Who Is Venny Etienne? New Details On The 'Project Runway' Contestant

Photo: bravo
Who Is Venny Etienne? New Details On The 'Project Runway' Contestant

The 17th season of Project Runway premiered on March 14th, and ever since, we’ve seen a new batch of talented designers face off, creating unique garments and channeling their inner style. Four contestants have gone home so far, but we continue to see their brilliant ideas in each week’s challenge.

This season is unique in that it features three new judges — Karlie Kloss, Elaine Welteroth, and Brandon Maxwell — and a new mentor, Christian Siriano, who won season four. Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum will not return, but judge Nina Garcia remains on the panel. And the prizes this time around are even crazier: $250,000, a feature in Elle Magazine, $50,000 for the designers to put towards their own studio, and a mentorship with the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

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But as much as we love to see what these contestants create, learning about who they are and their backstories is even more interesting. So, who is Venny Etienne? Here’s what you need to know about the luxury sportswear designer/accountant, and his accomplished career so far.

1. He developed a love of fashion in his 20s.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Venny Etienne (@vennyetienne) on Apr 4, 2019 at 9:22am PDT

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Etienne started styling for local fashion shows, and was eventually inspired to pursue design. His early career began while serving in a youth ministry at his church.

According to Etienne, “What really piqued my interest in doing fashion was in the church we would have fashion shows. It’s something that the youth of the church really took pride in doing. Whatever we did, the adults were pretty much for it, so when we said we want to do fashion shows the adults were for it.”

The church raised money through donations and fundraising, and then donated the clothes back to the community once the fashion shows were over.

“I went to Salvation Army and I got old blazers and I deconstructed them, added fabric to them, or I’d come up with some fabric and make these paper bag balloon skirts. I don’t know what they were but I made them and the reaction of the audience made me feel like I could do this. It looked completely gimmicky back then, but the church was so supportive so it was something that I kept going,” he revealed.

2. He attended college.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Venny Etienne (@vennyetienne) on Mar 30, 2019 at 11:26am PDT

Etienne enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, but later transferred to Wade College in Dallas, Texas. He eventually received his BA in merchandising and design, and graduated Salutatorian of his class. He also received the Founders Award, “the highest award given to a student of the graduating class.”

But he originally had another career in mind: investment banking. However, he realized it wasn’t his true passion:

“I was in pre-calculus class; I didn’t know what was going on and I was looking at the board like ‘what are these numbers?’ I called a friend of mine up and I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do investment banking,’ and he asked ‘well, what do you want to do?’ I was like, ‘well, I kind of like doing these fashion shows and making clothes and stuff.’ He was like, ‘well then drop your classes and go to fashion school.’” He dropped his classes soon after and enrolled in FIT.

As Etienne says, “It really wasn’t that hard. With calculus I was like uh-oh dropout. I knew I wasn’t going to be an investment banker, but I also knew that I didn’t want to fail. In terms of fashion design, being that I love it, most of what I was doing didn’t even feel hard because I wanted to do it, so I was just like, ‘I’m going to stick to it this time. The best thing for me to do is to stick to it, ‘cause really this it like a one shot thing, so let me keep it going.’ I’m a hard-working type person, so if you’re going to give me something, I’m going to be the best at it.”

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3. His career took off after school.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Venny Etienne (@vennyetienne) on Mar 16, 2019 at 5:49pm PDT

After moving to Dallas and completing school, he embraced the Dallas fashion scene and began promoting himself through networking. He’s since won multiple awards for his designs, including 2017 Designer of the Year presented by CoSign Magazine, 2016 Designer of the Year presented by DFW Teen FW,  2015 National RAW Artist Designer of the Year, and 2015 Fashion Group International (FGI) Best of Sewing Award.

He also won the 2018 Fashion Group International (FGI) Rising Star in Dallas, and was awarded a full scholarship to attend the Paris American Academy in Paris. Says Etienne, “That’s probably like the biggest one that I have gotten. I remember three or four years ago when I used to go to the FGI awards and I saw the designers winning the awards, I was like ‘these are some big designers in Dallas and I would love to be part of that.’”

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He’s even dressed multiple celebrity women, including Cardi B. and Michelle Williams, and Erica Campbell, just to name a few!

4. He eventually launched his own brand.

Etienne created Levenity Collection LLC, “an advanced-contemporary women’s ready-to-wear sportswear brand. Levenity’s distinctive propensity is to gracefully bring together seemingly opposed elements through tailored architectural lines and what we like to describe as ‘texture-blocking.’”

The company encompasses his personality and letters from his name. Etienne said he is inspired by travel, people and music, and describes his designs as “clothes for everyday people.”

5. He’s grateful for his experience on Project Runway.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Venny Etienne (@vennyetienne) on Mar 7, 2019 at 4:57pm PST

His reaction to learning he was chosen as a contestant? “Lord, Jesus! Oh Man! The process of having to know if I made Project Runway was a very long process, so when they finally told me, I couldn’t do anything but just break down and cry.”

He also learned a lot while competing, especially about himself: “Refinement. I like beauty in complex things, so having to find the equilibrium between beauty and craziness is what I think Project Runway kind of helped me find, ‘cause I was able to refine that and not do too much in one thing...

There are many different types of designers. There’s evening wear, there’s couture, there’s swimwear designers, there’s athletic wear. There’s even the crazy ones, like the avant-garde that you would only see on the runway because they are very artistic. All of those are great, but I think as designers we tend to want to put a lot into what we do, when it’s not really required. Find something you’re good at and master that, and let you be known for just that.”

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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.