Going into Project Runway’s finale episode, I was pretty stoked that the reality competition series would crown its second female winner.
But only one woman of the three still standing could win, and it was none other than 27-year-old designer Leanne Marshall from Portland, Ore.
I got a chance to speak with the newly crowned designer to get her take on the competition, and whether she and the seemingly belligerent Kenley had mended fences.
What went through your mind when they announced you the winner?
I was just shocked for a good couple of minutes. It’s just so overwhelming and I was beyond excited. I still am. I’ll remember that moment for as long as I live. It was just like, “Did I hear that right? Did they just say my name?” It was amazing.
Did you have a feeling you would go that far in the competition?
I had high hopes, but I told myself, “I’ll be happy if I make it far, and if I’m able to show at Fashion Week.” That alone would have been a huge accomplishment. I really wanted to win, but I definitely took it one step at a time.
What was your hardest challenge over the course of the show?
Probably the second one (the green challenge). I was in the bottom two, and I was close to going home. That was when I had a wake-up call.
And what was that?
I walked into the competition being really confident that I had so much sewing experience and had been making dresses for quite a while. But with the mentality that “more is more,” I had the tendency to pile things on, and they slammed me for that. I learned really quickly that I needed to edit.
Did that help you on your way to Bryant Park?
Yes. I wanted to make sure my line was really cohesive and I kept going back to that in my mind. I could hear Michael Kors’ and Nina Garcia’s comments in my head, that all was very much on my mind.
Let’s talk about Kenley. It looked as if she made it kind of difficult at times to connect with her. Have you had a chance to talk since the show ended?
Yeah, I actually got to talk with her last night. I feel bad how it all festered and kind of came to a head at that next-to-last episode. She and I started off as friends. It was unfortunate. She’s a person that gets overly competitive and kind of forgets to be respectful about it.
It’s great that you’re the series’ second female winner. How does it feel to have that title?
It’s really a great honor. I think there are many great female designers out there, but it just so happens that the Project Runway winners ended up being male. I’m thrilled.
How are you going to differentiate yourself in the design world so we’re hearing about you a year or two from now?
I’m moving to New York and I’m going to further develop my line. I’m finally going to have people working for me and helping me so I don’t have to sew 24 hours a day by myself. I want to be at Fashion Week season after season and really make a name for myself. I’m making it a point to really remain out there. I don’t want to be one of those names or designers that you forget about.
You picked an unusual activity to do with your mentor Tim Gunn when he visited you to check on your line.
In Portland I ride my bike all the time and my friend Nick had that tandem bike, and just somewhere that thought crossed my mind, “What am I going to do when Tim comes to visit?” And that popped in there and I was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s it! We have to do that.” It was so cool to look back and think, “Oh my gosh, I rode on a tandem bike with Tim Gunn!”