The Richest Project Runway Winners Might Surprise You

"Project Runway" is a competitive fashion reality show that brings a spotlight to new designers creating forward-thinking fashion to present at New York Fashion Week. The show's cast of judges has dramatically changed over the years. 

Supermodel Heidi Klum was a host and judge of "Project Runway" and television personality Tim Gunn served as the contestants' mentor between 2004 and 2017. Fashion designer Michael Kors also served as a judge from 2004 to 2012, and was later replaced by fashion designer Zac Posen from 2012 to 2017. Fashion journalist Nina Garcia is the only current judge that's been on the show since its conception. She now sits alongside fashion designer Brandon Maxwell and fashion journalist Elaine Welteroth on the runway. 

Throughout its 19 seasons, the show's competitors have made names for themselves during the competition's process. Many of them now have their own brands, dress celebrities, and collaborate with large fashion corporations. Many of the contestants have amassed great respect, brand recognition, and wealth — some more than others. Read on for the richest "Project Runway" winners. 

14. Michelle Lesniak

"Project Runway" Season 11 winner Michelle Lesniak's net worth is estimated to be between $100,000 and $1 million (via Wiki Famous People). According to Michelle's website, her brand currently operates out of Portland, Oregon, the designer's hometown. Before "Project Runway," Michelle worked in the wine industry and enjoyed creating, tasting, and educating people about wine. She went to the School of Art Institute in Chicago where she learned about printmaking and creating her own textiles. Creating textile patterns is in her blood, as her grandmother was an award-winning quilter, and her mother sewed. Michelle always loved thrifting so she could deconstruct vintage clothing and make it her own. She prides herself on being self-taught with no traditional training.

Michelle won "Project Runway" with her Lone Wolf collection, as she considered herself a lone wolf throughout the season, as she struggled to work with her competitors during team challenges. According to Oregon Live, as the winner of "Project Runway," Michelle received a $1000,000 cash prize, a 2013 Lexus, and $50,000 worth of tech supplies to help grow her business. Post-"Project Runway," Michelle used her status to expand her brand, Au Clothing, which was sold on Etsy. She rebranded her store to Michelle Lesniak, and now sells her clothes on her personal website. Her clothes have sold out quickly, whether they've been sold via her own website, Lord & Taylor department stores, or in local stores in Portland.

13. Chloe Dao

Season 2 winner Chloe Dao's estimated net worth, according to Profiles Info, is about $1-5 million. Dao has been in the fashion industry for 28 years. As an eight-year-old, she moved from Laos to Houston, Texas with her parents and eight sisters. Sewing is in her family, as her mother was a seamstress for Macy's and Nordstrom before eventually selling her own clothes at flea markets. According to an interview with Chloe in Texas Monthly, Chloe was far from a nobody in the fashion industry before "Project Runway." Chloe earned her degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City, and had been running her own boutique called Lot 8. She also had experience working with a number of brands, such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.

After her "Project Runway" win in 2006, Chloe went back to her home in Houston, where she continues to grow her boutique rebranded as Dao Chloe Dao Boutique. According to Chloe's website, her career has branched out to include designing a special dress for a premiere of the 2018 film "Crazy Rich Asians." Chloe's wealth comes from her skills as a smart entrepreneur who knows what her customer's needs. Growing up with eight sisters has helped Chloe developed an innate sense of what looks good on different types of women's bodies.

12. Leanne Marshall

Season 5 "Project Runway" winner, fashion designer Leanne Marshall, has an estimated net worth of $1.5 million, according to Famous Birthdays. In an interview with Fashion One, Leanne acknowledges that "Project Runway" helped to launch her career on the New York fashion scene. According to Leanne's website, she grew up in Yuba City, California where as a young girl she sketched designs and worked with a seamstress to make her dance costumes. At the age of 18, she won a scholarship to The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco, California. Before her time on "Project Runway," Leanne launched her own brand, Leanimal, in Portland, Oregon.

