Everett hair salon owner Cookie Johnson believes her grandson was born with his fashion sense.
“It’s in Deyonté’s genes,” Johnson said. “On both sides of his family.”
No one will dispute the proud grandmother’s claim now that Deyonté Weather of Lynnwood is one of the leading contenders on season 16 of Lifetime TV’s “Project Runway” competition.
He was the winner of the first challenge on episode one. He did well on episode two. Episode three airs Thursday.
“Deyonté has stolen everyone’s heart,” said Johnson, 70.
Weather, now 36, grew up in Chicago. His mother and her family loved fashion. Picture ladies in fancy hats headed to church. Fur coats in winter. Ensembles year round.
“My mother is a jazzy dresser,” Weather said. “And, really, all my family members are.”
A creative child, Weather liked to build things and take them apart to see how they worked.
He got a job at Footlocker and started tailoring his own clothes while in high school.
“In Chicago, people go all out during prom,” he said. “I was out shopping for material and accessories for my prom attire, and I realized that I could totally get into this.”
After high school, Weather moved to Everett to be near his father and his paternal grandmother, Cookie. Inspired by her hair salon, he got his barbering license and started doing commissioned design work on the side.
A course in fashion at Edmonds Community College and a degree from the International Academy of Design and Technology in Chicago cemented his goal to become a designer.
Along the way he met and married Laticia, whose family is from Snohomish County, and began designing, sewing and participating in fashion shows in Seattle, Portland, Chicago and Atlanta.
“I had been a huge fan of ‘Project Runway’ since season one,” Weather said. “I wanted to be on that show, and I knew how beneficial it would be for my career.”
The winner of this season receives $100,000 to launch their own clothing line, an opportunity to collaborate with JCPenny on a limited edition “Project Runway” line, a collection of Brother sewing and embroidery machines worth $40,000, an all-expense-paid trip to Japan’s fashion center and a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine, among other prizes.
The young designer began auditioning for “Project Runway” several seasons ago. On the first try, he got close. During the second audition, he had to leave to attend the funeral of his maternal grandmother.
“I knew my family wanted me to keep trying, so I auditioned a third time,” Weather said. “I felt like it was all good, but I still did not make it on the show. It was brutal. It threw me off a bit.”
Then Deyonté and Laticia found out they were going to have a baby.
“I decided not to audition again. My wife would not have it. She told me I had to go.”
Their baby — Enzo Alistair Weather — was born in Edmonds on Aug. 17 during the airing of the first episode.
“It was a long labor, so I guess Enzo just wanted to make his entrance during the season premiere,” Weather said with one of his frequent laughs. “We’ve been hella busy, but we are so blessed. We are getting used to parenthood, and the baby is doing well.”
In the first episode, the focus was designing for a red carpet appearance by models with a wide range of sizes.
“My model, Monique, is a plus-size woman. She is beautiful with lovely chocolate skin. I kept seeing orange on her,” Weather said. “We went to the fabric store, and I saw this floral print. I ran around the store to make sure nothing else was better. But that floral material was talking to me. I grabbed it. I knew I was going to blow it out of the box.”
Despite some criticism about the printed material from the judges, host Heidi Klum and mentor Tim Gunn, Weather carefully cut and draped the material to fit his model. And he won the first round.
“No matter what happens moving forward, I know this was what I was supposed to do,” he said.
In the second episode, the show’s competitive designers were divided into three teams and told to use recycled materials to make their next outfits.
“I was so nervous, I had to go to the bathroom,” Weather said. “There was an old Bible in the dumpster trailer where we were throwing around pieces of vinyl. I ran by and I noticed the Bible was open to Psalm 27 — ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?’ — and I knew everything was going to be OK. God is great, Baby.”
The show is taped in advance, and Weather is sworn to secrecy about the coming episodes.
“All I can say about episode three is that we watched the movie ‘Leap!’ about a poor girl who goes after her dream to be a dancer,” he said. “Being from Chicago, I can totally relate. And fans of the show will love it because there’s going to be dancing on the runway.”
The season finale will be taped beginning Sept. 7 during New York Fashion Week. Weather is looking forward to flying to New York City.
Grandma Cookie, who works a “retirement shift” of three days a week at her Ebony & Ivory Hair Design shop on Cedar Street, can’t contain her excitement.
“Deyonté is my Pooh bear, my best buddy, my first grandchild,” she said. “I admire the fact that he never gave up.”
Weather admitted, “Hard work pays off for sure.”
Before “Project Runway,” “when I told people that I am a designer, they just looked at me,” he said. “Now they can see it. They say, ‘Oh, that’s what you been doin’. ’ It is refreshing.”
Season 16, Episode 3 airs at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.
For more information about the show, go to www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-runway/season-16.
More about Deyonté Weather is at www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-runway/cast/deyonte-weather and www.facebook.com/DeyonteWeatherCollection.