Just in time for the fashion-forward competition show’s 20th season finale, check out what the winning designers of the past have been up to
In the words of Tim Gunn: “Make it work, designers!”
And these Project Runway-winning designers certainly did make it work, winning their seasons and for some, going on to have successful design careers.
Having reached 20 seasons and a fresh new All-Stars format that just wrapped, the designer-centric reality show has stood the test of time.
Jay McCarroll, Season 1
The winner of Project Runway’s debut season, Jay McCarroll may be more known for what he did after the show wrapped. The eclectic and colorful designer actually turned down the show’s prizes — at the time $100,000 and a mentorship from Banana Republic — taking issue with a contractual clause designating 10% of all future revenue to the Project Runway production company, TV Guide reported. This clause has since been taken out of the contestants’ contracts.
Since his win, McCarroll has continued his work as a designer, but has stepped out of the public eye, shutting down his blog and limiting TV appearances. Most recently, he worked for the wardrobe department of HBO’s Kate Winslet-led Mare of Easttown.
Chloe Dao, Season 2
Appearing on the hit reality show in 2005, Chloe Dao was known for her billowing sleeves and intricate florals, bringing some whimsy to the competition. Dao was reserved in her drive to win, but still beat out the competition, including former RuPaul’s Drag Race judge Santino Rice.
The Houston-based designer spent the years since Project Runway building out her design business, selling everything from handbags and jewelry to those light dresses that caught the judges' attention. In 2014, she joined Project Runway Vietnam as a judge, though the show has since been canceled.
Jeffrey Sebelia, Season 3
One of Project Runway’s classic "villains," Jeffrey Sebelia made waves when he made fellow contestant Angela Keslar’s mother cry. The designer, who joined the show after seeing the success of his friend Santino Rice, was known for his grunge, punk-inspired aesthetic.
After the show, Sebelia quickly landed a gig designing a live-action Bratz film, but was fired after publicly calling the characters “slutty.” Soon after, Sebelia’s own label Cosa Nostra, which had previously dressed the likes of Elton John and Madonna, closed. Sebelia jumped around design jobs, and returned for the third season of Project Runway: All Stars.
Christian Siriano, Season 4
Whether you remember his spiky haircut or his over-the-top, sculpted garments, Christian Siriano made an indelible impact on the Project Runway world. He remains the show’s youngest winner ever (he was just 21 at the time!).
Since then, Siriano has built his own fashion label, specializing in inclusive fashion that has a hugely popular Hollywood following (one year dressing 17 stars for the Oscars). He crafted the showstopping tuxedo gown that Billy Porter wore to the Oscars in 2020, as well as Janelle Monáe’s towering 2019 Met Gala look. He’s also returned to the show, serving as a mentor in Tim Gunn’s former position since 2019.
Leanne Marshall, Season 5
Many didn’t expect Leanne Marshall to make it far; being placed in the bottom two on episode 2 was not a great omen for her. Still, Marshall pulled out a series win for season 5 of Project Runway, inspiring the judges with the feminine curves of her wave-inspired collection.
After winning the reality competition show, Marshall moved to New York City and narrowed in on her vertical of interest: wedding dresses. She still owns and operates her own wedding brand, and maintains a brick-and-mortar store in New York.
Irina Shabayeva, Season 6
Hailing from Georgia and holding Russian Jewish heritage, Irina Shabayeva brought a never-before-seen perspective to Project Runway. And, with her metropolitan style, Shabayeva remained a front-runner up until her season 6 win.
Since 2009, when Shabayeva won her season, she has expanded her portfolio as a designer. She currently serves as creative director for two different labels, Irina Shabayeva Couture and Maison MJZ. You can find an Irina Shabayeva dress on many a red carpet, most recently on Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Seth Aaron Henderson, Season 7
With his signature black-and-red color palette, Seth Aaron Henderson quickly became the voice of a new fad in fashion: emo . The judges chose to honor this bold styling twice, with Henderson winning both season 7 of Project Runway and season 3 of Project Runway: All Stars.
After winning season 7, Henderson created his own line, which still operates today. Based out of West Hollywood, SethAaron sells primarily gothic gowns and buckle accessories, as well as some pet couture.
Gretchen Jones, Season 8
Season 8 provided one of the most contentious finales of Project Runway, with the judges presenting an even split between competitors Gretchen Jones and Mondo Guerra. Ultimately, Jones won out, though to some fans, her win remains controversial.
While Jones worked in the fashion space immediately following Project Runway, she eventually headed off to college, receiving her MBA in Fashion from University of the Arts London. She now runs her own company Weird Specialty, which provides creative consulting services to companies.
Anya Ayoung-Chee, Season 9
The former Miss Universe Trinidad and Tobago surprised audiences when she came to Project Runway young and hungry, having a keen eye for design but only four months of sewing experience. Still, once she began showing her vibrant outlook on fashion, Ayoung-Chee’s path to the finale was undeniable.
Ayoung-Chee is still a designer, selling her clothes primarily through digital commerce from her home in Trinidad and Tobago. She maintains a bright outlook on design, selling heavily color-blocked and patterned resort wear.
Dmitry Sholokhov, Season 10
Yet another double winner, Dmitry Sholokhov first gained attention in season 10 of Project Runway for his drab black garments with spare pops of color. Sholokhov would go on to easily win that season, and later win the fourth season of Project Runway: All Stars.
