‘Runway’ Alum Korto Momolu Tells It Like It Is

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The Project Runway Fan Favorite dishes on Michael Kors, the dressing room blues, and what New York could learn from Southern style. Read on for Nancy Upton’s candid interview.



Korto Momolu hasn’t slowed down since winning the title of Fan Favorite and taking first runner-up honors on Project Runway Season 5. Just last week, the Little Rock-based clothing and accessories designer hosted the Designers Choice Fashion Preview at the Dallas Trade Mart, benefitting the Genesis Women’s Shelter.


That evening, DFW Style Daily was treated to a sneak peek at Korto’s stunning Spring 2012 line. We also sat down for a revealing chat, learning why she couldn’t care less about saying the right thing, carrying the right bag, or living in the midst of fashion chaos.



DFW Style Daily: You grew up in Liberia, studied fashion design in Canada, and are now based in Arkansas. A lot of young artists believe they need to be based in New York or L.A. to become successful – do you believe that to be true?


Korto Momolu: It’s still the mentality of many people. When I tell people I live in Little Rock, they ask me, ‘Why?’


There’s a trillion designers in New York, so the struggles are still going to be the same if you’re there. The thing about it is, it’s a frame of mind. It’s maturity. When I got older, I got more comfortable in my situation. I got married, I had a daughter, and that became the priority for me – making my family stable. There’s always a plane that flies out of your city that goes to New York, so you can get fabric for Fashion Week, you can go to events. [In my downtime], I like to breathe and live in a house with a backyard, and not be in the chaos. As you grow older, you realize it’s not where you’re at, it’s where your mind is.


There’s a lot of fluidity in your pieces. Is that something that evolved naturally or did you plan it that way?


I think, naturally. My very first collection from design school was very flowing, it was silk. I’ve always had a love for silk, and that’s how I am – I’m very easy-going. If I had to relate to anything, it would be water. [I’m] smooth, but I can get rough and dangerous. As a woman, I think we like something comfortable, and flow usually equals comfort.


During your season of Project Runway, you talked about designing for real women, as opposed to a standard fashion model. Has there been resistance to this philosophy?


It’s not the popular thing to say in fashion! A lot of my clothes look good on a woman who is a size two, but if you are curvier, you can wear them, too. That’s my main point. They accentuate what you have, and still make you look beautiful.


I’ve gone into that changing room, and tried something on that I wanted to wear so badly, but it doesn’t fit. Your self-esteem starts going down. I want women to put my clothes on and feel beautiful.



Do you think Project Runway highlights that aspect of the fashion world, when it comes to size?


Absolutely. You hear Michael Kors say things like, ‘Oh, you can find that in a mall!’ He’s in every mall in America.


Don’t try to make it bigger than it really is – it’s fashion. People who go to the mall still buy fashion. Designers feel like only certain people can be fashionable, but you can be fashionable in middle America, New York, Liberia – wherever.


What do you think about Dallas’ style?


I love it. Dallas is always evolving. Every time I come here, there’s construction and growth. A lot of cities can benefit from what you are doing here. People are starting to notice and respect the South. We have our own style, we stand by it, and it’s unique. It’s not like New York where it has to be that shoe or that bag. You can be yourself here.


Images feature the Korto Momolu Spring 2012 Collection. Visit KortoMomolu.com for more information.


(Lead image, credit Sylvia Elzafon for DFW Style Daily)

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