If you love fashion design, you probably binge-watched a season or twelve of Project Runway. Ysabel Hilado starred on Project Runway Junior and lives to tell the glamorous tale.
The story begins with a young girl in Southern California who loved to sketch and cut clothes for Barbie. It was no wonder when, at the age of 13, she launched her own collection called “Along the Lines.” She continued exploring her passion by designing, launching a fashion blog and teaching herself clothing construction with online tutorials. All her efforts paid off when she auditioned for Project Runway Junior and was chosen as one of 12 contestants.
“I was pretty much in shock for a week,” she notes. After that, everything happened so fast as she flew out to New York and prepared for cameras to begin filming her every move.
We were delighted to discuss her experiences and what the life of a teen designer looks like. She also shared some tips for aspiring designers: “If you’re willing to put in the work, it will always pay off eventually. Don’t give up!”
1. What is your background?
I was born and raised in Southern California. Although I grew up cutting Barbie’s clothes and sketching designs, I didn’t become serious about fashion until I was about 12/13. I noticed that people my age didn’t know what they wanted to do with their lives, but I wanted to be different. My goal was to make a name for myself by the time I graduated high school. I was a broke fashionista who wanted cute clothes and at the same time I wanted to make some extra money. I came across a picture of a patterned pocket tee on Tumblr and it all clicked. I started my own brand called “Along the Lines Pocket Tees” and it quickly gained popularity. I began to see people around my city wearing them, and eventually I shipped them out domestically and internationally. Freshman year, my fashion blog, “Along The Lines of Ysabel” was born and I got involved with Nordstrom’s BP Fashion Board. At the beginning of 10th grade, I stopped making pocket tees because I was tired of doing the same routine and decided to teach myself actual clothing construction and design from online tutorials. I’ve never taken a sewing class prior to college.
2. You were on Project Runway Junior, season 1. What did it feel like when you found out you were one of the twelve designers chosen?
There were so many emotions! I heard back from the producers a month after my in-person audition, so it was a VERY long and stressful wait. I was waiting for my aunt to pick me up from my house because we were about to go shopping. She called to tell me she was on the way and even asked if I heard anything back about making the final cut. As I was about to leave the house, my phone rang and I found out the incredible news. I was pretty much in shock for about a week.
3. What was your experience like at Project Runway Junior?
It was definitely a life-changing and humbling experience, from meeting and spending time with all different kinds of people to just being in New York for the first time. The other designers and I had to quickly get adjusted to the cameras being around us watching our every move and having to work under the pressure. However, despite the stressful moments, I had the time of my life! I’m thankful for everyone who was a part of the process, and of course, the family of designers I gained. We all have such different lives and personalities, but from the moment we first met, it was like we grew up together. We’d always hang out on the little rooftop area at our hotel to eat pizza, talk about our day, and laugh our heads off. We are still so close to this day and talk daily through our iPhone group chat.
4. What is your design process?
It depends on what I’m making! First I think of which event I’ll be designing for and gather inspiration from my favorite bloggers, celebrities, Pinterest, or fabrics. I then come up with different sketches and see what works the best for that project while incorporating my streetwear aesthetic into the pieces. My favorite yet most stressful part is fabric sourcing! I’m super indecisive, especially since there are so many fabric stores and choices around DTLA.
5. Some designers have a specific “woman” they design for. What is your “girl” like?
Whenever I choose an outfit, I always want to dress confidently like I have a purpose – I even try my best on a lazy day. We all have somewhere to be and something to do so clothes help us dress the part! I design for the woman who wants to feel confident – as if she’s strutting the runway every day, whether it’s in a velvet sweats set or a lace cocktail dress. My biggest muse would be Zendaya, a huge style icon who ALWAYS dresses with a purpose.
6. What does a day in your life look like?
It varies! I hate days where I do nothing, so I always try my best to get a list of things done no matter how big or small. If I don’t have school or I’m not scheduled to work my retail job, I’m most likely in my room sewing and designing or hanging out with my friends and family. I’m also obsessed with all things Disney and I have an annual pass to the parks. You can find me there almost every week!
7. Which tips would you give to teens who would like to pursue fashion design?
It’s a learning experience and you have to find your vibe in terms of what works for you. Patience and perseverance is a HUGE key. If you’re hungry to learn something new, then you’ll find ways to make it happen. Nowadays, everything you want to know is within reach and you can find hundreds of tutorials and sewing threads that will help you learn what you desire. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try something over and over again. Take every opportunity that you come across, and even if it turns out bad, you will get a lesson out of it. There will be times where you compare yourself to others who progress and gain rapid success, but you have to remember that we all move at our own pace.
8. On your website, you wrote: “Many of you may know me from Project Runway Junior…yes, I am the girl who did not know what Gilligan’s Island was and I got eliminated on an unconventional challenge the second episode AND cried on national television.”
It must have been a tough moment for you. What did you learn from that?
Being on TV is a crazy experience and I would love to do it again if I had the opportunity. During elimination, I was telling myself not to cry, but I couldn’t help it! After we filmed and I got off the set, it was hard to breathe with my tears and the adrenaline. I was devastated that my time on the show was over and I didn’t get to show much of my aesthetic to the judges. Of course, there were regrets on what I should have done better, but I had to move on. The whole experience has taught me to stay calm under pressure and to keep a positive light when dealing with difficult situations.
9) What are some things you’re excited about right now?
I’ve been on winter break for about a month and a half so I’m super chill, relaxed and ready to start up again! I recently came back from the Philippines at the beginning of January. During my time there, I sourced some fabric that I’ll be incorporating into a couple of the pieces in my F/W 2017 collection! I have to admit; it has been hard getting back into the grind of things after being on vacation for so long. I’m going to be starting my second semester as a college freshman in about a week. I’ve also been planning some other design projects for 2017, so it’ll definitely be a busy year!
10. What is your vision for the future?
There are so many possibilities! Long story short, I would love to see my designs everywhere, from social events/gatherings filled with celebrities and influencers to having my own storefront and a variety of retailers carrying my name. I’m a huge SoCal girl, so I know I’ll be living around here managing my brand. Once I have established my success, I want to become a mentor to young designers and guide them since I was in their shoes once. I also want to be traveling around the country and the world promoting my collections on the runway. Although I still have a lot to learn, I don’t see my life without fashion design playing a huge role. One day, I’ll get to where I want to be.
Some facts about Ysabel:
- Her favorite fashion icon is “Zendaya Coleman all the way. I want to design for her!”
- She would describe her personal style as “street chic, just like my design aesthetic! I love putting together clean, simple yet edgy looks for the day. I get outfit inspiration from off-duty models, fashion bloggers, and even the runways. However, I also enjoy keeping up with streetwear brands such as Bape, Supreme, and Billionaire Boys Club.”
- Her favorite cities are Los Angeles and New York City.
- As a child, she wanted to be an “actress, dancer, musician, or artist! I’ve tried all of those potential careers at one point, so when I decided on becoming a fashion designer, my parents thought it was another phase.”
- One thing that will always be funny to her is “all the places I would get recognized at, and at super random times. People have come up to me as I was at a Wal-Mart self-checkout and even during a dinner with my family. The craziest yet coolest encounter was during a college tour – one of the admin recognized me and I was called down from my seat to introduce myself in front of a thousand seniors at the school’s theater. I’m surprised and flattered people knew who I was!”
Ysabel’s TV Introduction:
Would you like a chance to win one of Ysabel Hilado’s designs? We are giving one glam winner a pocket tee – the details can be found on Instagram, @theglamsalad & @atlofysabel.
Photography by JT Asis