The first time Ari South appeared on “Project Runway All Stars” in 2013, she was the first cast member to be eliminated. So when she agreed to return as part of the show’s sixth season, which premiered last week on Lifetime, South was determined to simply make it to the second episode.
“My goal for the first episode was to not go home,” she said Wednesday with a laugh. “It was such a contrast from (my experience during) the regular season of ‘Runway.’ To go home early, I wasn’t used to that.”
The Hawaii fashion designer finished third on Season 8 of the regular “Project Runway” series in 2010, when she was known as Andy South.
Nearly seven years after her original “Runway” stint — and now living as a transgender woman — South runs a clothing factory in Chinatown and produces her own brands of apparel and accessories for both men and women under the Andy South and Ari South labels. She said the national and international publicity that comes with “Runway” was another reason to return.
“At this point, for all of us who have been on the show before, to go back to ‘All-Stars’ is just another way that we can be visible,” she said. “As stressful as it is and as political as it can get, it’s still a lot of fun.
“We’re all designers who have gone through the same thing that no one else has gone through. And it’s just fun to see your fans excited about your work.”
The current season of “All Stars” is set up as “Rookies vs. Veterans,” with South assigned to the latter group. Although the Rookies won the first challenge, South’s design finished third overall and was named the best of her team’s by judges Georgina Chapman, Isaac Mizrahi and former contestant Michael Costello, who finished fourth behind South in 2010.
(Click here to watch a video clip of South’s design on “All Stars” last week.)
According to Lifetime, the challenge for this week’s second episode is to create “distressed fashion for a post-apocalyptic runway.”
South pointed out episodes airing this season were filmed quite some time ago, and loyal fans and social media followers noticed almost immediately.
“We filmed back in 2016, two summers ago,” she said. “It’s been almost two years, which is no secret, so a lot of us don’t look the same (as now). We don’t know if we’ll do a reunion episode this season, but the competition portion is all done.”
Besides her “All Stars” appearance this season, South plans to appear as a vendor at the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo in April, followed by a fashion show and pop-up shop at the Maoli Arts Month (MAMo) Wearable Arts Show at Hawaii Theatre on May 30 and May 31, and then a trip to Japan.
“We’ve been doing a lot of pop-ups recently because there’s so much demand,” she said. “And there are the fans who really miss the stuff I used to do, so it’s nice to kind of bring some of that back again, both on ‘All Stars’ and here at home.
“In the next month or so we’ll start to bring some of that stuff back. It’ll be a combination of everything I’ve done in the different phases of my career.”