What these Project Runway winners look like today

In 2018, the news was announced that Project Runway was moving back to Bravo — the network it started out on — and leaving behind its second home at Lifetime. And while the show has undergone several dramatic changes over the years, from Heidi Klum being replaced by Karlie Kloss, to multiple spin-off shows such as Project Runway All Stars hitting the air, the original Project Runway has managed to retain its popularity and has helped to launch the careers of a multitude of designers.

Like any reality show, winning Project Runway doesn't guarantee a successful career as a fashion designer, but several of the show's alumni have managed to carve out unique jobs and lives after their victories. Viewers have enjoyed watching their favorite designers succeed, but even the show's "villains" have achieved some pretty impressive career feats since taking home the major reality TV prize. Here we take a look at Project Runway's most memorable winners and explore what they've been doing since the show ended. And buckle up, because not everyone is the fashion world success they were once predicted to be.

Jay McCarroll wore many hats after Project Runway

The first-ever winner of Project Runway, Jay McCarroll, famously turned down the prize money and mentoring, and has had a varied career ever since. According to his LinkedIn profile, after winning the show in 2005, McCarroll took on a teaching role as an adjunct professor at Philadelphia University in 2007 — a job he held until 2016. Meanwhile, a 2008 documentary called Eleven Minutes tracked McCarroll as he got ready for his first solo runway show, and subsequently attempted to sell his clothing to buyers and retail stores. In 2010, the designer returned to reality TV when he won VH1's Celebrity Fit Club.

As for his time on Project Runway, the designer notoriously shared a challenging relationship with mentor Tim Gunn. In a 2007 interview with The Cut, McCarroll suggested that there was no love lost between the pair when he said, "It's tough because he talked so much s**t about me in the past. And it's hard when you're trying to figure your business out. It's fine. Power to him. He's having his heyday, but I also don't think he's an authority on any designer's life." However, the first Project Runway winner seems to have developed some great friendships with fellow alumni of the reality show. In 2015, he was photographed with Mondo Guerra and Alexander Pope in a picture shared on the latter designer's Facebook page.

Chloe Dao took her fashion expertise overseas

Chloe Dao continued to develop her fashion line after winning the second season of Project Runway, and even sold her designs on QVC for a number of years. Using her expertise as a winner of the show, Dao also went on to work as a judge and executive producer on Project Runway Vietnam from 2013 to 2014. She told Houstonia magazine at the time that she believed the Vietnam version of the show to be more challenging: "I actually think they had a harder time than the American designers, because in the U.S. we have Mood fabrics. In Ho Chi Minh you have to run around this huge open market crowded with tourists, and sometimes you are only given 30 minutes. It's like 90 degrees, super chaotic, really much more chaotic to shop in. And much more limited."

In addition to killing it in the designing game, Dao is regularly involved in philanthropic ventures, and, per her website, "serves on fashion advisory boards at Houston Community College and The Art Institute." She has also collaborated with a number of charities and community organizations, such as the Think Pink Foundation, Dress for Success, Community Cloth, and the Salvation Army Houston Area Command. Itching for Dao's designs? She sells her creations from her own boutique in Houston and via an online store, and regularly posts updates about her new collections on Instagram.

Jeffrey Sebelia struggled before landing on his feet

Prior to winning the third season of Project Runway, Jeffrey Sebelia already owned his own fashion label, the now-defunct Cosa Nostra, which was worn by the likes of Elton John, Gwen Stefani, and Madonna, according to The Hollywood Reporter. But after his win, Sebelia had somewhat of a fall from grace. In a now-legendary 2007 interview with New York Magazine, the designer admitted, "I'm totally broke." He also revealed that his first real post-Project Runway job was designing the costumes for "a live-action movie for the Bratz." However, Sebelia proceeded to call the Bratz "those sl***y dolls," which swiftly got him fired from the potentially lucrative role. 

Sebelia has reinvented himself several times since then, and has continued to create new clothing brands. The designer collaborated with an artist named Kirk Nelson on a brand called A_I_R Atelier, which showed new pieces as recently as November 2018, according to the brand's Instagram. He also founded the childrenswear brand La Miniatura in 2011, which is still available to shop online. A quick look at his social media accounts shows that Sebelia loves spending time with his son, friends, family, and loved ones.

