Chicagoan competes to be next big designer

By Jim Wittmann

A spirited young Chicagoan is hoping to jump aboard a new reality television show called “The Fashion Show.” Elise Bergman hopes to fulfill her late mother’s wish for her to “do something great with [her] life,” by potentially becoming a contestant on Bravo’s new television show.

A current court case leaves the hit show “Project Runway” in limbo between Bravo television network, which aired five seasons of the show, and Lifetime Network, where the show was planned to move at the beginning of season six. Bravo is implanting “The Fashion Show” to replace its current void in fashion reality television.

The vote for and final contestant was completed online, anyone was eligible to vote and there was no limit to the number of votes a person could cast. The other candidate was a Los Angeles designer, Andrew Christian, who is most commonly known for his “butt-lifting” underwear line, among other female clothing lines.

Voting for each contestant ended on Feb. 13, and the date and time of the results will be announced in several months. The voting polls were posted online showing each potential cast member’s photos, bio and a video.

Bergman took time off from her business recently to care for her mother who was diagnosed with brain cancer. Her mother’s wish was for Bergman to make a difference in the world. Although Bergman’s mother is no longer with her, she uses her mother’s words as motivation to succeed with her clothing line.

Born and raised in Chicago, Bergman started selling her own clothing line and accessories when she was in middle school. She now manages her own women’s clothing line in Chicago named Elise Bergman Clothing.

Her clothing line can be found in numerous boutiques around the United States. In Chicago, her line can be found at Pivot, Roslyn and Entendre Couture. Hoping to get national exposure on “The Fashion Show,” she said this unique experience could take her business to the next level.

“What makes Elise a great designer is that she balances this incredible drive and work ethic with her personal life, which keeps her happy, balanced and always moving forward with her creativity and her business,” said Kathryn Chalmers in an e-mail interview. She acts as a business assistant to Bergman from time to time.

Chalmers said Bergman would be a great fit for reality television because of her innate talents and personable nature. She said she can count on Bergman to not only come through with business assignments and as a friend, but go above and beyond what’s expected of her.

“People who meet her are strongly interested in her,” Chalmers said. “She has ‘it,’ the ‘it’ you cannot find or somehow procure for yourself, you just have to have.”

Bergman said that Gen Art, the company hosting the casting call for the show, had to “twist [her] arm to show up,” but she is glad she went through with it. Preparing for the pressures of reality television is something that she has taken into account Bergman said.

“I will deal with it in the same ways that I deal with the stress and pressure of running my own business,” Bergman said. “Yoga, try not to take things too personally, stay true to myself, and remember that I made the choice to be here, so enjoy it for what it is worth.”

Columbia sophomore Paula Chmiel has been a longtime viewer of “Project Runway” said she is disappointed with the possible network switch. She said there are certain aspects that “Project Runway” brought that she hopes “The Fashion Show” can recreate.

“I think it’s a cool thing to see other people’s perspectives on what’s creative and hear unique voices, new things and new ideas,” Chmiel said. “It’s great to see their passion, and the competition aspect of it is really exciting to watch.”

Chalmers said her clothes are very distinctive and the line is an extension of her personal style. They are pieces that will stay in closets forever and will always be in style she said.

Even if Bergman does not get the nomination for the television show, she said she still will feel grateful for the experience.

“I think people in Chicago should vote for me if they want to continue to see our city grow as a fashion-forward place and if they are proud of this city and the people that live here,” Bergman said.