Texas can rest assured that the future of fashion is in safe hands with Austinite Daniel Esquivel. This Project Runway finalist gives us the rundown on his runway experiences, as well insight on his journey to the top while implementing his style roots from the region.

By Samantha Subar Photography courtesy of Lifetime Television

Who wouldn’t want a chance to become a world-renowned fashion designer? From the outside looking in, the industry may appear overrun by vain and disingenuous relationships, but designer Daniel Esquivel is a breath of fresh air to the fashion world. If his eclectic style and peerless use of fabric do not set him apart, his humble attitude and sincere appreciation for his fan base certainly make him a one-of-a-kind.

Even though his time on Project Runway came to a close after episode 13, Esquivel isn’t seeking out opportunities; they’re coming to him. “No matter what happens, you win either way by being on the show,” he told The Society Diaries in this exclusive interview. He goes on, “The crazy part is the people around the world that are approaching me.” Esquivel has already received several offers to develop his own line and that complements his recent win at the Austin Fashion Awards as a Trailblazer Award recipient.

By simply listening to him, it is clear that fame has not clouded Esquivel’s insight. With all of his recent success, Esquivel still recognizes from where he came and continues to draw inspiration from his hometown. “Austin is a big melting pot, I get influenced by people off the street and I always people watch,” Esquivel mused. “Earlier today I did a TV spot and I got to see some of the UT fashion students’ work up close and I loved seeing their input and fresh ideas.”

When asked about his favorite Austin locations, Esquivel answered in authentic Austinite fashion. Bird’s Barbershop, Manuel’s Mexican restaurant, Barton Springs, and of course, The Domain, were among his top picks. Esquivel also has a strong social conscience. In early May, Esquivel coordinated an event with the Austin Symphony to help increase attendance amongst the gay and lesbian community and he has spoken to several schools within the Austin district about bullying. “It is very important to me to get the word out there and let kids know it is ok to start following your dreams,” noted Esquivel. “Look at me, I’m about to be 50. It’s never too late to get started on doing what you love.”

Esquivel credits Austin as “one of the strongest groups of fashion…I could almost compare us to Berlin,” he proclaimed, a city where he went during the Project Runway series this season to draw inspiration for a design challenge. “Austinites are very current.” Additionally, Esquivel loves discussing his adoration for his home state. “There was a person on the show who made a comment saying that Texas is just about pink and pageants. I thought that was disrespectful. I’m a proud Texan and yes we do love our pageants and pink and big hair, but do not get me started. We have so much more than that.”

Before the show began, Esquivel was working in sales and also had a clientele of women who he designed for around the clock. “Once the show started, many new clients started contacting me, but I had to stay true to my original ladies,” said Esquivel.

Since the show began, Esquivel has learned some valuable lessons as both a professional and an individual. First, as he says, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” he said. Secondly, he confides, “You just have to take that criticism with a grain of salt. Being honest with others has been really big, too.” Then, finally, he shares, “learning how to work with others; if something negative, then turn it into a positive.”

When I ask Esquivel to describe his personal style, he is sure to mention that significance of his favorite pieces goes beyond material possessions. “I have my teddy bear pin from Prada that I always wear, it’s very sentimental to me. I also have a skull Alexander McQueen ring that I have on my finger almost all the time.” He describes his style as “very eclectic” even though he loves black, white, and khaki. He also has a taste for unusual pants, saying “I have several pairs of printed pants and I love to mix things.”

Throughout our entire discussion his voice radiated with gratitude. “Now that this is what I’m able to do full-time, I am going to work towards establishing my line and I think people should be able to afford everything that I do,” he offers. “I can’t believe how fast everything has happened, but I’m loving every minute of it. It is all good.”