Joe Faris

‘Project Runway’ designer Joe Faris keeps it simple in basic black
Joe Faris
Photograph by Barbara Nitke for Bravo

It would be a pretty safe assumption that the closet of a promising fashion designer would be crammed with rows of haute couture clothing, but for Joe Faris, the Project Runway season five designer, his closet is surprisingly sparse.

“For the last seven or eight years I have worn [essentially] the same thing,” Faris says. For the last 360 days, the Michigan native says he has worn a pair of jeans he has designed or modified, as well as a black T shirt. “The other five days, I am either shirtless on the beach or in a tank top.”

His Troy closet contains folded shirts stacked on shelves “very much like you would see in a retail shop,” he says. “I can’t stand the center crease.” There’s also “the exact same shoes, or variations of the same shoe, black T shirts, black jackets, and suits,” he says.

According to Faris’ wife, Kara, every purchase he makes looks similar to something he already owns. “She criticizes me all the time,” he says.

But there’s a method to his monochromatic madness. “Dressing this way simplifies my life,” he says.  “It allows me to be creative in other ways.”

So, he can throw on a blazer and he’s prepared for a business meeting. Or, he can lace up a pair of sneakers and he’s ready for his daughter’s softball game. “It’s my go-to outfit,” he says.

When not wearing his own designs, Faris will slip on a pair of Dolce & Gabbana or Paper Denim & Cloth jeans.

His favorite kicks are his Chelsea boots from John Fluevog, or a pair by Kenneth Cole or John Varvatos. Typically, he shops for his T’s at either H&M or Gap, but for a nicer fit he drops cash at Giorgio Armani or Christian Dior. “I have a combination of both,” he says. About the pricier T’s he says, “You pay for the design, fabric, and style.”

Faris’ interest in fashion was a gradual progression. He credits his father, who worked as an interior designer, as inspiration. “I was always influenced by the creative aspects of his work,” he says. “There were always fabrics around when I was growing up.” At some point, I stopped playing with the GI Joes and started playing with fabrics.”

Italian designers also molded his tastes. In high school, he watched American Gigolo and remembers loving the clothes in it. “I did some research and found out that Giorgio Armani did the clothing, and that inspired me,” he says.

This was around the same time he was working as a stock boy at Gucci at Somerset Collection. In awe of the “impeccable tailored clothing” that he would stock on the shelves, Faris says, “It was almost life-changing.” After that, he decided to follow a career in fashion, and he eventually graduated from Parsons School of Design.

Now working as the senior designer for Schott, Faris has developed brands for other companies while working on his own line, one of which, Red Fly, was a “simple concept of putting a red zipper on all the jeans,” he says.

Faris has nothing but praise for his colleagues on Project Runway. “Tim Gunn is the most genuine person; he is exactly how he appears on the show,” he says. The judging from Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, and Nina Garcia, is “the real deal,” which he says has helped to improve his design ability. Overall, Faris says, “it’s been an amazing experience.”

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