Mirror, Mirror: 'Project Runway's' Dom Streater on a Fashion Week style streak

Designer Dom Streater with a dress, topped with a big rose print from shoulder to shoulder, from her Prima line.
Designer Dom Streater with a dress, topped with a big rose print from shoulder to shoulder, from her Prima line. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 06, 2014

Project Runway winner Dom Streater will present her fall 2014 womenswear collection - a sophisticated fusion of minimalist silhouettes and rosy graphic prints - at an intimate New York Fashion Week meet-and-greet Thursday.

It's a Fashion Week debut for the Philadelphia designer, and she's calling the collection Prima, inspired by the life of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.

"I came across a black-and-white photograph of her with flowers in her hair, and she looked like a flower child in a classic, romantic way," Streater said. Despite Pavlova's arched feet, thin ankles, and long limbs - roadblocks to aspiring classic ballerinas in the late 19th century - she became one of the world's renowned dancers.

"I became obsessed with her struggle to want to do something even though she didn't fit in," said Streater, herself an artist who, as the first Philadelphia-bred Runway winner since Jay McCarroll won the inaugural season and the show's first African American winner, is navigating new territory.

Pavlova's journey from misfit to dancing stardom is evident in the 27-piece grouping of skinny pants, bell-sleeve cloaks, tutu-shaped skirts, and swirly print gowns that Streater created and for which she also designed the prints.

Her interpretation of the dancer's struggle - from the clean palette of despair to the vibrant hues of self-acceptance - is a familiar theme in fashion collections. Streater's fellow Runway contestant Justin LeBlanc used a similar analogy in last season's finale collection, in which white pieces reflected his life as a deaf person, and nude hues in futuristic fit-and-flare styles represented his hearing.

But Streater's is a bolder story.

The first looks feature black-and-white graphics: One is an all-black jumpsuit paired with a winter coat featuring bell-shaped sleeves.

"Everything I do ends up having a psychedelic '70s feel," Streater said.

The collection moves to blush-pink sweaters and slim-fit trousers, signifying Pavlova's awakening, and the presentation ends with a grouping in deep berry hues, including a long-sleeve gown the color of raspberry punch; a big rose print, from shoulder to shoulder, swallows the top of the dress.

She wanted to include a nod to roses, a common motif in the ballet world, but she said no to tulle.

"I want to be a rebel in true Anna Pavlova fashion."

Exactly one week before the start of Fashion Week, the same day Streater is to make her Big Apple debut, the 25-year-old designer is over-the-top bubbly. She's sitting on the windowsill at Philadelphia's Skai Blue Media's showroom, sunlight beaming behind her massive curls, and a hot-pink letter D - the same one she wore for good luck on Runway - is pinned to her cream-colored, oversize sweater.

The Skai Blue team, led by owner Rakia Reynolds, is producing Streater's five-hour presentation in Chelsea, to which editors from Time magazine, Women's Wear Daily, Bust magazine, and Teen Vogue have been invited. Reynolds also has lined up celebrity stylist Ade Samuel (who has worked with Nicole Richie) to style the clothing.

"She has a huge potential to be the greatest, greatest, greatest," Reynolds said. "I see her as more than a Project Runway winner. She's a brand and a business. She's someone that can help push fashion forward in this town."

Creating her collection is just one of the style-studded experiences Streater, a West Philly native, has enjoyed in the five months since her win.

She designed a second line of women's skirts, dresses, and pants exclusive to North Carolina-based department-store chain Belk, which will be available in time for fall. The dress she designed for Belk during Runway will be in stores this spring.

In November, she sewed a sapphire gown in duchess satin for Chicago-based classical pianist Claudia Brent, which she wore on her latest album cover. Streater is in talks with Brent to create a "happy" print ensemble for the artist's children's CD.

She's been adding more scarves and handbags to her website at www.shopdomstreater.com, selling at least 100 over the holidays. Streater is still doing all of her sewing by hand.

"It's like my life is a designer-drive-by," said Streater, who was able to stop working as a hostess at Silk City around Thanksgiving and recently left her mom's house to move into a studio apartment downtown.

"I'm sailing into my career. Time is literally flying."

And then there are the just-because-she's-a -Runway-alum promotional opportunities that have been falling at Streater's ankle-booted feet.

Starting in March, Streater will be on billboards facing I-76 West, I-95 South, and the Vine Street Expressway, wearing a ballerina-style sock bun and turquoise feather earrings she designed, advertising the merits of her alma mater, Moore College of Art & Design.

"We are extremely proud of her and her great success with Project Runway and the great career she is having," said Roy Wilbur, director of marketing and communications for the college.

Hewlett Packard Co. flew Streater to Las Vegas in January to discuss bridging the gap between fashion and technology for the HP Intel Spotlight Series. Her winning Runway collection was featured in the January issue of Marie Claire magazine, and a print-on-print long-sleeve chiffon duster she designed was placed on display at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum as part of a show curated by Season 9 Runway alum Anthony Ryan Auld.

"I finally have a chance to create 24/7," Streater said. "This is the most fun I've had in a very long time."




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