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Designer Christian Siriano makes mark in world of high fashion

In a room full of people working to get it right, Christian Siriano says it’s OK to get it wrong.

“Things that aren’t successful usually teach us something in the end,” the fashion designer and youngest-ever winner of “Project Runway” explained to an audience at the biannual MAGIC convention Monday.

He took to a cozy stage on the show floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center to talk about the changing industry, inclusive sizing and why it’s all right to be told “no.”

“When we get ‘no’s’, we do it for ourselves,” Siriano said. “The product is the most important. Even if we get ‘no’s,’ if the clothes are good enough, we’ll be successful.”

In 2008, the then-21-year-old took home the top prize on the design competition show “Project Runway.”

Since then, he has designed for Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Amy Adams and Cardi B, among others. At last year’s Grammy Awards, he gained acclaim for designing Billy Porter’s tuxedo ball gown.

“It’s the things I don’t overthink that are the best,” Siriano said. “The most successful looks are done quickly. Billy Porter’s gown was done in four days.”

Since his early reality television days, the 33-year-old designer has established himself in the world of high fashion and red carpets, largely by sizing garments for women beyond size 2.

“I didn’t think so much about it in the beginning,” Siriano said. “I didn’t know at the time that showing curvy women on a runway would be significant.”

The designer explained that he received requests for different sizes and only later understood that it helped other brands realize there was a need.

“We don’t need a pat on the back for making people look good,” Siriano said. “But sometimes you have to put it in people’s faces for them to just do it.”

That ability to transform how people look and make them feel good is what initially drew him to the industry.

“I think clothing really transform us,” Siriano said. “It’s different from any other business. You live your life in this beautiful piece of art someone made for you.”

He acknowledges that the fashion industry is a tough business and encouraged aspiring designers in the audience to determine their own version of success, to show up at MAGIC and sell, to make people feel good or to continue to grow and evolve as an artist.

His final piece of advice addressed anyone who ever believed they couldn’t “pull off” a certain look.

“I have women who come in and say ‘Oh, I can’t wear that ’cause it didn’t look good on me before.’ That doesn’t mean it won’t ever!” Siriano said. “If you want to be about fit and flair or sexy or glamorous, then go be about that. Try new things. Try it again. Keep pushing.”

Contact Janna Karel at jkarel@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jannainprogress on Twitter.

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