Season 10 of Project Runway began as a frustrating experience for fans of eventual champ Dmitry Sholokhov. Despite his penchant for making exquisitely crafted, form-flattering designs, he didn’t score a single victory until Episode 9, the HP Intel personal print challenge. And rest assured, the lack of kudos wasn’t lost on the Belarusian designer himself.
“I was definitely ignored for the first part of the season, and it was getting to me a little bit because I felt like I was doing a great job,” says Sholokhov. “But at the same time I was the only designer who was never up for elimination; I was always in the top [group] or safe.”
Sholokhov’s undeniable consistency carried him all the way to the Final 4 — with a showcase at New York Fashion Week — and eventually, to a $100,000 prize from L’Oréal Paris, a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine, 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. (Prize rundown should be read in the voice of Heidi Klum, obviously.)
TVLine caught up with Sholokhov to discuss some of his most memorable Season 10 garments, his fued with fellow designer Elena Slivnyak, and his plans for post-Runway life.
TVLINE | Your first big snub from the judges was during the Candy Store Challenge — when you weren’t even in the Top 3. How exactly did you make that beaded flapper dress?
I really wanted to take this unconventional material and make something real and wearable. At some point, though, I thought I was going to go crazy because I had to glue all those different-sized little candy balls one by one. That was very, very challenging. And then I created a fringe to give the [skirt] some movement, and again, had to put the candy balls on there one by one. Even up close, it looked like an expensive, beaded couture dress. So I was shocked that I didn’t win that one.
TVLINE | You were one of the few designers who never went off the rails; you never did something that didn’t look like it came from Dmitry Sholokhov. Was it hard to stick to your vision under so much pressure? Was there a temptation to try and please the judges?
I have a very specific eye and a very specific hand. Even if I’m going to do something outside of my box, it’s still going to be me. I cannot explain it, and I cannot control it. It’s just my signature, and I cannot get away from it.
TVLINE | Let’s talk about the group challenge where you were working with Elena and Alicia. How real was the tension between you and Elena?
The tension was crazy. The interesting thing was that while making this small collection, everything was fine. Then, right before the runway, Elena started getting crazy because she was very, very insecure. That’s the only explanation for her constant arguments with everyone, and that’s why she threw me under the bus. I had no idea, because there was no problem during the making of this collection. I just had to confront her, and just try to not to lose my cool. It felt very, very backstabbing. Very.
TVLINE | A few weeks later, when all of the contestants went out to dinner, you said something like, “Look, the wine is working, Elena apologized!” Where do things stand now with you two?
I don’t really keep grudges. Everyone is asking me “How do you feel about Elena? Blah, blah, blah.” I don’t really feel anything about her, and I don’t even think about her. I mean, I have my own life. At that moment in time, she would seriously get into my bones, but then after she apologized, maybe she realized something — that she had been a bitch, basically — and everything was cool.
TVLINE | One of the things that people liked about you on the show is your sense of humor. It’s so incredibly dry, sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re even trying to be funny. But I have to say your description of Ven as a “one-way monkey” is going to go down as one of the most quotable in Project Runway history.
All over the internet, people are quoting me now. And it’s funny. I never really knew that about myself, so it was very interesting. Most of the comments I wouldn’t even remember saying. It just comes naturally. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Let’s switch gears and dish your final collection. What was you absolute favorite piece?
Oh, it’s so hard. I can maybe name three. Definitely the jacket with the fringe sleeves, in the black-and-white print that everybody loved. Then the dress in the same print, which also had the leather fringe. And the yellow dress with the [architectural] neckline and the beaded sleeves.
TVLINE | What made you gravitate to leather fringe?
For me, in general, I love fringe. I’ve always loved it, and it happens to be very much on trend now. And because my clothes are so tailored and structural, I felt like I needed the movement — and the fringe was the perfect solution. It creates movement, but since it’s leather, it’s very geometrical and very clean and sharp as well.
TVLINE | If there was one piece that you could’ve either taken out of your collection or revamped, which one would it have been?
I feel like the gown needed a little bit more work. I loved it, but it could have been better, because gowns take weeks to make, and this gown was crazy complicated with all the work. I wished I’d had another couple of days — and the materials that I needed to finish it.
TVLINE | Tell me if I’m crazy, but I saw a hint of your ballroom-dancing past in that gown. Does that part of your past life inform you as a designer?
Well, maybe. I mentioned in my first interview that in my childhood and my teenage years I was a professional ballroom dancer, and I feel like it’s stuck in people’s minds. Automatically, they look for it in everything that I do. Yes, the gown was a bit cha-cha-cha. I wanted to make a gown like that. But if people weren’t aware that I was a professional ballroom dancer, I don’t think people’s minds would think “ballroom.” Anyway, with the collection, I wanted to start really sharp and very geometrical, and toward the end, I wanted to finish softer.
TVLINE | I also have to ask you about the opening look from your runway show, the white dress with the peek-a-boo geometrical patterns in it. That reminded me very much of the jacket you made for the HP Print Challenge. Is that a technique you’ve used in your pre-Project Runway life? There’s something very airy and yet very solid about that technique.
This technique is my signature. It definitely gives the illusion that the geometrical forms are floating a little bit. Everything is playing with hard and soft, and all those pieces are connected with mesh. It’s very interesting and very complicated to make.
TVLINE | While we’re talking about the season finale and New York Fashion Week, what was your favorite piece designed by one of your competitors?
The most memorable was Melissa’s blood-orange leather dress — the last piece that she made. The color and the shape of it were pretty striking. I loved it.
TVLINE | Realistically, what’s your goal from here?
I definitely would love to start my own brand, but it’s not as easy as it seems because I’d need a business partner and I’d need an investor. There are a lot of things involved. Hopefully, I’ll show my first collection by next fall, but I am very open to all kinds of opportunities. We’ll see. It’s a serious business with serious money.
TVLINE | A few times during the season, some of your rivals implied your tailoring skills exceeded your designing skills. Did that ever bother you?
People were just jealous. Sewing is a serious skill that you have to have in order to make it in this business, because you have to understand construction, and you have to be able to pull it off. [With that knowledge], you sacrifice a lot of things. I might have these crazy-amazing ideas, but I always thought about time management. “Can I make it happen?” And I would always go after something that I knew I’d be able to deliver. Because that’s what it’s all about: To be able to deliver.