Who Is Jamall Osterholm? New Details About The 'Project Runway' Contestant

Photo: bravo
Who Is Jamall Osterholm? New Details About The 'Project Runway' Contestant

With Project Runway’s return to Bravo, so far, we’ve seen four contestants go home. With just 12 designers remaining, who will be the winner of this season? The 17th season premiered on March 14th, and we’ve seen creations from designers from all walks of life. There are also new judges — Karlie Kloss, Elaine Welteroth, and Brandon Maxwell — and a new mentor, Christian Siriano. Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn aren’t returning for this season, but Nina Garcia remains on the judging panel.

The prizes at stake? A $250,000 cash prize, a feature in Elle Magazine, $50,000 to put towards a studio, and a mentorship with the Council of Fashion Designers of America. To say it’s a huge deal is a major understatement! But even more interesting than the prize money and the designs we’ll see featured is the backstories of the contestants, most of whom have faced struggles trying to get their start.

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So, just who is Jamall Osterholm? Here are three things to know about the menswear and avant-garde designer, how he got his start, and where he draws his inspiration from.

1. He developed his passion for fashion through his art.

Jamall Osterholm has an unrivaled passion for his art.

Originally from Rhode Island, Osterholm’s designs focus primarily on futurism. He developed a passion for design after working with fabric and discovered that these elements “allowed him to connect with his work on a deeper and more personal level.”

He also attended RISD and graduated just recently. He chose to major in apparel design, yet had no prior experience in making clothing or designing. He says, “I always thought fashion was really amazing, so I decided to take a chance and jump into it. Ultimately, it became the most powerful medium for me to express and understand myself.”

He also explained that he originally wanted to become a furniture designer, but fell in love with clothing design: “Fashion was never something I set out to do, but once I tried it I started seeing making clothes as being pretty similar to making sculptures.” And while taking that class, he one night had a dream, seeing himself sewing in a studio. “Making clothes has given me the chance to realize my most idyllic self,” he said.

2. And he draws inspiration from his personal experiences.

His life as a queer black man is the inspiration for many of his designs.

As a queer black man, he’s created art that inspires him as well as others. “Queer people of color have been creating our culture forever without being acknowledged or credited,” he says.

But when asked if he thinks the fashion industry is inclusive, he actually finds it kind of ironic: “Inclusivity is kind of a funny word to me because it presumes that POC haven’t been the driving force behind art, design and culture this whole time. The idea that we are now being ‘included’ is a farce. I think we are now being credited… [and] are coming into a time where we can credit ourselves and have it matter — [where we can create] the world that we want to see.”

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3. He launched his own career.

Jamall Osterholm's career is taking off, and he only graduated in the last year!

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Since graduating from RISD, he’s focused on designing full time, often adding his own unique take on “otherworldly” concepts, specifically when it comes to black masculinity.

In his creations from 2017, he explored this “all-black alien race,” as he calls it. “I'm kind of using it as a metaphor for slavery — looking at contemporary black culture as a descendant of slave culture, which would be a descendant of African culture. I’m trying to follow that linage to ask, ‘What’s next?’... It’s trying to get to a better place where black people are liberated and can fully be themselves.

While taking a course called “The Black Female Body” in college, he began to question his own biases, explaining, “The clothes address stereotypes of black men being hyper-aggressive, hyper-sexual, and hyper-masculine people. A big reason why I’m doing menswear is that I think the average straight black male hasn’t had the opportunity to fully express himself in the way he wants. What I’ve tried to do is take things like an oversized hoodie and change the silhouette and subvert it. I play with the cut and shape and, in a way, feminize it.”

Recently, his third collection opened the Spring 2019 New York Fashion Week, in a collaboration with the CFDA! The collection “continues to look both forward and back in articulating his personal experiences as a queer black man.” He now hopes to start his own business based on his brand, as long as he gets to continue making art: “I never want the business side of my brand to consume the real reason why I do fashion.”

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.