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'Project Runway': A chat with Season 7's winner, Seth Aaron Henderson


After showing a 1940s-German-and-Russian- military-inspired 10-piece collection at Bryant Park during Fashion Week in February, Northwest-based designer Seth Aaron Henderson has been named the winner of Season 7 of "Project Runway" Beating out fellow designers Emilio Sosa and Mila Hermanovski, Henderson was praised for his cohesive, beautifully constructed, show-stopping collection by the show's judges. He walked off with an editorial feature in Marie Claire magazine’s July issue, and and a cash prize of $100,000 from L’Oréal Paris to launch his own fashion line, among other prizes. I caught up with him to talk about his approach to the runway show, his dedication to his family and getting Tim Gunn on a trampoline.

Where can we buy your stuff and when?
I have a couple things left online at Ann Bocci boutique in Portland, but I need to establish a manufacturer. Eventually the line will be rolling out to boutiques and department stores. I want to create an affordable line for everybody, with different price levels.

What was your favorite design from the runway show? 
Each one was perfect or else I wouldn’t have sent it down. Some were individual pieces that could be retail, some were pushing costume, but dude, it was New York Fashion Week!  I wanted to make a bold, graphic statement. My competitors went the other way: They did very beautifully made lines, but they could have gone right off the runway and onto the shelf. After the show, we sat down and agreed that any one of us could win. None of us agreed that he or she was a better designer or had better-made clothes than the others. I saw the other two's clothes up close and they were just beautifully made, but they had a different approach to a show. It's Bryant Park: You gotta go big and make an exciting show! From looks No. 1 to No. 10, you have to keep everyone's attention and keep the volume up. I even had my music created from scratch for my show. Nina [Garcia] told me, "You're the only one who made a runway show collection." I'm not sure all my pieces would be sold in the same store or even the same department. They're supposed to be different. Someday I'd love to do a show where it's all costume and don't even have to be wearable.

How much did you alter your approach after Tim Gunn's critique at your halfway point?
I started with an expected retail line, a pretty, predictable collection. I always intended on bringing at least 20 looks to New York: I like to have options. I was where I wanted to be when Tim came, and I knew where I needed to go. He came and confirmed that for me: He said, "They're impeccably made, but the judges are going to expect this from you. Where should you go from here? You know where to go. What you have here would knock the socks off the judges if it was season 6, but this is season 7."  It was kind of like, "Oh God," but “I also kind of already know this.” That's part of growing as a designer. My gut feeling was, "I gotta go big."

Did you put him on the trampoline to punish him? 
He'd never been on one!  Growing up in California, there were always trampolines around where we lived. My kids play on it, and my daughter's a gymnast. It was just a fun time, and we just had a blast.

Are you staying in Washington for the time being?
We're going to stay where we are because the kids are in their teens and they have friends and their school's amazing, but if the factory goes as planned, we'll get an apartment in L.A. so we can go there for a week and work. I'm also not at all opposed to the right fashion house saying, "Hey, you want a job?" If I can get into some really foreign high-end company, that would be amazing.

What would be your dream line to work for?
Well, he's dead now ... McQueen.  Or Dior, something along those lines. Roland Mouret, who was one of the judges this season -- if he offered me a job I'd be there in a second.

What was your favorite challenge?
I loved the kids challenge, I loved the Harlem looks, and I loved the print challenge, creating your own fabric. 

Speaking of the kids challenge, do you have any plans to do kids clothing?
I've made kids stuff before for independent clients who wanted a great costume dress for their daughter or whatever. I'm not opposed to it. After I get a manufacturer established and they're producing the women's and men’s, I figure, why not the kids too.

Why was your family so emotional at the finale?
They're been through this journey with me, and they know how much it means for me and how much I've worked for it. I've worked for his for the last four years, and they just know that's what I love to do. They're just really happy for me that I went there to win, to accomplish a goal and I made it. My family's around me every day and being gone during the summer, I missed our camping trip, shopping, all these things where I wasn't there: That's what I meant when I said I sacrificed for my dream. They said, "That's OK, go do this." I'm going to make it up for them and take them for a vacation.

-- Claire Zulkey

Photo: Heidi Klum congratulates designer Seth Aaron Henderson. Credit: Barbara Nitke / Lifetime

Comments () | Archives (9)

I did not agree with Judges decision. Emelio should be the winner. He makes such elegant clothes with very nice color choices. From watching the show I think Emelio did not win because he did not agree with Tim. This is unfair. Emelio is the designer and he should be in charge of his collection. Seth is good at making costumes. I was looking forward to wear his clothes. That's ok I will keep wearing Michael Kors clothes until I find another elegant line.


I can't believe SethAaron won the final designer show. I loved Emilio collections. He had such color and a variety of models and looks. He is a tough designer. I'm sure something else went into the judges picking the winner other than looks,designs and colors.
Emilio in my book is the winner of Project Runaway. Maybe we should get some fresher judges

I loved Seth's designs! Congrats Seth! I also was in LOVE with Mila's designs and wonder if she will be doing anything with Mens clothes? I think Emilio was just jealous of Seth, and his designs were NOT impressive at all...it was geared like "Mila" said to 1994 Harlem! And as far as his little
comment about "he's the king"...that's a load of bs...please be happy for Seth he's earned it!

