Finishing the competition in fourth place, Kara Janx went as far as you can go without the big payoff of showing your line at Olympus Fashion Week. Or did she? As the fourth place contestant, Kara was provided with a budget to create her own line and display her creativity for the press in order to keep the identity of the final three contestants a secret. Observers of the show predicted she was a finalist, and some even speculated she was the winner, but alas! She was the decoy. But donít expect this up-and-comer to harbor any bitter feelings toward either the show or her fellow designers. Not even being forced to sport an uncomfortable, deconstructing-on-the-spot brown jumpsuit can make her say a bad word about Santino. Now thatís a genuinely nice competitor to have standing next to you on the runway.
Congratulations at making it so far in the competition, Kara!
Thank you so much, I appreciate that.
According to your bio, you were actually a practicing architect before you started designing clothes. How much of your architecture training shows up in your work?
Thatís right, yeah. I think itís just sort of the discipline I learned from architecture. I donít think it shows up except for the graphics and prints that I do on a lot of my clothes, but I think it does help with the more practical stuff Ė the proportion, the way I look at things, the way I decide about things. Itís more of the discipline from where I come from, my way of thinking.
Looking over the work you did on the show, which piece do you think was the most spot-on for the challenge?
I would say the flower challenge. I think it is just beautiful. Although it seemed like I struggled, which I probably did, I canít remember exactly, it really felt very, very natural. I just took to it. I definitely thought that dress was spot-on.
They did make it look like it was kind of a struggle for you, but then suddenly there was this beautiful dress at the very end.
Right! You have materials that you canít really think how to design beforehand, and it really does happen organically, so youíve got this pile of green stuff everywhere. It is a struggle, but once you get going it just evolves very naturally. The beginning process was a struggle but then it just came together Ė beautifully, I thought. I really, really was so proud of that garment.
Would you say that was your favorite piece you made on the show?
I would say it was one of my favorites. There were a lot of garments on the show I liked. I loved the Nicky Hilton dress. I actually adored my Barbie outfit, I thought it was quite sweet. I loved the ďClothes Off Your BackĒ challenge. I love the sort of urban balloon shorts, I thought they look great today. More of the edgier stuff that I did, sort of more costumey - I felt it, but it wasnít my natural strength. Whenever sportswear was involved, I felt like I really took to it. Itís so hard looking in hindsight. Sometimes Iím saying, ďWhat was I thinking? What is this?Ē (laughs) But itís such an intense thing, itís incredible.
Well, speaking of hindsight, when you were paired with Daniel F. and Chloe on the lingerie challenge, you came close to being eliminated. What would you have changed about that challenge?
Itís such a tough one, because itís such a personal decision for the judges. What they came up with didnít seem like an obvious decision. Daniel really stood up and took the blame which was incredible, because I really felt like Chloe and I put our best foot forward. But itís such a tough one, itís so personal, and I do think Danielís stuff was just beautiful. The actual construction of the garment was exquisite and so well done, so it was very, very difficult. On top of that, I donít know at that point how much execution counted. They were kind of looking for the strengths in design rather than design and execution Ė which you have to be competent at both towards the end of the run, otherwise itís like, you canít have one without the other.
How did it affect you to almost be eliminated?
Youíve got to move past each challenge, and you canít carry it with you to the next challenge. There was a time where Zulema and I were on the stage which was even a closer call, the ďInspirationĒ challenge. And it was just kind of, youíve got to take what you learn from that one and move forward to the next one and make sure youíre up to your game. Otherwise, itís auf Wiedersehen, and you know, it really is! So, it doesnít affect you because things are moving so quick and the moment is so fast, and you have to think on your toes all the time, thereís not a moment where you can just stop.
You mentioned the ďInspirationĒ dress, and I was going to say that it seemed like the judges had a lot of positive comments about your creativity until they got to that dress. They said you were too literal - did you think that was a valid criticism?
You know, I was wondering when I was standing on stage and they said it was very literal, and I was thinking, well yes - thatís easy to say that because Iíve made it that well, that literal. Itís such a catch-22. I felt that it was a strong piece but it was a struggle. It was one of my struggles. I was tired, I was exhausted. I donít know if it was my strongest piece. I think it was very, very delicate. I could have been very dowdy and disgusting; I could have wrapped that dress in caution tape. I really had to edit the piece as much as I could given that was the composition I decided to do.
Which would you have preferred: a bigger budget for the challenges, or more time to complete them?
More time. I think the budget constraints werenít that hard. You work with what youíve got. I never ran into money issues, I definitely ran into time issues more than money issues. But it didnít matter if they gave us more time and more money - itís never enough time, and itís never enough money. (laughs) Youíve either got one or the other, and thereís never a balance.
Since you went as far as you could on the show without being in the finals, can you give us your opinions on the final three designers?
I think theyíre strong contenders. I think theyíre great people. Naturally, Santino has come across as... (pauses) You know, heís got a sensitive side, and thatís great. Heís very human. I was just completely amused by him. I thought they were really good designers. Itís just funny how you go through this whole competition, and the cream rises. I was very happy for all of them.
Speaking of Santino, what did you think of the jumpsuit he designed for you?
