True confession: I fell in love with Christian Siriano the moment I first saw one of his designs come down the Project Runway catwalk in season 4, circa 2008. One look at his impeccable craftsmanship and decadent detailing, and I was a goner—and so was the competition, which might have made for a very dull season were it not for Siriano’s snappy one-liners and general insouciance.
At 22, Siriano became the youngest winner of the popular fashion series. A decade later, he is a fashion force to be reckoned with, still creating beautiful confections for the catwalk and red carpet alike, and still playing by his own rules when it comes to defining what—and who—is considered couture-worthy.
Siriano famously came to the rescue when actress and comedian Leslie Jones found herself denied by designers while seeking a dress for the 2016 premiere of the all-female Ghostbusters reboot. When she posted her dismay into the Twitterverse, Siriano instantly responded and a kinship was born, resulting in a stunningly sexy red gown for the statuesque Jones.
That same year, Siriano created his first capsule collection for plus retailer Lane Bryant, cementing his status as an advocate for fashion for all. And his democracy was more than size-inclusive; Siriano also rebuked the respectability politics of the fashion industry, choosing to dress women who were often outliers destined to push the progressive needle forward, including Janet Mock, Laverne Cox and Cardi B. Notably, Siriano even had the honor of designing the white dress Cardi recently wore to reveal her pregnancy on Saturday Night Live .
At this point, you might call his band of loyal clients the “cult of Christian,” but it’s a devotion—and a label—built on mutual respect and loyalty. With his recent induction into Time magazine’s annual list of the “100 Most Influential People,” Leslie Jones paid tribute to the man who gave her the star treatment she deserved, writing:
He made me feel beautiful. ... He kept saying, “You have such a beautiful figure.” He made me feel like I was supposed to have that dress on.
That’s the specialness of Christian Siriano: he makes every piece feel like you are supposed to have it and like it was made for you. He has his talents and then incorporates them into what you want, which in the end is something that both of us want, making him a one-of-a-kind designer. It was a Pretty Woman moment because when I was on the red carpet, all I kept saying to the designers was, “You made a huge mistake … HUGE.”
Other designers’ mistakes continue to be Siriano’s masterpieces as he continues to elevate traditionally marginalized bodies and personalities to new heights—and is reaping major financial rewards from the risks others aren’t willing to take. Speaking with Time, he said:
I don’t know why anyone else is not interested in this, because it’s crazy. Are we not interested in tripling the business? Do we not think that those people are beautiful or interesting? I mean, they look great in a dress. ... I don’t know, I think it’s the strangest thing.
Christian, we do, too. But we’re so glad you’re here to see beauty where others won’t.