Posted on Wed, Mar. 02, 2005
A real cut up
Lehman man takes the fashion world by storm and keeps television audiences in stitches
by Megan Rowlands
One year ago, Jay McCarroll was sitting in his tiny Shavertown vintage shop custom making pillows and tote bags for a steady stream of clients. In trying to rekindle his love affair with fashion–and after a harrowing stint in the adult industry– McCarroll had recently moved from Philadelphia into his parents' Lehman home, opened up his Round Two boutique and was laying pretty low.
A yoga class was the extent of his social life. He despised the northeast Pennsylvania nightlife circuit, so he hardly went out. And he spent time with his family, which was nice,
but he soon began to question the move back to the area and started to believe his work might never take off in NEPA.
Then last spring, McCarroll applied to be a contestant on the Bravo network's new reality-based show, "Project Runway." He was selected from nearly 2,000 applicants and temporarily moved to New York City to shoot the show, which pitted him against 11 other fashion designers in an "Apprentice"- style elimination process each week.
Last Wednesday– in front of millions of viewers– McCarroll won the whole thing.
After showing a 12-piece collection on the runway during New York City's Olympus Fashion Week, McCarroll beat out two other finalists –the talented Kara Saun and the not-so-talented Wendy Pepper– to win everything he needs to launch his own designer (e.g., indie rock, techno, punk) and what cliches surround the listeners that are into each genre, featured 12 monochromatic outfits in bold colors and mixed textures. The finishing touch on each outfit was a dyed-to-match set of oversized headphones.
The collection reflects McCarroll's self-described "techno bohemian" design style, but shows few traces of his Back Mountain heritage.
"I don't think it's a country collection by any means. It's very fake, very imaginative," says McCarroll. "I can design in both the city and the country and be creative wherever you send me. Send me to the desert, to a deserted island, to Tokyo... wherever. I'm still going to be able to concentrate and make great clothes."
Although he found out on February 4 that he was the "Project Runway" winner, McCarroll was bound by multi-million dollar contracts to keep the news a secret until the final episode aired last week.
What has transpired since then has been nothing less than a whirlwind.
"I have hundreds of tote bags to make," says McCarroll. "That f**king tote bag -who would've known? I sold, maybe, one a week. Now I'm selling 500 a week, and I make them all."
McCarroll's signature totes, wrist cuffs and tees are available on his website, Jaymccarroll.com and will eventually be available at Outrageous, once the designer gets caught up with the deluge of orders.
His fashion spread in Elle magazine is scheduled to be shot sometime this month, but he doesn't anticipate it will appear in print until April or May.
Though he'll stay in New York for a few more weeks, he plans to return to Lehman to regroup and get a business plan for his line together, which will simply be called "Jay McCarroll."
"I have to make sure I have a valid, smart business," he says. "I have to make sure that in two years from now I'm not the next Rosie O'Donnell or Martha Stewart. It's important for me to be taken seriously as a designer."
McCarroll can't predict what's to come after that, but he's quite certain that none of this would've happened if he hadn't moved back to Lehman.
"Stuff has happened really fast. I've taken the past two years and sat at home and chilled out and concentrated on who I was as a person. If it weren't for coming home to a welcoming, supportive family, I don't know what I would've been doing. I was really insecure."
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