The Fashion Show: T Lo Interviews Reco
You said you were very proud of your modest beginnings. How so?
Half my childhood I spent in the housing projects in Chattanooga and when you think about the projects you think about all the bad things that happen, but it wasn’t too bad, I guess. I did witness guns, violence, prostitution, drug deals and all that stuff. I think it made me who I am today, which I think is a strong person. After I moved out of the housing project, I moved to the suburbs, and of course, things were more expensive and all that. And there was two of us, me and my brother, and my mother, I guess that’s when she sort of went on hiatus with the drug thing for a couple of years, and I was picked up by my aunt, who basically raised me to be the wonderful, great, talented, and boisterous individual I am today.
When did you first experience fashion?
My whole fashion experience started when I was about eight years old living in the projects. I was watching Oprah and this guy was showing these fabulous dresses and all I remember is that he had orange skin and this dome-shaped, helmet hairdo sprayed to death, and it turned out it was Valentino.
When I was twenty-one, my first boyfriend gave me a sewing-machine because he was a designer as well. I just started playing around making dresses. I started getting orders here and there, and I thought I could really make money. I changed my major from architecture/engineer to fashion design. Ten years later, I’m on The Fashion Show.
On the first episode when you said you used to design for stripper we cheered. We thought it was such a bold move from you to admit that, and why not?
[Laughs] Well, with the power of editing. It was not only strippers. The strippers came about when I was an intern at a costume shop in Baltimore. When things got slower, a lot of strippers came in to shop for g-string swimsuits and they were sold all year long, so my mentor at the time said to me that that was guaranteed money, that it’s not about glitz and glamour, at the end of the day, it was about making money and that’s actually still stuck in my head.
This whole lovely industry that we call fashion, how we like to be glamorous…you can’t be glamorous and broke. When I got back to college I started making g-strings and swimsuits and I would go to the strip clubs at night at 2 or 3 in the morning, just a young boy, they would let me in and I would sell these costumes. Ten years ago, making about 150-200 dollars a night, that was actually good. It helped me pay the rest of my way through school. That was it.
You were the most popular designer on the show and based on your performance most people expected you to be in the finals. Did you feel disappointed that that was taken away from you at the last minute?
I was disappointed for about 30-45 minutes, but when I look at it, I got everything that I needed to get out of the show. I’ve learned and I’ve grown as an individual, I was adored by all of America and I had a platform to showcase my work and catch the hearts of all of America. So I was like, my time is over, I may not win $125,000, but to me, that has more longevity than the money prize.
Judging by the comments on our blog and other sites, many viewers felt a little disappointed with your collection. They saw you do so many intricate things on the show but they didn’t see much of that in your collection. Do you stand behind your collection? Do you sort of understand where they’re coming from?
I understand their concern, but I stand behind my collection 110%. I told Fern and Isaac…you know, what I did on the show it didn’t win. I always questioned that, so when it came down to my final collection I wanted to show a variety of work. What I’ll be known for, when they come to my store, there’s something for everyone in all price ranges. I’ll have something intricate such as the coat from the beginning, something avant-garde like the feather dress, something simple such as the ostrich skinny pants. One thing I can say for sure is that fashion is about trying something new and that’s what I was trying to do, something new, something different, I showed a whole rainbow of stuff.
OK, the finale dress, what happened?
Tell us the truth.
OK, we didn’t get our models until we got there. We had to make things a certain size, and lo and behold, the last model I fitted was the model that could wear the dress. The dress was made out of silk organza, very delicate and detailed. She was able to walk up and down the runway the first go-around fine, but for the finale the dressers picked her and the dress up and all the blades snapped. When we put her back on stage, something was getting caught under there and she couldn’t walk. It was just something that happened. There was nothing I could do to prevent it. It showed on the runway great, it was just a mishap. It was a beautiful dress. Was it practical? No. Everybody knows that what’s shown on the runway and what’s in store is always the watered-down, modified version.
Did the judges say anything about what happened on the runway?
