Jamall Osterholm is one of only 16 designers picked out of thousands of talented fashion designers from around the world to compete on season 17 of the reality show “Project Runway,” which premieres at 8 p.m. March 14 on the cable channel Bravo.
Osterholm has deep roots in Cranston. He attended Gladstone Elementary School and Bain Middle School, and graduated from Cranston East in 2013. He went on to study at the Rhode Island School of Design and earned his BSA in apparel design/fashion design in 2017.
“I love Cranston. It is my home. I’ve gotten so much support and love from friend, family and the community,” he said. “I do want to give special shout-outs to a couple of teachers from Cranston East who really helped me. My art teacher, Alice Gebhart, was really great to me. Nancy Riley, my guidance counselor, and English teacher Kim Salimeno had such a big impact on me as a kid. Education is so important. Getting their support really helped me. It put me on a better path to where I am now.”
Osterholm currently lives in East Providence and maintains a studio in the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket.
Since 2017, Osterholm says life has been a whirlwind.
“After graduating, it been a really crazy year and half. A lot has happened,” he said. “I showed my senior collection at RISD. I was in New York Fashion Week during September 2017. Through a sponsorship, I was able to create my second collection at Style Week in Providence. Then I collaborated with [the Council of Fashion Designers of America] to design a Series 6 bottle of Lifewater, owned by Pepsi, who in turn sponsored my third collection, which was shown at New York Fashion Week in September 2018.”
Osterholm said the support of his family means a great deal to him.
“I was raised by grandmother, Juliana Osterholm, who is my biggest supporter, and my aunt,” he said. “I’ve done so many things that have helped her learn about different types of art. I’m the only one in our family doing this crazy stuff. She might not understand, but always supports me. She’s come to all my shows. She loves being at the shows, she’s in awe of it all … it is so nice she is so excited for me.”
Osterholm also credits his lifelong friend Sandra Lopez for helping him along the way.
“We’ve been friends since third grade,” he said. “We went all through Cranston schools, and even RISD, together. I love her.”
Contemporary British designers Grace Wales Bonner and Craig Green are some of Osterholm’s fashion heroes. He also looks up to classic designers such as Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. As for fashion trends, he said he could never get behind flip-flops.
“They should only be for the beach. But in my heart of hearts I truly believe anyone can do whatever they want,” he said.
Osterholm said he was surprised that he was selected for “Project Runway.”
“I only auditioned for the show one time,” he said. “When they called me, I was shocked. It was really, really awesome, such good news. It’s extremely selective and they really take a lot of care in choosing designers who they think have something special and something we can share with America.”
While Osterholm is known currently for his menswear designs, most of the challenges on “Project Runway” are for women.
“It was hard to change my aesthetic from the type of designer I am,” he said. “I was pretty nervous, but at the end of the day, the show is all about figuring it out, adapting, learning. It was difficult, it was fine. Coming from a menswear perspective, it was different. It has benefited me in the competition.”
Osterholm praised the other 15 contestants that he worked with.
“We formed great relationships with everyone,” he said. “Super talented cast. Everyone is really strong in what they do. They all came to do their best, we got to go through this crazy journey together.”
The experience itself, Osterholm said, was humbling, exhausting and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“They put us in an amazing hotel, actually a huge apartment in Brooklyn,” he said. “Obviously, the show is stressful. No time to relax. In a normal day, there’s lot of work to do. It is ‘Project Runway.’ The challenges are short, a one-day challenge, two-day day challenge.”
Osterholm said the contestants would wake up fairly early, and the day ends when they clock strikes at midnight.
He also praised Bravo for the way the contestants were treated.
“We were very well fed, all socializing with each other,” he said. “Bravo gave us time to unwind, relax and interact with people. We could call family, but they really want us to be present, and really be immersed in the experience. It was actually really a good thing not having access to my phone. I felt free. By the end of my experience, I didn’t want my phone back.”
As for the trips to Mood Fabrics in New York, Osterholm said he was happy he got to meet Swatch, the store’s mascot.
His advice for aspiring designers is practical.
“Really just to stay strong in your conviction and ideas, and what makes you you,” he said. “Right now, any type of artist, there’s so much accessibility to everything. Don’t feel like you need to do what others are doing. It’s important to stay true to yourself, and doing what you want, others will come around and understand your perspective.”
In five to 10 years, Osterholm hopes to own his own brand and putt out collections. While he would like to connect with someone and be in love, right now, nothing is more important than art, work and career.
“I am hoping to show again in September with a solo fashion show,” he said. “I am making things happen. I am trying to push for more wearable actually being sold fashion pieces.”
Osterholm said has very low-key plans for watching the first episode of “Project Runway.”
“I will be watching with my friends, in NYC, so no big viewing party. Sandra will be there with me,” he said.
Osterholm said is ready for whatever comes next.
“People are starting to know who I am, hopefully they see my work. Me being famous is not a thing – yet,” he said.
Osterholm’s designs can be seen on his Instagram account, @jamallosterholm.