If at first you don't succeed … make it work.
That's the lesson Tampa resident Ben Chmura learned after his third audition for Project Runway, the reality show in which designers try to impress style gurus Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum.
Chmura had originally tried out for the show's second season in 2005, but for him the third time was the charm. Catch him in Season 7, which debuts tonight on Lifetime.
Chmura, 30, was born in South Meriden, Conn., and graduated from Dunedin High School. After earning a fashion-design degree from Savannah College of Art and Design, he moved to New York but returned to Tampa Bay in 2003. A full-time designer, Chmura once served as creative director for David & Goliath Tees in Clearwater.
Chmura describes his designs as having "a little bit of a sci-fi edge and comic book illustration influence" but adds that "they're still pieces that you can mix into your existing wardrobe." He called the Times from his home in Seminole Heights.
A lot of people wouldn't have the courage to audition again. What made you go out there this time?
I actually wasn't going to audition for this season, but all the signs kept coming to me.
A lot of people kept saying, "You should do it. You should do it."
What is your opinion overall of Tampa Bay's fashion scene?
In Tampa, I think it's grown tremendously since I've been here, coming here in 2003. There's a lot more fashion events happening, and I think people are becoming more fashion-conscious, but I still think there's a lot of room to grow for the indie designer here.
Where are some of your favorite places to shop locally?
I actually just found this new place over by Channelside called Give and Take. That place is incredible. They carry a bunch of indie designers from all over the world — anything from Alice McCall to the men's line Martin.
Is there anything you said or did on Project Runway that you wish you could take back?
(laughs) First impressions are a very big thing for me. I think a couple of personalities came across the wrong way in the beginning, and I did comment on personalities. … But other than that, everything that I said or did — it's me.