‘Project Runway’: Irina, in her own words


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I briefly caught up with Irina Shabayeva, winner of “Project Runway’s” Season 6, to ask her about the finale, the general attitude of the season and those T-shirts:

What’s next for you?

I’m definitely going to focus on continuing to build my line — I want to be out there in the stores, hopefully Saks and Bergdorf’s, even, with the right backing, to have my own shop in the city. My website is being updated; I haven’t been allowed to update it recently. But my spring line is going to be on my site probably tomorrow, and I will have some items on sale from it.

Other than yourself, were the finalists your ideal final three?
Honestly, in the beginning I probably wouldn’t have guessed that that would be the final three, but in the end it made sense. I thought maybe [Rodney] Epperson would make it a little further along than he did. I certainly thought he might be in the final three.


After having seen your line on television, was there anything about it you would have liked to change?
I was happy overall seeing it, but with anything, you learn something new — you figure out a new trick. You want to go back and change it, but that’s the cool thing about learning and doing more — for the next time you know something that you didn’t know then.

Do you feel like all the black pieces translated well on TV?
The black came across pretty well: It could have been more detailed, but they got the spirit of the collection. There will be better pictures posted soon that show the details, but overall the spirit was captured.

Did you agree with the judges’ comments about Carol Hannah Whitfield and Althea Harper’s final collections?
Honestly, I watched it with so many people that I have to rewatch it to really comment on that. I’m not quite sure. We were all watching it together last night and having drinks and laughs, and we had some friends to share it with us, so I missed a lot of little things.

Did it feel like an especially snarky season while you were filming?
It’s a competition. Everyone came to win and no one came with the thought, “I want to go home.” There was tension, but perhaps with the editing it looked a little more snarky than it was in reality. We were all business in the work room, but when we got back to the loft and had 20 minutes to unwind and chat with each other, we were really friendly. Also, we huddled backstage after the runway shows, but they never showed that, probably because it looked too friendly.

As a New Yorker, how was it shooting this season in L.A.?
I almost didn’t know that I was in L.A.; we were so busy and working so hard. I couldn’t tell you were we were: I was in “Project Runway” land. If we had shot in New York, I might have been more inclined to quit, knowing that home was so close. When you’re having a rough time you might just want to hail a cab and run away.

Have you read the blogs that talk about your T-shirts featuring material from a New York magazine article? Have you been in touch with the magazine?
I did. No: I haven’t been in touch with them. I read some of the comments. That particular piece wasn’t written by one author — they gathered all these random comments from New Yorkers. It was so funny because when I got that issue of New York I was working on the T-shirts and it was like, “Oh, my God.” I thought it was one of those meant-to-be moments, serendipity. I was so excited, I was like, “What better than right from a New Yorker’s mouth?” I did add some of my comments in too, so I thought it was a collective voice. I was so inspired by the article. For the T-shirts I did a burnout, this chemical technique with the clouds. I think they turned out great, and if I was a New Yorker I’d be proud that there’s a T-shirt with that poetry on it.


Their blog says that they’ve found their softball uniform for next year.
There you go. I guess they are proud!

— Claire Zulkey

Related posts:
“Project Runway”: A make-it-work moment
Times fashion critic on the ‘Project Runway’ final runway
‘Project Runway’: Tim Gunn carries on (to Season 7)