Florida based designer Brian Burkardt walked away the winner of Project Accessory this week after Burkardt made a few key decisions in the finale of the Project Runway spin-off to claim a prize of $100,000. With his unicorn handbag soon be in Kenneth Cole stores across America, Brian Burkhardt was a work in progress during the season of Project Accessory given his unique creativity as an individual with a background in fine arts, namely as a sculptor.
Although designers Rich Sandomeno and Nina Cortes selected a similar direction to showcase their styles in the finale of Project Accessory, Brian Burkardt made a key decision to accessorize swimwear that proved to be a risky choice that paid off. By going left of center with swimwear along with other day-wear and evening-wear, it made Burkardt stand out in the show’s first season finale. Although Brian’s resin necklace raised more than a few eyebrows on the set and across America, Burkhardt remained true to his own artistic spirit.
Following his win on Project Accessory, The Deadbolt caught up with Brian Burkardt to learn more about his victory, his thoughts on the finale, taking risks, and what Brian has in store beyond Project Accessory and reality television.
THE DEADBOLT: So how does it feel to win something like this?
BURKHARDT: Dude, it’s a trip. I mean, it’s so surreal. It’s really amazing to have this opportunity. To be on the show, the exposure is phenomenal. I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t have a game coming on the show. I didn’t come on like, “I’m going to win it.” I think that I have the skills necessary of the winner and the creativity. I’m just going to do what I do. If that wins it, great! If not, then great. I’m just going to go for the ride. I’m not going to try to figure it out. I’m going to do the best that I can. And the fact that they acknowledge that, I really feel like they got me. When does that really ever happen? It’s kind of fantastic.
THE DEADBOLT: How glad are you that you chose James?
BRIAN BURKHARDT: It was a no-brainer. He’s an exquisite shoe designer. I knew that we would work well together. We were roommates and we got to talk a lot. I knew we had similar aesthetic designs. I know what he’s capable of. I knew that he was going to work with me together to get my designs out there in the way that I saw them and also add his energy to it, which is exactly what he did.
THE DEADBOLT: From a risk standpoint, how do you look at choosing the swimwear?
BURKHARDT: For me, I felt like it was going to be a make or break deal. I don’t feel like anyone else did. I feel people were uncomfortable. I’m from Miami. I’ve had the opportunity of doing Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Swim before and I did over 300 pieces for 20 looks to choose from. Swimsuit gear – people sit poolside, too. People definitely style that out.
I felt comfortable with the decision to do it. I was going to have a separation between looks. I was concerned about having a day look, an interim evening look and an evening look. I wanted to make sure there was definite separation in the transitions and that’s partially the way that it was styled as well.
THE DEADBOLT: Do you regret using the resin on the necklace?
BURKHARDT: No, I don’t regret it at all. I think Ariel, I thought it was funny what he was saying about how the thing looked like it was hatching. That was his opinion. The felt resin was really conducive to having something that was lightweight. For me it was totally worked within the guidelines of what was workable for swim.
THE DEADBOLT: How did you look at Rich and Nina as competitors given their experience with silversmithing?
BURKHARDT: I think they were both amazing competitors. I think they were both amazing designers. I think there were a lot of amazing designers on the show. I think when it came down to it, we just had very different aesthetics. I’m realistic. I don’t think my work is as commercially viable as Nina’s especially. I was all about taking the risk, presenting work that was a bit different than their lines. Their lines were something that perhaps you could see at the store already. I think that’s amazing, but that’s also not in the way that I view myself as a designer.
THE DEADBOLT: Do you think that staying true to what you do away from the show was a key factor to winning?
BURKHARDT: That was the key for the whole thing. Everyone has a certain idea. I definitely took away valuable feedback from the judges. I didn’t compromise what was my aesthetic and what I needed to do.
THE DEADBOLT: Was there anything that got cut from the show that you wish we saw?
BURKHARDT: I don’t know if it was on the show or not or if you guys got a glimpse of it. For me, the shoe challenge. The shoe challenge was the most difficult for everybody. No one has really done shoes before. James went out of his way to give us a crash course, one-on-one, 10 minutes, this is the way you fabricate a shoe. He did not have to do that. That was really amazing.
There was such great camaraderie among the artists. There were all different backgrounds. We were interested in what each other did, being from different mediums. That’s the one thing I thought was really amazing. That wasn’t really in the show.
THE DEADBOLT: In the end you said we can expect more crazy sh** from you. Does that mean we can expect a full line from you called “Brian Burkhardt’s Crazy Sh**”?
BURKHARDT: [laughs] That would probably be a really good name for it! I’m finished with a line that is going to launch sometime in January or February, with exotic leathers. That’s a new material for us and for me. But I think there might be something coming out, a line called Brian’s Crazy Sh**. [laughs]