Con­tes­tant be­lieves par­tic­i­pat­ing re­ward enough

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James Martinez says he’s in it for some­thing far more im­por­tant than mere money, a car and a fash­ion mag­a­zine spread. The Fort Worth, Texas, na­tive says he tried out for Sea­son 11 of Project Run­way, be­cause be­ing on the show brings in­stant val­i­da­tion as a fash­ion designer.

Not that Martinez would ob­ject to pock­et­ing US$100,000 (NZ$132,000) to start his own ap­parel line, be­ing handed the keys to a 2013 Lexus GS 350 and hav­ing his cloth­ing de­signs show­cased in Marie Claire mag­a­zine.

There’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing wrong with win­ning the big prize, he says.

But Martinez sees a big­ger pic­ture here.

To his way of think­ing, Project Run­way rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity to es­tab­lish him­self in a busi­ness where it’s hard for tal­ented un­knowns to cut through the clut­ter.

‘‘ Project Run­way has evolved over the years into such a big, big thing that it’s an hon­our just to get cho­sen to be on the show,’’ Martinez says. ‘‘So for me, it’s re­ally not about be­ing the win­ner. It’s about the recog­ni­tion it brings. It’s about es­tab­lish­ing th­ese ex­tra cre­den­tials.’’

Martinez is one of 16 de­sign­ers try­ing to prove he has what it takes to wow judges Heidi Klum, Zac Posen and Nina Garcia and to show his wares dur­ing New York Fash­ion Week.

For the first time, de­sign­ers will have to work in teams for ev­ery chal­lenge, so col­lab­o­ra­tive skills might prove to be as much a fac­tor as cre­ativ­ity, much like it of­ten is in the real world.

Martinez, who grad­u­ated from high school in 2001, says he has the tools to work well in group sit­u­a­tions.

‘‘I wanted to make sure that I did not por­tray any neg­a­tive en­ergy on the show,’’ he says.

This isn’t the first time Martinez has tried to get on Project Run­way.

Thou­sands of as­pir­ing de­sign­ers fill out ap­pli­ca­tions and try out ev­ery year. So merely mak­ing it as far as the first episode, he says, is a huge ac­com­plish­ment.

‘‘It’s very chal­leng­ing when they’re cast­ing, be­cause you don’t re­ally know what it is that they’re look­ing for,’’ Martinez says. ‘‘You just have to be your­self and hope that your tal­ent will speak for it­self. For­tu­nately, this time around, I was one of the ones they se­lected.’’

He says he had never been on tele­vi­sion be­fore do­ing this show.

‘‘The whole ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s very sur­real,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s a very crazy ex­pe­ri­ence, very fast­paced.’’

David Martin­dale

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