Clothes Fashion

Project Runway Winner Erin Robertson: ‘Everything Needs To Change’

By Chere Di Boscio

With her colourful, bold style, cheeky personality and talent for design, you’d never know that Project Runway winner  Erin Robertson  was once a dental assistant. Thanks to her mentor, the poshly named Dr Porche, the fine art fashion designer and textile artist was encouraged her to seek out a more creative path, and so double majored in Fashion and Fiber Art, and was awarded the CFDA Scholarship for fashion students during her sophomore year.

Immediately after graduation in 2016, Erin joined the cast of Project Runway Season 15 and emerged victorious with her weirdly sustainable fashion designs. Why ‘weirdly sustainable’? Well,  Robertson thinks outside of the box for her eco-friendly ethos by creating fabric out of distinctive materials like bubblegum, wigs, and…worms. Seriously. Her first ever  Project Runway challenge produced a  frock fashioned from wigs, gum, and beads – talk about ‘trash into treasure’! In later episodes, not-so-vegan-friendly dried worms and recycled guitar picks were incorporated into wearable works of art.

After she emerged victorious from Project Runway, her concern for the planet was expressed further with “Plashion,” a capsule collection featuring upcycled plastic bags and other recycled materials, to raise awareness about the danger of single-use plastics. Models dominated downtown Boston, wielding rubbish pickup sticks they dubbed  “selfless sticks,” a play on the selfie stick, bien sur.

Hers is a rather unconventional approach to eco-fashion, and we love it. But Erin would like to go back to school – specifically  to MIT – to immerse herself in a far more mainstream body of knowledge, namely sustainable textile technology via MIT’s Media Lab. (Ed’s note: we’re not so sure about this – Media Lab’s Bionic Yarn has actually turned out to create more problems than it solved, but that’s another story).

Here in this exclusive interview, the designer tells us about the women she’d most like to dress, how plastic plays a key role in  her work and how the fashion industry needs to change.

How would you describe the style of your work?

Quirky. Fun. Sexy. Modest. Colorful.

Why is sustainability important to you?

Because it’s the future.   Not thinking about your footprint left  one this earth is a little outdated.


In which ways do you feel the fashion industry needs to change the most?

Aside of creating less, I think  changing the focus of marketing to not to HAVE to  have things.   Especially for really cheap.   Marketing controls the consumer so I think if there was a big switch in that it would really help  out.   There’s a lot of  people who aren’t aware of the  amount of waste, environmental  damage and terrible working factories that humans are exposed to. So change pretty  much everything. Haha.

If you could dress any celebrity, who would it be and what would they wear?

Iris Apfel or Anna Dello Russo. Hmmm, I don’t know specifically, but it would be something colorful and textural.

Are you sustainable in any other aspects of your life?

I am.   And it’s been a hard transition.   I wasn’t  aware of how  terrible single use  plastics were until only a few years ago.   I  think  about the longevity of  everything now.   I  don’t buy what I  don’t need.   Buy a lot of clothes second hand.

What made you want to be a designer in the first place?

I don’t know  really. It’s just what interested me the most in  high school.

Whose designs inspired your journey so far?

I love designers from  Bauhaus movement.   Neri Oxman, Josep Font, Alexander McQueen, old Balenciaga.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?

An astronaut!

What were the best and worst aspects of being on Project Runway?

Best: Met amazing new friends, made some pretty fun stuff with their money, realized how fast I could make something.   Worst: I feel like I can’t complain because I won.   Anything that was annoying (not  having a phone for 6 weeks) was all worth it!

You use a lot of plastic fibres in your work. Are you aware of the dangers of microfibers coming out in the wash and contaminating water ways?

I am aware!   Most of my stuff isn’t really  machine washable though.   I’m  broadening what I make, clothing that is not as  much and isn’t like art, and I’m  looking into other material.   Or new ways of working with old material.   There’s  this  company  called everyone who make stuff out of recycled cotton.   And  Yulex who make neoprene from a plant.   It’s  actually very hard to design  sustainably!   But it’s on the  forefront of my brain.  🙂


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  • Reply
    May 20, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    In what ways was Erin’s project runway collection sustainable? I don’t remember her talking about this on the show. I’d be very curious to see where she lands as I loved her inventive, unique style and approach to color and texture. Thanks!

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