Designer Charketa "Char" Glover admits she's obsessed with the TV show Project Runway, the reality TV show on the lookout for "the next great American designer" — so much so that she's watched it every season, and auditioned for it for the past three years. "The first two times I hired someone to videotape me and edit it and all that good stuff," the 37-year old designer tells us from her home studio. "No call back, nothing." Undeterred, Glover started her own YouTube channel, Reckless Dreamer, and got the equipment to make her own videos. Her persistence paid off — she made her own audition video, wound up getting a callback, and appeared on the 13th season of the show, which finished airing last month.
"I thought, this go around, I'm going to just do it myself," she says. "I didn't tell anybody. I just came in here one day, put my makeup on, and pressed record." The third time's the charm.
Each season of the show starts off with 16 designers, who each have to create their own garments for a series of themed challenges. For example, Glover created a dress out of tickets for a movie theater-themed challenge. "They put you in situations that you normally wouldn't be in," Glover says. "If they're generous, they'll give us two days. Normally it's just one day, almost 10 hours." The challenges are judged by fashion luminaries like Heidi Klum, Marie Claire creative director Nina Garcia, and designer Zac Posen, with fashion consultant Tim Gunn serving as a mentor.
Out of 16 contestants, Glover wound up making it to fourth place, a feat she's rightly proud of. "At that point, you've done all that you can do — now it's up to the judges," she says. "To make it that far, I was over the moon." She's the first contestant from Detroit in the show's history (former contestant Joe Faris was from Troy).
A graduate of Charles F. Kettering High School on the east side, Glover says she didn't get into fashion design until her mid-20s. She started doing hair when she was 14, and was working at a salon when she found out she made her audition.
"When I got my callback, I had a client in the chair," she says. "I'm looking at my phone, and I see an 818 area code, a California number. I was like, 'Is this a bill collector?' I wasn't gonna answer it." Of course, when Glover got the news, she had to keep it a secret. "Me, I'm a walkie-talkie," she says. "Holding that in, I was like busting at the seams." Glover told her clients she had to take six weeks off to go to a "designer camp" — which wasn't a total lie, as she wound up learning a lot about herself and design during the six weeks she spent filming the show over the summer.
Glover says it was an eye-opening experience to work with talented designers from around the world, and it caused her to take a new look at her own work. "Everybody keeps asking, 'What did you learn about yourself?'" she says. "I didn't know I was that safe! Sometimes you think what you're doing is amazing, but when you're up against designers from different walks of life and different areas, you have to look at yourself."
She says she's trying to test her limits now. "I want to really push myself and do some stuff that people aren't expecting from me," she says. "I design for the girl that wants to be the one with the conversation piece. When she walks in, you're like, 'Where did you get that from?' Even if it's a basic turtleneck, something's different about it." Glover says she's working on two collections — one ready-to-wear and the other haute couture.
To her, moving from hair to fashion wasn't that big of a jump. "It all stimulates you creatively. It wasn't too hard to make the transition," she says. "I think my clients were a little frustrated. They wanted to get their hair done and I was like, 'But I have to make a dress!' The hardest part was stepping away from hair and fully being a designer."
For now, Glover says she's going full steam ahead with fashion. She signed to a PR firm at the beginning of the month, and as we speak, Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child is modeling one of her creations for a shoot for Kontrol magazine. "I'm just trying to make myself available," Glover says. "I'm taking everything as it comes."
Glover will debut some of her new designs at a fashion show on Nov. 22 at the Garden Theater. "They have me as a featured designer, because I'm 'Char from Project Runway,'" she says. "I'm gonna be a diva," she jokes.
In reality, Glover's stint on television has hardly inflated her ego. "I know this sounds weird, but I don't really know which direction I want to go in yet," she admits. "I don't want to limit myself. I'm just trying to keep myself open — I'm just along for the ride."
Charketa Glover's work will appear as part of the Walk Fashion Show 10th Edition on Saturday, Nov. 22 at the Garden Theater, 3929 Woodward Ave., Detroit; thegardentheaterdetroit.com; 313-832-0888. See more of Glover's designs at chargrelscouture.com