How I won 'Project Runway' and launched a clothing line

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Small Business, Entrepreneurship

11/29/2021 2:00:00 PM

I won ' Project Runway ' season 15 and launched a clothing line. Here's how I grew my business and expanded into new products.

Insider tells the global tech, finance, markets, media, healthcare, and strategy stories you want to know.

After Erin Robertson won Project Runway, she launched a fashion line called An_Erin.Her brand sells clothing and the face masks and nail dip kits she created during the pandemic. Robertson talked about her businesses, dealing with imposter syndrome, and helping during crisis. 

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Erin Robertson season 15 when she stunned the judges with her bold colors, fearless silhouettes, and banana-patterned garments. After winning the fashion reality-show competition, Robertson immediately launched her clothing lineAn_Erin. Her brand sells fashion from winter coats to button-up T-shirts, while her mask collection, created in March 2020, has been sported by notable"Project Runway" alumna Heidi Klum. Most recently, Robertson launched an at-home nail dip kit, which helps users give themselves manicures, with the influencer product-development group InKlout. 

Whenthe COVID-19 pandemic caused many to step away from their jobs, Robertson put herself to work. With her mask line and nail kit, Robertson joined the 3.8 million people who started a new business this year.Robertson spoke with Insider about creating business opportunities when the world needs them and combating imposter syndrome. This interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.

Find a way to make it workI'm from Provo, Utah. I grew up around Mormons. My mom always told me I could become anything I set my mind to, but as far as my teachers and community were concerned, I was expected to become a housewife.I thought so, too, for a while. I didn't expect myself to become anything. Even at this stage in my life I frequently have to remind myself that I won"Project Runway," that I'm talented, and that I'm allowed to make money as a female business owner. 

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Erin Robertson wearing a ripstop mask designCourtesy of Erin RobertsonIn 2015, I won"Project Runway." One of the reasons I was so successful on the show was because I'm such a malleable person. The hosts would give us challenges — like designing a launch-party-inspired outfit using unconventional materials — and we'd have to figure out how to get it done.

With each challenge, I thought to myself,"I'll do that," whereas other designers might think,"That's not my thing, that's not what I do." But that was the point. We had to figure it out regardless of restraints or limits the challenge might have put on us. 

In a way, the COVID-19 pandemic was like a really big challenge. We just had to figure it out. I can't believe I just connected"Project Runway" to COVID-19.Create what people needErin Robertson wearing bow mask design.Courtesy of Erin Robertson

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When the pandemic hit, I had no intentions of starting a mask business, but I ended up making them because they were needed. Ten days into the pandemic, there was a mask shortage. So I walked 3 miles to my studio because I didn't want to take the train, and I started making masks with leftover fabric.

I documented my mask-making process on social media. When I saw the need for mask-making tutorial videos, I created those for my followers as well. I gained an additional 30,000 Instagram followers early in the pandemic, just off this mask content alone. Then Heidi Klum wore my bow mask, which helped increase my brand awareness even more. 

A post shared by Erin Robertson (@an_erin)As a designer, my hands have always been my tools. When salons shut down and I was unable to get my nails done regularly, I wanted to find a way to restore that area of my creative process. So I worked with InKlout to create a kit that would give clients the salon-quality nails they loved without having to visit a technician.

You are more than your careerAn An_Erin nail-kit box.Courtesy of Erin RobertsonTaking part in something so new was really exciting. But finding the perfect balance among all these facets — life, business, and creative passion — is the hardest thing in the world.

I think social media plays a big part in it. I don't post every time I question myself, but I do think authenticity is important to share. Otherwise, the fast-paced overconsumption of media can lead to real fatigue. Without taking time to reflect, it becomes difficult to remember who you are. 

My biggest advice for anyone in a creative or entrepreneurial role is to take breaks when you need to. Go on a vacation. Don't tell the world where you're headed, or just take a minute to breathe. Otherwise, you will lose yourself in the mix. 

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