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Living the American Dream Through Project Runway

Dmitry Sholokhov and Tim Gunn

Dmitry Sholokhov and Tim Gunn

An interview of Dmitry Sholokhov by Rosemary Feitelberg of WWD.com

For a guy who had just won “Project Runway,” Dmitry Sholokhov sounded remarkably calm Thursday night. Having caught the finale with a few close friends in his new Hell’s Kitchen apartment, the 33-year-old Belarus native was ready to be on to the next, as they say. During a phone interview, he explained how a trilingual former professional ballroom dancer wound up living the American dream.

WWD: What’s next?
Dmitry Scholokhov: Today was the finale so tomorrow is the new life. After the runway show in September, I spent a week at the beach in Puerto Rico. Obviously, I definitely want to start my own brand but I would need business partners for sure. I’m getting so many emails from people who want my clothes but I need to set myself up with a company first. The winning prizes are not really enough to start a brand as I hope to. You get $100,000 and $50,000 for technology and office space. It is a good start but it is not really enough to start a company. It will help pay some bills. I have been struggling for some time. I have been unemployed for the past five months while doing the show.

WWD: Was there ever a point when you thought, “What on earth am I doing?”

D.S.: It was the most challenging thing I have ever done. First of all, you are completely exhausted and you have to be creative and design. I felt prepared because I had worked for designers for a few years — J. Mendel, Domenico Vacca and The Jones Apparel Group. I worked for Jones New York and Anne Klein. That was my dream job. I had my own office and a nice salary. I just got it five months before “Project Runway” came along. I decided to go for “Project Runway.” My lease was up and I knew I wouldn’t have a salary so I lost my apartment. I was kind of homeless for a while staying with friends, but it was all right.

WWD: When did you first come to the U.S.?

D.S.: I first came here about 13 years ago on a student exchange program. I was studying psychology in Belarus, but I always knew I wanted to study fashion. When I first moved to Maryland and studied English and computer science, I was working three jobs in a restaurant. I came to this country with $250 in my pocket and a big dream.

WWD: What brought you to New York 10 years ago?
D.S.: I studied at F.I.T. and then I went to Parsons. When I first went to school, I got a bunch of credit cards and friends co-signed some loans so that I could go to school. After the first year, I got some financial
assistance and I won some awards.

WWD: What would people be surprised to learn about Heidi Klum?

D.S.: She’s so whimsical and she has an amazing sense of humor. She’s very approachable. I always felt comfortable around her. I know some people didn’t. She’s the easiest of all the judges. She was always talking to us.

WWD: You sound pretty calm. What’s your secret?
D.S.: I don’t think I have a secret. “Project Runway” gave me a lot of time to reflect because I had a lot of interviews. I had to talk about my life and I had never really thought about it. I came to this country pretty
much alone with nothing. I left everything in Belarus. I learned to deal and to not let the emotions take over you. It affects you physically. You understand that your health is the most important thing. I studied
psychology. I learned not to let it in.

WWD: How did you get into design?
D.S.: I was a professional ballroom dancer and I was training a lot. That’s how I started sketching costumes by myself. I started when I was seven and tuned professional at 13. My Dad is an artist so it’s in my blood.
Other children knew they wanted to be a firefighter or a doctor. I always knew I wanted to be a fashion designer.

WWD: What’s the best part about all of this?
D.S.: I think it’s the American dream and I feel grateful I can live it. A lot of people say the American dream is not alive any more. I completely disagree. It totally exists. If you really want something and you work hard, it’s going to happen.

By Rosemary Feitelberg, October 19, 2012, wwd.com.  For the full article, please visit: http://www.wwd.com/fashion-news/fashion-scoops/living-the-american-dream-on-project-runway-6434310?module=hp-topstories

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