In season 19 of 'Project Runway,' Filipino designer Kenneth Barlis competes with other contestants for the chance to win the top prize in the fashion competition reality series.
"I've done so many shows in the past - mga fashion weeks, mga shows ko solos and all that. Pero to see a talented group of designers that really enjoy what they're doing, tapos you are a part of it and then you see the transformation - the pressure na nilalagay nila sa amin, and all the drama here and there - talagang matira ang matibay. That is really what the show is about (I've done so many shows in the past - fashion weeks, my solo shows and all that. But to see a talented group of designers that really enjoy what they're doing, and you are a part of it and then you see the transformation - the pressure they put on us and all the drama here and there - it's really survival of the fittest)," Barlis said.
Barlis was born in Zamboanga and grew up in a military base in Southern Philippines. After he and his family moved to San Diego, California, he pursued fashion designing even if his educational background was in nursing.
In one of his first big shows eight years ago, he turned native Philippine materials like 'banig' or handwoven abaca mat into couture gowns. In recent years, he has established himself in the entertainment industry and his creations, particularly his eye-catching menswear designs, have been worn by various Hollywood and Philippine stars. Earlier this month, he also staged his successful first show at Paris Fashion Week.
Project Runway, which airs starting October 14 in the U.S., is another huge experience that he's grateful for. The designer says he's excited to see his and his fellow contestants' hard work on the show. "I've learned to really extend my patience. I learned how to follow my gut feelings."
Reality shows are notorious for their amping up of dramatic moments and contestants acting out, and Barlis says his experience on Project Runway made him more knowledgeable about the realities of working with diverse talents with big dreams.
"As an artist, I think I was able to show my capabilities. As a person. I think I got misjudged in so many ways," Barlis reveals. "Iba-iba kami ng perspective in terms of our careers, our personal backgrounds. So it's really hard to parang blend in a crowd where everybody wanted to be a star. I'm just so thankful that I was able to experience that journey in my life (We have different perspectives in terms of our careers and our personal backgrounds. So it's really hard to like blend in a crowd where everybody wanted to be a star)."
Season 19's 16 finalists also include Filipino designer Darren Apolonio and other talents from across the U.S. and abroad.