Out Dallas designer Emmanuel Tobias made it onto TV last week as one of the finalists for Project Runway. Well, sort of. He wasn’t a “final-finalist;” he was a pre-final finalist, one of three designers who seemed to make the cut (he appeared on the run-up special before the season premiere) only to be dismissed before any real competition got started.
And here’s the thing: If you saw his designs, and especially those of some of the contestants who sailed through, you had to ask yourself (as I often do on that show) “what were they thinking?”
But Tobias has a good attitude about it all, and agreed to relive his brush with Heidifame. Maybe next season!
Season 13 of Project Runway continues tonight on Lifetime, at 8 p.m. (and you can re-watch Emmanuel’s episodes on the recap at 7 p.m.).
Dallas Voice: Sorry you got booted so soon! Describe your design style. What’s your signature look? Emmanuel Tobias: I have always leaned to being a conceptual designer, but as of late, I have been combining my avant garde aesthetic with a more approachable, ready-to-wear style. I would describe it as an artistic approach to wearable clothing. My signature look combines powerful masculine and feminine qualities and always has an interesting textile, whether it is texture, specialty dyeing technique, or print.
Did you know you still had to prove yourself before you were “officially” on the show? The production company prepped us with a timeline after the “semi-finals” casting interview, so I knew that I still had more hurdles to jump. The process for this was truly a rigorous one and the timeframe/turnaround times that we were required in every aspect were very fast. I had a good feeling I was going to make it to the finals, but I knew that I would have to prove myself to the Heidi, Zac and scary Nina. What you saw on TV was probably less than 15 seconds of my finals casting, but I was in that room for quite some time. Nina and Heidi were very nice, and I thought I had sold them on putting me on the show, but we now know Nina didn’t care for me! I gave so much conviction in every question they asked with smiles coming back and forth from the judges and myself … except for Zac. Zac was the one that was so hard on me, but on TV he seemed easy-going.
It never feels good to lose, but you said you’d quit your job to compete. Did you get it back? Was it worth it? Leaving everything on hope was a huge leap of faith for me. I broke my lease to my loft and I literally had my close friends help me pack/move in one day! I let my bosses know what was going on, and yes, I was absolutely mindset on leaving my jobs. Luckily, my teaching position was on break for the summer, but I did end up losing my main job. I was devastated after I had filmed and I was dreading the day that it aired because I know Dallas was rooting for me and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I was more bummed that I didn’t get to actually compete because, let me tell you, I would have slayed bitches! I do not regret the risk I took, and I think it was worth it because of the exposure. Even though I didn’t make it on the actual cast, people have been reaching out to me with encouraging words from all over the world — Austria, Malaysia, China, Paris, Latin America, the U.S. and of course DFW. I had no idea people would react this way to my small time on runway. I don’t think I lost in any way, I feel like this has pushed me to focus solely on my design career.
You don’t need to be catty — though you can be! — but frankly, some of the designers who made it through had terrible stuff. Do you agree? Care to name names? Or did you feel the judges had an impossible task? When I first met all the designers, we all made our rounds and checked each other out. We had about an hour to prep before the finals casting and I observed everyone’s personal style, design aesthetic and personality. I knew that many of them would simply be put on the show because of their strong persona, even though their design level was not up to par, and others [would be cast] simply because of the demographic/category they would fit in. The judges did have an impossible task of choosing because the deliberation actually lasted about two hours. What you didn’t see is Heidi actually telling us that they had to call Tim Gunn in to help them make the final call because they couldn’t come to a conclusion.
Did you make friends on the show, however briefly? Learn any good advice? Any good vibes from Tim Gunn or Heidi or Zac Posen? I made friends with Samantha Placensia (from San Antonio) at the semi-finals casting on forward. We both rooted for each other and were hoping we both made it. I also clicked really fast with Sandhya, Hernan, Sean Kristine and Mitchell. Tim Gunn was a true gentleman and had nothing but encouraging words for me. Heidi is a walking doll in person and I couldn’t find a crack on her skin. I’ve always been a fan of Zac’s [designs] but he didn’t give me good vibes.
What’s up next for you? Continuing to design stuff? I still dream of the day that I can show at New York Fashion Week with my own women’s/menswear collection, but for now I’m starting with something small. I’m really excited for the launch of my bowtie line, Emancandy, which is available online at Emancandy.com. Eventually, I would love to add men’s shirtings, underwear, accessories and other items found at a haberdashery — except fun and quirky.