Success on the runway: RGV models look back on a memorable year in fashion

In the past 12 months, the fashion industry has taken devotees to unique places, sometimes literally.

The models went through a blizzard as the Balenciaga Fall-Winter 2022/2023 collection 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 show after announcing her retirement from the sport.

Looking back, it was a lot.

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 runway 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, works as a manager at their casting and management agency f10, which represents local talent, and has had quite a year in mind.

In 2022, Fiorucci joined an already rising star by walking the spring-summer 2023 runway shows for LUAR and Maisie Wilen, four separate Balenciaga shows—and a photo shoot with Madonna for Paper magazine.

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

“It was a great moment to work with Madonna. They’re definitely one of the artists I’ve wanted to work with for so long and finally got to check that off my bucket list,” said Fiorucci.

Fiorucci began modeling at the age of 15 when she worked as an unpaid mannequin model at the local Gap store at the Sunrise Mall in Brownsville.

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

“I feel like 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 the valley to be within reach of real fashion. I want something fancy. I want style down here. I want avant-garde,” Fiorucci said.

Two of the models Fiorucci is developing at f10 booked their first shows at 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 New York’s Marble Collegiate Church.

The two models were two of five who traveled with Fiorucci to New York before the start of fashion week to attend castings.

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

Judas started while still at 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 nearly two years of preparation and coaching, Judas says 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 felt great walking for this brand,” said Judas.

The Luna star, who spent four years developing her skills as an Instagram model before 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 friend reached out to Instagram with an invitation to be in the show — the first model who is non-binary and LGBTQ to walk for Willy Chavarria, as far as Luna knows.

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

“At that point I had to learn to live in the present moment. Because after that you’re kind of on a modeling high. And you just want to know what happens next? Luna said.

What’s next is a move to New York, where Luna plans to continue developing her skills and brand, with further work already underway with Willy Chavarria.

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

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

At first, Silva remembers how happy she was to be chosen. Silva went through the casting sheet and realized that the Juventus in question was not a clothing brand that happened to be named after a football club – but the actual Juventus football club from Italy.

“That was when I was excited because the collaboration of the Mexican brand with Juventus is amazing. That doesn’t happen all the time,” Silva said.

Born in Hidalgo County and raised in Reynosa until she was 15, Silva says fashion has been a love since she was young. She remembers sketching and designing clothes as a child, enjoying the creativity and expression that fashion offers.

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

“I told my mom I wanted to do fashion as life allowed me. If I make it to 50 or however old 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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