Filipino fashion designers compete on ‘Project Runway 19’

Published October 15, 2021, 4:46 PM

by John Legaspi

Meet Kenneth Barlis and Darren Apolonio, two of the 16 design competitors of the current season of the American reality television series

“One day you’re, the next day you’re out.” Those words are all too familiar to designers who want to be the next big name in fashion. And for them, the golden ticket lies on the Emmy-winning show “Project Runway.”

The American reality television series is back for its 19th season with Nina Garcia, Brandon Maxwell, and Elaine Welteroth judging this year’s 16 design hopefuls. Among them are two Filipino fashion designers Kenneth Barlis and Darren Apolonio.

Darren Apolonio and Kenneth Barlis

Darren Apolonio is a New York-based designer, who was raised in the Philippines by his single mother and three sisters. With “their fearless approach to fashion,” music superstars Lady Gaga and David Bowie became his inspiration in pursuing a career in fashion.

After getting a BFA in Fashion at SCAD in 2019, Darren went on to New York where he had a chance to work with designers and stylists. Currently, his eponymous line is known for producing “over-the-top designs for everyone, regardless of their gender expression.”

“As a proud Asian man, Darren found himself cautious over the past year after multiple racist incidents connected to the pandemic,” Bravo TV says. “In time, he decided that he must further celebrate his Asian heritage, together with his zany personality and eclectic design aesthetic, to be part of a new generation of designers with a mission to be unapologetically who you are and shoot for the stars.”

At the early age of 17, Zamboanga-born Kenneth Barlis has already found his niche in fashion. Nine years ago, this fashion designer, who is now based in San Diego, California, started his own atelier, producing clean, modern, bold, and sophisticated garments. Among his clientele are famous music personalities such as Carrie Underwood, Khelani, and Offset.

In 2018, Kenneth launched his KB School of Fashion, where he trained models for pageants and runway shows. During the onset of the pandemic, he crafted masks and donated them to local hospitals in San Diego, and also used them to raise funds for people gravely affected by the pandemic.

“Ultimately, Kenneth’s artistry reflects the story of a thousand Filipinx who have dared to dream,” Bravo TV says. “He aims to make fashion accessible not just for the who’s who, but also for everyone.”

The 19th season of “Project Runway” premiered yesterday, Oct. 14, 2021.