Q&A: Project Runway Designer Nathalia JMag

The Framingham native dishes about her Bay State roots and experience so far on the high-stakes fashion competition.

Nathalia JMag Project Runway

Photo Courtesy of A&E Networks / Barbara Nitke

If you’ve been watching season 15 of Project Runway, you may have noticed a greater-than-usual trio of representatives from the Bay State. A few episodes in, all three up-and-coming designers from Massachusetts are still “in.”

Nathalia JMag, 23, is one of those designers. JMag is a graduate of Framingham State University (where she met fellow contestant Cornelius Ortiz) who specializes in ready-to-wear, special occasion, outerwear, and leisure–all with a futuristic flair. As the competition continues to unfold, we spoke with JMag about growing up in Massachusetts, her fashion inspirations, and all the dirt on this season’s happenings.

How did studying in the Boston area influence your trajectory in fashion?

I was inspired by the weird artistic people who like to try new things, the ones who get funny looks when walking on Newbury Street because they’re wearing a crazy outfit. Like them, I wanted to be different and stand out. I still want to appeal to the average Bostonian, but my designs are things that haven’t been seen before.

How would you describe Boston’s style?

I don’t want to sound like an a—hole, but I feel like there’s a lack of diversity in Boston fashion. What people here think is fashionable is very straight and narrow.

Who are your fashion icons?

I always gravitate toward Rihanna and Gwen Stefani. I also admire the girls from Scream Queens. They like to wear really bright colors and unusual pieces.

How would you describe your style and brand?

Different, eclectic, and funky.

What has been your favorite challenge so far?

So far, the black light challenge was my favorite because I got to have a lot of fun with color. Because of the nature of the challenge, I got a free pass to use neon, and I really loved my look.

What can you tease about upcoming episodes?

Expect a lot. Expect more beautiful designs from everyone across the board. The further along we get in the competition, the tighter and more interesting it gets.

What do you think of your competition, especially the other two contestants from Massachusetts?

I went to college with Cornelius, and we were actually really close friends before going on the show. He pushed me to audition for Project Runway with him. I didn’t know Erin [Robertson, a current frontrunner] before the show, but I think she’s a good designer. She was definitely stiff competition because she also likes to use color, and the judges are responding really well to her so far.

Cornelius has already built a reputation for throwing shade, rubbing many contestants the wrong way. What do you think of that?

I knew that Cornelius was going to be misunderstood because people don’t really like when others are very outspoken and opinionated. It was a competition, so I think he just turned it up a couple of notches by “throwing shade.” At the end of the day, everyone was throwing shade. Cornelius was just the funniest, so they aired what he was saying.

What is your biggest takeaway from the show?

I realized I am a competitive person, which I never saw myself as before. I also learned I’m capable of doing a lot under pressure. It was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been in my life, but I love that because when you’re out of your comfort zone, you grow the most.

What’s next for you?

I’m continuing to grow my brand. I’m working on a few collections right now and have about four fashion shows lined up for the next couple of months, so I have a lot to do.

This interview has been edited and condensed. Project Runway airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Lifetime, mylifetime.com.