by Todd O'Dowd
Having established himself as one of the bright lights on the local fashion scene, Raul Osorio made the next leap by getting cast in the 10th Anniversary season of Project Runway. In this exclusive interview taped a few days after the season premiere, Mr. Osorio opens up with LOL/OMG!’s Todd O’Dowd about getting cast in the show, his goals and reasons for doing it, his future, and his views on the state of the Minneapolis fashion scene.
Todd O’Dowd: So Raul, how are you today?
Raul Osorio: I’m great, I just woke up.
TO’: Understandable, By the way, congratulations on surviving the first challenge!
RO: Thanks! It was exciting. I mean, it was so crazy to go through all that, but at the same time so exciting.
TO’: Well, I mean, the first show in Times Square was certainly daunting…
RO: Right. And especially because, you know, there were so many designers and everyone’s aesthetic is so different, that you just didn’t know what the judges were going to like.
TO’: Exactly. And the show is known for judging surprises.
TO’: Not a lot of people know the Raul story. I know you’re not originally from Minneapolis… If I remember correctly you were born in California?
RO: Yes, I was born in California but my parents are from Honduras and then I moved to Minneapolis about eight years ago.
TO’: Was that for school – to go to MCTC – or was that before…?
RO: No, I went to MCTC for a while and then I went to my mom and grandma’s [sewing] academy back in Honduras and that’s where I learned how to sew.
TO’: So I take it that making clothes was something you learned from your family then?
RO: Yes. I mean I think everything started there; seeing my mom and grandma sewing – seeing the process was intriguing to me. But I think that I didn’t realize I could do it. I mean there’s a difference between liking how to sew and enjoying and appreciating fashion, you know. And I think that that’s what happened to me through age like I think when I turned 18, I was trying to figure out who I was, what my style was as person. Therefore I made that connection with fashion. I think that’s when I knew that was something I wanted to pursue because I had a point of view.
TO’: Which in the world of Project Runway is a very, very important thing.
RO: Correct. I mean, if you don’t have one, and you don’t stick up for yourself, you’re gonna be out no matter what. So I think that’s one of the biggest things. You must have a point of view to be able to move forward in the competition.
TO’: Absolutely. So, here’s a question I have: I know you’ve done tons of menswear and tons of womenswear. Which is harder do you think?
RO: To me though I think it’s womenswear; menswear comes very naturally to me. I really, really enjoy doing menswear. I could say that I am my own muse when I do menswear because I understand the man’s body better. When I do womenswear, I’m always trying to figure out their body. I’m trying to figure out who this client is. But you know there’s so much for women out there and there’s nothing for men. And I go to bed sometimes and I dream about menswear, I dream about designs, I dream about things I want to wear constantly you know so I do think that womenswear is harder, at least for me.
TO’: And like I forget who said it, but there are a ton of designers who basically design for themselves.
TO’: What made you decide to audition for Project Runway?
RO: The casting director from Project Runway sent me e-mails for the last three years inviting me to apply for the show. And I never wanted to do it, because I didn’t know what was going to come out of it. It’s a little scary. Also, I didn’t know how people were gonna perceive me as a designer, you know? I worked so hard in Minneapolis to create a name, a brand, and people understood who I am as a designer. A lot of them support my work and being exposed to so many people and then you know having haters or I don’t know. I guess I wasn’t ready to deal with that part of it; I wasn’t ready to deal with people to be rude and mean, because, you know, it’s happening! There’s a lot of people that are in love with my work, but there’s a lot of people that are hating it. And that’s because I mean you can’t please everyone you know? But this time I decided to do it because I felt more comfortable – it was like I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, I feel that I have a big portfolio, and it’s this or nothing. I mean I feel that I have accomplished almost everything in Minneapolis when it comes down to being a designer that I just don’t feel there’s just much more to do. And I’m not taking Minneapolis for granted, it’s just that I don’t think, you know, I’ve done every show that happened in the last years. I’ve been in different local magazines and I want to grow. I want exposure. So this was the perfect way for me to get there, just get exposed and not just Minneapolis – I needed more than that.
TO’: So tell us the story of when you got the call saying you were in. Where were you? What was going on?
