The last knitwear designer to appear on “Project Runway,” season six stitcher Gordana Gehlhausen, didn’t take home the $100,000 prize or the additional spoils that come with reaching the top of the fashion reality show heap. But she did place in the final four and returned for another chance to win the top prize in “Project Runway: All Stars” (she failed to win “All Stars” as well).
Enter Joseph Aaron Segal. The Framingham native, who now lives in Providence, is hoping that his knitwear expertise will take him slightly further than Gehlhausen on “Project Runway.” Segal, an adjunct professor at Rhode Island School of Design, creates fashion under the monikers JAS and Pretty Snake. He will appear on Season 11 of “Project Runway,” which starts Jan. 24 (also Segal’s 31st birthday), on Lifetime.
Q. How do you think being a knitwear designer sets you apart from other contestants?
A. I think it gives me an opportunity to look for fabrics that aren’t as commonly used on the show. I’m used to designing my things from creating the textile all the way up to making the finished garment. It helps me look for fabrics that are able to be manipulated.
Q. Obviously you don’t get a chance to do much knitting on the show. Is that frustrating for you?
A. There are so many challenges doing knitwear in the real world that it can be more difficult than cut and sew. I’m trying to figure out how to express myself in sewing rather than knitting. It’s something that I wanted to do, and needed to do, for years.
Q. Some of the deconstructed clothes you create for your JAS line have a very scary vibe with holes and tears. Are you a destructive fellow?
A. I would say it’s post-apocalyptic. It’s not really that I’m designing something that has anything to do with an apocalypse. The challenge for me is to take something that’s totally unrelated to fashion and turn it into a garment.
Q. I need to talk to you a bit about cats. The majority of the pieces under your Pretty Snake label are feline-related. Do you have an inner crazy cat lady?
A. Cats are definitely a recurring theme in my work. I love the mystical attributes of cats, their place in history in folklore and in the occult, and the idea of the cat lady. That’s why I love cats. But when it comes to actual cats, I don’t have any, although I do like hanging out with them.
Q. True or false: Your work is inspired by weekly trips to the Natick Mall as a child.
A. Definitely false. I don’t think I ever fit into Framingham. I’ve always been a creative type and really crafty. When I was looking through family pictures for the show, my mom had all of these pictures of me with all my different craft projects. It took me a while to figure out that textile and fashion design was the way for me to do all the different kind of material exploration that I’m interested in, and do something that might be career oriented.
Q. Is there a specific New England aesthetic that you’re bringing to the show?
A. I think there is a New England aesthetic, but I personally don’t think I have that New England aesthetic. I feel like my work isn’t as saleable in New England as it is in other places, just because of my uninhibited use of color and really eccentric form. That’s something that I don’t find as common in New England.Christopher Muther can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther