When Project Runway returned to Bravo this past year, the first new cast back to the refurbished Bravo workroom had all eyes on them. The legacy and pedigree that this smash show has built in the fashion community goes without saying; this is a massive opportunity. No one realized that more than Colombian born/Ft. Lauderdale residing designer Sebastian Grey, who took his unique perspective and attention to detail in his design all the way to the end, snagging the Project Runway grand prize this year. As he mulls his next move, I caught up with him earlier this summer to talk about what the whole reality competition experience was like, what it was like getting kudos from a judge he had a great deal in common with, and get a sneak peek at some of the amazing designs that helped propel Grey into the design stratosphere!
Michael Cook: We were all happy to see you win the first reboot season of Project Runway!
Sebastian Grey: Yes, and the first Latino to win! Crazy right?
MC: What does it feel like, after going through the whole process, to now look back and see that you have actually won the entire season.
SG: It feels surreal actually. It’s like I am floating a little bit on cloud nine really. All of the people that have reached out, all of the proposals that are appearing, and some of the people on the street go crazy when they see me, it’s so funny to see their reactions. I am not used to that and sometimes I don’t know how to respond to people’s emotions, but I do love it so much.
MC: Project Runway came back to Bravo this year, and this season’s cast had even more eyes on them since this was the official reboot. What was it like joining this year’s cast?
SG: It was really intense. It is intense when you realize that you are actually there. When you realize you are going to meet the judges and the other contestants, it’s a really intense moment. When you are there for the first couple of weeks & preparing for the runway shows, I would see the sign for Project Runway behind the actual runway, and I would want to cry; “I can’t believe I am here”. It is more than a dream come true; even if I had been eliminated in the first couple of episodes, I had made it. You cannot compare it with any other emotion in the world, it is very unique, it is very mind blowing.
MC: Now that the experience is over, what do you think surprised you the most about the season looking back?
SG: I think what I liked about the season the most is that it was very focused on real designers and on different designers all over the world. We had people from countries everywhere, and models of all shapes and sizes.
MC: You also had the first trans model in the history of the show on this season, with Mimi Tao strutting the runway.
SG: Oh Mimi, I love her. She is great. I think with the parternship with the CFDA, it’s almost like the money is secondary. THE CFDA is the true winning prize. It is going to help build your brand, understand more about what your brand is about, I cannot believe I am going to meet Steven Colb and be sitting with him and talking about all of these things. The fact that an opportunity like that came from this is priceless.
MC: How did a young man from Cali, Colombia fall in love with fashion?
SG: I fell in love with fashion when I was fourteen years old in ballet school. I was watching how they create the outfits and I loved how they communicated so many things without saying anything at all. I guess because there, it was very specific and simple, it was about telling the story, and you could see the outfits and the makeup, and everything. You understood the story so you understood what it was saying, and it was amazing seeing these outfits communicating so many things. When I finished ballet school, I decided to move onto fashion for myself.
MC: You have landed in Wilton Manors, FL full-time. How was the fashion and the art perspective in South Florida influence what you do as a designer?
SG: I don’t think that Miami and Ft Lauderdale are influencing me too much, probably because the weather and vibe is the same as it was in Colombia. It’s warm, everyone Is super happy and we are always in flowy clothes all the time. I guess the thing that influenced my designs the most is my background as ballet dancer and the opportunity that I have to work with amazing designers. A couple other people in my country taught me so much and they let me destroy so many yards of fabric (laughs); that is how I learned, that is one of my biggest influences.
MC: What judge & fashion legend Nina Garcia said to you on the runway was very personal and you seemed to truly appreciate what she was saying. What was it like hearing a fellow Latino person say these words to you?
SG: Even hearing you repeat it right now, I am feeling emotional. She is a fashion icon for me. I know who Nina is through the entire show and even before that, she has been a fashion icon for the entire Latin community. It is inane really, to get that validation from her and how appreciative she is of my work. It is something that fills my heart and my soul with so much joy and happiness.
MC: What is your favorite place in your hometown of Wilton Manors, FL to check out when you want to step away from designs and sewing and blow off some steam?
SG: All of Wilton Drive really. On the whole street, you can go from bar to bar, and you can have so much fun. Every bar has something different. The Village Pub is great, and Georgie’s Alibi is fun. I love Hunter’s Sunday Tea also. I channel my Donna Summer on those days and I dance (laughs)!
MC: What gives you the most pride?
SG: I think that thanks to the platform that Project Runway has given me, I can tell the younger LGBT community the message to go for your dreams. No matter your background, if you put everything you have into your passion, it’s going to happen for you. Dream BIG!
For info on the next season of Project Runway: https://www.bravotv.com/project-runway
Check out Sebastian Grey: https://jhoansebastiangrey.com/
Art Courtesy of Bravo