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Christian Siriano Shares His Best Advice for Young Designers

<p>Photo: Shane LaVancher/Courtesy of Christian Siriano</p>

Photo: Shane LaVancher/Courtesy of Christian Siriano

Watch the full conversation between Christian Siriano and Editor-in-Chief Dhani Mau on The Fashionista Network.

There's a reason Christian Siriano is one of the most beloved designers among celebrities and industry insiders: For him, it's about so much more than making great gowns — it's about building relationships.

"Dressing someone or giving clothes is something I've always thought as such an interesting transaction," he told Dhani Mau during a live chat on The Fashionista Network. (Watch it here!) "I understand why some brands want to pay [for celebrity placements] or whatever it might be, but I think then it doesn't always feel as if [the client] actually truly loves the clothes as much. When I try to work with people, it's that they really love [the outfit] and feel good about themselves in it."

The result of that approach? Connections that extend beyond business and turn into long-lasting, loyal friendships.

As Siriano explained, there's no specific strategy on how he determines which celebrities he works with — each person varies. "Sometimes their name just comes up, and it just works," he said. "Sometimes I also get people very early on in their career, and then we kind of stick with them as the years go on. I was one of the first people to ever dress Lady Gaga, I was one of the first people to ever dress Lizzo... I catch a lot of these people early because I become fans of them. Then I try to keep in touch. I think if you put yourself out there and check in and see what things are happening, they appreciate that."

Since establishing his brand, Siriano has become a leader in size-inclusive fashion, dressing women of all sizes despite it still being uncommon among high-end labels. It's never been about a trend for Siriano, but rather a core part of his business.

"Anybody can wear my clothes. Whoever wants to wear them should be able to wear them," he explained. "I didn't have this one 'It' girl in mind — that just wasn't interesting to me. If you have that mentality, it opens up so many other amazing people and women."

His loyal A-list following includes Oprah Winfrey, Janet Jackson, Gwen Stefani, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Janelle Monáe, Coco Rocha, Alicia Silverstone, Halle Berry and Laverne Cox, among many, many more. Having worked with the crème de la crème of Hollywood, it's hard for him to pick a favorite red carpet moment, but Siriano highlights Billy Porter's iconic tuxedo gown at the 2019 Oscars as a memorable one.

Billy Porter in Christian Siriano at the 2019 Oscars<p>Photo: Dan MacMedan/Getty Images</p>
Billy Porter in Christian Siriano at the 2019 Oscars

Photo: Dan MacMedan/Getty Images

"That meant so much to the culture and the world and our time, and I think it was really important to see that," he shared. "It's opened a lot of doors for people to feel like they could be themselves. That was very significant, and I think in my career as I look back, I will be very proud of that. It wasn't just a dress — it meant something more."

Now, Siriano's looking forward to reaching new milestones. He's entered his "museum era," with his designs showcased in Kensington Palace, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Savannah College of Art Design (SCAD) and more.

"I think that what's different about me is I'm still a younger designer, but I've done a lot," he said. "And I think it's important, hopefully from a historical standpoint and for other young talent or other young people in fashion, to see that — like, a brand like mine can have references that can be in a museum. That's what the goal is, to show all these different shapes and sizes and colors and textures and bodies."

Like a true creative, Siriano has moved into other avenues, from retail to television to interior design. When it comes to trying things outside of his lane, he explained he's "more of an artist and creator," and that trying something new and potentially failing is better than not trying at all. That said, his biggest piece of advice for young designers is to "focus on what you can be great at," at least in the beginning.

"If you're a denim brand, be the best denim brand you can possibly be. If you do eveningwear, be the best you can possibly be," he told the audience. "In the beginning, it doesn't make sense to try all these different avenues and show all these different things, because you're just going to compete with yourself and you're just going compete with every other big brand that's going to devour you... You have to focus on that one great thing."

This conversation was hosted on "The Fashionista Network" powered by interactive media platform Fireside, where viewers get the chance to participate and speak directly with industry figures. Learn more about "The Fashionista Network" here.

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