MIAMI BEACH – This week, Rosario Vargas, winner of Mision Moda, Bolivia’s version of the US TV show Project Runway, will present 15-18 of her Haute Couture designs at Miami Beach International Fashion Week 2012—a forum for emerging designers (Most Latino), from around the world.
Vargas at age 42, describes herself proudly as “una mujer del pueblo” and says no one was as shocked and surprised as she when she heard her name called as the winner.
In addition to free travel to Miami for MBIFW, Vargas also won a contract for representation to the Talent Agency, Galb Corp., both in and out of Bolivia; as well as a fashion editorial for both Trendy and Diva magazines.
Mision Moda is a reality show, featuring 13 aspiring clothing designers. Each week, contestants compete to win with the best designs created through challenges and limited time. The show is hosted by Dominican born Sixto Nolasco; famed fashion photographer, fashion critic with Univision, choreographer, and makeup artist, and Flavia Foianini, 2009’s Miss World Bolivia.
She was unanimously selected by a jury of top designers in the country.
“Many of the older contestants on Mision Moda were eliminated quickly. I felt my age was both an advantage and disadvantage,” she said. “The younger contestants were described by judges as having a more “fresh attitude” in their designs, but my strength was having both the classic base, and an ability to constantly evolve. My theory in life and in fashion is that in order to stay current you must change.”
Rosario Vargas has owned a small design company since 1993 in the city of La Paz. She has participated in the parade of "Alta Roma Alta Moda" in Italy, in February 2007, and received her psychology degree from the Universidad Mayor De San Andres in 2009. She has two children, one 20 and one 17 year old, and a 2 yr old granddaughter.
As a Bolivian designer Vargas says Bolivia is one of the richest cultures in South America.
“It has inspired so many artists. I take my Bolivian roots and look at them through the eyes of a fashionista,” she said.
Vargas found her fashion niche using a textile close to her heart and tradition called “Fibre Noble”, aka baby Alpaca wool. In Vargas’ part of the world, Llamas, Alpacas, Guanaco and Vicuña are considered the ‘Gold of the Andes’. It is only because of these animals that Andean man survived in such extreme conditions. Llamas and Alpacas provided protection, transportation, food and clothing. The Vicuña, considered sacred by the Incas, were captured, sheared and released and the fibre made into cloth for the Inca Royalty.
Using the sheared fur, Vargas creates lightweight hand-dyed capes and jackets.
“The colors are very bright. It’s lively and feels like spring. It’s not traditionally how this material is used. I show it differently. Not the obvious Llama, it’s a subtle interpretation,” says Vargas.
The garments Vargas presented on Mision Moda are nothing if not impeccably sewn and crafted. Gowns with seams in all the right places, making women appear longer and leaner, swimwear and day dresses in fresh colors, as well fitting and with as much fluidity as a young Coco Chanel.
Looking toward the future, Vargas says she’d like to continue to grow her business. She says she’s a woman from the average class, and that she worked really hard to get where she is today.
With seemingly her whole country standing behind her and rooting her on in Miami, Vargas says:
“My dreams are becoming my reality. I need to seize this opportunity. I won a chance to expose my designs and take Bolivia out of the shadows.”
Rebekah Sager is a freelance writer based in San Diego.
Rebekah Sager is a nationally published lifestyle and culture writer. She's a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. Follow Rebekah on Twitter @Rebekah_Sager.