Male Model @bozalexander
Female Model @majinbuddah
“You have to be unique, and different, and shine in your own way.” – Lady Gaga
Despite his busy schedule attending fashion school, blossoming fashion designer Matt Sarafa has launched a new fashion line “Hot Mess.” Matt Sarafa is most famous for his role on the hit series on Lifetime – “Project Runway Junior.” Matt’s first collection for “Hot Mess” is best described as edgy street chic meets funky disco, with a youthful flair. One bit of trivia – Matt does a fantastically spot-on Tim Gunn impression.
Matt Sarafa, A Hot Mess
Justin Howard – Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from?
Matt Sarafa – I am from Manhattan Beach, California. I grew up here. I like to think of myself as a fashion designer, though I am only 19. That is what I have wanted to do since I was seven years old. I was featured on “Project Runway Junior.” I just launched my first collection, ‘Hot Mess.’ That is basically all there is to me. I eat, sleep and bleed fashion.
Justin Howard – You are an ‘LA Native?’
Matt Sarafa – Exactly. There isn’t much ‘high fashion’ here in Los Angeles. I am trying to bring it out here. It’s such a fun town. I love New York, but LA is my home base. All my family is here, I love it, and it has treated me very well so far.
Justin Howard – Let’s talk about Manhattan Beach for a moment. How did growing up there affect your sense of fashion? It is a beach town…
Matt Sarafa – Everybody in Manhattan Beach walks around in bikinis and board shorts all year round. That is so not me. I like to roll out after throwing on a huge fur coat. Just being fabulous, you know. That is not the lifestyle here in Manhattan Beach. I am lucky that I am in Los Angeles. I have places I can go to around town like West Hollywood, or Westwood where I go to school. There are definitely fun places to hang out in town. Manhattan Beach isn’t so much my style.
Justin Howard – What does fashion mean to you?
Matt Sarafa – Fashion means everything to me. Both in the way I dress myself and the way I design my clothing. I find designing clothing is a good outlet for self-expression. To take my ideas from paper to reality is such a fun and intriguing concept for me. I was drawn into the fashion world after watching “Project Runway” for the first time with my mom. Since that moment, I have been totally in love with fashion. Whenever I am feeling happy, or sad, I turn to fashion to express myself. To get my ideas down on paper. It is just something that I have been doing for so long that I can’t imagine my life without it.
Justin Howard – You mentioned you got into fashion after watching “Project Runway” with your mom? Was it a particular episode or season? Do you remember?
Matt Sarafa – I can’t honestly remember… It wasn’t the current season because we were watching a “Project Runway” marathon. It was when “Project Runway” was still on Bravo, not yet on Lifetime. It was during my mom’s recovery from surgery. I was laying on the couch with her. We are huge Bravo fans. Everything ‘Real Housewives,’ everything like that we are huge fans of. We just came upon a long marathon of “Project Runway.”
We watched the entire season, then I ran downstairs to grab my sketch book and started to sketch. It seemed so fun to see these people bring ideas from their head onto paper. Then take them from paper to reality. I think that was what really intrigued me about the fashion world. That is how I got started… It was me going downstairs to grab my sketch book, and wanting to learn how to sew. My mom signed me up right away for sewing classes. The rest is just history.
Justin Howard – That was the first moment you realized you wanted to be a fashion designer.
Matt Sarafa – Absolutely. I had always been artistic as a child, but I had never seen a window into the fashion world. That was the first glance I really got and it drew me in. I totally knew that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Justin Howard – So we can blame your whole career on “Project Runway?”
Matt Sarafa – Yes, and we can blame it all on my mom.
Justin Howard – What was the first piece of clothing your ever designed?
Matt Sarafa – Oh My God! It was a total mess. The first piece of clothing I ever made was this really ugly blue dress I made for my mom. I don’t work from patterns personally. But when I was first getting started I went to the local fabric store and picked up one of those patterns. I had no idea what I was doing, so my Grandma came and tried to help me. Even she couldn’t save it. It was so bad. It looked like Princess Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen,” but in the back corner of the nightclub snorting meth. Truly. It came down to a horrible length, mid-shin. I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t know why I decided to use satin. But if you not familiar with sewing, that is one of the hardest fabrics to work with because it is so slippery. And of course I went straight for the satin. It couldn’t have been any worse. But my mom rocked it, she pretended to like it, and that is all that matters.
Justin Howard – You did this when you were seven?
Matt Sarafa – Yes, I was seven years old.
Justin Howard – Tell me about your process of design. From sketching a piece to fabricating it.
Matt Sarafa – Constructing a piece depends on what I am making. Some things I can knock one out in a few hours and other pieces I like to put so much time and energy into them that I can take a month or two. Creating it, and perfecting it. Something like a jacket, or a fur coat I will give myself two weeks to make sure everything is absolutely perfect. To be sure everything is top notch. A T-shirt I can knock out in an hour or two.
Justin Howard – Who are some of your favorite designers? Designers who have influenced your sense of design.
Matt Sarafa – I have some many designers that I love! Of course, the classics like Versace and Dior. I like designers that aren’t afraid to push boundaries and take risks. My personal style is very edgy, so that is what I am drawn towards. But I also appreciate fine designers like Marciano and Jeremy Scott. I love Jean Paul Gaultier. There are so many designers that I really appreciate. Now that I have started my own business, started doing my own collection, I have started to try and support smaller clothing brands as well.
