Miranda Levy, a self-taught Milwaukee-based fashion designer, has wowed audiences at local fashion events, including shows at the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Pritzlaff Building, Flying Car MKE and numerous gala and charity events. She’s held positions as curator for Tenth Street Gallery, adjunct professor at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and color specialist for Kohl’s. As a prominent member of Milwaukee’s fashion community, Levy’s work has been showcased on the cover of M Magazine and Info Magazine, among others.
Now the Wilton native is competing on season 12 of Lifetime TV’s “Project Runway” for a prize package worth more than $500,000. She has, at times, been a polarizing character on the show – but she’s always been entertaining.
Levy answered some questions for me earlier this month.
Gregg Shapiro: You’ve had some unusual jobs: Army mechanic, strawberry picker, hotel maid, librarian, pre-school photographer. Did any of those positions influence your sense of style?
Miranda Levy: Definitely being in the military. After getting out, I kind of started making clothing around an idea of re-creating or creating a new identity for myself. That’s really where it all started, in art school and going from there. Every job along the way from there was just those kinds of filler jobs to keep me going until I was able to be a designer.
(To get a glimpse of the drama between the two, go to YouTube http://youtu.be/mdGYpx9P_5w.)
I think that Timothy is a really strong personality. Unfortunately, the show is not just about design. I think it’s also about personality, as well. If they made a show based just on designers sitting in the work room being quiet, it would probably be pretty sad to watch (laughs). He definitely had his angle and he knew how to play it up.
Do you have a fashion weakness?
Shoes! I love shoes so much. I must have brought 30 pairs with me (to “Project Runway”). People were like, “Do you really need that many pairs? You only have two feet.” But I really love them!
Who do you consider to be your style icons?
I really love Patti Smith. I don’t think I make work like her at all. I think she’s just a really cool woman and really has a great voice of her own as a musician. I love how she dresses. She doesn’t care what people think of her. She just does her own thing. I really like that.
What do you look for in a model?
Maybe I shouldn’t call it a fetish, but I do have a secret fetish for gaps in front teeth. I really love models with gaps in their front teeth. I also really like a girl with curves. Probably because I’m really interested in the ’40s, ’50s style – I really like a small waist and hips and a figure.
If you could design a new look for any celebrity, who would it be and why?
I think I would love to design for Madonna. Just because she’s really cool and always does interesting things and always seems to be ahead of the trends.
She also fits the gap in the front teeth mold.
Yes! And she has a gap in her teeth (laughs). That’s probably why more than anything. I just want to see her smile.
What are your favorite neighborhood spots in Shorewood?
I love going to Thief Wine Bar. There’s a new – maybe a year old – sushi bar called Nana Asian Fusion, and I really love going there too. I have wine and sushi within walking distance, so I probably never need to leave Shorewood again (laughs). Now, if only they would get a fabric shop, I’d be set forever.
Who is your biggest competitor on “Project Runway”?
I guess I would say Sandro. His design is really good. He’s really fast. His stuff is really tailored. It is similar to mine in the way that he really likes making females look really beautiful and showing those curves. He’s probably my biggest competition.
Why do you think that you should win?
I think I should win because I’m really passionate about design. After the military and being a mechanic in the Army for eight years, it really pushed me to follow my dreams and be the most motivated person in whatever I chose to do. I love it and I feel like after getting out of the military, I was starting over. I didn’t want to make any excuses. I just wanted to do what I love. Hopefully, it all works out for me and I can continue doing this whether I win “Project Runway” or not.