Austin Scarlett and Michael Knight, Project Runway
(Wednesdays at 9 pm/ET, Bravo) has certainly had its share of colorful characters — and inspired creations — over the past four seasons. So which of the reality hit's wannabe designers have found a pattern for success? We checked in with the winners and notable also-rans to find out just what they're up to now.
Virginia mom Pepper, the controversial dark-horse finalist from PR1, is sticking close to home. Her new line, Pretty World, is being sold exclusively through Highcliffe Clothiers, right down the street in Middleburg, Virginia. "I walk to work and make my line at the shop," says Pepper, 43. "First come, first served!" She extended her Bravo career on Celebrity Poker Showdown and Battle of the Network Reality Stars, and she doesn't rule out returning to TV — "Never say never!"
After winning PR1, McCarroll spent a rocky year navigating the New York fashion world. "I went to a thousand parties and collected a pile of business cards I rarely referred to," he says. He prepared a collection for NYC Fashion Week, an experience chronicled in the new docu "Eleven Minutes." After "getting the hell out of New York," McCarroll, 33, now teaches at Philadelphia University and is launching a line on QVC. "It's fun and graphic and colorful and ranges from XS to 3X — I love that!"
Edged out of the finals on PR1, Scarlett, 26, has found the perfect outlet for his love of romance and glamour: bridal couture. "I have always loved creating magical pieces, so bridal was a natural progression," says the New York-based Scarlett, now the creative director for luxury bridal collection Kenneth Pool. "The most inspiring part is knowing what it means to the woman wearing it. To be given the responsibility of realizing the fantasy of a woman's lifetime is a joy and an honor."
Lot 8, the boutique owned by PR2 winner Dao, has become a Houston landmark. "A lot of tourists come here to look for it," she says. "I still sign T-shirts every day!" But Dao, 36, isn't resting on her laurels. In addition to celebrating the one-year anniversary of Simply Chloe Dao, her successful QVC line, she's designing chic iPod and laptop cases for Pacific Design, opening a new studio space, starting a wholesale business... does she sleep? "I don't, unfortunately," she sighs.
He didn't take the top prize, but PR2 scene-stealer Rice says, "I won the recognition from like-minded peers." Rice is designing new packs of Camel cigarettes and dressing a handful of elite private clients. "The brand I'm building is based on luxury and exclusivity," Rice says. But standing a striking 6'5", privacy goes out the window in L.A. "If you went outside in your bra and panties and walked around, you'd have a better understanding of my every day," he laughs.
The artist formerly known as Michael Knight came up short in the PR3 finale, but his laid-back attitude won viewers' hearts. The Atlanta-based designer has increased his fan base by creating a line of custom tees for Starbucks and outfitting a squealing teenager on MTV's My Super Sweet 16. Knight, 29, used part of his $10,000 fan-favorite winnings to help launch his unisex fragrance, MajK, and is working on Kitty & Dick, a line of racy lingerie.
PR4 winner Siriano was tapped as a red-carpet correspondent for the 2008 MTV Movie Awards, guested on Ugly Betty ("I would be a regular if I could!"), designed a dress for Tonys host Whoopi Goldberg and was spoofed by Amy Poehler on SNL ("She got it," he approves). The 22-year-old upgraded his tiny apartment to a "huge loft space" in Brooklyn's hip Williamsburg, where he's designing costumes for an Uma Thurman movie and working on an NYC Fashion Week collection.
"I have many more opportunities to say no to," chuckles Sebelia, the heavily inked L.A.-based designer who took home the top prize on PR3. But Sebelia, 38, is thrilled about new clients like alterna-rock goddess PJ Harvey. He recently launched Good Vig, a pretty ("but not girly") contemporary women's line, and his edgy label Cosa Nostra is growing. Is son Harrison, now 3, following in dad's fashion footsteps? "He likes to dress up in Spider-Man costumes. He's beautiful."
Sophisticated Manhattan mom Bennett, 45, placed third on PR3 but says, "I can't imagine I would be any more successful had I won." In February, she debuted her LBD collection on QVC, and her elegant maternity wear has attracted clients like Boston Legal alum Julie Bowen. Bennett knows a thing or two about maternity and fashion — she was pregnant with her sixth child while filming. "The baby is named Finn. As in finis, finished, done," she quips.
When PR4 runner-up Rami Kashou returned to L.A., there was an e-mail from Heidi Klum's office. "They wanted to talk about dresses for Heidi," recalls Kashou, 32. "It was very exciting." Kashou originals have been popping up on red carpets, selling like mad on HSN, and are in demand by boutiques in Kuwait City and Dubai. He dressed Klum for the Us Weekly Hot Hollywood event and for Forbes — an outfit made of faux $100 bills. "It was like the candy challenge all over again," Kashou says.
Finishing third on PR4 hasn't deterred Lewis, who has since quit her day job and started her own corporation. Though she misses Ralph Lauren, she says, "I feel I made the right decision to pursue my dream of my own company." The chic, ambitious 27-year-old has created and sold another fall collection — think hand-knit sweaters and tailored coats — and is developing designs for spring 2009. Her business partner? Boyfriend Lewaa Abdulkhalek — now her fiancé.