Walking into SCREEN, theWit Chicago’s private screening room, last Thursday, July 18, I was greeted by plush chairs and couches, the smell of popcorn and a buzz of excitement. The private screening, filled with the mystery designer’s friends and family, celebrated the season premiere of Project Runway season 12, but it also promised to reveal a Chicago designer who might be making a comeback on the show.
The news was kept quiet until the show started. Within the first ten minutes of the show, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn announced that they would be expanding the group of designers. The show’s fans were asked to choose a designer from a past season to come back and give the competition another try. As an airplane lowered onto the runway, the audience at SCREEN clapped and laughed in excitement. The audience applause grew louder when Chicago designer Kate Pankoke‘s face was revealed through the airplane window.
Kate is the creative director and owner of Elaya Vaughn, a bridal design house in Chicago that produces its gowns locally. She is also a Chicago Fashion Incubator Designer in Residence and a member of the 2013 Crain’s Business 20 in their 20s.
During the commercial breaks throughout the show, Kate was there and answered the audience’s questions and asked the audience trivia questions. Audience members who answered correctly got a free shirt to commemorate the occasion. Kate talked about the other contestants this season, what it was like to live in a hotel with those contestants, and why she was so adamant to grab that yellow parachute (She knew her design would be “girly,” so she wanted a color that wasn’t very girly).
Kate is excited about this new season because she feels that she will be able to show the judges who she is as a designer, which was difficult with season 11’s team format. Asked how she felt about getting voted off during season 11 and coming back this season, Kate answered, “Everything happens for a reason. Two seasons are better than one!”
See Kate’s designs at Elaya Vaughn Bridal.
– Tanisha Wallis
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