Wilton Manors fashion designer Sebastian Grey has been in the fashion world for 10 years. He thought he had seen it all until he joined the cast of a popular TV show – and won.
The show, Project Runway, features a group of aspiring fashion designers who compete alongside each other in front of judges who are prominent figures in the fashion world.
His love for fashion began as a young boy in his native Colombia. He was immediately captivated by the choreography and costumes of the ballet dancers while watching a performance with his parents.
However, he was no stranger to the fashion industry. He eventually went to work in the family leather business, building an attention to detail as well as precision when it came to materials and fabrics.
He pays homage to his family’s life work and this period of time in his life through his present-day designs. “My signature leather woven textures are seen throughout my designs,” he says. “It’s inspired by the beautiful handmade artisan craft-making in Colombia.”
In the late 1990s, Grey attended a fine arts school in his hometown and later the Academy of Professional Drawing where he majored in fashion design. He then won a scholarship to attend the Istituto Marangoni in Miami.
After working with many designers and constructing his own style identity, Grey launched his first collection and brand in 2013. “The brand is capturing that sexy, sophisticated and educated woman that feels like she is in armor and can overcome anything,” he says.
Last year, his life changed forever when he applied to become one of 16 contestants in an intense, televised design competition. After nine months of grueling hours of work, Grey came out on top.
“Project Runway was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that taught me so much about myself. Defying odds, pushing through tough times, telling a story and collaborating with others,” Grey says. “It was an awesome experience. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Through the show, he was able to find mentors in judges who are well-known figures in the fashion world. In particular, he found a connection with fellow Colombian Nina Garcia.
“I related to her and she related to me,” he says. “We are both Colombian and she understood the struggles of coming to this country and having to work three times more as a Latino to prove yourself. Her knowledge in the industry and sharp and honest critiques made me respect her tremendously.”
While television has dramatically accelerated his career, Grey remains faithful to what inspired him in the first place: family and his home country.
“I always want to be able to spread ripples,” he says, “and be remembered as someone who can always be relied on.”
Fort Lauderdale Fashion in Your Own Words
Sebastian: “The key to Fort Lauderdale’s fashion is that it absorbs everything that makes the area unique and attractive.”
You can visit Sebastian Grey’s design studio in Oakland Park or check out jhoansebastiangrey.com.
Rene Ruiz Collection
An unglamorous 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Hialeah might not seem like it would be the home of the Rene Ruiz Collection’s show-stopping, intricately detailed dresses. Its aesthetic is a blend of old-world craftsmanship and quality fabrics and detailing.
The label was founded in 1992, was rebranded recently and is now known as the Rene Ruiz Collection. This year marks 27 years of gorgeous gowns designed and worn by all types of women. It has even caught the eye of some high profile clientele, one of these being Ana Navarro, co-host of ABC’s The View and CNN political commentator. Her off-the-shoulder scallop neckline Rene Ruiz Collection wedding gown was made with silk crepe from Lyon, France, and an overlay of hand-woven Alencon lace.
Rene Ruiz himself has not worked for the company since 2017, but Luis Escudero worked side-by-side with the designer for years. That’s why, when the company was searching for a new creative director, choosing Escudero was a no-brainer.
“Luis was the only choice to succeed Ruiz,” owner and CEO Brad Rosenblatt says. “He’s immensely talented, and after 10 years of doing a lot of design work, he knows what our customer wants, but is bringing his own fresh take and contemporary point of view to the collections without losing sight of the brand’s elegant identity and customer appeal.”
Escudero graduated from Miami International University of Art and Design with a degree in fashion design. He then spent a year in Paris, where he attended the Paris Fashion Institute.
The South Florida local has been with the company for 12 years and now oversees the company’s design DNA. He keeps the brand’s signature style while incorporating trends from the fast-moving fashion world. The fashion label is known for its perfect fit and flattering shapes tailored using a body-shaping bustier. As Escudero demonstrates by draping an almost finished gown over the silhouette, he explains its important role in the dress-making process.
“We drape them on the mannequins, and take photos. Then, I’ll make sketches,” he says while adjusting the fabric. “I like to see what it looks like on a mannequin and in photos so I know how I want the designs to look.”
While the bustier plays a vital part, the fabric is really what the designs are centered on. Escudero lets the fabrics speak for themselves. Everything from the color to the texture inspires each design.
“The fabric is what speaks to me, usually. I try to do what the fabric asks for.”
Every year, Escudero himself visits the Première Vision Paris fabric show in Paris to shop for the perfect fabrics to incorporate into his designs. He even goes as far as to design his own custom fabrics, with color combinations, patterns and more.
“We own our prints and fabrics, and use different mills,” he says.
The brand also offers a unique service that not many haute couture houses offer – custom dress designing. Since the inception of the idea, Escudero is there throughout the process until the completion of the dress. He personally meets with clients.
“I enjoy collaborating with my team and clients the most,” he says. “We have a team of designers who make the vision come together.”
Fort Lauderdale Fashion in Your Own Words
Luis: “Fort Lauderdale is sunny and easy – I like to think the style matches with lightweight and colorful fabrics.”
The Rene Ruiz Collection is sold nationally, including at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Locally, you’ll find two stores, in Boca Raton and Aventura.