Since his wins, Sholokhov has remained the creative director of his eponymous brand, pumping out those chic garments in primarily black hues. He also worked as an instructor at his alma mater, Parsons School of Design.
Michelle Lesniak Franklin, Season 11
Michelle Lesniak Franklin came to Project Runway in her 30s after 10 years of experience in the wine industry. This lack of formal training gave her an edge, with Franklin quickly becoming known for her rule-breaking garments, that eventually helped her win the show's 11th season.
The Portland native continues to design prolifically, premiering her brand in limited runway shows and multiple local boutiques. You can also find her work on other reality shows; she recently designed for Darienne Lake for RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars.
Dom Streater, Season 12
Keen on intricate tailoring and optical illusions, Dom Streater quickly became the geometric whiz of Project Runway. With her floor-length, linearly patterned dresses, Streater was the franchise’s third double winner, taking the crown for season 12 of Project Runway and season 5 of Project Runway: All Stars.
Straight off the reality hit, Streater took a job as a sweaters and knitwear designer for Urban Outfitters, while simultaneously working on her own label. Streater has since parted ways with the lifestyle chain, working full time as lead designer for her own Dom Streater Studio in Philadelphia.
Sean Kelly, Season 13
Sean Kelly was an immediate favorite of just about everyone on Project Runway, including the fans. In an interview with Stuff, Tim Gunn even admitted that Kelly was his favorite contestant in the show’s history. Thus, Kelly’s win on the show's 13th season was almost obvious.
While Kelly may have been known for his evening wear on season 13, he made a swift pivot post-win to swimwear. His company Hercules New York remains prominent in the men's swim scene, finding a niche in artful speedos pushed to queer men.
Ashley Nell Tipton, Season 14
It’s rare that you have a Project Runway contestant who completely changes the game. Enter Ashley Nell Tipton, the season 14 contestant who really brought plus-sized fashion to the show. By introducing body diversity, Tipton not only found herself the season’s winner, but also changed the trajectory of the show to be more inclusive.
One of the strongest breakouts of 2010s Project Runway, Tipton went on to build her body inclusive clothing brand from the ground up. Under that umbrella, Tipton also teaches sewing classes and writes blog posts on loving one's body type. In 2020, she made waves for her JCPenney campaign, which was the brand’s first dip into body positivity.
Erin Robertson, Season 15
Erin Robertson was another one of the young wonders to grace the show’s runway. Entering the competition just three weeks after she graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Robertson captured the hearts of the judges with her free spirit and equally eclectic taste, ultimately winning the show’s 15th season.
Robertson fueled her post-win public image into a clothing brand, which she still runs. The self proclaimed “fashion scientist” solo manages An_Erin, which sells several offerings of “fashion art.”
Kentaro Kameyama, Season 16
While some of the previous contestants won with flashy, eye-catching garments, Kentaro Kameyama took a different approach: restrained minimalism. It was Kameyama’s sheer technical prowess that won him the season 16 Project Runway top spot.
After Project Runway, Kameyama kick-started his new eponymous brand espousing the ways of minimalism. According to Kameyama, minimalism “keeps your life simple and stylish.” He also recently opened up a successful styling branch of his business.
Sebastian Grey, Season 17
A fan favorite from day one, Sebastian Grey combined artful heritage design with intricate tailoring. Born in Colombia, Grey infused each of his garments with the flairs of his childhood. And, in the nail-biting finale, he ultimately beat out the competition as winner of season 17.
Since his 2019 win, Grey has opened his own label, Jhoan Sebastian Grey, which has released multiple season-less collections in products ranging from formalwear to handbags. He remains a fixture of the Colombian art scene, as well.
Geoffrey Mac, Season 18
Season 18 was one of the most dramatic seasons of Project Runway, from blowouts between the designers to the iconic Karlie Kloss-directed sneer from contestant Tyler Neasloney (“Not even to dinner with the Kushners?”). But from the stiff competition, the edgy Geoffrey Mac came out on top.
A menswear savant, Mac has since opened a full-scale fashion label offering men’s evening wear with a bit of bite. Like his tenure on the show, Mac’s brand takes simple fashion concepts, like the standard tailored suit, and introduces some punk and streetwear inspiration to them.
Shantall Lacayo, Season 19
The first Latin American woman to win Project Runway, Shantall Lacayo actually competed in Project Runway Latin America, for which she was the first runner-up, before winning the American version’s 19th season.
While Lacayo may have only won Project Runway a year ago, she’s already made great strides in the fashion world. Her solo brand SHANTALL continues to boom, offering up innovative reworkings of some classic looks.
Bishme Cromartie, Season 20
Congratulations, Bishme Cromartie!
While we have yet to see what the series' latest winner does post-victory, Cromartie, a season 17 favorite, won season 20 (a new All-Stars version) with a collection inspired "by his grieving process as he navigated the recent loss of his sister," per Bravo.
Cromartie walks away with $250,000 plus a feature in ELLE magazine. He'll also earn a mentorship with the Council of Fashion Designers of America and representation from Agentry PR.
"Can't even describe how I feel right now," the designer wrote on Instagram the morning after the finale aired.
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