Justin Howard – That is very important in today’s world, where we all want to be unique. We must support the artist.
Matt Sarafa – I love going to LA Fashion Week and seeing all these emerging designers. I went online immediately afterwards and was able to purchase things directly off the runway. It is all custom hand-made items. I do it, because I wish people would do that for my brand. I know I am no Versace yet… It is always good to support the underdog, people who are coming up in the industry.
Justin Howard – I got introduced to your collection kind of randomly. I was in my email and I came across the editorial you had shot yourself. I fell in love with your line’s funky vibe. How do you select your models? As they aren’t your standard fashion models. They definitely capture that funky, Venice Beach feel.
Matt Sarafa – I like more unique beauty, individuals that don’t look like everybody else. I think that Victoria Secret girls are gorgeous but for my brand I want it to be more funky, more inclusive. Just different. The two models I have are just so amazing! They happen to live in my friend’s apartment building. They are up-and-coming models. Those two that I chose ended up being amazing and I don’t think I could have asked for better models. They really wore the clothes well and they really embodied the funky, unique vibe I want for my line.
Justin Howard – Do you consider yourself to be an artist?
Matt Sarafa – I think all fashion designers are artists. Because the clothes we all create, they are walking living pieces of art. I don’t really know a lot about painting but sketching, drawing and creating garments I would consider to be art. I guess that would make me an artist. I am definitely not on the level of Picasso!
Justin Howard – Not yet… Who knows, maybe one day the MET will do an exhibit of your work. How do you find your inspiration? Where do you get your inspiration for a collection?
Matt Sarafa – I get inspiration from everywhere. I am inspired by pop culture, I like to see what celebrities are wearing. From people around me, the places I go. A lot of my inspiration comes from social media. I am always on Instagram, looking at what is going on in the world. Being inspired by other people’s style and how they put things together. How they wear the clothes and don’t let the clothes wear them. I love getting inspiration from many different places because I feel like that makes the clothing really unique. It puts a little culture into each of my pieces.
Justin Howard – What matters most to you as a designer?
Matt Sarafa – I think as a designer it is our responsibility to make people feel good about themselves. That is why I don’t understand the whole concept of having to be super skinny to fit into some clothes. I feel like we are all beautiful. I just want every one who wears my clothes to feel confident and beautiful in their own skin. I want them to feel like ‘Bad Bitch!’ That is my ultimate goal, that they feel super confident when wearing my clothes. Then I feel like I did my job.
Justin Howard – What advice would you like to give to aspiring designers?
Matt Sarafa – It might sound cheesy, but to aspiring designers I would say never give up. This is such a cutthroat industry. If you really love fashion, and if this what you want to do, then you just have to keep going. There are many people who are going to try and stop you, or stay what you are doing isn’t good enough. So you just have to keep pushing past them and don’t let them effect what you do, your style and what you believe in. Like I said, it is a cutthroat industry, but it is worth it at the end of the day if you really do love fashion.
Justin Howard – Let’s talk about “Project Runway Junior” for a minute. What was one piece of advice you wish someone had told you before you went on TV?
Matt Sarafa – I think I took it a little too seriously. I wish someone had told me to loosen up a little bit more. Because I wasn’t my fun bubbly self. I feel like fashion is meant to be fun, but in those timed challenges and those super stressful environments I feel like I lost myself as a designer. After seeing everyone else’s amazingly talented work, it did discourage me. That was the complete opposite of what I wanted to happen. I feel like I would have made it further in the competition if I had really stuck to my own guns. And if I had more confidence in what I was doing. I was in the bottom a lot on the show, and after the third time it really started to dampen my spirit. It made me feel like what I was doing wasn’t good enough. Looking back that wasn’t the case at all. I just didn’t stay true to who I am as a designer. I feel like I could have made it much further had I done that.
Justin Howard – One lesson you learned from being on “Project Runway Junior?”
Matt Sarafa – Tim Gunn did an amazing job mentoring us. That was the biggest thing that I took away from the show, his critiques. He taught me how I could make my pieces better. The one thing that really stood out for me was his advice to me about not over-designing a piece. He says that all the time on the show, but it is really different hear him say that to you in person. Face to face. I did have a tendency to (especially after seeing the other fabulous pieces in the room) add more, to keep throwing more onto it. To make it more gaudy, more outlandish. I learned from Tim I didn’t need to do that to make a successful piece. Simplicity can be just as powerful as a million rhinestones. Sometimes you really don’t need all of that.
Justin Howard – What are your favorite fabrics to work with and why?
Matt Sarafa – I love faux furs. Fur is such a fun and luxurious kind of fabric. I feel like anything you make out of fur makes it a million times more fabulous. I love flowy fabrics like silks and chiffons. I like playing with the opaque qualities of fabrics. Honestly, I like any fabrics that are different from the traditional cotton and wool. I love lace and mesh, because they can truly add a whole different dimension to a garment.
Justin Howard – How would you define the style of your line right now?
Matt Sarafa – The “Hot Mess” line has an edgy street wear vibe. It is definitely wearable. I wanted my first collection to be accessible to the public. To be something you could wear every day. It doesn’t matter if you are going to school, if you are walking down the street, or hanging out with friends. I wanted it to be inviting and wearable. I did accomplish that. For this line, it is all able wearability for the every day customer who doesn’t mind a little bit of flair.
Matt Sarafa will now be showing at New York Fashion Week 2017 on February 11th and will be debuting his new line “FAKE!”