Marketing and Communications

Project Runway to feature stylings of Falcon alumnus

July 18, 2012

Millions are watching a BGSU alumnus on national television as he expands his fashion career.

Nathan P. McDonald II ’02 is known as “Nathan Paul” on Lifetime’s reality show Project Runway. Nathan is featured as one of 16 fashion designers cast for the tenth season of the show, which began July 19. He has already displayed his creativity in several unusual exercises, including an episode that challenged designers to manipulate candy into something wearable.

With longtime aspirations to create his own fashion company, Nathan first intended to dual major in fashion design and business at BGSU. He was disappointed on campus to learn that the design program had recently been eliminated. Instead, he chose dual majors in business and music. His study in the College of Business Administration included a specialization in supply chain management, which helped him to understand manufacturing, and an internship in procurement at Ford Motor Company, which gave him practical experience in purchasing.

“Fashion is one of the few industries in the world in which you can continually run in the red and still be successful,” he said. “I knew that for myself, that wasn’t my metric of success.”

Nathan was an outstanding student, his faculty at BGSU said. He was featured as a student speaker during his commencement ceremonies from the College of Business Administration, and received the 2002 GlaxoSmithKline Excellence in Procurement Award as the outstanding senior. He was also a leader in the student organization related to supply chain management.

“If you want to start your own fashion company, you really need to understand all aspects of the business. Many things in fashion are outsourced, so you have to understand procurement and how to get (your fashions) into the stores,” said Jan Hartley, one of Nathan’s former professors and director of the Supply Chain Management Institute. “I am thrilled to see that he is following his true passion, which has always been fashion design.”

After he interned at the Ford Motor Company in procurement in Detroit, he was hired and lived with his sister, Leah McDonald ’02. After three years, he quit to move to New York City and attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. Before Project Runway, Nathan showcased his designs for women in his line, Nathaniel Paul, and partnered with another designer who created a custom shirt and clothing line for men, Michael Andrews Bespoke.

Nathan was just five years old when he shocked his parents by hand-sewing a skirt for his mother.

“He’s always been interested in clothes and designing,” his father said. “It’s always been a drive of his, basically all of his life.”

Nathan is one of five children of Falcon Flames, Cassandra and Nathan P. McDonald ’72. His father became pastor of the Apostolic Christian Church in Zanesville, Ohio after retiring as a nursing home administrator, and his mother is faculty in music at Muskingum University. Two of his siblings, Leah and Micah, also attended BGSU.

Each week, Project Runway participants are measured by their performances in design challenges, and slowly eliminated by a panel of industry leaders and trendsetters. The prevailing designer will receive a prize package that includes $100,000 to launch his or her own fashion line, merchandise placement in a national retail chain, and other prizes. The winner will be announced in October.

The show has challenged Nathan in ways he hadn’t expected. It has been tricky to abandon his perfectionist tendencies in order to meet 24-hour deadlines, though the hardest part had nothing to do with fashion. Nathan learned during the taping of the show that his grandfather had died unexpectedly.

“The producers gave me the option to leave the show,” he said. During a phone call, his mother reminded him “that my grandfather would want me to be there, and that this was my dream. The decision was very hard for all of us.”

Regardless of the show’s outcome, Nathan plans to maximize his national platform by displaying his designs and his true mission: to redefine beauty in favor of a healthy self image. He considers himself to be a fashion activist, and believes that stores should be required by law to provide clothing in bigger sizes that would accurately reflect the demographics of area residents.

“I want to be an advocate for those people that are deemed unattractive sizes or unattractive body shapes,” he said. “I come from an African American heritage, and traditionally my culture lends people to be overweight. Everyone deserves to be beautiful and to feel beautiful, and their clothes need to make them feel that way.”

As Nathan recently reflected on his “wonderful” experience at BGSU, he offered advice to current students. He recommends that first-year students participate in a mentorship program or connect with an upperclassman in the same degree program, and become frequent visitor during their faculty members’ office hours. And most importantly: ignore any advice that discourages you from following your own dreams.

“When you have something inside you, you have to move forward,” he said. You have to see it through. So work hard, don’t give up, and you can accomplish unimaginable things.”

Support Nathan by tuning in to Project Runway, and cast a vote online to name him as the fan favorite by clicking here.