'Project Runway' exit interview: The winner speaks! And no, he is not a Nazi.

Hi there! This is a SPOILER ALERT! You know what that is, right? It’s two words that alert you that you are about to be spoiled! Seth Aaron ended season seven with a big ol’ bang of bold colors, conflicting patterns, and fierce silhouettes, all of which helped him clinch victory. The fast-talking designer from Vancouver, Wash., rang us up to chat about his win — and to clear up that whole Hitler/Stalin business.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations, Seth Aaron. Has the high worn off yet?
SETH AARON HENDERSON:
Actually it hasn’t even started! [Laughs] It hits sometimes and it’s like holy s—! Then it’s gone a few minutes later. We watched [the finale] last night and I woke up this morning, the alarm went off and I was like, “S—, what do I gotta do today?” And then my wife’s all like, “Uh, it’s over. It happened last night.” And I’m like, “Yes!” I just forget. It’s totally exciting. I love doing all the media events. It’s been a real good time.

Did you have any inkling that you had a good shot of winning?
[A hugely noisy fire truck goes by on his end of the phone] I’m sorry. That’s a fire truck. Okay, well, the way I thought is, once I get on [the show], I have a great shot at winning. I’m a faithful fan, I’ve watched every episode of every season, and it’s something I knew I could do. If I could just get on, I can win this. That’s the attitude I had — not to come there to beat anybody else or I may get knocked out, who knows? But if I just do what I know I can do, I could win. And you know, as I got there, right after the first challenge, I just was in my zone. It’s what I love to do. I love to be pushed and pressured and rushed. That’s an environment I like. That’s why, I guess, I’m in the fashion industry. I couldn’t sit in a cubicle. I would go crazy. I would go nuts.

People on our message boards were rooting for you because they like your designs and because you seemed like a nice guy.
That’s ludicrous! [Laughs]

Yes, I’m sure in reality, you’re actually quite evil. Anyway, you never got involved in any of the petty backbiting that so many other designers did. Were you conscious of staying out of that?
No. I was there for a purpose. When I left my house, my wife and kids said, “Don’t worry about us.” That was my only big thing: I’m leaving them for a long time during the summer when we go do all our fun trips. That was the sacrifice they made. They said, “This is what you do, this is what you love, pursue your dream.” They gave me that support. So when I got there, I knew that [catty] stuff was going on, and I really didn’t give a damn if it was said about me or anybody else. I just look at it like, I’m confident and happy with myself. I don’t need to make someone else look bad to make myself look better. There’s just no point in it. It distracts why you’re there. You’re there to create and win. It’s not The Real World, the TV show. It’s not a bunch of college kids getting drunk and hitting each other up. It’s about someone that wants to make this their full-time career.

What have you done since winning?
I’ve just been doing media, media, media. I whipped up 15 new designs of dresses and jackets for a couple trunk shows at a boutique I sell at. But as far as creating a new collection for next season, I have not started because I have to let this play out. And now that it’s over, now I can go back, take a breather and say “Okay.” First and foremost, I need to find a manufacturer because if I can deliver the garments, they’re sold. I’ve been making ’em myself and selling them for nearly five years now. I need to get a manufacturer. I want them in New York and L.A. and my area, going out to department store, small boutiques, whatever. And then I can focus on creating collections for upcoming seasons and so on.

How are you going to use the money to invest in your future?
First of all, a nice little vacation with the family to make up for last summer. But the manufacturer’s number one, and investors, backers. $100,000 after tax — it doesn’t go far. I think [season 5 winner] Leanne Marhsall said, “Enough money was left for me to move my household from Portland to New York and set up a little design studio and now it’s gone.”

I have to ask you to explain the 1940s German/Russian military inspiration.
Someone else asked that too. It’s totally understandable. This one particular website, [someone] commented: “Shame on him for doing Nazis and shame on Lifetime for making him a winner after claiming that!” And I’m like, “Who ever claimed Nazi? What are you talking about?” I don’t have any love for the Nazi party whatsoever. No. Okay, first of all, I’ve met several German immigrants — they’re well in their 50s, their 70s — they lived there during that time. And all their stories were so fascinating because they said it was horrible, just absolutely horrible. But the one thing that was very clear is, they made a presence and even though they’re gone, people remember it.

“They”: the Nazis?
Yeah and the KGB, all them. It was about a statement. They made a statement that people didn’t forget. That’s the inspiration. It wasn’t literal with any of the actual uniforms, it wasn’t literal with any of the beliefs. I loved growing up watching all the old James Bond movies with the Russian KGB spies. It was that kind of stuff — fun memories. You say “German military,” instantly, everybody thinks Hilter or that army. Because they made a statement. May not have been a positive one, but they made one. And that’s my point, I came bold, graphic, and left an impression. That was the inspiration. It has nothing to do with f—in’ Swatiskas or anything like that. Did you see any of that in there?

