Last night the final four contestants of Project Runway “lucky season 13” battled it out with runway shows at New York Fashion Week. The designers had very different design “voices,” which led to four incredibly varied final collections—boho elegant vs. street style vs. editorial vs. elevated denim. It was one of the best final shows in the show’s history, according to Heidi Klum, which made the judges’ job even harder.
But they finally did decide on a winner: Sean Kelly. EW caught up with him to talk about his thoughts on the season looking back, his plans for the future (including that Red Robin swag), and, of course, fringe.
EW: Congratulations! How does it feel to win Project Runway?
SEAN KELLY: It’s crazy. I mean it’s just sinking in now that it’s really happening because I’ve had to keep it a secret for so long, but it’s been an amazing journey.
What was the moment in the season when you thought, “Oh, I could win this”?
At the start, I was a little bit shaky. I didn’t really know how well I was going to do. And once I settled in, I think the nerves calmed down. Designing on television is completely different than designing when you’re in your studio and you have privacy… [On Project Runway] you’re kind of working on ideas as you are working with the products, so once I settled in and realized to just enjoy it, I felt like there were a few challenges where it really solidified that “Oh, I could do this.”
Is there one look from the season you wish you could change?
The Red Robin challenge—I think I just went in the wrong direction, but I told myself in this time frame, you have to commit to your idea. If it’s a bad idea and you get halfway through the day, I’m just going to stay with it because it’s hard [to start over]. I’d rather put something that I committed to down [the runway] instead of something that I didn’t finish. There’s definitely a regret, but I think everything I did I learned from and then moved forward.
You did menswear before this. Had you done womenswear at all?
In my schooling, I was trained in womenswear… but I hadn’t really approached it and designed it in reality. So I knew how to do it, but I was working totally in menswear.
Has going through the show changed your perspective?
I was never like, “I’m not a womenswear designer,” my interest at the time was just in menswear. And I was applying the same ideas and the same approach that I have for a menswear into a womenswear. It was the same process, so it was quite an easy transition.
The red carpet challenge: Was that your first time working with fringe?
Yes, it was. I had worked with quite a few weird experimental things. I had worked with shear before [laughs], which I guess could kind of be like fringe… like I was working with fake hair. But no, I hadn’t worked with this fringe especially, and I really thought there was something special about it… the way that… I mean I’m not the first person to use fringe, but I kind of discovered how to manipulate it in a way that made it feel new.
Is fringe your signature now?
I wouldn’t say that it’s my signature, but I’d say it’s definitely a good calling card. I really wanted to connect the Heidi dress to my collection because it got such great press and it was out there in the world. To connect the collection like that, it was a strength. I felt like I was onto something with the Heidi dress, and then I really wanted to get it out of my system and play with the possibilities in the finale collection.
So what’s next?
I’m focusing on a strong future, a good game plan. I don’t want it to be like a flash in the plan—I want it to be a solid career. I really want to take time and think about how to build a company… I’m really just focusing in on having that solid game plan for the future.
Have you thought about what you’re going to design for the accessory for Red Robin?
No, I have not. We filmed [the finale] in September; I kind of pretended [it wasn’t real] so I didn’t tell anyone the results. So I haven’t really thought about it, but now I can live the reality that I did win.
Be sure to read EW‘s season 13 finale recap.