ET has your exclusive first look at the designers stepping into the workroom on Bravo's 'Project Runway.'
Anna Yinan Zhou
Anna Yinan Zhou
San Francisco, CA
Hailing from Shanghai, Anna Zhou grew up in a family with an art background. She was influenced by her father, who is a sculptor and has studied fine art since she was 13. Anna found her fashion voice and sense of creative freedom when she took the step to move to the United States. She received her degree in fashion design from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. After jobs with brands like Marchesa, she founded her own line, ORAZ, during the global pandemic. She even has managed to launch two seasonal collections that were featured in WWD. She draws inspiration from her personal life and experiences, with her designs focusing on evocative, dark, and abstract aesthetic centers. Anna advocates against crimes toward the AAPI community. She aims to empower her people with her collection and believes in using her fashion creation as a weapon to fight for social issues, including gender inequality and racial discrimination.
Bloomfield Hills, MI
Originally from Afghanistan, Sabrina Spanta and her family fled the Afghan war to a refugee camp in Pakistan. Tragically, her mother died during their journey, and Sabrina's dad was left to care for her and her siblings. In 2000, both Sabrina and her sister were adopted in the United States by their great aunt, whom she now calls Mom and feels is her "true mother." Sabrina's eye for design bloomed during her time in Afghanistan while watching her birth father work as a tailor. In 2013, she created her self-titled line, Sanowber, and has received recognition at numerous events and publications such as Charleston Fashion Week, St. Louis Fashion Week, CNN News, and more. She draws inspiration from modern architecture for the silhouettes and shapes of the garments she creates. Sabrina's passion for patterns and embroidery comes from her various cultural experiences. Although she went through hardships in 2020 and had to move back to Michigan to live in her teenage home, she is ready for the next chapter in her life.
Zayden Skipper was raised in Chicago by a strong tribe of women who grounded him, making sure he would utilize his talent to his fullest ability. He was inspired to pick up a needle and thread when he saw all the great clothes that his mother and grandmother would make for him and his sisters. After completing his Bachelor of Science degree in Business from Alcorn State and working in the corporate world, Zayden decided to move to Atlanta to pursue his master's in fashion. Remarkably, he quickly went from being homeless to being the only Black man to graduate from Savannah College of Art and Design in his class with the MFA, the highest degree in fashion with honors. His current collection is called Avant Oppidan: The Misrepresentation of Black Designers in the Fashion Industry, which describes the history and struggles of Black people and the lack of talented Black fashion designers in America. Zayden also came up with his very own genre of fashion called "Urban Avant-Garde Streetwear" that embraces "The Culture." Although he has been in business for only one year, Zayden has been featured in Vogue Italia, Teen Vogue, Essence, and WWD and was chosen to represent SCAD in the CFDA fashion future graduate. His designs have been featured in Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, France, and Hong Kong. In 2020, he worked with very prominent clients such as Tanya Sams, Tierra Wack, Paula Wallace, and Lori Harvey. He designed a garment for the Mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, which he is very proud of.
Chasity Sereal grew up in Houston, Texas, and prides herself on problem solving. As a high school junior, she got her start by designing senior prom dresses. Nicknamed "Lady Godiva" by her father, she suffered the tremendous loss of his death at the age of 12. Chasity's father was the artist of the family-he had a talent for sketch art and was whom she inherited her artistic side from. She developed her fashion skills through countless hours of practice and primarily focuses on her self-titled line, Chasity Sereal, launched in 2009. However, prior to her father's death, she began by making clothes for her Barbies out of socks. Her designs range from luxury streetwear to ready-to-wear couture. Her couture pieces are designed for strong, powerful women while also injecting "Disney Princess" silhouettes. Two of her collections were even presented at New York Fashion Week. As a black female designer, she is passionate about the lack of representation for people that identify like her in fashion world. Having two daughters of her own, she is fearlessly avid in creating a better life for her kids and ensuring that her two daughters will be motivated to follow their dreams.
Aaron Michael grew up in Moorefield, a small town in West Virginia, where he always had a passion for fashion. After the loss of his mother, he was raised by his grandparents, who made sure he never felt less than others and would always be himself. A self-taught designer, Aaron cut his first pattern by tracing his body onto fabric while lying on his friend's basement floor. Much of his early work was for drag queens and other performers he knew from his 20-year stint in the drag scene-he hosted a weekly drag show at the only gay bar in central Mississippi. Over the years, he has dressed multiple national pageant winners, "Rupaul's Drag Race" contestants, university and regional theater actors, and others. Aaron's focus now is on his two design lines: Aaron Michael and Aaron Michael Costume Shoppe. In 2019, Michael showed his designs at New Orleans Fashion Week, which put him on the map and was a defining moment in his career.