No, Glenda Bailey just said that the dress was like the bridal suite, the honeymoon or something like that…but in my defense, it’s OK when Christian Dior does it, but when I do it, it’s a problem. The judges kept saying that they wanted more out of me and I was the only designer that took a chance in creating something like the feather dress that still got bashed.
Speaking of the feather dress, people were comparing it to that other dress from that other show.
Well. I never heard the comparison. It was what it was. I can’t sit here and say “Oh, I wasn’t copying anybody” this and that, because I wasn’t. Every piece that came down that runway was strictly from my heart. That’s not even my style doing a knock-off, anyway.
You had very strong words in your exit interview about the other designers. What didn’t you like about Anna’s collection?
I wouldn’t say I didn’t like Anna’s collection, but as a designer, Isaac told us that you’re only as good as your next fashion show. All my research I’ve done over the whole ten years, every time you come to the runway you want to bring something new and exciting. I just felt that she took the safe route out. Everything that she did was from previous episodes. I took a chance, I did something new and did a couple of cornucopia stuff.
If had been too intricate, too over-the-top the judges would’ve said that I did too much, so I cut down a little and they said they expected more, so it’s like a double-edge sword, you’re going home regardless. To me Anna’s was more merchandising, it wasn’t fashion design. In that case, I should’ve just done everything I did on the show in a different color. That was my take on the whole Anna situation.
You also said that Daniella was more talented than James-Paul but her “character was horrible.” Really?
Definitely. I just feel that her attitude…well, let’s just compare me and Daniella. We’re both very egotistical and arrogant, but it’s a fine line when there’s joking involved that everybody in America saw. You know, 90% of the time I was joking, because my voice changes, my whole facial expression changes, but this is a person just being evil and vindictive trying to get people kicked off the show. Daniella is an extremely talented individual and I hope she grows and realizes that no matter how great you are in whatever, but if you have this horrible attitude nobody is going to buy your clothes. That’s a piece of advice I would give Daniella.
There was a lot of talk about you not knowing Halston and much fashion history. Do you feel that not knowing about fashion prevented you from doing better on the show?
No, to be honest, Halston was a designer that just never captured my design interest because of what he did. Not taking anything from him, he was a great designer for his era, for what he did, but it never caught my attention, I was more into Chanel, Dior, Gucci, even Mugler.
I remember the judges saying that I should work for another designer to learn more and so on, but once again, I think it’s a double-edge sword. If you noticed, I was the only designer in the top four that never worked for a huge design company. One thing I can say about my stuff, my pieces, my knowledge…you will never say that I was influenced by so and so designer. It always came from my heart. I’ve been in the industry for ten years and making money and never had one single job. I make decent money, don’t take me wrong, it’s not the best but I can’t complain.
Tell us about your line “House of Chapple.”
What I tried to convey on the show was that I wanted simple, beautiful clothing that’s timeless and that will last forever. Even Isaac gave me credit for making simple, sexy pieces that would make a woman feel extremely sexy, beautiful, and glamorous all at the same time. So that’s basically my whole design aesthetic.
You’re also working on a men’s line, right?
On my website, which will be up soon, and it’s called Reco Chapple Signature…all the suits I worn on the show, the final episode and the reunion show, those are part of my collection of suits.
There’s also a book coming up, we hear.
Yes, it’s actually two books. One is called “How to Make Money in the Fashion Biz,” a ghetto fabulous way of making your fashion business work for you whatever city you’re in. When I first started I was in Nashville, Tennesse. I was around a bunch of college queens, so I did a lot of pageant gowns, stripper clothes and I made it work for me, and when I moved to Atlanta, home of all the rappers and stuff, I’m making it work for me, that’s some of the stuff that I cover in the book. The second one is a coffee-table book called “Becoming Legendary – The All-American Dream” and it’s basically paying homage to all my ten years in the business up until now.
When is your site going to be up, Reco?
My site will be up on the 23rd. There will be a lot of novelty items. I’m also working on a fall collection, which will be coming soon. Things people can order, not a crazy price, especially for the fans who don’t have 200, 300 dollars to pay for an item of clothing. At least they can purchase something and have a piece of my work.
Thank you so much for answering our questions, Reco.
[Photos: BravoTV.com/Getty Images]