RO: Oh my god! I got the call and I’m sleeping and you know by the time I got the call I was already giving up, like I was like “Whatever. They’re not going to call me.” And then I get the call, and they’re like “Hey Raul. Are you sitting down?” “Um, I’m actually sleeping.” I’m very, like, angry. So then she’s like, “Well, good news! You’re in Project Runway Season 10!” and then I started screaming just because I was not expecting this. I think that I had very low expectations when I first applied and it was a surprise. A total surprise. And I’m glad that all of this has happened to me.
TO’: So what was it like working on the set? I have to ask; is it as crazy and intense as it seems?
RO: No, it’s worse. (laughs)
TO’: Okay then!
RO: I mean you get to see a little bit…
TO’ They sanitize it for television, obviously!
RO: (laughs) …But we are constantly working very hard. I don’t work under those conditions, you know. There’s a certain amount of time to make the garment and get inspired, to buy fabric, and besides that you have to deal with all the crazy bitches, you know – like, “drama!” So it’s a very intense day. It’s very hot inside, and it’s very hard to deal with it. I’m surprised I was able to do it, ’cause I’m very moody and can snap very easily, so I don’t know.
TO’: Understandable. I know you can’t reveal everything that happened on set, so I’ll skip that …
TO’: So, which of the judges, be it regular judges or guest judges, did you like the best, and why?
RO: You know what? I truly enjoyed Heidi [Klum], only because I felt that, you know, she’s very honest, she’s… I really liked that she looked everyone in the eyes. I was able to make eye contact with her. It’s not something that I could say about Michael [Kors] or Nina [Garcia]. I mean I think that they’re there to judge but they don’t really make that connection to the designer. When it came down to Heidi, I truly felt that she was listening and that she cared. So I must say that my favorite was Heidi.
TO’: That’s interesting. I mean, you would never expect that from Heidi, but that’s awesome.
RO: The thing is, she’s the one we get to see. I feel we get to have more interaction with her. And then Nina and Michael just come there to judge you and do their thing. But I don’t know; somehow I had a better connection with Heidi. I really appreciated her.
TO’: And speaking of connections with people… I want the truth! (Insert dramatic pause.) Is Tim Gunn as fabulous as he appears on screen?
RO: Oh my god! Amazing! And the most humble person I’ve met in my life! He would be done with the challenge and I saw him walking the New York streets and when people stop him, he actually stays there and gives autographs. And the funny thing is that there are these big posters of him in different places in New York so people know who he is. It’s amazing – I think it’s just so amazing to see someone that is so humble, and I don’t even think that he’s aware of how big of a deal he is to people, you know?
TO’: I’m jumping back to your comment about Minneapolis fashion and I wanted to ask you this: Now that you’ve become the fifth designer from Minneapolis that’s done the show, what do you think that says about the local state of fashion here? Is it getting better, are we stuck, have we moved on?
RO: I’ve said this from the beginning: I think there is a lot of talent – a lot of talent – in Minneapolis and St. Paul. I believe that we are a very good community supporting each other, and I’m glad that we have each other, you know, because without everyone’s support I would have been able to have an amazing portfolio, amazing photographers, amazing models. We are an amazing community that supports each other. I think there’s a lot of designers trying to show their point of view and there’s great talent, but their only problem is there’s no money! There’s no money, there’s no investors, and people are willing to go through Urban Outfitters or H& M and spend some money there than buying a piece that is custom designed or supporting local talent. And that’s a big problem! If people do not start throwing money at us, we can not keep producing. And then it’s very sad to see all this talented people – and I’m not talking just designers, I’m talking hair stylists, I’m talking musicians…
TO’: Mmm hmm.
RO: …We all have to move at one point. We all have to leave Minneapolis behind because the money is not here. So how do we get all these people – who are the people with the money? Because obviously I don’t want to go home [to Honduras], I don’t want to leave Minneapolis, but I need to pursue what I’m doing and if it takes me moving to New York, I’m gonna have to do it; sadly, but I’m going to have to. It’s very sad, because I feel like I owe Minneapolis so much for – and this is the reason why I went through Project Runway. I said I want to represent Minneapolis. Like, the producers asked me, “So are you going to say Honduras or Minneapolis?” I said Minneapolis because everything that I have done within the last years in fashion it has been with the help from Minneapolis. I am based here.
