UPDATED: It took Taylorsville High School student Ian Hernandez Rojas 57 hours and 11 rolls of duct tape to make a tuxedo for the 2023 Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest.
The time and effort paid off, as Duck Tape brand announced Wednesday that Hernandez won one of the two grand prizes — and a $10,000 scholarship — after receiving the most votes online for the best tux made from duct tape. (The other grand prize winner, for best dress, was Karla Torres Tejada of Los Angeles. The eight runners-up received $500 scholarships and a $100 Duct brand prize pack.)
Hernandez said he first learned of the contest a few years ago, when he saw someone online making a dress. He came across it again earlier this year, and was intrigued by the scholarship connected to the contest.
The tux pays homage to Hernandez’ Salvadoran culture, he told The Tribune. He drew inspiration from research he did, specifically about Aztec culture and Mayan gods, such as Kinich Ahau (the Mayan god of the sun) and Kukulkan (the Mayan god of weather and life).
“This year and last year, I’ve kind of been interested in where my parents are from and where my family’s from,” Hernandez said. He researched the Mayans’ history, wood carvings and art.
“I was inspired by their art, [and] to do it on the tux, and I just wanted to like pay tribute to our family roots,” he said.
The tux itself is made of black and gold-colored duct tape, as is his necktie. Hernandez also created an accompanying headpiece — with “feathers” of red, white, blue and gold ‚ and a snake in green, red and gold, representing Kukulkan. To construct the outfit, he also used wire, muslin and cardboard.
It is the first time Hernandez has ever created clothing out of duct tape, though he used fabric as an underlay to make the process easier, and to make sure the final product didn’t look too thin.
Hernandez said he started to learn how to sew during the COVID-19 pandemic, by making stuffed animals from a pattern. The snake design released right as the competition opened. Hernandez said he also has been designing for awhile.
“It took a while to do, especially like balancing it with school was a little stressful,” he said. “It wasn’t as difficult as I thought.”
Most of the issues he came across involved redoing parts of the tux, because pieces of tape would get stuck to each other. By the time he was finished, he said the rubbery smell of the duct tape was getting to him.
Hernandez said he didn’t show the tux to his mother until it was finished. She and his family members, far and wide, were proud of how he honored his roots.
Hernandez said his favorite detail of the tux is the sleeves.
“It was time-consuming because each sleeve took about five hours each,” he said, “but the sleeves were incredibly like fun to design and make. The headpiece, too, also turned out really nice.”
Taylorsville High School held its prom in April, Hernandez said, and he didn’t have the tux finished in time for him to wear it then.
The design was one of 10, chosen from nearly 200 entries, to be picked as a finalist for the contest.
Hernandez said he is leaning toward studying fashion merchandising in college, an interest spurred by the pieces he made and designed, but he hasn’t made up his mind what he wants to study. Winning the scholarship, he said, would help him get supplies, and spur him toward applying to a good college.