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'Project Runway' Designer Sells Gowns at Frankfort Bridal Shop

Fiancee Couture carries gowns by local designer Katelyn Pankoke, who will appear on tonight's premiere episode of the reality show's eleventh season.

Local fashion mavens can find the style and drama of the latest season of “Project Runway” right in the village.

Frankfort business Fiancee Couture is the only boutique in Illinois that carries gowns by Katelyn Pankoke, 23, a Chicago bridal designer and the youngest contestant on season 11 of “Project Runway,” which premieres Thursday.

“I’m very proud to have her gowns at Fiancee Couture,” said boutique owner Maria Isabel.

Pankoke will appear with 16 up-and-coming fashion designers in the first ever “teams edition” of the Lifetime Network reality show. Her creations will be critiqued by judges Nina Garcia, Zac Posen and Heidi Klum, as she competes for hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes.

Pankoke has watched “Project Runway” ever since the show’s first season. She auditioned three times before she was selected as a contestant.

“For a while, I thought I was dreaming,” said Pankoke, of her reaction to the news that she made the cut.

“Project Runway” had its share of surprises, Pankoke says. The contestants were not told that the season would be built around the designers working in teams until filming had already begun.

“It’s an insane season,” Pankoke said.

And although collaborating with her competitors posed a significant challenge, Pankoke said that watching her designs walk down the show’s legendary runway was incredibly rewarding.

Isabel describes Pankoke’s aesthetic as simple, elegant and vintage. She favors open backs, exposed collarbones and subtle femininity.

Pankoke says she tries to incorporate styles from previous centuries into a modern context when she’s designing. Metal coil boning similar to the material used in traditional corsets is a recurring element in her work. She also favors old Hollywood glamour.

“I consider myself an artist first,” Pankoke said.

However, Isabel says Pankoke is also an expert collaborator who listens to brides and is willing to be flexible to appease her clients.

“She’s wonderful to work with,” said Isabel. “We have a very good relationship.”

Fiancee Couture will host trunk shows for Pankoke’s line, Elaya Vaughn Bridal, in early March and late July. Pankoke will be on-location in Frankfort during each show, to consult with brides.

Post-"Runway," Pankoke has tentative plans to expand. Although Elaya Vaughn will remain a bridal line, she has spoken with several Chicago department stores about hosting a ready-to-wear pop-up shop.

“Project Runway” season 11 premieres at 8 p.m. on Jan. 24.

Pankoke will be available to meet with brides at Fiancee Couture on March 8-10 and July 18, 20 and 21.

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