We totally agree with blogger that Emelio Sosa should be the winner of Project Runway, but, just like Season One, the judges picked white instead of a dark complected, designer who was too confident. And, to use that lame excuse Emelio showed a "line not a collection" was weak. Emelio's signature pieces were brilliant. We will wager our duckets that Kors, Nina, and the rest of them will have their names emblazoned on their clothes.

Tim and judges gave critical fashion/designing tips (expertise) to Mila and Seth. Tim told Seth, "they're impeccably made, but the judges are going to expect this from you. Where should you go from here? You know where to go. What you have here would knock the socks off the judges if it was season 6, but this is season 7." Heidi warned Kors about redesigning for Jay, but, then, they told Mila she needed to be edgy, ruff it up. Jay's three pieces were by far, better than Mila's three pieces.

Emelio's "Color Me Bad" collection (not line) was by far the best. Throughout season 7, he proved himself and to not win the prize was sincerely disappointing. Our only reason for watching this show was to see Emelio. And, of course, Anthony.

Mila and not Jay? Seth and not Emelio? How many challenges did Emelio win compared to Seth? And, how many challenges did Jay win compared to Mila? Judges were wrong, wrong, wrong. Well, just COLOR US DISAPPOINTED!

I am thrilled that Seth Aaron won. Emilio and Mila both made great collections, but they were boring and expected. Why is, more often than not, the first challenge on the show about innovation? Because at it's core, this show is about creativity. Almost every item in Mila and Emilio's collection you could find at a department store somewhere. Seth Aaron's collection, however, blew me away. If you look at the history of this show, every winner has been the designer with the most innovative collection. People can call racism all they want about Emilio not winning, but the fact is is that his collection, though beautiful, had been done and done a lot. Also, two of his garments were essentially a plain blue and a plain red dress- IT IS NEW YORK FASHION WEEK, YOU DO NOT SEND PLAIN GARMENTS DOWN THE RUNWAY.

*ahem* Anyway, though this his has nothing to do with fashion, but Emilio was a total jerk throughout the show and Seth Aaron was a total doll. It was refreshing to see the nice guy finish first.

I know everyone wanted Emilio to win but I always loved Seth's work. Not that I could want to wear them but because he worked fast, his stuff looked impeccable and he had a new fresh vision. Emilio's stuff was beautiful...love the blue coat...but it was "safe". Seth's clothes were lined, he had multiple pieces etc. He even made 20 outfits instead of 10! His clothes are innovative and fun and remember it was a RUNWAY SHOW. I always wanted to see what he was going to do next. He even changed his look for the runway...he's an artist and that's what sets him apart. He has his OWN style not a remake of someone elses. I wear clothes that already look like Mila's. AND YES HEIDI had a bias for Mila's work from the very first episode with that horid blak and white paneled running suit. I loved Emilio's stuff but it was pretty boring... and frankly he is full of himself...he is a sore looser too. I'm so happy Seth won! YAY!

And now from the peanut gallery: I am not a designer or a seamstress but I watch Project Runway each season. So far in my opinion, no one has come close to Christian Siriano or Arina. Those designers make clothes that have a resonance with the everyday woman who can be elegant or cozy saavy in a gorgeously made coat. This season disappointed me. Emilio has a style that may be right for the older woman, Jay has a style for the punk hip gal. Mila had some interests for me only because I do love black. But she had singular designing. Now Seth is an off planet designer who mixes and matches so much that I am cross eyed. His militaristic slant was horrifically anti-feminine. Maybe these judges love the retro 1940's look but come on, we all watched the 1940's movies and glamor was in big time not this. Have no idea on Earth what compelled Seth Aaron to go in this direction. Certainly who would wear such nonsense? um maybe Adam Lambert on stage? or Lady Gaga?

I am growing tired of the Emilio was robbed comments. Here are the facts as to why he probably lost:

1. His collection was nice, but the colors were weak and he had some that could just be seen in a normal store currently. Seth Aaron's was a runway show - had some pieces that were good for every day and others that were not, but they all were interesting and built up to the finale.

2. He won maybe ONE more challenge than Seth (who won two challenges, children's and tied with Emilio for the Harlem one).


3. EMILIO was in the BOTTOM TWO one time for the string bikini, while Seth Aaron was NEVER in the bottom two.

4. Emilio DID NOT LOSE BECAUSE HE WAS BLACK! If that was an issue, he'd been let go sooner and then we'd had discrimination cases. In fact, IMHO he actually lucked out to be in the final three because he managed to bull his way out as to why he created the washer bikini (which we know was a lie because he didn't have enough supplies). He probably edged out Jesse because Jesse had badmouthed Ping so harshly on the runway (meaning, they used Jesse's attitude as an excuse to eliminate him - his outfit was indeed wearable and better made).

I'm sorry, but overall, you cannot say that Emilio lost because of his race or a better collection - as SA said, any of them could've won. It was the little things such as the ones mentioned above that probably gave the win to SA.


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