No, but one EW.com reader said your red dress was a disguised Swastika.
[Sighs] Oh Jeez.

You’re right that people are automatically going to think Nazi. That’s a tricky thing to evoke.
And that’s why I made sure I said German and Russian. I was watching a movie just recently and it was based in the ’40s in Russia. The military officers’ uniforms were so detailed and tailored. They’re beautiful clothes. It’s all about the presence of the individual. My girls on the runway were there to make a very hard presence in that sense. So of course you’re gonna have crazies say this and that, but whatever. I love red and I love yellow. That’s not a crime. You gotta take risks. And some people are gonna love it and some people are gonna hate it. That’s the way it goes. [Laughs] Hopefully people will get it after they start reading it on every site. It’s like, helloooo! But a good controversy never hurt anybody.

You seemed to grow the most out of all the designers this season. What do you attribute that to? Listening to the judges and Tim? Pushing yourself? All of the above?
All of the above. This season, people only saw one level of me. I mean, I do it all. And so, I came there with this bold, mid-range of who I am and I stuck with it. I think that’s why I made it all the way till the end. I didn’t switch it all around. But I definitely did grow as a designer, from all the critiques from Tim and advice from Nina, Heidi, all of them. It definitely helped me grow, that’s the point. I didn’t want a pat on the back from any of them. I wanted them to tell me what I can I do to make myself better.

You were more open to listening than Emilio. At least, the edit he got was that he was not going to listen to Tim. Ever.
Well, yeah. And you know, doesn’t mean the edit wasn’t somewhat true. [Laughs] I wasn’t gonna do that. I mean, you’d be a fool not to listen to them. Michael said 80 percent of what you hear on the runway, you can throw away; 20 percent you can take as tools to better yourself. And it’s true.

I and at least one of my colleagues would kill to have one of your coats, so let me know when they are available.
Yeah, hopefully [at] Target soon so everybody can! That’s what I’m thinking. That would be a nice retail. That feeds the kids and I can actually work on high-end runway shows. [Laughs]

Speaking of your kids, I loved seeing them next to you on the runway. They dress so conservatively compared to you.
Yeah, they’re definitely their own people and I’m the black sheep of the family.

So their teenage rebellion will be to dress conservatively?
Yeah, exactly. Which I’m all for. I’m all like, be who you want to be. I’ve always been this way my whole life and I’ve never really changed who I am to fit in. I just haven’t.

No reason to start now.
I’m too old for that now! [Laughs]

Well, best of luck. I’ll look forward to those affordable Target lines for us poor journalists.
For everybody! I shop at Target, come on!

Comments (87 total) Add your comment
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  • Elli

    I’m sorry Seth Aaron, I liked you all season but dang, that’s a hard one to swallow – that you liked the “statement” of the the Nazi uniforms, but didn’t care for the Nazis. Perhaps your next collection should be inspired by an era or movement that’s less genocide based.

    • EAP

      well, the military uniforms from the era were beautiful. I can see what he means

      • Fifi

        Totally. I really think it’s pretty self-evident that the uniforms from that era were the most aesthetically striking in history. Everybody needs to chill. If you can’t see that Seth Aaron is not a Nazi it’s you that’s got a prob.

      • Amanda

        It would have been smarter for him to say “1940s military” looks were the inspiration rather than German/Russian, but I certainly don’t have a problem with his inspiration or the collection. I mean the point of military uniforms is to appear powerful and imposing and bada**, which clearly fits with his aesthetic.

      • k oo

        … didn’t the war end in 1940s? I think a lot of people are confusing it with “1930s german military. “

      • k oo

        nvm… I think he was just liking the LOOK not the IDEAS.

        I liked the paid jackets.

    • Ceballos

      Yeah, saying that he “liked the statement of the Nazi uniforms” isn’t totally fair…

      I think he went out of his way to explain that he COMPLETELY disagrees with what they had to say…however, he was evoking that they said something.

    • dawn

      Lighten up Elli! It’s fashion and not political statement. I think SA wanted to evoke that fashion of that era and not its politics

    • llevinso

      You clearly paid no attention to his explanation.

    • DW

      I didn’t even think to make any sort of Nazi connection. Leave it to internet commenters to go nuts and misinterpret things…

    • Mac

      I have to agree, military uniforms from that era are stylish. The guy is so obviously not hateful. I remember one designer using a painting of a Conquistador as inspiration. Really, Spaniards from that era were ruthless, killing Jews, Muslims, and of course, Native Americans. Still, a stylish group of people.

