DESIGNER INTERVIEW: Layana Aguilar, Fashion Designer & Project Runway Season 11 Contestant

Saturday, April 26, 2014

It's not everyday one gets to interact with a designer from her favorite Fashion show, Project Runway. I have been a fan of Project Runway every season since it started.  I've interviewed Project Runway Season 2 winner, Chloe Dao, avidly stalked followed Christian Siriano and all of his continued success, befriended Danny Esquivel and Michael Costello on Facebook, attended the Project Runway S12 Finale show last September at NYFW and today I have a lovely interview with Season 11 contestant Layana Aguilar.  Layana was in town for the launch of her Spring 2014 Collection, Brighton Me Up, at Pasha's Boutique in Clear Lake. This is Layana's first boutique launch and I'm happy that I was there to capture the event and ask her a few questions on her design aesthetic and her time on Project Runway. 
With Layana Aguilar post interview
Layana wearing her own line at Layana Aguilar
HFB Member Liz Marie won a prize from Layana by knowing the name of her Spring 2014 Collection
So of course my first question is going to be about your experience on Project Runway. I'm sure it was very different from designing outside of a competition. 
Yes, as a designer, you need inspiration. Sometimes you need to go out, or you need to take a break but can't afford to do so being on the show.  To be on the show you really have to be confident in who you are as a designer because there will be times where you're going to reach a creative block. You will have to come out of it and design something, by thinking of what you've done in the past.  But it was an amazing experience because of the exposure and meeting all the designers. I became really close with Samantha and Benjamin and we are still very good friends. Ben and I actually share the studio where we design our collections. Ben is from Australia but moved to New York after the show and Sam lives in Brooklyn so it's easier because we are together. But I am still in touch with Stanley. I was in LA for LA Fashion week and we met up. I always talk to Amanda and Michelle, they were my roommates on the show, and we are very close and the others every once in awhile we talk, but Sam and Ben we have become really good friends.

Layana saying hi to the crowd and introducing her Spring 2014 Collection, Brighten Me Up
Well good! I'm glad to hear that, because they make everything look so dramatic on the show and like everyone hates each other, so good to know friendships were made! And it's so easy for people on the outside looking in to say "I can do that, or I can do this better" but you don't know until you're there! 
Even I said it! When I was just a spectator watching from home I said, "Oh that's so easy, I could do that." But once you are there, it's completely different.  It's very hard to really showcase your talent to because the circumstances are not real life, however the pressure does prepare you for real life. In the fashion world you are always under pressure to create a new collections every season. You have to make the best of being on Project Runway because it's hard to showcase your talent to the fullest.

I'm sure! I can only imagine.  Well tell me a little bit about going through eliminations every week? What was the actual shooting schedule? We would shoot every single day and we would have a couple of breaks. It was like this, one day we would shoot the episode because usually they were only one day. It was actually only 7 hours to sew because during the day we had to do interviews. So we'd shoot the episode in one day, and then the next day was elimination. Elimination was one full day and it's a lot of waiting. I remember we used to wait in back hallways and stairwells for hours.

Oh my! That's torturous! My anxiety would have been crazy!
Yes, it's very tough, and then when you get there, the judges go right into judging you and they don't really know who you. We did not get to interact with the judges. The person that really got to know us was Tim, but Heidi, Nini, & Zac Posen, they barely even knew our names, so sometimes it was a little frustrating.  You're just sitting there waiting and waiting, and you have been sewing for 7 hours, your stuff is not completely done and you feel like 'how can I present this?' and then they judge you and they barely now what you've been through.  Of course everything has it's pros and cons, but going on the show you have to be aware that it's a reality show. You are there to make money for them and you need to make the best of it. You use the exposure to your benefit, but you don't go on the show thinking 'Oh My God, this show is going to make me extremely successful'. No, it's going to put you out there, but it's going to hurt a little bit.

7 hours? That's it? I would have been very frustrated if the judges didn't know my name! Ha! However, just being on the show must helps tremendously. So many designers that didn't win have taken things to the next level just by being on the show. They were able to get the exposure, have people know their names. I think of you and so many other examples, like Michael Costello and Chloe Dao, well she did win her Season, but she's here, based in Houston. 
I wanted to visit her store, but I don't have enough time.

It's very cute, I love her designs! How long are you here in Houston?  
I'm leaving today. Right after this I'm going straight to the Airport, but I arrived Thursday, I really came for this [The Boutique Launch]. Also, the good thing about Project Runway, is that being the winner doesn't mean you are going to be the most successful.  There's a lot of us that didn't win that are doing really well. One example that I love is Joe. He was on my Season but people barely remember him because he was the 3rd one to be eliminated. He's actually one of the designers doing the best out of everyone because he already had a business with cat sweaters.  For Joe, just being on the show for a little bit, for 3 episodes, he received the exposure that he needed to boost his business. Now he has his line in Patricia Field's store & Urban Outfitters. He has that little niche of the cat sweaters, because he's a knitwear designer, that are really cute. I have one. He puts those doll eyes that move on the sweaters and it's the cutest thing!

