The cartoon series will make its debut on the Disney channel in July, with “Young & Hungry” actress Aimee Carrero providing the voice of the brave and adventurous teenager who saves her kingdom from an evil sorceress and must learn to rule until she is old enough to be queen. After appearing in season 11 of the fashion design show, Aguilar was later hooked up with Disney through one of the show’s judges, Tim Gunn.
As the voice for the Baileywick butler character on Disney Junior’s “Sophie The First,” Gunn was the resource Disney turned to when it needed a designer to create a ballgown for Elena of Avalor. After meeting Disney Junior’s senior vice president of original programming Joe D’Ambrosia in the company’s Los Angeles office, Aguilar was encouraged to create whatever she imagined. Her only requirement was to add a seam at the waist of whatever dress she designed, because otherwise it would look too long to viewers.
Drawing on her South American heritage, Aguilar created a gown with a print — a first for a Disney princess. Aguilar said she tapped into a childhood memory of her grandmother embroidering colorful mandala flowers. “The feeling to it is very Peruvian, Inca-like,” she said. “When they first showed me Princess Elena and I read a little bit about that story, it took me back to that memory. ”
The character Elena of Avalor has a few incarnations. On “Sofia The First,” she appeared “trapped” on Princess Sofia’s necklace, Aguilar said. Aguilar’s ballgown also provided the inspiration for the dress that an Elena character will wear at Walt Disney World Resort starting in August and Disneyland Resort in the fall.
Growing up five hours north of Rio de Janeiro in “the little farmer’s town” of Nanuque, the designer said Minas Gerais, the region she is from, means “gold mine.” She declined to lay out the terms of her Disney deal, but said the pay is considerably more than her own collection’s $50,000 annual sales.
Post-high school, Aguilar relocated to Danbury, Conn., with her family and enrolled at Fashion Institute of Technology, commuting four hours each day to attend classes her first year. After graduation and Bravo, she started her own signature collection, which she continues to sell online and through select specialty stores.
Designing for animation took some getting used to since her first sketch — a stylized fashion one with elongated legs — left the Disney team “so confused.” Eager to get the assignment, she said she learned quickly “not to outline” and to have colors bleed into each other. “Under the Gunn” competitor Oscar Garcia-Lopez had also been in the running.
With a three-year-old son Henzo and one-month-old daughter named Kaya, Aguilar is excited that little girls will soon be playing with Elena of Avalor dolls and wearing costumes once Disney starts selling them this summer. “This experience opened my mind to other experiences you can have as a fashion designer. We’re often so caught up in designing lines and doing trade shows. At the end of the day, you get so much more money and exposure from collaborations with major brands,” she said. “This is a dream come true. I really wanted it to be something that has to do with my upbringing.”