There's more fashion flourishing in SanTana besides extravagant quinceañera dresses on Fourth Street—and not that there's anything wrong with them. But on the second floor of The Santora Arts Building on a Sunday afternoon, Jonathan Jimenez is hard at work fixing the details of his elegant and feminine garments that he designed and sewed himself. The 21-year-old SanTana born-and-raised designer is joined by his friends, three models, a make-up artist, a photographer and a family friend offering an extra hand —a true grassroots scene of homies helping out homies.
Jimenez is keeping his momentum running from last month's well-received showcase at Orange County Fashion Week as he prepares a lookbook for his Project Runway application. Can you just imagine Tim Gunn mentoring a santanero? HELL YA!!!
Despite Jimenez's young age, the designer already is generating local buzz by graduating from FIDM's product development and technical design program and appearing at Orange County Fashion Week (OCFW) two years in a row—an opportunity he credits Kayla Benson from Santa Ana College and Kathy Marino of OCFW for providing. The career is natural for him: his mom was a seamstress, and watching episodes of Project Runway in high school solidified his aspirations for the future. "I legitimately asked my mom to teach me how to sew instead of how to drive," Jonathan says, showing off a license he barely received two weeks ago.
Even though Jimenez is a promising talent, he recognizes his uphill battle coming from a non-fashion capital. "I am not from New York or Los Angeles so I don't feel like I'm going to get recognized," Jimenez says. "I have to make sure my voice is heard."
To overcome his underdog status, Jimenez adopted an unyielding determination and rigorous work ethic. He sewed 20 looks in two weeks for last month's OCFW, at a time when he felt financially and emotionally incapable of doing so. "My only time to sew would be early in the morning and right after work," he says. "I'd fall asleep at 4 a.m. and wake up at 7 a.m. to take my little sisters to school and go to work right away" at the Star Wars Launch Bay at Disneyland. "After all that, I'm ready for Project Runway. I can do this!"
While the budding designer is proud to represent his Mexican heritage and SanTana, he also admits his heritage and its macho culture have been catalysts for criticism of his decision to become a designer. Hearing his immigrant parents suggest he become a construction worker or a doctor or look into "manlier" professions stung a little, but it never phased Jimenez. Thankfully, his parents have come around to his career choice. "They look at my work now and say, 'Wow!" he shares.
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Jimenez aspires to have his foot in every aspect of design just like Ralph Lauren, but for now, he's sticking to women's wear. "Its an open book—you can do whatever you want with women's wear," he says. "Men's wear has a lot of things that aren't socially accepted."
Each of Jimenez's collections were self-financed and cost him $300 to $1,000. His credit cards are maxed out and he has student loans to pay off, yet the determined designer won't stop until he's a household name. "I've been pushing myself...I personally feel like I am going to get on Project Runway," he says with confidence, not arrogance.
Jimenez's designs are scheduled for showcases in Locale and Latina Magazine in the near future. May he get on the next season of Project Runway and show the world that #santanaanalookslikethis.