WKU grad competes on Lifetime TV’s ‘Project Runway’
By JENNA MINK, The Daily News
Monday, August 8, 2011 11:39 AM CDT
On ‘Project Runway’
When Laura Planck was taking design classes at Western Kentucky University, Cindy Jones gave her a T-shirt, a pair of scissors, some safety pins and 20 minutes to create an outfit.
Jones didn’t know it at the time, but the exercise was good practice for Planck’s role on a national TV show that doubles as a fashion design competition.
Planck, a WKU alumna, is competing on Lifetime TV’s “Project Runway,” a reality show that pits amateur designers against one another, giving them bizarre design tasks to complete in order to stay on the show.
Each week, a panel of judges, including model Heidi Klum, sends at least one designer home. The contestants have made high-fashion garments from trash bags, bridesmaid dresses and their own pajamas. Planck is competing against 20 other designers, and the last designer standing gets $100,000 to start his or her own fashion line, and that designer’s creations will be featured in Elle magazine.
But it’s a goal that Planck was pursuing before she landed a spot on the popular show. She started her own label, Laura Kathleen, which is based in St. Louis, where she lives. Her designs have been featured on a few St. Louis runways, and Jones recently took some students to one of Planck’s shows.
“She’s passionate about fashion,” said Jones, an instructor in the design, merchandising and textiles program. “People who are fashion majors take grief from people, but she could always defend the fact that she loves fashion.”
Jones taught Planck for four years while she was at WKU. In 2007, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in design, merchandising and textiles. Planck applied a few times to be on the show and, one time, show producers called Jones seeking a reference for Planck.
“She was one of those students who was such a hard worker ... some people have it, whatever it is,” she said. “She was one of those students.”
Planck began sewing at the age of 8, and the first garment she made was a pair of pajamas, according to a “Project Runway” questionnaire.
While at WKU, Planck interned in New York City, Jones said, and she also studied at Accademia Italiana in Italy, according to her website, laurakathleen.com.
“Not a lot of our students were ambitious or courageous or brave enough to intern in New York, but she did,” Jones said.
Planck was a WKU cheerleader and a member of the Kappa Delta sorority. One of her former sorority sisters, Stacey Forsythe, remembers her as “an extremely smart and hard-working person.”
In fact, the show doesn’t necessarily depict the person that Jones remembers. The show portrays her as a diva, and while Planck always liked high-priced, designer accessories, “I don’t remember her being a brassy, sassy diva,” Jones said.
“She always had so much self-confidence, but I found her to be helpful and nurturing to other students,” Jones said, adding that Planck would make all the costumes for her sorority’s spring fling.
A majority of Jones’ students do not pursue high fashion. Most design garments for manufacturers, such as Fruit of the Loom, but Planck always insisted that she wanted to take the avant-garde route, Jones said.
The summer after Jones assigned the T-shirt project, Planck returned to school with 50 different fashion garments she had made from T-shirts.
“That’s the kind of students Laura was. She had drive,” Jones said.
Planck’s ambition and personality will take her far on the show and in the world of fashion, Jones said.
“It takes a lot of perseverance. What looks just OK this year might have been dynamite last year,” Jones said. “It’s a very fast-paced, stressful type of job, and Laura’s suited for that.”
“Project Runway” airs at 8 p.m. Thursdays.