Oregon Live: ‘Project Runway’ returns with a new look, new faces and another Portland designer
‘Project Runway’ returns with a new look, new faces and another Portland designer
Updated Mar 14, 2019; Posted Mar 14, 2019
Portland designer Sonia Kasparian is among the 16 fashion professionals competing on Season 17 of "Project Runway." (Photo by: Miller Mobley/Bravo)
Though “Project Runway” will show signs of a makeover when the new season premieres Thursday, March 14, one element feels very familiar – there’s another Portland-based designer in the competition.
Sonia Kasparian, who went from doing sportswear at Nike to a business creating custom bridal wear and special-event gowns, is the latest Rose City fashion professional to be among the “Project Runway” hopefuls.
In a phone interview prior to the new season premiere, Kasparian says that based on early seasons of the show, she initially had some doubts about going on “Project Runway.”
“One of the things I was really leery about going into this, “ she says, “was that in the beginning, the contestants seemed really young, and really catty and petty.”
But she had, as she says, “a nice surprise” in learning that the new season was going to feature designers who are “competing at a higher level, they’re professionals, they’re in it to showcase their craft.”
At 55, Kasparian is older than many of the designers who have been a “Project Runway” staple over the years, newbies still figuring out their vision and approach.
In the past, she says, “Project Runway” had sent out an email about her possibly doing the show. Her feeling then was, “that isn’t me, it’s not right for me, it’s a younger designer’s game.”
A gown created by Portland designer Sonia Kasparian for the "First Impressions" runway show that begins "Project Runway" Season 17. (Photo: Karolina Wojtasik/Bravo)
But for this new season, Kasparian says, “they had someone reach out to me, who said that Bravo was getting it back, and had really experienced designers, a really diverse group that had businesses.”
With that in mind, Kasparian decided “Project Runway” sounded like a good way to get national exposure.
“I’m successful here, and I have people who know my work elsewhere,” Kasparian says. “But I want to get my brand out to a bigger arena.”
Kasparian joins a parade of other Portland and Vancouver-based designers who have competed on “Project Runway" including winners Michelle Lesniak and Seth Aaron Henderson, both of whom have also competed on the spinoff show, “Project Runway All Stars.”
Though “Project Runway” began its TV run in 2004 on the Bravo cable channel, the show moved over to Lifetime in 2009. Its run on Lifetime ended When Harvey Weinstein, whose production company made the show, was accused of sexual misconduct. Weinstein’s company was sold, and “Project Runway” then returned to the Bravo channel.
Sonia Kasparian, shown with some of her creations, is among the 16 designers competing on Season 17 of "Project Runway." (Photo courtesy of Sonia Kasparian)
But then original host Heidi Klum and mentor Tim Gunn announced they were leaving, to develop a fashion show of their own for Amazon Prime Video.
Season 17 of “Project Runway” features a new host, model Karlie Kloss, a new mentor in designer (and previous “Project Runway” winner) Christian Siriano, and joining the returning judge Nina Garcia will be designer Brandon Maxwell and former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth.
In addition to the new faces, “Project Runway” is rolling out a new runway, workroom, flash sales, fast fashion, plus-size models and other updated touches. Designers are competing to win $250,000 in prize money, a feature in Elle magazine, $50,000 to use for their own design studio, and more.
Kasparian says she knew about the return to Bravo, but didn’t hear about Klum and Gunn departing until after she signed on.
“You associate Heidi and Tim with the show,” Kasparian says. “But I’d committed myself to it, and then we found out after that who the judges were and who the mentor was going to be, and I was very excited.”
“Project Runway” Season 17 premieres with a 90-minute episode that starts at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 14 on Bravo.
-- Kristi Turnquist