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The Evolution of Project Runway

The iconic television show, “Project Runway” has had its share of great designers, not-so-great legal issues and a whole “hot mess” in between. Here are the key players, best designers and most dramatic reality show moments from one of the best competitions ever created.

Michael Kors 
Distinguished (and brilliant) American sportswear designer Michael Kors has been with the show since its inception. Also a contributor to Harper’s Bazaar, Kors has an extremely rich 
history in the business.
He possesses a meticulous eye for fashion. Kors brings a professional, seasoned designer’s opinion to the judging table, and expects no less than perfection from “Project Runway” contestants.
Nina Garcia
She began judging “Project Runway” as Fashion Director at ELLE, but just this past year, Garcia was introduced as Fashion Director at Marie Claire Magazine. 
Garcia brings to the judging table the media point of view — an important perspective in the world of fashion. She knows how the outfit would look from both advertising and business perspectives and basically, if the idea will sell. Her opinion is respected, and more often than not, very accurate.
Heidi Klum
Noted for her work with Victoria’s Secret, Klum is the host of “Project Runway,” as well as a judge. Each time a designer is voted off the show, she says her signature catchphrase, “Auf Weidersehen,” as a farewell. Klum brings her industry experience to the judging table, with a knowledgeable opinion on ready-to-wear designs. Klum is still a working model and is currently signed to IMG Models in New York.
(Plus, she’s married to Seal. Best couple ever.)
Additionally, there is one guest judge who has a say in each challenge’s final runway show. Guest judges in the past have included Diane von Furstenberg, Francisco Costa, Betsey Johnson, Catherine Malandrino, Victoria Beckham, Tiki Barber and Apolo Anton Ohno. 
Tim Gunn
While Tim Gunn is not a judge on “Project Runway,” he is one of the key players in the show. Gunn is the mentor to the designers, coaching them periodically in the short time they have to construct their designs. 
Since the show aired, he has risen to fame with his slogan, “Make It Work,” the one thing he told pretty much every designer while critiquing his or her design. Today, he travels the country as a keynote speaker, still acts as mentor to the current Season 6 designers and has been Chief Creative Officer for Liz Claiborne since 2007. 
To give you a better picture of the “Project Runway” designers, these four contestants are my favorite from the series. They’ve each produced some of the most original work I’ve seen from any designer, out of “Project Runway” or not. 
Jay McCarroll
McCarroll was the winner of Season 1. A year after the season concluded in 2005, Bravo produced “Project Jay,” an hour-long feature show about McCarroll’s life after “Project Runway.”  Since then, there haven’t been offshoots like this one for any of the seasons’ winners. 
Upon designing the winning line, McCarroll was awarded a mentorship with Banana Republic and a $100,000 cash prize. He ended up turning down the prize so he could have the freedom to make his own exclusive deal, on his own time and on his own terms.
Actually, there was more to it than that.
Basically, the Weinstein Company is the corporation in charge of all production for “Project Runway.” In the agreement for Season 1, if Jay had accepted the prize, the Weinstein Company would have forever had a 10 percent ownership in the Jay McCarroll brand. Meaning, every garment he ever made for the rest of his life. Yeah, that wouldn’t be something I’d sign my name to either.
Since then, the Weinstein Company has changed the rules and removed that part of the agreement.
Daniel Vosovic
My favorite designer ever to come out of “Project Runway,” Vosovic had impeccable taste and a mature confidence no one on the show will ever be able to top.
Fresh out of design school, Vosovic became a finalist in Season 2 of “Project Runway.” He showed at Olympus Fashion Week, but in the end, lost to Chloe Dao.
Since the show aired, Vosovic has authored “Fashion Inside Out,” a book about the process of design from inception and execution to the beautiful, finished product. 
He also conducted interviews with Todd Oldham, Nina Garcia, Diane von Furstenberg and others, so his readers would be presented with other points of view.
Vosovic designed a new clothing line specifically for the book, and chronicled his process in drawings, photographs and detailed explanations.
“Fashion design is, at its most basic, an idea wrapped around the human body that can be manipulated into every configuration of fabric, thread and embellishment possible,” Vosovic says in the book’s preface. “Fashion is then, now, and the future.” 
Jeffrey Sebelia
Sebelia was the winner of Season 3. A recovering drug addict and alcoholic, Sebelia completely turned his life around after his roommate saved him from a suicide attempt about five years prior to being a contestant. From there, Sebelia entered rehab, and only a year later he was enrolled in sewing classes.
“It just dawned on me that I loved fashion,” he said in an interview with John Albert of the Los Angeles Times. “And from the minute I sat down at a sewing machine, I loved it. The minute I started draping fabric on a form, I loved it — more than any drug.”
He came on the show in 2006 and produced a creative and very editorial final line. He was crowned the winner, and the win was well-deserved.
Sebelia’s label, Cosa Nostra, Inc. was developed in 2003 in Los Angeles, and has since outfitted the likes of Gwen Stefani, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Elton John, Marilyn Manson and Dave Navarro. 
In the interview, Sebelia described his design aesthetic. “I want to create beauty in the way that I want to create it,” he said. “And I also want to express a certain amount of ugly that needs to be accepted as a part of life.” 
Since “Project Runway,” Sebelia has been busy designing Good Vig, an offspring line to Cosa Nostra, Inc. Good Vig boasts broader wearability and more accessible price points than Cosa Nostra, but still keeps traces of Sebelia’s distinctive eye for fashion. The line is now in its third season. 
Christian Siriano
The self-proclaimed creator of truly “fierce” fashion, Siriano gained instant fame upon winning Season 4 of “Project Runway.” The topic of discussion for couture lovers everywhere, Siriano’s work – throughout the season and in the final runway show — was impeccable. 
Gunn certainly had a lot to say about Siriano in a March 2008 interview with New York Magazine.
“I really believe he is his generation’s Marc Jacobs,” Gunn said. “I really do.”
And for those who are familiar with Jacobs, this is a huge statement to make. However,  I do believe Siriano lives up to that expectation.
Victoria Beckham, the guest judge for the final runway show, said she would wear any of his clothes — but was a client of Siriano’s for only a little while after the show ended. In an interview with Us Magazine in February of this year, Siriano declared Beckham was “over” him.
Despite the split, Siriano has moved on. Amy Poehler did a devastating impression of him in a Saturday Night Live sketch depicting his iconic hairstyle, legendary catchphrases and out-there personality. 
Since the show ended, Siriano designed a line of shoes for Payless Shoe Source, set for store release this fall. He is also working on a line for Charles Shyer’s movie “Eloise in Paris,” coming to theaters in 2010, and his line, “Christian V. Siriano,” debuted at New York Fashion Week in fall of 2008. He has shown every season since, and his entire fall 2009 collection was instantly picked up by Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. 
Season 6, the current season on Lifetime Television, actually finished filming in October of last year. It was supposed to begin airing on Lifetime in January 2009, but due to legal issues, this was not the case. 
When the Weinstein Company sold the “Project Runway” enterprise to Lifetime in April of 2008, it violated contract rights previously set by its parent company, NBC Universal. 
The show was frozen until April 2009, when the Weinstein Company agreed to pay NBC for the network shift. Season 6 began airing in August, and is now in its fourth week. 
“Project Runway” has truly made an impact on the fashion world. It is a reality show, but in the actual, real sense. These designers are given an amazing platform to showcase their work. “Project Runway” is accessible, entertaining and is an open invitation to any designer in America hoping for their chance to make it in this industry. It has led to immense fame and life-changing experiences for up-and-coming designers, and will continue to do so for seasons to come.
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