Michael Drummond of 'Project Runway' designs local show rooted in obsession | St. Louis Public Radio

Michael Drummond of 'Project Runway' designs local show rooted in obsession

Apr 30, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Because St. Louis designer Michael Drummond got “Dressed” up and running, lovers of fashion and art definitely have someplace to go.

“Dressed” is an exhibit opening May 3 at St. Louis’ Regional Arts Commission. It features a small band of particularly tenacious local designers and artists whose work was curated by Drummond.

The 1998 McCluer High School graduate moved back to St. Louis after a stint in San Francisco. Three years ago, he was a contestant in the Lifetime television series “Project Runway.”

Another local “Project Runway” contestant, Laura Kathleen Planck, from the 2012 season, is also part of “Dressed.” The work of Maria McInerny, Deborah Pontious and Bob Trump, all of St. Louis, are in the show, along with pieces from Drummond’s line known as the “Exquisite Corpse.”

Drummond talked with the Beacon about the show, its focus on the idea of clothing as protection, and his life in fashion.

St. Louis Beacon: What do the contributors to “Dressed” have in common?

Michael Drummond: It’s a show based on fashion and based on the creation of beautiful garments. I’m really interested in showing people who get lost in their work and obsess over tiny details. I wanted people to come to this show and marvel at obsession.

I contacted lots of different people, from the head dresser at the opera, to a fabulous sculpture artist to a wig maker at the Metropolitan Opera, and people who had their clothing produced for sale. So it runs the gamut.

But unfortunately, my wig designer couldn't join us.

Would you tell us about the work of Bob Trump from Opera Theatre?

Drummond: Bob Trump is the head dresser or tailor for Opera Theatre St. Louis and for The Rep at Webster.

But his personal wardrobe is what I am mostly interested in. It just makes such a statement when you see him. He has this intense, queer style. It’s very Harley Davidson but it’s overly embroidered.

There’s this running theme of protection and communication in the show. That’s what fashion is, at its most stripped-down. We’re communicating and also protecting. Bob is that idea, tenfold.

He makes everything, everything, including his leather jackets and the patches on his leather jackets. This man raises his own sheep so he can sheer the wool.

Regarding your own career, how has the “Project Runway” appearance impacted it?

Drummond: It’s always a funny question because I don’t know what my career would be like had I not done it. But it has opened many doors. [Because of it] when I speak, the local press usually listens, which is funny to me.

It’s given me the opportunity to work with great people and to get connections in manufacturing, which I probably would have never gotten.

I was on the right trajectory before “Project Runway.” So it was already shaping up.

I heard that your life included a period that was anything but urban, in the wilderness, in the woods of Olympia, Wash.

Drummond: I had been working; I was back in college; I hated my job. Then I had the opportunity to work on a knitwear pattern book. A friend of mine lived in a cabin in the middle of the woods in Washington State, and he invited me to come stay there.

But in shipping my knitting machine up there, it broke. And it took forever to fix it, so I had months and months of time to just sort of sit around in this cabin. It didn’t have any electricity, it didn’t have any running water. But it was actually gorgeous.

I sort of went into shock. I was literally in the woods by myself. I gave myself four days to be as sad as I wanted, to be as dramatic and depressed and to cry. And then, after four days I had to get it together.

I gardened and collected moss from trees and chopped firewood and every once in a while I would create clothing for myself. I really lived a very Hobbit-like life.

And it turned out to be one of the most amazing periods of my life. I had time to think and get in touch with nature and really prove to myself how much strength I had. Because I had had so many fears of the woods, and then they were gone. I recommend it to everyone.

Why did you end up back in St. Louis and why do you stay?

Drummond: Let’s start with the rent. I have a friend staying with me from New York right now. And he's saying, “Oh, my God, seriously, you live here for that much?”

People still say, “Why aren’t you in New York, blah, blah, blah?” Everything’s global now. I can be in the center of the country and my factory is in New York and I can just get on a plane or mail them or Skype them.

I feel like a lot of people are leaving New York because they can’t make it. It’s like the San Francisco affect. All these artists used to live in San Francisco and L.A. and they started going to Portland because they couldn’t afford it any more. And now look at Portland: There’s this booming, extremely progressive arts community.

It’s really put them on the map. And I think if St. Louis played its cards right, it could have that same opportunity.