As an eco-conscious fashion designer focusing on building an environmentally sustainable brand, Bravo's Project Runway contestant Sergio Guadarrama is no stranger to facing obstacles with his business. For the past several years scalability has been an uphill battle for the Mexican-American designer. “It’s taking me a lot longer in my career to have a bigger audience because doing things in an environmentally-friendly way takes a lot longer,” he said.
However, during his time on Project Runway, the experienced designer faced a whole new set of challenges — including the tuxedo moment. Sergio's statement-making design ending up getting a lot of attention, but perhaps not in the way he expected. "My message was a little bit misunderstood," Sergio explained.
Read on to get the full story behind Sergio's tuxedo and learn more about his journey in the fashion competition.
What was the biggest takeaway from your time on Project Runway?
The best advice I got was from Brandon [Maxwell] on how to create a more modern collection. I really like to focus on history to create, and he felt like sometimes I got too stuck in those places. To bring forth that modern perspective means to kind of disturb what I already have to create something new. That really resonated with me.
Tell us about some of the biggest challenges you encountered on the show.
The reason I came to Project Runway was to make a change in terms of social issues, economic issues, and making the world a better place — and sometimes the full stories behind my messages weren’t understood by the judging panel, or maybe my fellow contestants. But my intentions have always been pure and positive. I really want to make the world a better place with what I love to do, which is fashion. And I hope people can see that.
Do you feel like the message behind your backwards tuxedo was misinterpreted?
Yes. I had created the tuxedo backwards, referencing that we’re going backwards on all social issues. The only reference was about the quality of life in terms of economic state at that time. In terms of my comment stating when the 1950s was a great time, the only reason I brought up that topic is because in the 1950s we had a 90 percent marginal tax rate for the top one percent in our country. And because our country was supported with the wealthiest paying their taxes, the tax burden wasn’t on the working class and the middle class. At that time, people could afford a home, two or more kids, and having one person stay at home to take care of the kids was still a viable option where as now people are struggling with five jobs and most likely need to have both parents working.
I never intended to say that the ‘50s were better for anybody. And if anybody was offended by the misunderstanding of this situation, then I apologize. I only want equality for all humanity.
How do you encourage equality and inclusivity as a brand?
As a company we bring certain topics of inequality to light through discussion, and having these conversations is how you actually make change. I'm willing — not only as a person, but as a brand — to put my line out there to start these conversations, so that hopefully people in powerful positions, like our politicians, can help make the changes in the world that we need to bring all people to an equal place.
Sustainability is a big part of your collection. Was that a goal from the start?
Initially — because we’re not taught that in school or at least not at the time that I went — it was something that I had never even heard of. I discovered later on throughout the process just how much the fashion industry actually affects our planet. Realizing the impact of what our industry does made me want to make that positive change so that I'm not a designer contributing to that problem.
What steps can we take to make our wardrobes more environmentally-friendly?
You should invest in companies that are transparent. So, if the company tells you the story of who is making their product and how it’s being created and that they’re doing social good, those are the companies you should invest in.
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