Christian Siriano returned to his Project Runway roots

Season 4's winner, Christian Siriano, likely needs no introduction. Since winning Project Runway, Siriano has become a designer for the stars, with his designs regularly gracing red carpets worldwide. Siriano has dressed everyone from Michelle Obama to Taylor Swift, and from Kim Kardashian to Angelina Jolie. He also famously dressed Leslie Jones for the Ghostbusters premiere when no other designer would. Known for his size and age-inclusive designs, Siriano was, somewhat impressively, responsible for dressing 17 different women at the Oscars in 2018. Explaining his passion for inclusivity, Siriano told Elle in 2017, "My mother was a size 16. But my sister is a 0." He continued, "I've never wanted to leave any woman out of my sight. I want to dress them all."

In 2019, Siriano discussed the possibility of making an accessible clothing line with Selma Blair following her MS diagnosis. He told People, "Selma and I talked about it at dinner. What's happening with her is so unreal, so I was like, 'Well maybe this is something that is needed in a way,' so we'll see. I don't know yet but maybe." The designer also replaced Tim Gunn on the rebooted Project Runway in 2019, serving as the show's new mentor. Launching a new capsule collection with J.Jill that same year, Siriano told People, "J.Jill and I believe that style is for every size and age" — and his fans seem to agree.

Leanne Marshall is all about that bridal wear

Leanne Marshall's winning stint on Season 5 of Project Runway in 2008 led to her developing a successful design business. According to her website, she's shown her ready-to-wear line at New York Fashion Week twice annually since her appearance on reality TV, and has dressed a number of celebrities, including Julianne Hough, Paula Abdul, Ariana Grande, Solange, and Jane Fonda, to date. 

Marshall launched a bridal wear line in 2011, with her designs being made in the United States and available to shop in more than fifty boutiques around the world and online. In 2018, the designer herself got married in one of her own designs, and her picture-perfect Wyoming elopement was featured in Brides magazine. Marshall told the publication that creating her dream gown was surprisingly stressful, as she revealed, "I had no constraints whatsoever on what I could make for myself, and ended up trying on every single sample in our studio and making dozens of patterns."

Irina Shabayeva found her way back to Project Runway

Season 6 winner Irina Shabayeva has been making an impact on the fashion world since winning Project Runway. In 2011, she launched an exclusive bridal collection with Kleinfeld Bridal, the store famously featured in the reality TV show Say Yes to the Dress (via CNBC). The publication also noted that the designer has forged several successful collaborations with brands since her time on Project Runway, from creating "jewelry and a white-feathered evening gown made with Tupperware" to designing a dress "with Campbell's Soup to raise awareness for heart disease."

Shabayeva's designs are also beloved by famous faces, per her official website and CNBC, with the designer dressing high-profile clientele like Selena Gomez, Kelly Ripa, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Carrie Underwood, and Madonna. In 2019, Shabayeva returned to the reality TV circuit when she competed on Season 7 of Project Runway All Stars. The designer also returned to New York Fashion Week that September with a couture presentation, highlights from which she shared on Instagram, proving that she's living her dream.

Seth Aaron Henderson is a reality TV champion

Since winning Season 7 of Project Runway, Seth Aaron Henderson has focused his skills on sustainable fashion. Utilizing exciting technology, Henderson created 3D-printed shoes for Feetz, and also collaborated with EarthTec on a range of sustainable apparel made from unexpected fabrics including recycled plastic bottles. In 2014, he launched SA by Seth Aaron on QVC, and, according to Fashion Week El Paso, his first collection for the retailer "sold out in minutes." The site also noted that Henderson's designs have been worn by a whole host of celebrities, including Lady Gaga, Alyssa Milano, Nicki Minaj, and Katy Perry. Henderson also won Project Runway All Stars in Season 3, proving that he truly is a champion of reality TV.

Henderson returned for Season 7 of Project Runway All Stars, but didn't have quite as much luck the second time around, and was sadly the second person to be eliminated. In 2019, Henderson became the new lead designer of mermaid-inspired swimwear brand Fin Fun, according to Global Banking & Finance Review. The publication described the designer's resort wear collection for the brand, CORAL BAY by Seth Aaron, as "Henderson's first foray into broad retail distribution." Basically, it seems that the best is yet to come from Project Runway's punk-rock-inspired winner.

Gretchen Jones worked through her controversial win

One of the most controversial winners of Project Runway has to be Season 8's Gretchen Jones, mainly because she beat fan-favorite Mondo Guerra. However, Jones revealed that she'd closed down her fashion brand and was going back to school to refine her skills in 2016. "I am preparing to go back to school to get a MBA at the University of Art London's College of Fashion," she told Clementine Daily. "I literally just found out I was accepted into the program and I'm basically trying not to pee with excitement!" Since attending the course, Jones has called herself a "business advisor, strategic consultant" on her official website, as well as a "thought leader," which she dubbed a "weird specialty."

