I got my very first job when I moved to America. I had never worked before, because in Brazil it is not very common for teenagers to have a job. I wasn't very happy about it, but my mom explained to me that here in the USA all kids start working when they turn 16, so I decided to try. I started working at Costco in the bakery department. First I started wrapping cookies and bread, and then once they saw I was good at making flowers from icing, I was transferred to the cake department to decorate cakes. I had so much fun there. It was just like designing, but on cakes! After two years working in the bakery I decided to try something different, and I transferred to the Photo Lab department, where I also had a great time. I got to interact more with customers, design holiday cards and see very funny pictures! Five years ago people were still using regular cameras, so we would, accidentally, get to see a lot of "surprises" when developing rolls of film ... I worked at Costco for a little over four years, until I transferred to FIT and moved to NYC. While attending fashion school I knew I had to gain as much experience as I could in fashion. I was able to volunteer for New York Fashion Week and land many great internships with well-known labels such as Wes Gordon, Carlos Campos, Rachel Roy, Marchesa and finally at Oscar de la Renta, a dream turned into reality, where I learned very valuable assets for my career.
A yorkie named Chloe.
My family calls me "Lay" (pronounced "Lie" in Portuguese) and "Lapinha." There's no specific reason for those nicknames, they just sound like a short version of my name!
When did you realize you had designer potential?
At a very young age I started designing without even realizing it. I used to always want to change my clothes, for a while I became very dangerous (that is what my mother says). I was cutting all of my clothes, my mother's clothes and my sister's clothes too. At 10 years old I didn't really have any sewing skills, so something that I attempted to redesign would come out amazing, but 90 percent of the rest was pretty much ruined. I remember making my sister cry a few times (at least now I can make it up for what I destroyed!!!). Even though I made my mother very angry, she knew I was passionate about it and I had potential, so for Christmas she gave me a sewing machine. It wasn't really a real sewing machine, but I was able to sew a lot of outfits for my dolls and maybe a skirt or a top for myself. I wish I still had that little machine as a token of my early years as a designer and how it all began.
First garment you ever made?
The first real garment I ever made was a skirt that I created from a pair of stretch jeans when I was 13. I sewed everything by hand and then I embroidered a blue butterfly next to the pocket. It was so pretty that my sister and my cousins would bring me their old pair of jeans and I had to make them a skirt like mine. It was a hit!
What's your design training/schooling, etc.?
I started at Katharine Gibbs College in Connecticut. I studied fashion design there for two years, and then I transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC.
Have you won any awards for your designs/work related to design?
When I graduated from FIT in 2010 I won the Hilton Hollis Award.
Strengths as a designer?
I really understand what I want as designer, and because I always put a lot of passion, my heart and soul in everything I do, I bring my essence of beauty and confidence to whoever wears my clothes.
Weaknesses as a designer?
My weakness in general is that I never listen to anybody. I always do what I want, which can be very good or it can also be very selfish and hurt the outcome of a design.
What are your influences?
I love to take inspiration from the 1920s and 1950s, but designing for me is really an expression of who I am. So most of my influences come from within, from my emotions, my feeling, struggles, accomplishments, from life and all that is happening to me and around the world every day.
What's playing on your iPod when you.re designing?
I listen to all kinds of music, so it varies according to my mood. My playlist has the most confusing song selections, from rock 'n' roll to bossa nova to reggaeton.
Favorite material or fabric to work with?
I love working with leather and chiffon.
Item you're most proud of designing?
So far I have to say the red gown I design for my final project at FIT, and with this gown I won the Hilton Hollis Award.
Alexander McQueen, Riccardo Tisci (Givenchy), Olivier Rousteing (Balmain), Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig (Marchesa), and Oscar de la Renta.
Sketch or drape?
Patterns or solids?
Black, neutrals and red.
Biggest fear as a designer?
Not achieving my goals with my own label.
A killer leather jacket.
Ugliest item of clothing/accessory you've worn?
Nothing, really. I wouldn't go out of the house wearing something I would regret.
Favorite style icon?
What would you design for the first lady?
For the first lady I would design a cocktail dress with a very beautiful pattern with shades of red.
Celebrity you wish you could design for?
