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Jillian Lewis Trunk Show a Hit

Searle does well with Project Runway designer.

“Project Runway” alumna Jillian Lewis helped Searle rack up $29,000 in retail sales at a trunk show last weekend.

This story first appeared in the September 11, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The most fashion-forward item on the line was the bestseller — a $1,498 ruffled raincoat. A $700 knit dress, a version of which the designer wore on one of the show’s episodes, was also popular, as well as a $700 wrap cardigan, a $400 taffeta skirt dress and a $500 cable sweater with puffy sleeves.

Searle’s director of sales and marketing Rick Weinstein said, “In my 16 years at Searle, this is far and away the best trunk show performance for a brand new designer. Nothing has come close. This, tied along with the ‘Project Runway’ connection, makes this quite a compelling story because the reality is that she’s talented and her things sell.”

A Parsons The New School for Design grad, Lewis started sewing at 16, when her mother bought her a sewing machine on a whim. In school, she was also part of the “Parsons Design Star” project on MTV’s college network. Lewis auditioned for the third season of “Project Runway” but didn’t make the cut until the fourth season. In terms of creativity, she is said to be inspired by the illustrations of Ruben Toledo and Patrick Nagel, the architecture of Antoni Gaudi and Santiago Calatrava, and the art of Egon Schiele.

Her trunk show at Searle was a bit of a homecoming since Lewis worked there before her TV appearance. Her former employer was so pleased with the trunk show that it has been extended and another one is in the works, according to Weinstein.