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Dmitry Sholokhov impressed the Project Runway judges with his sophisticated, architectural designs throughout season 10 of the Lifetime competition, and on Thursday night’s episode, they named him the winner.
During the season, the Belarus-born professional ballroom dancer-turned-designer, who now lives in New York, shared the sacrifice he was making to compete on Project Runway, revealing that he had lost his lease and was forced to quit his job.
But it paid off: Sholokhov, 33, beat out fellow finalists Christopher Palu — who made several negative remarks about his fellow designers during the finale — Fabio Costa and Melissa Fleis to become the champion.
Of the architecture-inspired collection he showed at New York Fashion Week, Heidi Klum told him it was “wearable and polished,” Nina Garcia called it “highly editorial,” Michael Kors said the clothes “were impeccably made, fit beautifully and looked expensive,” while guest judge Jennifer Hudson noted that they had “a great quality.”
As the winner, he receives $100,000 from L’Oréal Paris to start his own line, a fashion spread in Marie Claire, a 2013 Lexus GS 350, a $50,000 technology suite by HP and Intel and the opportunity to design and sell an exclusive collection at Lord & Taylor.
On Friday, Sholokhov talked with The Hollywood Reporter about his big win, Palu’s comments, his living situation and what’s next.
The Hollywood Reporter: During the final judging, did you have any idea you were going to be named the winner?
Dmitry Sholokhov: I definitely hoped so, but it was anybody’s game, so you never know.
THR: Did Christopher, Melissa and Fabio seem happy for you?
Sholokhov: They definitely congratulated me. They were happy to a point because I completely understand that everybody wants to win. It was a bittersweet moment. I felt a little bit bad just for winning! It was very confusing kind of feeling.
THR: Did you feel like you had been a front-runner throughout the competition?
Sholokhov: Well, from the beginning I was very confident, and I knew that most likely I was going to make it to Fashion Week. But, you know, it’s a competition, and it’s a game, so anything can happen.
THR: What are you planning to do with the $100,000 prize?
Sholokhov: I definitely am going to pay some bills first, and then whatever comes. I’m not quite sure what direction I’m going to go. It’s so overwhelming. There are lots of opportunities coming my way. I’d love to start my own brand, but in order to do that, I need to find a business partner and I need to attract investors. It’s a process, so hopefully I can do it fast enough and show a collection next fall.
THR: What’s your current living situation?
Sholokhov: I actually just moved. I got myself an apartment Oct. 1, so I’m settling down. I’m very happy about that. I was pretty much homeless for all the time I was on Project Runway.
THR: What did you think about Christopher’s comments in the finale?
Sholokhov: He was all over the place. He came very unprepared and didn’t have the direction, and I just feel like he lost his confidence a little bit and compensated with negative comments.
THR: Was it nerve-racking showing at New York Fashion Week?
Sholokhov: It’s the biggest day for a designer. It’s such a serious competition, and it’s a lot of pressure knowing your collection is going to be shown on national television. So I wanted to really show my best; at the same time, we had such limited time and resources, so it was quite a challenge.
THR: What was going through you mind as you watched your collection being shown on the runway?
Sholokhov: I can’t even explain. Really during the whole show and the runway, I was in kind of a foggy state of mind. I barely remember it. Yesterday I was watching it on TV and really was in the moment, but in more of a kind of calm state of mind. It’s amazing, just such a big day for me, and just to be able to share my collection — for any artist, it’s amazing. To be recognized and appreciated was great.
THR: Did you have a favorite challenge?
Sholokhov: Definitely. It was the Rockettes challenge. That was an amazing experience. Radio City Music Hall is a legendary place, and to be there with the Rockettes performing for us and [getting to design a costume for the dancers], it was surreal. And I was honored to have that opportunity.
THR: What made you originally try out for Project Runway?
Sholokhov: I had quite a lot of experience working as a professional designer and done quite a few collections for other companies. But I was never in the spotlight; I was always hidden somewhere. It was an amazing opportunity to be exposed and show who you are as a designer. Project Runway is one of those reality show competitions that really have a purpose, and it’s a great opportunity for young, talented artists to show their work. So that was a major point for me.
THR: Do you keep in touch with any fellow season 10 designer?
Sholokhov: Well, I’m trying to with the final four on Facebook and Twitter, but it’s very hard. We all have our own lives, and hopefully we’ll keep in touch.
THR: You and several other designers had some tension with Elena Slivnyak during the show. Have you spoken to her?
Sholokhov: She had problems with everybody and arguments with everybody. At the end of the show, she apologized to me for being a bitch, and then everything was kind of cool, so no bad feelings.
THR: What was your favorite part of the competition?
Sholokhov: The whole experience because it was so unique and just — everything. I don’t even know where to begin. The way of living and way of you being separated from your real work and it’s like making a crazy movie, where you’re on camera 24/7 and have amazing people all around and taking care of you. The whole thing was an unforgettable experience.
THR: What did you learn during your time on the show?
Sholokhov: It was just great to get constructive criticism and learn from it and grow as a designer. That it’s important to stay true to yourself and not lose yourself in all the opinion and directions you’re being [given]. It’s important to stay true to yourself and go with your gut.
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