“Designers, make it work!” Project Runway contestants have been sewing up a storm since 2004 — and some of the winners are still changing the game of the fashion industry to this day.
The long-running reality series challenges up-and-coming designers to create original garments restricted by time, material and theme. From 2004 to 2018, the show was hosted by Heidi Klum with fashion guru Tim Gunn acting as a mentor for the competitors. The longtime costars confirmed in September 2018 that they would not be returning for the show’s 17th season after signing onto Amazon Prime’s Making the Cut. They were replaced by Karlie Kloss and season 4 Project Runway winner Christian Siriano.
“We were in lockstep … I never dreamed that [Project Runway] would have a second season,” Gunn told Variety in a joint interview with Klum in March 2020. “Who knew? … There’s a love and respect there that we’ll always have.”
Through its more than 250 episodes, Project Runway has been a champion for diversity and innovation in the fashion industry. Despite facing “stigma” for his unconventional rise to the top of the design world, Siriano credited his time on the series with helping him become a household name.
“Right now, in our world, with what’s happening in our culture and everything, I feel like you just have to find new ways to support your company and your brand. Young designers and young businesses are going under every single day,” he told the Washington Post in April 2019. “So I really treated it as, ‘I can show the world what I can do — and maybe bring a new generation of customer to us.’ And I mean, obviously, when I was on that show, I was 21 years old — an actual child! And now, having a business, 40 employees, a real company, people can see what you start with and what you can turn it into.”
As Kloss and Siriano step into their new roles on the runway, they’ve brought along bright new voices on the judges’ panel, like designer Brandon Maxwell and former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue Elaine Welteroth.
“I think it’s been cool to transform the legacy brand of Project Runway into something that feels really relevant for this moment, this time,” Welteroth told Parade magazine in April 2020. “We all had a say and had input. It felt like there was no reason to continue on with a legacy brand like Project Runway if it wasn’t going to really reflect what’s happening in the world right now and if it wasn’t going to be inclusive.”
Scroll down to take a look back at Project Runway winners through the years.