Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Project Runway" Stars: Where Are They Now?

Another season of "Project Runway" is coming to an end. There was a lot of brouhaha about "PR's" move to Lifetime for its sixth season and the relocation from Parsons the New School for Design in New York to Los Angeles' Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. And we were on the fence about the new weekly half-hour companion show about the models, featuring behind-the-scenes views from their perspective. But we have to admit it all worked out for the best.

The season kicked off with a two-hour "Project Runway: All-Star Challenge" special, in which eight previous contestants returned for a one-shot chance at $100,000. Coming back were Daniel Vosovic and Santino Rice from Season 2; Jeffrey Sebelia, Uli Herzner, and Mychael Knight from Season 3; Chris March and Sweet P from Season 4; and Korto Momolu from Season 5. Daniel took home the title we felt he had rightly earned all those years ago.

Seeing all these names and waiting to see who gets crowned this season's winner, got us wondering what some of our favorite former contestants been up to since leaving the design room. Here are three designers from every season who are still making it work.

Season 1 Winner: Jay McCarroll
Immediately after becoming the first "Project Runway" winner, McCarroll filmed a one-hour documentary, "Project Jay," showing his attempt to establish himself in the fashion world. In 2008 Jay made another film. This one, a two-hour feature doc called "11 Minutes," chronicled his post-"Project Runway" journey as he designed, showed, and attempted to sell his clothing line, Transport, culminating in his first solo show at New York's Fashion Week. That same year, Jay launched his online boutique, the Colony. In his own words, the Colony is "a hive of sorts ... the website is the hive, and the designers are the worker bees, and the products are like the honey, but much less sticky of course, and the whole shebang is called 'the Colony.' Oh ... and I'm the queen bee :)." Despite rumors that Jay was penniless and homeless, McCarroll reportedly lives very comfortably on New York's Upper West Side.

Season 1 Runner-Up: Kara Saun
"Project Runway" catapulted Kara Saun into her new role as a TV costumer and designer to the stars. She currently creates wardrobe for "America's Best Dance Crew," and prior to that dressed the casts of "True Beauty" and "What I Like About You," starring Amanda Bynes and Jennie Garth. She also gave the Cheetah Girls their look on their 2008 world tour. In addition, Kara designs custom fashions for high-end Hollywood clients, including Heidi Klum, Vanessa Minnillo, Vanessa Williams, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Eddie Murphy, Lil' Kim, and Snoop Dogg.

Season 1 Fourth Place: Austin Scarlett
Even though he came in fourth place, Austin Scarlett was probably the most memorable character of "Project Runway" Season 1. Austin was one part Truman Capote, one part Andy Warhol, one part Charles Nelson Reilly, and a smidge of Carol Channing. After the show ended, he designed two self-named couture collections and appeared as a fashion commentator on several shows for E!, MTV, and Logo. In 2006 he took a job at the bridal design house Amsale as creative director of its luxury collection. He left the job in early 2009 and has been making costumes for the New York stage, most recently dressing the cast of the dance/rock opera "Remember Me," which had its world premiere in January and was broadcast nationally on public television in early August.

Season 2 Winner: Chloe Dao
Since winning "Project Runway" Season 2, Chloe Dao's fashions have appeared in a range of venues, from museums to retail stores. In January 2007 her designs were featured in the "Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon" exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum, and that same year she signed a deal with QVC. Her 13-piece line, Simply Chloe Dao, sold out during the first televised broadcast. She's created a line of mobile technology and travel accessories sold at Target and Office Depot, and her wholesale line, DAO Chloe DAO, is available on her Lot 8 website, a company she formed before her "PR" days, named after her eight siblings.

Season 2 Runner-Up: Daniel Vosovic
Since coming in second on "PR" Season 2, Daniel has done all the typical designer stuff -- celebrity fashion, costumes, and runway shows -- but he has also published a book and designed a set of hotel uniforms. Daniel's book, "Fashion Inside Out," published in 2008, features a foreword by Tim Gunn and interviews with such fashion icons as Diane von Furstenberg and Todd Oldham. Daniel also teamed up with boutique hotel chain NYLO to give the staff a chic, cozy look. Every employee from bartenders and servers to front-desk staffers and concierges will be outfitted in his casual mix-and-match hoodies, pants, skirts, and jumpers. Hotel guests can even purchase the clothing that's so wearable you'd never guess it was a uniform. And for fans of Daniel's high-end fashion, don't give up on that clothing line. He plans to launch his very first collection during New York Fashion Week, February 2010.

Season 2 Third Place: Santino Rice
In our minds Santino Rice's biggest claim to fame will always be his spot-on imitation of Tim Gunn ("What happened to Andrae?"). Don't get us wrong: we loved his clothes, too, but it was his personality that made him last to the final three. And so it's only fitting that his post-"PR" career has included a lot of on-camera work, from judging the 2006 Miss Universe Pageant to a guest spot on "America's Most Smartest Model." Santino has done some designing, too, from fashion for high-end clients and his own line to cigarette packaging for Camel. But perhaps his best gig to date is his weekly spot as judge on Logo's "RuPaul's Drag Race." We have our fingers crossed he's returning for Season 2. In the meantime, we'll fill the Santino void with his appearance on the "All-Star Challenge."

Season 3 Winner: Jeffrey Sebelia
Truthfully, not a lot has changed for Jeffrey Sebelia since winning Season 3 of "Project Runway." Basically his $100,000 prize money paid off a loan he took out a few years before "PR" to start his company, Cosa Nostra. So it was back to business as usual: designing more CN clothing and starting a new line in 2008 called God Vig, which featured similar designs at lower retail costs. Jeffrey did try his hand at movie costuming (the live-action "Bratz"), but that work was not for him. And what's in his future? Seems like it could be helping other up-and-coming designers: He's part of a selection committee responsible for choosing three emerging designers who will show their collections at October's Downtown Los Angeles Fashion Week.

