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'Project Runway' winner Leanne dishes on Kenley and her first big splurge

October 16, 2008 |  2:20 pm

Leanne3 "Project Runway" winner Leanne Marshall says she's not a one-trick pony, a thought that crossed the minds of last night's finale judges after her sublime parade of petals, but she's certainly got a one-track mind. And it's all fashion, all the time.

The day after viewers saw her take the show's top prizes -- $100,000, a spread in Elle magazine and a hybrid vehicle -- Leanne got on the phone to talk about  Kenley's "Holly Hobby" hand-painting, scary Nina Garcia, and her own strictly secondhand shopping habits.

Humble 'til the very end.

You've known you've won for quite a while now. How are you going to celebrate now that the world knows?
I have a lot of interviews still to do (laughs). I don't know. I think just interviews and then I get to go to "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," which is great because I love him. Love.

What about your winnings? We've heard a lot about your company leanimal already, but tell us what you're excited to splurge on.
It all has to go to the clothing line! Really. Maybe I'll go and buy some crazy expensive fabrics that normally I can't go near. That's kind of my version of buying a fancy pair of shoes. It will be fun to feel like I can buy whatever I want in a fabric store.

Was it as obvious to you, as it was to the viewing audience, that you had this in the bag?
God no. I was nervous! I hoped and I had my fingers crossed, but I didn't know. I knew that my collection went well and I loved what I did, but it was always nerve-wracking in front of the judges.  I didn't get to see the other girls' collections either because I was running around frantically backstage during their shows. So I really had no idea.

You did look more frazzled than Korto and Kenley in the lead-up to final runways.
Korto and I were the most stressed. She was making two looks and I had a ton of details I needed to take care of, including reconstructing the bridesmaid's dress. I'd never shown my collection on such a huge scale -- not to mention have it be judged right after. It was very intense and stressful.

Let's get my Kenley question out of the way. I'm not a fan, and she's certainly been the season's  villain. But you had a few stinging remarks of your own for her collection in the final episode. I believe the words "Holly Hobby" were used when it came to her hand-painted pieces. Any regrets?

I do feel bad. I was kind of being funny when I said it, but when I watched it back, I found that some of the comments came off as kind of catty. All of these thoughts are rushing through your mind when you're going through the competition, and, you know, you're stressed and everything gets to you. We all were guilty of it, and, of course, those are the comments that make for good TV and make the final cut. I saw Kenley last night, though, and thankfully things have blown over a bit. Yeah, it's quite a bit better than it was during the shooting of the show.

What gave your collection the edge?
Everybody did such a great job. I think Kenley's designs looked great on the runway, and Korto's use of color is amazing for women of all shapes and sizes. Ultimately, I think my collection was truly modern. It was stuff you hadn't seen. That's what I'm most interested in doing, finding something new. I'm always thinking of what's next.

You also decided to use sustainable materials in half of your collection. Why?
I've done it previously in creation collections, and I had always thought if I got to the final three, it's something I'd want to do again. In this day and age, with the current state of the world, I think it's something all designers should be going towards.

All the judges pretty much gushed at all three collections. Which of them was especially harsh during the season?
Definitely Nina Garcia. She sees every collection. She's been to every fashion show. There's no fooling her. She's very tough and hard to impress. But I've learned a lot. When she nailed me in that second challenge -- I was at the bottom -- and told me to edit, I can honestly say that editing never crossed my mind. I took it to heart and it ended up helping a lot.

What about you? Where do you shop for clothes?
I'm really all about secondhand when it comes to my personal style. I'm sewing all day long for customers and clients, so when it comes to me, I never have any time. Everything I do and think about goes into my clothes for my customers.

-- Denise Martin

(Photo credit: Bravo)