Project Runway Season 20 Cast Interviews, Instagrams, and More

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Project Runway Season 20 Cast Interviews, Instagrams, and More

“I’m a totally different designer and person than I was before,” says Bishme Cromartie, a season 17 Project Runway competitor who is back for the show’s All Stars competition and grateful for the chance to show the judges how his work has evolved. “I’ve focused on making sure I’m more intentional with my designs,” he adds, citing his avant-garde take on streetwear. He’s also looking forward to the camaraderie with the other participating fan favorites.

So too is Korto Momolu, who first competed in season 5, and even admitted to being a bit starstruck by some of the competitors. “Kara Saun is a queen! She is my all-time fave,” says Momolu, whose work has morphed into what she calls “Afro-bohemian chic.” Also joining is season 10 runner-up Fabio Costa, who is returning for a record fourth season. Costa left New York in 2018 and moved back to his native Brazil, which turned out to be a great strategic decision for his business. Season 19’s Anna Yinan Zhou, founder of the darkly romantic brand Oraz, barely had time to catch her breath before being called back for season 20. “Being a fashion designer, business owner, and mother can be challenging,” Zhou says. “It’s important to me to set an example for my son about the value of hard work and pursuing your dreams.”

Below, get to know the designers, and make sure to tune in on June 14 to see how they rise to the challenges.


Korto Momolu

Bravo / NBCUniversal

Hometown: Monrovia, Liberia
Current home base: Little Rock, Arkansas
Instagram handle: @kortomomolu
What first made you fall in love with fashion? At age 10, I got my first Barbie doll (wedding edition). After a few cuts and stitches, I had my first collection.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer? In the 11th grade, when my interest in art shifted to fashion design.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway? Watching the very first episode, I was hooked. I knew it was meant for me to be on the show.
What does this second chance mean to you? A new opportunity to showcase my work to a new audience and era of fashion/Project Runway fans.
What was it like celebrating the 20th season? Honestly, it was truly a gift and blessing to be included in the top 14 with some of my all-time Project Runway faves!
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers? Kara Saun (Queen) is my all-time fave and Rami was an extreme pleasure to meet and work with. I’m glad to now call him a friend.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going? Finances are always challenging, but my fans are absolutely amazing. My mentees keep me going. They push me to continue this mission and lead the tribe I’ve been assigned to!
What has been your biggest success so far? I’m still standing! To be known as the first Liberian-born designer [on the show] and to make it internationally is truly a gift!
How did you approach the All Stars competition differently (if you did)? I was all about business. Win or lose it was about representing for my “girl,” the Culture, staying true to my aesthetic and always representing myself as real and authentic as possible.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Afro-Bohemian chic.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? Women, the curvy girl, and my daughter. I wanted to make clothes for the girl who was always forgotten. Honestly, it was for me and women that looked like me. I needed to make clothing that also included me and my body type and my culture. It needed to reflect what I now call my “Rah Rah Rah.” The essence of Korto.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? Donna Karan, Byron Lars, and Tracy Reese. Donna Karan made me feel like a woman in her clothing. I felt beautiful, sexy and seen…she’s my mentor in my head. Byron and Tracy made me feel like I could do it and succeed because they did. Their images in the pattern books I saw as a teen was inspiring. Representation matters, and to meet Mr. Lars later in life and hear him tell me, “Well done”…life made!
Trend you’re loving (or hating): Loving oversized clothing! Because we can finally breathe!
Mantra: “Dream…believe…have Faith…REPEAT!”
Dream client and why: Oprah! She is my she-ro. She believed she could, and she did. And because she did, we all believed as well.


Bishme Cromartie

bishme cromartie

Bravo / NBCUniversal

Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Current home base: Los Angeles, California
Instagram handle: @bishme_cromartie
What first made you fall in love with fashion? Looking through fashion magazines while wondering how garments were made at 9 years old is where it all started.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer? I always knew that I wanted to become a fashion designer, but I truly started taking it seriously at the age of 13.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway? To see what I was capable of doing. The idea of completing a vision of yours under pressure is kind of cool. I felt it was the perfect opportunity for me to show who I am as a person as well as the type of designer I am.
What does this second chance mean to you? I literally have nothing to lose but so much to show with my talents. I’m a totally different designer and person than I was before. I’ve always believed in myself, but I believe in myself even more now that I have my sister as my guardian angel.
What was it like celebrating the 20th season? It was amazingly tough as hell. I’ve gained another season of cast family and learned a lot about myself during a difficult time. I’m honestly wowed by all of the talent we have this season. No one is letting up.
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers? I can’t even lie. I was definitely starstruck by a few of my cast mates.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going? My biggest challenge has been transitioning from hustle mode to businessman mode. I’ve accomplished so much that I sometimes forget how much I’ve done since I was 16 years old. The obstacles that I face while running my business low-key help me to keep going so that the right situation can come my way one day.
What has been your biggest success so far? Everything that I have done up until today has been my biggest success. I’m a self-taught fashion designer who has established my own fashion community to help navigate my career. There are always ups and downs, but to continue going through it all is the real success to me.
How did you approach the All Stars competition differently (if you did)? The same way I’m currently approaching life. Whatever is meant to be will happen, but I can make the best out of any situation if I choose to try my hardest to keep my head up and stay positive.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Has it evolved at all since the last competition and how? Avant-garde mixed with streetwear. I love the idea of creating shapes and lines while also allowing the person to feel confidently beautiful in my garments. My aesthetic has changed since the last competition; the world went through a whole change. Since then, I’ve focused on making sure I’m even more intentional about my designs and messages that I want to convey. Keeping the message clear helps me design clearly.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? My sister. She purchased my first sewing machine when I was 13. One moment I would never forget is when she took me to the Alexander McQueen “Savage Beauty” exhibit at the Met. She did everything in her power to allow me to blossom into who I am today. I love and miss her so much.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? Alexander McQueen. He was ahead of his time and knew how to express himself as a successful creative and businessman.
Trend you’re loving (or hating): I low-key have not been paying attention to any mainstream trends. The real trendsetters are doing their own thing. A real baddie is a person that doesn’t follow the rules!
Mantra: “I’m a spiritual being having a human experience.”
Dream client and why: I feel like I’ve dressed all of my dream clients. Plus, I can never really pick. But if I could have a dream accomplishment it would be to hold the creative director position at Alexander McQueen. I’ve been wishing upon that since I first found out about him.


