If you love fashion, drama and crazy design competitions, Design Genius is your ultimate fashion entertainment destination! With season 3 having taken place in L.A., one of the fashion capitals of the world, we knew that we were in for some truly unique designs from some pretty vibrant and at times, clashing personalities. One such unique designer rose to the top of the competition and came out victorious with that $10,000 prize, and it was none other than the charming and spunky Rachel “Ra Ra” Carlson, fashion designer and couturier of her very own label Rachelle Apelle. We’ve caught up with Ra Ra to see how life and her career have been since her appearance on the show, and we weren’t surprised with how productive and busy she’s been.
Check out the full interview with Design Genius L.A. winner Rachel Carlson down below!
How did you come to learn about Design Genius?
I learned about Design Genius through a friend. He told me I should audition because I would be perfect for it.
What was the casting or auditioning process like?
I sent a 90 second video of myself to the casting directors talking about why I should be on Design Genius that I made on New Years Eve right before I was about to go out and party to ring in 2016. I was contacted two months later that I was a finalist for the show.
Did you always dream of working in the fashion and industry?
Yes, I learned how to sew when I was 7 and started designing my own clothes at 11. Fashion has always been in my blood. Then I went to college for fashion design and was able to study and intern in couture design in Paris and then Amsterdam. Now I work mostly in costume design and costume creation for the entertainment industry in Hollywood. It has been an amazing journey.
Those time restraints on each challenge were crazy, especially for the accessories! How did you manage your time while maintaining your focus on your work?
This was always a challenge and was different for every day. For some challenges the materials they gave us instantly got my creative juices flowing, so it was easy to know pretty much exactly what I wanted to make. During those challenges, time wasn’t really that much of an issue. Other times when I wasn’t feeling inspired, I just had to push through and hope for the best. I never really held on too hard to my design choices because I viewed everything as always a work in progress. This helped me to not get too mad if the judges didn’t really like my work.
How did you come up with ideas so quickly when you or your partners didn’t know what kind of crazy materials would be used for each challenge?
Kind of the same answer as above. You just have to be fluid in your design sense. I would start draping the materials on the mannequin and see what forms came to me. If things didn’t work in the first 30 minutes or so I’d change my idea right away instead of holding onto something that wasn’t working. There wasn’t time for that.
The judges could be quite harsh and dramatic at times. What was it like interacting with them during your critiques?
I really tried to take their critiques as a way to help me grow. Instead of acting like they didn’t know what they were talking about, I took their criticism as a way to make my work even better. They helped me find a strength in myself that I didn’t even quite knew I had before.
Had you ever worked under such pressure or deadlines before participating on Design Genius?
I work under a lot of tight deadlines working in the entertainment industry. These were definitely some of the shortest deadlines ever, though. I really surprised myself in what I was able to create in such a short amount of time!
What were the best and worst moments for you during the show?
The best moment was creating the outfit with Juggernaut. I think our piece was absolutely gorgeous! I wish we could have kept it. The worst moment was when I lost my cool with Stacey. I was really angry that Ginger was cut because I don’t think it was fair. Ginger was a far better designer than Stacey, but I don’t think it was ok how I treated her. It wasn’t her fault.
How was it working in teams of 2 or 3 versus working on your own?
I loved working in teams. I especially loved working with Juggernaut because I think we just have an instant design connection and we knew what we wanted to create together without having to say much. We also just trusted each other instantly. I also loved working with Ngozika and Juggernaut together, too. I think it just took longer for the three of us to trust each other and by that time in the competition the stress level was super high. Together, though, we pulled off a gorgeous ensemble!
Finally, congratulations on coming out the winner of Design Genius L.A.! How have things been since winning and what are your plans for the future?
Things have been a bit of a whirlwind for me since winning the competition. With the award money I produced a fashion show for L.A. Fashion Week in October and launched my couture women’s collection called Rachelle Appelle. I invited Ngozika, Juggernaut, Ginger and Ryan to show their collections in the show as well. It was a really beautiful show. All of our collections were so different and that made the show super dynamic. I really loved that I got to meet all of them on the show and I can’t wait to produce more work with them.