Back as mentor to contestants on season two of "Project Runway All Stars," which premieres Oct. 25 on Lifetime, Joanna Coles reveals that there will be a green challenge this year, one that hasn't been done before on the show. "It involves making something with sustainable fabrics, also the way they're printed is eco-friendly," says Coles, who is all for that.
In her capacity as Editor-in-Chief at "Marie Claire," which she left post-filming to take a similar position at "Cosmopolitan," she started a page called "Feel Good Fashion," exclusively about sustainable design. She hasn't had the chance to institute something like it at "Cosmo" — "ask me in six months," she says — but she acknowledges its importance. "It's so much in the culture, in the ether now. The consumer is thinking about how much water went into making those jeans. We all want to wear diamonds but not if it costs the right hand of a child in Sierra Leone. There is a level of consciousness much higher than there used to be, and certainly it's something I'm very keen to talk about for 'Cosmo.'"
In her personal life, "I wear quite a lot of vintage and a lot of recycled clothes," says Coles. "I'm not perfect at it, but I certainly try. It's something I'm very conscious of." Coles joins judges Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman, celebrity guest judges like Katie Holmes and Liv Tyler, and new host Carolyn Murphy for what promises to be an exciting "Runway" season. Compared to the first, "The talent is much stronger. You see people step it up," she notes, adding that the contestants are more aware of what will sell commercially, have seen what they did wrong, and are determined to win. The winner's package includes a collection for Nine West, $150,000 in cash, a sewing and embroidery studio, an expense-paid trip to attend fashion weeks in cities around the world, and a fashion spread in "Marie Claire" that comes with a Contributing Editor title for a year. "The last five people standing barely talked, they were so focused on trying to get that prize," Coles says.
As their mentor, Coles spent more time with each designer this time around. "I got a lot more involved emotionally with the designers this year. I wasn't expecting to. I felt that I became closer to them than I did last season. It's an incredibly rewarding process," she says, describing her mentorship style as "very direct. I'm very straightforward. I say pretty much what I think. I am on the TV show like I am in real life."
She believes that making it in fashion takes bravery, the ability to both stand out with a signature style and mix creativity, execution, and knowing what women want and will buy. "It's the ability to blend creativity and commerce, the ability to understand how women want to feel when they're wearing clothes, and the ability to know what will sell."
Coles reveals that as a fashion-obsessed child, she was fascinated by drawing and "endlessly designed clothes, pages and pages of truly horrible designs. I was better at writing and got channeled in that direction. I wouldn't have been good enough to be a designer," she admits, but she enjoys working with them, especially in the TV milieu. Since "Project Runway" is so associated with "Marie Claire," her continued participation is doubtful now that she's left, but she'd "love to see 'Cosmo' involved in a TV fashion show." She also looks forward to showing off a "Project Runway" look that was designed for her this season, though she can't reveal it just yet. "I'm waiting for the season to be over so I can wear it in my Editor's Note."