Since winning this season of Bravo’s Project Runway, New York City based designer Geoffrey Mac has gone through some extraordinary life challenges. Between dealing with the global pandemic that is affecting us all and a personal loss that has shaken his world, Mac has pushed the boundaries of his creativity, reveling in his win on the hit Bravo competition challenge, and is channeling his feelings into a brand new era of creativity. I sat down with Mac to talk about his reality television experience and why he was hesitant to sign on, what its like dealing with a personal loss during a pandemic, and what changes we might be seeing in the world of fashion in the very new normal that we are all experiencing.
Michael Cook: Congratulations on winning this season of Project Runway! How did it feel to be part of an illustrious group?
Geoffrey Mac: It feels amazing. It feels like all of my hard work from all of the years have finally paid off. I just turned forty three in March and it really feels good. I have some money to do some things with and I have the security and the confidence to go forward and make something happen. Sadly, the biggest hiccup to me was losing my partner Nashom Wooden on March 22nd due to Covid, so it has been difficult, but I finally am surfacing a bit better. In the beginning, I think I was not grieving properly and tried to jump right into work as a distraction. So I have been dealing with that and feeling a lot better and a lot more strong.
MC: How have fashion and your industry plans changed since the onset of the pandemic?
GM: In the beginning, I was diving into work and was planning on doing a larger collection. I ended up realizing that the scope of things have changed so dramatically. What I am able to do in a factory, how long are they open, many of the factories still are not open and have to close due to some orders, it is complicated now. Then the climate of who is buying what and why is also very different. The threat of another shutdown is definitely on the table and there are no retail shops to really sell to right now. I have been working for a few weeks on a game plan, and I think I am going to be doing a capsule collection. Something small, just to test the waters of what I think is a good idea. Instead of doing it all at once, I am just going too feel it out. I want to have everything made super local, if not in the studio, and have a lot more control with the distribution and do it as orders come in. I want to play my cards right right now; I have the money to do something with, but I don’t want to simply squander it.
MC: How do you think fashion is going to change in the short-term right now for you as it relates to the consumers, & how do you think consumers will see the change from their perspective?
GM: I don’t think people will be doing fashion shows as they did before. Everything is changing so drastically and it can be hard to get your footing. I think I have a plan that I at least believe in. I was really excited to relaunch another company and go big. I have had a bunch of lines out with stores before, and was with an investor as well. I know what the climb is like, but it is hard to do that right now. I am just trying to boil it down to something that I believe in and give that a shot. It can be hard to predict what is happening. A year ago, the path and the pursose of fashion, along with what people are buying was clear. Now, the luxury market is still doing okay, but the types of things people are buying is different. There are no events to go to and no one knows when we do go, how many people will be there. Performers can’t perform and a lot of the stuff I love designing is avant garde; I think right now I might be having a return to sportswear and that type of thing. More quarantine friendly outfits. Even if you are going to a friends birthday in their yard or to the park, there are not that many people. I think the desire to have that super standout outfit is just not there right now.
MC: Keeping fit is clearly important to you; how have you managed to do that during quarantine?
GM: It has been going okay, I got some of those Bowflex weights right when quarantine started, and was at least able to get into it a little bit.
MC: When did you know that fashion was going to be the path and passion that you would be following in your life?
GM: I went to the School of Art Institute of Chicago and I wanted to get into the fashion department, but I knew it was a commitment. I took two classes on jewlery and painting and drawing. When I got into the fashion department, I got my first scholarship and it was like I had found my niche. It was the 90’s and I was a club kid and was working in clubs, so I always needed new looks. I was always cutting things apart and sewing them, and I had always watched my mom sew since I was little. She would do all the drapes and recover the furniture, that type of thing. She never really let me help, but I always had a desire to put things together ever since I was little. Coming from a fine art background, I am little bit obsessive with aesthetics. When I would think that a painting was “done”, I would just sit with it and I would just rework it, I never was able to find a place to call it done. When I got into the fashion department, you would sketch and then you have a map for what you are making. It was a satisfying moment, you make it just the way that it is in the picture and then it’s finished and you are done. I could be happy with the end result and have that final moment of it being finished.
