When a contender is eliminated from the television series Project Runway, host Heidi Klum dismisses he or she in her native German Language— “Auf Wiedersehen,” Klum ceremoniously advises. However, “Goodbye” is not the proper sendoff for these emerging designers, as it seems the show Project Runway is actively opening doors in the fashion world for many hopeful innovators of haute couture.
Project Runway’s first winner Jay McCarroll set precedent for the future contestants when he turned down the $100,000.00 grand prize and an affiliation with Banana Republic, to only accept the honor of a featured show in New York Fashion Week. By declining all commercial rewards, McCarroll asserted the importance of fashion as an art form, rather than a profitable enterprise. McCarroll proved that new designers need not the advantages of money and corporate affiliation to attain success, and neither did those who were prematurely ousted from the television show. On behalf of wonderMode’s Style Frontier, I had the opportunity to interview some of the former Project Runway contenders who informed me on the whereabouts of some of our past favorite aspiring designers.
One of the most obvious Project Runway-alum success stories belongs to season four’s Chris March. Since he took fourth place on the show, March has designed stunning garments for top-celebrities including Maryl Streep, Madonna, Prince, Jennifer Coolidge, Thierry Mugler and Beyonce.
Streep even fashioned one of March’s designs at the 2010 Golden Globes—an elegant floor-length belted black evening gown with asymmetrical sleeve-work and a modern spin on the bateau neck. Due to his impressive success and growing clientele, March will continue his reality television stardom on his new show, Mad Fashion. The show, which premiers this Tuesday October 4th, follows March’s new life as an eminent contemporary designer.
Sixth season’s second-runner-up, Carol Hannah Whitfield, also found rapid success after her experience on Project Runway. Carol Hannah describes her design experience as having “organically evolved” since she first began sewing outfits for her toy dolls at age seven. After outgrowing the youthful ages dominated by Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids, Carol Hannah continued to passionately design clothing, which led to her eventual appearance on Project Runway. Her self-titled fashion line, Carol Hannah, was an immediate sensation after her reality-television debut. Whitfield’s second collection was showcased in 2009 during New York Fashion Week in Byrant Park, and gained her the impressive title of “The People’s Champion.” Her bridal line, which launched in 2010, is now featured in forty-three stores throughout the globe. Aside from the career opportunities afforded to her by Project Runway, Whitfield attributes the success of her line Carol Hannah to the incredible support of her fans. Whitfield noted that she still remains in touch with Project Runway alum, and wonderMode feature designer, Logan Neitzel. In fact, the two share a studio in New York City. You can read wonderMode writer Mathias Rosenzweig’s article about Neitzel by clicking here. You can also visit Neitzel’s wonderMode shop here.
Aside from fashion-visionary Logan Neitzel, Carol Hannah also remains in contact with season six’s Christopher Straub. Since his experience on Project Runway, Straub continues to create a name of revere for himself in the fashion industry. My personal favorite of Straub’s post-Project Runway pursuits is his Cricket Syndicate line, in which Straub transforms vintage T-shirts into pop-art reminiscent boxer-briefs.
Onto the more recent seasons of Project Runway: I also had the opportunity to interview the infamously candid and talented Ivy Higa. After receiving her fashion degree from Parson’s school of design- following the educational path of Donna Karan- Higa joined the cast of Project Runway’s eighth season. Although Higa characterizes the Project Runway environment as an atypical environment for artistic creativity, she is grateful that the show allowed her the opportunity to whole heartedly pursue her passion before a public audience. Higa currently remains in contact with Project Runway season eight’s Valerie Mayen, Michael Drummond, Christopher Collins and Mondo Guerra. Higa describes the vision behind her upcoming collection as, “inspired by forbidden lover’s communication through love letters.”
Project Runway will continue to illuminate the talent of its past contenders during its forthcoming tenth season entitled “Project Runway All Stars.” The new season will revisit some of the show’s past talents including Austin Scarlett, Kara Janx, April Johnston, Michael Costello, Mondo Guerra, and more.
[Images: Lifetime, Gawker, TVBuddy, Top Drawers, Bluefly Blog]