What’s in a name?

Louisville designer tackles ‘Project Runway’

Fans of Lifetime’s fashion reality competition show “Project Runway” were so convinced that season 9 contestant — and Madison, Ind. native — Gunnar Deatherage had a made-up name that the designer was compelled to post his birth certificate on Facebook.

“I had to pull an Obama out of the bag,” said the edgy and elegant 21-year-old fashion upstart who has dressed some of Louisville’s most stylish ladies. “I didn’t expect for my name to be the big thing everyone would be talking about on the Internet this season.“

Deatherage was made to rule the Runway. The designer recently spoke to LEO about Internet infamy, his fashion future and the reality TV experience.

LEO: You are the most talked-about designer of the new season. What are some of the nastiest things people have said?

Gunnar Deatherage: I’m not really sure what a “douche bag” looks like, but I’ve been referred to as that a few times.

LEO: What character niche do you feel you filled on the show?

GD: People think I’m going to be the diva of the season. But I think I’m going to be the all-around small-town nice guy. I got along with everybody really well. I was also the baby of
the group.

LEO: Are you apprehensive about seeing yourself on TV?

GD: I’m a little nervous, just because I know there are so many people watching it. In the moment, you don’t really think about what you’re going to look like on television. It was a lot easier to forget about cameras being in my face than I thought it was going to be, because I was constantly thinking about something else at the time.

LEO: “Project Runway” is notorious for giving the designers tiny amounts of time to complete challenges. How did you deal with that?

GD: I always work under a very short amount of time. I’m a procrastinator. For one runway show I did in Louisville, I made 12 dresses in a week and a half.

LEO: What’s next for you?

GD: I’m looking at finding investors and starting my own warehouse in Kentucky. That way, my clothes can be made locally, provide jobs locally and be sold locally.

LEO: Has the reality of how far you’ve come sunk in yet?

GD: It’s very surreal. I’m extremely proud. I came from a very small town where this goal was nothing to anybody. It was always frowned upon. Now I have the mindset that nothing is impossible. I can do anything I want, I just have to find a way to do it. It’s nice to be 21 and doing what I love to do and have people wanting to wear my art. That’s the biggest compliment I could ask for.

LEO: If you had your own reality spin-off of “Project Runway,” what do you think it would be like?

GD: I’d call it “Designing Deatherage,” and it would be focused on me and my team. It would be a cross between “The Rachel Zoe Project” and “Flipping Out.”

Watch Deatherage when the new season of “Project Runway” premieres on Lifetime at 9 p.m. Thursday, July 28. You can also check out his work at www.deatheragedesigns.com.