Season eight of Project Runway was one of the show's best ever: Not only were the clothes quite good, but there was that scandalous rift between the judges over who should win, that heartbreaking episode where contestant Mondo Guerra revealed his HIV-positive status, and that controversial finale. To everyone's surprise, Gretchen Jones (favorite of judges Nina Garcia and Michael Kors) won over Mondo (favorite of Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, and everyone else). But as Gunn predicted, "Mondo will do fabulously anyway," and of course he's right: Mondo is poised to launch a jewelry line, which he'll sell through his website while juggling plans for future clothing ventures and maybe (fingers crossed!) joining the cast of the forthcoming Project Runway all-stars season. We caught up with him last week.
Tell us about your jewelry collection.
The jewelry launch will happen within the month. It’s inspired by Paco Rabanne and [Piet] Mondrian, so it's a lot of primary colors and geometric shapes. In a tribute to Paco, I wanted to do something with unusual materials, so this whole collection is made out of Plexiglass. Everything's about $35-$40.
Plexiglass? Aren't they really heavy?
The ones we're selling, you will be able to hold them down all day, no problem. The earrings won't give you saggy lobe.
Are you going to sell them in stores as well?
Right now, I'm trying to do everything on my own as much as I can. I do have some offers on the table, though, and my goal is to have [a contract with a distributor] in the next couple of months, so that I can start getting ready for spring/summer 2012.
What's your ideal retail setting?
I want to be available to a large demographic. I don't want the price points to be so intimidating that you're not even going to walk into a store to take a look at it. I want people to have the means to purchase the stuff I'm creating. Eventually I would like to have a higher-end collection, but initially I want my stuff to be accessible.
What made you decide to name your website LoveMondoTrasho.com?
I'm a huge fan of John Waters. He had a movie that was called Mondo Trasho, and it's always stuck with me, so I kept it.
What kind of girl should be wearing your jewelry?
On the show, I was criticized for being too “junior”-looking, and I think that I've really refined what I am. From the response that I've gotten from fans, especially on Facebook, my designs appeal to a huge demographic of women. The woman who wears my stuff wants to be noticed.
What made you decide to go with jewelry instead of clothing?
Well, it's easier for me to produce. I still live in Denver in my 500-square-foot apartment with my partner, and my studio is probably less than 200 square feet. So it's easier for me to produce this stuff, and everything that I do right now is handled by two other people and me. This is a way for me to provide a product right now, but also stay realistic about what I can achieve.
What other projects are you working on?
In episode ten of Project Runway I revealed that I was HIV-positive, which I'd been hiding for ten years. That moment really changed my life, and after I got off the show I took it upon myself to speak out about the disease and to encourage people not let the disease define who they are. I'm partnering with Merck to launch a national campaign called "Living Positive by Design," and the whole campaign is about encouraging people like myself to have a positive outlook on life.
Are you working on anything with Lifetime right now?
Well, Project Runway all-stars should be happening soon, and I'm hoping that I'm involved with it! I don’t know anything about it for sure, though.