A welcomed blast from the past, Project
Runway superstar, Nick Verreos (Season 2),
sits down with De Novo Magazine for an
About Nick (Courtesy of www.nikolakidesign.com):
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Nick Verreos
spent his childhood in beautiful Caracas,
Venezuela and was later raised in the San
Francisco Bay Area where he completed his
secondary education. After high school, Nick
went on to attend the University of California,
Los Angeles, where he received a Bachelor
of Arts in Political Science/International
Relations. He then decided to pursue his
first love, fashion. After UCLA, Nick attended
the Fashion Institute of Design and
Merchandising in Los Angeles (FIDM), where
he graduated Cum Laude from the Advanced
Fashion Design Program.
Moreno: Nick, let’s start at the beginning. Where did you grow up?
Verreos: I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, in South
America until I was 10 years old. Then my family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Moreno: What was your childhood like?
Verreos: It was wonderful. Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela in the late 60’s and early
70’s, pre-Hugo Chavez was very nice. My family was part of the “Diplomatic Corps” and
we were friends with all of the other Diplomats’ children; went to school with them, lived in
the same neighborhood, hung out at the private country clubs with them. Also, Venezuela
at that time was on the road to being the “Switzerland of South America” with all the oil
money coming in [with] the infrastructure and flooding the economy. But, as you know, all
that went to “hell and a hen basket” with Hugo Chavez! We left the country before all that.
Moreno: What did you parents do?
Verreos: My father was a US State Department Attaché/Diplomat when we lived in
Venezuela. My mom worked for Hilton Hotels. We traveled a lot as a result.
Moreno: What was your first job?
Verreos: It was my junior year in high school. I was living in the States by then. I had just
returned from a trip to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, which my parents gave me as
an “early Graduation Gift,” and it was still only July and I had 2 months before returning to
school. So my mom dragged me to Macy’s to apply. I got the job and ended up working
for the next 3 years there as a sales associate.
Moreno: At what age did you encounter your interest in fashion?
Verreos: I think my interest in fashion sparked since I was very young. At first, I loved
drawing and became quite proficient at it. I loved drawing airplanes (since we traveled a
lot) and then that progressed into drawing the flight attendants and their uniforms. Let’s
just say my designs had big hats and bigger shoulder pads!
Then I turned my design/sketching skills to coming up with my own “collections” that I
would sketch as a young twelve year old and (bless her heart), my mom has all my
drawing notebooks to prove it!
Moreno: Outside fashion, what are some of your other interests?
Verreos: I love international politics and geography. My major at UCLA was political
science/international relations and I minored in Geography, so I am always watching BBC
World News and keeping up on all that is going on around the world.
I also have an unusual fascination with airplanes and airline cabins. Maybe in my past
life, I would have liked to have been either an airline cabin interior designer or a flight
attendant! Go figure.
Moreno: If you don’t mind sharing, so we can get to know you better, can you
share with us a moment, both happy and sad, in your life that has made an
impact on you?
Verreos: I have to say that one of the happiest moments in my life, so far, was getting
onto Project Runway. I tried out just to shut my friends up and to just say “I did it,” but
really never expected to be cast and didn’t think of what would I do if that occurred. I came
out of there screaming like a girl who had gotten the prettiest Barbie for Christmas and I
remembered walking around on “cloud nine” for several days after that.
In terms of a sad moment, one of the saddest was the death of my dear Grandmother,
whom I called “Mamaita”, which is a hybrid of “Mama” and “Abuelita”, which translates to
“Mom” and “Grandma”. I grew up with her and she helped raise me until her death. She
was out of the country when she passed away and I never got to say goodbye; my family
decided it would be way too painful for me to attend her funeral.
Moreno: Before Project Runway, what were you up to?
Verreos: I was designing my line, NIKOLAKI, which I began back in 2001 with my partner,
David Paul, and teaching at FIDM here in Los Angeles, CA. I was having a great time
juggling both and finally gaining respect and admiration from my students and local
Moreno: Tell me about Project Runway, what was it like on the show?
Verreos: It was a crazy and exciting experience, to say the least. Beside what I watched
on Season One, I did not know what to expect. From the moment we arrived in NY, we
were sequestered, phones, ipods, walkmans, computers, were all taken away and we
were confined to the Parsons workroom and then the Atlas Apartments as our sleeping
quarters. We worked and filmed nonstop. We rarely got any free time. The cameras
woke us up at 6 AM (sometimes earlier) and followed our every move until we said
“goodnight” at around 1 or 2 AM. Try that for 4 weeks! Frankly, I didn’t mind it. I wasn’t
there for a “Four Seasons Spa” vacation. That’s not why I signed up to do Project
Runway. I guess you go into some kind of adrenaline rush the whole time you are there.
Moreno: What did you make of the judges?
Verreos: They were nice and cordial. We did not interact with them outside of what the
viewers got to see on the show. When we sat down before the runway shows, they would
bring the judges in, we would say “hello” and that was it. It was interesting to watch the
show and see what they were really saying about us while we were waiting for who was
“In” and who was “Out,” since we were never privy to their conversations.
Moreno: How wonderful is Tim
Gunn? Do you have any Tim Gunn
stories you can share with us?
