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Irina Shabayeva crowned 'Project Runway's sixth-season champion


By Christopher Rocchio, 11/20/2009 

Irina Shabayeva was crowned Project Runway's sixth-season winner during last night's finale broadcast of the clothing design competition's first Lifetime edition.

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"I'm definitely proud of myself. I think this deserves a pat on the back. I did have some stiff competition," said Irina after her victory was revealed and she was congratulated by her parents.

"All good things take a lot of work and effort, and that's why they're great. So it was well worth it. I can't believe I'm a Project Runway winner. That's crazy. That's insane."

As Project Runway's sixth-season champion, Irina -- a 27-year-old Republic of Georgia native who immigrated to New York City with her family as a child -- won a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine, a trip to Paris, one year of representation from Designers Management Agency, and $100,000 to start her own line.

Irina defeated Althea Harper, a 24-year-old from Dayton, OH who currently resides in Brooklyn, NY who finished as the runner-up.

"I think everything happens for a reason, and even though I didn't win I feel just really great because I made a lot of good friends, met a lot of great people and got a lot of great advice," said Althea after her elimination.

"I'm feeling good because overall everything was positive. I made have been the winner, but I'm still a winner."

Carol Hannah Whitfield, a 24-year-old from Anderson, SC who currently resides in Brooklyn, NY, finished in third place.

"I came to Project Runway having no clue what was going to happen. I didn't really set any expectations, I just wanted to do my best and just kind of go with it," she said after her ouster. "I feel like I did really well... It's like simultaneously the most bizarre and most amazing experience of my life."

Project Runway's sixth-season finale broadcast began with the three remaining finalists finishing their "surprise" thirteenth design and finalizing their collections for the finale runway show at New York Fashion Week, which took place at Bryant Park in February.

The finale runway show then commenced, and each of the women was shown -- despite February reports that they had actually remained hidden backstage -- coming out on stage and introducing themselves to the audience before their designs hit the runway.

After being shown taking to the runway for a second time and walking with their models at the conclusion of their runway shows, each of the women was also shown receiving rave reviews from audience members who all seemed to know their identities.

Project Runway's regular judging panel -- Heidi Klum, Michael Kors and Nina Garcia -- and guest judge Suzy Menkes then met with three finalists to critique their collections.

Irina was first, and Suzy said she liked her collection's concept.

"It seemed very coherent," she said. "There was a starting point and it was really worked around in different ways."

Heidi thought it looked "finished," while Nina liked the T-shirts she had designed.

"It was you communicating in a very intimate way," said Nina before asking why the collection was so black, which Irina replied was "intuitive."

"You give yourself a bit of a disservice," warned Michael.

Carol Hannah was next, and Nina said she "loved" the first look.

"It was very spirited and you work very well with these fabrics that are difficult," added Nina.

Heidi was surprised to find her favorite was the thirteenth design Carol Hannah had put together in the last couple of days.

"I had a hard time seeing it as a 13-piece collection," added Heidi. "I just felt like every time something came again it was interesting, but it was always so different that it didn't seem cohesive to me."

Althea went last and Michael said her designs could be "dissembled" into separates, which he liked.

"You could buy a piece and add it to your closet and put your own spin on it, which I think is great," he added.

Suzy liked the knitwear but was unsure where that felt in with the futuristic theme.

"I thought the last three pieces of your collection were off," added Nina. "I almost thought we had moved into another show."

The judges then deliberated their decision.

Michael called Carol Hannah's opening design "exciting" and "photographical" and Suzy thought she had "the best sense of color."

"She played with the color, she just didn't play with it enough," added Michael.

"She loves dresses and she's impeccable in her tailoring," said Heidi. "That's what has made her get this far -- she's always been really good at that."

Nina said she loved Althea's "sense of coolness."

"She can really translate what's going on in the street," she added. "She's got that connection with what is cool and what is out there."

Michael thought women would "respond" to Althea's designs, and Nina agreed.

"Again, it looked a little bit like an assemblage of clothes," said Michael. "It didn't really tell a tale, I don't think."

Suzy didn't think Althea's designs "took well to the runway."

Heidi thought Irina's designs were "really well made and modern" with an "edge."

"She definitely had the best sense of showmanship," said Michael. "She knew how to punctuate it with the hats... They were all a little different but the same, which is a collection."

Heidi said she agreed that Irina's lack of color hurt her, and Michael said he was confused by her gown design.

The finalists then returned and Irina was revealed as the winner.

"Your line was sleek, modern, cohesive and it told a story," said Heidi to Irina. "You knew what kind of woman you were designing for, and you really did articulate that beautifully."

Irina Shabayeva won the sixth season of the fashion reality show "Project Runway" on Thursday in the conclusion of the hit cable series which was delayed for months by legal wrangling.

Shabayeva, 27, the daughter of immigrants from the Republic of Georgia who moved their family to Brooklyn, impressed the show's judges with an edgy collection of 13 looks shown at New York's Fashion Week earlier this year.

The designer said she was inspired by "what it takes to survive in the city as a woman."

(Photo credit Lifetime)


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