POPSUGAR Fashion

Roll Call: Meet the Designers Competing on Project Runway's Upcoming Season

Jul 16 2013 - 3:15pm

It's that time of year again! On July 18, the 12th season of the hit fashion reality show Project Runway will premiere on Lifetime [1], making 15 relatively unknown designers from across the country instantly famous.

But who are this season's competitors, and what are they bringing to the table that's different from past seasons? Among their ranks are a Broadway costume designer, a deaf college professor, a former male model, and an art gallery manager who spent eight years in the Army working as a mechanic. It's an eclectic bunch of people who have a variety of different experiences: while some have taken more traditional routes to industry success, others are entirely self-taught.

Before the show's first episode premieres, we invite you to get to know the contestants, here in the gallery.

Photo courtesy of A&E Networks

Ken Laurence

Who He Is: Laurence is a self-taught freelance fashion designer who previously worked in retail.

How He Defines His Aesthetic: He wants to create clothing for inspiring women in power, like First Lady Michelle Obama.

Why He Might Win: Some of the world's greatest design talents, including Elie Saab [2] and Jacques Fath, have been self-taught just like Laurence. Also, he describes himself as "a force to be reckoned with."

Photo courtesy of A&E Networks

Miranda Kay Levy

Who She Is: Levy works as a curator for Milwaukee's Tenth Street Gallery, as a teacher at the Art Institute of Wisconsin, and as a color specialist for Kohl's.

What Influences Her: She spent eight years in the Army working as a mechanic and says she's still influenced by military uniforms.

Why She Might Win: Like her cocompetitor Ken Laurence, Levy is entirely self-taught. Levy has an artistic eye and a quirky sensibility that will no doubt endear her to viewers.

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Jeremy Brandrick

Who He Is: Brandrick has some serious design chops on his résumé. The 41-year-old worked for Dolce & Gabbana [3] in Milan before moving on to Mulberry as head of menswear. He also did a stint designing for the British High Street label Marks & Spencer.

Where You've Seen His Work: While he was still in school at Central St. Martins, Brandrick won a competition to help outfit the British Olympic team.

Why He Might Win: Brandrick is perhaps the most seasoned designer on the roster and has high-end experience under his belt that no one else on this field can boast.

Photo courtesy of A&E Networks

Helen Castillo

Who She Is: The 25-year-old New Jersey native has a degree in special occasion design from New York's Fashion Institute of Technology.

What She Designs: Don't let the tattoos fool you. Castillo puts her special occasion design degree to use in dresses that are formal, structured, and innately glamorous. She cites Valentino and Vivienne Westwood [4] among her biggest influences.

Why She Might Win: This young designer claims to have "couture sewing techniques" in her toolbox, and her flair for the romantic will likely impress judge Zac Posen [5].

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Justin LeBlanc

Who He Is: LeBlanc is an assistant professor working in the Design College at North Carolina State University.

Where He Studied: After getting his undergraduate degree in architecture at NCSU and a master's at the Art Institute of Chicago, LeBlanc interned for designers Alexander McQueen [6] and Nick Cave.

Why He Might Win: LeBlanc is a true fashion academic and has a studied approach to fashion. He's also deaf, which he says naturally makes him a more visual person.

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Dom Streater

Who She Is: Streater works as an animal caretaker but has a design degree from Philadelphia's Moore College of Art and Design.

When She Knew She Could Design: As a teenager, Streater turned a pair of jeans into a one-shoulder bell-sleeve top. Her mother, she says, almost killed her.

Why She Might Win: She's already critically acclaimed: a hand-painted, tie-dyed satin gown she designed won an award from the Fashion Group International.

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Alexander Pope

Who He Is: A 38-year-old who describes himself [7] as an "uber gay fashion designer," Pope is originally from Los Angeles and attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising before moving to New York.

Where You've Seen His Work: Pope has designed costumes for Broadway productions like Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Shrek the Musical, and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

Why He Might Win: In his first ever tweet [8], Pope says "there's gonna be lots of drama" in this season. With his penchant for stage design, perhaps he navigated that drama all the way to the ultimate prize.

