Project Runway season 18: exclusive look at contestants and celeb guests

It’s time to get back in the Project Runway workroom— and EW has an exclusive first look at the action.

Hosted by Karlie Kloss with mentor Christian Siriano and judges Nina Garcia, Brandon Maxwell, and Elaine Welteroth, the Emmy-winning reality competition series will return for season 18 on Dec. 5 (at 9:30 p.m. ET) with a whole new crop of contestants — and celebrity guests.

The guest judges this season who will help determine whether our designers are in or out are actresses Laverne Cox, Kiernan Shipka, Rachel Brosnahan, and Leslie Jones; singer Cyndi Lauper; Olympian Lindsey Vonn, fashion designer Thom Browne, artist Ashley Longshore, stylist Marni Senofonte, and more.

The episodes will feature iconic New York locations such as the famous TWA Hotel at JFK, The Vessel at Hudson Yards, and Bergdorf Goodman. Wearing the designers’ fashions will be a team of models of a variety of sexualities, racial backgrounds, and ages, as well as a nonbinary model, a trans model, and a “Dreamer.” The season will also showcase the talents of the oldest designer ever to compete on the series.

Speaking of those designers, here is your first look at the official bios of who will be competing on season 18.

Alan Gonzalez, 25
Twitter and Instagram: @alantude
Alan Gonzalez was born in Mexico and immigrated to Houston with his family when he was three years old. His father was deported when Gonzalez was 15, leaving his mother a single parent of two in America. In high school, he started to develop an interest in fashion, and he designed his best friend’s prom dress. Knowing he wanted to pursue a career in fashion, Gonzalez earned his Associate Degree at Houston Community College and then started working to make his dream become a reality. He now designs his line, Alantude, full-time out of a small studio in downtown Houston. When he is not busy in the studio, he is passionate about his faith and works as a youth minister. His line is inspired by strong women with the most inspiration coming from his mother, the strongest woman he knows. Alantude is a mix of clean lines and pops of color, just enough to draw the right amount of attention to his customer. His ultimate goal is to become a household name and to empower women everywhere. He has shown his collections in Austin Fashion Week 2019, Fashion X Houston 2016-2018, Fashion X Dallas, and Fashion HTX.

Asma Bibi, 30
Twitter: @HijabiPop, Instagram: @hijabipop
Asma Bibi found her passion for fashion at a young age. While Bibi was growing up in Philadelphia, a city largely populated with American Muslims, her parents operated a clothing business and her mother taught her the basics of garment making. From there Bibi taught herself more advanced skills aided by online tutorials and YouTube. Her motivation for designing a fashion line stemmed from the gap she noticed in the fashion market for modern and modest clothing that appealed to young Muslim women. In 2017, Asma launched her brand Hijabi Pop with the mission of creating modest yet trendy outfits for millennial Muslim females. In 2018, the designer showed her collection at the Fall 2018 Hijab Fest, the CLF Conference in Atlanta, and New York Fashion Week. In the future, Bibi’s mission is to take her modest-wear line mainstream as a modest luxury brand. She takes pride in her determination and identity as an African-American Muslim woman.

Brittany Allen, 29
Twitter: @brittanyallentx, Instagram: @brittanyallen.atx
Brittany Allen grew up in Fort Smith, Ark., and strives for perfection and excellence in her unique designs. After receiving her Bachelor of Science from the University of Arkansas and her MFA from SCAD, she moved to Austin, Tex., where she is currently an adjunct professor of fashion courses at a local university. She works on her brand full time, and is simultaneously in the final stages of her Ph.D. in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design at Iowa State. Brittany’s designs mix powerful shapes with feminine prints, and she incorporates French seams throughout every garment to add couture refinement and emphasize her formal training and techniques. Allen’s goal as a designer is to bring fun and excitement back into the fashion industry, and her designs are meant to make women feel more empowered and beautiful. She describes her brand as if Dolly Parton and Betsey Johnson had a baby who was then raised by Anna Wintour. Her designs have been showcased at Austin Fashion Week 2017-2019, 2017 Houston Fashion Week, and September 2019 Style Fashion Week, along with WWD and Footwear News.

Chelsey Carter, 30
Twitter and Instagram: @alexandreacarte
When she was younger, Chelsey Carter was sure that painting was the path for her, until her high school art teacher saw her unique style and urged her to consider fashion design. After some convincing, she applied and was accepted to The Art Institute in Chicago. Carter focuses on the abstract for inspiration for her designs. Her brand, Alex Carter which she launched in 2015, is unisex, catering to customers who are risk-taking and statement-making. Her goal is to exude sensuality in her clothing without having to bare it all. Carter’s studio, Dojo Studios in Chicago, where she has shot her lookbooks for the past three years, also doubles as a rental space for other creative professionals to work. One of her biggest role models is her grandmother, who embodies everything she strives to be as a woman and feeds her drive as a designer. Her jackets can be seen on SZA and Chance the Rapper, and she has sold to Erykah Badu. She has been featured in Vogue Italia and many other magazines such as Verluxe, Circus, and Timeout Chicago. Her edgy and colorful style along with her vibrant personality will surely brighten up the runway this season.

