Season 1: Jay McCarroll
Jay won the first-ever Project Runway with his kooky and colorful creations, and was also the first (and only) contestant to turn down the $100,000 prize due to an allegedly fishy contractual clause. Bravo gave him his own hour-long special in 2006 called Project Jay, then there was some confusion about him being possibly homeless (he wasn’t!), then he won VH1′s Celebrity Fit Club (and lost 40 lbs). Since then, he’s returned to his home-(see…he has a home!) state of Pennsylvania, where he currently teaches at Philadelphia University and runs a blog with updates on his designs and whereabouts.
Season 2: Chloe Dao
Quiet Chloe had some tough competition to win Season 2, but managed to beat out both cutie pie Daniel V and zany Santino for the prize. She returned to Houston soon after the finale, where she owns and operates a boutique called Lot 8 and an online shop. She has designed several ready-to-wear collections, as well as a bridal line. Most recently, she showed her Spring/Summer 2012 collection at Houston Fashion Week in October, and has worked on several collaborations, including producing designs for QVC, patterned suitcases for Zappos, and electronics accessories for Nuo.
Season 3: Jeffrey Sebelia
Cocky, neck-tattooed Jeffrey, who really, really loved his son but was portrayed as the meany of Season 3, impressed us all with his punk aesthetic and zipper add-ons. Following his Season 3 win, the seemingly bummed-out designer admitted to New York Magazine that he was “totally broke” after paying off loans and had resorted to designing costumes for a [slutty dolls]Bratz movie. But we all know that after the rain, there comes a rainbow! More recently, Sebelia was named head designer of LA-based knitwear brand Fluxus, and last spring, he released an edgy, punk-inspired (what else?) childrenswear collection for the Kingston Rossdales of the worldcalled La Miniatura.
Season 4: Christian Siriano
Christian was the youngest Project Runwaywinner, and has without a doubt been the most successful (and quotable – Who didn’t say ‘fierce’ and ‘hot tranny mess’??) following the finale. In 2010, his eponymous fashion line had racked up more than $1.2 million in sales and he was named as one of Crain’s “Top 40 Entrepreneurs Under 40.” At just 26, he has already had several collaborations and partnerships with Payless (over which his talent agency sued him), Victoria’s Secret, LG, Starbucks, and Spiegel. His designs have become red carpet go-to’s for celebs like Christina Hendricks, Rosario Dawson, and Heidi Klum, and are regularly featured in major fashion mags like Vogue, Marie Claire, and Nylon.
Season 5: Leanne Marshall
Following her win on Season 5, Ms. Marshall moved from Portland, Oregon to Brooklyn, where she currently has a design studio. She has sold her handcrafted ready-to-wear, accessories, and bridal gowns – including her collections’ samples – through her Etsy site since 2007, and has an approval rating of 100% from customers. She has shown at several New York Fashion Weeks, made an eco-conscious colection for Bluefly.com, and most recently designed some cute little cocktail dresses for returning client Paula Abdul to wear during her X Factor judging stint.
Season 6: Irina Shabayeva
Irina practically glided through Season 6, never once landing in the bottom-three of a challenge. Since winning Project Runway, she has created capsule collections for Macy’s INC International Concepts and HSN.com, as well as designing a bridal collection and several costumes worn by contestants on Dancing with the Stars. Irina presented her Spring/Summer 2012 collection at the Audi Showroom during New York Fashion Week in September.
Season 7: Seth Aaron Henderson
So nice, they named him twice. Season 7 winner Seth Aaron, who lives in Vancouver with his wife and kids, has since shown collections in NYC, LA, and Portland, OR. In 2011, he collaborated with electronics accessories brand Maroo on a “high fashion” collection of iPad cases (they exist), and is now focusing on creating wearable clothing from recycled and sustainable materials. His Fall/Winter 2012 collection, in conjunction with eco-friendly apparel company Earthtec, will feature pieces made from recycled plastic bottles. He’s also ditched the emo hair and guyliner – another massive accomplishment!
Season 8: Gretchen Jones
Gretchen’s Season 8 win was pretty controversial – because everyone and her mom (including mine) and Tim Gunn was rooting for runner-up Mondo Guerra. But that’s not actually Gretchen’s fault, so we’ll put our bitterness aside for now. Alright now, where were we?
Ms. Jones, who favored natural materials and bohemian influences, now resides in Brooklyn and, through her line, supports Save the Garment Center, an NYC-based organization that promotes ethical business practices for craftspeople. In July, she launched an exclusive jewelry collection through Piperlime.com, donating 100% of the profits to charity Aid to Artisans. Images of her recent RTW collections are available on her website, as well as jewelry for purchase.
Season 9: Anya Ayoung-Chee
Anya is the most recent winner of the franchise, and an impressive one at that: She claims to have only learnt how to sew a few months before her stint on PR, and seemed to discover new fabric techniques as she went along – much to the dismay of many competitors. The former Miss Trinidad and Tobago (and obvious Heidi-fave) was voted ‘fan favorite’ for the entirety of Season 9 and won the judges over with her collection of easy, Caribbean-inspired dresses. She also starred in a pretttty steamy sex tape. Currently, the only thing available for purchase through her site is a pack of pins for $18 – but then, it has only been two months.
Season 10: Dmitry Sholokhov
Dmitry Sholokhov, originally from Belarus, was the one who, in the words of Tim Gunn, "made it work," winning the season with a spring collection at New York City Fashion Week inspired by geometric shapes and architectural design. Sholokhov is now designing his own line and still dancing (he was a former ballerina!).
To most unknown and/or struggling designers trying to break into the industry, winning the grand prize on a season of Project Runway sounds like an absolute dream come true: $100,000, a major fashion mag editorial, an ultra-expensive technology suite, website partnerships, instant name recognition, and endless opportunities for publicity.
But what happens when the cameras stop rolling? When Tim Gunn is no longer hovering over your shoulder in the workroom, telling you what 'worries' him? Or when, instead of competing against 15 designers in a challenge, you're competing with potentially hundreds of thousands of designers around the world?
We did a bit of Interweb-snooping to find out what the winners of all ten Project Runway seasons have been up to lately, and as you may have suspected, a lot of them have reverted to general obscurity in that little fish/big pond scenario. Because when the reality show ends, real reality sets in – and as you've probably noticed, not everyone has ended up like Christian Siriano. But the most important thing is, they're all still working at it: Current career ventures range from selling on Etsy, designing a children's line, collaborating on electronics cases (a popular option), and creating clothes from recycled plastic bottles.
Take a look at our roundup of past PR winners. Are you surprised by the success (or lack-thereof) that they've earned following their seasons?
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