Johnathan “Kayne” Gillaspie

johnathan kayne gillaspie

Bravo / NBCUniversal

Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
Current home base: Nashville, Tennessee
Instagram handle: @johnathankayne
What first made you fall in love with fashion? I loved watching Miss America and the Oscars with my sisters and seeing all the beautiful gowns. I also loved seeing my favorite country music queens like Dolly, Reba, and Tanya in every music video and award show. I remember how breathtaking the gowns were and was enamored by the sparkle.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer? I was working as a sales consultant/buyer at a small formalwear boutique in Nashville and loved helping our customers feel beautiful. Many of them lacked self-confidence and I felt it was my gift and responsibility to help them see themselves as beautiful as I saw them by dressing them in the perfect clothing. I knew I could design the pieces my customers needed.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway? The first time I competed was season 3 in 2006. There was no social media, so, it was the best option for an up-and-coming designer to get their name out there. Plus, I love good, healthy competition!
What does this second chance mean to you? This is an invaluable opportunity to show the world my current brand and what value I offer my clients and customers when they buy JK.
What was it like celebrating the 20th season? The feeling is incredible. I am so humbled and honored to be a part of this cast.
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers? I was excited and surprised to meet Kara Saun from season 1.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going? The love and support of my family, friends, clients, and my partner, Ian. I am also incredibly thankful for my family of retailers that continue to buy my collections for their stores season after season.
What has been your biggest success so far? My biggest success has been building a fantastic team that has helped me grow my brand in over 450 retail stores throughout the world.
How did you approach the All Stars competition differently (if you did)? This season I made a vow to myself to only make clothing that I loved. I wasn’t going to get distracted by what I thought the judges wanted. I wanted to show my strengths as a gown designer who knows how to fit a woman’s body.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Has it evolved at all since the last competition and how? My design aesthetic is sexy and dramatic. Yes, of course it has evolved! I have learned and grown so much since I was on All Stars in 2012. I am 100 percent confident in who I am as a person and designer. I also know who my customers are and what they want from me.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? The women in my life. My grandmothers, mother, stepmom, and five sisters. They taught me how to love, listen to, and respect women. This is one of my biggest strengths when working with clients.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? Marilyn Monroe, Cher, Halle Berry, and Jennifer Lopez. These women embody confidence, power, and sexiness.
Trend you’re loving (or hating): I am LOVING the androgynous trend in fashion.
Mantra: “You’re a STAR…RAWR!”
Dream client and why: Dolly Parton! I have loved her wigs, wit, and glamour since I was a little boy. She taught me before I even met her or designed for her that it is okay to be proud of where you come from, no matter how poor or wealthy. She is the most authentic person I have ever met.


Rami Kashou

rami kashou

Bravo / NBCUniversal

Hometown: Ramallah, Palestine
Current home base: Brooklyn, New York
Instagram handle: @ramikashou
What first made you fall in love with fashion? I was five years old. Due to my mother’s passing around that time, my grandmother only wore black for over a decade as she was in mourning. I used to hold her hand while guiding her to her closet and pick out the most colorful dresses that were tucked away to the back asking her to wear them. Shortly after I began draping designs on my baby sister with bedsheets and we used to do our own runway shows.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer? Around seventh grade, when I would sketch designs all over my school notebooks during class.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway? Pure curiosity, especially after watching some people that I knew during early seasons.
What does this second chance mean to you? An opportunity to showcase my passion for draping and technical skills, as well as share about the evolution of my design philosophy. It’s also a great way to connect with fans of the show through my e-commerce.
What was it like celebrating the 20th season? It was a Project Runway full circle, especially since there was at least one All Star designer who has returned to play from each season starting at season one. It was heartwarming to see so many familiar faces in one space and to create alongside them, laugh, stress, joke, dance, reflect and even cry with some of them was the highlight of my experience.
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers? It was exciting and surreal at the same time to meet the designers because I have seen some of them on previous seasons and felt like I knew them virtually.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going? As a designer with an e-commerce business that highlights unique, limited-edition ready-to-wear and made-to-order pieces along with evening and bridal wear, it can be a challenge at times, especially creating in an industry where fast fashion dominates. At the same time, I think that it opens space and opportunity for small businesses with personal brand stories like mine to offer a needed tangible boutique experience for conscious consumers who are seeking unique quality designs.
What has been your biggest success so far? My biggest success so far has been launching “ARD Project,” a series of limited-edition, social impact design collections highlighting my heritage through beautiful Palestinian hand embroidery. This concept connects women from different parts of the world through the designs. It also provides work opportunities for talented Palestinian women, some of whom come from refugee camps in Palestine. I’m grateful about the great reception that these designs have received in the global world market that I plan on building on this concept. Some of the designs have recently been purchased and included as part of a permanent art collection at the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada.
How did you approach the All Stars competition differently (if you did)? I was open to taking risks while I challenged myself technically and creatively, and reminded myself daily that it is just a TV show.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Has it evolved at all since the last competition and how? My design aesthetic is a timeless marriage between soft and hard elements. There’s a romantic quality to the pieces in how they flow, creating poetry while infused with unexpected seaming or construction details offering a modern and contrasting edge.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? My parents, who encouraged me, and the strong women whom I grew up around who believed in me, trusted me to design their ensembles at such a young age, and took me with my sketches along to the local town seamstress. Those early moments lit the design spark, which gave me the self-belief and confidence to allow myself to design and dream big.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? Erté’s designs and sketches have always been a feast for the imagination and eyes. I grew up collecting his sketches. Madame Grès because she sculpted fabric like no other, which has always left a big impression on my draping passion. Lastly, I, along with the rest of the Arab world, grew up listening to the world-famous singer Fairouz. Her powerful yet effortless voice is unparalleled; her style, especially in the early years, is simply mesmerizing.
Mantra: “Turn your fears into flames of ambition.”
Dream client and why: Bella Hadid. She is stunning. I believe that her style along with my design aesthetic would be a great match, plus, she is half Palestinian, so it would only make sense that she is dressed by a fellow Palestinian designer.


