New Kid on a New Block: Fashion Squad School

I first met Layana Aguilar in a visit to her Hudson Street sewing studio on Feb. 20, 2020 — and you know what unfolded right after that. I never did get to a feature on her kids sewing school, but like all good folks who can operate a sewing machine, she and her staff spent much of that spring sewing PPE for hospitals.

And now she has bigger news: she and her Fashion Squad School have taken a two-story space on Warren that allows her to expand her class offerings (there are now two classrooms plus a courtyard) and open a retail store for her eponymous fashion line, Layana Aguilar.

Layana came to the states from Brazil to go to FIT and later worked as an assistant designer for Oscar de la Renta. She then appeared on Season 11 of Project Runway, and her work there allowed her to secure a gig designing the gown for the Disney princess Elena of Avalor and start her own label. (She and her husband, Philip Hordjik, and kids Henzo and Kaya live on Hudson and moved here four years ago. “The Upper West Side seemed a little old for us.”)

But when she was asked to teach an 8-year-old neighbor to sew, she tapped into an idea she had never considered. The boy designed and made a hoodie in two hours, and when he wore to school, it was a huge hit. The next week she had seven kids sewing in her living room, so she rented a second-floor commercial space in her building for after-school classes. Her students named the school. “It’s a fashion school, not just a sewing school,” she said. “I just brought my FIT program here.”

During the pandemic they ran classes on Zoom, but with so many retail spaces open now, it seemed like a good time to expand.

“If there’s any time to take a big risk it’s now,” Layana said. “This is such a good program, but no one knew about us — we were so hidden.”

She and her husband spent four months looking for a space, almost settling on one a block down. But then the landlord here met her offer. The goal is to have 100 kids coming each week after school, with privates in the mornings and a class for low-income kids on Saturdays. She and her staff have stretched every penny on the renovation — even painting the space themselves to save that $5000. “We have made so many trips to Ikea, the delivery guy now knows us.”

When we spoke two weeks ago, she already had her first party booked in the new space — a tie-dye party that she hoped to hold in the courtyard; classes started this week.

Layana had given up on her own retail store for her brand, but with online sales booming during the pandemic, she’s now in a better position to open both the ground-floor store and an atelier in the back, where she will make the clothes to order. More on that when it opens, but her approach — and passion — is slow fashion — upcycled, one-of-a-kind coats for fall, made-to-order pieces that are turned around in 10 days.

“I don’t want to support fast fashion any more — I even started making my kids pajamas.” she said. “Plus sewing is a superpower. You dream of something, you put it on paper and the next thing you know you’re wearing it.”

Fashion Squad School
55 Warren Street | West Broadway & Church



  1. Layana is a legend! She and her team have singlehandedly created this wave of neighborhood kids who know how to sew. Fashion Squad is such a gift to Tribeca and I wish them all the best in the new space!

    • Layana is phenomenal! Her social media presence is one of the most engaging and innovative too!

      Love her content, the school’s growth, vision and creativity it inspires the kids.

      Congratulations and keep it up!

  2. Great story. So cool.

  3. Not mentioned in the article is her amazing summer camps for kids – my daughter who had never sewed before created three outfits and accessories in a week and then rocked a runway in them. The pride the kids have in their creations is a joy to see and a reflection of the wonderful classes they run, congrats on the new space!

  4. This is cool!! Good luck!

  5. Is this open to adults. I would love to learn how to sew.

  6. She’s an amazing human being, very talented, creating and biggest inspiration for another, congratulations on your new journey!!! You and your family deserve it.👏👏💪🏼