When Ven Budhu was five years old, he saw the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast.” It was a life-changing experience. Soon after, he was drawing Belle’s gown, and a lifelong love for women’s evening wear was born. Twenty three years later, he is designing dresses and is a contestant on “Project Runway.”
Budhu is appearing on season 10 of the Lifetime network reality competition, in which 16 designers battle for a chance to win $100,000 to start a fashion line, an exclusive collection at Lord & Taylor, a spread in Marie Claire magazine and other prizes.
In each episode the contestants are given a design challenge. After four episodes, Budhu has yet to hear “auf wiedersehen” from host Heidi Klum, and has won two challenges.
In between those first fashion sketches and the reality competition, Budhu, 28, learned a lot about clothing design.
Born in Guyana, he emigrated to America when he was four years old and grew up in South Ozone Park. Although he always had an interest in evening wear, it also helped his future fashion career living in a house with three older sisters.
After receiving associate and bachelor’s degrees from the Fashion Institute of Technology, during which he spent a year studying in Florence, Italy, he worked as a freelance fashion designer.
Last year he started his own fashion company, Gavaskar, which he runs out of his Kew Gardens apartment. Not straying far from the passion he’s had since childhood, he mostly focuses on high-end women’s ready-to-wear and evening clothing, and describes his style as “romanticism married with modern sophistication.”
His designs garnered some high-profile attention when he was selected as one of four emerging designers to participate in a runway show during this past February’s New York Fashion Week.
Now, as a “Project Runway” contestant, he knows that even if he doesn’t win, he can accelerate his design career.
“I thought about it for a long time,” said Budhu who has been a “Project Runway” fan since it premiered. “I’m still young and wanted to try out before I regretted it. The worst thing is regret.”
As expected, he was surprised when he landed one of the designer spots.
“When I found out, I was in an office, and couldn’t be as loud as I wanted to be,” he said.
He was also excited to be the first Indian contestant on the show.
Lifetime’s season 10 of “Project Runway,” which premiered on July 20, is still filming, and Budhu could only discuss the episodes that have already aired.
“Honestly, I was so in shock,” Budhu said about his wins in episodes two and three.
In particular, his episode three win was meaningful because the challenge was to create a red carpet dress for a past “Project Runway” designer to wear to the Emmy Awards. For years, Budhu has been obsessed with pre-award shows.
He describes his experience on the show so far as both fun and intense.
“Living with people you don’t really know and trying to get along with everyone is challenging,” he said, “especially with being away from family and your everyday life.”
But he believes his fashion industry experience has prepared him for the show.
“I know mentally and emotionally I’m very strong and I can handle the criticism.”
To see if Budhu wins season 10 of “Project Runway,” watch him on Lifetime Thursdays at 9 p.m.