“I feel like if you want to make a basic, simple black dress, why do it? Why not make something that people are going to be really excited to wear- something that you’re going to be noticed for wearing,” said designer, Gunnar Deatherage before the University of Florida Pride Awareness Month Fashion Show.
In a sectioned-off corridor adjacent the Reitz Union grand ballroom, his collection’s vintage aesthetic stood out. Deep shades of purple and subtle hues of green hung closely together amidst a delicate mix of off-white blouses and black lace on a sliver clothing rack.
“I was very inspired by Lemony Snicket for this line, and I think it shows in everything that I made,” Deatherage said.
Precise tailoring rang through in the upturned ends of leather collars and the ruffled cuffs of soft blouses.
At the young age of 25, the self-taught designer has already had a collection walk the runway at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. The season nine Project Runway stage gave him a venue to showcase his creations. After returning for season 11 and “Project Runway Allstars,” Deatherage’s momentum has only continued to grow.
While Project Runway gave Deatherage’s work publicity, his persistence and commitment to details are what have driven him most to become successful in the fashion industry.
“You know, it wasn’t like money was rolling in, just to be me- no,” Deatherage said.
After leaving “PR Allstars,” Deatherage remained steadfast in his work ethic as he pushed himself to create new pieces that kept his followers interested in his brand.
From dealing with the complexities of maneuvering the sewing machine, to committing to a dream many are afraid to pursue, Deatherage has stuck to the mantra that any goal can be accomplished if you want it badly enough.
“That has always been my thought process,” Deatherage said. “And I wanted it, and I found a way to get it.”
After graduating high school, Deatherage attended community college for a few years, after which he became a hairstylist and devoted the rest of his time to fashion design.
“It was horrifying to not go to college,” Deatherage said. “But, I just knew that this is what I wanted to do, and I have managed to, very thankfully, find a way to make a living doing it in the realm I want.”
In the meantime, Deatherage is also working on his Fall 2015 collection, which literally began as a dream.
“I had this dream about a bird woman,” Deatherage said. “She was feeding birds in the park, eating a baguette and just picking off pieces and feeding them to the birds.”
The collection has a quirky, whimsical look, he said.
“It is not the same woman, [as this line], but it could be her friend that she gets into the same club with.” Deatherage said. “She had this great white bob. She reminded me of Linda Fargo, who runs Bergdorf Goodman.”
Aside from the avant-garde nuances and glamour that comes with fashion, it is an industry that can unify people for an important cause. While Deatherage graciously brought his art to Gainesville, (where a fashion drought has been plaguing its citizens since its existence), he said he appreciated the ability that the show gave him and other designers to bring light to pride awareness.
“I think that fashion is such a fun platform to bring together a lot of people that want to bring awareness to it and also stand together,” Deatherage said. “Whether it is their cup of tea or not, they are still standing to know that equality is fair.”
Deatherage has also helped members of his community in Kentucky, as fashion editor of a Louisville-based magazine, NFocus. The magazine hosts fundraising events for nonprofits such as Horses and Hope.
In addition to helping helping local philanthropies, Deatherage said he appreciates the artistic responsibilities that come with working at the magazine. His creativity flourishes beyond the sewing machine to the production of photo shoots, fashion spreads and features.
Whether Deatherage works in fashion design, print media, or the film industry one day “to design for the movies that inspire people,” his history has shown that no dream is impossible.