Growing up in Nicaragua, Shantall Lacayo was taught to sew when she was only four years old by her grandmother. At the young age of 13, she started her own business at school, where she made and sold stretch-shirts for her friends for $2 in order to help her single mother pay the bills. Although Shantall always wanted to pursue a career in fashion, that career did not exist in her country, so she studied marketing. Three years ago, Shantall and her husband abandoned Nicaragua in order to escape political violence. They now live in Miami with their young son. Moving to Miami gave Shantall a fresh start to pursue her fashion dreams full time. She takes pride in her ability to create looks that make women feel like their strongest selves with colorful prints and textures. She began to sell her clothes on social media, and in 2020, she diversified her business by making masks and jewelry. Shantall is not new to this competition. In 2010, she competed in "Project Runway Latin America" in Argentina, in which she was the first runner-up, and is ready to redeem herself and win the competition!
Katie Kortman's muse is fine arts, and her girl is . . . herself. She is best known for her custom singular and colorful prints. Katie is married to an OB-GYN who works in the military and has four children. When her husband was moved to Bahrain, she decided to hone her sewing skills and ultimately fell in love with fashion. When her family came back to the United States, she was determined to never buy clothes again, which forced her to create and make her own clothes. She prides herself on designing ready-to-wear, colorful designs that a woman could slip on for many occasions. Most recently, her family has uprooted and moved to Japan due to her husband's job. Katie is now focused on finding inspiration for her designs in her new cultural surroundings.
New York, NY
Growing up in Russia, Kristina Kharlashkina was instilled with a strong work ethic by her rocket scientist father and teacher mother, who encouraged her to love art. Originally, she trained and competed as a ballroom dancer and has always loved how a costume could elevate a performance. Ultimately, she knew she was destined for a career in fashion, and her background in dance influenced her beautiful, wearable aesthetic. Kristina was awarded a scholarship and graduated from one of the best arts schools in the world, Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium. With her master's in fashion, she moved to New York City and worked for top designers such as Carolina Herrara, Tom Ford, Celine, Dolce & Gabbana, and more. Her line is all about "tomorrow's fashion," focusing on playful and modern designs.
Bones Jones grew up in Virginia but always knew there was more to life than his small hometown. His fondness for fashion began as a child watching his grandmother sew for her downtown boutique, which specialized in church hats and formal wear. After receiving his first sewing machine from her at age 16, he attended the Virginia School of the Arts to study ballet, jazz, and modern dance. Bones's love for the arts led him to be a background dancer for various icons-Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, and many others. He made his Broadway debut as an original cast member of "The Illusionists" and also appeared in Off-Broadway's "Fuerza Bruta." After four years of living abroad and in Los Angeles, Bones retired from professional dance and moved back to New York in 2019 to focus on launching his line, House O Bones (HOB). With an interest in unisex fashion and everything lifestyle, HOB has something for everyone.
Prajjé Oscar Jean-Baptiste
Prajjé Oscar Jean-Baptiste
Prajjé Oscar Jean-Baptiste grew up in Haiti, where he was raised by his grandmother. When he moved to the United States at age 14, he realized his love of fashion could flourish into a profession, which was encouraged by his adoptive parents. Prajjé went to the prestigious Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and later launched his self-titled line, Prajjé Oscar. While living in New York City, he had his work featured in Harper's Bazaar Vietnam, Elle, Rolling Stone, and Teen Vogue. Prajjé describes his design style as "retro chic, yet remarkably wearable" and is best known for his glamorous evening dresses and luxurious fabrics. Today, his home base is Philadelphia, where he is looking for what's next in his career and personal life. Like many others during these challenging times, he pivoted his work to a leisurewear line and moved his business online. Prajjé has a daughter living in Haiti whom he is looking forward to being with soon.
Meg Ferguson grew up immersed in the fashion industry-her grandma Betty was a seamstress who taught her how to sew, and her grandma Nona had a children's clothing store. At an early age, she was taught how to quilt and embroider, readying herself for a career in fashion. After earning her fashion design degree from Metropolitan Community College, Meg got her first job in Creative Costuming at Walt Disney World. She later went to FIT to pursue a degree in fashion merchandising management and traveled the globe making unique costumes for multiple companies. Meg has her own company, The Atelier Co., combining high-quality materials with sophisticated and classically informed designs. She is all about celebrating gender fluidity and designs for everyone, empowering bodies that most designers do not encourage.
