News Column

Rochester native joins "Project Runway"

July 14, 2014

By Bryna Godar, Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.

July 14--Growing up in Rochester, Tim and Thom Navarro learned to darn their own socks and mend their own clothes.

The twin brothers both wanted to be professional soccer players, or maybe comic book illustrators.

Now, as 32-year-olds, they are both fashion designers in Minneapolis. And Tim Navarro will appear on the new season of "Project Runway" starting July 24. The reality show on Lifetime pits designers against each other in fashion challenges.

They went through most of the audition process together and were in the top 20, but ultimately, Thom didn't make the final cut.

"One of the first interview questions they asked me was, you know, how would you feel if your brother made it and you didn't," Thom said. "And I was like, basically, it would be hard to swallow, but the hardest thing would be admitting that he can be better at something than I am."

After going through the whole process, Thom said it's not just based on talent, it's the full package, "and that's what Tim is."

Tim can't talk about the show to anyone, even his brother, and it's the first time they've had that type of communication barrier.

"We're still kind of processing it, you know," he said.

As they process, they're still extremely close and already are embarking on two new ventures together.

Throughout it all, Tim has sustained his love of comic books, frequently thumbing through them in his design process. His main inspiration is function -- what he wants the clothes to be able to do or how he wants them to be used -- and then he searches for what character that could be.

"I usually just start going through my comic books and looking to see if anything really strikes me as that person," Tim said. When he finds the character, he'll throw on whatever music he thinks is appropriate, often Motown or rockabilly.

Tim never really used a sewing machine until he was 22 -- his mom made him and his brother learn by hand first.

"You don't always have access to a machine," said their mother, Teresa Navarro. "And this way, you're not limited because if you know how to do it by hand, then hey, you can fly with a sewing machine."

When Tim sews, he shifts into a different state.

"That's when I feel the most in the moment; I just feel super connected when I sew," Tim said.

Katy Vereide, who worked with Tim at their former store You and Me, said she's seen him work on a collection for 20 hours straight.

"He's like laser-focused; he just kind of gets in the zone," Vereide said.

Getting started

Tim and Thom first got into fashion through Halloween costumes.

Their mom had made their Halloween outfits until fourth or fifth grade, but Tim and Thom had "bigger ideas," so Thom took over.

"The first costume I did was an X-men costume, like the original superheroes suit, the blue and yellow," Thom said. "Then I just kind of kept going."

Friends started asking for costumes of their own, picking out ones they liked or asking for different colors, and soon, Thom started charging them money.

That's when Tim joined in.

"I'm like: I'm going to get in on that," Tim said. "If he can do it, then I can do it; that's just how we are."

At that point, the brothers were going to school in Minneapolis for computer animation and graphic design and paying for school.

Thom realized graphic design wasn't necessarily the route he wanted to go. He was making more money designing clothes than at other jobs. From his work, he got a contract with ClichÉ, a store in Minneapolis, and Tim started sewing for him.

"I just loved how creative he got to be," Tim said. "And he made something out of nothing, I mean, literally nothing."

Thom showed Tim how he laid things out, how he drafted patterns.

"I got really inspired," Tim said. "So I noticed that every place that sold clothes, especially locally, was geared toward women, and it just really irked me because I like wearing clothes, I like looking cute, and I wanted men's clothes."

That launched a phase of rudimentary menswear -- "everything was geometric, toga-esque," he describes -- but then Tim's designs became more sophisticated, with Thom's encouragement.

In 2005, Tim landed a job as an assistant manager in the alterations department at Macy's, where he learned a lot until being laid off in 2008.

Opened a store

He had no life plan and, at 28, nothing but sewing machines to say for his life.

"Then Thom and I were like (screw) it, we're going to do the store, so we did," Tim said. They worked to open a store called You and Me that sold their label, TIM + THOM, and Vereide's jewelry. "We just really went head first back into everything."

Clocking in at seven minutes older than his brother, Tim always has been slightly burdened with being the "older brother," Thom said. Their three older siblings were all much older, so Tim was sometimes pressured to be a protector.

"It's taken awhile to build the right way to communicate with each other, but we're there," Thom said. "We always bicker and argue, but we do it a lot nicer now."

Both Tim and Thom -- separately -- hesitated to call their relationship "one-upping" or "one-upsmanship," but both admitted that's kind of what it is. And it's definitely competitive.

They push each other to be better while constantly trying to top each others' skills.

"As long as we can remember, we both sort of hated being twins, mostly because of the pressure that our parents put on us," Thom said, "but we've come to realize that we are a really good sort of yin and yang relationship."

Tim is more outgoing and intense; Thom is more laid back and sometimes quiet. Tim loves the rules of menswear, whereas Thom enjoys the flexibility and creativity of womenswear.

Their friends describe them both as professional, fun, down-to-earth and just genuinely good people.

"When they work together, it's a really nice balance," said Carly Schoen, a member of Cult Collective, their newest venture. "They both have the same hardworking attitude."

What's next

Closing their former store, You and Me, Tim and Thom are working with their friend and hair stylist Anna Wells to open Pompadour, a lifestyle salon.

Currently a stripped storefront on Nicollet Avenue and 38th Street, the salon will offer more than just haircuts and beauty, also incorporating alterations done by Tim and Thom. A pant hem, for example, would be done by the time your haircut is finished.

In addition to Pompadour, Tim is shifting his focus to event production and the cultivation of young designers alongside his brother and other producers with the newly formed Cult Collective.

The group's launch event is Aug. 9 and will feature 12 local designers paired with film and followed by a local band.

"I feel like what I'm doing in that role actually matters a lot more than what I do when I'm behind the machine because I'm actually affecting a lot more people than just myself and the client I'm working for," Tim said.

His co-producers said he and Thom are both great at discovering and cultivating new talent and young designers.

"He wants to do all we can to make sure they kind of cultivate their careers and build their practices," said Cult Collective member Allegra Lockstadt. "I think that's a huge thing for him to continue to build this community and be sort of like a resource."

The group aims to cultivate culture and community in Minnesota, and Tim and Thom especially are focused on building a sustainable community for fashion where clients and fans look at local design and local artistry as something worth purchasing.

"Of all of the cities I've been to, I always want to come back to Minneapolis," Tim said. "There's just so much here that I want to affect, so I don't think I'll ever really leave."


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Source: Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN)

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