Tyler Nealoney is weaving his words to Karlie Kloss into something amazing
Since the re-launch of Project Runway in its return to Bravo, it has showcased a new host, new judges, and several brand new crops of designers for us to root for. On this season’s crop of designers, many of them are getting plenty of attention, with one of them being New Jersey-based designer Tyler Neasloney.
As Neasloney showcased his design aesthetic on the runway, he gave viewers and his fellow designers a glimpse of his life out of the workroom. He’s a married man, a part-time drag performer, and a consistently working designer for others. While his words to Karlie Kloss during his final runway were what brought him to national attention, it’s his raw talent that is going to keep him there. I sat down his Neasloney as the remainder of the season played out, and we chatted about his work on the runway, his brand new capsule collection, and why throwing shade is crucial to Project Runway!
Right off the bat, how does the experience of Project Runway feel like? What surprised you the most?
Tyler Neasloney: The experience is incredibly stressful, but also wildly fun. Nothing prepares you for the rigor of actually being in the competition. I wasn’t nervous going into the competition; I was—and still am—confident in my sewing and design skills. My path to fashion has been long and nontraditional, so when I entered the workroom for the first time, I felt like I was always meant to be there. I was most surprised by how long the runway days were. Runway days are almost more exhausting than the full workdays!
Take me back; when did you get into fashion design and know that it would be the passion you would follow?
TN: Though I didn’t go to school for fashion or design, I’ve always been a creative. Sewing and design have been present in my life since I was a child, yet it took until my late twenties to admit to myself that fashion is my true calling. I’m generally very pragmatic, so taking the plunge and leaving my day job in non-profit to pursue a career in fashion has been daunting. That said, it’s also been liberating to be part of this competition and realize that I have a place in the fashion industry.
How would you describe your design aesthetic from your perspective?
TN: My aesthetic is classic and refined—a bridge between the timeless elegance of mid-century glamour and the bold, empowered femininity of the sophisticated modern woman. Think Kate Middleton, DC power players, and East Coast American royalty.
Your drag persona, Kimberly Onassis, is obviously a great influence. Tell me about what her fashion style is. Have you gotten more attention for your drag now after Project Runway? Any thoughts on hitting the Drag Race runway, perhaps?
TN: Kimberly Onassis (Kim Ono) has a style rooted in my personal aesthetic. She doesn’t share a name with a former first lady for nothing! She has always been an outlet for me to explore my design philosophy and act out the fantasy that I sew into each of my garments. Sewing the clothing is only half the fun. The real magic begins when I’m able to slip into the garments and bring them to life the way I intended. I can’t say that I have plans to audition anytime soon, but anything is possible. I am happy right now to be creating looks for some of the queens on the current season, including the patriotic Season 12 Reveal look for Nicky Doll!
Your fiancée Jake Hudnut has a very high profile job as the top Jersey City, NJ prosecutor. What is it like for him sharing the limelight now? What is your favorite part of having someone to go home to that understands in your off-television life?
TN: Who said anything about sharing the limelight? (Kidding!) Jacob has been so supportive throughout this whole process. Even though his existence in the public eye is very different from mine. On some level, we are able to relate to each other’s struggles and successes. We share the responsibilities of day-to-day life, and that’s a great way to keep us both grounded in the midst of media whirlwinds. There’s nothing quite like household chores to keep you humble.
The inevitable question; what you said to Karlie Kloss on the runway. What did you think as soon as it passed your lips? How do you feel about it after watching it air, and in hindsight?
TN: I’m grateful I was able to direct the attention from that viral moment to a worthy cause by selling t-shirts that benefited the Ali Forney Center, the non-profit I work for. The shirts sold out in 48 hours, and homeless LGBTQ youths were fed because of it. A lot of good came out of it.
What have you learned the most about the entire experience? Would you return for a chance at All-Stars redemption?
TN: Absolutely, assuming the show and network aren’t too afraid to put a shady queen back in front of the camera (laughs). Overall, I’ve learned to trust in my skill set and value my aesthetic without apology.
You already launched your own luggage line; what is next?
TN: I just launched an eight-piece ready-to-wear capsule collection, available on my website. This is the first time I’ve ever released a collection, and really my first time branching out from bespoke work. The collection is a set of wearable, elevated staple pieces that speak to my core design philosophy. I am, of course, still doing custom work for galas, brides, performers, and anyone who needs a killer garment.
What would the Tyler of today tell the Tyler that walked on the Project Runway set all those months ago?
TN: Don’t overthink. Trust in your aesthetic; it’s the reason you were selected to be here. And throw more shade.
Follow Tyler Neasloney at tylerneasloney.com