SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. — Sevierville’s Aaron Myers enjoys a challenge.

It prompted the 23-year-old fashion designer who now lives in Brooklyn, New York, to audition for the Lifetime reality show, “Project Runway.” He knew it would require hard work and break him out of his comfort zone.

“It’s just like being surrounded by all that creativity ’cause I feel like I flourish in those kind of zones,” said Myers. “So it was kind of like a kick in my (expletive) to really go for something and really work hard and have a challenge. I feel like that was just growth promoting, so that’s why I did it.”

Myers tried out for the show in spring 2017 and filming for it wrapped up in the summer. “Project Runway’s” 16th season premiere will air at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17, on Lifetime.

‘Make it work’

Myers is one of 16 designers on “Project Runway,” who will compete for $100,000 that will go toward launching a fashion line and other prizes.

Each week, the designers will face off in challenges, where their design knowledge and skills will be tested. They will have to make clothing for different scenarios and models in each challenge. The final four designers will get to compete at New York Fashion Week.

“They have the motto on the show,” said Myers. “That’s ‘Make it work,’ but truly in those moments, you just have to make it work … You never know. You know what I mean? You’re thrown so many curves, and you have like so many like time constraints and you just really have to … commit and just do it.”

Another part of the show involved Myers and the other designers living together during the experience. Myers said he’s had bad roommates before so sharing a living space with the other designers didn’t bother him. He fed off the creative energy from his competitors.

“I think the one thing I was looking forward to was getting back into a consistent making process because … when you work in the industry, it’s such a different thing … When you work for someone else … taking on your own projects is just like … a second thought, but in that moment going on the show, that’s what you do. You’re there to make things and to show what you can make and to design really what you want.”

Getting into fashion design

Myers didn’t always aspire to be a fashion designer. After moving to Sevierville from Jackson, Tennessee, when he was in the sixth grade, Myers attended Sevier County High School and Gatlinburg Pittman High School.

During his first year at Tennessee Technological University, he said he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do.

“When I was at Tennessee Tech, I … had a moment where I was like ‘What can I wake up every day to and enjoy and love and know that it’s not work and … it’s not just a job. It’s something I love to do?’ And fashion design was that because I knew that it was always going to change. There’s always something new, and I like that. I wasn’t going to be doing the same thing,” he said.

Myers transferred to Columbia College in Chicago and got a Bachelor of Fine Arts in fashion design. He works as an assistant menswear designer for the fashion brand, N-p-Elliott.

While he no longer lives in East Tennessee, the area fostered his love of fashion.

“I guess my favorite thing about Tennessee truly is the thrift stores,” said Myers. “They’re the best place to find weird unique clothing that’s probably been sitting in someone’s basement for 30 years, and then you get to go to all of these antique or thrift stores and find this cool clothing, and I feel like that’s like one of my favorite things about Tennessee is being able to kind of grow through history with clothing as soon as you go into a thrift or antique store and find some really cool things.”

Myers’ style and designs

Myers said he likes to mix masculine and feminine elements in the clothing he wears and incorporates that in the pieces he designs.

“I feel like … traditional masculine clothing or like male gendered clothing is … very stagnant and typical and boring, so I like the idea of giving more options to like what men can wear because I feel like there’s this weird … stigma that men can only wear certain things, and women can only wear certain things, so I kind of like to play with the idea of people being able to wear whatever silhouette they like or whatever they think looks good on them.”

To Myers, clothing goes beyond giving people protection. It’s a way for people to express their style and who they are regardless of what people think they should be or wear.

“There are a few cool designers right now that are getting into that (feminine menswear) market, and I think that’s really cool especially with the whole genderless movement and the sexual fluidity of my generation,” he said. “People wear what they want and just don’t really care, and … I think that it’s a very important movement in that people are just more comfortable with just expressing who they want to be and that’s how I try to dress and what I try to make.”

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MAGGIE JONES
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