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HP's Mega-Huge Project Runway Reunion Party—With LOTS Of Designer Updates

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Photo credit: Bonnie Datt

Saturday night we attended the Project Runway party to end all Project Runway parties—The HP Project Runway Reunion. More than fifty of the show's current and past season alums packed the penthouse and roof of New York's Empire Hotel. It seemed like almost everyone—from Jay McCarroll to Chris Marsh to Mondo Guerra—was there. We did our best to catch up with as many of the designers as we could—and here's what they're up to...

Let's start with Season One winner, Jay McCarroll, who created our favorite Project Runway collection, ever. Jay is still designing clothing, as well as fabrics, in fact he recently produced his fifth fabric collection. The always witty designer looked good—he's managed to keep off most of the weight he lost on Celebrity Fit Club ,although he said, "It's been hard." It turns out that Jay is no stranger to Racked and had already read our positive comparison of his work to that of the Season Nine designers in our finale coverage. He offered to introduce us to Season Five designer, Suede, whom we were, shall we say, not as kind to in the article. We declined.

We were delighted to see the two designers who created our all-time favorite decoy collections, Season Two's Kara Janx and Season Seven's Ben Chmura, who both attended the party with their husbands. Kara is still designing her eponymous line of clothing, which is now carried by many of the country's top department stores. She is also recovering from the exhausting pace of Project Runway All Stars, which she just finished filming. Kara said that the level of designs we'll see on All Stars is going to be very impressive, but that was all she was allowed to tell us. Meanwhile, Ben is now a New Yorker and working on a collection of clothing which he'll be showing soon in Providence. He's also doing a line of T-shirts using a new ink transfer process, which carries on the tradition of batik and tie dying, but with sleeker more contemporary results.

Happily, all of the designers we spoke to are still doing at least some designing. Season Eight's Peach Carr was wearing an adorable skirt which she'd created herself—she's now making women's wear and tennis clothes. Season Two's Andrae Ganzalo is currently doing design consulting for a New York fashion manufacturer and did a great Tim Gunn impression for us, which gave the absent Santino's "Red Lobster" impression a run for its money. Season Six's Carrol Hannah Whitfield now has her own bridal line, which impressively, has been picked up by forty five stores, including the bridal Mecca Kleinfeld. Her castmates from Season Six, Epperson and Althea Harper are also both still in the fashion game. Epperson is working on a ten piece travel collection and Althea, who is now Rowenta irons' Style Ambassador, will be showing her latest collection this evening at the Stone Rose Lounge in the Time Warner Center.

Althea isn't the only one who's found non-designing opportunities to enhance her design career. The highest profile example of this is Season Four's hilarious Chris March, who not only has a new book out, but will also be starring in a new makeover show on Bravo called Mad Fashion, which debuts on October 4th. Chris told us that Lifetime has stopped inviting him to the Project Runway Fashion Week finales—now that he's working for Bravo.

We'd spotted Chris's fellow Season Four cast mate, Kit Scarbo, at a couple of shows before the party, but didn't recognize her. She'd caught our eye with her hip and flattering ensemble. It turns out that Kit is now working as a stylist in LA, and judging by what we saw of her own style, we suspect she's very good.

As we've reported many times previously, Season Two's Emmett McCarthey has been running a successful Downtown boutique EMc2 for many years now. It stocks limited edition sportswear, all of which is made in New York. Although Emmett sells works by other designers, he also stocks some of his own pieces. We learned that his work has quite a following. One of his customers is Sarah Ferguson—yes, THAT Sarah Ferguson—who was referred to him by another fan, Oprah's pal, Gayle King.

We were excited to spot Mondo Guerra arrive, as we'd been moved by both his heart and his talent last season. The designer, who was wearing a Canadian lynx head with porcupine quills on his shoulder, is still designing. He's also heading up his own AIDS education charity, Living Positive By Design. It seemed particularly fitting that Mondo attended the HP party, since his victory on the HP Intel design challenge last year (with his winning purple and yellow plus sign pants) led him to publicly come out about his HIV status.

The winning garments from this season's HP Intel fabric designing challenge were all displayed on mannequins in one corner of the room. Although they looked amazing on televison, up close you could see that the tailoring had been done under time constraints, particularly on Olivier's intricate jacket.

Scattered around the room were HP computer screens showing scenes from Project Runway and some of the fashion figure drawings that the designers and design bloggers have created so far this season. Also scattered around the room were other designer whom we didn't get a chance to catch up with. The ones we spotted included: Season Four's Elisa Jimenez, Season Five's Suede Baum and Joe Farris, Season Six's Gordana Gehlhausen and Nicolas Putvinksi, Season Seven's Ping Wu and Mila Hermanovski, Season Eight's Michael Costello and April Johnston and almost everyone from the current season—Joshua Christensen, Becky Ross, Anthony Ryan Auld, Anya Ayoung-Chee, Bert Keefer, Bryce Black, Joshua McKinley, Fallene Wells, Kimberly Goldson, Laura Kathleen, Olivier Green and Viktor Luna. We tried to avoid speaking too much with the current group of designers, as we were afraid that if we liked or disliked them too much, it might inadvertently bias our recap coverage of them during the rest of the season.

Every Project Runway designer who showed up at the party received a special surprise, their choice of a pink or white HP PC Mini. This group unfortunately, did not include Season Four's winner, Christian Siriano, who had shown his own collection earlier in the day. We weren't surprised by his absence at the party, since Christian's publicists make a point of telling interviewers that they are not to ask him questions about Project Runway. Perhaps they feel it didn't play a role in his rapid success.

Rounding out this fun creative crowd were the finale's guest judge, L'Wren Scott, who is so tall she can probably use Mick Jagger's head as an armrest, and designer Betsey Johnson who looks about thirty five years old instead of her real age of sixty nine. Betsy was having a blast holding court with her staff and some of the female designers, who obviously were inspired by her popularity, creativity and career longevity—three things that every Project Runway contestant dreams about.

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