T Lo Interviews Seth Aaron Henderson
We’ve already raised our voices in Seth Aaron praise many times over, so we won’t bore you with another “He is SUCH a nice guy!” essays. We’ll just say this: At Laura’s party last week, after the lights went up and the crowd started shuffling out the door, we went up to Seth Aaron to bid him a goodnight. We had tentatively scheduled an interview with him the next day, but we decided then and there to reschedule it for a later date because we knew he’d be spending the entire day doing press. “But I want to talk to you guys tomorrow,” he protested. “You’ve been supporting me from the beginning.” Tom put his hand on Seth’s shoulder and said in his best Wise Old Blogger voice, “Seth, we don’t have to have the first Seth Aaron interview. We just have to have the best one.” It’s up to you to decided if we achieved that, but we think we did pretty good.
So how are you? Busy giving interviews and enjoying fame and glory?
Yeah, I just got home yesterday at one and man, I’m fucking exhausted. It’s been crazy. Friday morning I did 30 interviews in New York. Half of those were phone interviews like this so I got to go back to my room, but it was one after another until like 7:30 at night. From about 6 am till about 1:30 I went around and did the various television shows and then I did the Associated Press and then I did like a 3-hour satellite thing with about 20 different television stations around the United States.
Did you enjoy the party? We had a blast.
Oh God, the party was phenomenal and I really enjoyed meeting you guys. I mean, you guys are a kick and like I said, I read you guys all the time. I love your blog. It’s pure entertainment. So it was really cool to meet you guys in person and talk to you and just connect.
Your lips were sealed the whole time at the party. That was impressive. How did you manage not to give it away?
When I first signed up for it they explained it in the confidentiality agreement and what can I say, they trained us well. Not everybody is so trainable but to have loose lips and then to lose it, that would be crazy. So basically, I just removed myself from it and I’d watch the show every Thursday night and sort of pretend like I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t even think about it. I blocked it out.
It had to have been harder for your kids to keep their mouths shut.
They had tighter lips than I did. I mean, they were there. They knew I won. But again, they knew what was at stake. I showed them a copy of the agreement I signed and I had them read it and I said “Now this is what you need to do,” and I had them sign it too for the hell of it. So it kind of made them involved with it just like I am.
It seems like you’re lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive family.
Oh God, I couldn’t have done it without them. I mean the support they gave me, that’s why I made it. You know, just being there for me helped my mental state. I mean, who knows, but maybe if I didn’t have them supporting me I would have cracked. I knew how important it was for them, probably more so than for myself, so I was doing it for a bigger cause. Just knowing that definitely helped me through those days where I was exhausted.
The competition is probably tougher for the ones who have families, because you’re separated from them for a whole month.
When I left, the day I left, they knew how hard I worked to get on this show, they said, “We want you to go there. You have a purpose and don’t worry about us. Go there and kick some ass.” That was the last thing they said to me, so when I got on the plane I just blocked it out. I knew I was doing it for them, but I needed to get on with it. They were out of school, so I was gone all summer and we didn’t get to do the things we would normally do, like go to the pool or go on vacation, so they did give up a lot for me.
Is it true you’ve only been sewing for 5 years?
It’s true. I got my first machine Christmas 2004.
Why did you decide to learn how to sew?
Well, I’ve always wanted to design and clothes have always been my thing. I’d been working as a fashion stylist for about ten years and I just love clothes. I love everything about them. I go into high-end department stores and I’ll take a Gucci jacket and turn it inside out to see how it’s put together. And then my personal style, you’ve seen the way I dress – you know, that’s one thing I want to bring up: the Lifetime promo picture.
You know, they had a stylist and we just brought a bag of clothes and they put it together, so I was like “Okay, you want me to look fifteen? Okay, whatever.” [laughs] I just rolled with it. The way you saw me at the party, that’s the way I dress. I don’t wake up and run to the mini-mart in my sweat pants and I never will. Black tuxedo jacket, t-shirt, jeans and sneakers.
Where does your creativity come from?
My whole family was creative. My father was an illustrator; a cartoonist and a painter. My mother was a sewer and a crafts person. She did hand sewn giant quilts for charity. I grew up around that and I did a lot of drawing, you know, cartoons and things blowing up, stuff like that. Then when I got out of high school I did get a scholarship to a New York school that I didn’t go to. At the time, I just felt like I was done with school.
