What is Project Runway?

If you are (very) new to the fashion world you might be wondering what Project Runway is.  Project Runway is an American television show that brings on aspiring fashion designers to compete on a runway.  Throughout the course of a season, contestants create a variety of outfits for their models to wear.

What makes Project Runway so hard?  Designers have limited time and their designs must match a theme using only a certain material set.  This challenge isn’t just to pit fashion designers in television worthy action.  The restrictions serve the purpose of simulating completing an order from a client.  If someone commissions a design, they will give specific directions, just like the show.

Every year the prize varies slightly but it includes a $100,000 check towards the launch of the designer’s own clothing line.  Other prizes have included expenses paid trips, cars, mentorships, and studios.

The winner of the show is decided by judges.  Each episode a designer is eliminated.  The judges are either fashion designers themselves or prominent names in the fashion world. Season 16 saw three judges, Nina Garcia, Zac Posen, and Heidi Klum.  Past judges include: Rachel Roy and Michael Kors.  There have also been a number of guest judges including Jessica Alba and Demi Lovato.

While no winner of Project Runway has gone on to be a top tier designer, their own lines have thrived.  A few of the contestants have gone under but many of them were designers beforehand so were able to continue to build their brand.  Season 13 winner Sean Kelly discovered during Project Runway that he really liked designing women’s clothes and caused him to rethink his brand.


Here are the winners from the past 15 seasons of Project Runway:

  1. Jay McCarroll
  2. Chloe Dao
  3. Jeffrey Sebelia
  4. Christian Siriano
  5. Leanne Marshall
  6. Irina Shabayeva
  7. Seth Aaron Henderson
  8. Gretchen Jones
  9. Anya Ayoung-Chee
  10. Dmitry Sholokhov
  11. Michelle Lesniak
  12. Dom Streater
  13. Sean Kelly
  14. Ashley Nell Tipton
  15. Erin Robertson

Season 16’s finalists had a special debut for their final project.  They got the chance to show their collections at New York Fashion Week 2017.  Then, the attendees of the fashion show got to guess who designed each collection that was presented.   Attendees of the show absolutely loved to special Project Runway show.  This might be a trend that continues in the future.

Whoever wins season 16 will get $100,000 towards launching their line with the help of JC Penny.  Their work will be part of a limited edition Project Runway line sold at JC Penny Stores and online.  Along with this comes with a variety of equipment that is worth $40,000 worth of equipment.  A lifetime supply of pens from Pilot is also included, as is a Lexus NX.  Their spread will be included in an upcoming Marie Claire magazine.  Lastly, the winner will get a 5-star, all-expense paid vacation to Japan.

The show currently airs on Lifetime but it debuted on Bravo and there have been 186 episodes over 6 seasons.  In 2008, Project Runway won the Peabody Award for Television Reality Contest.

Project Runway itself has spawned several spinoffs:

  • Project Accessory
  • Project Runway: Threads
  • Project Runway: Junior
  • Project Runway: Fashion Startup

Several other shows have also aired connected to Project Runway but under other names such as All Stars and Under The Gun.

Want to tune into Project Runway?  The season 16 finale is coming up Thursday the 16th and you can watch reruns to catch up.  Make sure to binge watch past seasons and finish season 16 before season 17 starts up.  Who do you think is going to win Project Runway season 16? We don’t know, but you might just be seeing them on the NYFW schedule.




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