After the show, Leanne decided to place her roots in New York City and chose to spend the $100,000 winning money on reinvesting in herself and her brand. According to her website, her designs are in over 50 bridal boutiques, and her brand is known for its breath-taking gowns and wedding dresses. Leanne's ready-to-wear gowns can cost upward of $2,500. She has designed dresses for celebrities such as Ariana Grande, Paula Abdul, Jane Fonda, and others. In 2011, she launched her bridal line, which is shown twice a year during New York Fashion Week.

11. Irina Shabayeva

Irina Shabayeva, "Project Runway" Season 6 winner, has a current net worth estimated to be between $1-5 million, according to Celebs Age Wiki. Irina is a Georgian designer who specializes in couture. According to her website, prior to her appearance on "Project Runway," Irina attended Parsons School of Design. In 2019, she made an appearance on Season 7 of "Project Runway All-Stars," where she came in third place after Michelle Lesniak and Dmitry Sholokhov.

According to Fine Art America and Julien's Auctions, Irina Shabayeva has amassed wealth and prominence in the fashion industry from her work with celebrities like Selena Gomez, who wore one of Irina's dresses to the 2011 People's Choice Awards, and Carrie Underwood, who showcased one of Irina's gowns on the cover for her album, "Blown Away." Irina currently makes money through custom-made bridal gowns, couture gowns, and couture lingerie. Recently, she partnered with Michael Chang, founder of MJZ, to create a couture collection that featured crocodilian materials, soft lines, and vivid colors.

10. Seth Aaron Henderson

Winner of "Project Runway" Season 7, Seth Aaron Henderson, is estimated to be worth $1.5 million, according to Famous Birthdays. However, his win in Season 7 was not the end of his career with "Project Runway." Seth Aaron, who grew up in San Diego, always loved clothes and from a young age knew he wanted to go into the entertainment industry. Originally Seth went into the production side of television before finding his way to a sewing machine and selling his clothes at small boutiques. According to IMDb, Seth Aaron would go on to serve as a head casting judge and mentor in subsequent seasons of "Project Runway," and win the third season of "Project Runway All Stars." He was the first designer to win both shows.

According to his audition tape, Seth Aaron knew he wanted to be a fashion designer and fashion icon since he was eight. In an interview with East Idaho News, he talked about his many television experiences, including "Good Morning America" and "Live with Regis and Kelly." He also has been published in Marie Claire and Entertainment Weekly. In 2019, he joined the family-run company Fin Fun which sells eccentric swimwear, such as mermaid fins. Seth is known for his punk styling, tailoring, and textile patterns, all elements that you can see reflected in his brand, Seth Aaron.

9. Anya Ayoung-Chee

According to Celebs Age Wiki, Anya Ayoung-Chee, the winner of the ninth season of "Project Runway," has a net worth estimated to be about $1-5 million. Anya grew up in Trinidad and Tobago and used her Caribbean heritage as inspiration for her collection that she showed during New York Fashion Week as a part of the "Project Runway" finale. According to Anya's website, before "Project Runway," she competed in the Miss Universe Pageant, where she designed a lot of her own wardrobe. She's a graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York and Central St. Martins School of Art and Design in England. Before "Project Runway," Anaya had a career as a graphic designer in NYC. In 2009, Anya designed her first collection, Pilar, two years before she won "Project Runway."

However, Anaya hasn't just been making her money from fashion design; she is also an entrepreneur and activist. She has managed a show space for local designers called Exhibit A, runs several shops including her own fashion line, and focuses her brand on sustainability and empowerment. After her "Project Runway" win, she served as Tourism Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago. Anya Ayoung-Chee makes her money from a boutique out of Trinidad, where she now lives and works, making Caribbean-style clothing that's easy to wear. She founded WYLD FLWR, a brand that collaborates with multidisciplinary artists to create physical and digital elements of garments.

8. Dmitry Sholokhov

Season 10 winner Dmitry Sholokhov is estimated to have a net worth of around $1.5 million (via Famous Birthdays). Born and raised in Belarus, Dmitry fell in love with art and design at an early age. As a boy, he practiced ballet and designed costumes for himself and his friends. According to his website, at the age of 18, he moved to New York City and enrolled in Parsons School of Design. Before his appearance on "Project Runway," he worked with fashion brands such as Jones Apparel Group.