For me, fashion was something that is really satisfying as far as my process and how I work. There is a completion to it. It was the first art form that I was really happy with my finished product. It was the first art form that I was happy with the finished product. Others, I just kept critiquing myself; I used to do photography and still do. Currently I am starting an OnlyFans; as sexy as I can do without it being pornographic. I am taking all of the pictures myself, and doing them in the studio and in my apartment,. I have been doing daily content with that, so that has been fun to return to photography. It can be a challenge to take all of the shots yourself, set up the lights, and all that but it has been fun. It’s been a great quarantine project since it is what I can do without materials and with my schedule.
MC: Losing your best friend and partner, New York City’s Nashom Wooden was crippling to you. Tell me about how it has been for you.
GF: These few months have been the darkest time of my life. The highest highs of my life and I have been so blessed with that. Winning Project Runway is what really pulled me through, knowing that there was something good in my future coming up. I have never had a loss like that; Nashom was a great protector.
The loss was extremely hard, made harder by a lack of socialization and connection during quarantine.
I had a friend brave a hug, and that was the only hug I had had. It has been better getting out and going for a walk with friends or to a friends home, socially distanced. It’s been better getting out and feeling like there is hope for the world (laughs) Getting back to seeing people and things like that.
MC: Collaboration is very important for designers, and you have collaborated with some amazing drag performers like drag performer Sharon Needles and with the legendary Zaldy himself. What is it like having that lack of in-person collaboration at this time?
GF: It was rough. I learned that I cannot get inspired when I am crippingly sad. I made myself sketch through quarantine and I look at them and it is the saddest stuff that I have ever drawn; I just couldn’t do it, but I tried. Sketching has now been going well and I have a bunch of stuff I am really into. I am going to start getting it together and see how it’s coming out. I’m back, I’m inspired again and I think I am happy enough to get back to it. I don’t think I realized enough that fashion, is like art. Like with painting, I could probably paint when I am miserable; there is just something with the process of fashion that it takes a certain knowledge pattern-making, to be able to draw it and you really have to think through all of it. I think it was a level of distracted that my brain was at, it was just impossible to translate anything through my pencil. It has been good, I have been working by myself and it has been good to reallze that I haven’t lost it; it’s back. I am excited and I feel like I have a plan. It it not the quantity of pieces that I had in my mind, but I am hopefully going to be doing about ten looks and see how that goes.
MC: Are there any queens or performers in the city or beyond that you have really vibed with that you really enjoyed working with?
GM: Well Sharon Needles is hands down at the top of my list. She has the largest collection of custom Geoffrey Mac in the world, ninety five pieces. Hands down it is Sharon; I did her merch line, and it went really well and that was a lot of fun to collaborate with her and making her merch line a bit more fashion. I just love her dark heart, that aesthetic is very much me. A little dark and edgy, she has that rotten kind of vibe which is fun to teeter into. There are a ton of queens that are extremely inspiring, I love Shea Coulee a lot, and I like Alaska and Adore, and of course Detox. Detox wore one of my favorite pride looks that I ever made, it was this balloon gown that had balloons all over it, it’s on my Instagram. It goes hombre through the colors and it has these ostrich plumes that come out of the balloons. It was beautiful from a couple of years ago. I love custom and one of a kind, that is where my heart is at. I had many people reach out for custom pieces after the show, but without being able to get to a fabric store and actually be able to touch any fabrics, it has been tough. Fabric stores are letting you purchase online, but I am not going to buy online and hope it feels good (laughs).
MC: You were very real and very raw when you spoke online about the loss of Nashom. What do you think the lesson that you have learned from Nashom that you will be able to take into a post quarantine world?
GM: The thing that he was proud about me the most was that he talked me into doing Project Runway. I was hesitant, as I have a little bit of social anxiety and a bit of panic disorder that makes me have an extreme fear of cameras and I am extremely awkward on camera. All of that and mixing it with my life skills made it terrifying to go on camera and do this thing that I am supposed to be amazing at in front of everyone while I am having panic. He said that he had never been more proud of anyone in his life. He said that I took all of my fears and I just sort of packed them up and went on the show to battle it out and came back a champion.
I learned that the things you are the most scared about, you should confront. Especially if they are going be in your way of success. Just because you are scared of something does not mean they’re not a door you can go through. If that is in your way, you need to deal with your bullshit to get through there and see if the stuff on the other side is for you. A lot of the time it is and it is just things that are impeding your judgement in what you can accomplish in this world. I learned that some of my biggest fears are things that I need to confront and get over and I have been working on personal growth right now. Nashom taught me to be strong, because I am a strong person. And to believe that. He taught me how to be a champion. He was a great man.
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