Creator Voices: Gunnar Deatherage
Originally known for his work on Lifetime’s hit shows “Project Runway” and “Project Runway All Stars,” Gunnar quickly became known for his quirky aesthetic, original silhouettes and witty attitude. Since his time on the show, Gunnar has designed over 20 collections, which have been shown in cities from Los Angeles to New York. His work has also been featured in publications such as Elle Magazine, Online Italian Vogue, Pattern Magazine, USA Today and many more. You can also spot his designs in music videos for artists like Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber.
When the pandemic hit, he began sharing his DIY skills in YouTube videos to connect and express his creativity on his channel, which has amassed more than 1.5 million subscribers. We’re turning this blog over to Gunnar to tell us about how YouTube invigorated his creative process.
I am currently two years into this wild creative process, and I have learned more about the internet — and myself — than I ever thought possible. Frequently, I’m asked about what it takes to become a creator and how to process it, and here are a few vital things I have learned.
Failure is good
Ten years ago, I had my sights set on an opportunity that I was sure would be “it" for me. I was a rambunctious 21-year-old fashion designer from a tiny town, and I thought the only way to break into the industry was competing on "Project Runway." I had spent years watching the show and was sure that getting myself cast would be my ticket out of my small town.
Against all the odds — over 10,000 people applied for season 10 — I made it onto the show. But like most reality TV contestants, I quickly realized it wasn't the fast track to the top I thought it would be.
While I did not win that season, I truly find that the best way to learn a craft, whether it’s sewing or creating videos, is to just create and not worry about the outcome. I fail all the time. When I pressed send on that first video, I did it with the intent to just enjoy the process of creating. I’m a self-taught designer, and everything I create is a learning process for me. Every small failure is just a chance to learn from myself, and do it better next time!
I kept pursuing fashion and making collections, but I felt like I could never get ahead. Finding an audience in the digital world takes a persistence that I didn’t think I possessed. When it comes to social media, I felt like there wasn’t an audience for the fashion I was creating. The engagement just wasn’t where I wanted it to be, so I stopped posting in general.
In 2017 I decided that I needed change and moved my life to Los Angeles. I began working for a production design group called Nomad Art and Design, which is led by award-winning production designer, John Richoux. We created the sets and worlds in music videos for artists like Ariana Grande (I made the Burn Book for her “thank u, next” video!), Halsey, Justin Bieber, Sia and a slew of other pop stars. It was incredible being a part of a team and relieving some of the pressure of just keeping a small design business afloat.
There is so much content on the internet, and it’s easy to fall into the trope of just following trends. I have found that when I can relate my work to my personal experience, or I show the sides that aren’t as polished that my videos do tremendously better. Photo sharing apps have made us think we need to be picture perfect, but absolutely nobody is, so don’t be afraid to share the gritty, real version of you or your process, because people will relate to it.
Quality is key
The entire world came to a halt in 2020, and the production industry was one of the first jobs to shutter doors to protect workers from the pandemic. Like most of the world, I laid around my apartment, watching movie after movie and bored out of my mind. I’ve never been much for sitting around idle. Suddenly, I had the urge to make a dress. It came out of nowhere, and the need to dust off the sewing machines for the first time in years was overwhelming.
I decided to film the process of making the dress and share it. I figured that maybe someone would be interested in the process. After finishing the dress, I shot a little reveal footage in my hallway on the dress form, and I (very poorly) edited my video down to 45 seconds. After what felt like an eternity, I added my chaotic voiceover and released the video into the world. I had no expectations. After a few hours, I checked back in and was truly gobsmacked at the rate it was climbing. After a few days, the video reached well over a million views.
Suddenly, there was a fire inside me again, like I had cracked some kind of code that I had always been reaching for. The audience that I had assumed didn’t want to see my work suddenly proved to me how wrong I was! I quickly began (what I’m going to call a manic sewing episode) creating as much work as possible. I was pumping out a dress a day. Before I knew it, I had fallen back in love with a process and an art form. That I had turned my back on. I WAS ALIVE! In so many ways the pandemic was a gift for me because it forced me to sit down, re-focus and really hone in on a craft that I once loved.
You are painting a picture with your videos, so think about all aspects of it.”
If I could offer any tips for beginners, it’s that quality lighting and clear sound will go so far in the creation of your videos. You don't need to invest a tremendous amount, but a $20 iPhone microphone and filming in the daylight will go so far. From the get-go, I would only film in the daylight. I would stylize the surroundings to make them more appealing. I even wore rings on all of my fingers and painted my nails to match the fabrics so I could keep the aesthetics on point. You are painting a picture with your videos, so think about all aspects of it.
My journey to content creation was unexpected, but I am learning more and more every day. My biggest takeaway is that as long as I am sharing a genuine point of view, and putting my best efforts into each video, I can leave the studio each day feeling like I’ve done my absolute best, no matter the success of a video.