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Runway Star

Oakland fashion designer Amy Sarabi chats with Diablo about her success on Project Runway


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Barbara Nitke/Lifetime Television

Another season of Project Runway has just wrapped—but before fans of the smash reality show go into withdrawal, here’s a peek at what it’s like behind the scenes. We tracked down Oakland fashion designer Amy Sarabi, one of the breakout stars from this season. She called us after punching out from her day job, designing activewear for Old Navy.

Diablo: What were your goals when you were cast on Project Runway?

Amy Sarabi: I just really wanted to be remembered as “the creative one.” I wanted to be the person who was not afraid to take risks with my designs. And I did not want this to be the be-all and end-all of me as a designer.

Diablo: What was your favorite design challenge on the show?Barbara Nitke/Lifetime Television

Amy Sarabi: We were given a burlap sack and had to make something of it. At first, I was not able to visualize what to do. I had never dyed anything before, and there I was, using dye on an unconventional material. But the challenge fit into my experimental strength, and I was extremely pleased with the result.

Diablo: Was there a challenge you wish you could do over?

Amy Sarabi: Yes, the challenge to create both a children’s and an adult look. It probably was not the wisest decision to cut a million individual pieces to sew on to the leggings.

Diablo: How often do fans of the show recognize you?

Amy Sarabi: Almost every day since it started, but I am still surprised every single time. And flattered. The nice thing about Project Runway fans is that they see you as a designer first, not a reality-show celebrity.

The strangest experience was at the Oakland Airport. I was running late, and my belt set off the security alarm. Then this older security guard—not someone I would expect to watch Project Runway—says, “Excuse me, Amy?”

Diablo: How did you like showing your work at New York Fashion Week?

Amy Sarabi: When I first walked into Bryant Park, it was breathtaking just to have come that far. I still get chills thinking about that. It was my strongest collection.

I have this vivid memory from the show, watching a TV monitor backstage. I am normally very level emotionally, but I started bawling as I watched the clothes come out. [Project Runway host] Tim Gunn was standing behind me and rubbing my shoulders, and he gave me his handkerchief. I wiped my nose and handed it back to him. I still cannot believe I did that; I’m sure it was a very nice handkerchief

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