More than 50 shades

The road to Bravo’s “Project Runway” wasn’t as glamorous as you might think for fan-favorite contestant and Season 17 champion Sebastian Grey.

He gave up a career in Colombia and arrived in the United States where he worked as a housekeeper in a hotel. Some good things came out of that:  He met his husband, Matthew. And he applied to compete on “Project Runway,” where his sewing skills, solid work ethic and talent landed him a spot in the final four and ultimately the opportunity to be crowned as the season’s winner. Now a Fort Lauderdale resident, Grey was kind enough to answer a few questions about fashion, “Project Runway” and life after winning.

Sebastian, when did you first become interested in fashion?

“I first became interested in fashion when I was probably 14. I was in a professional ballet school. I graduated as a professional ballet dancer. When I was in school, I was watching how they produced the outfits for the plays, how they communicated so many things with the outfits. I thought it was super-cool. Maybe this could be my new career. I was always going to the factory where they were producing the costumes and I was always helping them, especially with the tutus. (I was) learning how they kept everything in place. That was my first introduction to fashion and how to make clothes.”

Were you a fan of “Project Runway” before you became one of the contestants?

“I was not a crazy fan. I watched it a couple of times in Colombia with my mom. Sometimes she’d say, ‘You are going to be on there.’ I’d say, ‘Oh, Mom. That’s the United States. We live in Colombia. That’s never going to happen.’ And here I am.” 

Your mom is a big supporter of yours?

“She always supported my career. My dad, too. They were always super supportive, even with (my) being gay. They were super-open with everything. It was never an issue for them.”

What did it mean to you to have competed on “Project Runway”?

“It was one of the craziest experiences. It’s amazing. I guess this year the platform evolved towards more real fashion. Because they had the CFDA, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and they were building real designers. This year, for me, they were more concerned with knowing more about the designer and being able to showcase that to the world.”

You were there at just the right time.

“I guess it was the right time.”

What was your favorite challenge of the season?

“It’s difficult (to choose). I learned something different from all of the challenges. Maybe the ‘Unconventional (Challenge)’ because it was in the woods and we were sleeping and eating there. It was fun.”

What was your least favorite challenge?

“Yes. My least favorite, the one I didn’t enjoy at all, was the ‘Elton John Challenge.’ I struggled a lot.”

How much do you think your strong sewing skills contributed to your success on “Project Runway”?

“I think that’s very important, especially for ‘Project Runway.’ We had to be able to do everything. Having good sewing skills helped because you’d be able to finish everything quicker and, if something went wrong, you can change it faster.”

And it will look better, it will look finished.

“Yes, because they were judging you based on that. How it looks, how it’s finished, the design, the construction and the idea.”

This season of “Project Runway” featured contestants with big personalities, such as Hester Sunshine and Kovid Kapoor. As someone who is quieter and more reserved, what do you think of the way everyone was represented?

“I think you learn to behave yourself. Yes, I’m a little crazy sometimes, but when it comes to my work, I’m extremely focused.”

That’s admirable, because sometimes the bigger personalities get more attention.

“For me, it was not about the personality. It’s about your work. Let that speak for you and make the noise.”

What did you think of Christian Siriano as the “Project Runway” mentor?

“It was super-cool having him as a mentor. He always guided me in the right direction. He always had the right advice. And he was part of the show, so he knows exactly what the judges are looking for. He built a relationship with these people through all these years, so he already knew who they were in terms of their work aesthetics. Seeing him and how much success he’s having, (I thought), ‘That can be me! He was part of this.’ It was very inspiring and it made you want to keep going.”

What do you think of Christian as a designer?

“I think his work is really amazing, the way that he’s pushing the boundaries with gender equality and making fashion more inclusive for all kinds of shapes and genders”.

He designed the piece for Billy Porter.

“Yes, the tuxedo gown.” 

That’s wonderful! Since winning Season 17 of “Project Runway,” have any celebrities reached out to you about designing something for them, perhaps for the upcoming Emmy Awards in September?

“A couple of celebrities, yes. I’m not allowed to say who because I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not. Right now, I’m doing so many things with the CFDA, organizing the new collection that I have to present. It’s a lot of work. I’m just trying to organize first what is going to be my company. After I have all that organized, I’m going to be able to do collaborations with other people for red carpets and stuff like that.”

Are there any celebrities for whom it would be a dream come true for you to design something for them?

“Yes, I have a couple. One of them is the unique Lady Gaga, because she breaks barriers all the time. She’s not afraid to try something new and explore new things. Lady Gaga would be the ultimate goal. I would love to dress Shakira. She’s from Colombia, too. I love her style. It’s very fresh, street wear with that little glam that she always has. I’d love to dress her, too. Those are the two celebrities, so far, that I would dream to dress.”

What do you hope happens next for you in terms of your design career?

“I hope to start doing wholesale. To have my brand in different stores and be able to build the name of Sebastian Grey more.” 

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