TOP MENTOR: Todd Oldham loves a good bargain. But the Dallas-reared design whiz advises against donating to or spending money at Salvation Army
By Daniel A. Kusner
The first season of “Top Design” was mediocre at best. Plugging in a different industry into the “Project Runway” formula wasn’t as easy as painting a wall a different color. So for its second season, “Top Design” has undergone a renovation.
Dallas-raised designer Todd Oldham is no longer the host. That role has been filled by India Hicks, a fashion model whose father was an interior decorator; and her godfather was Prince Charles, and Hicks was one of Princess Di’s bridesmaids.
This season, Oldham is the “mentor,” which means he has more of a Tim Gunn-like role. For the first episode, which premieres on Wednesday, the 13 designers won’t be working in a studio — like last season, when they were confined to the “Design Studio,” which consisted of basement-like featureless white boxes. This season, designers are redecorating actual living spaces.
Last season, some of the budgets were insanely extravagant — like $50,000 per challenge. This season, the budgets are dramatically cheaper. For the first challenge, designers are broken into teams. They have to satisfy “especially judgmental clients while shopping at thrift stores and junkyards in Los Angeles.
Last week, Oldham spoke about being a gay man who loves hunting for good bargains.
“Good taste and design are not dependant on money,” Oldham says. I’ve seen very rich affairs that look awful.”
But he still likes “the big parody version” of Dallas style — flashy-cash urban cowboy look.
“There’s nothing quite like Texas bigness of those houses. Wow. Those are huge homes,” he says. “But Texas is an incredible sophisticated place with all kinds of layers. At first glance, it may look like that parody — giant hair and all those things. But it’s way more than that. I think of all my friends back there, who were all really sophisitated and fun. And occasionally, I do remember some of the great old couture customers wobbling around Neiman Marcus in the ’80s and ’90s…”
But when decorating on a budget, don’t sacrifice your principals — like hitting giving your money to Salvation Army, the anti-gay evangelical organization that has widely discriminated against LGBT clients and employees.
“Do I shop at Salvation Army? No I don’t,” Oldham says. “And I ask other people not to because I’m very well aware of their policies. And any company that tries to manipulate the law to be discriminatory, I wouldn’t like to be a part of. Even though, I do think the effort of trying to bring safety and goodwill to so many people is wonderful. But when it comes fueled by hatred and discrimination — I don’t think that’s a good way. There’s lots of ways to recycle your clothing and purchase used clothing."
Can Oldham remember any good resale outlets in North Texans?
“I imagine the Fort Worth flea market is still about good as its ever been,” he says. “That place is incredible.”
Oldham says North Texas’ best place to scout for repurposed goods is the Fort Worth Flea Market, which is held most Saturdays and Sundays at The Will Rogers Memorial Center in the small exhibits building. Will Rogers Memorial Center, 3401 W. Lancaster Ave. Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free. For more information, call 817-392-7469. Or visit, FWculture.com/wrogers.htm