Hester Sunshine spent her adolescence in Santa Fe and moved to New York to pursue her passion for fashion. Now her "colorful clown couture with a vintage punk rock edge" is challenging norms on the latest season of the competition reality show Project Runway, which returns to Bravo on Thursday March 14 with a whole new cast of judges, including designer Brandon Maxwell and supermodel Karlie Kloss.
I like to create whimsical, intellectual garments that tell a story and also make the wearer feel transported. I like to make things that create a new fantasy for the wearer and for the viewer. Some of my biggest inspirations are fashion from the early '90s. I grew up being what I thought was super punk rock as a teenager in Santa Fe, but also creating my own interpretation of that identity and my own understanding of what it means to be alternative. I guess my aesthetic is about standing out and being different and not subscribing to any subculture in particular. I have a lot of punk rock influences, I have a lot of vintage influences in my style, but I try to kind of tie that all together with a clowny cheerfulness and playfulness. I like to create things that make people smile.
Is it challenging coming onto season 16 of Project Runway as a self-described "fashion outsider?"
To be honest, I actually feel like this made it more possible for me to be on the show because the fashion world is changing so much and this season there's room for someone like me—someone who isn't commercial, who speaks to a new audience. I feel like I represent a side of fashion that we haven't really seen on Project Runway before. I'm here to change ideas of fashion and I'm not just here to make pretty clothing, and so I feel like that definitely helps me stand out.
If you could design for anyone, who would it be?
If I could design for anyone, I would want to make something for Janelle Monae. I am obsessed with her. She's brilliant and weird, and she's okay with being weird and different. She's become an amazing cultural icon for queer culture.