Dmitry's brand, Dmitry Sholokhov, has had success with collections performing in fashion weeks around the world. In 2013, his capsule collection was bought and sold by department store Lord & Taylor. He then went on to win "Project Runway All Stars" in 2015. Dimitry continues to run his own brand, with pieces ranging in price from a couple of hundred bucks to over $3,000.

7. Sean Kelly

According to Digital Net Worth, Sean Kelly, winner of "Project Runway" Season 13, has an estimated net worth of between $1-5 million. Currently, Sean Kelly is well known as a high-end fashion designer. He won his season with his all-fringe collection, which was full of color and movement. Heidi Kulm described Sean in an interview with Viva Magazine, saying he was "'very technically gifted, and [he] had some great ideas. I mean, he had some of the best designs I feel like I've seen over the last 12 years of doing 'Project Runway.'" Sean is from New Zealand and according to Us Weekly, he was nominated for the Young New Zealander of the Year in 2016.

According to PopSugar, after his "Project Runway" win, the designer launched his own swimwear line. Currently, Sean works for Retrofête as a senior designer and design director, as is apparent from the designer's LinkedIn pageRetrofête describes its aesthetic as a fusion of party and vintage, glamour and opulence. However, before Sean joined Retrofête, he did create a few of his own collections under his brand name Sean Kelly Studios in 2015 and 2016.

6. Ashley Nell Tipton

In "Project Runway" Season 14, Ashley Nell Tipton became the first plus-sized designer to win the competition. According to Buzz Learn, Ashley's estimated net worth is between $1-5 million. Ashley learned how to sew from her grandmother when she was just seven years old in San Diego, California. According to her website, Ashley attended Fashion Careers College. Her senior year collection was highlighted in the Golden Hangers Fashion Awards and was presented at New York's Full Figured Fashion Week in 2012. Her 1950's Mexican-inspired collection that showcased handmade flower crowns, a pastel palette, and fantasy femininity for plus-sized models wowed the judges and crowned her the winner of "Project Runway" Season 14.

According to Forbes, after "Project Runway," Ashley signed a deal with JCPenney to help design their plus-size collection. Over the past couple of years, Ashley has produced a line of jewelry and accessories, a House Plant clothing collection, and line of eyewear. She worked with Simplicity to create plus-sized patterns, and she also offers sewing classes and runs her blog about fashion, self-love, and empowerment. In an interview with "Ocu-Pasión" podcast on Buzzsprout, Ashley talked about living a healthy well-balanced life as a creative Latina fat person. She said she wants to give the plus-sized community a feeling of being comfortable in their own skin by creating clothes that would help them represent themselves and their style.

5. Erin Robertson

Buzz Learn estimates Erin Robertson, "Project Runway" Season 15 winner, to have a net worth between $1-5 million. Erin grew up near Provo, Utah and initially moved to Massachusetts in 2005 to pursue a career as a dental assistant and lab technician. In an interview with the company S.O.S., Erin said she often made her own clothes growing up and even made her own prom dress.

It wasn't until 2011 that she began to pursue a career in fashion. According to Erin's brand's, Science Fashion, website, she won the CFDA scholarship and attended Massachusetts College of Art and Design where she majored in Fashion and Fiber art. Shortly after, in 2016, Erin won "Project Runway" with her fun, innovative banana designs.

Erin has collaborated on numerous collections including Protest Print (2017), Sexual Helix (2018), Plasion (2016), Gardner Red (2017), and more. She enjoys working with her interdisciplinary multimedia friends from Boston to create not just clothes, but art. According to her personal website, in 2022 Erin moved to New York City to continue to grow her fashion dreams. Erin makes all of her clothing herself and she wants to keep it that way. She has no desire to go corporate, and values connecting with her audience above all else. She wants to create sustainable clothes that are empowering and describes her style as "a serious joke."

