July 15, 2006--HE'S gone from "Project Runway" to Project Retail. Emmett McCarthy, a castoff from the second season of the popular Bravo reality show, debuted his togs for fall/winter during a rain-soaked Wednesday unveiling at EMc2, his 4-month-old NoLIta emporium. Though the weather did not hold up, the enthusiasm did.
"I never would have imagined a year ago that I'd be in my own store," says McCarthy, soaking up the residual post-storm humidity and post-show popularity in the quaint garden behind his shop.
He credits the boob-tube design incubator for taking him from behind the seams and forcing him onto the catwalk.
After toiling in nearly every capacity in the fashion industry, McCarthy stitched up his aspirations under the tutelage of host Heidi Klum and judge Tim Gunn, chair of the Department of Fashion at Parsons School of Design, McCarthy's alma mater. "I didn't win, so there wasn't as much pressure. I was able to catch up to myself," he says.
Known for his dexterity for menswear, the designer underwent a sartorial sex change by instead opting to design a bright array of women's wear, including bold, flowered three-quarter length coats, geometric printed dresses, and halter tops and dresses in nearly every color and fabric. EMc2's sophomore effort included textured double-breasted cropped blazers and a gray flannel swing coat.
"It's incredibly beautiful work," says Gunn, while signing T-shirts for adoring fans and industry folk at the intimate soiree.
"I am a son of Gunn," jokes McCarthy. "Tim has been a great supporter. I never knew how many friends I had until I went into business."
And he'll need those friends, because his own clothing line lands a few deviations from the high standards of Elizabeth Street, the power address for Manhattan style and cutting-edge independent commerce. A glaring discrepancy between the workmanship of the product and the prices might affect the overall take for the till.
However, redemption at EMc2 is found in the dressmakers form of McCarthy's reality show alums Chloe Dao, Nick Verreos and Kara Janx, whose duds he also carries.
Second-season winner Dao's party dress - a nifty cleavage-bearing black tulle empire-waisted number topped with a green sash - would win it for her all over again.
Also on sale are metallic kimono wrap dresses by Janx and various leather belts and beaded jewelry from an array of accessory designers.
Perhaps the item with the most pop is the Tim Gunn T-shirt designed by EMc2 brand director Dimitri Said Chamy. The printed cartoon-like semiautomatic bears the crossed-out names of Joan Rivers, Mr. Blackwell and Anna Wintour on the handle - a nod to Gunn's burgeoning reputation as the new arbiter of style and taste.
"I'm riding the wave. And it's all happened after age 50," adds the natty Gunn.