When Jesse was 12 years old, he designed and stitched a ball gown for the storefront window of a Maine boutique (he’s from Swampscott, but his stylist father knew the shop owner). The dress was made entirely out of sailboat flags, and was displayed in the front of fourTWELVE in Rockland until it was purchased.
With that, Jesse was able to see someone wear one of his pieces for the first time.
Bridget, who has moved all around Massachusetts and now lives in Brockton, started sewing at age 9 when her mom wanted her to pick up a hobby, and then ventured into the more experimental when she started making outfits for drag queens using feathers and lace.
By now, both 16 year olds have been mentored by Tim Gunn, famed fashion consultant and Project Runway personality. The teens are two of 12 contestants on the inaugural season of Project Runway: Junior, which premieres November 12 on Lifetime.
For 11 years, Project Runway has put fashion designers to the test, but now 13-17 year olds will have a chance to show what they can sew for a chance to win a full scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in California.
This season, their creations will be judged by singer Kelly Osbourne, designer Christian Siriano, and executive fashion editor at Cosmopolitan and Seventeen Aya Kanai. Michelle Obama will make a video appearance in an episode to air in December, and actress Bella Thorne will be a guest judge for the final challenge.
When Jesse got the call that he was a contestant, he said he couldn’t believe the news. It was about a month after school ended, so he was away from his friends — during the school year he lives on campus at Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick. Not that he was able to tell them right away, anyway: He had to wait until the first press release came out to share the news.
“They were all like, ‘Oh, that’s why you were so shady over the summer,’ because I had to keep it a secret for so long,’’ Jesse said, laughing. “Everyone was so supportive.’’
Bridget said she started crying when she heard. When she was able to tell her friends, she said they cried too.
“As the premiere comes closer, everyone’s so excited to come to my premiere party. It’s been overwhelmingly positive,’’ Bridget said.
She plans to just have a few friends over with pizza and snacks, though she admits she dreads seeing herself on film. Still, she’s excited to be a part of Project Runway’s first juniors season.
“I’m really happy they’re finally doing it,’’ she said. “It’s about time for young talent to get recognized.’’
To Bridget and Jesse, despite their age, this is just what they were meant to do. On Project Runway: Junior, they were thrown into a unique experience with a group of kids who share their passion.
“Just being surrounded by people who are there for fashion,’’ Jesse said, “I think that was the best part about it.’’