From sleeping on his cutting table to appearing on reality television, celebrity designer Andy South shared stories with students at his alma mater on Andy South Day at Honolulu Community College Oct. 11, 2010.
The Waiʻanae High School graduate is the latest star to rise from the college’s Fashion Technology program, in the final 3 of 17 designers going into the two-part season finale of Lifetime’s Project Runway on Oct. 28.
A Phi Theta Kappa member, South never thought about a career in fashion until a high school career fair. He realized he could use fashion to showcase his artistic ability while making a visual statement.
“Andy is an example that anyone can receive a good public education and excel at a world-class level,” says Honolulu Chancellor Michael Rota. Previous Runway contestant Jay Nicholas Sario also studied at the college. He was in the top 4 designers during season 7.
South isn’t surprised. “The Fashion Technology program at Honolulu CC is the best program in the state. The instructors gave me the tools and support to be successful,” he says.
South was a constant seeker of knowledge, hungry to learn and never afraid to ask questions or get help from his teachers. This was the second time he was considered as a participant on the show, but this time show producers sought him out.
“Fashion is about finding your voice and wearing what you believe in,” he told the aspiring designers. “The support I have received from home has been overwhelming. My hope is that I can inspire others to dream big and never stop believing.”
He certainly did. Living in the garage of his home, he didn’t have enough room for both a bed and a cutting table. He chose fashion, getting rid of his bed and sleeping atop the cutting table.
“I live and breathe fashion; it always came first before anything, it has to if you want to make it in this industry,” he says.
On the show he has two outright wins—for party wear and, most recently, a challenge that afforded him the opportunity to have three of his original designs included in the HKNB: Heidi Klum for New Balance athletic wear line. And he has two “best” finishes in the 13 weeks of competition to date.
South is savoring his Project Runway success. He is working harder than ever on his new line and plans to relocate to New York to be in the heart of the fashion industry.
Filming for six straight weeks without breaks meant working under intense pressure to create fashion pieces that would win the judges over. “I was tired, I was homesick, and felt like I was living in a bubble, but I won’t trade in the experience for anything,“ he says.
He added this advice for the fashion technology students at Andy South Day: “Do your work; learn whatever you can. You have to love it. Fashion changes every day so keep up with the industry. Find ways to be a part of the industry. But most importantly, you cannot stop believing in yourself.”
When asked who he would most like to design for, he was quick to answer: Lady Gaga and Rihanna
“I am ever grateful to all the support from Hawaiʻi—my family, friends, instructors. This whole experience is about paying it forward and giving it back. That’s what I intend to do.”