K-State students compete in 7th annual Project Runway

Standing with her model, Margaret Stuart, junior in apparel and textiles, receives critiques on her garment from guest judges Tywoo, Mando Guerra and Wendy Barnes during K-State Project Runway Season Seven on, Feb. 19 in the Student Union Main Ballroom. (Clayton Kistner | The Collegian)

Student fashion designers showcased their talents by transforming randomly selected garments into outfits that were modeled during the seventh season of K-state Project Runway.

Four contests were chosen to transform garments within two weeks for the event. The contestants were challenged to use the garment donated to them from the apparel and textiles department for most of their attire’s material and to incorporate a random accent color into the design, according to Breanne Lombard, junior in marketing and Union Program Council Arts Committee co-chair.

The event is based on the popular television show “Project Runway” in which designers compete for a cash prize and the opportunity to burst into the fashion industry.

K-State’s event featured fashion designer Mondo Guerra, who finished second place in the eighth season of “Project Runway” in 2010. Guerra went on to win the first season of “Project Runway All Stars,” a spinoff series where former designers return to compete for another chance to be a “Project Runway” winner.

Guerra has been an advocate for HIV and AIDS and has worked as a spokesperson for Merck’s iDesign HIV-AIDS educational initiative and Dining out For Life, an annual fundraiser.

“He’s actually a really, really popular person,” Lombard said. “He’s known for coming out with having HIV and being positive. He’s been a really big inspiration to a lot of people.”

Guerra spoke about his personal struggle with the disease and his advocacy for HIV and AIDS in an interview-style presentation during the first half of the show.

“I can tell you that it’s been a complete journey,” Guerra said. “I was diagnosed when I was 23 years old. I was living in New York City. I was completely afraid, ashamed and alone.”

Guerra said he recalled growing up in a religious Latino family in Colorado, where he sometimes struggled to express his own creativity as a child. When he was first diagnosed, he struggled with coming out to his family, Guerra said.

“When I was diagnosed, I was so afraid to tell them,” Guerra said.”So I wasn’t seeking that support. That was in the beginning, and I didn’t talk about it for several years just because I felt like I was damaged goods and that I wasn’t good enough.”

He said he revealed that he was HIV positive to his family four days before an episode of “Project Runway” aired, which featured him talking about his struggle with the disease.

Guerra said he advises those with HIV or AIDS to seek support from somewhere.

“It’s different for everyone and it’s important to trust your instincts and support system,” Guerra said.”I wouldn’t rush anything. I think it’s important to seek advice.”

The most challenging part of his struggle with the disease is currently having to deal with other chronic illnesses, Guerra said. Prior to the event, he said he had to go to the emergency room Wednesday evening for a temperature of 104 degrees.

“I guess the hardest part for me right now is that I am healthy and I religiously take care of myself with my treatment, but there is other chronic issues that I am dealing with,” Guerra said. “So on top of HIV, I have to deal with everything else. I’m pushing 40 years old at this point, so there are other things I have to worry about.”

Guerra said he is currently on a hiatus from creative projects as he relocates to New York City.

Guerra joined Wendy Barnes, online programs coordinator for K-State Counseling Services, and Ty Woo, K-State alum and Manhattan theater performer and director, in judging the contestants’ designs.

Emily Sanders, junior in apparel and textiles, was awarded first place and a cash prize of $150. Sanders said she spent two weeks transforming a vintage green gown into her final creation: a yellow and green jumpsuit.

When she first saw the material she had to work with, she did not know what to do with it, she said. The designing process took longer than actually making the attire and she did not finish the outfit until around 4 p.m. on Friday.

“I changed my design, like, five times,” Sanders said. “It probably took a day and a half. I was still sewing stuff on while I was walking in the door.”

Sanders said she was surprised but also excited to win first place.

Kat Zoschke, senior in apparel and textiles, took home second place and won People’s Choice with her transformation of a burqa into a blue jumpsuit. Zoschke said she decided to enter the contest for her “last hurrah” as a senior. She also competed two years ago in the fifth season of K-State Project Runway.

“I knew that this experience would be very formational and I couldn’t pass it up,” Zoschke said. “It’s my last year, I had to go for it.”

Zoschke said she was honored to receive People’s Choice and agreed with the judges’ critique on her attire.

“It was humbling and it was an honor,” Zoschke said. “I think I really tried to incorporate a lot of myself into this design.”

Sophomore Amani Hasam and senior Maggie Stuart, both students in apparel and textiles, also participated in the event. Stuart came in third place, winning a $50 cash prize.

Lombard said she does not know if K-state Project Runway will continue in years to come due to the TV show’s decline.

“When ‘Project Runway’ was at its prime is when (K-state Project Runway) started, but, now that Project Runway is coming to an end, we’re mulling over the idea of doing something different,” Lombard said. “We’re not sure yet, but we’re going to try to keep it on the design side. It’s going to be something with fashion.”