Project run­ways beckon

Gao has the cat­walk at her feet af­ter suc­cess on Kiwi re­al­ity TV show

Herald on Sunday - - IN OTHER NEWS - Tom Dil­lane

This year she de­signed a cock­tail dress in­spired by a soft drink. Next year she’ll be un­veil­ing cou­ture gowns on some of the world’s big­gest run­ways.

The rise of Judy

Gao, via Project Run­way NZ to be­ing in­vited to ap­pear at Paris,

Lon­don, Milan,

New York and Van­cou­ver fash­ion weeks, has been me­te­oric — and she’s to­tally self­taught.

The Auck­land de­signer, based out of her par­ents’ home in Ep­som, is a con­tes­tant on the re­al­ity TV fash­ion de­sign show. The show has fin­ished film­ing but it is still screen­ing on TVNZ 2 on Mon­day nights with Gao in the fi­nal four.

The show has al­ready gar­nered her some ex­clu­sive at­ten­tion.

“When I first got the emails I was like ‘This is all get­ting pretty real’,” Gao said. “It was kind of ran­dom:

Lon­don, Milan,

New York, Van­cou­ver. I guess this is the time they look for peo­ple. I prob­a­bly can’t af­ford to go to all of the fash­ion weeks. The one I’m look­ing at is Paris be­cause I feel that most rep­re­sents what I’m do­ing with evening gowns, and suits the whole theme.”

The theme is 3D print dresses, and the op­por­tu­nity to show them off is not some­thing her on-screen com­peti­tors were of­fered.

“I re­ally love my avant-garde look from Project Run­way so I think I’ll do some­thing with a sim­i­lar feel. It was black, made out of neo­prene, so it was 3D cutouts, it al­most looked like it was 3D printed. More artis­tic, like you would wear it to the Met Gala.

“With fash­ion you don’t need to stick to the rules, guide­lines.”

How­ever, de­spite her suc­cess through the TV show, Gao said the con­di­tions un­der which she had to de­sign out­fits on Project Run­way NZ

were to­tally for­eign.

“At the time there was a lot of stress, be­ing put on the spot [and be­ing told] you have to do this right now. Whereas in real life

I like to think through the de­sign,” Gao said. “It doesn’t hap­pen on the spot, it might take a bit longer.”

In ad­di­tion to her in­tu­itive de­sign skill, the 24-yearold Auck­lan­der is a na­tion­ally ranked chess player.

Aside from de­sign­ing her line of gowns for

Paris Fash­ion Week in Septem­ber, Gao also hopes to open a popup store in Pon­sonby.

Gao looks back on

Project Run­way NZ

with a mix of ac­com­plish­ment and a sense of re­lief it’s over.

“I feel like the ex­pe­ri­ence was re­ally ben­e­fi­cial, it re­ally pushed us to our lim­its,” she said. “It gave me some in­sight into what the pres­sure was like, and also it ex­panded my ap­pre­ci­a­tion for other styles.

“There were so many dif­fer­ent emo­tions, it was re­ally amaz­ing and in hind­sight

I would do it again.” it’s just gen­eral

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