Upon first seeing designer Layana Aguilar you're immediately struck by her beauty. She's a tall statuesque vision with long brown hair and a flawless visage. You'll probably find yourself thinking, "Model or designer?" Perhaps both, as she wears her own designs rather well.
But her most striking quality has to be her warm and inviting smile - the perfect remedy to any intimidation you might have felt by her presence. Layana is very welcoming.
Her down-to-earth demeanour can possibly be attributed to her humble beginnings in a small town in Brazil where "the coolest families are farmers." Her Brazilian upbringing might have been low on privacy, but it was rife with love and affection. Family was everything. So much so that it was her mum who sparked her creative fire.
"I used to always watch my mother get dressed up and look so beautiful," Layana says. "Those moments got me started into reinventing my clothes and telling all my girlfriends what to wear."
She remembers being 10-years-old and cutting up everyone's clothes: mum's, sister's, and her's. "For a while I became very dangerous (that is what my mother says)". Back then she didn't have sewing skills, so as to be imagined, her redesigns were...umm... not so great. True story: they were bad enough to make her sister cry. Yet, despite the dismay, her mum saw potential.
So how exactly does a girl from a tiny corner of the world turn her fashion dreams into reality? Layana gave us answers.
When you realised you wanted to get into fashion, what was your first move?
Layana Aguilar: It was only when I moved from Brazil to the US, that I discovered that my talent for designing clothes and how I truly loved helping women feel beautiful, could become a career.
After my first trip to New York City, I finally decided to go to fashion school. At first, It was very intimidating. I had to conquer a new language, a new culture, well, basically a new life! There were times when I felt like a fish out of water, but I stayed focused and ended up accomplishing more than I could ever dream. I graduated from the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology, winning an award for best in class.
I always knew I wanted to have my own company, but a very wise professor told me I had to gain lots of experience first. And my first dream as a designer came true when I got my internship at Oscar de la Renta, where I worked for two years.
Of course we know you were on "Project Runway", how did you land a spot on the show?
LA: I always loved the show. Whenever I would watch it, I imagined myself being a part of it. My friends and family also told me to audition many times. I finally decided to try out for Season 9 and I almost made it to the final cast. Then I realised that to be a part of the show, more than talent, you need a lot of personality. I was determined to try out once more and I made it to season 11.
The audition process is very long. It takes about three months until you get the final call. We have to go through a series of interviews, filling out loads of paper work and even an interview with a psychiatrist (that's when they determine which character you are going to play).
What was that experience like? What did it teach you about designing and yourself in general?
LA: It was a very unique experience. Only those who were a part of it can truly understand it. It is like "willingly" being forced to go on a roller coaster ride for 5 weeks! Lots of up and downs and mixed feelings...
The most important lesson is to be confident in who you are as a designer and to play the game. The exposure we get from the show can be very positive and often times very negative.
As a fashion designer, we need inspiration, we need diversity. We were locked in the same building, with the same people for many, many weeks. It is very hard to showcase our full potential under those circumstances, but we had to learn to make the best of it and to deal with the constant pressure. All that pressure did prepare us for real life.
What advice would you give to aspiring designers who want to get into the business? Your top 5 tips.
LA: I have to give my top 7 tips:
-Find what sets you apart from other designers
-Present your product to people who you admire and who know a lot more than you (not your mother)
-Take their advice into consideration
-Make the changes that might need to be made (you will know when you are on the right track when someone says "Where can I buy this" instead of only "this is beautiful")
-Believe in yourself and be extremely confident, strong, and open to constructive criticism
-Find a business partner
-Network, network, network
What would you say has been your proudest moment as a designer?
LA: My first Fall/Winter 2014 presentation during New York Fashion Week earlier this year.
Finally, who are your dream celebrity clients? What would you style them in and why?
LA: Sofia Vergara and Gwen Stefani. If you mixed them together [you get] the perfect Layana Aguilar girl. Feminine, sensual with a hard edge.
Sofia, I just love her. She is beautiful, she is also very funny and she has curves! She reminds me of my mother. I would put her in something very figure-flattering, like a mermaid shape with an exposed back. I would cover her up a bit in the front and give her a really low back. She would look stunning!
Gwen, I just want to inherit her closet and have fun with it. Then I would dress her with my leather rocker pants from the new fall line, white t-shirt and a killer leather jacket also from the new fall line
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