North Haven native cut from remaining ‘Runway’ designers

Allison Corneau

He may have not made the cut on Bravo’s reality hit “Project Runway,” but North Haven native Emmett McCarthy is certainly proving he knows how to work it, both on the runway and off. The New York City-based designer, whose family–including his brother, a QU alum–still live in the area, chatted with The Chronicle following his departure from the show during the season’s seventh episode, about all things “Runway.”

Now in its second season, the weekly Emmy-nominated Bravo reality series brings together 16 of the country’s most innovative designers to compete for $100,000 to start their own clothing line, a fashion spread in ELLE magazine, and a mentorship at Banana Republic. The designers compete in weekly challenges under the watchful eye of Tim Gunn, chair of the Department of Fashion Design at Parsons The New School For Design, producing garments that are judged on the runway by supermodel Heidi Klum, designer Michael Kors, and ELLE magazine fashion director Nina Garcia.

For menswear designer McCarthy, who had never seen the show, the casting process happened swiftly, and took a bit of prompting.

“I was at my office and my friend called me up and said she was reading on the Internet about auditions for “Project Runway.” She said ‘I wouldn’t send anybody other than you on this audition, because you make decisions really quickly, you make really good TV. I think you should do it,'” McCarthy remembers, adding that having second thoughts was not an option, as filming began two weeks after his first audition.

Many reality show contestants eager to take part in a series spend time studying up on their favorite show, but McCarthy believes that if he had seen a “Runway” episode, he would have never auditioned.

Bunking with the other design candidates in Manhattan’s posh Atlas studio apartments, McCarthy explains that between field trips to select fabrics and the tight deadlines imposed to complete garments, there wasn’t much time left for sleep. “(We worked) 20 hour days,” he says. “(The cameras) were in your face every single waking moment.”

During his stint on the show, McCarthy was able to produce a series of garments including a dress for socialite Nicky Hilton, a lingerie collection, and most recently, an ice skating outfit for Olympic figure skater Sasha Cohen, which was showcased on his last episode.

Asked to select a favorite garment, McCarthy says he was pleased with his design for Mattel’s MyScene Barbie in the show’s third episode, and also liked the intricacies of his first garment, a pastel pink knee-length dress. “I liked the cutouts,” the designer says of his initial creation. “I had a little more time to think about it. I like the idea of thinking about my designs.”

Even though his run on the series has ended, McCarthy continues his design work and celebrated the grand opening of his own shop this week. The new venture is something the designer has always considered, but due to his exposure on the show, his plan was finally put into action. His EMC2 boutique, in New York’s Nolita neighborhood, currently offers cashmere coats and a selection of dresses, with a spring collection expected to arrive in mid-February.

For his family in Hamden and North Haven, seeing McCarthy on the series was a proud moment, even if his elimination came earlier than anticipated. “They were really proud to have a hometown boy on TV,” McCarthy said. “They were very proud that I came across as who I am, that through the editing process, you really get a sense of who I am as a person and a designer.”