Kara Saun

kara saun

Bravo / NBCUniversal

Hometown: Landsthul, Germany
Current home base: Los Angeles, California
Instagram handle: @kara_saun
What first made you fall in love with fashion? Barbara Anne Saunders, my beautiful beloved mother. She had grace, style, and sophistication, and a dynamic personality and smile to match. It’s as if she glided out the door and right onto the runway. She was the Diana Ross of every military base we were ever stationed at. She would design and create the most colorful, fun summer frocks for my two sisters and me. My favorite design was a yellow mini-’70s jumper dress with matching shorts. Her gorgeous fashion, bouffant hair with her trademark bangs, flawless makeup, and deep bordeaux lips were quite legendary. I so loved my mother’s style and grace. It was so effortless; how could I not fall in love with fashion?
When did you know you wanted to become a designer? From the womb. I come from a super creative family, from designers to architects and interior designers. My mother and aunts used to sew, knit, and crochet. I made my first hand-sewn pair of shorts in kindergarten as a gift for my grandmother. Granted I sewed the legs shut, so she couldn’t actually wear them, but it was the thought that counted. I started sketching my own designs and upcycling garments in middle school. But it was when mom and dad gifted me my very own Singer sewing machine for Christmas, it was truly a wrap! By junior high I was creating full lines in home economics, selling denim skirts and homecoming dresses to my classmates, coordinating every school fashion show, while creating and designing each look. I would design the softball uniforms for my teams and my first big design contact was actually for Hillcrest High School. They hired a senior to design and make the cheerleading uniforms. I was also fashion editor for the high school paper and loved using my friends to do makeovers. I was the Black Madonna of my high school. There was nothing I couldn’t create.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway? There are no coincidences in this life. Only signs from above. Keep in mind I’m a true Project Runway O.G. It was 2004 and there had never been a reality series like Project Runway. Most of the reality shows back then were like Pimp My Ride, MTV’s The Real World, or The Apprentice. Ten years earlier, while fashion designing in New York, I had won another competition and trip to Paris, which had garnered some truly fantastic press. I was [then] living in Los Angeles as a costume designer. I had left the series to be a designer and found myself at a crossroads. Then, one day, I heard a voice that said, “Something big is coming, get ready,” and I did, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I remember telling my mom and, of course, in true mom fashion, her response was, “Yes, I feel it too!” Every audition had already passed: New York, L.A., Chicago. The final audition was in South Beach, Miami. I put together my presentation, designed a wildly colorful pony-hide long jacket and was on the next flight. And the rest, my friends, is Project Runway history.
What does this second chance mean to you? For me, it was about honoring my mother and best friend and fulfilling the promise I made to her. My mother really, truly loved Project Runway. In 2004, almost 20 years ago, when I was on season one, it was a guilty pleasure; I was the fan favorite, and everyone was watching. My mom was just beside herself with joy and pride. While home, we talked about the Project Runway season one finale and how she, my dad, sister Lori, and brother Ty all came to New York and had the best time ever.

While spending time with my mom, out of the blue, I received an email from a businesswoman and philanthropist in New York. She said she had purchased three of my designs from the season one finale and had kept them all these years. She was about to donate them for charity when it popped in her head to contact me. She wanted to send my finale pieces back to me and did. My mom and I could not believe it. Then, literally one hour later, I receive another email. This one was from Project Runway asking if I’d consider returning for [season 20.]

Now, I had been asked to be on Project Runway All Stars for many years. The answer was always the same. I was always booked on a film or TV project, but even if I hadn’t been, I probably wouldn’t have done it. For the past 18 years, folks have said “Kara Saun, you got robbed!” And my response has always been the same, “Not winning Project Runway was the best thing that ever happened to me. It has been a true blessing the gift that keeps on giving.” I’ve enjoyed a truly beautiful and successful career in costume design and launched my initiative, The Fashion Fairy Godmother. I just never felt the need to return. So why did I? I asked my mother if I should do PR season 20 and the answer was “yes.” I told her I really didn’t want to go but promised I would…but only for her. Shortly thereafter, my mother would transcend to her heavenly home, and a few short weeks later, I was back in New York on Project Runway season 20 to fulfill my promise. There was nothing or no one that could have stopped me.
What was it like celebrating the 20th season of Project Runway? Celebrating the 20th season of Project Runway was truly a gift from God. It started out bittersweet, but soon it was clear that this full-circle moment was put into motion for a reason. From day one, the PR season 20 designers were like family. I had my sister circle with Korto and Laurence, my baby bro Bishme, and my fairy godson Prajjae. It just felt amazing, like history in the making. It was so awesome and an honor to hear from so many of the designers and even judges and guest judges about how my run on Project Runway season one inspired them and actually changed some of their lives so many years ago. It truly meant a great deal to me, as 18 years ago Project Runway changed my life. It took me to amazing new heights.
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers? Full disclosure, I may not have known most of the designers when I arrived, however, I was so happy to get to know them. [They are] really fantastic, awesome, and truly talented human beings and individuals. Some of them have become my sisters, my family, and my friends. Not to mention, I’ve been in entertainment way too long to be starstruck. I’d say Prince would be the only one that would leave me speechless at this point.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going? I think my biggest challenge as a costume designer is just time. Time is so valuable and fleeting. I’m constantly traveling, away in a different country for six to eight months out of the year sometimes. My main focus now is truly about the art and inspiration we can bring to the culture and the next generation.
What has been your biggest success so far? My biggest success is being a daughter that my parents were and are extremely proud of. Because of my parents’ charity work, I created The Fashion Fairy Godmother, which has now become a non-profit. We’ve inspired and sponsored and worked with hundreds of foster care children. It’s not just about inspiring kids to tap into their talents, but how can they use those talents to give back to others. Every child deserves a fairytale ending.
How did you approach the All Stars competition differently (if you did)? My approach to the All Stars competition was completely different, as I wasn’t there to compete in that sense. I was there to fulfill a purpose and a promise, so it was truly a surreal experience. The competition was with myself. I fulfilled my promise in a way that would honor my mother and my family. It was like I was watching season 20 from the outside looking in. I enjoyed every experience and the PR family we created. Nothing in life is life [or] death, except life and death, so if you’re alive, live to the fullest, enjoy it, and I did just that. Let nothing steal your joy.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Has it evolved at all since the last competition and how? My aesthetic has remained the same throughout my entire career. Big…whimsical…fantastical. The best, most luxurious fabrications and trimmings. Beautiful fit and cut, no matter leather, lace, or silk, with a futuristic twist and a pinch of a culture from all over the world. My career has been in building entire beautiful, bold, fantastical fashion worlds, whether in fashion or in film.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? My mom, my music, and films. She used to dress in costumes and dance to Diana Ross around the house and me and my sisters would just laugh and laugh. Fashion and music has always been a part of my life. Every project, whether fashion or costume design, I’ve created a soundtrack for. That soundtrack I play again and again and again, and the creations just come to me.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? My mom created her very own look and style, and it didn’t matter if anyone else in the world had that style or agreed with that style—it was hers. She loved it and she lived by it. It wasn’t that she didn’t care what you thought, it was that what she thought outweighed all else.
Trend you’re loving (or hating): I’m not a fan of trends…there’s no stability in them. They create fast fashion and poorly constructed, disposable wardrobes. They are fleeting. I love fashion that can stand the test of time—timeless pieces that you can’t place the decade, you just know it’s dope. But if I had to pick a trend to love, it would be one that pays homage to the culture and to the history and founders of that culture.
Mantra: In high school, I wore makeup and heels every day, although I was a jock. One time, I was having a bad day, and left the house a complete mess—no makeup and hair undone. My mom was like, “Where on earth are you going like that?” I was like “Mom, my life is a mess, I don’t feel well.” She spoke these words and they have been my life’s mantra: “Whenever you are having your ‘worst’ day, you put on your very ‘best’ face and go into the world and that day will get better, I promise.” This was not a makeup tip; it was a metaphor for life. My mom’s best face was her faith, her strength, and her humor. Whatever your best face is, whether faith, love, strength, creativity, put that “best” face on and walk into the world confidently.
Dream client and why: My mom.


