From Framingham to Fashion Week: FSU alumni compete on Project Runway

Nathalia JMag, FSU alumna of 2016, has adored fashion since the age of 3. “I always loved dressing myself as a child,” she said.

For her, fashion is about standing out. She aspires to be a trendsetter, and hopes to be viewed as new and creative.

“I always try to innovate my design. I don’t want to make something that already exists. I like to be different with my style and my design aesthetic,” JMag said.

After signing a lease for her new design studio, she was heading home when she got the phone call she had been waiting for.

“When we got off Skype, I just started screaming and jumping around,” JMag said. She was officially a contestant for the new season of the hit fashion competition show, “Project Runway.”

She could only tell her immediate family when she first found out. “They were all really happy. They were always asking me, ‘When can we tell people?’” she said. “My dad’s throwing a party for the first episode and they’re telling all their friends.”

JMag said her husband is “even more excited than I am about the show coming up. He talks about it all the time.”

She wasn’t alone in the fierce competition, though. Cornelius Ortiz, another 2015 FSU alumnus, joined her as a fellow contestant for the show.

JMag and Ortiz have been best friends since they competed in fashion design at Framingham State.

“Even though when we were in school – when it wasn’t a competition – it was a competition for him,” JMag said of her rivalry with Ortiz.

Ortiz said the opportunity to compete with JMag again “was an amazing experience.” He was always in “a secret competition” with JMag, so for them, being on a competitive stage together felt like they were back in school.

Professor Pamela Sabor-Cable, interim chair of FSU’s fashion department, said Ortiz had always had his mind set on joining “Project Runway” post-graduation.

“For Cory, I don’t remember a time when he wasn’t planning on going into “Project Runway,”” Sabor-Cable said. “That was his goal from the get-go.”

Ortiz studied abroad in Italy, and used his time there to hone his tailoring skills. “I think that had a really good influence on him,” she said.

While she has designed lots of clothing since joining FSU’s fashion program, JMag’s favorite piece is a zero-waste jacket, which means a style in which you produce little to no waste from the garment. “I’ve made a lot of different jackets from that same pattern, and it looks different in every single fabric.”

JMag said she had never openly expressed an interest in being a part of “Project Runway” – she was urged to join by Ortiz. “I don’t want to say he’s the reason why I’m on the show, because obviously I’m on it because I’m a talented designer, but he really helped me to get there,” she added.

Ortiz and JMag went through the audition process together, with Ortiz pushing JMag to go to the open casting. “I didn’t really want to go to the open casting, because there was going to be so many people there and we had to go to New York. … There was no guarantee we were going to get on it – we were more just taking a shot in the air,” said JMag.

After the open casting, Ortiz and JMag learned that they had made the cut and would be on the show. “It was surreal,” said JMag. “I had just graduated from college. … I feel like I’ve just started, so the fact that I’ve been chosen to be on the show is a great feeling and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.”

JMag always had friends and family attending her shows and sharing her posts on social media. “But now, it’s even more. People from my town that I’ve never even met are sharing my articles, talking about how this girl from Framingham is on the show,” she added.

As for the competition part of the hit reality T.V. show, JMag said, “I want to be better than I used to be. I don’t compete with other people, I compete with myself. … It was about learning new things, meeting new people and showing the world what I can do.”

While on the show, JMag paid little attention to her competitors. “I was doing my own thing. I think the fact that I’m a genuine person, and honest and kind, is what really makes me stand out.”

She added, “I’m not stuck in my aesthetic. … I’m more about trying new things and showing the judges I can do more than one thing.”

On her goals for after the show, JMag said she “definitely plans on riding this wave and taking my brand to the next level.” She has a blog, stylebynathalia.com, and an online store, nataliajmag.com, that she and her husband want to use to “elevate” her brand.

“I just want to keep on working really, really hard,” said JMag.

Ortiz, whose website is cortiz17.wixsite.com, said he learned from being on this season of “Project Runway” that “as a designer, stay true to yourself.”

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