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By Lavanya Ramanathan
Thursday, October 30, 2008

Designing for Your Dreams

Going in, it seemed as if Los Angeles designer Rami Kashou had the fourth season of "Project Runway" in the bag. He had, after all, already dressed the likes of Jessica Alba, already had his clothes featured on Tyra Banks's talk show.

By now, we all know that 22-year-old spitfire Christian Siriano banged out a collection of moody, European-looking architectural suits and gowns for Fashion Week. And that ultimately it was he who left with the adoration and, oh yes, that mondo check.

Talking with Kashou by phone last week, we got the sense that the premier purveyor of the Greek goddess drape is totally cool with how it all turned out.

"It's been great," Kashou says of the eight months that have passed since the Bryant Park show. "I've done the Home Shopping Network for Scoop. . . . I'm working on my own line for the Home Shopping Network." There is the spate of special orders -- wedding gowns, cocktail dresses. Dita Von Teese and host Heidi Klum have joined Alba in wearing his clothes. For Kashou, "Runway" brought press and made him nearly a household name, and that, he tells us, is what he was after in the first place.

How one keeps his chin up in the face of a little loss will be among the subjects Kashou will discuss next Thursday when he visits the Phillips Collection in conjunction with its Phillips After 5 art-and-drinks soirees. (We're telling you about it early because we expect that by next Thursday, all the tickets will have been snapped up.)

"I want to talk about what it takes to keep a dream alive," Kashou says. "What it's like to be a 5-year-old and have a dream" and turn it into reality at age 32. The talk (titled "Making It Work") will be "about passions and emerging business and 'Project Runway,' " he says. And he'll tie his work in with that of "wrap" artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

So what does Kashou think of Washington fashion? Having been to the city recently, the very L.A. designer says: "It has that New York sense of serious. People aren't flashy or crazy." (A comparison to New York? We'll take it!)

For Washington's budding fashionistas, he suggests only: "Have a little more fun. Obviously politics is a priority, and they have better things to worry about. But there's nothing wrong with being smart and fashionable at the same time."

Kashou visits the Phillips Collection next Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for his talk are $15; Phillips members, $10. Admission to the special exhibition is extra, but the ticket includes Phillips After 5 admission. 1600 21st St. NW. Call 202-387-2151, Ext. 247 to buy tickets (this will save you Ticketmaster fees, too) or visit http://www.ticketmaster.com (search "Rami lecture").

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