In a 2012 interview with Fashionista, Heidi Klum revealed that she'd actually fought for Guerra to win Project Runway, but failed when fellow judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia convinced guest judge Jessica Simpson that Jones should win. And as the much-debated winner of Season 8, Jones didn't have the best time either. The designer told Clementine Daily, "I had major PTSD from the experience and had to go to therapy for the three years after the show. I pretty much knew what I was getting into with that experience, but I didn't know how it was going to affect me both short- and long-term AND both internally and professionally." You live and you learn.

Anya Ayoung-Chee teamed up with Tim Gunn

Anya Ayoung-Chee won Season 9 of Project Runway despite having only started learning to sew four months before the show began shooting. As she told Entertainment Weekly in 2011, "Most designers don't sew themselves anyway, and in terms of like mass producing, obviously, you don't sew." It seems that Ayoung-Chee's fledgling sewing skills haven't hindered her businesses. After winning, she moved back to Trinidad and Tobago, from where she runs her clothing, children's, and home furnishing lines. On her official website, it's noted, "In recent years Anya retreated from designing her own clothing line in order to open and manage a co-working space (HOME), boutique (Exhibit A) and cafe (HOME Cafe) in Trinidad." Basically, she's incredibly busy carving out a diverse career in the creative industries.

In 2014, Ayoung-Chee returned to reality TV as a mentor in Tim Gunn's Under the Gunn, and also appeared on Project Runway All Stars five years later. But aside from TV, this Project Runway winner has also been having lots of success in her personal life since competing on the show. She married photographer Wyatt Gallery in January 2018, and the couple welcomed a son named Kaïri that July. Ayoung-Chee was also appointed as a Tourism Ambassador for Trinidad and Tobago. For fans of this designer's inimitable style, she has returned to designing after a break and is, at the time of this writing in 2019, selling a limited edition collection of clothing on her website.

Dom Streater balances mom life with her own brand

Season 12's winner Dom Streter is based in Philadelphia, from where she curates her own fashion line. Winning Project Runway allowed the designer to quit her full-time job as an animal-care technician at the University of Pennsylvania, she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013. "I am able to wake up every day and design full time," Streater explained. "I still do work at night occasionally [as a hostess at a restaurant]. I don't do that all the time but occasionally." Streater also went on to be victorious when she appeared on Season 5 of Project Runway All Stars.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Streater became a Senior Designer at Urban Outfitters in 2018. She is also still running her own brand, which according to its website, "abandons the traditional wasteful architecture of the fashion industry and focuses on thoughtful craftmanship of curated garments, lifestyle items and objects." The designer also welcomed daughter Vika in the summer of 2016, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Kentaro Kameyama takes his fashion cues from music

Despite that fact that Tim Gunn allegedly wasn't a fan of his work, Season 16's Project Runway winner, Kentaro Kameyama, went on to teach at FCI Fashion School – where he was later named the Fashion Design Chair. He's also still designing and showed a futuristic and trippy collection at New York Fashion Week 2019, updates from which he shared on Instagram. That same year, Kameyama launched a collaborative collection called The Brothers Project, consisting of branded streetwear. But fashion isn't the only talent that Kameyama has. 

According to his official website, the designer is also a classical pianist and composer, with a number of degrees and qualifications in music. In fact, Kameyama revealed in a 2018 interview that his musicality greatly influences his design aesthetic. "Sometimes the music might slow down to welcome the biggest moment, like with pianissimo," he told Palm Springs Life. "When I create a collection, I do that a bit. I don't want to be boring. I like different shapes." As for who he hopes will be wearing his designs, Kameyama doesn't see his work hitting the red carpet. As he said to Palm Springs Life, "I don't envision actresses wearing my garments, except taking their kids to school, or cool, hip people going to the coffee shop."

Sebastian Grey has big plans following his Project Runway win

Sebastian Grey wowed the judges and viewers of Project Runway's Season 17, which aired in 2019. Since winning the show, Grey has been busy setting up a new design studio, and later revealed that several of his pieces were available to order on his website. This reality TV star is passionate about designing beautiful clothes for women and explained in an interview with the Miami New Times in June 2019, "My goal as a designer is to be able to dress all the beautiful women in this world." His main aim, he added, is "to make them feel happy and comfortable and secure, and that they are able to do everything they imagine with my clothes."

While speaking with Carrie's Chronicles the following month, Grey revealed that he was looking forward to the mentorship he'd lined up with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which is part of his prize as the winner of Project Runway. He told the publication, "Right now, I'm building a business plan, strategizing a new line, freshening up my web page, and consulting with some really great people educated on fashion to help me grow the Sebastian Grey brand." 

Basically, fans of this Project Runway designer can expect big things in the years to come.