Arts & Culture

Finally, fashion fun for all with Christian Siriano and Candice Huffine

Barrier-breaking designer, supermodel share their philosophies

Moderator Ashley Hinson (from left) talks with Christian Siriano and Candice Huffine about their work in the fashion industry, body positivity and inclusivity Friday during the Fashion Town Hall at the Cedar Rapids Convention Complex, part of the “newbo evolve” festival. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)
Moderator Ashley Hinson (from left) talks with Christian Siriano and Candice Huffine about their work in the fashion industry, body positivity and inclusivity Friday during the Fashion Town Hall at the Cedar Rapids Convention Complex, part of the “newbo evolve” festival. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Christian Siriano has dressed celebs from Angelina Jolie, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Lopez to Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Victoria Beckham.

One of the best parts of his life right now, however, is “seeing just a random person on the street wearing your clothes, wearing the shoes, carrying a bag, whatever.”

To that end, his high fashion hits the runways of New York and specialty boutiques around the world. But his clothing, accessories and beauty products also are featured at such retailers as Payless ShoeSource, Lane Bryant, Victoria’s Secret, Disney, Nordstrom, Best Buy and Starbucks, as well as his own stores.

He’s been taking the fashion world by storm since winning “Project Runway” and launching his own collection in 2008, right out of college, where he studied with Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen in London.

On Friday afternoon, Siriano and supermodel/body diversity advocate Candice Huffine entertained and educated about 200 three-day pass-holders gathered for a “newbo evolve” Fashion Town Hall at the DoubleTree by Hilton Cedar Rapids Convention Complex. State Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, a former KCRG-TV anchor, moderated the talk.

The fashion mavericks, both raised in Maryland and now based in New York, are known for breaking industry barriers. She’s a plus size model and he uses models of all shapes and sizes, so real people can see what his clothes will look like on them.

Both encourage everyone to wear what’s fun and makes them feel good, not what popular culture dictates.

“Women who are inspiring and have a voice — that’s what I look for in a woman we are working with,” Siriano said.

“What’s great about right now is that every brand is out for themselves and what works for them,” he said.

“There’s no rules anymore, which I really love. Designers and models and everyone in the business are taking back their world and doing what works for them. I think that’s really important. And I think with that, that was my choice in why we decided to choose not the norm type of girl on the runway or dressing on the red carpet. There was no one telling me or pushing me to do that. I just felt like it was really important for our customer to see that, and I think a lot of brands are understanding that now, too. Everyone’s out here shopping in different ways — we’re shopping online, we’re shopping from social media. It’s a whole new world out there. Why alienate a customer?”

Huffine agreed with him that the industry should not take itself so seriously and should “focus on the people.”

“(People) can be totally comfortable, happy with who they are, the body that they live in, their size, and be living in this happy life. And then they go shopping and that’s what tears it down for you, takes you backward, because you couldn’t find a dress,” Huffine said. “Now suddenly, you don’t feel that you measure up, and that you need to change something, and it’s this whole downward spiral.”

She’s determined to change that, through bucking the trends and putting curvy women and all body shapes, types and ethnicities in the spotlight.

She’s a runner, and when she couldn’t find clothes that fit right for training and running in marathons, she developed her own line to help give women the tools to live their best lives and not hide who they are.

“I just want things to be normal,” she said.

l Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

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