In the recent Project Runway spin-off, Project Accessory, two of three finalists were from Miami. The winner, Brian Burkhardt, owns a Design District boutique and received $100,000 for his reality TV win.
Second place went to Kendall resident Nina Cortes, who has since turned to micro-funding site Kickstarter for the finances she needs to continue her jewelry line.
With her Kickstater campaign, which ends this Sunday, Cortes hopes for funds to develop a line of shoulder jewelry or epaulettes.
HuffPost Miami spoke with the Miami Killian Senior High and FIU grad about her shoulder pieces, her time on reality TV, and her take on Miami style.
How did you get involved with Project Accessory?
I heard a little buzz about the spinoff of Project Runway focusing on accessories, and so did my friends. They are pretty much the reason that I auditioned. I was terrified of the idea of making handbags and shoes, but they all insisted. It was one of those, "what do I have to lose" moments. I put together some of my work and auditioned, and kept moving onto the next level. The whole thing was so surreal, and still is.
Have any opportunities come out of your Project Accessory experience?
I was very fortunate to be on the show. Having that large of a platform to show your work is amazing. In all honesty, the biggest opportunity that came out from the show was being able to reach so many people. Knowing that there were plenty of people out there that love my work is so inspiring.
Tell us about why you started a Kickstarter campaign.
My boyfriend is a filmmaker and has used Kickstarter before at great success. He and I were brainstorming on how to get this new line off the ground and Kickstarter seemed like the perfect route. The website is a place where thousands of people can go and help fund creative and business endeavors that they wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to help out. I think it's so great to have a platform like this to support local businesses and talent.
What inspired the epaulettes?
A long time ago I made my first piece of shoulder jewelry. It was after a long creative session with my business partner, Iliana, that we came up with the concept. I always kept that idea in my head until finally I had the opportunity to make a few different styles. I haven't had the chance develop the line, but I'm hoping to change that now.
Can your epaulettes be worn over clothes or just over bare shoulders?
They can be worn any way you wish. Over a simple white tee and jeans, a strapless gown, however you wish to wear it. I love seeing how people interpret the pieces I make and how they use them in their own style. Accessories are all about showing your personal style.
How do you think Miami style is different than that in L.A. and New York?
I think New York has this very polished look and L.A. has a fun laid back style, Miami fits somewhere in the middle. During the day we like to wear easy pieces but we really step up our style in the evenings.
Are there other local designers that you admire?
Wow. So many. I admire my fellow competitor, Brian, for his artistic take on fashion. My jewelry professor from FIU, Maureen Shankey. She's one of the main reasons that I began making jewelry, so she's had a huge impact on my life. And the not so local for me, but Rich Sandomeno and Diego Rocha. When I make it, I will be covered in Spragwerks jewelry and Diego Rocha bags.
Any jewelry trends you absolutely despise?
Toe Rings!!!!! Meep! They are awful.
Click below for images of Cortes and her jewelry designs.