With his dramatically arched eyebrows, playful hats and impeccably cut suits, Patrick McDonald could never be mistaken for anything but a fashion maven.
“I personally like to dress up. It makes me feel good,” the onetime San Luis Obispo resident said.
McDonald’s self-professed “passion for fashion” makes him perfect for Bravo’s newest creative competition show. “Launch My Line,” which premieres tonight, features 20 fierce fashionistas vying for the chance to create their own clothing line.
“This was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in my life,” McDonald said. “It was just a wonderful experience.”
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Known as “The Dandy,” McDonald is a familiar sight in stylish New York City circles — whether seated in the front row at Fall Fashion Week or interviewing designers at posh parties. The fashion writer would look just as at home in Paris or Milan.
Born in Heidelberg, Germany, McDonald spent most of his youth in San Luis Obispo.
“I loved growing up there,” said McDonald, whose mother, Marilyn Walters, still lives here. “It was a time you could … play in the street and your front door was never locked.”
After graduating from San Luis Obispo High School in 1974, McDonald majored in fine arts at Pepperdine University in Malibu. He moved to New York City at age 22 — inspired by Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine.
“I just was so fascinated by the art in New York, the whole Factory scene,” McDonald, now in his 50s, recalled. “I was like, ‘Wow. This is where I want to be.’ ”
Over the years, McDonald has explored every aspect of the fashion industry — modeling, working at Italian retailer Fiorucci, serving as an assistant buyer for Barneys New York and spending years on the staffs of designers Fabrice Simon and John Anthony. He also wrote columns for Paper, an art-and-lifestyle magazine, and served as lifestyle editor of Arude, a fashion magazine.
“I’ve always had an idea in my head of what my line would look like,” McDonald said, describing timeless pieces made with beautiful fabrics.
If he wins “Launch My Line,” he’ll be able to share that vision with the world.
Hosted by Dean and Dan Caten of Dsquared2, the show pairs 10 professionals with 10 designers. Each team must work together to create a clothing line, while participating in fashion challenges.
The winning professional will have his or her own label manufactured and distributed in the United States, while the designer receives $50,000. Trendsetters Stefani Greenfield and Lisa Kline are judges.
Bravo paired McDonald with Ecuadorean-born designer Roberto De Villacis, who’s worked with Alberta Ferretti and Karl Lagerfeld. Filming took place in Los Angeles this spring.
“Being put together with someone who’s a complete stranger is a challenge in itself,” acknowledged McDonald. “I have my vision. He has his vision. We just had to come to terms together to make it happen.”
With “Launch My Line,” Bravo hopes to match the success of “Project Runway,” which features aspiring designers competing to break into the industry. The Emmy Award-winning show moved from Bravo to Lifetime for its sixth season, which ended Nov. 19.
According to McDonald, the popularity of “Project Runway” and its peers coincides with a wider trend.“At the moment, I really like where fashion is going,” he said. “People are starting to dress up a little more, especially in New York and Los Angeles.”
He draws inspiration from rock musician David Bowie, novelist Tom Wolfe and writer/raconteur Quentin Crisp. But the biggest influence on his personal style is his maternal grandfather, Eric Hunter Wickenden, who owned a menswear store at Chorro and Monterey streets in San Luis Obispo.
Wickenden’s occupied that space from 1912 to the 1960s, when it was replaced by Johnsons for Children.“All the pictures I saw of him, he either had a fedora and a beautiful suit or, in the summer, a straw boater with a seersucker suit,” McDonald said of his grandfather.
Wickenden’s grandson is never seen in public without a jaunty homburg, top hat or cap. “It’s like the cherry on the top of a hot fudge sundae,” he quipped.
His look has been showcased in such publications as The New York Times, Detour, Sportswear International and Russian Vogue.
“I don’t consider myself trendy. I follow the beat of my own drum,” McDonald said.