Sebelia takes a break from selling his fall collection in a Manhattan showroom during Fashion Week. (Photo: Marvin Lacar)
Nowadays, most reality-show contestants arrive on set with a plan, a story arc, or an identity they’ve cobbled together from watching other reality shows for the fifteen years since that first season of The Real World. A little Puck here, a little Trishelle there. Jeffrey Sebelia, Project Runway’s third and most recent winner, certainly did. “I thought I’d start out really dark and annoying,” he says.
Unabomber would be his look: hooded sweatshirts and sunglasses. His neck tattoo would seem intimidating until later in the season when—plot twist!—he revealed that it spelled out the name of his totally adorable 2-year-old son, Harrison Detroit, around whom he turns to goo. He talked about his difficult past: the abusive dad, the years of drug addiction, the suicide attempt, his redemption. And the clothes would follow a similar trajectory: shredded and aggressive and dark to start with, far lighter and nearly pretty by the end.
True to his script, Sebelia arrived with irritating pranks, like hand buzzers for introductions and foghorns for early mornings. And he was annoyingly cocky. “I’m looking around, and it’s just all remedial, intermediate stuff happening,” he sneered on the first episode. He was an arrogant winner, a sore loser, and he made another contestant’s mother cry. He picked fights with a pregnant redhead named Laura, who played the uptown bitch to his punk-rock kid. In the final round, she accused him of outsourcing some pleats on leather shorts. Milking his possible disqualification for maximum effect, producers aired lingering shots of a depleted, ghost-white Sebelia on a balcony, chain-smoking in the rain, while Laura lurked in the background. When he was exonerated, at last, he crumbled in a sobbing heap on the shoulder of a cute blonde rival named Uli—his transformation to beloved underdog complete.
In the final episode, his red sundress imprinted with little white apples stole the show. For all the entertainment value he’d added, his collection was, simply put, the most accomplished. It was the most varied in range, the most successfully assembled. “He was the most connected to what’s happening right now,” says Elle fashion director and Runway judge Nina Garcia. “He’s more editorial, more edgy, he has good ideas … John Galliano-esque.” (Read Entire Story)