TO’: One question that I did have about the show. Over the past few seasons, it’s taken a little bit of heat about almost pushing personality first over talent, which could be argued either which way. Do you think that’s a hinderance that it’s focusing so much on personality over design or…
RO: I think… and this is just my view…
TO’: Of course.
RO: I think that everyone in the competition is there because we all have talent. I do also believe that there were some people – and I don’t want to say any names – but there were some people who went to this competition looking for a career on TV or just trying to be exposed and trying to see who… I mean they want to become the next Snooki, you know what I mean? They just want to be trashy, which is not my point of view. I wanted exposure, I wanted Raul Osorio the brand to get out there. And that’s my main concern. I wanted to touch more people. I wanted more people to know about my website, to know that I exist, that there is this designer working very hard trying to show his point of view. And yes, we all get bitchy on the show – trust me, you’ll see that coming from me, too. But all of Minneapolis knows I’m sassy…
RO: … They know that I snap fast. But yeah, I can say that there are people that come there for different reasons. Some of them are there because they want to pursue their fashion career, some of them are there because they are trying to, you know, make it happen in front of TV, or they’re looking to become a host – I don’t know. That’s my perception.
TO’: Do you think you got what you wanted out of the Project Runway experience? I know it’s a little early to ask that question since you’re probably still in the throes of it all.
RO: Well you know what? I think that I don’t know if I got what I wanted. My ultimate goal is being recognized as a designer, and it’s happening. But at the same time, you know, like being able to create business so at one point I can own my own boutique and…. I don’t know… I just want my line to be more accessible to more people. And I won’t know if I got those results till after the show I mean I’ve been off for… what? Five days? Six days? I came back like six days ago so there’s a lot of things happening. I don’t know. It’s unclear. I got what I wanted, I’m glad I did it, but there’s so much to come and I don’t know how far I’m going to go with this.
TO’: And the experience is still rather fresh.
RO: Yes! It’s so fresh and I can tell you that I met some amazing people. That was one of the best things; creating friendships with people there while we were on the show and seeing how bad some of us wanted this and how passionate we were. It was amazing. It makes you want to do this more.
TO’: I know you can’t reveal everything about the future, but what’s next for you?
RO: What’s next for me? You know what, I guess it’s sad. I don’t want to say “Raul Osorio is going to New York” but most likely that’s what’s happening. I think I’m going to pursue my career and my fashion more seriously. I want to continue to do menswear; womenswear will be a side project but menswear is my passion. And one of the reasons I did womenswear was that I was trying to create a portfolio for Project Runway. So I did that, that’s done, and now it’s all about Raul and his menswear. I want to have fun with it. I also keep thinking about the fashion industry in Honduras, and how I want to support it. It’s very small but there’s very talented people, but they don’t have the tools that they need to create and build a strong community. And I think that by living in Minneapolis and learning from all of us, I feel that I have something to give. And it’s something that I want to work in and see if there is a way I can give back.
TO’: That’s very cool Raul! Last question: Since we have such a deep pool of talented designers in town, what advice would you give them if they decided to apply for Project Runway?
RO: The most important thing is be yourself and stick to it. No one can tell you how to design. No one can tell you what your aesthetic should be. This is about you as a designer; you’re the one ruling this. You have to state your own boundaries; and to me, the reason I was on the show was that I can be very stubborn about my point of view and no one’s going to make me change what I think because you don’t like it. I’m not here to please the entire world. I’m here to show my point of view as an artist and as a designer. If you like it, good. If you don’t, let’s talk about it. Just go in front of the judges and present to them who you are as a designer. And because it is a reality TV show you must have a personality. If you don’t have it, go and buy one because you need it.
TO’: And I think that’s the quote of the interview. Raul, thank you so much!
RO: My pleasure.
Be sure to join the l’etoile family as we cheer on #TeamRaul on Twitter, or better yet, join us at l’etoile’s weekly viewing party at moto-i on Thursdays. Screenings begin at 8 pm, but get there early to nab a choice seat! And be sure to watch l’étoile every Friday for Todd’s recap of the previous night’s episode. Click HERE for Todd O’Dowd’s Tumblr.