Joining a reality show doesn’t only bring fame as seen in the career of the 7 most successful Project Runway contestants. It also brings business opportunities that showcase the talents of the participants. The program has placed the spotlight on some of the best and most creative fashion designers in America, encouraging young designers who are watching the show to also pursue their passions.
Project Runway was created by Eli Holzman and was first shown in Bravo network from 2004 to 2008. The program then moved to Lifetime in 2009 where it is still airing. It is hosted by model Heidi Klum, Elle fashion director Nina Garcia, fashion consultant and host Tim Gunn, along with designers Michael Kors and Zac Posen.
The program has featured a lot of talented fashion designers over its 15-season run. The show’s continued success has prompted Lifetime to renew the show for three more seasons. Much like the 11 Most Successful Shark Tank Businesses, Project Runway has also helped usher a new wave entrepreneurs.
We’ve ranked the show’s most successful contestants and their current business endeavors. Let’s get a little dose of inspiration from them, shall we?
7. Dom Streater
Season 12 winner Dom Streater has been named as one of Nicole Millers’ “Most Fashionable Women in Philadephia.” Streater’s victory was remarkable because she was the first African-American to win in the show and the first to take home the highest prize ever ($500,000). She also won Project Runway All Stars Season 5 just this year! She currently has her own fashion line while creating designed prints and pieces for various well-known clients such as LaTanya Richardson (Samuel L. Jackson’s wife) and Lisa Nutter. Streater has an exclusive collection in Belk stores and a collection of headphones for Velodyne.
6. Austin Scarlett
He may not have won the grand prize but Austin Scarlett who ranks 6th in our list of most successful Project Runway contestants, made it big in the fashion scene after he joined Project Runway Season 1. He won the first ever challenge of the show with his classy corn husk dress. Known for his exquisite designs, Scarlett went on to be one of the youngest designers to be named as Creative Director for couture wedding brand Kenneth Pool. In 2010, he and fellow Project Runway alumnus Santino Rice starred in their own show On the Road with Austin and Santino. Scarlett then became part of Project Runway: All Stars in 2012. That year he launched his signature line of elegant evening wear and wedding gowns.
5. Leanne Marshall
Season 5 winner Leanne Marshall ranks 5th on our list of most successful Project Runway contestants. She is known for her ethereal and flowy designs. After she won her $100,000 prize, Marshall moved to New York to develop her line. Her designs have been featured in New York Fashion Week since 2008. Marshall’s works have been worn by celebrities like Paula Abdul and have been featured in various magazine spreads such as Martha Stewart Weddings, US Weekly, People, Elle, and more. She has designed patterns for Simplicity Pattern Company as well. She launched her elegant signature bridal line in 2011 and her collection is being sold in more than 40 boutiques around the world and online. In 2014, Marshall released an exclusive collection for BHLDN.
4. Emilio Sosa
Season 7 runner-up Emilio Sosa ranks 4th on our list of most successful Project Runway contestants. He took his talents to the theater after his stint in Project Runway. He was nominated for a Tony Award in the Best Costume Design category in 2012 for the musical Porgy and Bess. The following year he was selected by Motown founder Berry Gordy to be the costume designer for Motown: The Musical which is currently showing in London and will be on tour in the US in 2017. It had its run on Broadway this year, too. Sosa is now busy working on the musical On Your Feet: The Emilio and Gloria Estefan Story which is currently showing on Broadway. His creations have been worn by celebrities like Taraji P. Henson, Uzo Aduba, and Wendy Williams.
3. Nick Verreos
Season 2 contestant Nick Verreos is not only continued his fashion endeavors after his stint on Project Runway, he also became an instant celebrity! Verreos appeared in the red carpet events of E! Entertainment, Style Network, NBC, and CNN International as a fashion correspondent. He is also a regular panelist on Fashion Wrap aired at TV Guide Network where he covers the red carpet fashion of the Golden Globes, Academy Awards, Emmys, SAG Awards, and Grammys. Verreos just released his book A Passion for Fashion last August. He still has his own eponymous brand and another line with David Paul called NIKOLAKI. His extensive media and fashion exposure truly makes him one of the 7 most successful Project Runway Contestants.
2. Kara Saun
Up next in our list of most successful Project Runway contestants is Kara Saun, who may not have won in the first season of Project Runway but her impressive talent as a designer propelled her to huge success in the costume designing industry. She became in charge of the costumes in America’s Best Dance Crew and The Sing-Off. Saun was also the costume designer for the series What I Like About You starring Amanda Bynes and Jennie Garth. She likewise showcased her stunning gowns in the show True Beauty. Saun currently owns her own fashion studio Kara Saun LLC and her most recent project is designing the costumes for Disney’s Descendants. Her creations have been worn by Heidi Klum, Queen Latifah, Zoe Saldana, Vanessa Williams, Mary J. Blige, Jamie Foxx, Nick Lachey, and more.
1. Christian Siriano
The youngest winner of Project Runway is also the most successful. Christian Siriano won Season 4 of Project Runway. After winning the contest, Siriano launched his eponymous fashion line in September 2008 at the New York Fashion Week. He has been a constant crowd drawer in NYFW since then. His collection has been retailed in Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. In 2012, he opened his first flagship store in Manhattan. Siriano is a celebrity favorite in red carpet events. Stars such as Victoria Beckham, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Emily Blunt, Sarah Jessica Parker, and more have worn his designs! In 2013, Siriano was inducted into the elite Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Aside from having a shoe and bag collection at Payless, Siriano is currently one of the judges of the youth-centric spin-off Project Runway: Threads.
These 7 most successful Project Runway contestants have proven that success isn’t determined by exposure in a reality show. They still needed to work hard and showcase their unique aesthetic in the fashion industry. These designers also showed us that pursuing one’s passions and sticking to what you’re good at are the keys to being successful in your business.