2006 flashback: Michael Knight falls short on ‘Project Runway’

Posted October 19, 2006 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Heidi Klum crowned edgy rocker Jeffrey Sebelia the winner of Bravo’s fashion reality show “Project Runway” Wednesday night, defeating Atlantan Michael Knight.

The judges on the popular reality show based their decision partly on overall performance and heavily on the final challenge in which the four finalists created a 12-piece collection on an $8,000 budget.

Sebelia won despite a controversy in which fellow contestant Laura Bennett accused him of illegally outsourcing the sewing of his collection. After the show producers did a thorough investigation and found no evidence Sebelia broke the rules, though he did go over budget and had to delete the wigs from his portfolio.

The four showed off their collections during Olympus Fashion Week last month in New York City. Knight‘s 12 pieces underwhelmed the judges.

“You came out, you were a crowd favorite, ” noted Fern Mallis, vice president of IMG Fashion. “I wish I could say the collection stood up to that. I was disappointed.”

As a result, the 28-year-old Knight was eliminated first out of the four. “We believe in your future as a designer, but you need time to mature, ” Klum told him.

Ultimately, it came down to tattoo-laden Sebelia and sweet, German-born, print-happy Uli Herzner. In the end, they opted for Sebelia’s creativity and range over Herzner’s cohesive and approachable designs.

Sebelia received $100,000, a Saturn Sky Roadster and a fashion spread in Elle magazine.

But Knight isn’t a loser in one sense. Before the show, he was struggling to find a place in fashion. Now he’s been given a stage and has built a devoted following for his hip-hop-inspired sportswear. (During the show Wednesday, fans voted for Knight by a wide margin.)

Knight had been a favorite to go all the way but stumbled near the finish line.

“This trek has been a long one for me, ” Knight said after he was cut. He noted that he auditioned for Season Two but didn’t make it onto the show until Season Three. “I really believe in what I do. I won’t stop till I get it. . . . I’ll be back guys!”

Knight‘s already working on his own fragrance, a fashion line for women called Mika, and lingerie for men and women dubbed “Kitty and Dick, ” according to the Mobile Register.

Project Runway, ” averaging 3.5 million viewers this season, is nowhere the phenomenon of broadcast reality shows such as “American Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars, ” but its fans are deeply devoted and it has become the biggest hit by far for the Bravo cable network.

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