4. Jhoan Sebastian Grey

"Project Runway" Season 17 winner Jhoan "Sebastian" Grey's estimated net worth is $1-5 million, according to Famous Birthdays. On his website, he talks about growing up in Colombia and helping his family run a leather business. His love for ballet and salsa are present in his clothes as his inspiration. According to Not Just a Label, Sebastian went to school in Cali, Colombia at the Academy of Professional Drawing where he pursued fashion design and later attended the Instituto Marangoni in Miami, Florida. Sebastian was the first South Floridian to win "Project Runway." The judges liked his minimal but intricate style.

According to Bravo TV, Sebastian has amassed his wealth throughout his fashion career, which includes working with Lina Cantillo, Andre Otalora, and Black Vision. Currently, his brand, Jhoan Sebastian Grey, operates out of Cali and Medellín, Colombia. He puts sustainability at the forefront of his collections. He wants to educate his buyers so they know exactly how his clothes are made. This gives consumers the resources they need to make a proper ethical decision. Most recently, Sebastian released a collection entitled Seasonless, comprised of clothes that transcend any season. He is determined to continue to learn new practices that make his clothes more sustainable, such as 3D knitting, which prevents wasting fabric when cutting out a pattern or sewing together a garment.

3. Dom Streater

Dom Streater, the winner of "Project Runway" Season 12, is estimated by Digital Net Worth to be valued anywhere from $2-3.5 million. Dom grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with her mother. She always enjoyed painting and drawing. Since she didn't grow up with a lot of money, Dom would make her own clothes. In an interview with NBC, she recalled making clothes for her Barbies. In 2010, Dom graduated from Moore College of Art and Design. Before her "Project Runway" win, she had a job in animal care to pay the bills.

Since her win, Dom has not needed to take jobs with animal care, because she received so many requests for fashion commissions in the wake of her "Project Runway" fame. Dom makes her living through her eponymous brand. Her designs draw inspiration from her abstract paintings and photography, combining fashion with art. Currently, she's working towards making her garments more sustainable. In an interview as a visiting faculty member at her alma mater, Moore College of Art and Design, Dom talked about how she started to make her clothes ready to order to prevent waste. She's constantly learning new techniques and going down research rabbit holes for new ideas. Her pieces range from $160 to $220 on her website.

2. Gretchen Jones

According to Idol Net Worth, Gretchen Jones, winner of "Project Runway" Season 8 is worth around $5 million. She was the most controversial pick for a "Project Runway" winner, but that has not been detrimental to her success. Season 8 had the longest deliberation for the finale winner in "Project Runway" history. The judges were split between Gretchen and runner up Mondo Guerra, but ultimately Gretchen came out on top. According to Portland Mercury, Gretchen originally grew up in Colorado but moved to Portland, Oregon, where she began her career in apparel design.

After "Project Runway," she created two of her own labels: Moth Love and Gretchen Jones New York. Moth Love was featured on the Eco Friendly Fashion website, as Gretchen designed the collection with sustainability in mind. Currently, Gretchen works with Pendleton, which is a textile manufacturing in Portland, Oregon. Portland Mercury interviewed Gretchen about her position at Pendleton, where she discussed being a good fit for the company since they both take inspiration from the West.

1. Christian Siriano

It may be no surprise that Christian Siriano is the wealthiest, most successful "Project Runway" winner, whose net worth is estimated by Celebrity Net Worth to be around $10 million. He grew up in Annapolis, Maryland, where he and his sister practiced ballet. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Siriano talked about how the romantic fantasy of dance inspired some of his designs. Before his win on "Project Runway," Siriano studied abroad in London at InterContinental University and later continued his studies under designers Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. During the "Project Runway" Season 4 finale, the judges were impressed by his whimsical, show stopping, fantasy, romantic designs.

Currently, Siriano fills Tim Gun's shoes in the role of mentor for the new "Project Runway" seasons. Since his "Project Runway" win, Siriano has opened his own store in Midtown Manhattan selling his brand Christian Siriano, worked with a variety of A-list celebrities, and was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people. His collection is shown every year at New York Fashion Week.

The list of celebrities he's worked with is over a paragraph long, and includes Julianne Moore, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey, and Victoria Beckham. He's collaborated with several brands, including Disney, Best Buy, Nordstrom, and Starbucks. The wedding gowns on Siriano's website sell for up $25,000.