‘Project Runway’ Winning Designers: Most Controversial Winners – Where Are They Now?

Project Runway is now moving back to the Bravon network, but not without a Project Runway All Stars season 7 show finale on the Lifetime channel. What are the original 16 Project Runway designers doing now? Here is part two of our series on Project Runway winners. Read part one to see the winners from seasons one through four and where are they now.

Project Runway Season 5 Winner: Leanne Marshall

Soft spoken Leanne Marshall won the fifth season with a floaty collection of waves and ruffles, in aqua blue colors of the Mediterranean. She won a hundred grand, and the honor of designing an eco-friendly collection for Project Runway sponsor Bluefly. Since then, she moved from the Oregon coast to Brooklyn, and has established herself as a top bridal gown designer.

In June, Leanne married her French boyfriend, Rémy Falgayrac, in Wyoming. According to Brides, she wore a wedding dress that she designed herself. The floaty gown was in her custom ethereal style, but with special details. Leanne painted a watercolor design on the fabric, which included “Je taime,” the French equivalent of “I love you.”

Project Runway Season 6 Winner: Irina Shabayeva

After legal hassles  Project Runway went from Bravo to Lifetime for season 6. The show changed with new production. Gone were the two-day challenges, in came the shameless product placement. For some Project Runway fanatics, this began the dark, Lifetime years. The first Lifetime winner was Irina Shabayeva. This designer, who moved from the country of Georgia to the states, never presented a garment that was negatively reviewed by the judges.

After Project Runway, she launched a successful wedding business. She did return for All Stars season 3, and is currently one of the winning designers competing in PRAS season 7. She has been on the bottom for a couple of weeks, so hopefully she can win over the judges with her exquisite talent.

View this post on Instagram

#tbt @carrieunderwood @irina_shabayeva_couture #blownaway #albumcover #customcouture

A post shared by I R I N A S H A B A Y E V A (@irina_shabayeva_couture) on

Project Runway Season 7 Winner: Seth Aaron Henderson

Energetic, hard working and personable, Seth Aaron Henderson won over the judges with his 80s New Wave aesthetic. His garments are the sort of thing that Debbie Harry would have worn in Blondie’s heyday. He has taken his love of color and design and has created a lot of cool accessories. This includes 3D printed shoes, iPad cases and computer bags.

He is one of a small handful of designers that not only won Project Runway, but also All Stars season 3. He is now competing in his second All Stars along with PRS7. Can he three-peat?

Project Runway Season 8 Winner: Gretchen Jones

Gretchen Jones won the eighth season, beating out fan favorite Mondo Guerra, in the most controversial win in the history of the show. Heidi Klum and guest judge Jessica Simpson wanted Mondo, while Nina Garcia and Michael Kors liked Gretchen’s sustainable aesthetic. In the end, Michael and Nina won, to the anger of many fans.

Since then, Gretchen virtually disappeared. Nearly as popular as season four winner Christian Siriano, Mondo Guerra went on to compete and win the first season of All Stars, and then Under the Gunn, but Gretchen totally disappeared.  It was not until a now deleted July 14, 2018 Instagram post, that fans understood what happened with the winning designer.

On her Instagram page, Gretchen answered a frequent fan question that asked “Do you regret Project Runway?”

Gretchen Jones explained that she would answer the Project Runway questions onceand forever be done with it.

Gretchen Jones, Project Runway

She explained that while she did not regret the experience, she admitted she “hated it” and if she went back in time, she would tell herself not to go on the Lifetime reality show. She also admitted to having “major ptsd from the experience.” She went on to say that the experience was traumatic, and she has done a lot of therapy to “manage the trauma.” She also cautioned that the entire experience “does not come w/a guarantee of opportunity, success, wealth & fame.” As for other designers, she admits that she does not keep up with anyone else from the show.

What Is Gretchen Jones Doing Now?

Since her Project Runway season 8 win, she has earned her MBA at the University of Arts London and is a certified NLP practitioner. She has now rebranded herself as a coach to help creatives work sustainably in traditional environments. She is also hosting a new podcast called Critical Conversations with Gretchen Jones. This podcast focuses on helping creative people working in creative businesses. She still seems to love to wear fashion, but she doesn’t appear to be planning to send a collection down the runway at New York Fashion week anytime soon.


The new Project Runway is starting sometime this spring on Bravo. This should be announced soon. Season 4 winner Christian Siriano is the newest mentor and will replace Tim Gunn. Karlie Kloss is now the new host,  replacing Heidi Klum. Only Nina Garcia from the original Project Runway will be returning.

Come back often to Soap Dirt for current Project Runway recaps, news and spoilers.