Dayoung Kim, 37
Twitter and Instagram: @moirai_official
Portland, Ore.
Born in Seoul, Korea, Dayoung Kim started her vast cultural journey at a young age. With her parents’ encouragement, she moved to India at age 14 and attended a high school there which broadened her world view and design aesthetic. She then attended The Academy of Art University in San Francisco for her Fashion major and then continued her education at the Samsung Art and Design Institute in Seoul. While in college, Kim also completed an internship in Milan, Italy that further developed her skills. After college, she competed in and won the Korean show “Project Next Designer,” and was awarded as an Emerging Designer of 2008 by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. She continued to travel until ultimately settling down in Portland and launching her line MOIRAI in 2016. Her ready-to-wear line is carefully crafted to feel harmonious, effortless, and timeless, while enhancing the beauty and character of her customer. She keeps in mind subtlety and nuance when designing, and focuses on creating a sculpture with soft materials. She describes her style as sophisticated, with balanced elements of feminine and masculine design with alluring details, and her proudest moments are when a customer falls in love with her clothes. Kim hopes to one day be a part of New York, London, or Milan Fashion Week.

Delvin McCray, 25
Instagram: @delvinmccray
Delvin McCray has a love for the fine arts that blossomed in his early years. He was one of ten kids and art became an outlet to express himself during his sheltered and strict childhood. This ultimately led him to major in Fashion Design at Columbia College Chicago. He describes fashion as his “fate” and can’t imagine doing anything else as a career. After an internship, which honed his skills in couture sewing and bespoke suit tailoring, he created his namesake brand, drawing inspiration from the Elizabethan era. His aesthetic, described as dark romanticism, influences everything from his avant-garde designs to his ready-to-wear clothing. McCray designs for strong men and women who like to avoid trends and have a desire to make their mark on the world. His two proudest moments were being in Barbara Bates’ fashion show and having his clothes featured in British Vogue in the February, March, and April 2019 issues. He also competed in the Driehaus Design Initiative Competition in 2016. When he is not designing or working at Saks Fifth Avenue, he loves to read Japanese manga. McCray hopes to showcase his unique aesthetic through his strong pattern making, sewing, and construction skills.

Geoffrey Mac, 41
Instagram: @geoffreymac
Once Geoffrey Mac decided he wanted to study fashion design and construction, he hit the ground running in the fashion world. After earning his BFA at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he launched his own brand and has continued to grow it for the past 20 years. His inspiration comes from the various places he’s lived, as he grew up in a military family, and the rave culture of the 1990s. Mac not only creates his own eye-catching garments, but throughout his career he has collaborated with major players in the industry, including the three-time Emmy winning costume designer Zaldy, whom he credits with further developing his own style. Mac’s aesthetic ranges from quirky costume to luxury couture, with all his work including intricate detailing and innovation. Mac has worked with celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Bjork, and Pink. His work has been seen on TV and worldwide stages, and his skill set has allowed him to tackle immense challenges and quick deadlines. He once made 24 garments in four days for Lady Gaga’s dancers. His collections have been shown in an abundance of fashion shows, including 2018 Dark Collection, Feb 2016 Sonar, and February 2016 Ice Cream Truck Underwear. As much as he loves collaborating, Mac is hoping this opportunity on Project Runway will help give him the opportunity to build his own brand and eventually open a boutique in Manhattan.

Jenn Charkow, 41
Instagram: @jcharkow, Twitter: @stonecrowdesign
Jenn Charkow is a Fresno, Calif., native with a unique take on fashion design. She was inspired by her mother’s style and love for fashion as a young girl. Charkow attended A.I. Seattle, and moved there permanently as a home base. After being laid off from her design job in 2010, she took a step back to decide how to continue her love of design but also give back to the community. When she began her brand, Stone Crow Designs, she wanted to change the way people viewed eco-friendly fashion. The line is described as edgy, modern, and darkly beautiful. Charkow is known for reusing fabrics and incorporating eco-friendly materials into her designs; she is building a company that helps educate others and gives back to the environment. Her work has been featured in Seattle Magazine in 2012 and presented at FashioNXT 2018. She was also in the Independent Designer Runway Show for Bellevue Collection in 2017.

