Deseret News – Before ‘Project Runway,’ he danced at Juilliard. Now, this designer is making costumes for Utah Opera

SALT LAKE CITY — As Bradon McDonald was heading to the Juilliard School, his mom gave him a credit card.

“Only use it for emergencies,” she told him.

At that time, in 1993, McDonald was an 18-year-old pursuing modern dance. At the Juilliard School, he danced 12 hours a day. The grueling schedule often took a toll on his body, but the young dancer didn’t go straight to his dorm room to sleep.

He went shopping. But he was good about not using the credit card — until the one time he wasn’t. To this day, he can still vividly remember his self-discipline dissolving as soon as he wandered into ABC Carpet and Home, an upscale fabric store in New York City.

“There was this exquisite jacquard (fabric). So many colors, so thick. Floral, paisley, I couldn’t even believe it,” McDonald said. “And it was half-off of $160, down to $80 a yard. Crazy expensive — especially for 1993. And I realized it was an emergency.”

So with his credit card, McDonald bought one yard and hoarded it in his dorm room. As he continued to dance, his fabric collection grew. At night, his dorm room became a workshop where he transformed old jeans into denim rugs, hand-stitched quilts and book covers, and then, when he got a sewing machine for Christmas, experimented with handbags.

After designing 10 bags, the dancer decided it was time to put his hobby to the test. He grabbed a sheet, traveled 5 miles to New York’s SoHo neighborhood and set up shop. He sold out in 30 minutes.

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