“Making it work:” Alumni discuss Project Runway experiences

With a schedule packed with challenges and tight deadlines, Project Runway contestants and FSU alumni Nathalia JMag and Cornelius Ortiz were constantly forced to think on their feet. 

Even with the stress that came with imminent deadlines, Ortiz and JMag thrived under the pressure.

“I think some of our best work came not only from 10 hours of work but two hours,” Ortiz said. “I’ve done some really amazing stuff in two hours without thinking about it. Just saying, ‘Hey, I have to get this done.’”

Ortiz and JMag returned to FSU to discuss their Project Runway experiences during an off-the-cuff Q&A session on Monday, Nov. 21 in the Heineman Ecumenical Center.

With questions ranging from, “What was your favorite piece to design?” to “What was the application process like?” students and faculty asked the duo a series of questions regarding   the behind-the-scene aspects of the show. 

Ortiz and Jmag said competing in Project Runway was a constant hustle that consisted of back and forth of one-day challenges and critique days.

“We had no breaks,” JMag said.

Often working 16 hour days, JMag and Ortiz would arrive at the studio around 7 or 8 a.m. and stay there until the late hours of the night. 

“It’s all about you and your skills,” she said. She didn’t apply until this year because it wasn’t until now that “I felt comfortable making a whole outfit in under 10 hours.”

Among Ortiz’s favorite submissions is a design he created while completing the competition’s blacklight challenge, a design that took him just around two hours to create, he said.

JMag and Ortiz attributed much of their success to the lessons they learned while attending FSU.

JMag, who graduated this past spring, said FSU provided her with “all the tools that she needed” to hone her design-making skills.

Ortiz, who graduated in 2015, said he was an active member of the student body and his time at FSU was an “amazing experience” that supplemented the design work he did outside of the classroom. 

JMag said she has “inspired” her friends and family and helped prove the point, “If you could work for it, you can achieve it.

Her success didn’t happen overnight. “I feel like I was putting in a lot of work for the past four years,” she said.

Both JMag and Ortiz said the competition helped them grow as individuals, as well as designers.    

“It was a hectic experience, and it was worth it,” Ortiz said. “Creating something in 10 hours, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do that, but then we got to five hours and then two hours, and you want this so bad that you’ll kinda pull out all types of tricks that you never thought you could do in one hour.”   

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