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When the sew-sew show “Project Runway” returns for season 19, South Florida’s fashion scene will be represented. Big time.
Three of the 16 designers competing are locals: West Palm Beach’s Katie Kortman, and Miami’s Octavio Aguilar and Shantall Lacayo. You can catch them stitching their way to the top prize on Bravo beginning at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 14.
Of course this is not the first time “Project Runway” has gotten glamsters from Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.
That was then. This is now. Returning hosts and judges include Christian Siriano, Nina Garcia, Elaine Welteroth and Brandon Maxwell. Celebrity guest judges throughout the season will include Taraji P. Henson, Gigi Hadid, Jason Wu, Billy Porter, Andy Cohen and Karlie Kloss.
Here is what you want to know about our trio hoping to slay challenge after challenge and become the next catwalk queen/king by winning $250,000 and getting major promotion with a runway show during New York Fashion Week.
Home: Though she is currently in Yokosuka, Japan, with her husband (an OB-GYN with the military), Kortman grew up in West Palm Beach from 1985-1999, attending what is now Dreyfoos School of the Arts. The couple and their four children lived there, off and on, from 2006-2013.
Favorite local place to hang out: “It changed over the years. In my youth it was Clematis [Street] and in my adulthood it was City Place.”
Favorite restaurant: “My first job was at C.R. Chicks and every time I come to town to visit my family, I always have to go a few times!”
Favorite place to shop: The Gardens Mall and Sawgrass Mills
Best place to people watch: South Beach
Favorite designers: Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Mira Mikati
Design aesthetic: “Colorful, playful, mixed prints, ready-to-wear.”
Favorite judge: “I really like Nina Garcia. You know she’s been on the whole time, so it was cool to have her looking at something that I created.”
What was it like filming a reality TV show? “I’ve watched ‘Project Runway,’ specifically, since day one. So I had an idea of … what I would be doing and what they’d be filming. I know that I’m representing myself to the world and my children who are watching the show. And so I always try to not say everything. I’m very loud and outspoken and say what’s on my mind a lot but I was, oh my gosh, I have to really make sure that I don’t say something I don’t want the world to see, or to hear.”
Biggest surprise? “I was surprised…that I really formed relationships with the other contestants and really truly loved them by the end. You know I thought, ‘These people are my competition. I’m not here to make friends. I’m trying to win this thing.’ But you spend so much time, day in and day out for weeks, that you do end up becoming really great friends and I connected with everybody.”
How does SoFlo show up in your designs? “I really love prints and I really love bright colors. And growing up in South Florida, and then moving to places across the United States that have winter, I realized I need color. I need bright color, I need sun. And whenever I go back to visit Florida in the winter, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this feels so much better.’ There’s so much vivid color all year round. And that’s what I’m used to. And so that comes out in my artwork because I realized how much happiness I feel from color, light, sun.”
Home: Aguilar lives in Miami’s Little River neighborhood. Since 2004 he’s been going back and forth from the Magic City (living in South Beach and downtown over the years) and New York City. He also attended the now-shuttered Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale for one year in 1998, right after graduating high school. The Puerto Rican American’s designs have been worn by Janet Jackson and Erykah Badu.
Favorite local place to hangout: Twist nightclub
Favorite place to shop: Goodwill [Thrift Stores]
Best place to people watch: South Beach
Favorite designers: Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Rei Kawakubo
Design aesthetic: “Avant garde street”
Favorite judge: “There was just something speaking to Nina [Garcia]. I just felt like if I was talking to my aunt or something like that.”
Biggest surprise? “Honestly, the most surprising part about the whole thing was that you forget that the camera’s actually there. You’re so focused on designing and just doing a great job and you’re under stress and other constraints, that you forget that the cameras are in your face and they’re following you.”
How does SoFlo show up in your designs? “It’s definitely an influence in certain aspects. As far as designing goes, I’m more of a New Yorker. And I designed more for fall. I make a lot of puffer jackets and all that stuff. But I’m still stimulated by walking around on the beach and just seeing people walking around.”
Where did you do interior design work? “I was working for a company called Artefacto [Design House], which is a high-end Brazilian furniture company store here in South Florida. I was in charge of showrooms and decorating those. I was constantly decorating and shopping and it was fun. I love that whole world, especially traveling back and forth to Brazil. And seeing their way of decor and their fashion.”
What do you think got you clients like Janet Jackson and Erykah Badu? “I think my pieces are very editorial and somewhat fantasy. You know it takes you out of the real world. You know, artists that are coming out with albums and new records, they want this newness. There’s something fresh about Octavio and they see it for music videos, for the [red] carpets. It’s not everyday clothes. It’s definitely nightlife and showing out and showing up.”
Home: Lacayo has lived in Kendall with her husband and child for three years after leaving her native Nicaragua (after competing on “Project Runway Latin America” in Argentina) because of political upheaval.
Favorite local place to hangout: Marco Island
Favorite restaurant: Pubbelly Sushi
Favorite place to shop: Miami Design District
Best place to people watch: Wynwood
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Favorite designers: Elsa Schiaparelli, Versace, Alexander McQueen, Etro
Dream client: “Everybody.”
Design aesthetic: “Artistic, sophisticated — appealing to an elegant woman who celebrates various ethnic groups and [a] rich Latin American heritage.”
Favorite judge: “Nina Garcia, her experience. She’s been on the show, like, all these seasons. And as a Latina, I really have admired her for a while. Then you have Elaine [Welteroth]. She’s, you know, this beautiful spirit. And every time she was sitting in front of us, I was like, ‘Damn, this is amazing.’ And then Brandon Maxwell, he’s a designer. I admire him. Having [positive] feedback from him is very flattering. You know, it’s about understanding and it’s about learning…to get better. So, I don’t have a favorite judge. And it’s not because I don’t want to say so, but because I really love everybody.”
How does SoFlo show up in your designs? “I’m originally from Nicaragua and my family and I, we just moved around three years ago. So living in Miami, it’s been like a whole experience. I love Florida. I love the weather. It wasn’t that drastic a change to me. One of the things that I love is that there are so many nationalities here, so you learn a lot about cultures. And it’s something that I really like to show in my design. I think that having the experience to move from another country to another, it’s like having a new chapter in your life and a new collection and then a new way of seeing.”
What’s the different between “Project Runway” and “Project Runway Latin America?” “Well, I mean, ‘Project Runway,’ it’s ‘Project Runway.’ [This] ‘Project Runway’ is the show that I used to see when I was growing up, before getting into college and I was dreaming to be in New York living this experience. [’Project Runway Latin America’] was amazing, but there was no comparison. And oh my gosh, all the guests! It’s all the experience you get after the show and especially all the exposure you’re going to have. There’s no way of comparing.”