By Cindy Mindell
COLCHESTER – Fifteen-year-old Zoe Grinfeld just marked her first decade as a serious fashion designer. At age 5, she created her first jewelry line, selling the baubles at local craft bazaars. At age 11, she started planning the first of three fashion shows.
Now a junior at the Capitol Region Education Council Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, the theater-arts and production major has just been thrust onto the national stage. In December, she beat two fellow contestants to win “Project Runway: Threads,” a Lifetime TV channel competition series that premiered in October.
Created by the producers of “Project Runway,” a competition series featuring up-and-coming fashion designers, the new show highlights the talents of teen and ‘tween fashion designers, judged by a panel of fashion professionals.
Grinfeld learned about “Project Runway: Threads” early last year, when the show’s casting company sent a letter to the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. Approached by her costume-design teacher, Gail Fresia, “I was like, ‘Hey! I could totally do that!’” Grinfeld recalls. “So I sent them an email with photos of my work and after a few Skype interviews, they told me that I was cast.”
Each of the eight episodes follows three new contestants as they complete a challenge presented by the judges. For Grinfeld’s episode, the contenders had to design what would be the final look in their own personal fashion shows. At the last minute, they were also asked to create a complementary design.
With the final episode of the season taped in May, Grinfeld had to keep her secret for seven months. She won tuition to the summer program at Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles, $10,000 to be used at JoAnn Fabrics, a Brother sewing and embroidery machine, and a feature in Seventeen magazine.
Fresia says that the theater-design and production department is proud of Zoe. “She is very talented and maintains high grades while working on many of our shows, and she found time to go to Los Angeles to shoot the show,” she says. “Her design work is creative and thoughtful. Her spirit and dedication to the arts is what keeps us all teaching!”
Though she was nervous going into the show, “I knew, especially with my dad there to help me, that no matter what, I’d be proud of what I could accomplish,” Grinfeld says. “I was surprised by how good it felt to be recognized for my work. I’ve spent the majority of my life creating, and being rewarded for that is one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced.”
Grinfeld grew up attending Hebrew school at Congregation Ahavath Achim in Colchester, where her parents have both served on the board. After her bat mitzvah, she volunteered and taught several years at the school. She says she takes inspiration for her designs from people’s stories and experiences and her personal struggles.
“I know that the clothing I make is not for everyone,” Grinfeld says. “I mean, it’s impossible to think that everyone will like everything you make. To me, it’s all about whether or not I’m proud of the final result. When my looks walked the runway on the show, I knew, regardless of whether I came out victorious, that I’d put in all of my effort and done the best I could.”
This summer, Grinfeld will intern with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in New York.
CAP: Fifteen-year-old Zoe Grinfeld