I did some oddball jobs; I was a barista, I worked in many different little jobs like that, retail and stuff. Then I worked in a café in La Jolla, California and I met this producer. And I said that I always wanted to work as a stylist. He came in a lot and one day he gave me a job and he set me up. And that led to a bunch of other jobs, catalogues, I’ve done music videos for Everclear, just a whole variety of styling and wardrobe jobs. And over the years, photographers and models and people like that would say, “Why don’t you have your own clothing line?” and I’d say, “I’d love to but I’m so busy trying to do this and make a career.” And then bam, I get a sewing machine for Christmas, grabbed some old fabric from my mom and grabbed a pair of scissors and just started cutting and sewing.
That’s pretty amazing. So, you’re pretty much a natural talent.
Yeah, everybody’s good at something and that happens to be what I’m good at.
How did you get Tim on that trampoline?
He just happened to look out back and said, “Oh, you have a trampoline. I’ve never been on one.” We were hanging out and doing our stuff and the producers said [whisper] “Take him outside and get him on it,” and I said, “Tim, I’ve got an idea for you,” and I took him out back and I said “You’re going on that trampoline,” and he said “Okay! Let’s do it!” He cracked up. He said he probably would never do it again, but he said he had fun with it. He said he never played Pictionary before too, so that’s why we did that. He had a blast. It was just fun and laid back and we had a great time.
Tim made the somewhat shocking suggestion that you start all over again on your collection. How did you react to that?
To be honest, there was more to my plan than what he saw. My original concept was what you saw at Fashion Week. I kinda said, do I start there, or do I start with what you know of me and kinda work my way there? So I expected him to say something along those lines. And I said, “So what do I do? Do I leap forward and up levels and give them the unexpected or are they wanting to see ready-to-wear Seth that they saw all season?” And he answered what I already knew. He said, “You have to take this to the next level, which is what they’re gonna want to see.”
So I said okay. I still had half my money and a whole month left and I already had the concept in my head. And he said, “Worst case scenario, you’ll still have these 14, 15 looks, whatever you have hanging here, get out of that studio for two days.” And I did. I closed the door and I did not go back in there.
On Day Three, I woke up, grabbed a wad of cash, and headed to the fabric store, and I treated it like Mood, like I was on a time frame. Because if I spent too much time, you know there’s so much to see you get overwhelmed. I power-walked through that fabric store just grabbing bolts of fabric, whatever caught my eye, had them cut it and went home. I didn’t even sketch for the final collection. I just looked at it and said, here’s what I’m thinking, and just started cutting it, and came up with the red dress. And then from that, it was, “Okay, my inspiration is from this piece,” and you know, that’s a runway collection, it’s inspiration from one piece to the next, it’s not a line hanging in a store, or it wouldn’t even be in the same store and if it was, it might not be hanging in the same section.
I wanted to push – you know, the purple dress for instance. Fuck, dude! That was so far out there, I know that. The dress in the middle with the explosion, I mean it’s wearable but it’s borderline costume. And I explained that during the judging, I said, “Hey, I could have just made the red dress over and over again, but I wanted to capture people’s attention.” I had to keep kicking it to the end, from the red dress on. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t lose interest. That’s the way you put on a runway collection.
And the other two collections, they were beautiful. I loved every last detail they did, and they were amazing. But they went in the other direction. They showed the ready to wear collection. Now, those could be produced and popped right into the store; mine, half of those could be produced. The other half would have to be translated into real life clothing. Like that purple dress, for example; I could translate that into a dress that would sell in a second. It was like when Roland Mouret was the guest judge, he said that you have to make show pieces. That’s the way all the French shows are. That’s the creative part; that’s the fun part, the drama and the unexpected. And then they have the other shows which are basic ready to wear.
My approach was to go big and bold on the runway and the other guys showed the other way. It could have gone either way. The judges could have said, “Dude, you need to go to France if you want to do this stuff.” It just so happened that it went my way. It was a risk and I knew that, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing that I did. As a designer, if you don’t love every single thing about what you’re doing, make something else.
I had 15 other looks. The collection as it was shown in New York, I had lined up at home and ready to go, then I had 15 other looks. I figured if the first ten looks fit the models right and I liked the way it looked, then that’s what I would be showing.
Tell us a little bit about your hair and makeup choices for the runway show.
There’s a lot of stuff going on in the clothes, so I decided to go really clean on the hair. You know, I had my little rabbit tail pom-poms that I stuck in there just because I liked them. So I worked with Garnier and we came up with a slick look and that’s exactly what I wanted. And then when I worked with Collier Strong from L’Oreal, he had that great color that he matched to that purple dress at the end, so all the girls tied together.
And tell us about your accessories. We loved the tights and the belts.
