'Fashion Star' Winner Kara Laricks Talks $6 Million Prize, Having Designs Changed by Retailers

The design show's first victor considers her next move

fashion star
Tyler Golden/NBC
Kara Laricks is congratulated by Nicole Richie as she is announced winner of 'Fashion Star.'
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As Rolling Stone recounted yesterday, the first-ever winner of Fashion Star has been crowned: Kara Laricks, a former fourth grade schoolteacher and resident of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Approximately 8.6 million people tuned in to NBC to watch her snag a $6 million collection deal with H&M, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue.

The morning after Laricks' victory, Rolling Stone met up with her at H&M's party in the chain's flagship New York store. Laricks opened up about her plans for her new Fashion Star title and her thoughts on seeing her original runway creations modified for retail. Plus, at long last: she finally explained how the payment system works for the designers!

Since Fashion Star is prerecorded, what was it like watching each episode and not telling anyone that you were the winner?
The beauty and the structure of this show was that we weren't necessarily in competition with each other as designers but in competition with ourselves and the buyers. I wanted to put [out] something fabulous and more fabulous with each coming week. So there's no behind-the-scenes dirt; we've all stayed very good friends and we've come even closer as people because we had to keep our mouths shut. They were the only people you could talk to.

We noticed several of the designs that were bought on the show looked structurally different once they went on sale. Do you make these changes and/or are you consulted about the new look?
It varies. First of all, I have to say, as emerging young designer, [that having] the resources to produce a full collection is a dream come true. Having said that, there are things you have to let go of when someone else is producing your clothes, and so we would send over the designs as we wanted it down the runway and, for production purposes or distribution purposes or whatever it was, it was up to [the different retailers] how they would produce the garments. I have to say: sometimes, when doing this final collection, I was consulted – and other times, no.

How did that make you feel, seeing your clothes being sold differently from what you originally designed?
Two different things: so thrilled that I was able to see a full garment hanging in the store that people could buy that was the essence of me, and then, if there were details that were left out or altered, I was kind of like, "Ah, I want people to know exactly what it is that I designed." But overall, I've been thrilled because I feel like the essence of me is there and the spirit of what I stand for and who I am is there in the collection. Ultimately, is it a reality TV show and people are connecting with personalities and philosophies. I feel like as long as that comes through in the collection, I am so fortunate and so grateful.

Out of all the designers on the show, you were the most interesting. In aesthetic and overall looks, yours were the least conventional. Now that all of these major department stores have chosen you as the winner, what do you think they are trying to say about today's modern women, how they shop and what they want to wear?
I can't tell you the satisfaction, the affirmation, the validation. You know, I've been dressing like this forever. It is who I am, it is what I do and I've always gotten compliments on my style. People would tell me, "Oh, I can't pull that off. You can do it, but I can't." And I don't believe that, not for a second. I feel like dressing is an art form, and you have a chance every day to change it up – and if it doesn't work one day, who cares? Move on to the next day and try something else and something new. But if I can give a little bit of that spirit of taking that chance or that risk... I feel thrilled that that has been embraced by all three of these retailers. I really can't believe it.

When I was taping the show, it was really, "Head down, stay focused and keep on." I promised myself that I would design the way I designed in my Lower East Side apartment, however it was received, and I was going to stay true to who I am as a designer and show them what I got. The fact that it was me standing in the end is more than I could believe.

Now that you are the Fashion Star, does that mean your lines for H&M, Saks and Macy's have already been completed or are they yet to be produced?
Today, I just want to go from store to store and look at the clothes that I've worked so hard for, for almost a year now. As for the next steps, that has yet to be seen. It's going to be very interesting how Fashion Star plays out. Now that it has been renewed for a second season, it will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of months, full-well knowing that customers who watch the show are going to be looking for a bargain. It was so exciting to see H&M sell out and Macy's sell out, and Saks Fifth Avenue still had a few garments left. You know, when I was selling to Saks, I was wondering, "Do people not like it?" And more than not, it was that they can't afford it. So for me, that is where I am most comfortable designing. I see the value of people getting things quickly and being able to afford it. And it's changing my mindset on how I am going to move forward as a designer and as a business person.

Lets discuss the bids. Every time you would sell a line on the show for $50,000 to $100,000, where did that money go? Did you get the money? Or did it mean they owned the rights to that look?
Everyone asks that question. Keep in mind, all the stores – Saks, Macy's, H&M – are in charge of all the production, all the distribution and all of the beautiful campaigns that you see. So when they are purchasing that design, all of that is included. The designers receive a design fee, for sure, but the greatest compensation is seeing the finished product hanging in the store.

What do you think the biggest difference is between Fashion Star and Project Runway?
People loved Project Runway for so long because they were able to connect with those designers and they see their struggle, they see their work, they see their passion. And yet, they can't quite get a piece of it. Fashion Star allows people to get a little piece of it, even if it is a $14.95 little blouse. They still have a piece of that success and seeing a dream come true.

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