Season 3 Runner-Up: Uli Herzner
Remember Uli from Season 3? She was the German girl who designed that beautiful flowing floral dress ... over and over. We did love that dress, but we wished she had branched out a bit. It seems Uli is still designing that one dress, but now she has a TV series of her own on which to show it to us. "It's Very Uli" premiered on Plum TV in April and follows the designer/stylist around to photo shoots and red carpet events. It really is very Uli -- unique but slightly repetitive.

Season 3 Fourth Place: Mychael Knight
Mychael Knight may have come in fourth on the runway, but he came in first place in the hearts of "PR" fans, winning the first-ever $10,000 Fan Favorite award. He used his prize money to launch a unisex fragrance, MajK. Since the show ended, he's also launched a men's furnishing line, custom T-shirts for Starbucks, and a racy lingerie line. In front of the camera, Mychael made an appearance on last season's "Real Housewives of Atlanta" and appeared as a fashion commentator for the BET Hip Hop Awards and the BET Awards. In his spare time, he creates custom designs for such celebrities as Patti LaBelle and Jennifer Hudson.

Season 4 Winner: Christian Siriano
Christian Siriano, Season 4 winner and Fan Favorite, was the first "Project Runway" contestant to surface in the mainstream when he was parodied on "SNL" by Amy Poehler in a sketch about a fictitious reality series, "Fierce: The Hot Mess Make-Over Show." Christian's slang sayings like "fierce" and "hot tranny mess" infiltrated popular culture and helped make him possibly the most successful "PR" alum to date. Here's the short list of his post-"Runway" accomplishments: He appeared on "Ugly Betty" and designed costumes for the cast; he did a guest spot on "Make Me a Supermodel"; he had a bit part in Estelle's video for "No Substitute Love"; he designed a 15-piece collection for Puma; he created virtual prom wear for Gaia Online's virtual prom; he created a clothing line for; he has shown three collections at New York Fashion Week; he sold his fall 2009 collection to Saks Fifth Avenue; he created a maternity line for Moody Mamas and shoes and handbags for Payless; and last, but not least, he inked a deal with Victoria's Secret for his own makeup line. Tim Gunn once said he thought Christian is "this generation's Marc Jacobs." If this resume is any indication, he might be right.

Season 4 Fourth Place: Chris March
Chris March was the dude who got voted off part way through "Project Runway" Season 4 for being too theatrical but was brought back when a contestant left the show for medical reasons. He went on to appear in the finale. His collection was the one with the human hair. For the record, it's not like he scalped people; the hair he used was made from extensions, and we thought the designs were beautiful. Anyway, after leaving the show, Chris wrote a blog for following new "PR" contestants, doing weekly recaps, and making predictions about winners. Wonder if he's predicting himself as winner of the "All-Star Challenge"? If they do another transvestite design or a stage costume, he's a shoo-in. If he doesn't win, he'll most likely go back to his very successful costume design company with clients that include Madonna and Cirque du Soleil. He's also set to host a new reality TV show called "Fashion Cents," doing makeovers on a budget, and he's writing a book about costume design.

Season 4 Fifth Place: Sweet P Vaughn
Sweet P didn't even make it to the finals on Season 4, but fans loved her, and she'll be back for the "All-Star Challenge." Since the show, she's made several TV appearances, including "TV Guide Reality Chat," MTV's "Total Request Live," Bravo's "A-List Awards," and "Top Design." She also covered the spring 2009 Fashion Week for MTV News. Last November she launched a clothing line called "Ghosts in the Garden" that featured the artwork of her husband, Sage Vaughn. She also participated in a San Francisco charity fashion show for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, called "Discarded to Divine," to benefit the homeless. For the show she turned an old velvet robe into an elegant evening gown. Sounds comfy.

Season 5 Winner: Leanne Marshall
Most recent "Project Runway" winner Leanne Marshall just released a clothing line on and is preparing for her first independent show at New York's Fashion Week this fall. Plus, Leanne was honored this summer at Los Angeles' Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (the very place the next season of "PR" was filmed) in its annual exhibition called "The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design" with an exhibit of her "Runway" collection. Her line is shown alongside TV costume designs from "Gossip Girl," "The L Word," "The Tudors," "John Adams," and "Dancing With the Stars." In addition, Leanne still has her own trendy West Coast clothing line, Leanimal.

Season 5 Runner-Up: Korto Momolu
Last season's fan favorite, Korto Momolu, pretty much returned to her Arkansas life as usual with hubby and daughter after "PR" ended. Usual, that is, except for the occasional clothing order for dignitaries like Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf or one of the dozens of motivational speaking engagements she makes. And if you happen to be in Little Rock on November 13, you can help the city celebrate Korto Momolu-Briggs Day. Or if you want a little piece of Korto to keep all to yourself, check out her jewelry line at

Season 5 Third Place: Kenley Collins
Kenley Collins' biggest news since "PR" was her arrest last year for assaulting her boyfriend with a cat -- yes a cat -- some apples, and a laptop computer. Guess she just threw the first things she could get her hands on. We all saw on "Runway" that she was good at throwing fits and attitude, even at the mild-mannered Tim Gunn. And frankly, we were a bit shocked when the vintage-style queen made it into the finals. But "PR" fame has been good to her despite the whole cat thing. She's spent the past year designing custom bridal gowns and party dresses, selling her trademark feather headpieces like hotcakes, and preparing for the August 31 debut of her first full line of sportswear. Her Amelia Earhart collection (inspired by the aviator's passion, adventurous spirit, and style) include separates, gowns, and menswear.

Written by Amy & Nancy Harrington
Originally for

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