Q&A: Elisa Jimenez of Project Runway All Stars

Before this season of “Project Runway All Stars” got underway I was lucky enough to speak with Elisa Jimenez at Neiman Marcus Paramus, where we chatted about sustainable fabrics, her unconventional style, and the thought process behind her unique designs.

SB: You’re known for infusing scents into your clothes, right?

E: I use oils…I mix oils and use scent on my clothing and all my artwork as well. I’ve been doing this now for 18 years.  I mark things with scent depending on what people are going through, what they’re interested in. I’ve recently been doing a lot about prosperity and letting go of bad habits and change.

SB: When you have a client that you’re making a piece for, do you choose a scent based on that specific person?

E: Yes absolutely, so I have scents and oils that I mix on my own. I literally will do an energetic reading, it’s very much like performance, it’s very much like intuitive magic. If I think a woman needs a specific thing, if I don’t have it in my shelving, I’ll say you need to get a particular oil for rounding and it costs about this much. If you can’t afford that, you can do this other [thing].

Everything I make is pretty much able to be worn in more than one way.. If you’re going to buy something, it really needs to be quite exquisite,  and I do believe that matter can be motivated by change at any given moment, which is something that Stephen Hawking was introducing. And I thought well wouldn’t it be amazing if you infused [this idea] with a person, that at any given moment you could change how you live, how you think, how you want to be and then that kind of infused into the pieces.

So that if you wore this silver grey dress, you could wear it on the grey side when you’re at work, you could wear with a jacket and strapless, you could turn it around and inside out and turn it into a halter and do the red carpet eight hours later and never have to go back home. It became this whole way of actually challenging how I’m going to make a piece.

gown on left by Austin Scarlett, dress on right by Elisa Jimenez

SB: And that’s how people really live!

E: That’s what my friend said. I’m quoting her a lot recently: “We’re tired, amazing women!” You know…we have 12- or 14-hour days. To achieve the things that we want to achieve it requires so much work, and we’re blessed that we get to have that option but it’s so much work.

SB: It is! Now do you want to tell us a little about this piece?

E: This particular piece is an angel dress. I do a lot of work with angels and goodness and light. It’s eco and sustainable. Everything I make is one of a kind. I’m very much an advocate for bringing production back to America – how we can be radical is by not supporting overseas production. This particular piece was a spontaneous couture that I did for video. It’s a ten minute dress – I did it on the model for a gallery.

The little marionette that is with her, the dress, is a dakini, which is a type of angel according to Hindu. It’s a dispenser of bliss. I just thought the two of them kind of worked together. And Austin and I had no idea that we synchronistically, because we’re friends now, managed to somehow come up with a palette that works together.

SB: Yeah, it looks great!

E: And you should have seen us walking in! We all compliment [each other]! We were like, we look good together and our clothes are looking good together! And this (motions toward dress) is completely sustainable. This is a sustainable fabric, whereas the spandex on the other side, the other dress, is not – but I bless everything and I certainly hope that I’m forgiven for the poisoning of the ocean..you know?

SB: Do you try to find sustainable fabrics?

E: I do! About eleven years ago, I started cold-calling companies like DuPont, 3M and that sort of thing, asking them if they were doing biodegradable fabrics, and so I have been really fortunate to have been sponsored by companies like C.L.A.S.S., which is online. Summer Rayne Oakes has a line where you can actually order them. The problem was oftentimes because I’m so small, I only order a yard to two yards at a time, but they want you to order massive, massive amounts….but I did actually try to find sustainable fabrics.

Watch Project Runway All Stars  Thursdays at 9pm/8c on Lifetime

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