OMG I have to look this up! I love all things cats.
You have to look it up. It's Pretty Snake, that's his brand.

That's so cool! I love that! So tell me a little bit more about your design aesthetic, because like you said it's hard for designers to showcase their talents full on Project Runway. They give you so many challenges that you probably try to stay true to your design aesthetic to do, but at the same time you have to meet the challenge. What is your niche and what do you actually like to make? 
Well, I love to make dresses. My niche? I design for the women that is very feminine and sensual but at the same time wants to be cool and edgy. I love that I grew up in Brazil and now I live in the United States--New York, and I'm able to combine the two cultures. Growing up in Brazil, the women embrace more of the sensuality and the curves and in New York it's more about the edginess and the classic styles. I combined the two and I always say, "Women have their own style but we have different moods." Sometimes I wake up and I want to feel a little sexier and I want to wear something that hugs my curves. Another day, especially because I'm a Mom and I'm a woman on the go, I just want to be cool and wear something loose-fitting. I cater to women that are versatile and have that lifestyle that calls for something that is easy-going and dress according to their moods.

I like that. I have a base style, but if I find something I like, and it fits me and looks good and it may not be something I would normally wear I'm going to go for it.  I like being able to change it up. You don't want to get stuck in one thing. 
You don't want to get stuck in one thing. I always say, because people ask me about trends and things like that, trends are great because they give you a guide to what's happening, but you don't have to be only a trend follower, be a trend setter.

Exactly! I like that! Be a trendsetter! How did you get your start in designing and when did you know you wanted to be a Fashion Designer? 
I always say that I started without knowing, because I grew up in a small town in Brazil but I was always cutting my clothes and changing them. I wanted to be different from everybody else and have things that noone else had. Coming from a small town was hard and I didn't even know there was a career as a Fashion Designer. I used to dance. I used to be a ballerina and I thought, 'Ok this is going to be what I do for the rest of my life'. When I moved from Brazil to the US, I found fashion. I was closer to New York & I was able to go to FIT.  I discovered that I could turn my hobby into something that I could make money from and be happy at the same time.

Layana pictured with Houston Fashion Blogger member Liz Marie
That's good when you find what you love and can  make money at the same time! That's a jackpot! Did you have a line/basis before you went on Project Runway? Or was that right after you graduated and then you applied for PR, and now you are starting your line? It was like this, I always knew that I wanted to have my own brand, but I also knew how competitive and crazy it is to start your brand right out of college. I listened to advice from people who had more experience and I worked right after graduation.  I received an internship, and I worked for Oscar de la Renta which was an amazing experience! I learned so much there. After Oscar, I was offered a higher position at a smaller brand, and then I felt ready to start my own line. On the side I was always designing for myself and then wherever I would go, people would ask, "Oh, who made this?" and I'd say, "Myself" and I would sell things here and there and so it was already part time.

I would always go to parties wearing something that I just made an hour before and people would say , "I can't believe you're so fast." I love designing and sometimes under pressure I work really well. It's great to just make something in one hour and put it on. My friends were like you should do Project Runway, you would do really well and  you'd get great exposure, so I said yes! It's a great way to get my name out there and then I could go full-time with my brand, so that's what I did.


Layana with her son walking the catwalk. I don't think he enjoyed it too much! lol
 Well that's amazing! An hour? There's no way! It took me like 4 weeks to sew a pair of pajama pants.
Yessssss haha
I obviously didn't go to school for sewing.
Well you know sewing requires a lot of practice. When I started I was not as fast as I am today. I didn't even know how to sew, I learned in school and I loved it! A lot of people hate sewing, but I love it. You have to be patient.

Yes because there's a big difference between being able to design and sketch clothes and then actually make them. Of course designers aren't going to sit there and make each individual piece, they're going to go patternmakers and seamstresses.
95% of designers don't know how to sew. They learn a little bit, but then they never do it again, and sewing is about practice and if you don't use it you lose it.

Yea I don't think I'd could even make those pants's been 2 years since I've touched my sewing machine.  Is this your first time in Houston?
Yes this is my first time in Texas!

Oh Texas in general! Too bad you couldn't stay longer!
I know, I liked it, I will definitely be back. We're going to continue to work together and bring other styles from different lines. It's fun, I like it and I had so much fun on Great Day Houston with Debra Duncan!

Oh she's amazing! She's so fun! Well so glad that you were able to come to Houston and that I was able to chat with you a little bit! Thank you so much!
With the Sister Duo Owners of Pasha's Boutique

For more on Layana and her line check out the following sites:

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