Project Runway Season 14 finalist Candice Cuoco, an alumna of FIDM's Fashion Design Program, is the designer of House of CCUOCO, a women's collection that has been featured in ELLE UK and British Vogue. We recently caught up with the San Francisco native to chat about her FIDM days, filming the show, and why she always wears black.
How did you first hear about FIDM? I was a student at the Academy of Art when I heard of FIDM. I learned of the program and how tailored it was to what I needed in a design major. I had a fashion design background and wanted something that would get me through college fast so I could start my career. FIDM has a fast and intense program and I, like always, was up for the challenge.
How did FIDM help prepare you for the real world as a designer? FIDM helped ground me as a designer. One has to realize the obstacles you are going to face as a designer in the “real world.” There is this cross-pollination between fantasy and reality with designers. I myself still struggle with it. Paying close attention to designing for a real customer and making it commercial enough to sell without loosing your brand DNA or integrity was the most valuable lesson I learned.
Also, understanding your brand character inside and out helps your customer get to know and trust you. I also highly recommend as a designer going into his or her own business right out of college to take the Business Management Program after Fashion Design. There is no fashion without “the business of fashion.”
How does San Francisco inspire you and/or your designs? San Francisco is a very eclectic city with so many styles and personalities that leave me with an endless amount of inspiration. Mostly it’s the women in and from this city that have touched my soul and have driven many of my designs.
What made you decide to audition for Project Runway? I received an email asking if I would be interested in auditioning for Project Runway. My daughter, who is nine, was the first person I shared the news with. I was actually on the fence as to if I wanted to do it or not. My daughter got right on her little tippy toes and pointed her finger to my face and said, “I will be so disappointed in you if you don’t give this a chance, Mom.” At that moment I knew I was going.
Also, when you know what you want to do for the rest of your life, you are extremely confident as to where you are going and what you want your future to look like. I had all of my five and ten year goals lined up, but I knew, and I was right, that Project Runway would launch me there 10 years sooner.
What was the experience of filming the show like? The way I looked at it the whole entire time was this: I get to wake up, be taken well care of, design and complete only one garment in a day, have it critiqued by individuals like Zac Posen (who I would have killed for one critique in my whole life while in college) every week ,and have the materials and space provided with a possible award at the end of it--all while being shared with the world on national television. It was a dream come true. I grew exponentially as a woman and designer while being on that show.
Do you watch yourself on TV? I only wish I had the time. Most people don’t know this, but while designing my collection for NYFW on Project Runway, I was also designing my 32-look collection for London Fashion Week. We are now in buying season and already have moved onto my FW17 collection. I have two beautiful kids and also another small business on the side. Fashion is my life; I truly mean it when I say I live, eat, breathe, and sleep with my passion. It rules my life and I love it. People tell me to take a break and slow down but when you are in love with what you do, you don’t want to slow down.
You have have such a distinctive personal style. What inspires it? My style has evolved over years of listening to what others want to see me as. What you see today is a reaction to that--me pushing back saying, “I hear what you want me to be but I’m going to show you who I really am.” I enjoy black; it represents a dark past, one that I have flourished and grown tremendously from as a woman. I see it, not as a dark depressing color, but a very poetic one. Black has a story--my story. It very much is my comfort zone.
I feel beautiful in black, from my clothes to my hair, right down to my shoes. The only color I wear is the red stained on my lips. So the inspiration from my style comes from celebrating myself as a woman, the good and the bad, past, and future. I encourage all women to find what beauty means to them.
What advice would you give fellow FIDM Grads or current students who want to appear on a fashion competition series like Project Runway? Go in with a very open heart and a very open mind, but always, always stay true to who you are.
FIDM is hosting an exclusive Twitter Q&A with Candice this Thursday, October 29, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. PDT to celebrate the season finale of Project Runway. To participate, follow @FIDM and @HouseofCcuoco on Twitter and send questions now using #AskFIDMCandice. Then, check back on Thursday to see if she answered your question!
Watch Candice on Part 1 of the Season Finale of Project Runway Thursday at 9:00 p.m./8:00 p.m. on Lifetime.