Geneviève Hole is a features’ writer for Lucire.
On the eve of showing at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York, Geneviève Hole profiles Project Runway alumna Layana Aguilar
photographed by Javier Mota, Sean Williams and Thomas de Los Santos
from issue 32 of Lucire
Layana Aguilar is a beautiful woman; a slim physique, shinny, long, dark brown hair, bronzed Brazilian skin and those glowing eyes. If you didn’t know better, you could be forgiven for thinking she’s a runway model. The millions of viewers around the world that tuned into season 11 of Project Runway know that’s not the case.
It was the smash hit show hosted by German-American model Heidi Klum that turned Aguilar into a household name, known as an up-and-coming designer whose essence is to enhance women’s inner beauty.
Aguilar’s story has humble beginnings. She was born and raised in the small city of Governador Valadares in southern Brazil. Aguilar didn’t grow up knowing she wanted to be a fashion designer—for all she knew such a job didn’t even exist—but she did love to dress and style her friends and when heading out for an evening, had to be in something no-one else would be wearing. It was this natural sense of style, and knowledge of dressing a female to look her best that stayed with Aguilar and on her first visit to New York City she realized her calling.
Accepted into the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), Aguilar graduated in 2010 winning the Hilton Hollis Award for Best in Class. But it was early 2013 when the name Layana Aguilar shot to fame, after being selected as one of the designers of Project Runway, season 11.
Not all reality TV shows result in long-lasting fame and fortune, yet there is no doubt Project Runway has given Aguilar and invaluable advantage in one of the most challenging and competitive industries. Along with winning many of the weekly challenges, Aguilar also found herself collaborating on a design for Heidi Klum in the TV commercials for her new fragrance Surprise—a good example of how diligent, passionate Aguilar applied herself to get ahead.
After a stint working for the renowned couturier Oscar de la Renta, she launched her own eponymous label. In 2013 her clear vision, combined with hard work, paid off. Aguilar presented her first fall–winter collection at Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week.
The label combines the sophistication of New York with the uniqueness of Brazilian culture. Aguilar believes the woman whom she dresses is wearing pure confidence and delicateness—a confidence that comes from a garment that works with the female form and enhances a woman’s inner beauty.
In support of the local industry and the city that helped her find her calling, every piece from the collection is proudly made in New York, right in the garment district.
Lucire had the great pleasure of catching the busy Layana Aguilar to chat about what really happens when the cameras stop rolling on Project Runway, her dream celebrity client and what’s next for this new fashion star.
Lucire: Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into the fashion industry.
Layana Aguilar: For as long as I remembered, I always loved fashion but because I grew up in a small town in Brazil, I never considered a career in fashion and because I was a ballerina and that was my main focus.
So it wasn’t your dream to become a fashion designer?
When I moved from Brazil to United States, it opened my eyes to the amazing opportunities in the fashion industry and I decided to enrol at Fashion Institute of Technology. That was my first step towards becoming a fashion designer.
What was the biggest lesson you got out of being on Project Runway?
It reinforced the one thing that I always know: stay true to yourself. I also learned to be open to other people’s feedback but never compromise my own vision.
Did it boost your career (more or less than you expected)?
It absolutely did. People recognize me on the street now, and Project Runway opened many doors for me career-wise. Because of my appearance on Project Runway, I’ve been invited to show my collections around the world.
Do the contestants really finish exactly in the given timeline?
There are actually less time than what is shown on TV. There are a bunch of backstage interviews and prep work that takes up a lot of time.
Are the judges different when the cameras are off?
We actually have much less interaction with the judges that I thought. Tim Gunn is really the only one that we interact with for the majority of the time.
Are the designers left to work free without disruption most of the time?
Yes for four or five hours but there are interviews involved and the cameras are always rolling, from the moment we woke up to the moment we go to bed.
How much do you think the episodes reflect reality?
The challenges on the episodes are far from the reality of the fashion industry. For example, we had to design outfits for male strippers, so go figure! However, I did design Heidi Klum’s outfit for her perfume commercial. So that aspect of the episodes was close to reality.
What is your working process like—from getting the first concept or sketch to the final product? Do you get a concept and develop it and plan rigorously or start off with an idea and work on it as you go?
I definitely work as I go. I’m the kind of designer that is not inspired by sketching but by draping on the form. Maybe because I was a dancer—I am always inspired by movement of the body … plus, I dream about my silhouettes in my sleep.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on my fall ’14 collection. This collection is a reflection of my life now, where I am a Mum and a wife running my own business. It’s for the cool on-the-go girl that needs easy trendy clothing.
What did you wear the last time you went out?
A sexy black dress from the Layana Aguilar collection, of course!
Who is your dream celebrity client?
Sofia Vergara because she’s a beautiful and funny woman. Her personality kind of reminds me of my Mum.
How will your son influence your work?
I’ve always done everything based on experiences in my life. Time management is important to me now as I work harder to establish my business and I also want to fully dedicate myself to my son Henzo, as through him I discovered the purest form of love.
Do you think a children’s collection could be a possibility?
Yes. I absolutely love playing dress up with my son and because of my increased awareness of childrenswear, I realized that skinny jeans are hard to come by for toddlers. I would buy jeans for my son and alter them to make it skinny fit. A children’s collection is definitely a possibility. •
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