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North Shore teen hits the ‘Runway’ with his fashion designs

Tieler Garsaud, a junior at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, works on a recreation of a 1903 gown from the Titanic in the school lab in New Orleans. Garsaud is a cast member on Lifetime's 'Project Runway Junior' this season.
Tieler Garsaud, a junior at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, works on a recreation of a 1903 gown from the Titanic in the school lab in New Orleans. Garsaud is a cast member on Lifetime's 'Project Runway Junior' this season. Advocate Photo

Tieler Garsaud hasn’t only grown taller in the two years since he appeared on television in “Project Runway Threads.” The 16-year-old fashion designer says his aesthetic skills have grown up, too.

The Abita Springs teenager is putting his more mature abilities to the test in reality television once again, this time as a contestant in “Project Runway Junior,” a Lifetime series that puts 12 young designers through the same creative wringer as the popular adult series, eliminating one designer per episode. The finalists then go head to head with a complete collection.

While Garsaud has the advantage of another reality show under his belt, his experience in “Project Runway Threads” was very different, he said.

In “Threads,” young designers and one of their parents worked together as a team. Three teams were pitted against one another per episode, with the winning team named at the end of each show. Garsaud, who was only 14 at the time, and his mother, Tahmi Hawsey, were the winners on their episode.

But this time around, parents were not on the set during the taping, although contestants saw them at night. The structure is like the adult version — Hawsey described it as intense — with challenges and tight time frames. All the contestants were very nervous in the beginning, Garsaud said.

But they quickly bonded, and Garsaud said he stays in close contact with some friends he made on the show, which was shot during the summer but began airing Thursday night.

“It was like a big family, a dysfunctional family, but a nice family,” he said.

Getting on the show was another challenge, with phone calls, Skype sessions and person-to-person interviews.

Contestants had to have a portfolio, although Garsaud was well prepared for that hurdle. A junior at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts concentrating in theater costume design, he has shown his designs, under the brand name Tieler James, at fashion shows from Florida to Vancouver, Canada.

Even so, he didn’t make the cut last year, the first season for “Project Runway Junior,” and had to give it another try this year.

Garsaud and his mother are also well-versed in the need to keep things under wraps. They had to keep his participation in “Threads” a secret until close to the time for it to air, and that’s also true for “Project Runway Junior” — including staying absolutely mum about how he fared in the competition.

The show made Garsaud realize a few things about himself: “I underestimate myself a lot. I’m faster than I expected. I know what I’m doing.’’

He credits his work on productions at NOCCA and classes there with helping him reach that point.

Christopher Arthur, his costume design instructor, said his student has an eye for details, but he most admires his team effort and humble attitude.

“Tieler has already achieved success in the public eye, but here in the classroom, he is just another student ready for the next assignment,” Arthur said. “I am personally looking forward to the upcoming show so I can see what choices and decisions he has made on it.”

Garsaud has had more than a few career highlights already. He’s appeared in British Vogue and British Glamour magazines and was named “emerging designer of the year” at the South Walton Fashion Week in Florida. He also was named one of Gambit newspaper’s 40 Under 40, spotlighting people younger than 40.

At the tender age of 11, he testified in front of the state Legislature about bullying.

He talks with assurance about his work and his inspirations, which draw from music, books and even history. He said his latest collection is based on Joan of Arc, where he “plays with gender,” and previously he completed a collection inspired by Marie Antoinette.

But Garsaud said he still has a lot to learn, and college is definitely in his plans. He wants to go to the Parsons School of Design in New York. “That’s Plan A, B, C and D,” he said.

Read more about Tieler at theadvocate.com

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