    • Tarc

      Elli- Maybe you can open your brain a bit and manage to understand that there was nothing about Nazis involved. It’s ludicrous to say (and think) so. Germans and Russians have been making tailored uniforms since incepetion, and the Nazi movement was just a *tiny* span of that. What they all have in common is great line, great tailoring, and a look that has IMPACT. That was where the inspiration came from, and to say otherwise is lying.

    • Grow Up

      This is about fashion, not world politics!

    • madeleine

      Elli – I completely agree with you. Plus it is completely spineless and hypocritical to say “German military from the 1940’s” Hello? That is nazi. period.

      • Quirky

        The German military had stylish grey uniforms long before the Nazi political party took over that country.

        Saying that you like the style of their uniforms is only a fashion opinion and doesn’t mean you actually support the holocaust. Just like calling the Pope’s hat silly looking doesn’t mean you hate Catholics.

      • whatevs

        Spineless and hypocritical? I’m pretty sure you don’t know what those words mean.

    • Anne

      What SA is saying is that he is inspired not by WHAT the Nazi uniforms’ statement actually IS, but the FACT that they MAKE A STATEMENT. He made it very clear that he hate what the statement of the Nazi uniform actually is, but he is inspires by the fact that they were clothes that make a statement, and that’s the clothes he whats to make – clothes that make a statement. And the statement he wants to make is definitely not the statement the Nazi uniform makes, which is something he completely disagrees with. In other words, he wants to make clothes that go make an impression and are unforgettable because they have something to say. I think he did accomplish that.

    • Mark

      Just because he was inspired by 1940’s German/Russian military doesn’t make him a Nazi or a communist. It just makes him a fan of the fashion of the time. Big whoop. I loved his collection. And this season of PR as a whole.

      • Mark

        To add, Seth Aaron was my fav from the beginning. I am extremely happy and surprised he won because I thought for sure Emilio was going to win even though he acted like an arrogant jerk most of the time. No way was Mila going to win with her drab looking collection. It was extremely boring with only a few interesting pieces.

    • Sharon

      Why did you use only White models? What statement were you making with that?

      • rami

        that’s very common in fashion. PR is unusual because they use so many models of color on that show. but high fashion is very pasty.

  • EAP

    He is lovely. and I’m so glad he won

    • Amy

      Me too! He’s very talented and I loved how professionally he handled himself during the whole competition.

    • Pogo

      Well, he did behave admirably, and I don’t remember any trash-talk coming out of his mouth. So good for him. But doesn’t anybody think he looks a good bit like that creepy Christian Troy? With side chunks on his head?

  • llevinso

    Seth Aaron collection was amazing! I knew the second I saw it that he was the clear winner. Blew me away. Hope he has a great future!!

  • Flyer

    Man, I hope Target sees this and contacts him ASAP! I shop at Target and would love to have access to affordable versions of his designs!

    • Amy

      Let’s all start a call in campaign to Target!! Their corporate headquarters are in Minneapolis. Phone number is (612) 304-6073. Let’s go!!

  • YBKGirl

    I have been a fan of Seth Aaron since day one of the competition. I would wear almost anything he makes, and I really do hope to see his clothes at Target. I would buy them all. I love you, Seth!

  • Tracy

    Seth Aaron had me at the mother-daughter challenge when he talked about sewing things for his daughter when she was little. I don’t think anyone who is that genuinely lovely to his family and to everyone around him is a secret Nazi.

    • Woo-hoo

      The outfit he designed for the Mom was extremely innovative and stylish and high-end. I’ll never forget it. Also, he could crank out an entire multi-piece outfit in no time flat and have it looking PERFECT!

      • vl

        I totally agree about the jacket he designed for that challenge. It was far & away the best garment ever designed for PR. When I saw it, I knew I wanted SAH to win the whole shebang. I would drop a bunch of $$$ to own that jacket!

    • kbs

      Yeah, because Nazis didn’t have families.

  • Lemon

    I like you, Seth Aaron. And I seriously want all his jackets and coats.

