It may not be evident in her futuristic, edgy style, but Michelle Uberreste, one of 15 up-and-coming designers competing on Lifetime’s new reality-competition show, “Project Runway: Under the Gunn,” grew up on a small Minnesota farm.
A Perley, Minn., native, Uberreste spent her childhood and much of her young adult years in the Upper Midwest, where she learned to sew when she was 5. She was always interested in fashion, she said.
“Even as a little kid, I’d try to match outfits, and I was really fussy about it,” she said.
She helped her mother make matching outfits for her and her brother. And in high school, she experimented with making her own clothes. She even started creating clothes to sell on eBay, but she said she never considered fashion design a valid career.
Instead, she went to college for chemistry, but quickly realized it wasn’t for her. She went back to designing in her home and eventually moved to Burbank, Calif., to attend fashion school.
Going ‘Under the Gunn’
A few years later, Uberreste started auditioning for “Project Runway.”
“The third time I went in I was a little more prepared,” she said. “I had actually lost my job about a month earlier, so I had a lot of time to work on my presentation.”
Her hard work paid off when she received a “Yes” and was asked to be a part of the new show, “Under the Gunn.”
In the show, three winners from “Project Runway” come back to mentor a new crop of designers as they’re put through rigorous challenges that test their design abilities. During the first two episodes, the mentors evaluate the new designers and select their teams for the remainder of the season.
Each week, a new designer is eliminated and the last one standing is named the winner, receiving $100,000, a fashion spread in Marie Claire and a one-year position as guest editor for the magazine, as well as other supplies and equipment to jumpstart his or her design career.
When Uberreste sat down to watch the premiere Jan. 16, she said it was really interesting to watch herself on TV.
“It’s pretty entertaining,” she said. “I think that it’s kind of a learning experience for the viewer, too. Watching 15 totally different designers … making their journey through the challenges … you get to know the designers and their personalities and become more involved with the process.”
Reflecting on the challenges, Uberreste said “it was such a unique opportunity.”
She said she learned a lot about herself and a lot from the other designers on the show.
“As a designer, you’re kind of narrow-minded, and working with other designers with totally different tastes is really good,” she said.
Uberreste’s style is revolutionary and not at all reflective of her upbringing.
“I have a tendency to make very impractical things,” she said. “I just want to make them beautiful. (My style) is very modern, edgy, futuristic and I’m not really sure where that came from because I kind of grew up in the middle of nowhere on a farm.”
She said she is inspired by architecture and shape. She often uses fabrics as an inspiration point and creates a story for herself before tackling a design.
Although Uberreste’s Upper Midwestern childhood didn’t affect her aesthetics, she said, it did affect her work ethic.
“(My childhood) was very tumultuous because we were always moving around and … we were very poor,” she said. “Going through all those hard things with my family I learned a lot about how to handle tasks and challenges.”
To see if Uberreste’s overcomes the design challenges on “Under the Gunn,” tune in 8 p.m. Thursdays on Lifetime.