Anna Yinan Zhou

anna yinan zhou

Bravo / NBCUniversal

Hometown: Shanghai, China
Current home base: San Francisco, California
Instagram handle: @oraz_ny
What first made you fall in love with fashion? Long before I studied fashion, I was already drawn to the creativity and artistry of great designers. I remember seeing Alexander McQueen’s stunning runway shows and feeling like I was witnessing true art in motion. The way designers can use fabric, color, and silhouette to create something beautiful and meaningful has always fascinated me. Additionally, I love the way fashion can be a form of self-expression and make a statement about who we are as individuals. For me, fashion has always been a way to explore my own creativity and sense of style. I feel incredibly grateful to be pursuing my dream career.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer? I’ve always had a passion for fashion, but it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I realized I wanted to pursue it as a career. I had just finished my first degree and was feeling unfulfilled in my current field. I started to think about what truly excited me and what I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. Fashion design kept coming to mind. I had always been fascinated by the creativity and innovation involved in designing clothing and accessories. I took a leap of faith and enrolled in a fashion design program, and from the moment I started, I knew I had made the right decision. The endless possibilities and opportunities to express myself through my designs only fueled my passion for the industry. I became consumed by the art of fashion design and knew that I had found my calling.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway? As I launched my brand, ORAZ, during the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, I faced difficulties finding opportunities to establish it. One day, Project Runway reached out to me and offered me an incredible opportunity. I saw it as fate and decided to seize the chance to showcase my skills and creativity on the show.
What does this second chance mean to you? While I am incredibly grateful for the first opportunity that Project Runway gave me, this second chance is truly special. It allows me to showcase my skills and creativity to an even wider audience, and to learn from my past experience on the show. I see it as a chance to grow and improve as a designer, and to establish my brand even further. Additionally, as a mother who had to leave her family behind for this competition, it’s important to me to set an example for my son about the value of hard work and pursuing your dreams. I am motivated to make the most of this chance and show the world what I’m capable of.
What was it like celebrating the 20th season of Project Runway? It was an incredible experience, especially being a part of the All Star season. Project Runway holds a special place in my heart, and it was an honor to be a part of this milestone season. Competing alongside other talented designers made the experience even more exciting and challenging. Overall, it was a memorable and rewarding experience.
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers? As a designer, I admire the work and creativity of all the other designers on the show. However, I don’t feel starstruck by any of them as I believe we are all on the same level and have equal chances to showcase our talents on the show.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going? While being a fashion designer and business owner can be challenging, my biggest challenge has been the additional responsibilities and challenges that come with running an independent brand. However, my passion for fashion and creativity has kept me motivated to overcome these obstacles and continue pursuing my dream.
What has been your biggest success so far? My biggest success as a designer so far has been showcasing my brand, ORAZ, on the stage of New York Fashion Week. It was a significant milestone for me and my brand, and it’s a moment that I will always cherish.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Has it evolved at all since the last competition and how? I would describe my aesthetic as dark romantic, cool feminine, and avant-garde. While I have remained true to my signatures, I have also incorporated new techniques, materials, and ideas that I have developed since my last appearance on the show. I am always looking to push myself creatively and evolve my aesthetic with each new collection.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? My life experience. I used to draw inspiration from my personal life and express myself through my work. Additionally, Alexander McQueen is the person who has had the biggest influence on my work. His consistent creation and creativity have inspired me to be more imaginative and innovative in my designs.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? My fashion heroes are Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, and Vivienne Westwood. Their extraordinary creativity and unique design sensibilities have made them iconic figures in the fashion industry. They have used fashion as a medium to express their personal beliefs and make powerful social statements. Their designs are not only visually stunning, but also thought-provoking and inspiring. Their fearlessness in pushing boundaries and challenging conventions has paved the way for new generations of designers to create bold and innovative work. They are true legends and a constant source of inspiration for me.
Trend you’re loving (or hating): I am particularly drawn to the current trend of incorporating corsets, lace, and sheer fabrics into fashion. These design elements are closely related to my own work and have become some of my favorite aspects to include in my collections.
Mantra: “Persist and create.”
Dream client and why: My dream client is someone who is not afraid to take risks and be daring with their fashion choices. They are confident in their personal style and use fashion as a form of self-expression. They appreciate unique and innovative designs and are not afraid to stand out from the crowd.


