Fashion Forward: WKU graduate finishes top five on Project Runway

WKU alumna Laura Kathleen Planck is a former contestant on season nine of Lifetime’s Project Runway. “Being certain that what I am doing is something I feel passionate about, and you have to have your whole heart into it, because if you don’t there are what ifs and could haves and then you won’t be happy with what you produce,” Planck said of her experiences on the show.

Zirconia Alleyne

Laura Kathleen Planck, 26, tried out for Lifetime’s Project Runway four times after graduating from WKU with a bachelor’s degree in design, merchandising and textiles in 2007.

“Every time I went and tried out I made it through the rounds of talent and judging your clothing,” Planck said. “I feel that it always came down to being right for a certain personality.”

For the determined St. Louis native, the fourth time her personality was the charm and helped earn her a top five finish on Project Runway, where designers compete against each other in a series of challenges.

“I’ve always been blunt and I never beat around the bush,” she said.

Newport graduate Angie Tevis said Planck’s energetic and sassy personality made them instant best friends in college.

“We got really close as roommates, because she was just a really loyal good friend,” Tevis said.

The pair met when they pledged Kappa Delta their freshman year.

Tevis said her former roommate was opinionated, but also caring.

“She’d be like ‘Are you going to wear that?’ and then style me and do my hair,” Tevis said. “I learned a lot about fashion living with her.”

Planck even got some flak and side eyes for some of the outfits she wore.

“She had tons of supporters, but she had haters also,” Tevis said.

Cindy Jones, a consumer and family sciences instructor at WKU, noticed Planck’s passion in a problem solving class.

Jones gave Planck and other students T-shirts, scissors and pins to create an original garment.

Laura constructed 50 different designs and hired a photographer to take pictures for her portfolio.

“Laura’s one of those students who always did a little more than she was asked,” Jones said.

While balancing cheerleading, Planck designed costumes for Spring Sing and attended Accademia Italiana, a design school in Florence, Italy.

Planck said she couldn’t pass on the opportunity to study abroad.

“I wanted to be around people who wanted it as much as I did,” she said.

She also interned with New York handbag designer Jean Claude Mastroianni and landed a position in Texas as an event coordinator/executive with Target.

However, Planck wasn’t gratified in the direction of her budding career.

“It just wasn’t for me,” she said. “I told myself, ‘You need to start your own label now.'”

At the age of 24, Planck headed home to establish her brand and build up her clientele.

She called all the fashion editors in St. Louis and sent them her portfolio.

Under her self-titled label, “Laura Kathleen,” she designed custom dresses for family friends and showcased her ready-to-wear line at St. Louis Fashion Week.

Jones and several students attended her first runway show, which Planck said she was both honored and nervous.

“It’s just really exciting to see a student that you had be involved and passionate in something you love, too,” Jones said.

On Project Runway, Planck made it to the final five contestants and showcased her collection at New York Fashion Week, which she said she designed on emotion.

She said being on the show gave her a stronger sense of her aesthetic.

“I’m more confident about my brand and who I’m designing for,” Planck said.

Jones thought her New York Fashion Week collection was spectacular and well constructed. Planck’s style is dressy and feminine, which Jones said she could relate to.

Tevis said the style is young and fresh, but also classy and multidimensional.

“She’s truly an artist,” Tevis said. “I know when she’s creating something, she’s envisioning how it would look on her and appeal to women.”

Professors and students anticipated Project Runway each week to cheer on Planck. Faculty updated a display of “LK designs” on the third floor of Academic Complex.

Jones said although she feels like a “proud mama,” she can’t take any credit for her success.

“I think it proves that there are just as many pro players in small schools,” Jones said. “You can’t teach passion – either you have it or you don’t, and she’s found her niche.”

Planck said she gained the confidence and friendships she needed while at WKU.

“Being at WKU doesn’t mean that you can’t work for a good label or start your own. It’s just hard work,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade WKU for any other school.”

Planck viewed Project Runway as an opportunity to grow. She reached a larger market by selling garments on her website,

She hopes to become a household brand and possibly open a store in Bowling Green for students.

Although Project Runway helped gain her fame, Planck doesn’t want the show to overshadow her brand.

“With reality shows, people get so caught up in seeing the person,” she said. “With Project Runway, I hope people can remember me for the fabulous clothes and not my face.”