Above the Fray: Taos Pueblo Fashion Designer Makes Impression on ‘Project Runway’

Greta Chapin McGill - January 31, 2013

"Taos Pueblo's own couture fashion designer is making national and international waves as an innovative designer on the popular award-winning reality series."

Let me point out one of my favorite guilty pleasures now that I own a TV: "Project Runway" airs on Lifetime on Thursday evenings and should be penciled into your calendar, entered into your iPhone reminders and written on your bathroom mirror. The reason is Patricia Michaels.

Taos Pueblo's own couture fashion designer is making national and international waves as an innovative designer on the popular award-winning reality series. Micheals made a statement right away with a knockout runway presentation in episode one, which aired January 25. I first saw her designs at the IAIA 50th anniversary fashion presentation “Fashion Heat” last summer. I was blown away by the simple elegant sophisticated presence of her work. It is simplicity combined with an obvious Native American esthetic that is uniquely hers. This is what makes Patricia Michaels the designer to watch on season eleven of Project Runway.

For those familiar with the series, season eleven is different. As Heidi Klum put it to the designers in their first filming, “...every challenge is a team challenge.” Patricia's team, appropriately named Team Keeping it Real, made it’s mark right away and Michaels's design was among the top three. What I love about Team Keeping it Real is the timelessness of fashion addressed through the obvious maturity of the designers and their sophisticated point of view. Every one of them has great technical skills so their tailoring was impeccable and their first runway show was stunning. The Project Runway judges -- fashion designer Zac Posen, "Marie Clair" magazine creative director Nina Garcia and past Project Runway designer Christian Sirano -- joined Heidi Clum in unanimous praise for the Keeping it Real Team, as well as for and Micheals.

Taking risks right away, Micheals presented a uniquely personal piece for the first challenge of the season. Taking inspiration from an elegant afternoon spent viewing the New York skyline from a boat ride around the island, she thoughtfully hand-painted a pattern reflecting the skyline on her fabric, creating a memorable piece of wearable art. While some designers on the opposite team were skeptical of her process, for me it showed design, art and architecture coming together in a very magical way. The simple design of the dress perfectly featured the detail of her hand-painted fabric. The dress was constructed with an overlay of fabric that moved exquisitely on the runway to reveal an intense blue color to the eye. A one-of-a-kind piece, the dress moved and spoke on the model.

Educated at IAIA and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Patricia Michaels design esthetic is strongly feminine and rooted in her culture. She has already shown at New York Fashion Week in 2009 but "Project Runway" will significantly raise awareness of her work to the level it so richly deserves. I will be following her every stitch on the show so look for more updates on her progress. Tune in every Thursday night for "Project Runway" and see all the looks Taos Pueblo artist and designer Patricia Michaels presents. A top contender right out of the gate....Go Patricia!