Brittany Allen

brittany allen

Bravo / NBCUniversal

Hometown: Fort Smith, Arkansas
Current home base: Austin, Texas
Instagram handle: @brittanyallen.atx
What first made you fall in love with fashion? I have always loved to dress up and go all out with whatever I am wearing. It has been a source of self-expression for me since I could dress myself, so it’s no surprise I wanted to make a career out of it.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer? It wasn’t until college, when I failed anatomy as a pre-nursing major. That is when I finally looked inward and considered fashion design because that is what I really love but also wanted to learn more about at the same time.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway? I didn’t have anything to lose. I felt pretty stuck in a job I didn’t find rewarding. I knew if I got the honor, I would go on a journey of self-exploration while doing what I love and showing the world my perspective as a fashion designer.
What does this second chance mean to you? Well, if we are getting technical, as the first [Christian] Siriano save, this is actually a third chance to win this competition. You could say I am honored and appreciative to get this chance to compete again for what I didn’t achieve the first time around.
What was it like celebrating the 20th season of Project Runway? Iconic. I have been watching it since season one. I never imagined I would be a part of this series, let alone be able to compete on TWO seasons.
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers? Pretty much all of them. I am the only one from my season, so all the other designers I only recognize from watching on TV. But I will never forget the breath being knocked out of my lungs the minute I saw Rami [Kashou]. That season was legendary.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going? Self-deprecation. I have struggled with being insecure as a designer, but with my experience and journey creating a brand, that has grown substantially.
What has been your biggest success so far? I built a fashion brand from the ground up and am self-funded. It’s been so hard, but so rewarding. It makes me appreciate how far I have come.
How did you approach the All Stars competition differently (if you did)? I really wanted to go into this season and mind my own business. I looked around the room way too much during season 18. This season, I just wanted to make beautiful things, work really hard, and just do me.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Has it evolved at all since the last competition and how? I have always loved the feminine side of streetwear and RTW. But, in the beginning of my career, I tried to force so many more feminine elements—and when I would make something, I loved it, but there was always something that lacked the “cool factor.” Since season 18, I started designing more activewear and found a way to marry that feminine RTW aesthetic with cool, active-inspired silhouettes. I finally feel I have found my place in the industry.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? Me. I’ve done the work, I am making the dream come true, and my persistence in this industry continues to inspire me.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? My style icons are Rihanna, Kacey Musgraves, Lady Gaga, and Billy Porter. I love trailblazers and individuals who go against the norm and try new things.
Trend you’re loving (or hating): Cargo anything. Give me all the pockets.
Mantra: The hard work has and will continue to pay off.
Dream client and why: Kacey Musgraves. I am so obsessed with her style and feel like she is fearless in fashion.


Fabio Costa

fabio costa

Bravo / NBCUniversal

Hometown: Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Current home base: Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Instagram handle: @notequal
What first made you fall in love with fashion? Its ability to transform a person through style. Style to me was a way to be subversive since I was very young.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer? I’ve always wanted to be a creative, and fashion became a thing for me when I got into college at age 18. That’s when I started dreaming of coming to New York to be a designer.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway? In a conversation with my partner at the time, he asked, “What’s one thing you want to accomplish this year?” I replied, “I want to have a fashion show!” To which he said, “Well, you can’t have a fashion show here in my apartment right now.” I said, “No, you’re right. I want something legit. I want to showcase my work during fashion week.” He asked, “How could you get there?” I answered, “The only way I could get there this year is if I get on Project Runway and made it to the finals.” He jumped on the computer and pulled up the website, which showed they were accepting applications. This conversation happened over the weekend and applications were due on Monday, so I made a video and sent it. It got there in time, I got a call to join the show, and the rest is history.
What does this second chance mean to you? In my case, it’s my fourth, and I believe only Korto and I have that title at this point. It’s amazing to still be a contender in the sense that your ideas are still relevant, and you’ve still got more to show.
What was it like celebrating the 20th season? Project Runway is a legacy. I have watched it since the very first season. It has truly helped shape my vision as a designer, and it has tremendously and infinitely impacted how I have managed to grow my skills and come to find out, in the hardest way, who I really am as a designer. I am truly honored to be part of this amazing season.
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers? It was more like a family reunion. At this point, it’s great to see friends in design that I have competed with, and it’s also incredible to meet new designers.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going? In 2018, I moved back to Brazil after 12 long years living in New York, which completely burned me out. Not only was it hard to leave New York, but it’s also another thing to start all over from where you left off. And as I’ve learned to trust the universe, this has come to be the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me. Not only am I able to live a better quality of life—I have been able to reconnect with my roots, and it has only allowed me to grow my brand and myself.
What has been your biggest success so far? Project Runway has allowed me to do many amazing things, like travel the world and design for royalty. But I have to say that having an ensemble in the museum archive is truly my biggest accomplishment. I have one look with the American Folk Art Museum, and I have added to looks to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It means so much to me, because I know that no matter what happens, my work will live on.
How did you approach the All Stars competition differently (if you did)? There’s no real way to prepare for this, and it’s actually better not to. Obviously, you have to make sure your skills are ready, if you don’t sew on a regular basis. But that is not the case for me, because I still make everything myself. So, it’s better just to take it day by day, with so many curves. It’s better not to try to think ahead.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Has it evolved at all since the last competition and how? I love deconstruction and minimalism. I believe that when it’s done masterfully, it is not only modern and innovative, but also elegant. Throughout the years, I have been on a constant search for silhouette and shape, and its most raw form. I have created a measuring system based on the golden ratio, and that is what I use for all of my patterns.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? The punks. From the streets and from the runways, I could name Westwood, Yamamoto, McQueen, and Margiela. But without paying homage to how I fell in love with it being worn on the streets, I think fashion would’ve just been image, and not an element of transgression.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? My mom. She has a cute sense of style that I don’t believe she is even aware of. She was the first person I saw combining vintage and designer, coordinating her bag and shoes and perfume. She was—and still is—very original in her style
Trend you’re loving (or hating): I love the ’90s comeback, [since] I could actually remember how it was.
Mantra: For the good of all and with harm to none.”
Dream client and why: Tilda Swinton!


