Project Runway Marks Its 19th Season

Fashion
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Provenance: Houston, Texas

Current base: Philadelphia and Brooklyn

@caycee_black

What first made you fall in love with fashion? As a kid I would sit for hours and watch old musicals and films—I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. I loved the way everyone had a full head-to-toe look and it transformed them in each scene. My great-aunt sewed all her clothes while living on our family farm and I was always looking through her fabrics, patterns and notions. It was like entering a whole new world walking into her sewing room; like a blank canvas full of possibility.

When did you know you wanted to become a designer? Growing up, I was always surrounded by paint, sequined tulle and denim. It was the combination of being a ballet dancer, painter and lover of horses. I would create stories with the clothing and my own TV shows with our VHS camera. When I was five, out of nowhere I went up to my mom and said, “Mommy I am going to move to NYC and become a fashion designer when I grow up!” I guess that was the moment.

What prompted you to try out for Project Runway? I love to keep pushing myself into arenas that expand me as a designer and a person. When the opportunity was introduced to me, I was excited and slightly terrified—the perfect blend! I knew it would grow me as a human no matter the outcome! Win/Win!

What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going? My biggest challenge has been staying true to myself and my brand no matter what is happening around me in the industry or outside myself. What has kept me going has been that I live and breathe designing my collection, there is no other option. My brand is an expression of me as a woman, artist and storyteller and it keeps expanding as I do.

What has been your biggest success so far? My biggest success so far has been the courage to start my own brand in the first place. I have learned that my business must be bigger than me and serve a greater purpose than my ego. Also, feeling proud of every single collection and the stories I get to tell through my painted fabrics, details and shapes. Since 2012 I have been donating a portion of my sales revenue to children in need. I feel it’s exceptionally important for children to have an outlet to be able to express themselves creatively. Because of this, I have chosen to give back to charities in the arts including workshops, art supplies, music, and drama courses. I have also partnered with animal rescues like Barc Shelter in Brooklyn.

What qualities do you feel will set you apart from the competition? I have held design jobs at Anna Sui, Club Monaco, Tibi, Reed Krakoff and Coach after graduating from Parsons School of Design. I believe this gave me a scope of design for different customers and challenges while staying true to my design concept. My namesake label captures my personality with a strong focus on my painted prints, which have been worn by Drew Barrymore, Michelle Williams, Lilly Singh, Regina Spektor and Solange Knowles. My line has received awards including Best New Designer in WWD, Lucky, and Vogue UK.

How would you describe your design aesthetic? My design aesthetic is crafted in asymmetric tulle organza, in painted denim or abstract dripping watercolors. For me, contradiction is a thing of beauty. Known for my painted fabrics, I call my look “dystopian farm girl”—whimsical, rooted in nature and unexpected. I bring together elements of my West Texas heritage with themes pulled from Dolly Parton and Brothers Grimm Fairy tales. I love taking a once-upon-a-time story which I translate into the untold stories of my female ancestors, sewing them into my garments. I call my newest collection my “Playful Magical Dream Collection,” launching in 2021. The pandemic’s restrictions activated me to join forces with Susan Boyle, one of the first women to own a sneaker boutique in sneaker culture and streetwear. We launched a children’s collection called Smile and Space in 2021.

What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work/career? My biggest influences are my parents. They spotted my spark for art when I was young and put me in art classes right away. I had a hard time coming out of my shell and always felt I didn’t belong, so having my love of art cultivated and supported by them gave me the permission to apply to Parsons, become a designer/artist and now businesswoman.

Who are your fashion heroes/style icons and why? I have looked up to the strong women I admire in the industry—Vivienne Westwood, Sonia Rykiel and Betsy Johnson—to guide my direction of staying true to myself.I love a blend between things that don’t always go together, right now that’s Dolly Parton meets Wednesday Addams.

Trend you’re loving (or hating): The trends I am loving are all the color and prints people are embracing and gender-fluid looks.

Mantra: “Does this excite me?”

Dream client and why: I would love to dress Billy Porter in one of my gowns or outerwear pieces! I loved his look with the tux dress on the red carpet. Additionally, I would love to dress Helen Mirren. I have been obsessed with her since The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. And lastly, Sha’Carri Richardson—she is amazing! I love her style and attitude; she is such an icon.

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