T Lo Interviews Gown Crazy Kaynebow
Tell us about the show. How did the idea come about?
Well, actually the director gave me a call, he had been hearing my name at the Miss America pageants and seeing the girls wearing my gowns and shoes. He said TLC had looked at me at Project Runway and he just gave me a call and wanted to see what I was up to. They wanted to see a sort of “day in the life” at my studio, so we sent video footage that he then edited to show to the TLC execs, and they basically decided they wanted to do a full pilot to see if it could go to series.
We saw the pilot and we have to say, we LOVED IT.
AWESOME! I haven’t seen it yet!
You’re made for television, darling! You’re such a natural.
Oh, thank you, darling. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yay!
How was the process of shooting? How long did it take?
It was actually 13 days. They came out here to my home and design studio and set up camp. We had about 8 days at first, then, we finished up with about 5 days at the Miss Oklahoma pageant, and it’s been kind of a crazy awesome experience. The crew and the director could not have been better. I mean, they just made it like so second nature. I felt like, honestly, by the time they left like they were my friends. It wasn’t odd to be around them at all.
We got to see your mother again on the show and this time, we got to meet your father too. Are they big supporters?
Oh my gosh, I mean, I could not have better parents. They are so proud and so supportive of anything I do and they have been since I was a kid. It’s very hard to have your gay son change his major from pre-med to fashion design when you live in Nashville, Tennessee. When I changed my major they were skeptical but they said “Do you think you can make a living in this field?” and I was like, “Absolutely. I think I’m going to be able to do it and I really feel passionate about it.” So they supported me from the get-go and it’s been a fun ride for all of us, to be honest.
You grew up with 5 sisters, right? What was that like?
Oh my gosh, you definitely learn when to choose your battles but overall I love my sisters. I think they’re all beautiful women, completely different in looks and personality. They really gave me an understanding of women and the differences between the genders. But I think I have a lot more compassion and realistic understandings of how they feel.
You mentioned that two of your sisters put themselves through college on pageant money. Is that how you got started in the pageant industry?
Back then I was working full time in a veterinary clinic and going to school full time for pre-med and got hired as a sketch artist at a store in Nashville and they did a lot of pageant gowns and like country music clothes and stuff, and then I became a buyer and realized how much I loved the pageant industry and then I changed my major.
Do you still get recognized from your time on Project Runway?
Oh my gosh, I do. I guess I have a crazy face. I don’t know. I feel like I look kind of normal.
Well, you were a fan favorite, of course they’re gonna remember you. They love you!
Well, thank you. I literally can be dressed like Booger with a ballcap on and I’ll be in an airport and still get recognized. I can’t even believe it sometimes. I think my hair is definitely a feature that people recognize. As you guys know, Bravo re-runs the hell out of our season. People still watch and I still hear girls say “I still watch you when the re-runs are on.” I’m just happy that my fans are still loyal.
Has business grown for you since you were on the show?
Oh my gosh, absolutely. I got hired by a show company that had been established for over 115 years, so now my shoes are in about 2200 stores world wide and my prom line that I designed, I’m the sole designer for Wow Prom out of Atlanta, Georgia, and those are all sexy, elegant, beautiful prom dresses. Some of them are your bread-and-butter, big cupcake ball gown prom dresses. Some girls want to look like Cinderella and some girls want to look like Angelina Jolie. You have to have a broad line for the collection each season so it will fit a lot of different personalities. And that line is in about 650 stores around the world.
Oh wow. Tell us about the doggie line.
Oh my gosh, it has everything from great little animal print hoodies to t-shirts to dresses to little like Jackie O, Oleg Cassini-looking little coat. It’s all kinds of adorable little clothes. Items starting at like 19 dollars up to like, 99. Most of them are very affordable but there are some select pieces for, you know, the very pampered creatures out there. It’s called Kayne 9 and it’s at kayne9.com and it’s the cutest little doggie clothes you’ve ever seen.
Tell us a little about the Jonathan Kayne Evening Wear line.
It’s basically a very red carpet, social event, evening line. It can even be worn for proms because a lot of girls are really going for that red carpet look for proms these days. The price point is going to start about 399 dollars up to about 1200. It’s just very elegant women’s evening wear. It’s in about 50 stores nationwide and a couple of stores in Australia. We’re growing that line. My goal for 2010 is to double the amount of stores that we’re in with that line.
You moved to Norman, Oklahoma, which you called “the pageant mecca of the Midwest,” and you have a new studio.
Oh my gosh, my new studio is my dream home. You guys obviously got to see that if you watched the pilot. My studio space is in my home and the space and the layout of the home is brilliant for a designer and it really worked out fantastic. It was a really good career move for me to buy this house. It’s about 6500 square feet. We moved in in December and we’ve been trucking ever since.
Is it better to live and work in the same space?
