Interview: Sabrina Spanta seized the opportunity to take risks on Project Runway

PROJECT RUNWAY -- "Go For the Gold...Sequin" Episode 1905 -- Pictured: Sabrina Spanta -- (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo)
PROJECT RUNWAY -- "Go For the Gold...Sequin" Episode 1905 -- Pictured: Sabrina Spanta -- (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Bravo) /

From her reinvention of a burka to her bold use of color, Sabrina Spanta took many risks on Project Runway Season 19. Although her time on the Bravo fashion competition show was limited, Sabrina appreciated that the opportunity extended beyond those particular episodes. For her, the future is as bright as her vibrant fashion.

Project Runway Season 19 showcases a group of designers with quite diverse backgrounds. Those varying fashion perspectives have led to exciting looks going down the runway.

As the youngest designer competing on Project Runway Season 19, Sabrina appreciated the opportunity that was given to her. She said, “my age allowed me to be brave, to be bold, take a lot of risks and make a lot of mistakes. I was also able to learn so much from the other designers and mentors like Christian (Siriano), which will only help as I continue to develop my identity. On the other hand, I may have been too willing to defer to others, when in some cases I should have stood up for my ideas and designs.”

That dichotomy was clear in her last episode. As many Project Runway designers have learned, team competitions can have one voice become lost in the shuffle.

During the team competition for the Olympic-themed episode, Sabrina and her teammate had communication issues. That lack of cohesiveness leads to their looks being at the bottom.

Sabrina agreed, sharing, “I think there were some lapses in communication that impacted our final designs. I wanted to embrace the challenge of designing menswear for the first time, but naturally, I questioned my design at some steps. And with the physical pain, I was experiencing from my RA, it made for a difficult time. It’s funny to look back – now that Prajje and I have grown closer as friends since the show, if we were in the same situation today – I have no doubt we would have handled the situation differently, and I think we would have shined as a team. At that time we were all still getting to know each other.”

Still, there were moments during the competition that Sabrina seemed overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. When asked, her answer was quite candid.

Sabrina said, “Firsts are always difficult, and now that I am more used to being on camera, I am less intimidated by it. If I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I would try harder to embrace the uniqueness of the experience, forget about the cameras, and remind myself that I was on the show for a reason.”

Although there are moments where the pressure seemed to take over, Sabrina did send empowering designs down the runway. In some ways, her willingness to be fearless by modernizing looks will be remembered long after the season ends.

Specifically, Sabrina shared that she is “most proud of my placed printed bodysuit with the burka from episode 4, flower power challenge. I started my career as a print designer, so it came very natural for me to design the print. The strategic placement of each motif, the thought process, the math, and matching each side seam – everything about this look was thoughtfully planned and executed, which was challenging in the limited time given. There was a lot of emotion and intention in every motif.”

In many ways, that willingness to bring emotion and intention into her designs stands as a strong example for young women and other designers. While the show is a competition, the message that it sends is far greater than the awarded prize.

Sabrina believes that the impact of the show and her appearance in the competition reaches far and wide. She said, “Project Runway is watched by millions of women around the world, and the show represents so much more than fashion. To me, and I think to many young people around the world, it symbolizes hope and possibility. This was an experience that at 10 years old I could not have imagined. So I hope that through being on the show, and being honest about my past, I can be an example for those young girls who may think there is no way the future holds those types of possibilities. There is always hope. Keep dreaming and keep pushing!”

That sentiment of striving to achieve and never losing hope is the unspoken message of fashion. While viewers are mesmerized by the looks coming down the runway, those designs are more than just a piece of clothing that impresses. Sometimes fashion can speak volumes without uttering a word.

Sabrina agrees. “Fashion is meant to evoke emotion and be the voice you dare not to speak. Fashion bridges a conversation where words cannot. In the New York Times, Lou Stoppard put it best, “Clothes are so often about that odd intersection between our fantasies and our insecurities: who we want to be publicly. When image and pretense are removed, they become about our inner worlds.” The burka covering the face was intentionally juxtaposed to the florals accenting the vagina and breasts, to trigger the mind and think, why?

When fashion elicits a response, it is at its best. The looks that are just dismissed as passable are forgotten before the model turns on the catwalk. Good or bad, the ones that create a reaction push the fashion conversation forward.

Although her time has come to an end on Project Runway Season 19, Sabrina Spanta has a bright future ahead of her. Having recently launched her brand, Sabrina Spanta, she added her “freshly-designed X-Pant.”

According to Sabrina, the X-Pant was “inspired by the tomban from Afghani menswear, but I’ve adapted those concepts to create a bold and modern look for the contemporary woman. The message is simple: she wears the pants.”

While that phrase about women wearing the pants is well-known, it can take on a new meaning. Sabrina believes, “as women, we have so much to offer the world, and it’s important we remember that. I have been inspired by so many remarkable women, like my adoptive mother, and I will continue to create bold new looks that I hope will inspire more. I am so grateful to Project Runway for giving me the opportunity to speak my voice and showcase a little bit of what I (and so many other women) have to offer the world.”

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Project Runway airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET and can be streamed on Peacock.