"Fashion Star:" Kara Laricks

By Jamie Ruby

Kara LaricksNBC's new reality competition, Fashion Star, searches for the next big name in the fashion industry. The series is hosted by executive producer Elle Macpherson, and also features celebrity mentors Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and John Varvartos. Each week contestants will compete in a challenge to create designs and have them modeled on the runway for a fashion show. Representatives from America's largest retailers - Macy's, H&M, and Saks Fifth Avenue - will then bid to purchase and exclusively sell their favorites of the designs. At the end of each episode, the winning designs become immediately available for purchase online and in stores. The designers not chosen will be up for elimination. At the end of the competition, one designer will will a multi-million dollar prize to launch their collections in the three retailers.

Kara Laricks, a former fourth-grade school teacher designs androgynous clothing for women, inspired by and often reconstructed from menswear. She is also inspired by avant-garde Japanese designs.

Laricks was the winner of episode two of Fashion Star. Her draped tie dress was bid on by both H&M and Saks, and was eventually sold to Saks Fifth Avenue for $110,000.

The up-and-coming designer recently talked to the digital media about her designs and her time on the show.

NBC Conference Call
Fashion Star
Winner of Episode Two: Kara Laricks

March 22, 2012
12:11 pm CT

Kara LaricksQUESTION: Did you feel that during the designer portion of the episode you got enough feedback from the mentors, in order to create a really good runway? Or did you feel like you didn't get enough?

KARA LARICKS: That's a good question. You know, there is a lot of things that you don't see on TV that went on behind the scenes. And each one of us designers was very fortunate to have time with Jessica, John, and Nicole. Unfortunately all of that doesn't make it to the screen but I did have excellent feedback from all three.

QUESTION: Would you have done any different from the beginning of the series or would you have stayed exactly like you were?

KARA LARICKS: I have to admit, the colorless tie that I showed on the first episode truly is my - it truly is my signature piece. I build everything off of a men's wear inspired piece and what's more basic than a collar and a tie. So looking back, though it was a very risky move, I truly felt that that was what represented me best.

QUESTION: What's next for you?

KARA LARICKS: Next for me is enjoying the - this exciting ride of Fashion Star. I'm so thrilled, all the possibilities that could come from this and you'll just have to watch and see what comes next.

SCIFI VISION: You talked about your signature style and everything, but can you kind of talk about how that style came to be and how you came up with it and everything?

KARA LARICKS: Yes, absolutely. I've always loved the combination of a masculine aesthetic paired with a feminine aesthetic and I think that's just because I have those two sides to my personality and my style and the way that I dress. And I really love combining a men's wear detail into a feminine dress or, you know, maybe something that's a little bit more masculine and pairing it with something more feminine.

I mean it really just - it is who I am at my core and then also my design philosophy as well.

SCIFI VISION: Now the dress that you made on last night show's, I know obviously when they show backstage that they don't show as much as is going on, but you were saying something about a man's shirt. Was the dress reconstructed from that?

KARA LARICKS: Yes, great question. The back portion of the dress resembles the back of a men's shirt, like a dress shirt. If you look at any men's dress shirt it's got that wonderful pleat that goes straight down the middle in the back. And that exactly what I wanted to incorporate in the dress. So for example, the first week I showed the collar and the tie from men's wear, you know, inspired pieces.

And then the second week I wanted to take a different portion of something that I considered very men's wearish, the back of a white dress shirt, and then include that into a dress.

QUESTION: The first week you just did the tie and the second week you wanted to kind of show how the tie is factored into a larger dress. So I'm just curious, last week you Kara Larickswere kind of criticized for your choices, how much of the feedback from the judges and the mentors factored into your designs for the second week?

KARA LARICKS: You know, for the second week I knew that it was really important to come out swinging. I knew it was really important to put a full length - I'm not - sorry, not a full length but a full look on to that runway. And I felt like in the first episode, you know, I wasn't the only one who had a piece that was paired with other things.

You know, there were jackets paired with shirts and pants. And, you know, there were pants that were paired with tops. So I really felt like I needed to show the entire look this time, which is why I went for the full dress.

And as for feedback from the mentors, they were extremely positive when I met with each one about the look of the dress that I presented on Week 2. And so I really - they just encouraged me to go for it which was spectacular.

QUESTION: In Week 1 you didn't get any bids. In Week 2 you got two bids from two buyers with very different consumer bases.


QUESTION: What type of woman are you designing for?

KARA LARICKS: Gosh, you know, I am designing for a woman who loves luxury, who loves quality, and who loves an artistic design. I've gotten a lot of comments from women who said, you know, I love the drape of that dress, I love the versatility how it can be tied in the front, tied in the back, less hanging loose.

Women who really understand good design and, you know, I feel like that crosses all age groups, all body types. And it's more of a mindset, what you're looking for in terms of design as opposed to a certain demographic.

QUESTION: [Have you] managed to have a chance to walk through Saks Fifth Avenue this week...?

