‘Project Runway’ Winners: Who Is the Show’s Most Successful Designer?

On Thursday night, viewers will learn whether Garo Sparo, Hester Sunshine, or Sebastian Grey will take home the top prize on this season of Project Runway. But winning the approval of Nina Garcia, Karlie Kloss and the other judges — plus a hefty cash prize — won’t guarantee that the top designer will make it in the cutthroat world of fashion. While some Project Runway winners have careers as successful designers, others have had a tougher time, and some have moved on from fashion altogether.

Christian Siriano is the show’s most successful designer

Hester Sunshine and Christian Siriano on Project Runway
Hester Sunshine and Christian Siriano in a Season 17 episode of Project Runway | Barbara Nitke/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Most Project Runway fans would agree that Season 4 winner Christian Siriano is the show’s most successful designer. His line is carried in Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and other stores around the U.S. and the world and his looks are frequently spotted on celebrities like Janelle Monae, who donned an eye-catching ensemble from the designer at the 2019 Met Gala. And of course, he’s been acting as a mentor to other designers on this season of the show.

Brides love Leanne Marshall’s gowns

Season 5 winner Leanne Marshall now has a thriving career in both bridal and ready-to-wear. Her wedding gowns are sold in Lovely Bride stores around the country as well as in her New York City showroom and atelier.  

Irina Shabayeva, the top designer from Season 6, also went the wedding route, launching a collection at Kleinfeld. Celebs like Carrie Underwood and Selena Gomez have been spotted wearing her designs.

Ashley Nell Tipton is shaking up the world of plus-size fashion

Ashley Nell Tipton
Project Runway winner Ashley Nell Tipton | Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images

Ashley Nell Tipton made history when in Season 14 she became the first winner to focus on designing for plus-size women. She went on to design for JCPenney before launching her own line, available for sale on her website. She also teaches sewing classes and hosts self-acceptance workshops.

Chloe Dao judged Project Runway Vietnam

Chloe Dao won the second season of Project Runway. She went on to create the Simply Chloe Dao collection, which was sold on QVC for three years. She also was an executive producer and judge on the first season of Project Runway Vietnam. You can shop her current designs on her website.

Laura Bennett took up archery

Season 4 contestant Laura Bennett didn’t win, but she did go on to design a line for QVC. She’s also written two books, Didn’t I Feed You Yesterday? A Mother’s Guide to Sanity in Stillettos and Handmade Chic and contributed to The Daily Beast. She also took up archery and has competed in a number of international archery events.

Santino Rice became a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race

Santino Rice
Project Runway contestant Santino Rice | Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Santino Rice competed on Season 3 of Project Runway. While he made it to the finals, he ultimately finished in third place. Since then, he’s had a fairly successful career in TV, appearing as a judge on six seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, starring in Lifetime’s On the Road with Austin and Santino with fellow Project Runway alum Austin Scarlett, and judging the 2006 Miss Universe Pageant.

Many other contestants from past seasons continue to work as designers, including Season 3 runner-up Rami Kashou who’s dressed celebs like Heidi Klum and Jennifer Lopez and whose clothes have appeared in Vogue, Elle, and other magazines. Carol Hannah Whitfield, who placed third in Season 6, has a line of wedding dresses sold at Lovely Bride and other boutiques.

The Project Runway Season 17 finale airs June 13 at 9/8c on Bravo.

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