Runway whiz

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Terri Stevens gets design ideas in her dreams.

That doesn't explain, of course, how she did so well on Project Runway.

"I think, pretty much, it was my natural habitat," said Stevens, who was eliminated in the ninth episode. "I have insomnia, so having no sleep, being food-deprived, being technology-deprived."

But the morning of her Alive interview, she was up before the sun (did she even sleep?), conceptualizing and creating a low-cut, ruffle-neck red dress to show us. Yes, it's supposed to show your bra, she explains. She works at Victoria's Secret! When she rushes into Rowe at 8:30 a.m., she's carrying a heap of clothes over one arm, and her oversized sunglasses - and hair - are covering most of her face.

Stevens grew up in Chicago and is fairly new to Columbus. The show used her mailing address as her hometown, and now the city's practically claiming her as its own.

The designer's known for her Michael Jackson obsession and a color palette of black and white with pops of red. She went to Columbia College, had her first job with celebrity designer Barbara Bates and later worked for Levi's.

She has two lines: the dressier Michael Joseph (the moniker comes from Jackson's middle name) and the more casual FunkinBeautiful.

Check out her stuff yourself at Rowe boutique in the Short North, where custom pieces for the store will make their debut this weekend.

How did you end up here?

I came to Columbus on a job opportunity - I was recruited by Victoria's Secret stores and hired as their visual manager. I really needed a change, because I knew at my current location, I was pretty much at a stopping stone. And I ended up here.

I'm hoping they see the talent [I had on the show] and, like, "Girl, you need to design for at least the fashion shows." Because they really do some over-the-top and pretty much ready-to-wear collections for Victoria's Secret's annual runway show. So I would love to do that.

Plug! I'm in the directory!

Whether you're representing Chicago or Columbus, you're not from New York. How do you feel like you're perceived when you're there?

I think I have such a global personality, because I've lived in many different places and countries. So I think New Yorkers will embrace me - if you say Chicago, they're like, "OK, another big city." And then they hear Columbus and it's like, "Hmm, how did she get there?"

But then, I think, people appreciate talent. If you have the talent, they don't care where you're from. 'Cause I'm sure most designers weren't born and raised in New York. They migrated there because it's the fashion capital.

And it's something I challenge myself with all the time. Do I need to move to New York? And I could be wrong, but I want to prove the world wrong - I do think you can make it without being in New York.

What's the story behind your lines?

My fall collection is called "A Journey to See The Wiz." I don't know if you've seen the movie, but it's all about Michael Jackson and Diana Ross on their journey to see the Wiz. It's all these beautiful colors, and it's some beautiful '70s fashion that is very relevant to today's view. And, of course, I'll put the Terri Stevens twist on it.

And one of the things that's going to be different about this collection is that I'm showing a variety of color. I am known as the designer who likes black and white and pops of red. And this time, they're going to get yellows and greens and golds and purples. So it's going to be a vibrant show.

You weren't able to show at Fashion Week, but you still got to experience it. How was that?

It was nice to see that people really love [Project Runway] and they love the people on the show. And they're always giving you great words of advice, like, "You can do so much. Take this opportunity and run with it." That's what I'm going to do.