The allure of a big city and achieving reality-TV fame are nothing compared to Jay McCarroll's favorite place: home.
I'm a country person, the 37-year-old Lehman Township native said. I think it's such a pretty area; I love coming down Bear Creek Mountain and seeing the valley. There's such a sense of calm. It's a different experience from my daily life living in Philly.
McCarroll will be back in the area tomorrow for the Holiday Chic Peek runway and trunk show at Misericordia University, where he and several other local boutiques and owners will show off, and sell, their wares.
The event benefits The First Lady's Beautification Project, an effort by the outgoing university president's wife, Tina MacDowell, to enhance the campus.
Seven years ago, McCarroll clinched the winning spot on Season One of Bravo's hit fashion reality show Project Runway (the winnings of which he subsequently turned down, an act he calls one of the best decisions he made). He blazed onto the screen in his trademark colorful attire and has been through many ups and downs since but seems quite content at the moment.
You were so much fun to watch on Project Runway. Is there a difference between Jay McCarroll, reality star, and Jay McCarroll, fashion designer?
JM: You'd have to ask my closest friends and family. I can probably be a real jerk in person. (Laughs.) But really, you're watching a really heavily edited version of me so you're only seeing the funniest or most dramatic parts. … I'm probably much more boring than you'd expect in real life.
TL: Do you keep up with anyone from the show?
JM: They'll have events and stuff surrounding the seasons, and I see people there. There's a lot of them there that I really like, and a handful of them that I really can't stand, but those people will remain nameless.
TL: Did you ever expect the fashion business to be what you've experienced?
JM: No. It's so incredibly complicated and hard and expensive, and it takes forever to get anything done, and it's really not what you see on television. … I can make a wedding dress in two days, but how are you going to produce it, where's the fabric coming from, is it cost-effective, all that malarkey. Ninety percent of what I do is really business; very rarely is it super-creative, which sucks.
TL: You've been very successful with the products you do have out, which are for sale on www.jaymccarrollonline.com. You have pretty much everything, including a Sock of the Month Club …
JM: I do these shows all throughout the fall and winter, and some guy came by at one and was like You should do a sock-of-the-month club, and I thought That is the weirdest yet the best thing I've ever heard of, and it's been so good. So many people love it; it's a great idea, it's not edible arrangements or you know flower-of-the-month club. You just sign up and get a pair of socks the first of the month every month. They're good because they're cotton, great year-round. They're not a fall sock. And I mean I wear socks in the summer with flip flops because I'm a weirdo, but it's fun.
TL: Are you working on anything right now?
JM: Always. Always working on things for next year. Hmm, what can I tell you? I'm just working on things. (laughs) I have a lot of good things coming up next year, much of which I can't talk about yet. I'm sure you'll know about them in about 17 years when they all come to fruition. Everything I do really takes so long. I design fabrics, and it doesn't come out for like a year and a half, so I'm kind of just sitting on these things, because it takes a lot of time to produce them.
TL: Is that frustrating?
JM: Oh yea. But it is what it is. You can't fight it.
TL: In your documentary Eleven Minutes, you said you wanted the respect of the New York fashion community. Do you think you've gained or are gaining it?
JM: No. I'm not on the trajectory in life of being the next Michael Kors right now. Who knows in 20 years. It's a very fickle world. Even just looking at trends in the past 10 years, it changes so much.
TL: What's one piece of clothing you could not live without?
JM: The most worn-in, ratty, comfy hoodie. I can't live without that. Or the most comfortable sweatpants because I spend most of my day in sweatpants at home doing work. It's not like I sit around in Balenciaga trousers. I love comfy clothes. I want to make a line of them some day.
What: Holiday Chic Peek runway and trunk show
Where: Misericordia University Sandy and Marlene Insalaco Hall, Dallas.
When: 3 to 7 p.m. tomorrow
Admission: $5. Reservations required; send an email to HolidayChicPeek@gmail.com.