Up close and personal with fashion tycoon Anthony Williams

Jennie Kushner

He may only be 5-foot-9-inches, but alumnus Anthony Williams is habitually “stacked, packed, and ready to attack.”

Williams’ feisty and creative personality can be seen nationwide Thursdays at 9 p.m., as he handles weekly design challenges on Lifetime Television’s “Project Runway.”

“Every day you leave your house, you’re competing,” Williams said. “Every day your feet hit the floor, you better be stacked, packed and ready to attack, because we are at war.”

Williams’ war began at a young age. His underprivileged childhood motivated Williams to transform simplicity to sophistication.

“I grew up poor, and I always found myself taking nothing and making it something,” he said. “I couldn’t afford clothes on TV, so I would go to the thrift stores and copy what I saw.”

“My design and creativity was birthed out of necessity.”

Despite a deprived upbringing, Williams graduated in 1999 from Minor High School in Adamsville, Ala., and pursued his aspirations at the University.

Williams launched the University’s first annual Rock the Runway in 2007.

“Even as a student, Anthony thought of all UA design students as he worked with Campus Programs to develop our very first Rock the Runway,” said Milla Boschung, Human Environmental Sciences dean. “The first Rock the Runway was so popular the fire marshal closed the Ferguson Ballroom to any others entering. It was a hit.”

Upon graduation, Williams moved to Atlanta, where he held several fashion-related jobs. He also persisted as a freelance designer.

A product of his environment, Williams said his Southern heritage influences his designs. “A lot of my designs are drawn from Southern events like cotillions and pageants. We don’t have a lot of red carpet events,” he said. “I most definitely make clothes that women can wear over and over again. I think that is a Southern thing.”

“A woman’s dress should be tight enough to show she is a woman and loose enough to prove she is a lady,” he said. “I learned that from watching women in the South.”

Not only did Williams train while in New York, but he developed lasting relationships, he said.

Williams said contestant Jay Nicolas Sario was a shoulder for him to cry on, an encouragement of greatness and Williams said he knows he found a lifelong friend.

“I got the closest to Jay, we are very good friends,” Williams said. “We have scheduled trips together. We are very close.”

As he watches each week’s episode, Williams said he sees alternative personalities of his fellow contenders.

“There wasn’t a person I didn’t like the best, but let’s revisit that question at the end of the season,” he said. “I’m learning a lot about everyone through the private interviews, and right now, I like Mila the least.”

In last week’s episode, Williams found himself in the bottom two slots. Despite this, Williams said it was a positive experience.

“This is going to sound crazy, I know a lot of people who desire to be where I was, I was so humble,” he said. “I know there is always a chance I may lose and may win.”

“When you’re on the runway, it’s about two hours in real life, but you only see about 10 minutes, so I had a lot of time to deal with it,” he said. “I kept thinking this too shall pass I was making peace with it. If I have to, I will just leave gracefully, like a Southern belle should.”

Williams said he looks at each challenge as a personal challenge for himself.

“Going into the next challenge, you always feel this need to improve yourself, I want to see Anthony grow, so most definitely my thought process has been altered,” he said. “In the fashion industry, just like Heidi [Klum] says, you can be in one day and out the next.”

Each week, fans can bid on each contestant’s final ensemble. Williams said he would purchase one of his own.

“I would buy one of Anthony Williams’, might as well get a piece of the legacy now,” he said. “The best is yet to come enjoy it, and look forward to the next one.”