Interview: Kenneth Barlis brought his artistic vision to Project Runway

PROJECT RUNWAY -- "If You Got It, Haunt It" Episode 1903 -- Pictured: Kenneth Barlis -- (Photo by: Greg Endries/Bravo)
PROJECT RUNWAY -- "If You Got It, Haunt It" Episode 1903 -- Pictured: Kenneth Barlis -- (Photo by: Greg Endries/Bravo) /

While his time on Project Runway might have been shorter than he would have wanted, Kenneth Barlis made a lasting impression on the fashion competition. Looking to showcase his artistic vision, Kenneth was unafraid to take challenges and push the boundaries in the popular Bravo competition. From speaking his truth to staying true to this vision, the Project Runway exposure will shed a new light on his design brand.

Based in California, the Philippines born fashion designer has had much success prior to this appearance on Project Runway. From dressing celebrities like Carrie Underwood to showing at various fashion weeks, the talented artist has a unique point of view. From being whimsical to a touch of the romantic, his designs blend the ethereal with the reality.

Recently, Culturess spoke with Kenneth Barlis about this Project Runway experience, his influences and what is next for his fashion brand.

As fans of Project Runway appreciate, the various themes can be a little daunting. In his elimination episode, Kenneth was tasked with creating a haunting gown in just two days. Although time is always part of the challenge, management of that component can impact the outcome.

When asked about the time element to the challenge, Kenneth commented, “In creating any design, time will always be your best friend. For this particular challenge, I actually finished my look an hour before the runway show and I’m happy with my look. Maybe if I can change some styling ideas, then that’s probably where I can do better, but overall, I’m happy with what I designed for that challenge.”

Given that the designers need to set themselves apart in the early stage of Project Runway, the use of color is often one component to that concept. While Christian Siriano commented about the designers’ sameness of fabric color choices, Kenneth took a different approach.

Specifically, Kenneth said, “Personally, when I joined “Project Runway,” what I had in my mind was to create something I haven’t done and to push my creativity in any way I can. So when I chose that color of that fabric, it felt right for me during that time, so I did.”

Even though Kenneth stepped away from the common choices, criticism is part of the fashion world. Although meant to be helpful, the Project Runway critiques look to push the designers concept and design process.

When asked about the critiques, Kenneth responded, “During the critique, so much was happening and you are under a lot of pressure and need to make a big decision in no time, so personally it’s not Christian’s critique that is the issue but instead as an artist, I should have listened to my own gut feelings on how to do things right, and never second guess yourself!”

Although some designs can be reworked for the better, Kenneth stands by his final piece. Saying, “On my elimination design, I don’t want to think of changing what was because I always believe that everything happens for a reason. And as an artist, I wanted to celebrate that feeling of satisfaction and happiness in your own work. Instead of thinking of a new design concept, all I can truly say is, it’s not my time yet to show off my work and I’m hoping that one day, my turn will come.”

Even though his time on Project Runway was short, Kenneth created a bond with his fellow designers. When asked about having support from others in the industry, Kenneth said, “No man is an island, as humans, we need human interaction and connection to stay sane. And during the process of this competition, we are under a lot of pressure, so having great communication and connection with the people who are experiencing the same exact thing is a true blessing to keep going. When you give love, you receive love.”

In some ways, that expression of love transcends just one person. As seen in this season, the importance of showcasing culture is vital.

For Kenneth, he believes, “Filipinx Culture deserves a louder voice in the fashion industry because it’s part of our tradition, the process of dressing up. We love the excitement and the process of wearing nice clothes and a big part of our culture is to support name brands and collect the latest trends. So having the platform of “Project Runway” is very important to me to show my culture and tradition on how much we love fashion!”

Now that his experience on Project Runway is complete, Kenneth is looking ahead to other projects. Specifically, he shared, “In my latest S/S 2022 Collection presented during LAFW, it’s entitled, “Moretsuna Gemu SS22”, It’s inspired from the Japanese Culture and tradition of fighting for what you believe in and seeking for freedom and survival. In this collection, I focus on the modernity, artistically concept of the tradition while keeping the whimsical aesthetic of the brand.”

With many opportunities awaiting, the vibrant future looks promising for Kenneth Barlis. As he shared, “Kenneth Barlis Brand will always strive and do better, season after season. My team and I are always thinking of what’s next and how we can improve our products and stay innovative. So the best thing is for them to follow us in our social media accounts to stay connected and hopefully we can keep on surprising them everyday!”

Project Runway airs on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on Bravo and can be streamed on Peacock.