Gay Dallas designer & digital artist Rey Ortiz: Hola, Yellow Brick Road
J. DENTON BRICKER | Contributing Writer
One of the advantages of being in the closet? That’s where people keep all their best fashions. And for Rey Ortiz, fashion has become a calling.
Before he came out, Ortiz made his living doing animation and graphic design, a field in which he has a master’s degree. But even those projects have a style sensibility.
“All of my projects tended to be fashion related because of the colors, shades and patterns,” he says. “My characters were very stylized. My friends even made fun of me at times, saying that they were so gay! I’ve been doing drawings and sketches all this time and people were reacting so strongly to them that they suggested I bring them to life.”
That positive feedback gave him to courage to shed his conservative career path, come out and pursue something truer to himself … even though he personally perceives the work in both fields as virtually the same.
“The funny thing about transitioning from animation to fashion is, I am in a way doing the same thing, except over a sewing machine instead of a computer,” he explains. When designing his 3D animations, he also had to consider all sides of his character’s clothing just like a designer would in real life. “The clothing they wear is also animated. The difference is my designs are being animated through actual living people.”
The work is paying off for the Puerto Rican native: Ortiz is currently developing a new brand called Sexyfitsall, and while bits of his brighter island culture bleed into his works, he’s doing it all right here in Dallas.
Well, technically he did some of it on TV. You may recognize Ortiz from reality television appearances on MTV’s Engine Room (on which he won $100k) or Project Runway’s Under the Gunn. His experience on the latter didn’t go as expected: He initially applied for Project Runway, but when the season was bumped, he ended up on the spin-off series. He was eliminated early on, but learned important lessons in the process.
“When I took the elevator with Tim Gunn after being eliminated, he saw my face and knew what I was feeling,” Ortiz recalls. “He told me to apply to the original Project Runway [again]. I did but I think at this point it is too recent to bring me back since my season just ended [earlier this year]. But I would definitely do it again if they asked.”
Maybe the most successful part of his short-lived run was the opportunity to come out to unknowing members of his family.
“There were no reservations, and I was ready for the family members who didn’t know yet to know that this is who I am. My friends and family have been very supportive since, both of my life and fashion,” he says.
After recovering from that experience, Ortiz began working intensely. After dabbling in womenswear, he found a greater interest in things he could make for himself. That led to an epiphany, and the birth of Sexyfitsall.
The current cornerstone of his brand are what Ortiz refers to as “the pants,” though some of them are closer in style to short-shorts. They feature panels of unique, stand-out fabrics, along with intricately detailed accents often in black leather.
“It is a brand that I want everyone to be able to identify themselves with,” he says. “It’s all about the pants and wearing the pants to places. I’ve invited people who aren’t models to model for me. It is inclusive and giving people the chance to rock what the fuck you want to rock. That is the essence of Sexyfitsall: To be sexy as you.”
Ortiz’s stance is a lesson everyone could learn from in many aspects. His brand requires a certain confidence for its wearer, but that only adds to the effect when worn. Fashion statements sometime involve risk … and a little bravery.
“I am personally known for wearing short-shorts to a party where nobody else will,” he says. “I wear what I want, and as long as it’s not vulgar or taken to the extreme, I rock it — and people respond to it.”
So, just what is appropriate dress? Ortiz suggests throwing the rulebook out the window. At home, at brunch, at the pool or the gym, Ortiz wears his pants just about anywhere. “I would wear them to church,” says Ortiz. (He took us to church!)
Another of the unique aspects of the pants is the fit, which is truly flattering.
“I didn’t want a low crotch. I wanted it right there where it is supposed to be and they are tailored, as well. I developed something that will fit a lot of different body types. It will make your butt look good, your package, your legs, everything,” Ortiz says.
It’s not only looks, but quality, too. Textiles range from cottons to polyesters to more stretchy materials appropriate for taking a dip in the water. But he chooses fabrics that will hold because pants need to be strong and durable, with a finish and construction to match. When selecting fabric he also veers toward style, as he employs his analytical mind from his extensive background in graphic design to help steer his fashion sense.
“I always select fabrics that will make people notice the wearer,” he says. “I get a lot of compliments and those that I receive, I also want people to get and experience when they wear them. I go into a fabric store not looking for anything and just find out what speaks to me in the moment.”
His future plans are to expand Sexyfitsall into other products — longer length pants for fall, scarfs, ties and accessories that will offer up the same eye-catching message in their designs and construction — as well as a line of couture womenswear.
Though he offers custom work, shoppers can also browse designs online, and in the future, he hopes to open a store on The Strip. But he’s not sure exactly what the future holds (although he was just invited to show at the DIFFA Dallas Collection in the spring).
“Taking a journey, going somewhere, taking a step backward, finding obstacles in the way — sometimes you meet friends along the path that change your life … and then there’s flying monkeys and the witches, both good and bad,” he says, comparing his life to Dorothy’s in The Wizard of Oz. “But in the end, we have the ruby slippers. It’s within all of us to do better. I really feel that when I came to Dallas, the tornado brought me here. I’ve been on the yellow brick road ever since. It’s true — Project Runway was the Emerald City and I’m out here killing my Wicked Witch.”
You can check out his fashions at his website, ReyOrtizDesign.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 28, 2014