Proud Moment: Chicago Is Taking "Project Runway" By Storm

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It wasn't too long ago that we hung out with Project Runway contestant Katelyn Pankoke at her rad studio, and while she didn't take home the $500,000 prize in season 11, she's back on Season 12 for another shot. We'll definitely be cheering for Pankoke, but there's also another Chicago superstar joining her in the fierce design competition this time around — talk about some serious hometown pride!
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Meet Kahindo Mateene, the creative force behind MODAHNIK, the gorgeous line known for its vibrant, African-influenced prints and flattering silhouettes that are guaranteed to put a little life into any gal's closet. While the budding designer has only been around since 2009, she already has local and international retailers, a slew of great press, history at the Macy's Fashion Incubator, and now, some serious air time with Heidi Klum.
We can't wait to see what Mateene comes up with on a whim (rumored parachute-materials challenge included), so we'll be tuning in every Thursday night at 8 p.m. with popcorn and vino in hand — and so should you. But before the season gets too deep with deconstruction, draping, and, um, drama get to know this go-getter off camera.
What was the application process like? Is this your first time trying to compete?
"This was my fourth time applying. Last year, I was a finalist, so the application process was fresh in my mind. First, I had to fill out an application. Next, I was called in for a casting interview where I was totally star-struck by Tim Gunn! After he gave me the yes, I did a one-on-one interview. A few weeks later, I got the call that I had been casted on Season 12 — finally!"
Is the experience as terrifying as it looks?
"The experience is not as terrifying as it is intense! There is a lot of paperwork to complete, background checks, medical exams — even a call with a psychiatrist."
Tell us about your childhood. Was it all about designing clothes for your Barbie dolls, or was this a passion found later in life?
"My love of fashion started as a young girl in Africa. My earliest memories include playing with paper cutout dolls and browsing through Spiegel catalogs. I also have a strong connection to my mother's Singer sewing machine and impeccable sense of style! My professional career started from the moment I decided that I would become a fashion designer and enroll in the fashion design program at the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago back in 2002."
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Who or what impacts your designs and why?
"I tend to pull inspiration from a lot of places like my travels, street style, favorite television shows, music, and different cultures. However, my Congolese culture and heritage are a huge factor that influences my design."
What are you working on right now?
"I am working on several exciting projects right now. I am working on my spring/summer 2014 collection, and will be launching my online store in a couple of weeks! I also have a Kickstarter program in the works for my sustainable and ethically produced line of clutches that can be used as iPad covers."
Who were some of your favorite contestants that you competed against?
"Alexander Pope is one of my favorites. He comes from a costume background, but his style is still very wearable!"
What was your favorite and least favorite part about being on Project Runway?
"My favorite part was being around other creative people. My least favorite part was being cut off from the world and my family and friends!"
What can we expect this season?
"A lot of drama!"
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Photo: Courtesy of A+E Networks
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