NYFW: From Project Runway to the Big Runway

Former Project Runway contestants Jesus Estrada of season seven, and Viktor Luna of season nine, will both dare to bare their collections and their soles (in Estrada’s case) during one of the largest fashion gatherings worldwide—New York Fashion Week.

The reality TV stars, both born in Mexico and eliminated from the hit show, are hoping they’ll drum up enough buzz during NYFW, which kicks off Thursday, to carry their fledging careers and collections into the pages of Vogue or Women’s Wear Daily.

It's always a huge deal to be able to show your collection and see how people receive your vision of that particular season. 

— Viktor Luna

It's always a huge deal to be able to show your collection and see how people receive your vision of that particular season,” Luna told Fox News Latino. “Since my time on Project Runway, I feel they have pushed me to a massive audience and I feel a lot of PR fans and the fashion world want to see what I do with this platform.”

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Jesus Estrada

In 2009, Estrada, who was raised by a single mother, was cast as one of the youngest contestants to date on Project Runway.  He was the first in his family to graduate high school and college, and for the show’s casting session, he decided to bring his mother to model his clothing.

“Tim Gunn thought she was my sister. She’s so glamorous and beautiful,” he says.

He was eliminated from the show early in the forth episode but decided to return to San Diego to work with another PR designer, Gordana Gehlhausen of Season 6, who had relocated to there to open a boutique. But he wanted to make it in the big leagues and moved to New York to open a boutique in Westchester County with his twin brother, Antonio. They ended up partnering with Josie Cermele, who helped them open their first boutique in Scarsdale, called simply, “Estrada.”

“When we saw the space, we were like ‘holy guacamole’—and then we started bawling,” he said. “We feel like we’re living the Valentino, Coco Chanel dream.”

Estrada boutique sells their all-handmade gowns, their aardvark-looking signature shoes, and newly added jewelry collection. “The women here are loving it. We sold out of our Spring Summer 2012 collection in one day,” Jesus says.

Despite the store’s success, they are trying to see if they could hit their strive in the glamorous yet competitive world of Fashion Week.

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Not exactly one of Lincoln Center’s main stages, the Estrada’s will show their Fall 2012 collection at The Manhattan Center Studios. They are the finale in the runway show titled Fame Rocks Fashion Week 2012—a show designed to give emerging designers and musicians an opportunity to present their work during this important time in fashion.

The Estrada’s are calling their line, “Back from the dead.” The clothing is filled with lots of studs, safety pins, skulls, metals, and leathers, all very dark and edgy.

“We are bringing out the claws. Fall is the time for setting trends. We’ll have our crazy shoes that people love and all our fabulous clothing. This is our chance to show people who we are without risk of the show and playing it safe,” Estrada said. “We’re trying to create wearable pieces but still avant-garde. Go big or go home.”

They say they are hoping to attract new customers and, eventually, a chain that will bear their name.

Viktor Luna

Luna moved to New York in 2003 to attend the Fashion Institutes of Technology.  After graduating, he began working with Chilean born designer Maria Cornejo of the Zero label until he was cast last year in Project Runway. He came in second place on the show - losing out to Anya Ayoung-Chee of Trinidad and Tobago.

This will be his first presentation at NYFW following Project Runway.

He said he will show his Fall of 16 pieces on Monday in a small gallery in Chelsea called the Rogue Space.

I have been working so hard (7 days a week to be exact),” he said. “And hopefully my hard work will pay off.”

Luna’s fall line is inspired by the old art meets modern.

“I am continuing the success of the leather jackets, my own custom prints that I created, and the forward modern and fitted silhouettes that I am known for,” he said. “I am extremely excited to show the whole vision with the help of my friend, Nole’ Marin, who will be styling the collection.”

Some well-known celebs have discovered the young talent recently. Singer Adam Lampert owns a Luna jacket, Marie Claire Fashion Director and Project Runway judge Nina Garcia has 2 pieces, supermodel and PR judge Heidi Klum owns the famous “Bubble Jacket” Luna created on the show. And he’s currently working with Sarah Ramirez of Grey’s Anatomy on creating a custom piece for her.

The Competition

The fashion world is brutal and competitive. Luna and Estrada are friends. They met at the Season Nine wrap party. Estrada will soon be carrying Luna’s collection in his boutique.

Despite the cat fights often seen on Project Runway, the designers understand how to leverage their highly coveted 15 minutes of TV fame. They are hoping to launch their brand into department stores, magazines, and the closets of American women and men.

But they will need a successful debut at NYFW to get them there.

Rebekah Sager is a freelance writer based in California.

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