Project Runway

Katelyn Pankoke has to make it work on Project Runway season 11, premiering Thursday, January 24, at 9pm ET/PT of Lifetime. (Barbara Nitke / January 23, 2013)

When Project Runway’s season 11 debuts Thursday, Jan. 24 at 9 p.m. on Lifetime, it will include SoFlo’s Katelyn Pankoke.

Oh sure she may live in Chicago now, but Pankoke is an around the way girl from Parkland

The fashion designer - who went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School before graduating from Florida State University in Tallahassee - moved to The Windy City in 2011 to start her bridal collection she calls Elaya Vaughn.

Here’s a profile based on a quick telephone interview:


Photos: Coolio show in South Beach

AGE: 23

ZODIAC SIGN: Gemini

DESIGN AESTHETIC: Ultra-femme – everything from Belle Epoque to the 1950s. Grace Kelley is her muse. “I’m all about designing artful femininity. That’s really my design aesthetic. I like every kind of silhouette, which is why I can’t commit to any time period. I can’t only do hourglass or only do babydoll.”

FAVORITE THRIFT/VINTAGE STORE IN SOFLO: “It’s in Pompano. It’s my favorite one. It’s called Women in Distress. It’s a spectacular charity first of all and they have the most amazing finds there. I still have amazing things I found there.”

FAVORITE SOUTH FLORIDA HANGOUTS: “Have you ever been to Parkland? We have the Parkland Equestrian Center. That's about it. But I really like going to Deerfield Beach. That was the closest beach to us. And me and my girls would go to Boca Mall [Town Center at Boca Raton]. We would hang out there. I love movies, so I would go to the Regal Magnolia.”

FAVORITE DESIGNERS: Alexander McQueen, Marchessa, Alberta Ferretti “They all have different  styles. The thing with all of them is that they have simple silhouettes, but intricate details.”

FAVORITE PROJECT RUNWAY JUDGE: “It has to be Zac Posen. Of course Michael Kors [couldn’t be on the show this season due to a scheduling conflict] and I’ve wanted to meet him like forever, but I love Zac. I feel like we share a lot aesthetically.”

DREAM CLIENT: Scarlett Johansson

FAVORITE COLORS TO WORK WITH: White, Green and Neutrals.

HIGH SCHOOL FASHION AWAKENING: “I had always loved fashion but I didn’t know it was going to be career path for me until my senior year in high school. You know the fashion industry gets a bad reputation for being shallow and not caring. So I wanted to do something for a charity involving fashion. So basically I designed this dress for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. My mother had breast cancer and I saw her fight through it and I wanted to give back to that cause. So what I did was sell individual pink ribbons. I put the names of people or the names of the people’s loved ones on these ribbons. There were like 500 of them and I hand sewed them on. It really was a statement about survival.”

HOW SHE NAMED HER BRIDAL COMPANY: “It took me awhile to figure out my design name. I knew it wasn’t going to be my name…it just doesn’t have the flow to roll off the tongue. I called my mom and dad and asked them, ‘Do we have any attractive names in the family?' It turned out I had a great aunt named Elaya on my dad’s side…and my grandmother’s maiden name was Vaughn. For awhile it was going to be Eva Simky or something like that. Me and my girls were watching Hitchcock movies...and we were on IMDB.com and Eva Simky was some random extra in one. That was universally shot down.”

DESIGNING HER OWN BRIDAL GOWN: “My fiance is named Zach Aberman. We’re childhood sweethearts. There are two things about me, that define me and that whole Gemini thing: I’m impatient, but more than anything I am decisive. I knew I wanted him and I made up my mind right away. I have proposed like five times. And he’s more practical. He always said something like, ‘We’re too young’ or ‘Let’s wait until we graduate.’ Well finally he proposes. And now I’m so busy. With the wedding gown, there’s so much pressure if you are a bridal designer. It’s crazy. Do I give people what they want with something over the top or do I do me? If you look at what I wear, I’m pretty simple with my own clothes.”

WHAT SHE WOULD DO IF NOT FASHION DESIGN: “I don’t know where it comes from – maybe that other personality – but I have this criminology mind. I have some ideas and I’d like to put those to good use. I still read criminology books. I could really make a difference out there I think. You know how there are bounty hunters? I wish there was a bounty profiler. I would totally do that in my spare time.”