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alicia hardesty

Alicia Hardesty (Photo by Pamula Drake Honchell)

It’s been 10 years since fashion designer Alicia Hardesty stole our hearts as a contestant on Project Runway and spoke to us in Tagg’s first issue about her clothing line, “Original Tomboy.” A decade later, she is gearing up to relaunch the line and is continuing to act as a mentor to others in the industry.

Hardesty competed on season 10 of Project Runway, placing ninth to Dmitry Sholokhov, who was later also crowned the winner of Project Runway All Stars. During the competition, Hardesty showed off her androgynous style both on and off the runway and cultivated a large group of “Team Alicia” fans all across the country.

“The biggest thing I learned [on Project Runway] was to trust my gut, my own perspective, and not stray from what I know is inside of me that needs to be expressed,” shares Hardesty. “I also learned how much stress I can handle and still execute – it wasn’t always to the standards I held myself to, but it was executed nonetheless and for the most part got me through the competition.”

After competing on Project Runway, Hardesty launched the clothing line “Original Tomboy,” which included pieces that focused on or catered to tomboys, and bridged the gap between feminine women’s wear and menswear. In 2014, she took a break from the brand to focus on mentoring and coaching. For the last seven years, Hardesty has been a designer at Kohl’s and plans to relaunch “Original Tomboy” later this year.

For the relaunch, Hardesty is sticking to her “gender-neutral aesthetic,” though she says she has strayed from using that term since it’s so generic. “My motto has always been ‘wear what you want’ because rules are ridiculous, especially when it comes to clothes,” says Hardesty. “Clothes are just clothes, and they should be used as the tool they are – for expression, enjoyment, function, utility.”

The themes of nature and the outdoors will also play a larger role in Hardesty’s line. “I worked with a great graphic artist friend to re-imagine my wordmark, and create a couple of graphics revolving around getting outside and getting dirty, and growing stuff,” says Hardesty. “It all goes back to becoming our best selves, showing the way, and connecting to nature plays a huge role in that.”

Aside from “Original Tomboy,” Hardesty also hosts a podcast with her friend and colleague Ana Montana called “Don’t Believe the Hype,” which she describes as a “very honest take on life in the fashion industry.” She’s also passionate about mentoring the next generation of designers, including others that are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

However, she cautions against the tokenization of queer people in the industry. “It’s easy to think we have to live up to a label, and whatever culture has decided that needs to mean, but the only person we have to answer to is ourselves,” says Hardesty. “Design based on what’s inside – not based on who people think you are. [You’ve got to] live up to your own expectations of yourself, no one else’s.”



Becca Damante
Becca Damante
Becca is a Smith college graduate with a B.A. in Women and Gender Studies and an Archives concentration. She has worked and written for non-profits organizations such as Media Matters for America, The Century Foundation, and GLAAD, and loves to write about the intersections between pop culture, politics, and social justice. You can find her at @beccadamante on Twitter.