Get ready for some clothes encounters of the global kind. Netflix’s reality competition Next in Fashion pits designers from around the world against each other to see who’ll win $250,000 and a chance to debut their collection on the website Net-a-Porter.
Hosted by Alexa Chung and Queer Eye’s Tan France, the show features one Canadian: Charles Lu, a 27-year-old from Hamilton. Lu spoke with Postmedia about his time on the series.
Q: Your parents wanted you to be a doctor — how did you settle into fashion?
A: I was always that person who wanted to understand how to make something. I studied in London at age 18, but I knew how to sew before then. I did bridesmaid dresses; I did my sister’s wedding gown. But I got more formal training in London and Dubai.
Q: You were paired with Angelo, whom you’d never met before. How did you two bond?
A: Before we taped the show, we’d speak on WhatsApp and Skype but the connection wasn’t great. I didn’t know if our dynamic would translate, but after I met him our energy just synced up immediately.
Q: How did you deal with the challenges week to week?
A: You walk in, you don’t know what to expect and you have to rise to the occasion each time. There’s barely time to think and process. One of the biggest challenges was just finding the energy and focus and motivation to continue each day. There were moments when it was exhausting and I didn’t know if I could continue. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, sewing that much on that scale.
Q: What piece are you most proud of?
A: I like to associate clothing with memories, more so than the design itself. So I think the first piece set the tone for how I was going to work on the show with my partner. It validated me because I thought I was crazy. I was the only one on the show who didn’t have their own brand. So after that, I was like, “Maybe this is where I’m supposed to be. Maybe I am a decent designer.”
“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, sewing that much on that scale.”
Q: Did you have a gameplay strategy?
A: My face is so expressive and I’m a very bad liar. The only thing I could do was honestly be myself. My main goal wasn’t even winning. I just wanted to show my work and what I was capable of doing, and the response that came along with it was just a plus.
Q: What was the vibe in the workroom like?
A: There were some contestants who never raised their voices and were so calm. Meanwhile, I was the one screaming the whole time. I fully admit that. When I’m put in a situation and I can’t control everything, I’m sorry but that is who comes out. He’s not always pretty, but he’s going to get his s— done.
Q: Who were your biggest competitors?
A: I never viewed anyone as someone I had to beat. I respect all these contestants; it’s who I am as a person and how I was raised. And fashion design is so subjective — who am I to say who’s right and who’s wrong?
That said, I really loved Angel (Chen) and Minju (Kim). Both of them cut fabric in a way I’ve never seen before. They just have a really good, beautiful energy and their designs resonate in such an emotional way with me.
Q: What was the biggest thing you learned from the show?
A: I learned a lot about myself. It really tests you as an individual and how much you can take. It tests your honesty, your patience. At the end of the day, design is completely personal. Whether you choose to make a line go horizontal or lean to the left, that’s a choice. That small, little choice reflects what you believe in and your personality.
Next in Fashion is now streaming on Netflix