FORT WORTH, Texas — James Martinez says he’s in it for something far more important than mere money, a car and a fashion magazine spread.
The 29-year-old Fort Worth, Texas, native is competing on Season 11 of “Project Runway,” which began Jan. 24 on Lifetime, because being on the show brings instant validation as a fashion designer.
Not that Martinez would object to pocketing $100,000 to start his own apparel line, being handed the keys to a 2013 Lexus GS 350 and having his clothing designs showcased in Marie Claire magazine.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with winning the big prize, he said.
But Martinez sees a bigger picture here.
To his way of thinking, “Project Runway” represents an opportunity to establish himself in a business where it’s hard for talented unknowns to cut through the clutter.
“‘Project Runway’ has evolved over the years into such a big, big thing that it’s an honor just to get chosen to be on the show,” Martinez said. “So for me, it’s really not about being the winner. It’s about the recognition it brings. It’s about establishing these extra credentials.”
Martinez is one of 16 designers trying to prove he has what it takes to wow judges Heidi Klum, Zac Posen (replacing Michael Kors) and Nina Garcia and to show his wares during New York Fashion Week.
For the first time, the designers will have to work in teams for every challenge, so collaborative skills might prove to be as much a factor as creativity, much like it often is in the real world.
Martinez, who graduated from high school in 2001, said he has the tools to work well in group situations.
“I wanted to make sure that I did not portray any negative energy on the show,” he says.
This isn’t the first time Martinez has tried to get on “Project Runway.”
Thousands of aspiring designers fill out applications and try out every year. So merely making it as far as the first episode, he says, is a huge accomplishment.
“It’s very challenging when they’re casting, because you don’t really know what it is that they’re looking for,” Martinez says. “You just have to be yourself and hope that your talent will speak for itself. Fortunately, this time around, I was one of the ones they selected.”