Project Runway's Hester Sunshine Spreads Positivity Through Style

Fashion designer Hester Sunshine has certainly made a splash on the style industry due to her recent experience on Bravo’s Project Runway; Sunshine placed second, succeeding in spreading light through her bold, dauntless, unapologetic designs. Prior to competing on the series, she was no stranger to fashion: the Santa Fe native has been crafting high-fashion looks, ready-to-wear apparel, accessories, and even Halloween costumes for over fifteen years. Sunshine has worked for some of the biggest brands in the industry--including Betsey Johnson, Coach, and Kate Spade--and has designed a private label for Hot Topic, Nordstrom, Walmart, and Spencer Gifts as well. She even runs an accessory line of her own titled “Sunshine By Hester,” featuring berets, bandanas, and more products handmade in the US. Although her “cyber Rococo”-inspired collection earned her the runner-up title, Sunshine still reigns victorious when it comes to maintaining her voice as a designer and portraying a cohesive, crystal clear aesthetic. Learn more about the designer’s experience on Project Runway and what to expect next from her:

When did you first become interested in fashion design? What about it appealed to you the most?

I have been interested in fashion for pretty much my whole life. By six years old, I was sewing outfits for my Barbie dolls and dressing myself up in outlandish looks. As an only child, I would often have to spend my time alone, and playing dress up became my favorite game.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

I would describe my aesthetic as EXTRA! Whimsical...avant-garde with a punk rock edge.

Why did you submit to be on Project Runway?

I’ve wanted to be on the show as long as it has been out, but it took me a while to feel emotionally and technically ready to compete in such a high-stress, high-intensity environment.

What was your favorite part about being a contestant? What was the hardest part?

My favorite part of being a contestant was being given money to make whatever I wanted. I’ve never been able to design for the sake of art--I’ve always had to make things for clients or bosses or to pay my bills. This was the first time I was able to spend lots of money on materials and make whatever I wanted. The hardest part of the competition was the lack of sleep (I often got only 4-6 hours a night) and the short amount of time (30-45 minutes) to shop at Mood [Designer Fabrics]. You can't find anything good in such a short amount of time, especially in a store like Mood that’s hard to navigate. It’s hard to see what they have.

Which was your favorite challenge on the show and why?

The finale because I was able to make my own prints and create everything I ever wanted. Since that probably doesn't count, I'll say the print challenge in episode three because I love prints, and I love Adam Selman, the judge for that episode. Plus, it was the first time I won a challenge.

What was the best piece of advice you received on the show?

To believe in myself and trust my vision.

Who or what inspired your final collection?

My final collection was called “y2k0c0.” It was inspired by a y2k millennial, early 2000s cyber-tech vibe mixed with Rococo from the late 1700s, pre-French Revolution. I see a lot of similarities in both times: excessive, overly-feminized styles, and over-the-top, wasteful, affluent cultures that reached their peak right before massive social or economic collapses. I also wanted to create something that gave artifact to the cyber/social media/internet generation; we have nothing physical and tangible to show for our culture’s greatest achievements. I used digital technology, circuits, and computer programs to create paintings and artifacts to stand for our time.

What challenges did you come across in creating your final collection?

I used the five months I was given to create entirely new construction techniques that were very difficult to achieve. Along with that, I created my own prints and artwork, as well as hand made all my accessories and jewelry.

What’s up next for you?

I’m working on some eyeglasses and activewear collaborations that I’ll announce soon, and I’m moving forward with production on my final collection under my new namesake line, “Hester Sunshine.” I’m also still working on Sunshine By Hester, which will remain my lower-end line, and I’ll be releasing a new collection for Halloween in September. Hopefully, by next year, I’ll also have a TV show off the ground.

This or That:

Leather or chiffon? Both! Together!

Dress or jumpsuit? Both! Lol, I’m so bad at this.

Sandals or booties? Boots--never booties.

Edgy or glam? Both.

Metallic or neutral hues? Neither. Bright colors.

Follow Hester on Social Media:

Instagram: @besta_hesta and @sunshinebyhester

Facebook: @sunshinebyhester