Hester Sunshine

hester sunshine

Bravo / NBCUniversal

Hometown: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Current home base: Brooklyn, New York
Instagram handle: @besta_hesta
What first made you fall in love with fashion? I don’t know what first made me fall in love with fashion—I have been in love for as long as I can remember!
When did you know you wanted to become a designer? When I was six, all of my friends wanted to be an astronaut, or maybe a ballerina. Me, I told everyone who would listen that I was going to be a fashion designer.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway? I had wanted to be on Project Runway since attending Parsons during the filming of season three. After the first year of running my own company, I knew I was ready.
What does this second chance mean to you? It’s an amazing opportunity for me to explore my creative abilities, and I get to share my new brand [HESTA] with the world. I also never turn down the chance to test myself against other top-tier artists.
What was it like celebrating the 20th season? It was fantastic to reconnect with and meet all of the incredible designers—and to be surrounded by so much talent.
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers? I have been a big fan of Laurence Basse since their season, so meeting them was really exciting.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going? I am redefining the way that clothing is made; engineering body-inclusive clothing while keeping production sustainable and local. It’s definitely a challenge, but when I see people feeling empowered by my creations, it’s more than worth it.
What has been your biggest success so far? I am super proud of the collab I did with Meow Wolf (MWxHS). It was my first foray into rewriting what gender neutral clothing could be, and seeing how successful it has been has been very affirming.
How did you approach the All Stars competition differently (if you did)? On season 17, I gained confidence in my capability and identity as a high-fashion designer. Since then, I’ve been perfecting and refining my brand and designs. Going into All Stars, I can’t wait for everyone to see what I can do.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Has it evolved at all since the last competition and how? My design aesthetic has changed quite a bit since the last competition. It’s more hard-edged, less gender specific. I would describe it as genderpunk streetwear for everybody—with a focus on utility, quality, and detail.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? My first mentor and old employer, Judi Rosen. She taught me to challenge traditional pattern making and how to use fabric to engineer shape and silhouette.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? It’s a three-way split between The Nanny, Tank Girl, and Barbarella. They’re all badass babes who are a little (or a lot) extra, with fashion to match.
Trend you’re loving (or hating): I’m into anything futuristic, inventive, or functional. Can you fight a robot in it? I love it.
Mantra: Troubleshoot, troubleshoot, troubleshoot!”
Dream client and why: Anyone willing to take risks and who hasn’t felt like their body has been accommodated by the fashion industry. I have a sexy, edgy vibe—I would love to dress Doja Cat, Lil Nas X, and Sam Smith. Oh—and Megan Thee Stallion! For sure.


Mila Hermanovski

mila hermanovski

Bravo//Getty Images

Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Current home base: Los Angeles, California
Instagram handle: @planetmila
What first made you fall in love with fashion? I always loved getting dressed as an expression of who I am and what I am feeling. Being a teenager in the ’80s and being influenced by musicians made getting dressed a lot of fun for me as I started coming into my own style.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer? I’ve always known! My parents are both designers and I have a family full of creatives, so I was born into it.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway? Someone approached me. I’d always watched the show but hadn’t ever considered participating; it was a very “why not?” moment.
What does this second chance mean to you? I’m just going to see where it takes me…perhaps a second chance at a branding opportunity.
What was it like celebrating the 20th season? Surreal—it feels like a lifetime ago when I was showing my collection on season 7.
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers? Not so much starstruck as curious to see how they are in real life.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? Navigating through the business side of having my own line.
What has been your biggest success so far? Actualizing my longtime dream of having my own line, selling it to stores, and seeing it on real women!
How did you approach the All Stars competition differently (if you did)? I felt more of a camaraderie with the other designers than I had in the past. I’ve also evolved as a person so much more over the last 12 years, and my intention was to be as authentic as possible.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Has it evolved at all since the last competition and how? My aesthetic has always been clean and modern. With my own personal growth, it has evolved a bit as well. While I still consider myself a modernist, the extreme black and white and geometry that I was known for has somewhat softened.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? The fact that my career shifted from fashion design to costume design many years ago has enabled me to broaden my views as a designer and appreciate many different styles, as well as having dressed a diverse range of characters and body types.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? Donna Karan and Phoebe Philo, whose designs are timeless and have a comprehensive elegance—especially for a woman’s body and lifestyle.
Trend you’re loving (or hating): I am still loving oversized tailoring and denim maxi skirts.
Mantra: “Close your ears and listen.”
Dream client and why: Anyone who loves to collaborate.


Nora Caliguri Pagel

nora caliguri pagel

Bravo / NBCUniversal

Hometown: Cheshire, Connecticut
Current home base:
Metuchen, New Jersey
Instagram handle: @noracalpagel
What first made you fall in love with fashion?
In high school, I doctored my clothes regularly to create my own style.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer?
I knew I wanted to become a designer at around age 16, when my mother taught me how to sew dresses for several occasions and brought me to New York City to pick out fabric and trims.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway?
I had just graduated from Pratt at age 21 and thought trying out would be fun instead of getting a job.
What does this second chance mean to you?
This second chance means a lot to me, because I am able to share a part of my 20s that my kids and husband had never seen. It’s also cool to be able to come back and update anyone who is interested in what I’m up to.
What was it like celebrating the 20th season?
Super fun! Being told by the newer designers that my time as an original cast member inspired them to try out and further their careers in fashion was an honor as well.
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers?
I was starstruck by Prajjé [Oscar Jean Baptiste] and Anna [Yinan Zhou], because I had just come off of watching season 19, where I was downloading myself on what Project Runway was like nowadays.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going?
My biggest challenge is always time. I’m a creative director at a fashion company, I have young kids, and there is always a lot going on. So, getting to work on what I want to work on at the end of the day is tough. What keeps me going, though, is how lucky I am to be able to be doing what I love for a living and using my talent.
What has been your biggest success so far? I’ve been pretty excited about certain celebrities along the way who have worn my designs, but I’m just as excited when I see someone at a suburban soccer game wearing my clothes.
How did you approach the All Stars competition differently (if you did)? I was 21 last time, so I was pretty crushed when I was eliminated. This time, I was at a different stage of my life, so my outlook was to try my hardest and whatever happens, happens! I wanted to take it all in and make the best of the experience.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Has it evolved at all since the last competition and how? I’m quite a chameleon in terms of my personal style and in my design aesthetic, meaning it changes over time and I don’t harp on sticking to one aesthetic forever. Street style, music, interiors, art, and fashion history all influence me every day. I like to dabble and be inspired by the moment, but what stays true to me is that my designs usually remain very wearable.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? Travel has been the biggest influence in my career. No matter where I’m at in my work, when I get back from an inspiring trip, it’s like a jolt of creative electricity for me.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? The late Virgil Abloh is definitely a fashion hero of mine. Every time I saw one of his runway shows, or when he would put out a furniture piece or brand collaboration, I’d think, this guy is just beyond creative. I love the smart details he always had, and the way he made us really see the design behind something. He was a true icon of our time.
Trend you’re loving (or hating): I happen to be loving this “no-trend trend era” we seem to be in. It’s very liberating that mixing microtrends and putting together what works for you in your personal style is okay.
Mantra: “It’s never too late to try.”
Dream client and why: My daughter. I’m excited for when she gets to be a little older and I get to dress her and design for her. (That is, of course, if she’ll let me.)


