A star by design Maggie Carlson
Of the Suburban Journals
O'Fallon Mo Journal
In the fashion world, you're either in, or you're out, and designer Santino Rice is definitely in.For the second season of Bravo's Emmy-nominated reality series "Project Runway 2," Rice, a St. Charles native, is making his mark on the fashion world one design at a time.Rice, 31, is one of 16 designers vying to win weekly challenges, and of the first five challenges, Rice has already won two.Born and raised in St. Charles, Rice's beginnings are probably in tune with many people from the area. He went to preschool at Lindenwood College (now University), graduated from the Academy of the Sacred Heart and attended high school at St. Charles High School.
< =1.1 src="http://OAS-Central.RealMedia.com/RealMedia/ads/adstream_jx.ads/www.stltoday.com/neigh/stpeters/1889972875@1" =text/>
He said his family has roots in the city that go back to the time of Lewis and Clark.
A high school student active in everything from basketball to the student newspaper, Rice said he wanted to experience everything, and he always loved design.
During his school years, he said he learned about diversity and how others saw him.
His mother, who still lives in the house that Rice grew up in on Fifth Street, is half African American and half Italian. His father, who lives in Wright City, is partly Jewish and Native America, among other things.
"I was always treated like a foreign exchange student," he said.
"But I don't have any resentment. It built a lot of character in me."
While in high school, he was offered a scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Design and Technology in Los Angeles.
"When I finished school, I was working in movies, doing voice-over work, was an extra in some movies, and an assistant costume designer," he said. "I just always want to try other things."
Rice said he loves the process of making things, whether it be clothing or artificial waterfalls, and he said if he puts enough time and detail into a product, he knows it can be beautiful.
"It's not me being arrogant," he said. "It's me being confident."
On "Project Runway 2," though, Rice said he thinks he comes off as overconfident and arrogant, but he insists the cameras miss a lot.
"I always question what I'm doing as I'm doing it," he said.
His designs, however, speak for themselves. He won the first design challenge, and, most recently, his party dress was chosen by socialite Nicky Hilton.
Each week the garments are judged by supermodel Heidi Klum, designer Michael Kors, Elle fashion editor Nina Garcia and a guest judge, who chooses a winner and loser.
The three designers left standing will face off at Fashion Week in New York City in February.
The final winner will receive the grand prize of $100,000 from Saturn to launch a fashion line, a mentorship with the Banana Republic design team, a fashion spread in Elle magazine and a car.
Since his arrival in Los Angeles, Rice has been working for other designers. But with solid financial backing, he said he will start his own line — Santino.
"When I have my own label and own brand it will be forever," he said.
And he doesn't plan to limit his designing to fashion.
"I want to design cars someday," he said. "I really want to create a brand and a lifestyle, where people can wake up, put on their Santino clothing and go get in their Santino car."
Rice said he has not been to St. Charles since 2002, but would like to come back more often.
"As soon as I get back it all comes back to me," he said. "It hurts to go and come back. I can't do it very often."
When he does come home, though, he said he loves to ride his bike through his old neighborhood.
"I always ride through Academy of Sacred Heart. Every inch of that property reminds me of something," he said.
One thing he said he will always remember is how nurturing St. Charles was.
"For the good, for the bad, I've only got love for St. Charles and for Missouri," he said. "I am creating the next wave of fashion in America and, possibly, the world, and I'm proud of where I came from."
"Project Runway 2" is on at 9 p.m. Wednesdays on cable network Bravo.