"Project Runway" finalist Mondo Guerra gives us the scoop on his new T-shirt collaboration with Piperlime for World AIDS Day (on sale today), what it's like to live HIV-positive, and more.
Q: You had an exciting run on the eighth season of Lifetime's "Project Runway." Can you share some of your most memorable moments in the competition?
A: The most memorable moments from "Project Runway" Season 8 for me were the first and last days. The first day I had no idea of what I was getting into; I knew it was going to be tough, but WOW! It was a big deal to meet all of the other designers and make some great friends. The last day was bittersweet. While it was all coming to an end, I was so excited to show at Fashion Week (truly a dream come true!).
I never thought that I would make it so far in the competition (my goal was to make it to the top eight), so I exceeded my own expectations and learn so much about myself in the process; I am very grateful for the opportunity.
Q: You’ve mentioned that your work has been deeply inspired by friends and family. In which ways?
A: I am very deeply connected to "mi familia." Spiritually, they have provided me with the tools to be the creative individual that I am. I pull a lot of my inspiration from happy memories, childhood, my Grandmother Betty's house, holidays and my Catholic upbringing. I do what I know, and that tends to be joyous.
Q: Is there one person or life experience in particular that inspired you to pursue your passion for designing?
A: When I was growing up, I was heavily involved in playing the piano. It was my dream to write scores for films. In my later years of high school, I started to express myself through fashion. I remember being in a production of “West Side Story” as a senior at The Denver School of the Arts. My grandmother gave me an old record of the soundtrack from "West Side Story" and told me that I could do anything I put my mind to. That was when I knew that with the love and support from my family, especially Grandmother Betty, I could explore and fall in love with many creative outlets. Fashion turned out to be my favorite.
Q: It's no secret that you had a huge fan following. What role did your fans play in your success?
A: My fans! Ahh geez ... They kept me on my toes. Going into the "Project Runway" finale at Lincoln Center, I didn't want to drop the ball and disappoint them. I really put my heart and soul into the final collection, and the fans kept me going.
Q: You announced while on “Project Runway” that you are HIV-positive. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to collaborate with Piperlime for the cause, and what it means to you?
A: After the show, Piperlime was very interested in doing an exclusive project with me. They thought up the idea of doing a basic T-shirt, and I started to brainstorm as to how I could make this collaboration not just wearable, but for a good cause. I knew World AIDS Day was around the corner and wanted to team up with a foundation to contribute money to support AIDS research. Then amfAR got involved, and the rest is history.
Q: What message were you trying to get across when designing the two limited-edition tees for Piperlime to benefit amfAR?
A: I wanted to pull from my experience on "Project Runway," and one thing that came to mind instantly was LOVE. The sugar skull [above right] celebrates our loved ones who have passed. The tree with one single heart hanging [below right] is an expression of allowing love to grow, to allow people to love you, to allow yourself to love back, but to start by loving yourself first.
Q: Besides purchasing the exclusive Piperlime tees, are there any other ways in which people can join you in the fight against HIV and AIDS?
A: Find out about your local HIV/AIDS charities. Attend a benefit, or volunteer your time. Or simply reach out to someone you know who may be fighting the disease, and let them know you love them.
Purchase Mondo's exclusive designs (Piperlime will donate $20 from each T-shirt sale to amfAR AIDS Research) starting today at Piperlime.com (while supplies last). Plus, find out how Heidi Klum came to give his much-discussed polka-dot dress the red-carpet treatment on Lifetime's "Project Runway" blog.
Photos: Lifetime (left); Piperlime (right)