Joe Aaron Segal and the lessons of ‘Project Runway’

Joe Aaron Segal (above) and his World of JAS fashions (below).
Daniel Gagnon Photography (above); World of JAS photos (below)
Joe Aaron Segal (above) and his World of JAS fashions (below).

Joe Aaron Segal, 31, is a fashion designer and former contestant on Lifetime’s “Project Runway” Season 11. The Framingham native, who made his departure from the show on Feb. 14, owns the clothing lines World of JAS and Pretty Snake. And while he’s no longer competing in the fashion reality show, the avant-garde designer — known for wraparound body scarves and cutout leggings — will be showing his newest collection for “World of JAS” at The W Hotel in Boston on March 23.

Q. What was your biggest take-away lesson from being on “Project Runway?”

A. I think I realized how important it is to consider your audience. You need to have a balance of things that can appeal to a variety of people instead of just one specific group in order to be successful. Sometimes I feel like maybe I go too far into my own world and forget the necessity of “commerciality” because at the end of the day, I do need to make a living off of doing what I do, and the show taught me how to achieve that balance. It was a harsh lesson but it was something that I needed to learn.


Q. This season is the first season that the show has had teams. What was that experience like?

World of JAS
Segal designed polka dress.
Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

A. The team thing was really hard for me, to be honest. It felt a little contradictory that we would work as a team, and then one person would win and one person would lose. I felt like if you knew your whole team would reap the benefits of winning, it would have encouraged people to work together more, so I didn’t really get the logic behind that.

Q. You mentioned on the show that it didn’t seem practical to make a cocktail dress when it’s freezing outside. How much has the New England weather and culture influenced your styles and designs?

A. I do make a lot of outerwear, which definitely comes from the fact that I grew up in New England, but I think it’s also because I love knitting as a medium. With knitting, you can design the fabric and the structure, and choose color and pattern, and I love that, which is why I decided to make that sweater dress [in the fourth episode].

Q. When you say knitting, do you mean the traditional knitting with two needles? Or knit fabrics?


A. I actually knit my own fabrics using a knitting machine. It’s kind of like you move a carriage across the needle bed and that makes a row of knitting. You can hand-manipulate the stitches while you’re working and change the colors. You’re assisted by a machine, but you’re not reliant on it.

World of JAS
Segal designed orange dress.

Q. Let’s talk about your collections. Are there certain elements or themes that each collection embodies?

A. I’ve done three major collections and then a bunch of little ones. For each big one, they’re inspired by a specific subject matter and technique. I’m really interested in technique and how that affects how I make things. I was at RISD — I did my collection called “Undomesticated.” I used the Harvard Museum of Natural History as an inspiration, with the room of glass flowers and the mineral collections there. I was looking at the way the minerals grow and how, for me, they seem totally uncontrolled as to how they grow, but there’s this organic kind of order in the way that they appear. In that collection, there’s a calculated, deconstructed type look that I was really inspired by. I figured out how to grow crystals on fabric. That was the inner scientist in me, which comes from my dad, who is an engineer and always building these crazy things.

Q. How is Pretty Snake different than World of JAS?

A. Pretty Snake basically started with this cat sweater I made, which has outshined everything I’ve ever done . . . which is kind of annoying. That line is always evolving and it’s sort of like an instant gratifier for me. If I make something new, I can try it out through that line and see how people respond to it. World of JAS is where I can work on a lot of higher-end collections.


Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your show in March and what collection you’ll be showing?

A. I am going to show a new collection that doesn’t have a title yet, but it’s going to a combination of what I do for “Pretty Snake” but with the more sophistication but less elaborate than some of my “World of JAS” collections. It embodies a range of both of those, which I think I was able to achieve after being on “Project Runway,” like I said before. I think I’ve learned how to apply the balance of staying true to myself but still reaching multiple audiences in this collection.

Erica Thompson can be reached at