One-on-One with Project Runway Designer Tasha Henderson

Photo: Project Runway, Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Most of us can’t imagine living with cameras around us 24 hours a day and taking part in one of the most popular shows on television.

Add to that, having to design pieces in a short amount of time and the pressure is definitely on. However, many designers would jump at the chance to be on Project Runway and deal with it all to get a shot at winning the big prize as well as showing at New York Fashion Week.

The latest season of Project Runway certainly does not disappoint with its cast of characters. There’s funny, eccentric and super sensitive designers who are all very talented in their own right.

This week, we sat down with one of this season’s contestants, fashion designer Tasha Henderson. We chatted about Project Runway, plus size fashion and her tips for aspiring designers.

Photo: Project Runway, Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Editor’s Note: This interview took place prior to the last episode of Project Runway, where Tasha landed in the bottom but is still on the show.

Maddy: I’m all caught up on this season’s Project Runway. It looks like you’ve set yourself up in a place where you’re getting along with everyone and doing your thing; you’ve been safe and haven’t been in the bottom. Is there anyone else this season who has any experience in plus size fashion besides you?

Tasha: No, I’m the only one this season who has a background in plus size, and also in menswear.

Maddy: Do you feel like having that experience will set you apart and get you to the end?

Tasha: It does set me apart, but I do get compared to previous contestants on the show. However, it does set me apart with my particular season. Everyone has their strengths, but I have a different outlook on fashion. I have an urban background and aesthetic.

Photo: Project Runway, Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Maddy: It looks like everyone has a very different aesthetic this season. In terms of who’s there, who do you think is in the top five at the moment?

Tasha: Most definitely Laurence, Mah-Jing, Erin, I really admire them. Everyone else is good, but competition-wise, it’s those three that would be my predictions

Maddy: Since all of you work so closely in the studio, do you learn from each other?

Tasha: We most definitely learn from each other. I have three degrees and I worked in fashion merchandising. But I prefer designing. When I got in, I learned how to use an industrial machine in 45 minutes. I’ve created several collections on a small machine, but from the show, I’ve learned to use the more complex ones. I’ve also learned to work quickly as well.

Maddy: You really seem super calm on the show, very chill. Tell me a little about your background. You mentioned on the show that you have a company with your husband?

Tasha: Yeah, sure! It’s called VonRay. We did a lot of designing and A LOT of styling. We have several celebrities as clients. We started off in accessories and then moved into apparel.

Maddy: Tim Gunn recently wrote an article in the Washington Post, discussing what’s wrong with the American fashion industry and how we don’t include plus sizes, giving the plus size customer what they want. I’ve been plus size all my life—

Tasha: Me too!

Photo: Project Runway, Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Maddy: …and over the past 10 years, I feel like we’ve never been marketed to before, like we are now. Even companies like Lane Bryant have really stepped up their game because there’s more competition out there. I would like to know what your take on the American fashion industry is—and why you think designers are so hesitant to design for the plus size body?

Tasha: Growing up plus size, I had to shop at Avenue and Ashley Stewart. The clothing was kind of old for me being a young kid. I’m glad that Lane Bryant and other brands now offer trendier clothes. I do agree with Tim and I wish I could be on a season of Project Runway for sizes 12 and up. Designers are afraid of what people are going to say. Plus size is very prominent right now—we’re taking over covers of magazines! Even women that are slimmer have curves, and people are fascinated. Designers are afraid to approach it because they think they’re going to lose customers, when in reality they’re going to gain. Plus size women do spend money and like to look nice; they don’t play games. I’m appreciative for PMM because it’s like, “this is real”, and designers are scared. There should be no standard size. We all buy clothes, we all like to look good.

Maddy: Being on Project Runway has given you a big platform. How are you planning to use this platform to represent the industry and your brand?

Tasha: My brand represents the underdog; the people who don’t have a voice. This show is giving me an opportunity to vouch for the underdog. I get a lot of women saying how much we inspire them, because I wear the clothes I make and because of the models I use. That’s my purpose as a designer.

Maddy: Do you think using visibly plus size models in your collections makes a difference?

Tasha: Yes, I do. If I went by society’s standards, my models would have to be super tall and thin only. I use all sizes.

Photo, Von Rey Designs

Maddy: What is your advice for aspiring designers?

Tasha: Do a lot of research on people you aspire to be like. There’s no limit. You can do anything you set your mind to. Don’t let ANYONE stop your grind. Surround yourself with positivity. Keep pushing and don’t stop, no matter how hard it gets. It will get hard, but you can do it.

Maddy: What are your plans after Project Runway?

Tasha: After the show, I will be coming out with several collaborations and collections, and doing more fashion shows featuring plus sized women. More traveling, getting to know more cultures—and my main goal is to be able to have a manufacturer, to create more jobs and to help the economy while making clothes affordable.

Follow Tasha on social media:

  • Instagram: @vonraydesigns
  • Instagram: @von_of_vonray
  • Twitter: @vonrayboutique
Photo, Von Rey Designs