Benjamin is the first Aussie to be cast on Project Runway

Australian designer Benjamin Mach stars in the 11th series of TV series Project Runway (US).
Australian designer Benjamin Mach stars in the 11th series of TV series Project Runway (US). Contributed by Foxtel publicity

AUSSIE fashion designer Benjamin Mach's move to New York was inspired by Project Runway.

The Sydney Institute of Design graduate had been living and working in London for nine years before making the move across the Atlantic to compete in the reality TV show, hosted by Heidi Klum.

Mach is the first Aussie to be cast on the US show, which inspired an Australian spin-off.

He reckons being the first and only Aussie was a great ice breaker with his fellow contestants.

"A lot of the other designers just loved to hear me say words," he said.

"One of my roommates would always just say 'say this for me'. At times I was like 'I'm not a puppet but ok, if it gets a laugh'."

The Sydney native had an impressive CV before being invited to audition for the show's 11th series.

His work has graced the runways of Sydney, London, Paris, Madrid and Miami, and while he was based in London he worked with major brands Marchesa, WINTLE and the Spanish label Roberto Torretta.

"The big motivation for going was just for the life experience," he said.

"I thought it was a good way to introduce myself to a new market."

Mach had only briefly visited New York City once before moving there for Project Runway.

But there was no time for sight-seeing.

"The show moves at a very fast pace," he said.

"What you see is how it's happening. Nothing is set up. There's no scripting or anything like that. It's like bam, bam, bam; challenge day, runway day, challenge day, runway day. It's a roller coaster."

The new series of Project Runway involves a big twist: the designers working in teams for every challenge.

"Everyone was a little bit shocked, but once you're there what are you going to do?" Mach said.

"I feel like maybe the expectation might have been having teams would create more drama, but actually what it did was it made us become a lot closer. We really had to understand each other.

"It was really positive for a lot of us. There's a really tight group of six or seven of us. We're almost in daily contact. We're like brothers and sisters."

Mach reckons he was a strong character on the show, but not a controversial one.

"I'm a little bit of a sensitive soul but I'm not a push over," he said.

"I like to think I'm very fair. It's always been my focus that everyone is going ok. I think some people appreciated that and I think some people misinterpreted that."

With challenges involving guest clients and judges like red-carpet fashion experts Joan and Melissa Rivers, Bette Midler and Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, Mach got to rub shoulders with some of his dream clients.

He walked away from the show with some runway-worthy pieces.

"There were some complete disasters but there are some I'm exceptionally proud of," he said.

"There was a red carpet dress for Miranda Lambert that I'm really proud of. (Judge) Nina Garcia said it was a beautiful dress. It's not easy to get Nina Garcia to say you've made a beautiful dress."

Still in New York, Mach is working on his own clothing and accessories lines. He hopes to continue connecting with his home country through red carpet commentary, which he has done for newspapers and TV as part of their coverage of the Oscars and Golden Globes.

"I really enjoy doing that kind of stuff, you know, anything I can do to connect with the Australian audience and still be over here," he said.

"I would love to be able to bring my own line back to Australia when it gets to a level that I can take it to other markets. That's definitely on the horizon."

Project Runway series 11 debuts on August 7 at 8.30pm on Arena.



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