Is She In or Out?
Chloe Dao, a self proclaimed "Asian one-woman sweatshop" has come a long way since her journey to the United States. Born in Laos, her parents immigrated to the United States when Chloe was just seven years old and settled in Houston, Texas. In 1992, Chloe left for New York to study pattern making at the Fashion Institute of Technology and to pursue her dream of some day having a runway show at 7th on Sixth during Fashion Week. Now she just might get the chance. The top three designers will show their collection on February 10th at the tents in Bryant Park in New York City. ASIANCE Magazine spoke with Chloe on the most amazing experiences in her life, 15 minutes of fame and her future plans if she does not win Project Runway.
... for a fashion show I do EVERYTHING! I call it a sweatshop because there is no Central AC yet.
ASIANCE: Tell us about your voyage to the United States.Chloe: My whole family came to the United States in 1978. All the 8 girls were born in Laos. The communist thing was happening. My parents actually hired some people to help us escape. Of course, they took all our money. They took everything but our shoes. My mom and my dad were actually shoe makers. So they were smart enough to hide the rest of their money in their sandals. So thank god they put the money in there. We were in refugee camp for awhile then a church sponsored us over to the United States about two years later. We were in Dallas for a few years, and then moved to Houston, Texas.
ASIANCE: You say you are an "Asian one-woman sweatshop." Is it still only you?Chloe: It's mostly me. My mom helps me sometimes. It's still just me. I cut. I do the pattern. I do the grading. My aunt actually helps me sew when I make production, which is like a joke because it's only 6 or 7 pieces per design. But for a fashion show I do EVERYTHING! I call it a sweatshop because there is no Central AC yet. (laughs)
ASIANCE: How would you describe your design style?Chloe: I would call it classic trendy. I don't like to make
ASIANCE: Who did you get along with on the show?Chloe: I got along with a lot of people. Emmett was actually one of my closest friends on the show. The tallest and the shortest get along very well. I don't know how we had a conversation walking. Diana and I got along really really well. She was my roommate. They kept trying to make us like sisters and then at the end of the whole thing, we said, "Yeah we are like sisters!" Also, I was close with Daniel Vosovic too. Zulema and I got along well. She became my roommate a little bit later. But pretty much just Diana and Emmett.
ASIANCE: Whose style besides your own did you love?Chloe: In the beginning, after the first two episodes, I really thought Santino was an amazing designer. I also loved Nick and Zulema too. I have to say Daniel Vosovic's I really like the most because it's very similar to my philosophy and design. You really have to think about the woman you are designing for. He has always thought about that based on the challenges.
ASIANCE: Did you get use to the cameras?Chloe: I don't know how people can say they forget it's there. They have to be lying. It's not just the camera man. It's a sound guy too. Unless you are on drugs how can you not see the guy in front of you? I did get use to it in a sense that it was a reality show that I was going into. I just thought "screw it". I'm just going to be myself. I didn't forget the camera was there. I really wanted to show the camera who I was and not edit myself.
ASIANCE: Do you think they edit in order to make people look a certain way?Chloe: I'm really glad you asked that question. I read things where they say it's all editing. It's not editing at all. Santino is the way he is. Sometimes worse, sometimes nicer. We all have weak, strong moments. It's like life and telling the people who I am close to that it is really true what
I was a bitch in lingerie. I'm not going to deny it. Daniel Franco was killing me. We didn't see the part where we were busting out laughing at 11:30pm saying this is crazy. We didn't take ourselves too seriously at the end of the lingerie challenge. We were just going to laugh it off because with Daniel Franco you have to go along for the ride.
ASIANCE: Well at the lingerie competition Daniel seemed to get you emotional. He made you cry.Chloe: Yes I was crying. He was crying. Oh I have to clear something. After that challenge when I said, "It's better to be a good person, than a great designer". I did not mean Daniel Franco "You suck", I meant Santino "You suck as a person." That was my way of saying Santino sucks as a person.
Having said that, we all really got along but at the same time this is a competition. We were all really there to compete with each other and compete with ourselves also. It just sucked when someone kept thinking he was better than all of us all the time. We never felt that way.
For example, I told Zulema her skating gown was perfection. We always told each other, "I think you should win." "I think you should win." Santino was the only one who thought he should win all the time. It's human. I'm sorry; you can't be great all the time.
ASIANCE: The judges seemed to pick up on Santino's attitude. He fights with Nina. Heidi said she could see him going home at one point.Chloe: He's still a great designer... .crazy, but talented. You can't insult his work otherwise it brings out the devil in him.
ASIANCE: What are your long term plans?Chloe: I'm taking it one day at a time. I'm on the show and I'm getting a lot of press. I believe in the whole 15 minutes of fame. I'm on a reality TV show. I'm not a celebrity.
I'm going to continue what I'm doing. We are expanding just because we were expanding before. I'm not basing anything on Project Runway. If it brings more opportunity great, if it doesn't... . I already believe I'm a pretty lucky girl. I have my dream job. Just continue doing what I'm doing. Live my life.
ASIANCE: Do you get recognized now?Chloe: Some people do. I've been so behind on work. I've been in my sweatshop. But yesterday I went out to a party. Some people recognized me. Honestly I think all Asian people look alike. I know that is a horrible thing to say. I'm a short Asian girl and there are tons of us. They are actually beginning to recognize me. I'm in Houston and there are a ton of us that look like me.
ASIANCE: Who did you like last season?Chloe: I thought Kevin John was extremely talented. I wish he was in the top 3 because I would love to see what he brings about. I loved Kara Saun and I love Jay.
ASIANCE: What about Wendy?Chloe: I didn't think she had style. But she does have her own market. It's not what I would do but she definitely has a business that provides to that taste.
ASIANCE: Any Asian designers you admire?Chloe: I LOVE Peter Som. United Bamboo. They are 2 Asian designers. I think they are very good. Vera Wang, but she's got too much money already! (laughs) I love her bridal more than her ready-to-wear stuff. I hate to say her name because she is so big. Paul Chan. His company name is Chanpaul.
I love Alexander McQueen. I love the way he represents his clothes. Carolina Herrera. Diane von Furstenberg. I love that kind of wearabilty. I'm between theatrical clothing (clothing you can't wear on the street) to clothes you can actually wear. I appreciate that.