Project Runway Winners

Sunday, August 7 by Marina Szaven

The five best Project Runway winners are not EVERY winner of the fashion fiesta and human drama that’s  makes the show a hit. Apologies to those fans of Gretched, the nickname for the Season 8 “winner” Gretchen Jones, whose frowning, granola countenance cast a shadow over the delightful bright spot of the eight season, Mondo Guerra. Leanne Marshall, winner Season 5, admirably focused on natural fibers for her collection, but she does not rank Top Five.  Irina Shabayeva is indeed talented, unfortunately, that droopy, ill-advised excursion to Los Angeles that was Season 6, just edges her out of Best Project Runway winners of All-time.

  1. Christian Serrano, winner Season 4. The topmost spot goes to that strange-haired, boy genius of feathers and “fierce.” Christian, by every measure, remains the most successful and complete winner of the show. Christian represents the best Project Runway winner because he has used the show to publish a book, start a line and dress celebrities. The man even elicited a smile from the ever straight-faced Victoria “Posh” Beckham. Also notable, a seriously touching life story, framed by the teeny tiny workroom/sleeping quarters, barely larger than a walk-in closet, from which his effusive, feathery finale-winning creations emerged.
  2. Jay McCarroll, winner Season 1. The first Project Runway winner captured the “coming from nowhere” ambition of the show, by quietly beginning the series as a bit of a wallflower. From a small rural town in Pennsylvania, he tended to hide behind his glasses, and didn’t score much notice. Then he whipped up a charming, Chrysler building top, and he started to demonstrate his unique and colorful aesthetic. His biting commentary and even-keeled response to the wackiest model in the show’s history earn him special credit, too. Curiously, he is the only winner to refuse the prize money. Last but not least, Jay is also the winner of another reality series, VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club, losing 40 pounds and his oversized glasses.
  3. Jeffrey Sebelia, winner Season 3. Granted, Uli Herzner, was just as worthy of the win, but Jeffrey simply wanted it more. The unexpected beauty in his final collection was matched by an unexpected personal story of suicide and desperation. Which brings to mind the adage, you never really know a man until you know the story behind his tattoo. Also, Sebelia’s Parisian yellow plaid confection of an evening gown remains one of the most memorable outfits of the “Project Runway” series.
  4. Chloe Dao, winner Season 2. In a season of wildly dramatic personalities, Chloe was the quiet steady designer that understood best how to highlight the female form. She didn’t score many wins during the season, but she demonstrated professionalism, team work, and simplicity have an important place in fashion, alongside the loud splashes. Unlike other winners, she didn’t use her winnings to try the bigger ponds of New York or Los Angeles for her future, but stuck with her hometown Houston and reportedly remains quite a success.
  5. Seth Aaron Henderson, winner Season 7. Sometimes, it is really great to see nice guys finish first, especially when the final competition was insufferably unpleasant. Second place designer, Emilio Sosa, had the audacity to be churlish to beloved mentor, Tim Gunn, and the tiresomely mod, Mila Hermanovski, spent the entire season mysteriously trapped in the '80s. So, happy family man, Seth, and his supportive wife, and two adorable kids seemed a much better place for the $100,000 to land. 

-Marina Chavez

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