Who ever said, "Nice guys finish last" is an asshole. Just ask couture designer and season one winner of Lifetime's Under the Gunn, Ozcar Garcia Lopez.
The Coral Gables native, who admittedly says that he can't stand dramatic confrontations, gained praises from mega-star judges, Heidi Klum, and Neil Patrick Harris, for his five-piece evening line, right before he swooped up the gold on the Project Runway spin-off season finale.
One month later, the phone hasn't stopped ringing.
"People haven't stopped calling," the Cuban-born 40-year old says of the custom orders that spill in by the dozens. "Right now, I'm working on a gown for one of my clients to wear to the Met Gala." Of course, we here at Cultist just had to snag a spot on his tufted sofa to learn more about the couture champ and his busy life post Lifetime.
Though bombarded with design mazes and patterns upon patterns (one of which will be potentially analyzed by the Ice Queen herself, Anna Wintour), he's not bothered by our presence - because, he's just nice like that.
Cultist: Let's talk about your huge win on Lifetime's Project Runway: Under the Gunn. How does it feel bringing that title back to Miami?
Ozcar Garcia-Lopez: What I took from the show was seeing how people find such a positive inspiration in all of us (the cast). You become a motivator - a path to follow. I'm amazed that I was able to participate on the show. Representing not only the Latino Community, but also the Florida community. To put Miami on the map for fashion is huge.
How pressured did you feel competing in front of millions of viewers?
Watching the show, seeing myself compete, makes me think, "How was I able to do that under so much pressure?" To work the whole time with all these cameras on top of you and then have to ignore them, was crazy. We would be sewing, and we'd have the camera, sticking to our faces. Of course, the pressure of time. I'm a survivor of that "jungle."
And there was, obviously, loads of drama.
Oh my God. I was trying to stay away from the drama. But there's always going to be the mean girl and the "bitchy one." We need those ingredients in order to get a good response from the audience. But I was just there to compete.
Not only compete. Word on the street is you were quite the "Mr. Mom" of the house.
Every morning, I would wake up, jump in the shower, get into the kitchen, and prepare breakfast for everyone. I took my Italian cafetera and my La Llave coffee and would make café con leche and omelets every morning. Everyone was like, "Oh, we have a chef in the morning now?" I even cleaned the apartment once. It was a mess, and we never had time to clean. I ended up buying Lysol and Fabuloso and cleaned the whole thing. I would even sweep the floor in the workroom. I love to be organized.
I can't stop thinking about those culottes from your finale runway show. You really know how to elongate a woman's figure.
My idol and designer god is John Galliano -- the master of construction. Sometimes, you'll see a fabulous gown with a fabulous idea, but if the fit's not correct (he shakes his head no).
And sometimes, you have a very simplistic design, but the proportions and the fit are so perfect that you say, "That's amazing." That for me is so important. I'm so picky with fitting. I love to elongate figures. All women want to look taller and two sizes smaller.
They sure do. What are you aiming to give women when you design?
I love women. Women are goddesses to me. My forte in fashion is to be able to give women that moment every woman wants -- the "wow" moment. One of the challenges (on the show) was making a quick fix for clients who had a dilemma. My client said she wanted a gown, because every time that she went into a store, she had to go into the kids department. She was less than four-feet tall and had a size three shoe. She was petite. I was like, "Let me give this person her happy moment." So I told her I was going to make her a brand new green dress. They didn't put it on the show, but she cried when she saw that dress on the mannequin.
Was there ever a moment of doubt in your mind that you might not make it to the end?
The whole time. The critiques were rough, but you have to respect these people. And you can't argue with them, because you're there to learn, listen, and be judged. But I never let anyone make me doubt my point of view. Doubting about whether or not I was going to stay in the completion, that was another thing. Sometimes I was like, "Nick (Verreos), I think I'm going to be out after this one."
You were totally the apple of Nick's (his mentor) eye.
In the beginning, nobody was picking me. I think it's because they (the mentors) felt overwhelmed with what I was able to do in six hours for my first piece. You know - the gloves, the hat, with the piping - I went crazy. When Nick picked me and started to see the process with the red carpet gown, that's when he realized this guy knows what he's doing. He was an amazing mentor. He was the one who helped me control my demons as an artist and to be practical.
Tell me how it was like working with Mr. Make-it-work, Tim Gunn.
The first time I saw him, I couldn't believe it. Here with Tim Gunn -- a fashion beacon. He gives the best critiques without humiliating. He was very proper. Behind the camera, he would always come up to me and say, "How do you do that?" about my pieces. He loved to see the seams inside of my pieces and would say to me in amazement, "This is hand-stitched?" And I never went to school for sewing and design.
Right. And you used to sing. How exactly does someone go from singer to self-taught designer?
I constructed my first dress when I was twelve years old. Instead of playing with my friends outside, I befriended seamstresses. People would throw their clothes away, and I would take them and rip them apart to understand the lining and construction, dissecting the garment to see how it was made. So, actually, I started with design. Then I went to dance school at Tropicana (Cuba) and became a signer in a band. Soon, I realized I couldn't do everything. So I asked myself what my strongest passion was - of course, it was fashion.