Yeah, I made the tights. I bought stretch fabric and picked out the graphics that I liked and just sewed them up. As far as accessories go, I could have made the belts myself, but I remember I was talking to Tim about it and told him that I thought I should stick to buying 25-dollar shoes and 10-dollar belts just to save the time and money. And he told me that’s exactly what I should do. Being a stylist, I know where to shop to get those things.
I love shopping. I could do it ten hours a day. I think I ended up with 20 pairs of shoes and boxes of accessories, you know, rings and jewelry. The clothes had enough, so the hair and makeup needed to be clean and add a little hardness to the softer stuff.
We loved the striped tights with the gray dress.
That was my daughter’s favorite dress. My whole family, every time I finished something, they would sneak in there and it would be on the dress form, and they would leave little notes pinned on them, like, “Winning look!” or “Meh.” They were really involved in the process. They know I’m going to do what I want, but I really value their opinions.
Our other favorite piece was the parachute dress with the leather tights. Gorgeous.
That was the last dress I made. It was Faith’s favorite. Nina’s favorite was the gray one that we just talked about with the tweed and the polka dots. Michael’s favorite was the checkered coat, which was a wool/rayon blend.
Okay, let’s get into it. We realize you’re probably sick of talking about it, but we have to ask about the whole German and Russian military thing.
A little controversy never hurt anybody. [laughs] People were writing in and saying things like “Shame on Lifetime and shame on him!” And I’m like, “Dude, really?” I mean, even if I was a Nazi supporter, do you really think I’d go on TV and admit that when I’m trying to win a contest? The inspiration behind it was to make a bold, graphic statement. It wasn’t literal, like I didn’t look at pictures of their uniforms or anything like that. I wanted to make a statement that people weren’t going to forget.
One of my fabric store ladies, she cuts my fabric, and she’s German. She was a child in Nazi Germany. And she told me so many horrific stories. I ran that by her one time. I asked her if I could use that kind of a statement for a collection and she said, “Absolutely. People wouldn’t forget.” She told me that she was there as a child and when she goes back to Germany, even though they’ve been out of power for like 60 years, she could still feel their presence. It’s that kind of impact. People never forget. Same thing with Russia, it’s the same type of story. It made such an impact in the world that people never forget. And that’s what I was going for; not for their uniforms or their beliefs.
Believe me, I have no love for the Nazi party. [laughs] The thing is, they made such a statement, no matter how awful they were, people never forgot. That was my point.
When you were first introduced to our readers, a lot of people made the assumption, based on your look, that you were going to be like this tough, angry rocker guy –
–Who dresses like a 15-year-old!
[Laughs] And then you turned out to be such a nice guy. Was that kind of deliberate?
No, when I got there, they told us that this was a reality show and it’s about good TV but in the end, it’s really about your talent and what you do. And they told us that they weren’t going to tell us to do things or ask us to do things that were out of character for us. Do whatever you normally do as people, we’re just going to be filming it. And that’s the way it was. The way they edited me, that’s just the way I am. Yeah, I’m spastic, I can be annoying, I can be sarcastic – all that. It was the same thing with Anthony. You met him, that just the way he is. I lived with him 24 hours a day, I know. We just went there and did our thing.
Were you shocked, when you watched the episodes, by any of the other designers’ confessionals?
No. Everybody that was on the show, I like them all. They’re all cool one way or another. I personally didn’t have any issues with anybody. I wasn’t shocked, it was kind of expected.
So what are your plans for the future? Any chance you’ll do menswear?
I do menswear now. I don’t sell it in the stores. I did when I had a little showroom and it sold like crazy. Let’s face it, women’s ready to wear is the biggest market, so let me focus on that, meet my goals, and once I get that established – I’d like to have a department store, like Neiman’s – and get a factory, and once I have that established and the collections are going out to stores and I can feed myself that way, then I can do menswear.
I love menswear, I mean half the stuff I wear, I designed. I mean Tom Ford is one of my most favorite designers ever and Viktor & Rolf, I mean their menswear is incredible. Eventually, I’d like to have a label selling all over the United States, starting in New York and L.A. of course.
Is that what you’re planning on doing with the prize money?
Yeah, I’m definitely going to use the money for what it’s meant for. I’m not gonna go buy a new car with it. I’m going to invest it in a future product. If the right house, the right company offers me a job, I’m gonna fucking jump on that boat in a second. I can still do my label. I would love to work for like Dior or one of those big names. I mean, imagine the experience you could get, just working at that high-end level of fashion. It would be incredible, the learning experience.
Well, good luck, Seth. Keep us posted on everything you’re doing, we’d love to share it with our readers because we’re big fans of yours.
Well, I’m big fans of yours. I check out your site daily. Thank you so much for your support and your great reading material.
[Photo Credit: myLifeTime.com]