  • OUTRAGED

    PROJECT RUNWAY AND LIFETIME TV OWE THEIR VIEWERS AN APOLOGY
    I too am appalled. Are the Nazis now fashion inspiration? Henderson says that the Nazis made a “statement.” The Nazis killed my grandmother’s baby, her husband, her parents, her siblings, her aunts and her uncles. Brutally. That Project Runway did not call Mr. Henderson out for his at best unthinking allusion to the Nazis suggests a contemporary historical amnesia that is frightening. That the show allowed Mr. Henderson to win means that a national media outlet legitimized using the Nazis as fashion inspiration. Would we allow a designer inspired by the KKK (showing fashions with white hoods perhaps?) to win Project Runway? I have to believe with all my heart that we would not; if that were possible, our historical amnesia is more frighteningly thorough than I can stomach.
    An apology is necessary to clearly demonstrate that the show and the station will NOT condone using the Nazis as a legitimate source of cultural symbolism. The fashion we wear outwardly represents our inner allegiances and beliefs. To allude to a moment in history is to recall that moment and to revive it within the present. To award a prize to fashion inspired by those who killed my family and millions of other innocents is to suggest in a very clear way that the culture of the Nazis is alive and flourishing in our popular imagination. Project Runway and Lifetime TV need to rectify this legitimization of the Nazis in a public apology.

    • Sanity

      you are a nutjob

    • Ember

      So, by this rational, people shouldn’t use ancient Greek and Roman culture as inspiration for fashion? They used to sacrafice humans to their gods.

    • yep

      well said. justifying it by saying that the nazis made a “statement” is indeed unthinking at best. his explanation here made me feel even more uneasy than his initial statement about the inspiration of the collection.

  • Barbara

    Emil Sosa should have won,big bold colors,garments that any woman would be proud to be seen in!!Who wants to wear any thing that resembles nazi uniforms?GROSS.

  • UTTERLY APPALLED

    Seth Aaron, Seriously? You said very specifically, TWICE, “1940s German and Russian military.”

    During the first half of the 1940s, the German Military was commanded by Hitler and the Nazi party. The “statement” uniforms they wore were the last things seen by millions of Jews, gays, and other people murdered under Nazi hands. During the second half of the decade, Germany was completely demilitarized, so you could not have been referring to the non-existent uniforms of those years.

    Regarding Russia- You stated that you specifically included 1940s Russia so as to dilute the potential claim of Nazism. But Stalin’s Red Army perpetrated its own crimes against humanity, some would say on a scale that rivaled the Nazis.

    Seth Aaron, the fact that you are attempting to defend your choice to glorify Nazi and Stalinist culture is despicable. That you would claim to respect their “statements” could be likened to someone respecting the “statements” of the KKK, and designing a fashion collection inspired by white hoods and robes. Absolutely appalling. And even more shameful the Project Runway and Lifetime would fail to address it.

    Sth Aaron, maybe the truth is that you are not a racist or anti-Semite, but just that you are too ignorant to know better. If that’s the case just admit it and apologize.

  • PDXrules

    That’s TWO designers from the Portland/Vancouver metro area to win Project Runway! Coincidence? No! We have rockin’ talent in the area, for sure!

  • Bobby’s Robot

    He’s great – glad he won.

  • bessfriend

    It’s funny how people interpret what inspiration means. An inspiration is something that invokes creativity and has nothing to do with the perception of others. In this case, Seth Aaron’s collection was inspired by and at the same time contrasts the German/Russian military where one creates such a bold statement and memorable presence through force and fear and the other through fashion and inspiration.

    • D

      Some people are literal-minded and they do not understand abstract concepts or the creative process very well.

  • starr

    Seth Aaron seems like such a level headed, nice guy (alright, occasionally spastic). I can’t wait for his stuff to become available. I too really want a coat!
    and if people cannot accept that the Germans and Russian in the 40s left an indelible mark in world history, than too bad for them. They’re reading waaaay too into it. Obviously, Seth Aaron understands and can appreciate who and what they were by using their uniforms as an inspiration; it doesn’t mean that he believes their ideologies.

  • Mary

    I’m not ready to indict Seth Aaron just yet. I personally find Soviet realism fascinating and visually arresting while not agreeing with it politically AT ALL. It is possible to separate aesthetics from politics.

    • Dan

      I love the propoganda posters of the Soviet era as well as Chinese posters but I sure don’t love the philosophy or Stalin’s brutal genocide.I went to a park in Budapest with amazing statues from the Soviet era. Hungarians have no love for that time but they preserved the statues.OTOH Triumph of the Will may be brilliant but I don’t want to see it because I can’t get past the rah rah Hitler and Nazis theme.

      • Threatdown

        I was thinking of the propoganda Soviet Constructivists posters as well, when people started throwing a hissy over this. Those posters are really interesting and important artistically, yet they were all about actively promoting a totalitarian regime headed by a ruthless dictator who killed many of his own people. Yet people are inspired by those posters all the time. Doesn’t mean they’re endorsing Stalin or Communisim.

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