Emilio Sosa was in Chicago recently and I was presented with the opportunity to meet him and find out what he’s been up to since Project Runway. If you remember, Sosa came close to winning Season 7. He was the designer who won 5 challenges and went on to the final runway show. Emilio was also the one who used his initials and brand in the challenge where they designed their own textiles, which brought on a bit of controversy, (Tim Gunn did not love it but Michael Kors did). Since then he has continued to promote “esosa” designs, a line he co-created with his brothers.
I also had a chance to find out more about Emilio’s background. He hails from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and was raised and educated in New York City. He said he was creating fashion sketches since he was 14, taking academic classes in Harlem, afternoon art and design classes on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and free art classes on Saturdays at Parson’s School of Design in Greenwich Village. He continued his art education at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He began his career as the assistant costume master for the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, where he traveled the world. Upon returning to New York, he began a successful career styling music videos for ground-breaking Hip Hop Artists, Salt and Pepa, Kid and Play and MC Lyte, to name a few. He styled commercials for Spike Lee and was assistant costume designer on his film Bamboozled. His designs have appeared in over 50 theater productions in the United States and abroad and he has won several awards. Most recently, Emilio’s work can be seen in the new Broadway production of Porgy and Bess, Spike Lee’s upcoming film, Red Hook Summer and his esosa fashion line will make its debut at New York Fashion Week this February.
Upon meeting Emilio, I was immediately greeted with his warmth and humor. He is the kind of guy you want to hang out with and share lots of laughs, as well as the added bonus of talking about fashion!
SCS: So… what have you been up to?
ES: It has been an amazing run since Project Runway aired in 2010. I’ve been doing a lot of design for off Broadway productions and I have personal clients, like Wynton Marsalis, and designing my own collection.
SCS: I’m fascinated by your costume design experience for Alvin Ailey, because I have seen the company perform and personally I love dance.
ES: The Alvin Ailey job was my first out of school. I toured domestically at first and then I traveled for the first time to Europe, to Greece, to Paris… I got to travel all over, and this was a great experience for me. But to design the costumes, the fabric selection was important: What stretches, and what will dry quickly. The costumes had to be washed and dried very quickly for the next day. Fabric Selection is always the hardest…because I obsess over it! It can make or break your design.
SCS: On Project Runway, you won a lot of challenges – five! Do you work well under pressure?
ES: I was so focused… I had blinders on! I had to think of one challenge at a time. You know it is always so great to hear that people remember me and are fans because of Project Runway.
SCS: I know! I just checked back to look at Season 7 and I remembered your specific designs. Everyone can always see and remember them!
ES: Yes, I did not think of it at the time but on Project Runway… it is like everyone will see those pieces…forever! (laughs).
He went on to tell me that the first esosa Collection will debut during New York Fashion Week, on February 10th! (He invited Second City Style, so stay tuned.)
ES: It will be a presentation, with 2 hours of cocktails. I want it to be a big party. I remembered the first shows I ever attended… I like shows like Todd Oldham held … I want it to me like that – a cool cocktail party!
SCS: So what is it like working with your brothers?
ES: (Laughing.) It is the best of times and the worst of times. Good because we know each other so well that we have a shorthand language… but bad because we can push each others buttons! You know, I could have just went into business for myself, but I wanted to empower my family, and build a family legacy.
SCS: What was the best advice that anyone ever gave you?
ES: Isabelle Toledo was a judge on a challenge where I could have gone home, but she said, “Just be you.” I thought that was the best advice, don’t change who you are to fit your surroundings. I think you have to have a strong core. I also think that she is one of America’s less appreciates design geniuses!!
SCS: You had a lot of experience before Project Runway.
ES: I was designing since I was 14 and now I am in my 40s. I was the old guy on project runway… Yes I was “the Bert” of my season!
SCS: You are really funny and I don’t know if people really saw this side of you on Project Runway!
ES: I think that people really didn’t get to know me. And then I’m humbled when people are fans. It really makes me feel good. I enjoy what I am doing now, and I know what I bring to the table. Fashion brings joy to others, and if I can contribute to bringing joy to others, then I’m cool!
SCS: Is there anything else that you would like people to know about you?
ES: Well… If I can get on my soap box…as American designers I feel we have taken a back seat to European designers. I think that in this country we need to value fashion as an art form, and not just as a business. We have a lot of great American designers and I am a big pusher of “Made In America.” Meanwhile I am anxious about my presentation in new York. The designs are all set and ready to go but his is the first time that people will see this collection. I don’t know what they’ll think. It is my baby…I’m hiding my baby…I’m like Beyonce…(he starts laughing)…you don’t want anyone to think that your boy is ugly!
Emilio Sosa had me in stitches (really no pun intended) and I can’t wait to see his esosa Collection during New York Fashion Week!
Be sure to check out our other favorite site dedicated to all things Project Runway…Blogging Project Runway!