Earlier today I had a chance to chat with Project Runway Finalist Layana Aguilar. We talked about the Latina’s Brazilian roots, inspiration and motivation and Sofia Vergara.
Here’s how our Q&A session went:
LeAura Luciano:What was your childhood like?
Layana Aguilar: Growing up with a Brazilian family means no privacy and loads of love and affection. My family is loud, loving, crazy, supportive and amazing. I am very grateful that I have had the chance to be exposed to many other cultures and it makes me appreciate mine, and how I grew up so much more.
LL: What were some of your previous jobs?
LA:I got my very first job when I moved to America. I had never worked before, because in Brazil it is not very common for teenagers to have a job. I wasn't very happy about it, but my mom explained to me that here in the USA all kids start working when they turn 16, so I decided to try. I started working at Costco in the bakery department. First I started wrapping cookies and bread, and then once they saw I was good at making flowers from icing, I was transferred to the cake department to decorate cakes. I had so much fun there. It was just like designing, but on cakes! After two years working in the bakery I decided to try something different, and I transferred to the Photo Lab department, where I also had a great time. I got to interact more with customers, design holiday cards and see very funny pictures! Five years ago people were still using regular cameras, so we would, accidentally, get to see a lot of "surprises" when developing rolls of film ... I worked at Costco for a little over four years, until I transferred to FIT and moved to NYC. While attending fashion school I knew I had to gain as much experience as I could in fashion. I was able to volunteer for New York Fashion Week and land many great internships with well-known labels such as Wes Gordon, Carlos Campos, Rachel Roy, Marchesa and finally at Oscar de la Renta, a dream turned into reality, where I learned very valuable assets for my career.
LL: When did you realize you wanted to become a designer?
LA: At a very young age I started designing without even realizing it. I used to always want to change my clothes, for a while I became very dangerous (that is what my mother says). I was cutting all of my clothes, my mother's clothes and my sister's clothes too. At 10 years old I didn't really have any sewing skills, so something that I attempted to redesign would come out amazing, but 90 percent of the rest was pretty much ruined. I remember making my sister cry a few times (at least now I can make it up for what I destroyed!!!). Even though I made my mother very angry, she knew I was passionate about it and I had potential, so for Christmas she gave me a sewing machine. It wasn't really a real sewing machine, but I was able to sew a lot of outfits for my dolls and maybe a skirt or a top for myself. I wish I still had that little machine as a token of my early years as a designer and how it all began.
LL: What's your design training/schooling, etc.?
LA: I started at Katharine Gibbs College in Connecticut. I studied fashion design there for two years, and then I transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC.
LL: Have you won any awards for your designs/work related to design?
LA: When I graduated from FIT in 2010 I won the Hilton Hollis Award.
LA: I always loved the show, and whenever I would watch I imagine myself being a part of it. My friends and family also told me many times to audition. Finally I decided to try out for Season 9 and I almost made it to the final cast. It made me feel very confident, so I was determined to try out once more and here I am, Season 11!
LL: Do you think you can win "Project Runway"?
LA: Yes. Everything I do is a matter of heart, body and soul. Designing clothes for women fulfills me, so I am very determined to win. I have learned to understand fashion and its real importance by allowing everything around me to influence my vision as an artist and how I create. I become a better designer each day, by never making the mistake to think or say, "I live and breathe fashion." Fashion cannot exist alone; all the experiences I live, and all that is happening around the world, create fashion. As a woman I have learned to design with all emotions and complications that we go through, and I long to bring beauty, to enhance personalities and to add power to the women who wear my clothes. As nurturers, women have a unique ability to care, share and make the world a better place. Women who inspire are women who are making a difference, and my goal is to inspire many of us through my work. Winning "Project Runway" will open many of the doors I need to accomplish my dreams.
LL: What are your influences?
LA: I love to take inspiration from the 1920s and 1950s, but designing for me is really an expression of who I am. So most of my influences come from within, from my emotions, my feeling, struggles, accomplishments, from life and all that is happening to me and around the world every day.
LL: Who are your favorite designer(s)?
LA: Alexander McQueen, Riccardo Tisci (Givenchy), Olivier Rousteing (Balmain), Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig (Marchesa), and Oscar de la Renta.
LA: Kate Moss.
LL: What’s your favorite material or fabric to work with?
LA: I love working with leather and chiffon.
LL: What is your personal fashion must?
LA: A killer leather jacket.
LL: What item you're most proud of designing?
LA: So far I have to say the red gown I design for my final project at FIT, and with this gown I won the Hilton Hollis Award.
LA: I wish I could design for Sofia Vergara. Not only because I think she is beautiful, but especially because I think she is so funny and I would love to hang out with her afterward! I would design a beautiful form-fitted gown, probably in white or sea-foam green.
LL: Dream place to set up your business?
LA: I want to have my first atelier here in NYC and eventually have one in Brazil, Paris and Turkey.
LL: Where can people connect with you?