Marquise Foster, 30
Instagram: @marquisefoster, Twitter: @marquisefoster
Marquise Foster was a self-proclaimed “artsy kid” who grew up in the rough neighborhood of Oakland, Calif. To stay out of trouble, he moved to Louisiana to live with his father when he was 13 years old, and channeled his energy into fashion as a creative outlet. In 2009, Foster moved to New York to pursue his dreams in fashion. He taught himself sewing, construction techniques, and everything related to making his own clothes from his home in Brooklyn. After taking his skills to various internships with local designers, he decided to launch his own brand. Aside from designing his eponymous clothing line, he teaches fashion design to young creative high schoolers in Harlem. Foster’s collections are well-rounded, ranging from menswear and womenswear to avant-garde gowns. His experience in house and ballroom community has allowed him to expand his creativity and push his own boundaries to construct standout, unique garments. His goal as a designer is to fashion clothing that would make anyone wearing it feel important and like they would stand out in a crowd. His collection was showcased at NYFW 2017 and 2018 and at Philly Fashion Week 2018, and has been seen in magazines such as Desnudo, Desnudo Homme, 7Hues, Circle, and Out. He was also a finalist at the Out Magazine Vanguard Awards in 2017 and has dressed celebrities like Indya Moore and Dominique Jackson from “Pose.” Foster believes that self-taught designers are not to be underestimated, and he plans to prove this in the competition.

Melanie Trygg, 29
Instagram: @kladapparel, Twitter:@kladapparel
Orcas Island, Wash.
Melanie Trygg grew up on a small island in a household of humble means among an otherwise affluent community. At a young age, her parents taught her to embrace her creativity and resourcefulness, and she first began sewing at the age of 12. Trygg began to make her own clothes inspired by luxury brands she saw in magazines using her mother’s vintage sewing machine and scraps of fabric or used clothing. The positive feedback she received from her peers gave her the confidence she needed to pursue a career in fashion. She completed her first year at Rhode Island School of Design, but the yearly tuition caused her to pull out of the program. Following her year of training, she launched her clothing line KLÄD Apparel, which is a collection of modern womenswear featuring architectural details on organically draped garments. After taking a break from fashion to start her family, she finally applied to Project Runway as it was the perfect opportunity to focus on her fashions. Trygg’s Scandinavian inspired design aesthetic is clean and streamlined, which is achieved with geometric shapes and rich fabrics. Her work has been featured in numerous fashion shows including AMCO NYC Fall Fashion Week Runway Presentation during New York Fashion Week in 2017, Portland Fashion Week, Bellevue Fashion Week’s Independent Designer Runway Show in 2014, as well as in Seattle Met Magazine June 2014.

Nancy Volpe-Beringer, 64
Twitter: @BeringerNancy, Instagram: @nancyvolpeberinger
A decade ago, Nancy Volpe-Beringer’s growing professional success resulted in her creativity being stifled. Inspired by her sons’ drives to follow their own creative dreams, she decided to pursue her own. Growing up, she always loved sewing, and her interest in vintage and thrift shopping ignited her love for fashion. At age 58, Volpe-Beringer took a risk and left her career at the pinnacle of her success to enroll in a master’s program at Drexel University in hopes to reignite her passion for fashion. Since graduating in 2016, she has been designing under her label and defines her all-inclusive aesthetic as wearable, androgynous art for all shapes and sizes, working out of her Philadelphia studio. Her designs have been featured at Philadelphia Fashion Week and regularly in Philadelphia’s iconic fashion concept store, Joan Shepp. Her collections have shown at an array of fashion shows including the March 2019 Wharton Fashion Show, December 2018 Joan Shepp Holiday Pop Up, and the October 2018 Libertae Fashion Show. Her desire to “pay it forward” results in her being the featured designer at many community-sponsored fashion events, including the 2018 and 2019 Salvation Army Garbage Bag Gala. She has mentored for the Refugee Women’s Textile Cooperative (RWTC), a program that empowers refugee women with sewing and textile skills. Volpe-Beringer currently sells her pieces online, in local boutiques, and custom designs couture for private clients, including 2019 Grammy nominee Tierra Whack; which won her a “Best in Philly” fashion design award. She takes pride in her craftsmanship and artistry, turning fantasy into fashion with her unique designs. She hopes that her appearance as the oldest contestant ever to compete on Project Runway will jump-start the expansion of her brand, and help her inspire others to follow their passion, regardless of age or circumstances.

Sergio Guadarrama, 36
Instagram: @celestinocouture
New York
Sergio Guadarrama’s roots are in the Lone Star state, as he grew up outside of Austin. He describes himself as the odd one out in his family because the rest of his siblings are soccer players. At four years old, he asked his mother for a fur-lined trench coat and began creating couture looks for his cousin’s Barbie dolls out of his grandmother’s discarded lacy undergarments. His mother recognized this knack for creativity and supported him by buying a sewing machine. This passion led him to attend both FIDM and FIT. In 2005, two years prior to his graduation from FIT, he began his line, Celestino. The aesthetic of Celestino is a classic silhouette with a modern twist. Guadarrama has been designing everything from menswear to avant-garde couture pieces on his own, and he has not put any limits on himself as to what he creates. He also wants to bring awareness to sustainable and ethical fashion in a world where fast fashion dominates. Celestino has appeared in an impressive amount of national and international publications such as Vogue, Vogue Italia, People Magazine, Forbes, and New York Magazine. His clothing has graced celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Amber Rose, and Indya Moore, and most recently he designed Billy Porter’s 2019 Tony Awards show-stopping red-carpet look.

