If there’s one most beloved designer from the handful who’ve made it to Bryant Park via Project Runway fame, it is Chris March.
That’s because he’s a hilarious, friendly, cuddly bundle of gay joy who can wield a drill and a glue gun as well as a sewing machine. Thankfully, the fashion bear is back with his own TV series, the soon-to-be Bravo hit Mad Fashion. Premiering tonight, Mad Fashion offers an up-close-and-personal look at March and his superqueer design team as they take fabulous projects from concept to creation each week, with guest stars like Jennifer Coolidge along for the ride.
March, whose career took off after he appeared on season 4 of Project Runway, also has a new book out. I Heart Chris March is photographic proof of the insane creativity of March, who spent a decade creating wigs and costumes for San Francisco’s famed Beach Blanket Babylon, the world’s longest-running musical revue. The book offers childhood Halloween photos, Project Runway creations, and everything in between.
The designer — who has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, from Madonna to Beyoncé — has seen his work appear on Broadway, in Cirque du Soleil, and at Mardi Gras festivities as well as on the red carpet. We caught up with March, a part-time activist who also donates his time and designs to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, to find out about what makes Mad Fashion must-see TV.
The Advocate: I’m an old San Franciscan and I know you have a huge following there.
Chris March: Yes, I do! [Laughs]
Now that you’re in New York, how has that changed your fashion sense?
That is an interesting question. I live near the garment district. The New York world is definitely geared toward fashion. So many people work in the fashion industry, photography, all sorts of satellite businesses that have to do with it, so there’s no way that it can’t affect you, and it just kind of makes you think with more of a fashion edge. I work a lot more in fashion than I did in San Francisco, so it’s kind of exciting in that way too. All the opportunities I’ve had here I never would have had in San Francisco, so it’s definitely been a good thing for me.
Mad Fashion, which premieres tonight, is great. Did you have any trepidation about doing another reality show?
I had a little trepidation just until I found out the format of the show and what we would be doing. It’s kind of funny to me ... because I was on a competition show [Project Runway], which is very stressful and nerve-racking and stuff, I kept having to get used to the fact that my show was fun and that I wasn’t going to work every day competing with a bunch of people. It was a little bit different.
In the first episode you’re designing an outfit for shoe designer Ruthie Davis, but watching Matt and you drill and tear apart her shoes — it was so brutal.
[Laughs] Oh, well, I’m kind of surprised that people are sort of terrified at that part of the episode. That’s something that I do every day. I’ve had to cut into some very expensive items in my career; there just comes a point where you have to grit your teeth and do it and hope that you don’t make a mistake.
How do your clients react to that, usually?
Well, that’s one of the reasons that they hire me, actually, because they know I can work with that kind of stuff and do a good job with it. She was not exactly into the idea of wearing the shoes at first and then we kind of talked her into it. I just thought that it made it a much more fashionable look than just gluing shoes onto her outfit.
So that’s why we had to hack into it and make some changes and add some spikes and some glitter.
And in the end she was thrilled.
I was kind of thrilled at how great she looked, I had no idea, because you know we don’t really get to see it all together at one time until she puts it on at the end. I got to see it the first time everybody else did, so it was really exciting.