A week after the fall finale of this season’s Project Runway, Denver native and runner-up Mondo Guerra sat down with 5280 at Highland’s Wooden Spoon Cafe & Bakery to debrief.
You have a lot of family history—six generations—in the Highland neighborhood.
Our Lady of Guadalupe is right around the corner from us; I was baptized, had my first communion, and was confirmed there. My grandfather has been an usher there for 50-plus years. We all grew up in this neighborhood. At the watch party [at Capitol Hill’s Beauty Bar], the whole front of the audience was my family—60 to 70 people.
During the critique in Episode 10, you revealed you were HIV-positive after designing a pant with a plus-sign pattern. What went into that decision?
Heidi excused us and we're starting to walk...I just stopped, turned around, and said, “You know, you asked me what my story was.” I was really choked up. But then a weight came off of me. It turned into a very beautiful, positive thing. I didn’t plan on going to the show to disclose that information.
What came before Project Runway?
Last year around this time, I was working as a stitcher at the Arvada Center, but my numbers [white blood cell count] had dropped so much from HIV that I contracted Kaposi’s sarcoma. I was in the hospital for two weeks. I enjoyed working with the girls at the Arvada Center, but I had to get out there and show everybody a little piece of who I am. Not “sick Mondo,” but the creative person I’ve been my entire life.
You were the fan favorite. How did you handle the loss?
In so many ways I am the winner. On the [Project Runway] website, I had 95 percent of the vote, so I feel like people are behind me.
Any offers on the table?
I don’t want to jinx it, but as you saw in the finale, Heidi was really fighting for me—her main management company has contacted me. My dream is to provide a product that makes people enjoy their life. It’s silly—after all, they are just clothes—but they change the way people walk down the street.
Will you bring your designs to the Denver market?
Before I got on the show, the response to my work [a line called Love Mondo Trasho] was: “Oh my gosh, it’s so overpriced.” But now, they’re all very interested. If I did do it in the Denver market, it would be all custom one-offs. There is an emerging fashion scene in Denver. We continue to push it forward, but there isn’t an industry. If we shop, we shop at Denver Fabrics, Allyn’s, or Jo-Ann Fabrics. C’mon now. We don’t have the resources that Los Angeles and New York do.
[Mondo’s partner, Ben Duchaine, leans over and says they’re engaged.]
Ben proposed to me on the final runway day! Which they didn’t show, which I'm happy about because it didn’t happen exactly the way I wished it would've: [We were] backstage, right after they announced Gretchen winning. Ben was pulling something out of his pocket and I said, “No, not right now!” I know the producers heard—I had a microphone attached to me, and there were like four cameras back there, so they totally knew; I’m glad they respected that.