Exclusive! Project Runway Winner Leanne Marshall on Designing for Paula Abdul: It’s Straight Up Awesome
Have you noticed how amazing Paula Abdul’s been looking lately? Whether she’s on The X Factor or walking a red carpet — she’s been looking fab in an assortment of dynamite dresses. The creative star behind her stellar style? Project Runway Season 5 winner Leanne Marshall. We were dying to know the details of dressing an enigma like Paula, and we scored an exclusive straight from the source.
Whenever Paula’s worn your designs, they’ve always seemed so perfect for her. Was that luck, or did you create the dresses for her specifically?
Leanne Marshall: All of these dresses were made custom for Paula. She chose the pieces that she wanted based on my past collections, and I went to work changing the colors and making tweaks to be sure they were one-of-a-kinds that would really flatter Paula and her beautiful figure.
Do you design more for the body, or for the personality?
LM: It was really a combination of both. Paula has a very petite frame, and she is not afraid to take risks and be fashion forward. Because of her size, she has said that she likes things to always be feminine and lady-like but with an edgy twist, and that is what I love to do.
She sounds like a lot of fun to design for — how does it feel to have her wear your designs? Are they “Paula’s dresses” now?
LM: We actually refer to them all here as “Paula Dresses!” After she wore them, she did a lot of tweeting that she had never received more compliments than she did in my dresses. I was honored.
Let’s talk about those tweets! Paula’s said things to you on Twitter like “You’re gonna skyrocket to the top of the fashion world!!” and “You really know how to make a girl feel beautiful inside and out.” How great is it to get feedback like that, especially from a huge star like Paula Abdul?
LM: Paula is very affirming. She frequently sends me messages to let me know how everyone loved the dresses, that she has never received more compliments and she even just messages me to let me know she appreciates my talent. I am thrilled to have the privilege of working with her.
How hands-on is Paula when it comes to the whole process? Does she give suggestions? Is it a collaboration, or does she just say “Hey, I need a dress” and you go to town?
LM: Paula has a lot of input, but she also trusts me. She initially found me because she loved my aesthetic. Usually she makes broader requests like the color or the feel, but lately, she has been requesting more specific garments. These relationships develop with time. The more I know Paula and the more she knows me, the greater the things we will create together.
Can you talk a little bit about how that relationship has affected your career?
LM: Paula Abdul is the first iconic celebrity to repeatedly wear my clothing. Not only has she worn it on Live to Dance and The X Factor, she goes out of her way to let people know that she is wearing my designs and feels beautiful in them! How could that not open doors and inform my future?
Now that Paula’s opened up that Iconic Celebrity door, who else would you like to dress?
LM: I actually have a little wish list. I think my aesthetic would be a great match for the personalities and styles of Taylor Swift, Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Claire Danes — and I could really do some devastatingly awesome things for Lady Gaga.