I wish I could design for Sofia Vergara. Not only because I think she is beautiful, but especially because I think she is so funny and I would love to hang out with her afterward! I would design a beautiful form-fitted gown, probably in white or seafoam green.
Favorite supermodel muse?
If you had to name your label, you'd call it...
If you weren't designing, you'd be...
Places/cultures you wish you could design for?
India. I love a beautiful sari. They are so feminine and rich.
Dream place to set up your business?
I want to have my first atelier here in NYC and eventually have one in Brazil, Paris and Turkey.
Websites that feature your work?
How were you described as a kid?
I was always very sweet and loving with my family but not so much with strangers. I loved/love being the center of attention and the life of the party. My sister and I were always in charge of creating dance routines or plays at school, family holidays or just any family and friends gatherings. I was also very determined and persuasive. I never take no for an answer when I want something. I remember when my sister wanted a new toy or new clothes she would ask me to ask our mom ... let's just say I was more determined!!! I also cried a lot. I still do!
How are you described by your family and friends?
My family and friends would describe me as very loving, loyal, stubborn, given, a little selfish, funny, crazy, determined and passionate.
Why do you think you're easy to live with?
I have had a few roommates and I think I am pretty easy to live with. I am very family oriented so I treat my roommates as part of my family, but it they make me feel like they are honest , I will completely ignore them. I also really despise dirty people. There is a big difference between being messy; we are all very busy I get it, and being dirty. That is just plain disgusting and there are no excuses for it !!
I don't know, I just really enjoy spending quality time with my loved ones, anything from walks in the park to Broadway shows.
I love to dance. I am always taking dance classes. Salsa, Zumba, belly dancing, Afro-Caribbean dance ... and my secret hobby is scrapbooking, but I never have time for it.
Favorite movies and TV shows?
For movies I love "Pretty Woman," "Forrest Gump" and so many more. TV shows, I like "Modern Family," "The New Normal," "Glee," "Project Runway." I don.t really watch TV, but I do enjoy going to the movie theater often.
"The Alchemist." I love Paulo Coelho.
LayanaAguilar, WWD, Style.com, Facebook, fashion blogs, Google (I honestly hate computers and anything that has to do with them, but they are necessary.)
I have a BlackBerry now, but my boyfriend said is not "efficient" for my type of business and for my needs, so I am getting an iPhone next month.
Fast food or gourmet?
Gourmet. Fast food NEVER!!!
Cooking or takeout?
I recently started cooking and I enjoy it. But time is not my friend, now so takeout is just so much easier.
I love seafood, Italian, Caribbean or just simple rice and beans Brazilian style!
Beer or wine?
The show "The Voice."
Biggest pet peeve?
How did you end up auditioning for PR?
I always loved the show, and whenever I would watch I imagine myself being a part of it. My friends and family also told me many times to audition. Finally I decided to try out for Season 9 and I almost made it to the final cast. It made me feel very confident, so I was determined to try out once more and here I am, Season 11!!!!!!
Favorite past PR designer?
Laura Bennett, Rami Kashou and Uli Herzner.
Challenge you wish they'd bring back?
The Mom challenge; my mom would be soooooo happy.
Challenge you hope they don't?
Anything that has to do with menswear.
Your take on team challenges:
I really don't like them; it's always so dramatic and unnecessary.
What do you look for in a model?
A powerful and confident walk is the most important. I also like brunettes with long hair, tan skin and blue or green eyes.
Do you think you can win "Project Runway"?
Yes. Everything I do is a matter of heart, body and soul. Designing clothes for women fulfills me, so I am very determined to win. I have learned to understand fashion and its real importance by allowing everything around me to influence my vision as an artist and how I create. I become a better designer each day, by never making the mistake to think or say, "I live and breathe fashion." Fashion cannot exist alone; all the experiences I live, and all that is happening around the world, create fashion. As a woman I have learned to design with all emotions and complications that we go through, and I long to bring beauty, to enhance personalities and to add power to the women who wear my clothes. As nurturers, women have a unique ability to care, share and make the world a better place. Women who inspire are women who are making a difference, and my goal is to inspire many of us through my work. Winning "Project Runway" will open many of the doors I need to accomplish my dreams.