You know? Not really. Because I have a staff of about 6 that come to work every day so they keep me on my toes and they keep me working hard. You have to live by example when you’re the boss. I can separate my personal life from my working life. But the only space that’s not used on a daily basis here is my bedroom, closet, and bathroom. Other than that, it’s really all work. The whole rest of the space is used by my staff.
It seems like a lot of people turn their noses up at the pageant industry, but it’s a major, multi-million dollar industry.
Yeah, it is. That’s one of the things with me where people are like, “Why are you still in Oklahoma?” and I’m running 4 successful fashion lines at this point and I can travel anywhere, but people just don’t understand that. I’m not saying my life wouldn’t be different if I lived somewhere like New York or L.A. or Tokyo or Hong Kong or something like that, but I’m making what I want out of my life right now. I’ve got successful businesses and so many friends and so many things going on. This is home for me right now and I’m working like crazy to get everything done. I’m making a balance for myself.
It must be quite a rush to have your gowns seen in a pageant by millions of people all over the world. It’s bigger than Bryant Park when you think about it.
I know! It’s one of those things where when I design for a customer in my studio we give them excellent customer service; we fit the gown custom to them, just like a couturier in Europe. And I do that with every customer. I design every gown as if it’s going to be seen on television. As if it was going to be on Angelina Jolie at the Oscars. I want all those girls look like they’re going to step on the red carpet.
What’s the relationship between fashion and pageant wear? Do trends in one affect trends in the other?
Absolutely. You know, it’s one of those things where the girls want to look sexy, elegant, and beautiful for the most part. It’s the same thing on the red carpet. With so many of these girls, they are interested in pop culture and what celebrities are wearing on the red carpet. So it’s very easy for me to translate that and make a few changes to make it appropriate for pageant girls. At the same time, so much of my work would work on the red carpet. At the end of the day, a gorgeous evening gown is a gorgeous evening gown.
That black dress in the pilot? With the brooch? TO DIE.
Thank you! I love that dress, don’t get me wrong. I found that hardware piece in Hong Kong, the big flower, and it’s one of my new favorite pieces. But literally? That dress has got me more business than any dress in my career.
Are there particular specifications for a pageant evening gown. Does it have to move a certain way?
That’s one of my specialties, I have to say. I really care about the movement of the fabric. That’s one of my biggest passions in design. The movement of the fabric on stage, just because the girls have to parade around and be judged on how they look, I feel like the movement of certain fabrics can give you a real emotional feeling. Like a gorgeous silk chiffon, when it’s flowing out and the air catches it, it’s just a breathtaking emotional experience. Some pageant gowns are very simple, but the main thing that sets them apart is the construction, which is a little more detailed. It exaggerates the girl’s shape so she can look more breathtaking on stage.
You also do costumes for the talent portion of the pageant. How is that different? What are the considerations there?
I definitely think they’re more difficult than a gown. A lot of times people want to make sure they’re fitted perfectly and it needs to stretch the way it needs to. When a girl is doing a dance routine obviously the costume has to fit her and move with her. Also, a lot of times, you’re doing work on the floor, sometimes you’re jumping and leaping. You can’t have any hanging straps or anything that can get caught. There has to be some element of stretch so that it’s comfortable and doesn’t restrict the movement.
Watching the show, with all the fittings and turning out the designs in such a short period of time, it was like Project Runway on speed. How do you keep your cool?
You know, it’s one of those things. I’m very fortunate because I’m one of those people that don’t let stress get to them, but when I’m feeling it I have people around me who are like “Okay, get some sleep.” I’ve never even had a headache. Life is what you make it. I feel like you can choose whether you want to be in a good mood or a bad mood. Obviously there are things that are gonna get you down or stress you out, but I just try to always think “You know what? I’m blessed that I have a career and I’m making money, especially in this economy, and that I can do what I love.” I mean, I LOVE not only making people look beautiful, but feel beautiful.
Is there a lot of drama with pageant girls? Do they have a lot of demands with the designs?
This is the thing: sometimes I allow them to control the design more than I should probably, but at the end of the day, I’m still a designer that wants to build their business, so I want the customer to completely love the dress. If they want the slit a little higher, then it’s my duty to tell them what I think is honestly the best, but if they make that choice that they want something different, then that’s the luxury of being able to do a custom gown. That’s part of the experience.
A lot of the time, I’m learning from my customers. As much as they’re paying me for my service, I’m also learning from them. I found out a long time ago with the fashion industry to not only know who your customer is and what they want and how much they want to pay for it, you also have to listen to them. I listen to them and I translate it. I’m a 30 year old gay man who’s dressing 18 year old women. I have to understand that the world is always changing and the fashion world is definitely always changing. Listen to your customers and listen to the trends.
Do rhinestones really make everything all better?
You know, I think so. I’m going to have to say a big yes on that one. You’ve seen my house on the episode. If it’s not physically moving around here, I’ll put a rhinestone on it.
Gown Crazy airs Friday August 14th at 10 pm EST on TLC.