Columnist Michael Cook spoke with Project Runway Season 9 designer Joshua McKinley about his designs on life and more…

Michael:  How has being a finalist on “Project Runway” changed your life?

Joshua:  Drastically! I think that’s the best way to describe life post-Runway! Not that things with me are ever normal or by-the-book, but now having come off an Emmy-nominated television show, things definitely are different! It’s strange to think that people know so much about you and your life having been an open book on the show as a designer and a person. I shared some extremely intimate details of my life and its wonderful to get such heartfelt feedback and love from people.

Project Runway Season 9 contestant Joshua McKinley stands with models wearing three of his designs.

Michael: How did you get started in the world of fashion?

Joshua: I would love to answer “Fashion found me,” however I think style and fashion are cultured in people, almost like an experiment in a Petri dish. From a very young age, I was always expressing myself through clothing and it ultimately branched into me dabbling in design as a teenager, which then lead to my thought that “I have a very specific design aesthetic and I believe it’s something people will be able to respond to.”

Michael:  Tell me about your time on “Project Runway”? Who have you stayed close to? Any behind the scenes dish to share?

Joshua: Filming and challenges are a very stressful experience, but it was great to also work extremely hard day in and day out doing something I am passionate about! I always like to say “in some ways it was like a Master’s Degree program in regards to how intense it was at times.”

What I do love about the whole experience is the amazing bonds you built with the other designers. I still keep in touch with a handful of the other designers especially Anya, Anthony Ryan, and Viktor. Amazing talents and visionaries! So behind the scenes dish?; I would have to say is that the food was beyond! That being said, if you had time to get away and eat it!

Michael:  Some people may have painted you as a villain on the show, whereas I found you to be honest and forthright with your competitors. How do you answer your critics?

Joshua:  Critics are critics for that purpose! We are all trying to do our job and I respect their work. At this point, we all should realize that reality television has a formula and characters are developed and edited to make the viewers come back each week, so I am glad I was able to keep people “critiquing and coming back!” This is a tough industry and I will choose to take my path with integrity and honesty, which in turn will sit differently with different individuals.

Michael:  Who are some of your biggest style influences?

Joshua:  I love color, tailoring, and sex! So I would have to say I am definitely influenced by Gianni Versace, Jeremy Scott, and Viktor & Rolf.

Michael:  You’re coming to Asbury Park the weekend of our Miss Paradise pageant to join in the festivities! Is this your first trip to Asbury Park? What have you heard about our amazing town?

Joshua:  This indeed was my first trip to Asbury Park and I loved the weekend and especially the pageant! I live for a good show and drag queens definitely know how to serve entertainment! I had heard Asbury Park was definitely the hotspot to be in the summer, unfortunately I came in February.  All went well and definitely “glamorously”, so I definitely am planning on a return trip!

Michael:  When you’re not designing your amazing garments, what can we find you doing?

Joshua:  Sewing them.  Right now I’m a one man show with a sweatshop, but to be honest I don’t mind being hot and sweaty!

Michael:  What’s the plan?

Joshua:  This is such an amazing time in my life right now! I am enjoying the moment and getting inspiration everywhere I go. I am putting the finishing touches on my limited edition tank line that I will be launching in a few weeks, and updates will be on my Facebook fan page.  I am planning a presentation of my menswear collection this summer on Fire Island, so perhaps we can bring a little love to Asbury Park as well!

I can’t wait for everyone to see what’s in store but at this point “the sky’s the limit, and I am so excited for the ride!”