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DIY Guru Talks How to...

DIY Guru Talks How to Be Fabulous on a Budget

Budgets are tight, but we don’t need to sacrifice looking fabulous and on-trend. Mark Montano shares his love for DIY jewelry.

The latest book in Mark Montano’s Big-Ass Book of Crafts series, The Big-Ass Book of Bling, pays homage to his fashion roots. Originally a fashion designer and boutique owner, Montano made the move to television hosting TLC’s While You Were Out and Ten Years Younger and co-hosting the Style network’s My Celebrity Home. He’s become the go-to guy for the do-it-yourself (DIY) movement, and he couldn’t be clearer in saying this isn’t your mom’s crafting. His latest book features over 150 easy-to-make accessory projects, one of which he’s shared with DivineCaroline. 
 
DivineCaroline: You’re trained as a fashion designer and interior designer, how did you get involved with DIY?
Mark Montano: Fashion design is the ultimate in DIY. When I started sewing clothes as a youngster, I was also making curtains and pillows and recovering lampshades. So, when I finally decided to leave fashion for a career in television, I realized all I had to do was tweak my title.
 
DC: Rather than just asking how you think DIY is relevant for people in their 20s, please tell a bit about your apartment in New York City and how you decorated it with things you found on the street and refurbished or made yourself.
MM: I moved to NYC at 19 to finish school at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) and even though I was there as part of an exchange program from Colorado State, I decided to stay in NYC and not go back to Colorado. My parents were not really happy with me so they thought if they cut the financial strings that I would come home. WRONG!
 
I worked my butt off and made it work like most young people in the city. Rent is 99 percenrt of your budget so scouring the streets is a terrific way to furnish a New York apartment. I got the most fantastic furniture from the Upper East Side on garbage night! I got extra fabrics from my internships and jobs (Oscar de la Renta gave me wonderful fabrics) and I stitched and glued my East Village apartment together with whatever I could find.
 
I reupholstered chairs, recovered lampshades and painted dressers. I made paper flower arrangements and crazy chandeliers from junk. It was wonderful! I’m telling you, a can of gold Krylon spray paint and some high gloss black lacquer can transform you from poor college student to ultra chic trend setter in NO TIME FLAT!
 
DC: We all want the latest and greatest, but sometimes a budget doesn’t allow for that. How does doing it yourself enable young women to look fabulous or live fabulously?
MM: Style transcends fashion and putting yourself together well and creating your look is your key to everything.
 
DC: If you’ve never done crafting, sewing or building, how should someone prepare to take on a DIY project?
MM: You could find a book that inspires you with terrific step-by-step photographs (they are really important) and go from there. The Big-Ass quadrilogy is a very good place to start. Look for projects that inspire you and then jump off of the creative cliff. You could also head over to YouTube and watch some good DIY videos.
 
DC: What inspired The Big-Ass Book of Bling?
MM: My years in fashion needed to be written about and explored again. I needed to remake the jewelry projects we would use in our runway shows and sell at my boutique. I missed fashion and needed to revisit it again in a way that was fun and that DIYers could relate to.
 
DC: What kinds of feedback do you get from women in their 20s?
MM: Mostly that they took my idea and infused their own personal style into it. I love hearing that, truly! It means I’ve inspired people to be creative and that is my ultimate goal.
 
DC: What’s your suggestion—when they get a compliment on an accessory they made should they do a big reveal and say they made it themselves or say it was a purchase?
MM: Tell people that you made it yourself! One of the biggest benefits of creativity is self-esteem. Take that compliment and run with it. Let it fuel your creativity and keep it going.
 
DC: Please tell us a bit about the project you’re sharing with readers of DivineCaroline.com.
MM: It is a Chanel inspired cuff with pearls and rhinestone chain. I loved Chanel in the 80s and I think these cuffs capture what was happening then. Plus, they’re fun to make.

DC: What do you think a must-have trend is for 2013 and how should we plan to be creative and do it ourselves?
MM: I’m going to have to say that bigger is better and that huge, colorful, handmade jewelry is going to be a crucial part of how we present ourselves to the world. Mix it with some of the minimalist fashion that’s starting to emerge and you’ll have a winning look.

For more Montano, you can, of course, pick up his book and also check out his YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/makeyourmarkmontano.

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