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Daniel Vosovic drew from the industrial feel of the upstart, loft-style hotel chain for his NYLO collection. The clothes (sketches of which appear with this article) will function as work uniforms for the stylish staff and will be sold as separates in the hotel boutique.

Vosovic Making it Work

By Curt Wozniak
Photography by Michael Turek
Illustrations by Daniel Vosovic

A run on TV’s “Project Runway” thrust Lowell’s own Daniel Vosovic into the national spotlight last year. But in true West Michigan fashion, Vosovic vows to build a career on his design skills, not his reality TV celebrity.

The designer could have been the over-the-top, attitude-to-spare Jay McCarroll from Season One, or the neck-tattoo-sporting, uncompromising-to-the-end Jeffrey Sebelia from Season Three — it wouldn’t have mattered. “Project Runway” design mentor Tim Gunn offers all contestants on Bravo TV’s fashion-as-competition reality show the same advice week after week: “Make it work.”

Lowell native and Season Two finalist Daniel Vosovic certainly heeded Gunn’s imperative refrain during his time as a contestant on “Project Runway,” which enters its fourth season Nov. 14. Vosovic won a record-setting five design challenges on his way to the tents at Manhattan’s Bryant Park, where his classically refined, impeccably tailored collection fell just short of winning the show’s finale at Olympus Fashion Week.

Catching up with Vosovic nearly two years after his run on “Runway,” he’s still making it work, stitching together a busy, exciting life as a freelance design talent in the ever-fickle New York fashion industry.

 

“LIFE IS BUSY AS HECK, but good,” Vosovic said, phoning from the NYC apartment that he shares with three friends from home — fellow Lowell High School alumnus Mike Armstrong and Forest Hills Central grads Caroline Purvins and Anna Scott.

“My life is definitely about handling adjustments and change and whatnot,” he continued, “whether that’s schedules, locations, people — so if you like change, then you’d keep up. If not, then you’d be left in the dust.”

Vosovic doesn’t just like change, he thrives on it. Embracing life in flux is a habit he developed growing up in a small town in West Michigan, where he recalls changing up everything from his schedule to his hair style every few months as a way to invigorate himself creatively.

 

“I think what happened was, growing up in a very comfortable, very casual environment, and because of my desire to find new things, I wanted something different,” Vosovic said. “I wanted something that wasn’t what I would see at the Gap or on Reeds Lake or whatever. I think that’s what made me push my design aesthetic so far away from what I grew up with, because it wasn’t there — or at least it wasn’t, in my eyes — when I was a young kid.”

Even now, Vosovic’s decision to continue working as a freelance designer rather than moving into a position with an established fashion label — something he considered — was driven by his voracity for vicissitude.

“It just allows for a little more freedom for me to sort of pick and choose a lot of the more creative projects that I’m working on right now,” Vosovic said.

Those projects currently include designing a dress or two for “Project Runway” host and international supermodel Heidi Klum to wear on the show this season, putting together a book on the design process scheduled for release in fall 2008 by design-y publishers Watson-Guptill, and launching his first retail clothing line through a unique partnership with boutique hotel upstart NYLO.

“Basically, I just try to look at everything long term,” Vosovic said. “What’s going to be best for my career six months from now? A year from now? Five years from now?”

In fashion, five years can be an eternity. Just two years ago, when Vosovic last graced the pages of Grand Rapids Magazine, he was but a stars-in-his-eyes design student about to wrap up his bachelor of fine arts degree at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. (Regrettably, in the April 2005 article, his name was even misspelled.) Today, thanks to his stint on “Project Runway,” Vosovic enjoys the sort of name recognition at 26 years of age that successful garment designers may not achieve even after long careers.

“It’s funny, because I sort of run that weird balance, coming from television, but also seemingly being someone who should be behind the scenes,” Vosovic said.

 

 

TAPING FOR SEASON TWO of “Runway” began just days after Vosovic graduated from college. According to Daniel’s mother, Sharon, he even kept his cell phone on during his commencement ceremony at Radio City Music Hall, waiting to hear from the producers whether he made the final cut to get on the show.

In a television genre consciously stocked with eccentric personalities, the refreshingly genuine, nice guy that “Runway” viewers found in the young “Danny V” quickly garnered as much favor with fans as did his designs with Klum and the show’s other judges, designer Michael Kors and Elle magazine fashion director Nina Garcia.

“That was Daniel,” Sharon Vosovic said about her son’s portrayal on the show. “People who know Daniel didn’t expect anything different. He’s very likable and personable, polite and kind. It wasn’t a surprise.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise either that Daniel’s life since “Runway” has been more about leveraging his exposure on the show to start building his brand in the fashion world rather than cashing in on his reality TV celebrity for any sort of short-term gain.

“This has sort of become my tag line: Exposure is never a substitute for experience — and it really isn’t,” Vosovic said. “I think there are great opportunities in it, and I’m still continuing to try to keep my name relevant from where I came from and where I want to go, but also, in the meantime, continue to do projects that are beneficial toward building my career.”

He continued: “People at times will say — especially here (in New York City), where everyone is famous or wants to be — you have the ‘tick-tock, tick-tock’ of your 15 minutes. And that’s fine. As a reality TV star, I’ll let that 15 minutes go. It was fun while it lasted, and it was great — and it’s still great — when people stop me on the street and ask what I’m doing now, but my 15 minutes as a designer has just begun, and definitely will continue for decades, hopefully.”

Vosovic maintains a link to his “Runway” roots — and fans — through two blogs hosted by Bravo TV — www.bravotv.com/blog/danielvsblog and www.blogs.outzonetv.com/daniel.

 

WHILE THE BLOGS MIGHT BE enough to satisfy fans wondering Where is he now?, fans wondering Where can I buy his clothes? must visit a different Web site: www.nylohotels.com. Last year, Vosovic signed on with NYLO Hotels, a new boutique hotel concept that aims to offer New York loft-style accommodations to business travelers. Each hotel will feature custom-designed furniture and accoutrements, and Vosovic created a higher-end, designer collection to be used as uniforms for front-line staff: bartenders, servers, concierge, front desk, etc.

“They came to me and said, ‘We’d love for you to do uniforms.’ And I said, ‘Heck no! The last thing I touch is uniforms! I don’t do polyester. I don’t do burgundy with brass buttons.’

“And they said, ‘Well, we don’t want that, either.’”

Vosovic will regularly update the collection, which will include fashion-forward dresses for female employees and chic blazers with button-down shirts and polos for male staffers. Vosovic pulled from the industrial feel of a New York loft for the overall concept of his collection. His color story — dark charcoal grays and sandy khakis with pop color accents — draws on the building materials. And being functional uniforms, the garments are wearable and breathable.

“I’ve been one of the worker bees in the hospitality business,” Vosovic said. “And I know that there’s a lot of fun and a lot of chaos that happens behind the scenes, and I love the idea of sort of really understanding that and bringing that to the forefront.”

Pieces in the collection will be available for guests to purchase through each hotel’s gift shop, which will also carry supplementary accessories — luggage, handbags, Dopp kits for men, robes, jewelry and more — all designed by Vosovic.

NYLO’s first hotel opens in December in Plano, Texas. The company plans to open 150 to 175 hotels across North America by 2010.

“They’re all aimed toward second cities, like a nice alternative to the Radissons,” Vosovic said. “Grand Rapids could definitely get one.”

If not, Grand Rapidians can still get the clothes. They’re available through the NYLO Hotels Web site, or via a link on Vosovic’s personal site, www.danielvosovic.net. GR

   
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