What do cocktails, camping and drag queens have in common? They were all part of the third episode of Stitched, which tested the designers’ skills by challenging them to create neon cocktail dresses, garments from camping materials and a stage-worthy, drag queen-approved look. Joining resident judges Joe Zee and ELLE Canada editor-in-chief Vanessa Craft was guest judge Hayley Elsaesser, the Toronto-based designer whose eponymous line is beloved for its bold prints, bright colours and fun vibes. 

Here’s what she had to say about going from watching fashion reality shows to being on one, giving constructive criticism and drama on the judging panel. 

What was your experience being on the show like? 

“I love fashion reality shows. I grew up watching Project Runway and all those kind of things. I really wanted to be involved because I think it’s amazing that there’s a show like this happening in Canada and I wanted to have a behind-the-scenes involvement to see what really happens before it’s all edited and cut.”

What was it like being a judge? 

“It was a bit hard because I’m very open and honest. I know that it takes a lot of courage for these designers to put themselves out there and be judged on national television so I wanted to be careful to have constructed feedback versus ‘I hated that.’ For them, I didn’t want it to be a one-off experience. I wanted it to be something that even if they didn’t win, which three out of four of them didn’t, to take and have as a growing experience. I wanted to make sure that I was being constructive and honest but also having something to share that they can build off of.”


Stitched contestants present their designs to the judges in the final challenge Image by: Corus

What was the most fun part of the experience? 

“Just seeing the designs as a designer myself — we even talked about what I would have done with this competition because I have watched Project Runway for so long. To see how different designers work with the same materials and come up with totally different outcomes was really fun because that’s what makes fashion interesting. Designs are created by individual designers with their own experiences to draw from and get their inspiration. Just seeing how different designers think was really interesting to me — you could see the wheels turning in their head and see the entire process unfold which was really cool.”  

What was your favourite part of the episode? 

“The final challenge was the drag challenge which was amazing because I love drag queens and that kind of aesthetic. This was the perfect episode for me to be on because I love over-the-top fashion and having fun with it. It was not what I expected and they put on such a good show. It was actually such a hard decision. The judges were fighting because we couldn’t decide who won and it was like tooth and nail. Nobody knew who was going to come out the winner at the top but I think the right person won. It was a huge pleasant surprise to me that it was drag queens because normally you wouldn’t see that kind of thing flicking through the channels so it was really fun that they were taking it to the next level.”


Judges Joe Zee, Vanessa Craft and Hayley Elsaesser  Image by: Corus

Four talented, ambitious fashion designers compete in a series of challenges, until one is crowned the winner by a panel of judges.​​​​ Watch Stitched every Sunday at 9pm on Slice.