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COVER STORY: A New Alan-Tude

Houston designer Alan Gonzalez makes his mark on Project Runway.

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Alan Gonzalez (photos by Ashkan Roayaee)

Bravo’s Project Runway will return for its eighteenth season on December 5. Joining the lineup of 16 designer hopefuls is 25-year-old Alan Gonzalez. Viewers will have to tune in to find out if this gay Houstonian will be all the rage showcasing his own brand of “Alan-tude.”

“‘Alan-tude’ started when I was coming up with a username for my social media,” Gonzalez explains. “It’s a lot of Alan and a lot of attitude. Then it became my brand—a lot of ‘Alan-tude.’ It is part of my aesthetic. It’s the ‘Alan’ part of my designs.”

Gonzalez has lived in Houston for most of his life. His parents brought their family here from Monterey, Mexico, when he was three years old. What was initially going to be a short stay in America ended up being permanent as Gonzalez’s parents discovered that their talented and energetic son was flourishing in the local schools—and more specifically, in the arts.

“My parents did everything they could to ensure that I had a future. My mother always pushed me to do everything I have tried to the best of my ability. They put me in magnet programs, and I soon realized that I had a personality for the stage,” recalls Gonzalez.

This encouragement eventually paid off when he was accepted into the prestigious Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) where he majored in musical theater. Although his career is now focused primarily on design, that love of the theater comes through both in his sparkling personality and his custom designs. Perhaps it was a combination of the two that landed him a spot on Project Runway.

Chic Collection: Models Alana Gibson (left) and Taylar L. Meyer in original designs by Alan Gonzalez.

Houston has always made a good showing on the hit reality series. In 2005, during its second season, Chloe Dao won the competition, and she remains one of the most sought-after designers in Houston. Her boutique on Kirby Drive in Rice Village is a go-to for local socialites during the party season. Gonzalez is hoping to follow in Dao’s footsteps; only time will tell if he will.

Project Runway recently got a makeover of its own when Bravo rebooted the series, bringing it back to its original home after a stint on Lifetime. This revival came with a new host, model Karlie Kloss, and new mentor Christian Siriano—a Project Runway winner in his own right. Siriano has gone on to have one of the most successful fashion careers of all the Runway alums. He has dressed First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as Whoopi Goldberg and other high-profile celebrities.

The judges’ panel has one familiar face with Elle magazine’s editor-in-chief, Nina Garcia, who has participated in all 18 seasons. Joining her are journalist Elaine Welteroth and snarky designer Brandon Maxwell. If Gonzalez learned anything about what not to do from watching the previous season, which aired in March of 2019, it is that Maxwell is not impressed by a “reveal.”

Gonzalez will be the youngest participant this season, but what he may lack in life experience he makes up for in enthusiasm—and the garment-building fundamentals he learned at Houston Community College (HCC).

“Before HCC, I was hot-gluing paper and fabric together for my shows,” Gonzalez admits. Now I can say that I know how to make a garment.”

Gonzalez says that his designs are influenced by what he is experiencing personally. “My designs always connect with what I am going through. You can always see that in the collection. I am always trying to bring out imaginative new things. Like I love to get a lot of fabric in one dress. I will always find a way. I love draping; having things ‘flow’ down the runway. I throw my personality into every design. I want the person wearing my clothes to enter a room and feel looked-at the minute they step in. That’s what ‘Alan-tude’ is.”

Taylar L. Meyer (left) and Alana Gibson seen in original pieces designed by Alan Gonzalez. The silver dress on Gibson was made in grey knit with shining silver threads woven in, and the black and white floral print dress on Meyer was created in a pointillism style.

For a burgeoning designer like Gonzalez, who has hopes of moving to New York City soon to pursue his career in fashion, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The grand prize for the winner of Project Runway is a quarter of a million dollars, a feature in Elle magazine, the chance to be featured in a Blueprint digital series, and a mentorship with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).

Gonzalez will have to beat out a diverse and international group of 15 designers in order to claim the impressive prize package. He will be up against contestants from Moldova, South Korea, and even a fellow Texan, Austinite Brittany Allen.

“Brittany is the most Texan woman you will meet. She is fantastic. When we met on Project Runway, we were like, ‘Texas: instant bond.’ In fact, I am going to Austin this weekend to visit her. It was nice to have someone else there that understood me like that. When you meet a Texan, they come with a big sense of pride,” says Gonzalez.

This season, the contestants will barely have time to get off the airplane before the competition starts. In the premiere episode, the competition begins when the designers are greeted at the iconic TWA Hotel at New York’s JFK Airport, ready to take flight with their first challenge. Their assignment: to create an innovative look inspired by humanity’s continued push into space exploration. In a Runway first, these unfamiliar designers have to pair up and collaborate to make cohesive pieces that blow away the judges—or they are out.

Gonzalez could not reveal too much about how he fared in the first episode (or, for that matter, in the remainder of the series), but needless to say, Houston will be rooting for him. Since he hails from the Space City, he may have a definitive edge with the space-travel fashion challenge from the start.

You can connect with Gonzalez when Project Runway premieres on Bravo, or check him out on his social media at alantude.com.

This article appears in the December 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine. 

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Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at www.medium.com/@ryan_leach.

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