Interview: Caycee Black reveals how she would handle Project Runway differently

PROJECT RUNWAY -- Season:19 -- Pictured: Caycee Black -- (Photo by: Ramona Rosales/Bravo)
PROJECT RUNWAY -- Season:19 -- Pictured: Caycee Black -- (Photo by: Ramona Rosales/Bravo) /

When Project Runway season 19 debuted on Bravo, the new group of designers was set with a huge first challenge. It was a team challenge and for Caycee Black, that dynamic might have provided an unfortunate twist to her fate. After her elimination episode aired, Black spoke to Culturess about the Project Runway experience, her design aesthetic, and her brand.

For those who didn’t watch the Project Runway season 19 premiere, the designers were split into two teams. Each team had to create a cohesive collection and each designer had to create one monochromatic look from the team’s section of the color wheel. With unknown teammates as well as first challenge jitters, this challenge was far from a walk in the park.

When asked about that first challenge, Black spoke candidly and admitted that she would have preferred another.

“I wish the first challenge hadn’t been a team challenge, as it was all of our first moments to be in that environment and work against the clock,” Black said. “It would have been nice to have an individual challenge or smaller group challenge to work out our own designs versus working them out with seven other people. I definitely don’t feel I was able to express who I am as a designer fully within the team setting.”

Watching the first episode, many fans speculated why the cool team lost. From lack of direction to missing cohesion, the reasoning varied.

Still, Black had her thoughts, When asked, she said, “I don’t feel it was the lack of direction that affected us. I believe it was the lack of working together that hurt us overall. It was our first ever challenge and eight different designs, everyone looking out for themselves while trying to find a middle ground.”

While viewers and judges appreciate that each designer wants to win, the reality is that sometimes the group needs to flourish. In some cases, that advice from Christian Sirano can help keep one designer from being whisked away from the competition.

During her critique with Christian, Black’s feedback was a little brash. Siriano thought that her look needed a little more editing. But, Caycee stayed true to her approach.

Looking back, Black wonders if that decision was the best one. “If I could go back I would have listened to my instinct more and kept all my ideas in from the beginning,” she said. “I have created a version of my coat dress in my new Spring 2022 collection Midnight Garden; it was more in line with my original concept before I edited it down. I am proud of how my model Ivanna looked in her lavender coat dress and she felt beautiful which as a designer at the end of the day is all you really want for your customer.”

Since her time on Project Runway season 19 was short, viewers didn’t truly get an idea of her design aesthetic. According to her website, the phrase “dystopian farm girl-whimsical, rooted in nature and unexpected,” is part of the description. While that phrase is unique, Black was willing to give a little insight into that concept.

“I describe my aesthetic that way as it is who I am as well. I grew up riding horses with my mom’s family, a long line of west Texas ranchers. On my father’s side, his family is from the northeast so that is why I was drawn to move to NYC at 18,” Black explained.

“I am very much a mix of my Texas roots and NYC life. People have always tried to put me in a box… like are you this or are you that? [But] it’s when I embraced all the parts of me that the story of me came to light. I think being an artist is creating your vision of the world. I see beauty as taking my Texas denim from the farm and printing it on luxurious fabric ready for an evening wear piece. People will see my gowns from afar as one thing and then another as they look closer. This is the way I see life.”

While many Project Runway fans would have loved to see that aesthetic play out in future challenges, it was not meant to be. Looking back, Black wondered if she should have taken a few more chances, like using painted patterns, in that first look.

When asked why she didn’t use painted patterns, she said, “Of course it went through my mind.. I had a few versions with painted prints. But it was our first challenge and all the challenges…first challenge, eight people group challenge with people I have never met, Working in a high-stress environment against a clock, getting feedback from Christian, and staying true to my vision… I decided a print would have taken my design further away from the group and the whole challenge was to make a “cohesive,” design with seven strangers. I picked my battles.”

Although she was not given an opportunity to fight another day, there are many positives that Black finds in her designer world. For example, Caycee weaves giving back to children and supporting the arts as part of her business’ mission. This concept is deeply rooted in who she is as a person.

“I had a wonderful childhood and I am also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse from outside our family. My family put me in art therapy at a young age and it gave me a voice,” she shared. “Art has been what has carried me through and a place I could really express who I am. Art heals and I want to make sure I can show others who may not be exposed to those tools that it is possible for them to heal and thrive!”

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For the latest about Caycee Black, please visit her fashion brand’s website or follow her on Instagram.

Project Runway season 19 airs on Bravo, Thursday nights at 9 p.m. EST and is available to be streamed on Peacock.