Success on the runway: RGV models look back on an unforgettable year in fashion

Over the past 12 months, the fashion industry has taken fans to some unique places, sometimes literally.

Models walked through a blizzard for Balenciaga’s Fall-Winter 2022/2023 collection. which debuted at Paris Fashion Week in March.

Later in the year, Gucci acquired 68 sets of identical twins for its Spring/Summer 2022/2023 collection. for Milan Fashion Week in September.

That same month, at New York Fashion Week, tennis superstar Serena Williams opened the Vogue World fashion show after announcing her retirement from the sport.

Looking back, it was a lot to take in.

It was also a good year for the Rio Grande Valley, with four models, Fish Fiorucci, Star Luna, John Judas and Abril Silva, representing the region for national and international campaigns and shows.

Fish Fiorucci is a household name when it comes to modeling in South Texas.

The 25-year-old model from Brownsville, who is non-binary, also works as a manager at their casting and management agency f10, which represents local talent, and has had a year to remember.

In 2022, Fiorucci has already added to his rising star status by walking the spring-summer 2023 shows for LUAR and Maisie Wilen, four separate Balenciaga shows—and posing with Madonna for Paper magazine.

Fiorucci describes the experience of working with a cultural icon like Madonna as one for the books.

“It was such a moment to work with Madonna. They are definitely one of the artists I’ve wanted to work with for so long and finally got to put it on my bucket list,” said Fiorucci.

Fiorucci began modeling at the age of 15, working as an unpaid model at a local Gap store in Brownsville’s Sunrise Mall.

Now, in addition to walking in Paris Fashion Week, Fiorucci splits his time juggling work and teaching at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, mentoring new models and changing the narrative about fashion and the South Texas region.

“I feel that when I talk to people about the Valley, I want them to take it seriously. I want designers to come here to show their work and send us their pieces. I want Dolina to be close to real fashion. I want something luxurious. I want couture down here. I want the avant-garde,” said Fiorucci.

Two models that Fiorucci develops at f10 have booked their first fashion shows for New York Fashion Week in September.

McAllen models John Judas, 22, and Star Luna, 25, walked the spring-summer 2023 collection for Willy Chavarria at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City.

Both models were two of five who went to New York with Fiorucci before the start of fashion week to attend the casting.

“I remember going to the casting and feeling like he did well. Then Fish got an email and told me I got it. Honestly, I cried a little. I just didn’t think it would come to this moment that I would be in New York at Fashion Week walking for Willy,” said Judas.

Judas got his start while still in school, modeling in James Nikki Rowe High School’s student fashion show before meeting Fiorucci in 2019 and becoming one of the faces of f10.

After almost two years of preparation and training, Judas says that being able to walk for a designer like Willy Chavarria is a great opportunity.

“Because his brand is super Latino and Hispanic, and my dad is from Mexico. So I just felt great walking for that brand,” Judas said.

The Luna star, who spent four years developing her skills as an Instagram model ahead of her runway debut, says standing backstage at the show and waiting to go on was emotional.

“It was a spiritual moment for me,” Luna said.

Instead of casting, Luna says the designer and a friend reached out via Instagram with an invitation to participate in the show—being the first non-binary and LGBTQ model to walk for Willy Chavarria, as far as Luna knows.

After the show, Luna says it was a process of accepting things as they come.

“I had to learn to live in the moment at that moment. Because after that you are in a way at the height of a model. And you just want to know, ‘what’s next?’ Luna said.

What follows is a move to New York City, where Luna plans to continue to grow in skills and brand, with further work already underway with Willy Chavarria.

Another model from McAllen, 21-year-old Abril Silva, appeared in the campaign for a unique capsule kit in collaboration with Juventus FC and the Liberal Youth Ministry.

Introduced by In The Park Management in Mexico City, Silva was flown to Guadalajara in July to campaign.

At first, Silva remembers being happy to be chosen. Looking over the cast list, Silva realized that the Juventus in question was not a clothing brand that happened to bear the name of a soccer club—but the actual Juventus soccer club from Italy.

“Then I got excited because the Mexican brand working with Juventus is amazing. This doesn’t happen all the time,” Silva said.

Silva, born in Hidalgo County and raised in Reynosa until age 15, says fashion was a love from an early age. As a child, she remembers sketching and designing clothes, enjoying creativity and fashion expression.

While studying nutrition at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Silva hopes that with all the professional strides made this year, fashion will continue to play a role in the future.

“I told my mom that I want to do fashion as much as life allows. If I get to 50, whatever age Naomi Campbell is now, and I’m still modeling…I really want to put all my energy and effort into it,” Silva said.

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