KARA LARICKS: I sure did. It was great. I felt like I was a super star. You know, when I walked in on the first level everyone was so wonderful. They were saying, there she is, the designer of the dress, there she is. And it was very exciting because it was on the fifth level.

So I got to go through five exciting floors of really, really love Saks associates and I was even headed into the women's lounge and someone even followed me in and saying, good luck, and we love the dress.

I mean it was really one of the most exciting days of my life.

QUESTION: Congratulations on the dress.

KARA LARICKS: Thank you so much.

QUESTION: Has that added any extra pressure now that you did so well for your next selection or piece?

KARA LARICKS: Good question. You know, everything finished taping back in August so, you know, right now I'm not feeling the pressure because I know how things go.

But back when I was doing this, back when we were taping and I got this incredible bid the second week I knew that it was really important that I continue with the same design philosophy which is to really build off that original collar and tie and to make sure that my pieces looked consistent from week to week.

So I knew that the dress was a good second representation of my philosophy, you know, a little men's wear inspired detail. And then my feelings about the following week were, yes, I need to match and exceed what I've done so the pressure was definitely there. But I was up to the challenge, sure.

Kara Laricks' Draped Tie DressQUESTION: Obviously you didn't have to choose between the buyers but who would you have gone with if you had to make a decision?

KARA LARICKS: My gosh, that's a good question. Wow, you know what's been exciting and unexpected about this show is the - I've really seen first hand how much people are looking for a value and clothing that's a little less expensive. So in that vein it would have been amazing to have seen my design go into H&M.

However, I have always dreamt of selling in stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys, Neiman Marcus because I just have such admiration for the designs that hang in those stores. So therefore I think if I had to make the choice I would have gone with Saks.

QUESTION: Which of your other contestants did you think really had talent?

KARA LARICKS: Wow, I have to say, I loved each one of the other contestants as people. So first of all they are all - they're great people and I feel very fortunate, that's been an exciting byproduct of this show is to have a lot of great friends come out of it.

In terms of talent, I think that Nzimiro has a very keen eye for detail in men's wear and I loved seeing what he was going to come up with each week. And I actually went to school, design school, with Ronnie. So I knew he had great training and also an incredible eye to clothing as well.

SCIFI VISION: You mentioned something about it, I wasn't sure if the show was live, that's why I wondered how they got so many things made so quickly (laughs).

KARA LARICKS: That would be amazing, wouldn't it?

SCIFI VISION: That's why I was kind of curious if they made everybody's designs, just in case. When was this filmed? Is there going to be a live finale or anything like that?

KARA LARICKS: No, this filmed all back in August and - or over this summer, I shouldn't just say in August. It was filmed throughout the summer. And no, everything is done.

SCIFI VISION: Okay, that makes more sense.

KARA LARICKS: Yes, I know. It's something that's so different and interesting about the show is the fact that they had needed the good six months in order to create all of the clothing so it's ready for sale the following day.

It's been a long process and a long time to keep my mouth shut.

SCIFI VISION: So how did you get involved with the show?

KARA LARICKS: You know, I think I saw a post on Facebook from the Academy of Art in San Francisco, which is where I went to school. And, you know, I was a finalist for Project Runway a couple of years ago but the timing didn't work out right because I was finishing my final collection for the Academy of Art and I really wanted to finish my program and the taping was going to conflict with my program so I had to pass.

But magical elves were one of the producers for this show and so therefore I kind of had a little bit of a connection in this.

SCIFI VISION: How long ago did you get your start into fashion? When did you first realize that maybe you could actually make something of it, even if not necessarily a career at least sell your designs?

Kara LaricksKARA LARICKS: You know, as cheesy as this sounds, fashion really has been a passion for me for a long time. And my mom always said, you know, honey, you need to choose a career that's safe for you and, you know, has good health benefits and a good salary.

That's why I was a teacher for ten years. I shouldn't say that's the only reason, I loved the kids and I loved what I did. But I taught for ten years and then just decided I wasn't getting any younger and really took a huge leap of faith by leaving the teaching profession and then going back to school at the Academy of Art.

When I went back to school I literally rented a sewing machine for the very first time. I learned how to drape and draw and sew. And it was - I would say one of the best times in my life because it was just so rich with learning a new skill.

It was amazing. And this whole career switch has been a huge leap of faith. And I'm just so grateful that it's working out in my favor.

QUESTION: You said in the design studio you were really excited to see women actually wearing your clothes. So how does it feel knowing there are women out there buying them now?

KARA LARICKS: I love your questions, my gosh. You have no idea the sense of pride and satisfaction that I feel knowing that women are actually wearing clothing that I designed.

And to go beyond that, to know that women all over are throwing on a cool neon pump with that dress or they're wearing flat tie-up spectator shoes or they're putting a white button-down underneath it or they're wearing a cool pair of jeans and converse underneath it.

You have no idea how exciting and thrilling it is for me to see one vision for that dress but then to know that there are women everywhere who have their own vision and they're all different. And they're taking that dress and making it their own. That to me is the greatest sense of satisfaction.

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