SouthFlorida.com
Make every weekend epic with our free Weekender newsletter. Sign up today!

Get to know South Florida's new 'Project Runway' contestants

Florida's own #fashion designers @TheHouseofPerna & @mlabissiere on @ProjectRunway.

Two South Florida talents will be among the 16 hopefuls competing on "Project Runway" when Season 14 premieres 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6 on the Lifetime network .

Amanda Perna, a 28-year-old who lives in Delray Beach, but is originally from Coral Springs, will return to the lineup of contestants this year after appearing on Season 9 in 2011.

Merline Labissiere, a 32-year-old from Miami, but now living in Savannah, Ga., will also join the 14 other sew-sew soldiers as they battle for $100,000 and prizes from Brother Sewing and Embroidery, Sally Beauty Supply, Celebrity Cruises, Mary Kay, Best Western International and Lexus . The winner also will receive a fashion spread in "Marie Claire" magazine.

Here is a little more about Labissiere and Perna.

Amanda Perna

Zodiac sign: Leo. "As a matter of fact, my birthday is Aug. 6, the first day of the show."

Favorite "Project Runway" guest judge: "My favorite was Kelly Osbourne. She's sassy and funky and just herself. I love her. She's a perfect example of a strong woman. I was super excited when I saw her in that chair."

Difference between being on Season 9 and Season 14: "For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to be vulnerable. I said to myself, 'I'm just going to go into it and whatever happens, happens. I'm just going to go with it, roll with it.'"

What she's been doing since her previous "Project Runway" appearance: "I launched House of Perna. I officially started that in 2012. I was still living in New York City. I quit my job at Calvin Klein, which was scary as all hell. I left New York and came back to South Florida. I started out actually out of my apartment. Then I got a little artist's studio in Delray and started by studio. I met my six-year goal in two years."

Florida's influence on her fashion design: "The big thing is color. I'm such a natural-born South Floridian, so I often embrace color."

How she describes her design aesthetic: "It's just juxtapositions. It's feminine but architectural. Structured but whimsical. And sexy but tasteful and chic."

What's next for her: "I'm doing a second collection called House of Perna Studio for the younger customer. It's really exciting. You're getting the scoop on this. I'm launching spring/summer of 2016, but I'm releasing pieces two weeks from now [this week]."

Where she "plays" in South Florida: "I hang out a lot in Delray. [But] who doesn't love Miami? I love South Beach. I love Wynwood. I go down there to work with my factory. After a long day in the factories, we go try to get a nice dinner somewhere."

Merline Labissiere

Zodiac sign: Aquarius. She was born Jan. 21.

Where home is for her: "I moved to Savannah to go to [Savannah College of Art and Design] and just kind of stayed. I'm living here, but Miami is home. I'm Haitian, and my folks live in North Miami now. That's home. I'm really trying to get back there."

Growing up in South Florida: "I went to Santa Clara Elementary, Allapattah Middle School and Allapattah [Junior] High School. I grew up around all Haitians and Cubans. Santa Clara, that's my neighborhood, and that's all I knew. I didn't even know, like, Nike. We had church clothes on because my parents didn't know better."

Favorite "Project Runway" guest judge: "I really liked Miss [Tracy Ellis] Ross. She was so amazing. I never met anyone so amazing. And the other one was Mel B. I really, really wanted to become a Spice Girl. I wanted to ask her what she really, really wants. But I didn't."

How she thinks she came off on the show: "I heard that TV magnifies everything, so I don't know. I think I'll be perceived as definitely outside the box. I already did realize I was a happy person, but on the show, I think I'm like extra, extra happy, you know? I don't know how people will perceive me. I hope it's awesome."

What she learned from her "Project Runway" appearance: "I learned I'm really different. My friends would say, 'We already knew that.' But when I went on the show, I realized I was really, really different. Sometimes, I would just break out dancing. I think I was the weird one. I'm just in Merline world. I'm a bit of an outcast."

Florida's influence on her fashion design: "I love Florida. I love Miami. I still love when I feel the sunshine. It frees me to be creative. When I design … there is this idea of being set free and thinking the way you want to think. I feel like my culture really influenced me with how I put color in architecture. It's always gray. But Florida brings so much color and sunshine and brings it into my work."

How she describes her design aesthetic: "What I design is different from what I wear. I wear colorful vintage. What I design is architectural, geometric. I'm influenced by Iris van Herpen, Gareth Pugh. I went to Miami Dade College and studied architecture. And then at SCAD … I put architecture and fashion together."

Where she "plays" in South Florida: "I used to always be at the thrift store. No matter how much I have, I will always be in a thrift store buying something different."

Copyright © 2018, South Florida
79°