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Chat with artist and designer Elisa Jimenez


by David Ninh 26 May 2009

Elisa Jimenez was on hand at the Texas’ Next Top Designer competition last Thursday night in Victory Park to present a special “fashion rock opera” titled (get ready for this), From the Language of Birds: ‘The Story of the Traveler’s Unfolding,  featuring dancers and models sporting her distressed designs fluttering about on a makeshift stage. […]

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elisaj-400Elisa Jimenez was on hand at the Texas’ Next Top Designer competition last Thursday night in Victory Park to present a special “fashion rock opera” titled (get ready for this), From the Language of Birds: ‘The Story of the Traveler’s Unfolding,  featuring dancers and models sporting her distressed designs fluttering about on a makeshift stage. “It’s an allegorical story,” she divulged. The Arts Magnet alum has worked in New York as a designer, artist and sculptor, but most will probably recognize her from the fourth season of Project Runway last year. We caught up with her super quick.

What do you think about the local design talent here?
People are talking about thinking globally and thinking locally. We have to reinvest in our local talent. You have to give back. I may be money disciplined but I am talent wealthy and I can offer that.

What is your “fashion rock opera all about”?
It’s a performance piece. I did something similar at Sotheby’s with Melissa Auf der Maur a couple of years ago. I wanted to create a petite beautiful experience. There are pieces that are high couture — similar to something I would have on a runway or red carpet. There are some pieces that would fall into the category of avant-garde. But there are also some great basics in this show, a really good pair of jeans, a great top…I want it to be a blessing for everyone that is here.

Okay, I have ask about your experience on Project Runway.
Well, I did this surreal reality, non-reality show. I had a rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan and after filming Project Runway, I moved my daughter, partner and I out to the middle of nowhere in New Mexico. All my friends were like, “Only you Elisa would do a national television show and then disappear.” I needed to leave town so that I could live a normal life. My colleagues were ferocious and fierce and lovely and amazing. It’s a story. Project Runway is a fairy tale being told. It’s incredibly subversive and it’s taken all these talented people and put them in the faces of the Anna Wintours, Elles, and editors who would never see their work otherwise, and also put it smack dab into America’s faces. When I meet people and they talk to me about the show, what they love about me is that I don’t do attitude, I don’t do arrogance. It’s not necessary to do that to be successful.

Where do you hang out when you are in Dallas?
My mom lives near Bishop Arts. I love Oak Cliff. I have to go to La Calle Doce. I eat much healthier now, but I used to always crave Norma’s. I’ve been collaborating and working with the team at Decorazon Gallery also.

I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but do you view yourself as an artist or fashion designer?
When I first moved to New York, I would call my father (sculptor Luis Jimenez) and complain, “I’m not getting this fashion thing!” and he would say, “It’s because you’re an artist. You keep being an artist and everything will fall into place. It’s not the same criteria.” That’s why I did Project Runway. I wanted to see if it was the fashion dream I wanted to follow. I’m an example of slow design. I stick to my guns. I work with real people and models and performers. I just keep doing what I love to do and if I keep doing it well — drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, and the fashion and the performance — then it will all be okay. I’m a dream weaver. I’m still thinking about the 500 things I didn’t get to do when I go to bed. Each of my disciplines is a type of paint. And I use all of them to create a larger canvas. And the larger canvas is this consistent philosophy that we’re all beautiful even though we are flawed, and we’re all great even though we are weak. I love all those contradictions of humanity.”

How old are you?
I’m very proud to be 44. My mother told me that there are three things that make a woman look old — bitterness, regret and lack of use. And I’ve managed to avoid all of them.

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  • Great interview!

  • Elisa was one of may favorites. I wish they would have let stay on a bit longer. I would have loved to see more of her on the show.

  • Jessica

    A talented artist and lovely person. Always excited to see what she’s going to do next.

  • Tony

    Great interview! The more and more you hear about Elisa, you realize that she isn’t the crack-pot they made her out to be. Her age comment was beyond wisdom!!! Tony