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'Project Runway 3' winner Jeffrey Sebelia still searching for success


By Christopher Rocchio, 02/19/2007 

The attention Jeffrey Sebelia has received for winning the third season of Bravo's Project Runway isn't translating into the same amount of success heaped on those who win other reality talent competition series, such as Fox's American Idol.

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"Music is just a lot easier to peddle.  With clothes, people, as much as they appreciate them, really cheap out when it comes to buying them," the 36-year-old fashion designer said during an interview in New York Magazine's February 26 issue.  "I think that if I was really going to turn [Project Runway] into the type of success I should, I would go sell something at Wal-Mart, because then 6 million viewers a week makes sense."

Instead of peddling his punk-rock inspired designs at more marketable outlets, Sebelia said that other than breaking up with former girlfriend Melanie Vesey, the mother of his 2-year-old son Harrison Detroit, he still "pretty much" lives the same life he had prior to appearing on Project Runway

He's still operating his label, Cosa Nostra, but used a majority of the $100,000 grand prize from winning Project Runway to pay-off debt from the start-up loans it took to begin his business.  And while crowds of fans recognize him on the street, that's not exactly translating to the monetary success he had envisioned. 

"The truth is, I'm totally broke," Sebelia told New York Magazine.  "I'm almost afraid to admit what I'm doing now but it's costumes for a movie.  It's a live-action movie for the Bratz... those sultry dolls."

Sebelia said he "never really watched" Project Runway -- but still tried out for the show's third season at the suggestion of his friend from Los Angeles -- Season 2 contestant Santino Rice.  Despite never watching an episode of the show, Sebelia said he wasn't surprised when he made the callbacks and eventually landed a spot as one of the third season's 15 contestants.

"I thought I'd start out really dark and annoying," he told New York Magazine.  "I was fully prepared to be in front of the cameras and say outlandish things and make people snicker."

However the plan almost backfired on Sebelia, who came close to being disqualified when he was accused of cheating by fellow contestant Laura Bennett when she alleged that he outsourced some of the sewing for the clothing collection he presented during the show's New York Fashion Week finale.  Sebelia used his myspace.com account to say the allegations were "unfounded," but Bennett stood by her claim

But when it was over, Sebelia went from arrogant bad boy to accused cheater to announced winner when he defeated Uli Herzner in last October's Project Runway 3 finale.  "It certainly was not his charming personality [that made him the competition's winner]," Project Runway judge Michael Kors told New York Magazine.  "I guess he was acting that way in order to become more famous.  So now it's like, 'Fine.  You've got everyone's attention.  Now What?'"

Sebelia himself is still pondering that question.  "It's things like the Bratz movie that are really interested in having someone who won Project Runway attached to their show," he told New York Magazine.  "Most of the companies I'd like to be involved with really couldn't give a s**t that I was on TV."

During the recently concluded Fashion Week in New York City, Sebelia sold his collection out of a small midtown showroom called House, and has also received several calls about his design work, including from Kirna Zabete and Bergdorf Goodman.  "[His collection] is very L.A. rocker meets a little bit of grunge meets a little couture chic, and that's very appealing," Bergdorf's fashion editor Roopal Patel told New York Magazine.  "It's just all a question of pricing and all that."

While Patel said Sebelia's line is "still under consideration" for sale at Bergdorf, she added there has been no commitments.  However Kirna Zabete plans to celebrate some recent purchases of his designs with a Sebelia-hosted party in April.  "Oh, my God, I love Jeffrey!" Kirna Zabete co-owner Beth Buccini told New York Magazine.

Despite his current lack of commercial success, Elle fashion designer and Project Runway judge Nina Garcia said Sebelia "was the most connected to what's happening right now," which is why he was the winner of the reality competition's third season.

"He's more editorial, more edgy, he has good ideas..." Garcia told New York Magazine.  "I tried to tell him that if he is going to sell expensive clothes, they need to look a little more [luxurious]."



(Photo credit Bravo)


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