Andrea Pitter never saw herself becoming a reality television star. But after several friends and colleagues sent her the application form for Amazon’s Making The Cut, the Brooklyn-based bridal designer decided to at least take a look at the fashion competition series. Between the million-dollar prize, mentorship with Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum, and an opportunity to sell her pieces on Amazon Fashion, it quickly became a no-brainer. “I was like, ‘Sign me up!’” she tells Refinery29. It’s a good thing she did. Last week, Pitter won Making The Cut Season 2, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
"I've been through a lot throughout my career. This is one of those moments where I was like, 'Okay, this is what all of this was for,'” she says.
Over the course of eight episodes, Making The Cut’s judges — Klum, Winnie Harlow, and Jeremy Scott, as well as guest stars — narrowed down the group to three finalists, including Pitter, Colombia’s Andrea Salazar, and New York’s Gary Graham. While, initially, Pitter had to be pushed to apply for the competition series, once she committed to participating, she didn’t waver once. “I had my eye on the prize from the very beginning,” she says. When asked if there was a moment she felt she could be sent home, Pitter confidently replies: “No.”
Scott agrees that there was no reason for Pitter to ever doubt herself. From the start of the season, the Moschino designer was one of Pitter’s biggest fans. “Every time she came up to talk, [talent and ambition] radiated from her,” he says. As a judge, Scott says his role was to push the participants to make clear why Amazon Fashion should bet their million-dollar prize on them. “What I really wanted to see from the designers was a driving force behind why they are doing what they are doing,” he says. According to him, Pitter excelled at that; the combination of “surprise” and “reinvention” is what he believes makes Pitter an “amazing talent.”
Pitter’s looks wowed the judges in almost every episode of the season. Naturally, her design prowess shined brightest during the bridalwear challenge in episode 3, when she created a wedding gown with a feather top and crisp ivory overskirt that was transformed into a jumpsuit when the model took off the skirt during the runway show. Still, she knew when to play outside her sandbox. In episode 5, designers were asked to create an avant-garde look using denim, in partnership with Levi’s. Pitters showcased an all-denim balloon-like jacket-and-skirt combo with pelvic cut-outs that won her the approval of Levi’s chief product officer Karyn Hillman and became Pitter's favorite look of the season. Beyond her designs, Pitter gained the applause of the judges by challenging herself to perfect her fit on plus-size women, becoming the only designer in the competition to showcase her work on curvy models.
In 2009, Pitter started her brand Pantora Bridal — for brides, bridesmaids, guests, and kids — with just $4,000 of personal savings. Since then, she has built a name for herself in the wedding world thanks to her elegant, yet accessible designs, appearing in wedding publications and even on the cover of The Knot’s Spring 2021 issue earlier this year. But while she has had a fairly successful career before joining Making The Cut, Pitter says that she’s had to face a fair share of obstacles in getting to where she is today.
The daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Pitter was primed for a career in medicine or law. She remembers the exact moment she decided to quit her parents’ dreams to pursue her own: In the middle of a standardized test to enter a highly academic school, she began answering the questions wrong to not pass the exam. “I remember making a decision for myself despite what everyone would feel about it,” says Pitter. “That is probably my defining moment as a child.” Eventually, her parents came on board: “After a while, they were like ‘We either support her or lose her.’”
She ended up attending the High School of Fashion Industries in New York City and, later, the Fashion Institute of Technology. At 23, she decided to focus her career on bridal designs. “I had to find something that I enjoyed doing,” she says. "At one point I told myself, You have to do one thing if you want to make a mark.”
But while wedding designers are tasked with creating what some consider the most important look in one’s life, bridal fashion is rarely celebrated or recognized within the industry. “We are struggling to be seen,” Pitter says. “What makes us not fashion designers?”
While Pitter has struggled for recognition as a designer, she says that, as a Black woman, she has also felt overlooked by other brands. To prevent brides from feeling “like an afterthought” on their big day, she launched Forgotten Skin Tones in 2015, a collection of linings and illusion mesh offerings for women of color. “I wanted to create something that was readily available for women,” she says. “Something they can see to know that they were thought of.”
Throughout her career in fashion, Pitter says she’s found a way to bring her Caribbean heritage and Crown Heights upbringing with her as well. She says it’s been crucial for her to grow her business in Brooklyn. “So many people ask why I haven’t relocated to Manhattan,” she says. “Honestly, it’s because my neighborhood deserves to see nice things.” While she’s now opening two stores in downtown Los Angeles — thanks largely to the $1 million prize from Making The Cut — Pitter says that her focus will always be on elevating the community she’s from and being an inspiration to budding designers.
“When [you’re] a first-generation American, it’s hard to know that you can have out-of-the-box experiences,” she says. “For me to win, it allows more Caribbean parents to see that there can be success in [a fashion career].”