Korto Momolu

*Korto Momolu may be a name mispronounced (it’s pronounced Cut-toe Mo-mo-lu), but it’s a household name in fashion circles.

The Liberian native was the 1st runner up in season 5 of the very popular fashion competition show “Project Runway,” showcasing her African inspired fabrics and prints.   

Momolu, while reflecting on this season’s finale, told EUR’s Lee Bailey that she owes a lot to her time on “Project Runway.”

“Things have changed dramatically. I’m an international household name now and people know what I do; they know my work,” she said. “I can go by my first name and it’s easier for them to know who I am, whereas before, when you’re an up-and-coming designer you have to stand at that door and knock, knock, knock and pray that somebody leaves it open by accident. Now it’s open when I get there because I’m invited. Win or lose, it opens up doors.”

And reflecting on the most recent season, she said that the recent finale was a difficult call for her as none of the finalists were standouts for her.

“There were certain things from each one that I liked. In season 6, when I saw the winning collection I was like, ‘Yup, she’s going to win and if she doesn’t win then there is something seriously wrong with this show.’ But this time, some of it I liked and some of it I didn’t. I think they tried to pick one that was marketable, one that gave them a show, one that fit more of criteria than the others did,” she assumed.

The designer did reveal her favorite.

“The young lady, Mila, she was more of my style – that classic look,” she said.

Since the show, Momolu has continued her pursuit of a place among fashion royalty. She was commissioned by the President of Liberia and she recently debuted a line for Dillard’s department store. Next up, the designer will showcase a line of vacation wear on the Tom Joyner cruise.

“I’m doing a resort collection. It’s kind of like a summer collection that people can wear when they’re on vacation when they just want to lay back and not be so serious in their fashion,” she described. “They are still very fashionable pieces, but they’re very everyday friends and they’re climate friendly.”

Momolu has also added accessories to her gallery of design. Her line of jewelry and handbags will also be showcased on the cruise.

“I’m actually making the collection just for them,” she continued. “There’s a certain kind of woman that goes on the cruise. I did their family reunion the year before so I kind of have a feel for who goes to these events. I still stay true to the woman I design for and she’s definitely going to be there. I want to show pieces that I think she’d be excited about just as if she went to the store and bought it.”

While Momolu prefers the “clean lines” of designers such as Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, and Ann Taylor, her designs are a step or two away from traditional classics. They are quite bold and ethnic.

“I like things that are statements,” she said. “If you’re going to carry a handbag why not carry one that has its own voice, as opposed to something that is just there. This amps up your look.”

It’s a style she’s been working on since she was 15 years old when she started drawing clothes in high school in her art class.

“I had a great art teacher that saw something in that and started nurturing me and pointing me in that direction,” she recalled.

The student went from drawing abstract art to drawing clothing. Then she started doing fashion shows and making clothes for people. She picked up a following locally in Canada, where she grew up, and in Little Rock, Arkansas where she moved to after graduation.

“I’ve had regular jobs, but I’ve never stopped doing this one the side, “she said. “I never stopped doing my art. This is what God gave me naturally. I wasn’t taught how to do it, I was born with it. When you’re born with something, it’s hard to let it go. When it’s given to you and it’s all you ever live and breathe and eat, you can’t not do it.”

Momolu has signed on to do a lot more, too.

“Besides doing clothes, jewelry, and handbags I want to have a shoe line and a fragrance line,” she said. “I want to do home décor like vases and picture frames and dishes. I want to use my love of color and print and put them into everyday pieces of life.”

“There are so many things that I want to do. I’ve got a lot of things on my plate and I’ve got a lot of things to accomplish, but coming from as far as I have, I know it’s possible.”

For more on Korto Momolu and to check out her designs, visit www.kortomomolu.com.