Interview: Mark Montano

Lifestyle design guru, CosmoGirl! contributor and TLC’s While You Were Out star dishes it all.



Behind the Scenes With…
Mark Montano

by kelly lee

The Vitals

Occupation: Ooh that’s hard, I would say lifestyle designer.

Birthdate/Sign: June 10/Gemini

Current Digs: New York City

Born: Colorado, I just love it there.

The 411:
Mark Montano’s resume reads like every teenage girl’s fantasy. Clothing designer? Check. Interior designer? Check. Fashion mag columnist? Check. Own TV show? Check. So we just had to know how it all came to be. Luckily, Mark is as nice and generous as he is busy and talented. Read on to get the scoop on the man who’s done it all — and has no plans to stop.

All Up In Your Business

You’re so young and you’ve already done so much — more than most people even dream of in a lifetime. Was there ever a period of struggle or waffling about what you really wanted to do professionally? Was there ever a so-called “quarter-life crisis?”

Hmmm, to tell you the truth I feel that way all of the time. Life is wonderful, isn’t it? You have so many possibilities and to do only one just seems like a waste if you have interest in many things. So there is always a feeling of what do I want to be doing next? I have never worried about money, only about being happy. That has made me feel successful no matter what point I have been at in my life.

When you opened your shop in the very competitive retail field of Manhattan, were you ever scared? That’s such a large financial investment to make — what gave you the confidence?

Being naive has helped me a lot. Also good parents who always encouraged me to go out and conquer. If you don’t believe you can fail, then it doesn’t enter your mind.

When did you first start designing and how did you get into fashion and design to begin with?

I started when I was about 14. I used to help my aunts sew their clothes and I just loved it. Sewing is so wonderful and meditational. Since I was from a small town with no real way to get great clothes, I had to make them and that’s what I did.

What’s been your biggest struggle in starting your business?

I think being financially responsible is number one. Not wasting money and finding ways to be creative on a budget. Next would be weighing artistic integrity against salability of what I create. Do you follow your heart or your pocket book?

How did the While You Were Out opportunity come about and do you enjoy the medium of television? What’s the response to you and the show been like?

I wake up sometimes and can’t believe how lucky I am to be on such a fantastic show. The people I get to work with are so fun and it’s like a family wherever we go. I actually auditioned for What Not To Wear and got a call back and they asked me to be on While You Were Out because they saw my book, Super Suite. It was a better fit for them.

How do you juggle filming a TV show, running a shop, doing the room makeovers for CosmoGirl! and actually designing, not to mention writing books like Super Suite and your newspaper column — do you ever sleep?!

It’s funny, I just woke up a few minutes ago and am writing this while I have my first cup of joe. I have a very clear mind in the morning and I can pound on these keys like nobody’s business. Later in the day, when all heck breaks loose, it can feel overwhelming. So what I try to do is get the important things done first thing in the morning and then I can pace with anxiety the rest of the day and make my assistants do the work!

Speaking of your column, we’d love to hear how you went about getting it syndicated? If someone like, say me, were looking to syndicate, would you recommend working with an agent or syndicate or going it alone?

Go it alone and sell yourself. You are your best advocate.

If you could, give us a behind-the-scenes account of having your own runway show? What are the upsides and downsides? And what prompted the decision to not participate in the Bryant Park shows this year? Do you see yourself doing them in the future or will you be concentrating on home design?

I loved being a fashion designer, but right now there is just no room for it. It was hard and financially draining. Loved the creative part, but the money part gave me an ulcer. If I could design without the “pain” part of it I would go back to it in a heartbeat.

I am in OKC at this moment in a great hotel room about to jump in the shower and get ready to speak to 400 women at the OKC Women’s Show. I would much rather do things like that right now than worry about whether a dress is going to fit. Planning a fashion show is like planning a wedding with 38 wedding gowns instead of just one.

In a family of six brothers, was your family supportive of your career choice or skeptical? Now what do they think of your success?

Oh gosh, my brothers are all very successful and my Mom and Dad don’t play favorites. I get to do the dishes at home just like everyone else. I thing my biggest reward for this career was when my 3-year-old nephew hugged the television when he saw me. It made me sad to not be there with him, but I was glad he was thinking about me.

How do you like making over teenagers’ rooms and working with CosmoGirl!?

CosmoGirl! is an amazing magazine with a great empowering message and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it. Making over rooms and writing for CosmoGirl! helped me become who I am right now in my career. I am a true CosmoGirl! and if anyone says different they are in big trouble with me and with Susan, our Editor in Chief!

Given everything else you’re doing, how do you find the time to handmake the items in your online boutique, like those fantastic flower cuffs, a.k.a. the urban corsages and the cool pillows?

Well, I have wonderful, creative assistants like Jorge and Thelma who sew all day and help me create my little world. They could use a dusting and sweeping lesson, but otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. They are my extra hands.

Out of all of the wonderful and exciting things you’ve done, which has been the most rewarding?

I can’t say. I feel so lucky to be alive most of the time.

What does your ideal future look like? Will there be a home line at Target? Will you be relaxing in the south of France?

Yes, yes and yes. Last night I dreamed that I had a huge white house with a pool. I also dreamed that a stream of uninvited strangers was emerging from it, whatever that means! But the huge house part really got me going. I want to design and live in an enormous house and relax all day (with sketch book in hand.)

What advice do you have for emerging designers?

Always have a pen and paper handy.

What’s been the hardest lesson to learn? If you had it all to do over again, is there anything you’d change or do differently?

Yes, try not to eat so many doughnuts, self-control is key! Get in time for yourself. Give yourself credit. Being part of a click is not important, being true to yourself is major. Listen to your heart.
Money isn’t everything. Fill your life with art. Make things for people. Be generous.

Has there been a moment where you’ve felt like you made it? If so, tell us about it.

No, not yet and I hope there never is. That would feel to me like a place where I would have to start a decline.

What can we look forward to from Mark Montano in the future?

I don’t know yet. Let’s just hope people don’t get sick of hearing my name!


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