Sunday, April 13, 2014

Reality Rewind: Project Runway's Shirin Askari

It's no secret that I am reality TV obsessed.  Reality programming has replaced old-school soap operas as our favorite guilty pleasure and Dallas is the playground of choice for producers hunting for characters to appear in new shows.

DALLAS is the most well-known television show to put our fair city on the world-wide map and although its not a reality show, it set the stage for our image and we've been playing up to it ever since.  It's no secret that Texans (Dallasites in particular) have BIG personalities. That stereotype of big hair and big bank accounts exists for a reason.

Every show in production today has come through town looking for unique, interesting and engaging personalities to help launch their concept into the reality stratosphere.

But what happens to these people when the hot lights of reality fame starts to fade away? For some, it's a welcome relief that they can go back to their normal life. For others, the free clothing and baubles, VIP seating, adoring fans, primo tables at their favorite restaurants and media coverage is an addiction they don't want to give up and will do anything to stay in the spotlight.  Like a bad perfume, I can smell their desperation like animals can smell fear. I thought it would interesting to revisit some of Dallas' reality stars and see where they are now. Who used their 5 minutes of fame to launch themselves into something greater, who quietly slipped back into anonymity and who is still working the system looking for another chance to get back onto the boob tube.

Let's start with Project Runway's Shirin Askari.

Tim Gunn with Shirin Askari on an episode of Project Runway

Shirin Askari graduated in May 2008 from University of North Texas with a Fashion degree. A broken knee sidelined her post-graduation trip to Europe and one of her professor's suggested that she audition for Project Runway, Season 6 - which she did from her parents couch with that bum knee via video tape. Sewing since the age of four, making her own finished pieces by age seven and designing collections by age eighteen, Shirin felt ready to take on this televised fashion competition. She says she only watched herself on the show once - the night her season debuted - and could never bring herself to turn it on again. Her designs have taken her to Milan and New York City for fashion week in addition to being awarded Fashion Group International’s “Rising Star in Fashion” Award.

Askari with Simon Doonan
NYC Fashion Week 2012
OSC: What did you enjoy most about your Project Runway experience? And what did you enjoy the least?

SA: I enjoyed the fact that we always had food around (I'm a muncher) and meeting celebrities like Heidi Klum, Christina Aguilera and Lindsay Lohan was definitely entertaining. The fact that I couldn't have any communication with my family/friends access to music, books, free will etc. was what I enjoyed the least.

OSC: Have you been approached to do another TV show since? If so, why did you not participate? 

SA: Yes I have. At least for me - one reality show was more than enough!

OSC: Did you enjoy being in the spotlight or are you more comfortable behind the scenes?

SA: I don't mind being in the spotlight but it has never been my end goal. I'm perfectly happy doing what I love and making a comfortable living without having people recognize me. I enjoy it the most when I speak at a school or have young girls tell me that I've inspired them in any form or fashion. 

OSC: Did you find that Project Runway helped launch you after the show in terms of your career?

SA:  Being seen by 30 million viewers doesn't hurt right after graduating from college! I think it definitely helped. I had my first big fashion show right after Project Runway and got into my first few stores from it. But I've always been an extremely hard worker. I think I get it from my mom.

Shirin's new ASKARI line shown at Dallas Market Center last month during market

OSC: Now, let's get to the current stuff. What are you up to now?

SA: My current line "ASKARI" is an easy to wear line filled with dresses, tops, bottoms in fun colors and bold prints. We had a wonderful response since launching in January. Since then, we have secured over 40 stores in the US. Our first delivery in stores will be this May!

OSC: I got a press release a few months ago for Front Door Fashion that listed you as a stylist. What is your involvement with this company?

SA: My good friend Bri Crum connected me with the creators a while back when they were in need of a stylist. I fell in love with the owners (Andrea and Nina) and their immense passion for their new business. Being a small business owner myself, I wanted to find a way to meld our two paths since I have always loved styling. Dressing real women helps me so much in my career. Seeing what works, what doesn't, and why women wear what they do is so invaluable. Starting this May, Front Door Fashion will also be carrying my new line "ASKARI". The idea of styling women in my own collection is priceless and I believe will make me a better designer. I've always loved the notion that one needs to never stop learning...especially in their own craft.

I give Shirin ★ ★ ★ ★ for navigating the perils and pitfalls of reality TV and coming out on top. Learn more at