City Pulse

By Charu Suri


Project Runway ain’t no joke for those of us who can’t thread a needle. So when BeautyNews heard about Bacardi Limon’s “Express Your Style Competition” which was held last Thursday — where five dressmakers competed to make gowns in front of a Bacardi-infused live audience — we just had to check it out.


Holly Dunlap, Creative Director, HOLLYWOULD, Jayne Chase and Jennifer Goodkind, A Fashionable Life, Hillary Townsend, Marketing Manager, 24Seven, Inc., Tanya Jensen-Hawver, Fashion Editor, The DAILY, Patricia Samaniego, Express Your Style Fashion Design Competition Winner, Louis Sarmiento, The DAILY, Vanessa Minnillo, MTV VJ and Entertainment Tonight Correspondent and Natalia Iglesias, Marketing Manager, Bacardi Flavored Rums

I know it’s not genteel to admit, but it’s fun to see other people sweat. All that desperate cutting, sewing and reaching for the needle to see if the dress they make will turn into an evening gown or a sock is exhilarating. Will your favorite contestant win? Will the creative genius come from a future John Galliano or Zandra Rhodes? Can you tell a good pintuck from a bad one? These are all important questions and the correct answers can score you brownie points in cocktail party conversations.

The five contestants were picked from around the country. The designers were told incorporate some element of the “Bacardi Limon” lemon in their gowns. Unfortunately for them, drinking it while sewing didn’t count. Fortunately for me, that element was included in the ‘watching’ portion of the competition.

Ask me to design a lemon inspired article of clothing and you’re likely to get a citrus-laden Carmen Miranda get-up. But not these pros. Take a look at the designers’ finished products below. I was prepared to pucker when I first learned of the design challenge, but found that most of the final products had real a-peel (hardy har har)


The winning dress is in the middle, made of silk chiffon with a big bow

The exquisitely stylish Vanessa Minnillo, MTV VJ and Entertainment Tonight correspondent, served as one of the judges. BeautyNews caught up with her and asked her what she thought of the experience.

BeautyNews: So how was the competition for you?

VM: I was wondering how they were going to think of five different flavors of the Bacardi Limon in the dresses, and they came up with five different amazing, unique designs. So, I was blown away.

BeautyNews: So which one did you like?

VM: There was something about each dress, each designer that stuck out for me. One was very eloquent, one was very formal…that’s why there were five panels of judges.

BeautyNews: And you personally, what are you inspired by, fashion-wise?

VM: Honestly, it depends on my mood. I just don’t go off one list or one outfit or one designer. If I feel fun and funky then I’m going to go with that, if I feel very dainty and floral, I’ll wear that. Sometimes I’ll feel like a baseball hat and jeans kind of girl. It’s my mood. Because if you’re not in a sexy mood and you’re wearing a sexy kind of dress, you can’t pull it off. And if you’re feeling sexy, I think you can pull anything off!

BeautyNews: The dress you’re wearing, it’s beautiful. What designer is that?

VM: Nanette Lepore. The shoes are Hollywould and she’s one of the judges.

We also caught up with some of the designers and asked them about their experience. “I wanted to keep mine very lightweight and effortless,” says Patricia Samaniego, whose creation earned the prize of the evening. “I had fifteen to twenty designs and I narrowed it down to this one. The whole experience was like a marathon,” she said. “It’s like Project Runway without the drama.” She graduated from F.I.T. in 1998 and currently lives in Las Vegas.

Another contestant, Aeran Park, an assistant professor of Fashion Design at Mary Mount College in New York, said, “I designed the last dress (on the right). I wanted to show a little bit of skin,” she laughs. “At first I thought about the lemon taste, so I wanted to make it simple and elegant but also add an element of “sourness” (like a lemon) and make it risky.”

Carly J. Cais flew all the way from Honolulu, Hawaii to attend the competition. A stay at home mom, she designs in her spare time and also sells her merchandise at (for “Kinder Acts of Random). Cais wore a dress similar to the one she made at the cocktail reception. “The experience was awesome,” she said. “I’m very lucky to enter the competition from Hawaii.”

The design contest winner took home a check for $5000, but everyone agreed that the experience and exposure were the most important part of the competition for all of the finalists.

Originally published March 2007



Leave a Comment

One Response to “Sweet-Tarts:
Bacardi Limon’s Design Competition Gets Juicy”

Stephanie Says:

I was curious to know if Carly J. Cais’ spindle-backed dress would eventually be available to purchase anywhere?

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