Um Ė (laughs) Iíll put it on you and you can tell me. The jumpsuit. Had it been finished, it would be a very cool outfit. I donít think it was a bad design, either. It was kind of ďBlade Runner,Ē and it was kind of edgy, and it was kind of like, Why not? Put me in a dress and thatís an obvious decision. I did think his execution was sh*t. It was so sh*t. It was very uncomfortable, so he didnít pull it off like the way it should have pulled off.
Do you wish youíd spoken up to the judges about how uncomfortable it was?
I felt like I was dammed if I did and dammed if I didnít. I didnít know that at the time, if I had said something it would have saved Nick. I donít think it would have, no way. I couldnít have saved him no matter what I said, and Iím not malicious, and I couldnít stand up there and point fingers at other people. Youíre in a sensitive spot because you donít want to start pointing fingers and then everybody starts pointing fingers at everybody. The final decision isnít in our hands, itís in the hands of others, so itís a very weird, tight spot to be in. I donít have any regrets about that. I think my body language is very obvious. Itís horrible to stand up there, itís just horrible to stand up there and be questioned.
In the last final show, they asked everyone to say who they thought shouldnít be there, and you said Chloe. Why did you pick her?
I felt that at the end that maybe her heart wasnít in it enough. I also felt that the two people on the side Ė we were all such strong contenders. Itís such an insane position youíre put in. You donít have time to think much about what youíre going to be saying. I didnít know if Chloe wanted it as much as the rest of us Ė at that time, that is; at that exact instance.
Did you ever get to a point like that where you were so frustrated you just wanted to throw in the towel?
(laughs) I think every single challenge I was ready to be eliminated. But you donít, thereís those moments when you want to, but for me I knew there was no way I was going to throw in the towel. Forget about it. Itís a thought but itís a very fleeting one.
I understand you were able to do a show in Olympus Fashion week, and Iíve seen a few pictures on the Internet. In regards to what Nina Garcia said about your final dress (that she thought your Olympus Fashion Week show would be boring based on your final entry) did you have that in mind when you created the line? Because ďboringĒ is the last word that comes to mind from what I saw.
No, of course I took all of their criticism in and just wanted to see how I could push myself. I didnít want it to be boring. I was saying to them, listen, I am about color and I am about texture. But I didnít show it in the piece. I didnít know what I would show them exactly, but Iíve had my business for three years and that is my mantra throughout every season, it is about color and it is about texture. You can stand up there until youíre blue in the face and say, ďI will be amazing, you just have to give me a chance.Ē But I think given my track record standing against the others, it was like, what do you do?
Iíve even read that some bloggers were speculating you won the contest based on your Fashion Week entry.
The whole thing was amazing. I was just thrilled at the process that I went through. I feel very blessed, I feel like the process itself was incredible. I feel like, had I not gone through what I had gone through, what they said to me, I took as real constructive criticism, and I just really made it work for me. And it was really incredible to go through this amazing process and have something so that was received so beautifully. It was just so thrilling, so beautiful, you know?
How did the nuts and bolts of that work? Did you have to come up with your own materials, or did the show provide you with a budget?
No, I pretty much had the same restrictions as the others. I had less time than the others, but I did get the same sum of money and the same sort of limitations as the other three. It was very fair-fair, except for the time that I had. I donít mean to complain at all, I donít need to make excuses. I had the same setup, which was great.
Do you think a designer has to live in New York to be successful?
No. I think if youíre successful they will find you, and it doesnít matter where you are. Itís just a matter of getting your stuff out there. I think New York is an amazing catalyst and an amazing place to be, and a little bit easier because youíre in the heart of it, but at the same time, thereís so many that youíre competing that you donít necessarily shine up as quickly.
Do you think youíll ever return to South Africa to design, where the fashion industry is starting to boom?
The truth of the matter is that I just got engaged, and I feel like Iíve married the City as well because heís a New Yorker. (laughs) I always thought maybe I would because there are amazing things happening in fashion in general there right now, sort of a cultural emergence that everyoneís excited about. Thereís a lot of excited energy. But right now I feel like Iíve married New York, which Iím quite thrilled about, actually. Hopefully Iíll get him over there for a couple of months a year.
What was the dynamic with your model, Eden?
I loved my model. I thought Eden was great. You build up a personal relationship because they start believing in you and you start believing in them. You want them to do the best for you and they want you to do the best for them. Theyíre just fantastic, and itís hard for them too. They are there but the decision whether they will go home isnít up to them, and they really put themselves out there. I think theyíre just little brave soldiers. (laughs) And we poke them and we glue them. They were such good sports. I still speak to my model, sheís just great and I adore her.
Whatís ahead for you? What do you think is ahead for fashion?
Personally for me, I just want to have longevity in my business. I want to work really hard and I just want to persevere, and be really successful in what I do. In terms of fashion, I think itís constantly changing Ė and thank God. And I think there is surge of younger designers coming into the forefront. I think there was just a gap in the market, where it was like, well, whatís going to happen? I think people are opening their eyes to more independent, younger designers. I think Bravo has been amazing like that in that theyíve provided this opportunity. I think people are opening their eyes and noticing something Ė and that itís okay, and that people are saying that this is where we should be.
Thanks so much to Kara for speaking with me and many thanks to Bravo for granting the interview. I wish you a hearty congratulations on your engagement and you obviously have a bright future.