Project Accessory Winner Brian Burkhardt Talks Design, Art School, and Disney World

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During the final moments of Lifetime's Project Accessory, Miami's fashionistas and design junkies held their breath as judges Kenneth Cole, Molly Sims, and Ariel Foxman decided the fate of two of our own.

South Florida was represented by both Nina Cortes and Brian Burkhardt, there to prove their obvious and immense talents, placing Miami firmly on the fashion map. In the end, the judges granted artist and Triian designer Brian Burkhardt the winner of the competition and $100,000.

After we exhaled, we got on the phone with Burkhardt who told us what he'd be doing with his winnings, how the show was like summer camp on acid, and that limitations are only in your mind.

New Times: Were you surprised when you won or did you fully expect to win?
Brian Burkhardt: Do I think that I'm good enough to win? Absolutely. I always felt that I was good enough to win. I always thought that I had the creativity and the ability. I wasn't sure, to be honest with you. I was kind of amazed and amazed in a great way because I didn't go on to win the show. I went on the show to do the best I could do and contribute to what I do. I know my line isn't as commercial as I think a lot of the other things out there, and it's so exciting to win the show just sticking to what I do and taking risks. I kind of was shocked and honored and felt totally respected.

It was totally cool that you and Nina were representing Miami in the end. Last we spoke, you said you felt a sense of camaraderie with her as opposed to competition. Was that true till the end?
One hundred percent. We're proud to be down here. We think there's amazing stuff going on. Everyone has these preconceived ideas that you have to be in New York or L.A. We were in the top two, and we showed them that's not the case. We were one hundred percent supportive of each other the entire competition. What Nina does and I do are two separate things. What we have in common is that we work really hard and we give it our all and that's what we focus on. If they went for Nina, I'd be happy for her, and she was super happy for me.

What are you going to do with the money? What's your next step?
I'm launching a new line around the beginning of the year. I'm going to invest the money back into the company. I'm going to go to Disney World for a couple of days (laughs), as ridiculous as it sounds, but I am. I just want to, like, relax and really that's what I'm going to do.

It bides me some time. As well as my line that's accessible to everyone, I am a couture designer. I'm going to be focusing more on those pieces. Doing more customer stuff, I'm getting more orders. The exposure from the show has been tremendous. I just want to grow. I want this to be a springboard for whatever's next. There's a sense of fear that comes with that, because you don't know what's next, and maybe it's doing something brand new. I'm very excited for that.

You brought a real sense of couture, and your arts background really came through. Do you feel like you're able to bridge the gap between design and art?
That's my goal. For me, I've always considered myself an artist and now I'm a designer. I think artist and designer are interchangeable. It's the same thing. I have my line with Trisha, Triian. I have my artwork, I have my design work, which is one in the same. Then I have my jewelry line, so for me, it's really about the merging of them all. Everything we do is one of a kind; they are wearable pieces of sculpture or art.

Any juicy behind-the-scenes secrets of the show you could tell us now that it's all over?
We as designers got along so well. We all had different skill sets. James was amazing, when we were doing the shoes, he sat down and gave us like a fast, one on one tutorial, idea of how to do a shoe. People really extended themselves to help each other. That's what I found truly amazing about the process.

What I was also shocked with on the show is when they tell you you have twenty minutes to shop, you have twenty minutes. I was picking up a spool of thread and they were like, "Put it down." And I'm like, "Really?" They were like, "Really."

When you first auditioned for this competition, you mentioned to me that you were nervous about having to make all these different kinds of accessories that you weren't used to. You said you all helped each other out. Do you feel like you learned to make new items?
It was like a college degree in a month. It was like summer camp on acid. It was really like one of these super speedy, fast learning experiences. What was really exciting was as a designer, you realize your limitations are fabricated in your head. I was making a shoe. I was building it before I even knew where it was going. I just did it.

Having an art background was such an advantage to me. I was used to being critiqued and being torn up. There were people there that I believe really hadn't received critique much, and I think it rocked them. I think I was very fortunate to have that experience under my belt. As a designer, it's basically problem solving. What do I have to do? How do I want to do it? What are my restrictions? And maybe, who's my client? And you just go at it. Once you realize that you're capable of doing it, you can design anything.

You're from up north, right?
I'm from New York originally. I grew up in Long Island, then I was in Massachusetts, then I've been in Miami for over four years.

Are you going to continue to base your work out of Miami?
I live in Miami. Miami is my home, and I'm not going anywhere. I found my place. I absolutely love this place. I want to get more involved in the community. I think Miami is a hotspot. I want to work with other designers here, I want to collaborate with people, I want to do other projects. I want to do work with Miami and for Miami. All of my fabrication is here right now, all my production is here, and I kind of like it that way.

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