Prajjé Oscar Jean-Baptiste

prajjé oscar jean baptiste

Bravo / NBCUniversal

Hometown: Haiti
Current home base: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Instagram handle: @prajjeoscar
What first made you fall in love with fashion? Fashion, for me at first sight, was more about survival than anything else. It was a place to escape from everything that was going on around me. I used to dress in my grandmother’s closet, play dress-up, or make doll clothes for my neighbors and cousins. Life was so hard growing up in Haiti that I needed a place to escape, and the idea of fashion didn’t exist. Fashion is not something [an industry] Haitian parents want their children to be in.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer? I knew I wanted to be a designer the day my [adoptive] mother enrolled me in a fashion class at MassArt; I knew from that very instant, and so did she. I remember the course only required me to make three looks, and I did about five. The teacher, Ms. Alexander, actually, offered me an internship. That was it; now we are here.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway? After spending so many years trying to build a brand and investing every dollar I have, my parents have invested so much into my career and education. Somehow no one was checking for me, and I found myself giving my all to a job that gave me nothing progressive. But quitting was not, and will never be, an option for fashion or building this brand. So, the decision was clear on Project Runway, because I had nothing else to lose, the way I saw it.
What does this second chance mean to you? It is beyond what I can express. Leaving Project Runway the first time, I found myself once again. At the same time, I felt like I had lost a part of me, whatever it was. There was a sense of disappointment because I went to the show with a goal, and I didn’t meet that goal, which crushed my spirit a bit. That’s the truth. So, to be back, it was a chance for me to go back with this newfound fire and this time with no goal, and make garments that represented me as a designer, despite how the judges felt about it. I was not seeking validation or competing with anyone but myself. And to focus on the game and my contribution to it. It was not only an honor, but it was my second chance to be me.
What was it like celebrating the 20th season? I watched Project Runway as a young man, and the show impacted me as a designer over 18 seasons. To be part of the Project Runway family and invited back to celebrate the 20th season is beyond words.
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers? Yes: Bishme, Rami, Laurence, Kara Saun, Fabio, and Mila. I can go on. For 18 seasons, these people have influenced me and, in some ways, paved the way for me. To this day, I am still pinching myself and asking if this was real.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going? My passion for what I do kept me going all these years. There is an understanding that what I had created was now no longer about just me. I have my daughter and my entire country at the roots of my brand. When I wanted to give up because I was so broke, I couldn’t even eat or get on the train to go to work. That understanding has reminded me that I had no choice but to keep pushing, because it’s not about me. But in a nutshell, the lack of finances has always been my biggest problem, and it is still a problem.
What has been your biggest success so far? I have been blessed with many opportunities, some of which have brought me great success. The invitation to be part of the 20th season anniversary show is at the top. It is by far my most significant success. I am looking forward and ready to apply the success of this season 20 to take the Prajjé Oscar brand to the next level, just like I did with season 19.
How did you approach the All Stars competition differently (if you did)? I did approach it differently; I approached it like I would at any job. I showed up and pushed the limit to do my absolute best without losing myself. The rest was up to the judges, with room to respect their opinion and utilize the critiques for the next challenge.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Has it evolved at all since the last competition and how? My design aesthetic is “retro chic,” exquisite, and wearable. In my collections, you will find both formal and high-end ready-to-wear. However, since season 19, Project Runway has brought back into my life something that I love and have stopped doing for a very long time: streetwear. Leaving season 19, I started exploring my love and my very different perspective on how I see streetwear. My aesthetic evolved by adding this young and fresh part into the mix. It has evolved so much that I just released my new collection, which is streetwear. It is inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, and art, music, and fashion of the 1990s.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? I said it before, and that will never change; only two women significantly influenced my career: my grandmother, Andrea Oscar, and my mother, Anne Anninger.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? André Leon Talley. We had similar beginnings: we were both raised by our grandmothers and picked on [as children], but somehow overcame every obstacle. I also saw something in my grandmother; she was a very, very well-dressed woman, especially for Sunday church or a Vodou ceremony.
Trend you’re loving (or hating): I’m not too fond of this ripped clothes trend; why wear clothes if you’re going to rip them to shreds? I don’t see the point, and it just looks cheaply made.
Mantra: “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and hope of the slave. I RISE!” Every time I fail in life or want to give up, this quote by Maya Angelou always reminds me of where I came from and my bigger purpose in life.
Dream client and why: First and foremost, former first lady Michelle Obama. As the first Black FLOTUS, she always did style her way. I am from Haiti, the first free Black republic. Why would anyone else occupy the top of this list? And then, of course, Rihanna, Angela Bassett, Teyana Taylor, and Angelina Jolie.


