Season 13 of Project Runway premieres tonight (July 24), featuring a fresh crop of up-and-coming fashion designers. Two hail from Texas, and although we wish 27-year-old Samantha Plasencia from San Antonio all the best, we have to root for a particular contestant from Dallas: Emmanuel Tobias.
Tobias, the eldest of three, was born into a traditional family in Mexico. His entrance into the fashion world actually happened around the time of his sister’s quinceañera, for which he designed her dress. Once he saw his vision become reality, he decided to turn his newfound passion into a career.
"Surprisingly, I became the most fond of Nina, but gosh who knows what was said in deliberation and who was really a fan of me."
He received an AAS in pattern design from El Centro College in 2007 and a bachelor of fine arts in fashion design from the University of North Texas in 2011. Upon graduating, he immediately starting using those degrees to better the fashion industry in the town he calls home.
Tobias is now the creative director for a private label company in Dallas that produces hair accessories, crafts and jewelry for large retailers like Michaels, JoAnne Fabrics, A.C. Moore and Big Lots. He also serves as an adjunct faculty fashion draping instructor at El Centro and does custom design work for private clients.
So what prompted him to put his life on hold to compete on Project Runway?
“Aside from the fabulous prize and great exposure, my inspiration and motivation was New York Fashion Week,” says Tobias, whose proudest creation is a jacket made out of silk gazaar and silk organza, containing more than 100 pieces of puzzled seams with individual piping. “I have been working so hard at my passion for 10 years now, and being able to show at fashion week has been my dream.”
Tobias counts Chado Ralph Rucci, Alexander McQueen and Cristóbal Balenciaga among his favorite designers and calls Tilda Swinton his style icon. The show’s producers say his confidence and positive attitude will take him far in the competition.
Prior to the season 13 premiere, we chatted with Tobias about this season and what he likes to do in Dallas.
CultureMap: We know mum’s the word, but tell us what it was like on the show. What was your favorite part? Your favorite judge? Give us something!
Emmanuel Tobias: The entire process, beginning with the audition tape and castings, was rigorous and way more than I expected. It felt like a full-time job, but at the same time, it was full of excitement.
My favorite part was watching the process that goes into making this show. I mean, it is a huge production! Talk about 150-person crew with lights, cameras, sound, mics, producers, assistants, everywhere! I am an observer of little things, and behind the scenes excites me.
Before meeting them, I came in as a huge fan of Zac [Posen], but that changed. I knew Heidi [Klum] would be nice, and I was terrified of Nina [Garcia]. Surprisingly, I became the most fond of Nina, but gosh who knows what was said in deliberation and who was really a fan of me.
CM: What is one fashion staple every man and woman should have?
ET: It hurts me to see men and women struggle with losing their cards or cash by carrying them loosely in their purse or pockets. Every man and woman should own a nice crisp leather wallet to hold their IDs, cards and cash so they can go spend it at Emancandy.com, my new bow tie line. Coming soon! Wink wink.
ET: I enjoy shopping alone and looking for treasures and vintage finds. I like shopping at M’Antiques in the Bishop Arts District for cool trinkets that I usually end up turning into accessories. I also like Dolly Python, where I look for taxidermy for decor, any garment (men’s or women’s) with a cool print, and vintage beaded gowns that I cut and repurpose as appliqués or costuming.
I also shop at NorthPark Center and Zara at the Galleria, but only on their slowest days of the week. I don’t like big crowds when I shop.
CM: Where do you like to eat around here?
ET: Cyclone Anaya’s on Oak Lawn. Aside from the great food and strong drinks, they have a very relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, which is what I enjoy the most with friends.
CM: Are there other Dallas designers you admire?
ET: I admire five unique Dallas individuals whom I have come to know very well. Design aesthetic aside, I can call each one of them a true designer because they execute their vision through their craftsmanship.
I have always been a fan of Dallas treasure Mario Gallegos of Petit Atelier in Deep Ellum. His passion extends to other designers as he offers his atelier to help them grow their businesses through the use of machinery, tables, mannequins, etc. We have grown together in this industry, and he truly has a unique gift for design and passion for the intricacy of a garment.
I admire Robbie Richard and Neil Marek of the successful underwear label Marek + Richard, because these two are the real deal. They have a studio where they design and produce for their own clothing label as well as other designers. They are my UNT alum family, and they have always been so determined and focused.
Last but certainly not least, two of my greatest mentors are Jemal Mizan of Richard Brooks Fabrics and Michael Faircloth. These two are true Dallas couturiers. They design and create the most beautiful couture garments for some of Dallas’ most elite women.
Catch Tobias and his fellow competitors on Thursday at 8 pm on Lifetime.