Photo courtesy of A&E Networks

Kahindo Mateene

Who She Is: Mateene is a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who's lived and traveled across Africa, Europe, and the Americas. She studied business and economics at Blackburn College and fashion design at the Illinois Institute of Art.

Where You've Seen Her Work: Since 2009, Mateene has been working on her own line, Modahnik, which blends African prints with Western shapes. She's been featured in a number of publications, including WWD and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Why She Might Win: Mateene has a truly global worldview and is already running her own business. Plus, her clothing [9] is interesting and wearable at the same time.

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Angela Bacskocky

Who She Is: Bacskocky graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor's in fashion design and has been working on her own line since 2011.

Where You've Seen Her Work: As an intern at Alexander McQueen [10], Bacskocky helped develop some of the 3D gemstone prints the house used in 2008. She's also worked with the German brand Felder Felder [11] and the London suitmaker A Suit That Fits as a tailor.

Why She Might Win: Bacskocky has a sensible, clean aesthetic and a mind for business. One of her bestselling items is her Cocoon handbag — and what two-year-old label has the forethought to start building its accessories collections early?

Photo courtesy of A&E Networks

Sandro Masmanidi

Who He Is: This former model and jewelry designer is a native of Russia and studied at Moscow's University of Art.

Where You've Seen His Work: The garment Masmanidi is proudest of is a patchwork jacket he designed for Joan Rivers.

Why He Might Win: The 28-year-old has spent time in the studios of some of the world's most legendary designers. After college, he interned for Jean Charles de Castelbajac, Hanae Mori [12], and Oscar de la Renta [13].

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Karen Batts

Who She Is: Batts is a 29-year-old part-time babysitter and self-employed fashion designer who double majored in design and photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Where You've Seen Her Work: Batts's clothing was spotted on the runway at Charleston Fashion Week in 2013.

Why She Might Win: She can handle the pace of working in a big city, having interned with fashion companies in New York while she was a student.

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Timothy Westbrook

Who He Is: The 24-year-old Wisconsin native owns and operates a studio where he's training 10 college apprentices in design.

Where He Learned to Sew: Westbrook's grandmother is responsible for the beginning of his education in fashion, teaching him how to sew at just age 9. He eventually made his way to the alterations department at David's Bridal.

Why He Might Win: Westbrook's already hard at work running his own studio, and mass-market experience and his verve for sustainability prime him for lots of future success.

Photo courtesy of A&E Networks

Alexandria von Bromssen

Who She Is: Von Bromssen is a Swedish-born designer who got her master's degree from the San Francisco Academy of Art University. She still lives in the City by the Bay, where she works as a designer, boutique owner, and artist and even gives sewing lessons.

Where You've Seen Her Work: Her store, the Red Square Boutique in San Mateo, CA, houses much of her work, but it's also been on display in local fashion shows and art events.

Why She Might Win: Von Bromssen is a serious designer. Per the artist's statement on her website, "Her designs cross the lines of fashion, art, and design. Alexandria's pieces are timeless and empowering, delicate yet strong, extravagant but with a refreshing sense of simplicity."

Photo courtesy of A&E Networks

Bradon McDonald

Who He Is: McDonald toured the world in dance troupes for 14 years before he enrolled in Los Angeles's Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. He currently works as an assistant designer.

What He's Designed in the Past: McDonald lived and worked in New York for a time before he moved to Los Angeles, and one of his jobs was creating costumes for a burlesque show.

Why He Might Win: This designer, perhaps more than any of the others in this season, is fabric obsessed. That may give him an advantage when the time comes to choose his own cloth — or if one of the challenges involves an unconventional material.

Photo courtesy of A&E Networks

Sue Waller

Who She Is: The Boston native is one of a handful of self-taught designers on this season's roster. She previously worked in film production and as an illustrator.

What Her Work Is Made Of: Waller says her favorite materials to work with are lambskin and silk or cotton jersey. Her biggest inspiration? Nature.

Why She Might Win: Waller has a strong aesthetic and a point of view that blends natural lines with clean structure, which may be appealing to a big audience.

Photo courtesy of A&E Networks


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