Viktor Luna

viktor luna

Bravo / NBCUniversal

Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Current home base: Los Angeles, California
Instagram handle: @VIKTORLUNA
What first made you fall in love with fashion? My mother was a talented seamstress and introduced me to the art of clothing design at the age of seven. Periodically, she would put her work aside and give me bits of fabric to run through the sewing machine. I vividly remember how she would sit me on her lap as she carefully guided my hands over the colorful patterns. These early experiences of my mother’s love for the craft and her belief in my potential gave me the confidence to express myself through fashion the way I do today.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer? I was working at a department store in my early twenties when an older co-worker gifted her sewing machine to me and agreed to help me develop my garment construction skills. In a week, I had only sewn together a few crooked shirts, but they gave me enough confidence in my abilities to begin imagining a career in fashion design. The thought of creating my own designs excited me tremendously, and that feeling has never really gone away.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway? The honest answer is that nearly everyone in my life had been encouraging me to try out for the show since season one aired. Being a very private person, I was never interested in being on television, but I continued to work on my design skills and eventually completed a bachelor’s degree in fashion design in 2008. Two years later, I woke up one morning and saw an advertisement for the show on Facebook. Something intangible compelled me to attend an open casting call—which I later learned was the last open call for the season—and, to my astonishment, I was chosen to be part of the cast of season nine.
What does this second chance mean to you? I am thrilled to be competing for the third time on Project Runway. I cannot help but to feel a sense of nostalgia for the show—like I’m returning to my roots. The creative energy of my fellow Project Runway designers always reminds me how exciting fashion can be.
What was it like celebrating the 20th season? I was so excited to engage with some of the most iconic and memorable Project Runway alumni, whose talent has brought them back to the show, twice in some cases. I also enjoyed meeting the more recent contestants.
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers? Yes! Kara Saun was one of the first Project Runway designers to show a collection at New York Fashion Week. I remember her collection was all about construction, but made out of silk, which impressed me tremendously. She is also a lovely person in general.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going? My biggest challenge as a designer has been to balance my clients’ needs and expectations with my design aesthetic and technical knowledge. My clients usually give me an idea of how they want their garment to look, but I know that another fabric or silhouette would better achieve their desired look. What keeps me going is my clients’ satisfaction in the finished product.
What has been your biggest success so far? I consider my biggest successes to have come from creating garments for influential and powerful trans women, including Laverne Cox and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez. I have so much respect for trans women, and for the other powerful women and drag performers I have worked with, including Jennifer Lopez, Jackie Cruz, Ruby Rose, Alyssa Milano, and Shea Couleé.
How did you approach the All Stars competition differently (if you did)? My approach to the show this time around was to be honest with myself, the judges, and the audience about who I am as a designer, by producing bold designs that truly made me proud. In my first season, I gave in to pressure to “tone down” my designs, which in the end was to my detriment.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Has it evolved at all since the last competition and how? Since my last stint on Project Runway All Stars, I have tried to design with ready-to-wear in mind, but I’m now determined to let my creativity take over and express myself more. I am my own biggest billboard, and my goal is to design garments that help people embrace their power, uniqueness, and beauty.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? I owe my career in a big way to my family and friends who have supported and encouraged me for years while understanding my devotion to the art of fashion design.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? I meet fashion heroes almost every day…regular people I pass on the street whose stylistic choices make me take a second look. Whether it’s an interesting scarf or pattern, or an odd pairing of accessories that somehow works, I am constantly inspired by seeing how people put their garments together to express their personal style.
Trend you’re loving (or hating): I know I’m going to get some blowback for this, but I love the big red boots by MSCHF that make you look like a comic book character. They’re ridiculous and fun!
Mantra: “Success is a state of mind.”
Dream client and why: I would love to design anything for Timothée Chalamet. I read somewhere that he styles himself, which impresses me given the impeccable taste level of his red carpet outfits, and everything he wears is just mind-blowing. I hope he reads this!


Laurence Basse

laurence basse

Bravo / NBCUniversal

Current home base: Los Angeles and New York.
Instagram handle: @laurencebasse
What first made you fall in love with fashion? Selling art and clothes was my hustle with my older brother back in high school. I come from a family of 11 kids, so I had to figure out very early how to make money to afford the fashion I wanted to wear.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer? I have known for a long time that I would pursue a career in art, but fashion became very clear around the age of 14.
What prompted you to first try out for Project Runway? I received an email from an unknown source a few years ago to participate in the program. I took a long pause before submitting my candidature, because I was not sure if I wanted to do a fashion reality show, but my friend convinced me, and I took the plunge. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made!
What does this second chance mean to you? This means that I get the opportunity to showcase my work again on the big screen, to millions of people around the word, and get a second chance at winning!
What was it like celebrating the 20th season? This season was super special to me because it’s the 20th, which is also my birth date, and we filmed during my birthday month. I had the time of my life.
Were you starstruck by any of the other designers? I don’t easily get starstruck. So, my answer would be no, but I was delighted by the level of talent that each designer brought for season 20…it was fire.
What has been your biggest challenge as a designer? And what has kept you going? My biggest challenge as a designer was breaking into this crazy industry and staying afloat. I had to wear so many hats when I started my business, and went through a lot of financial ups and downs. It was tough, but when you know, you know. This is what I was meant to do and there are no other options. Quitting was—and never is—an option.
What has been your biggest success so far? I’ve done a lot since and am still reaching for the stars. The sky is the limit. I’ve dressed Jada Pinkett Smith, Yvonne Orji, Samara Joy, NBA player Serge Ibaka, and actors Aldis Hodge and A.J. Johnson. My leather face masks were featured on CBS’ All Rise and on the cover of Latina magazine.
How did you approach the All Stars competition differently (if you did)? I approached this season like I did my first one. I geared up to go to war. I gave the best of me without losing sight of who I am as a designer and stayed true to my brand while remembering that it’s a competition.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Has it evolved at all since the last competition and how? My design aesthetic is my signature, and it has evolved in quality, but the DNA is still the same: edgy lines, leather couture, strong shoulders, and [an] androgynous [look]. My girl is a badass and she knows it.
What or whom has had the biggest influence on your work and career? I am a ’90s girl, so my first influences were Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier, and more recently Gucci, Tom Ford, and I love me some Saint Laurent, too.
Who are your fashion heroes or style icons and why? My fashion icon will forever be Grace Jones. I grew up in France, and Black people were not really represented in the media and TV, so when I first saw her, it was love at first sight. She was beautiful, androgynous, [had] chocolate skin, and [was] a fashion badass. Just like me!
Trend you’re loving (or hating): None. To each his own.
Mantra: “Success is a mentality.”
Dream client and why: Rihanna. For the same reason I love Grace Jones. She’s got that je ne sais quoi. She’s just got it.


A version of this article appears in the June/July 2023 issue of ELLE.

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Naomi Rougeau is ELLE’s senior fashion features editor.



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