Verreos: Tim Gunn was a delight to
work with. Since I also come from the
world of academia, I have profound
respect for him. I also wanted to show
reverence to him so my students could
see how one is supposed to treat their
instructor. But we also had fun “girl
talk” time on and off camera.
Especially when Santino and I would come up with our songs, or discuss Tim and Andrae
going to Red Lobster—all that made him feel more as “one of us” as opposed to this older
respected Dean of a rarefied design institution. One of the funniest off camera moments
involved is what he said in regard to finding out that one of the recently kicked off
designers had been hiding muslin under her table and stashing her form away, while on
camera, she would yell and scream about “Who took my form and muslin!!” I cannot
repeat what he said but trust me, the Diva Tim Gunn claws came out! It was hilarious.
Moreno: Were there any scenes that were filmed that didn’t make it on the show
that you would like to share?
Verreos: There were several, but two that stand out is the interaction between one of the
designers, Raymundo Baltazar and I. We both speak fluent Spanish, so early on we
would converse in this hilarious “Spanglish” or just Spanish and joked that the editors
would have to put subtitles for us. We joked that viewers would tune in and be confused,
thinking they were watching Univision or Telemundo! Also, there are some great moments
that did make it on the Season 2 DVD which did not air on the show, such as the “Michael
Kors Show” we did back at our apartment one night. Watch it, it was quite funny.
Moreno: Outside your fabulous ensembles you created, fans embraced you for
your fun-loving attitude. How has the show changed your life?
Verreos: I am so happy that the show portrayed me as I am. I did not play a “character”
or pretended to be the villain or whatever else some of these reality show people do
nowadays. So when people stop me on the street, at airports, hotels, restaurants and say
“Oh my God, Nick, can I just hug you!” I love that. For me, my appearance on the show
was a way to begin “branding” myself to a wider audience, outside of the Los Angeles
bubble, and it has done that. I never thought that I could have a “side-job” as a fashion
expert giving my own commentary, but I really enjoy it. As somebody who has studied
fashion, teaches it and is a fashion designer, it sometimes annoyed me when I would see
those so-called fashion experts giving their opinions on TV when in actuality, besides
having a great agent from a high-powered Hollywood agency, their resume has nothing to
do with fashion.
Moreno: Do you keep in touch with anyone from the show? If so, who?
Verreos: I do keep in touch with a lot of them. I instantly bonded with John Wade, as well
as Raymundo Baltazar. So we have developed a great friendship that will last a lifetime, I
believe. I also keep in touch with Andrae Gonzalo. He is also an Instructor at FIDM and
comes over to my place to watch the weekly episodes of the Fourth Season of Project
Runway. I’ve remained close with Daniel Vosovic and speak with Chloe Dao (Season 2
Winner) almost every other week to “catch up”. Also, Emmett McCarthy, who owns a
fabulous boutique in NY that carried my line last year.
Moreno: Tell me about your fashion career post PR?
Verreos: I was happy to get an exclusive deal with Windsor Stores, which has about 50
retail locations across the US, and did a “Nick Verreos for Windsor Prom Dress” line for
the 2007 Prom Season. I was also asked to be part of the “Glam Squad” for MSN.com and
be one of their “fashion experts” for 2007-2008. I also just showed my Spring 2008
Collection at a fabulous event hosted by W Hotels here in Southern California as a
precursor to LA Fashion Week. I also have designed several red carpet gowns for E!
Entertainment’s Debbie Matenopoulos, last year’s Miss California, Meagan Tandy (who
wore my gown at the Miss USA pageant and it was seen by over 2 million viewers.) and
Access Hollywood’s Nancy O’Dell, who hosted Miss Universe wearing my gown.
Moreno: On the show, who were you a fan of?
Verreos: I loved Chloe Dao’s designs, and especially her final Bryant Park Collection. I
also liked Daniel Vosovic’s designs. His designs showed maturity, especially for being so
Moreno: Which fashion designers do you like on the current season?
Verreos: Rami Kashou is one of my favorites. He is a designer here in LA and I have
followed his career for a long time so I was happy to see him on the show, knowing how
talented he was. He’s got wicked skills with draping. I also like Christian’s designs so far.
He has this Alexander McQueen-like affinity with tailoring, far beyond his young years.
His attitude though, can be a little too bitchy—even for me.
Moreno: Any message to your fans and the creators of Blogging Project Runway?
Verreos: Oh my God! I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Where would I be without
Blogging Project Runway? They are amazing. And my fans are so great, so supportive,
always wanting to know what I am up to, when I am doing my next line, etc. I would love to
thank them from the bottom of my “Uncle Nick” heart for all their outstanding support,
even through two other seasons. Trust me, a lot of people around me told me “You only
have 13 minutes left on your fifteen minutes…” and here I am TWO YEARS later. It’s
thanks to them.
Moreno: What do you Google?
Verreos: Everything. That and Wikipedia are addictions of mine.
Moreno: For all you fans that adore your fashion sense, tell us what you’re
wearing right now . . .
Verreos: I would like to say that when I started these questions days ago I was rather chic:
I was wearing a Zara dress shirt, a Gucci leather belt, my Levi’s Capitol E skinny jeans
and my H & M boots. But, I ended the interview wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt, my
Abercrombie cargo shorts, a Western-buckle belt and flip flops! More comfy than chic.
Special thanks to Nick Verreos.