Inside D.C. entertainment

Christian Siriano talks D.C fashion and his octopus tattoo

October 24, 2011 - 12:08 PM
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Photo: Joshua Yospyn

Christian Siriano might have gotten famous for running around on Project Runway and calling everything in sight “fierce,” but in person, the Annapolis native is soft-spoken and polite. In town to show his spring 2012 collection at the Pink Rocks! The Runway charity fashion show, Siriano disappointed anyone looking for a catty reality-show caricature at a press event Friday.

The designer declines to answer questions about celebs he wouldn’t work with. Asked who he has enjoyed dressing the most, he essentially says “everyone.” When questioned about how he decided to make the word “fierce” his buzzword, Siriano gives a little sign before launching into a well-worn but polite explanation that he wasn’t trying to coin a term or cultivate a persona.

Even the perennial punching bag of D.C. fashion takes no hits from the designer. “It’s not so bad,” he tells me. “I think it just gets a bad stigma because of the political culture.” He calls the city’s reliance on suits and sensible shoes “understandable” (he complimented my black flats earlier) and praises the Washington woman’s taste in brands. “When you have to be so professional,” he says, “you’re not going to be in a one-shoulder fuchsia gown.”

Siriano would like to see the region grow into more of a genuine fashion destination that attracted working designers, especially in D.C. “It’s quite inspiring,” he says of its architecture. “It’s our Paris.” What’s missing, he thinks, are the artistic enclaves that he saw in Baltimore while attending design school there.

“I have yet to see a really great vintage shop here,” he says. “These women must be stashing their Chanel somewhere.” For D.C. to grow its fashion culture, Siriano advocates more support for the arts.

“When you support the arts, you attract artistic people,” he says. “The kind of people who will attend runway shows.”

He says the city he grew up in, Annapolis, doesn’t figure much into his designs. “Even though I am inspired by places and architecture, it’s more like a fantasy,” he says. “Like my idea of a place.”

Siriano does keep a little piece of Annapolis on his person, in the form of a squid and octopus tattoo on his arm. The designer previously stated that they represented all Maryland sea life but later backed away from the statement.

He tells me that the tattoo was born one afternoon after flipping through a book on marine life at his friend’s house in Annapolis. “It was a sketch of a big octopus,” he says. “I said ok, let’s do it. That was it.” He figures the book belonged to his friend’s mother.

“When you live in Annapolis,” he explains, “that’s what you have on your shelves.”

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