something I saw on the Food Network. I am a TV watcher so I will sit and watch some Lifetime movies — sappy or not. [laughs]
Clutch: How, if at all, does your African heritage and being from Liberia influence your designs?
Korto: I always feel like I have to show through my clothes who I am. If people never get to meet me then it’s ok because my clothes will somehow show who I am and that means a lot to me. I always have slight African influences in the design, use of African beads etc. It doesn’t scream traditional African but it’s there.
Clutch: I believe that all great fashion begins from some sort of inspiration, what inspires you?
Korto: I am always inspired by my surroundings. My current collection is inspired by all the places I’ve lived to date. Canada, U.S. (Arkansas especially and Boston) and of course Liberia.
Clutch: You live in Little Rock, Arkansas now. What’s it like living and working as a fashion designer there?
Korto: Things are a little different but there is a fashion scene in Little Rock. I am proud to be one of the founders of that and I hope to continue to show it’s not where you live but how you live!
Clutch: You call yourself the “poster child for never giving up”. What types of adversity have you dealt with during the course of your career?
Korto: The most traumatic would have to be the civil war in Liberia and how it tore apart my family and the only place that I knew as home. The devastation alone was bad and even though I was blessed to not have to be in the country at the time it affected me the same. My parents were greatly affected. They worked so hard for everything they achieved and to lose everything and start from scratch was hard but we did it and kept the family and our traditions as tight as we could. What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger and it did, for all of us.
Clutch: Not to get too political, but what do you think of Michelle Obama’s style? And if you were to design her outfit for the day of the inauguration, describe what it would look like?
Korto: That would be the most honorable thing ever to be able to design for her. I think right now she’s playing it safe but WHEN she becomes first lady I would love to see her shake it up a bit. As for her gown I would design something to flatter her shape of course but make it regal. She is definitely a queen and I hope to have the pleasure of meeting her….soon.
Clutch: Who are some of your favorite designers of all time?
Korto: I love Valentino, Tracy Reese, Badgley and Mishka and Randolph Duke.
Clutch: What celebrity’s style do you admire at the moment?
Korto: I really like Tracee Ellis Ross, Kerry Washington, Rihanna and Gwen Stefani.
Clutch: What is one item of clothing that you would never wear?
Korto: Short shorts. At least not outside my house [laughs]. Reason — have you seen my behind? Talk about traffic jams and it’s just tacky when I see women out with their butts hanging out their clothes — BIG NO NO.
Clutch: Being a beautiful curvy women, what advice can you give our Clutchettes about embracing their curves through this fall’s fashions?
Korto: I say just DO YOU! If god gave it to you work what you have and stop trying to fight it. I am curvy and it doesn’t matter how much weight I lose I will always have this shape so — I love it. I walk with confidence and so should any woman. People are going under the knife to have what we were blessed with! That alone should make anyone be proud. We have to accept who we are before any person man or woman will. Let’s stand tall my Clutchettes…….being curvy IS all it’s cracked up to be! And don’t let nobody tell you different! Amen.
For more information on Korto Momolu please visit www.kortomomolu.com.