ShaVi Lewis, 33
Instagram: @shavilewis
ShaVi Lewis has never been a stranger to creativity, growing up with a musician father, a theatrically trained mother, and a family of singers, like the Jackson’s, in Hillside, N.J. At seven years old, he desperately wanted an expensive sequined jacket for his choir concert that his grandmother offered to make from scratch. Ever since then, he has been inspired by his seamstress and designer grandmother to create and sew his own garments. This interest evolved, and in high school, he took classes at FIT during his summer breaks, and later, attended Clark Atlanta University for a degree in Fashion Design. While he did not graduate, it is at Clark where he found his style and flair for the dramatics, on which he founded his brand. For the past five years, Lewis has been designing for his own self-titled line of clothing, as well as working as a creative director for an Italian menswear company called Stephen F. He has a classic feminine aesthetic to his luxury womenswear, but still loves to take risks with his designs. His fashions have been seen on Emmy red carpets, in the second season of Pose on client Diva Davanna Booker, on celebrities Leah Janae, and Cynthia Bailey, and at the Bermuda Fashion Festival.

Tyler Neasloney, 29
Instagram: @deartyler
Jersey City
For Tyler Neasloney, fashion started out as a hobby. When he moved to New York in 2012 from his home state of Wyoming, Neasloney began taking fashion more seriously. Immersed in the drag world, he started designing costumes for himself and other prominent drag queens, and teaching himself more advanced sewing techniques with the help of books, YouTube, and insight from his mother. When he is not at his day job, leading events for Ali Forney Center, a non-profit that houses and serves homeless LGBTQ+ youths in New York, Neasloney produces signature weekender bags and designs bespoke looks for a variety of clients under his brand “Tyler Neasloney New York,” which he launched in January 2019. Without formal training or design school, he credits his success to focus, determination, and a competitive spirit. He describes his brand as elegant, polished and timeless; and in the future, he hopes to dress high-end clientele and sell his bag line in luxury stores.

Veronica Sheaffer, 40
Twitter: @vsheaffer, Instagram: @veronicasheaffer
Veronica Sheaffer has always been inspired by elegance and glamour. She was born on an army base, and grew up in a small town in Illinois, but longed to move to the cities she saw in old films. As a teenager, she taught herself to sew from an old Vogue instruction book, and everything from classic novels to antique laces led her to cultivate her modern romantic aesthetic. After high school, she moved to New York to study acting at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, but design and fashion were always at the forefront of her mind. Years later, she took a big leap and launched a womenswear line with a friend.  The positive response to her custom pieces, from both press and customers, motivated her to dive into design full time. Sheaffer has an eye for detail, specializing in handwork, applique, and draping, and she strives to combine the elegance of earlier eras of fashion with modern styling. Today, she lives in Chicago and designs bridal gowns, special occasion looks and elevated ready-to-wear pieces under her label Veronica Sheaffer. Her designs have been featured in Elle China and The Cut. She takes pride in her work and self-taught skills, and sews all her own clothes as a side project when not taking care of her 6-year-old daughter.

Victoria Cocieru, 27
Instagram: @victoriacocieru
Los Angeles
Victoria Cocieru was born and raised in a small village in Moldova and had a natural-born talent for design. Her mother encouraged her to become a designer, and at 18 she left her small village for the big city to attend the University of Design in Moldova. After graduating, she gained experience in the fashion industry by working on the sample team at a manufacturer of major brands such as Armani, Burberry, Max Mara, and Guess. In addition to working in fashion, she was an on-air host for a beauty and fashion television show. In 2010, Cocieru opened her own store in Chisinau and sold 200 pieces in the first day to clients and celebrities who attended the opening. Three years ago, she won a green card through a competition to move to the United States, so she and her husband, a professional soccer player, packed up their stuff to begin their new life. In 2011 she launched her brand, Kheops, which features ready-to-wear pieces. Cocieru’s designs have been featured in Culture Trip and have been shown in major fashion shows around the world. She has dressed host of E! Patricia Zavala and America’s Next Top Model’s Rio Summers. She strives to design sophisticated, attention-grabbing looks for powerful women and incorporates bold colors and geometric patterns into her designs. A hardworking and focused designer, Cocieru is dedicated to creating a name and life for herself in fashion and cannot see herself in any other career path.

Project Runway season 18 premieres Dec. 5 at 9:30 p.m. ET on Bravo.

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