Louisville Native Frankie Lewis Prepares for ‘Project Runway’

Frankie Lewis. Photo by Miller Mobley/Bravo.

By Mattie Townson

Up-and-coming fashion designer Frankie Lewis is taking her creative mind and talents to Season 17 of “Project Runway” on the Bravo network. The show’s season premiere is happening March 14 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, and before its debut, we spoke with Lewis over the phone to learn about her incredible experience and how Louisville has shaped her career.

Is fashion something you’ve always been passionate about?

“When I was a kid, apparently, I said on camera that I wanted to be a singing, writing, designing, psychologist that acts and does hair. I wanted to do design as a very young child but didn’t pursue it until I needed a scholarship to go to college. The University of Louisville was offering scholarships to students who wanted to learn how to do all of the backstage stuff in exchange for tuition. They taught me how to use the machine and when I made my first item, it was really exciting to see something come together so quickly and so magically and to go from fabric to a 3D object. From there, I just really wanted to get into fashion. I am a mix of self-taught and taught by instructors, but I was mostly taught at UofL.”

How did growing up in Louisville inspire you and influence your work?

“I give credit to the people of Louisville because I’ve gotten lots of love and support, even before ‘Project Runway’ and even before moving out to L.A. There were people who really believed in me and thought I was something special. I got opportunities in Louisville that I don’t think I would have gotten in other cities. And because Louisville has a great community feel, I was also able to connect with photographers and models in a very relaxed and artistic way. I credit the people of Louisville for creating a community for me, teaching me things and making me feel brave enough to take the next steps.”

You were involved in KMAC Couture: Art Walks the Runway during its startup in Louisville. What was that like?

“Yes, I was fortunate enough to be in KMAC Couture since its conception. I got to do it for the first five years that they’ve had, and it’s been, by far, my favorite fashion show to do. It’s just so interesting getting to showcase your work in the middle of the city.”

How did you end up auditioning for ‘Project Runway?’

“I was sitting on the beach with a friend, I had just moved out to LA and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I got a phone call from one of the casting people that had seen that I had auditioned before, and they wanted to let me know that Bravo was taking over and I should really consider auditioning again. I thought it couldn’t hurt to give it a try and so I put together some pieces really quickly that I thought would impress the casting people and then I went to the audition. From there, it was a whirlwind. It was a crazy process but the people were really nice. Both the production team and casting team were really nice and it wasn’t as hard or as daunting as I thought it would be.”

What was your favorite part of filming?

“My favorite part of the experience was getting a chance to live in New York for a little bit. It was really cool to be in the city every day and get to soak up that energy and creativity because it’s definitely different from L.A. I also loved just meeting the fellow designers and making those friendships that I know will last beyond the show.”

What can the audience expect from this upcoming season of Project Runway?

“I can’t give any spoilers, but you can expect to see a lot of fun. You’re going to see what Bravo does to put their stamp on (the show) and see how Bravo does ‘Project Runway.’” V