Originally from Mexico City and later from Tijuana, Coral Castillo is the daughter of a dressmaker and grew up with exposure to fine fabrics and custom-made clothing. While in Tijuana, her mother designed clothing for a select clientele. In 2001, Coral, her mother, and her siblings moved to the United States. Inspired by her mother's artistry, she attended The Art Institute of California in San Francisco to study fashion design. As a young single mom, Coral followed her passions by balancing work and going to design school. She finds inspiration in female empowerment, expressing resilience, and maintaining a fighting spirit without ever losing sight of celebrating the feminine. She started her self-titled line, Coral Castillo, in which she focuses on texture, layers, dramatic shapes, and a playful relationship with light and opacity. In 2013, she was recognized as one of the best designers in Orange County, and she won the Moss Adams Fashion Innovator award in 2019. Most notably, she has had designs featured in Vogue Italia, British Vogue, and WWD. During the pandemic, she picked up macramé, which she quickly incorporated it into her designs. Her goal is to show her son that hard work and persistence are the keys to success.
Growing up in Houston, Texas, Caycee Black always felt like an outsider, and art was the space where she went to escape and dream. She was infatuated with old films and musicals in which she loved seeing women express themselves through their clothing. With a BFA in design from Parsons School of Design, she set up shop in New York City and held design jobs at Club Monaco, Tibi, and Coach. Now based in Brooklyn, Caycee created her own fashion line, Caycee Black Collection. Her dynamic, unique, and zany outlook on life shows up in her designs, which have been worn by Drew Barrymore, Michelle Williams, Lilly Singh, Solange Knowles, and others. In 2009, Caycee created her own fashion line, Caycee Black Collection, and was named Women's Wear Daily Best New Designer. Known for her painted fabrics, Caycee calls her look "dystopian farm girl"-whimsical, rooted in nature, and unexpected. Recently, due to pandemic restrictions, Caycee joined forces with Susan Boyle, one of the first women to own a sneaker boutique celebrating sneaker culture and streetwear, and they are launching a children's designer meets streetwear collection in 2021.
San Diego, CA
Born and raised in Zamboanga, Kenneth Barlis is a fashion designer who found his niche in fashion at a turning point in his life at the age of 17. He started his own atelier, Kenneth Barlis, nine years ago, with a fashion voice that is clean, modern, bold, and sophisticated. Most notably, he has an extensive list of famous clientele including Carrie Underwood, Khelani, Offset and more. In 2018, he launched his KB School of Fashion, where he started training models for pageants and runway shows. From L.A. to New York to Paris to the Philippines, he has taught hundreds of young men and women that, through hard work and perseverance, anything is possible. In the past year, Kenneth has been busy creating KB masks to donate to local hospitals in San Diego and to raise funds for those who were affected by the pandemic. Ultimately, Kenneth's artistry reflects the story of a thousand Filipinx who have dared to dream. He aims to make fashion accessible not just for the who's who, but also for everyone.
New York, NY
Darren Apolonio was born in the Philippines, where he was raised by a single mother with his three sisters. In high school, he was obsessed with artists like David Bowie and Lady Gaga and was inspired by their fearless approach to fashion, which ultimately led him into the world of design. He went on to get his BFA in Fashion at SCAD and prides himself on being able to capture feelings and translate them into a garment. Upon graduation, Darren moved to New York and landed internships with several designers and stylists. Additionally, he has created his eponymous line, which features his trademark, over-the-top designs for everyone, regardless of their gender expression. As a proud Asian man, Darren found himself cautious over the past year after multiple racist incidents connected to the pandemic. In time, he decided that he must further celebrate his Asian heritage, together with his zany personality and eclectic design aesthetic, to be part of a new generation of designers with a mission to be unapologetically who you are and shoot for the stars.
Octavio Aguilar, a Puerto Rican American from New Jersey, was raised by a single mom with whom he is extremely close. At the age of 12, he was given his first sewing machine and quickly started making '90s club wear, which led him to open up his first shop in his hometown. Although Octavio went to the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale for a year, he considers himself a self-taught designer. After taking a 10-year hiatus from the fashion world to work in interior design, Octavio is back in full swing as owner and designer of his label, Dope Tavio, a genderless avant-garde street-wear line. His designs have been featured in many fashion editorials and music videos, and they have been seen on artists like Eryka Badu, Janet Jackson, and his muse, Sharaya J. Octavio is now represented by Patricia Field in New York at the ARTFASHION gallery. His goal is to inspire people to chase their dreams at any age.