Interview with “Project Runway” runner-up Rami Kashou

Almost from the beginning of Project Runway’s fourth season, conventional wisdom had designers Rami Kashou and Christian Siriano as the two contestants most likely to walk away with the $100,000 prize. And indeed, Rami and Christian were the final two with the younger, outspoken Christian ultimately prevailing.

Already an accomplished designer before being chosen to compete, Rami had his ups and downs during the season, twice winning challenges, but also placing in the bottom twice. To be fair though, both poor finishes were toward the end of the competition when there were fewer competitors. He also became especially well-known for his draping technique — perhaps too well-known as he was frequently accused of being somewhat one-dimensional.

Rami Kashou, his first winning garment

But Rami also shined during the candy challenge when he dazzled the judges with a confectionary creation that earned him the second of his two wins during the season. recently caught up with the thirty-one year old native of Ramallah, Palestine, who now lives in Los Angeles, to talk about his design work, whether the judges treated him fairly, and why he referred to his boyfriend as his "friend" during shooting. Something that comes up frequently in discussions of your work is that you were too good, too polished, already too successful. In fact, Tim Gunn made a comment that this was literally the first season there could have been any real competition for you. Do you think that you were being held to a higher standard because of that?

Rami Kashou:
I think I’m successful in terms of creating a brand that is acknowledged, and a reputation, yet still needing backing in terms of finance. So it’s a question of successful in the PR department, in reaching out to certain celebrities and making collections, staying above water and doing what I love, but still waiting for that moment when I can have investors behind my company.

AE: But in terms of the judges, do you think they held you to a higher standard because of your success and your experience?

It’s possible. You never know what their intentions truly are. While I don’t know how familiar they were with my work before, it’s possible that they knew that draping was something that I’ve been praised for before in the press and I’ve been acknowledged for. And maybe they just wanted to be a little harder on me.

I did feel that, from the middle to the end, they were harder on me than on the other designers. I look at it in a way that it only makes me a stronger person, because they showed me that no matter if people agree or disagree with what I am doing, or if they misunderstand it, it truly showed me a level of confidence that I have about my work, that I was willing to stick to it until the end. It was a lesson learned, really.

AE: I found it irritating when the judges kept saying you had to show them something different — your winning design for the Hershey’s challenge was, in my mind, both different and dazzling. And they thought so too because, hello, you won that one – I was literally sitting there yelling at the TV when they were saying it.

: [laughing] How about that? I can’t even tell you how many people say what you just said to me, even stopping me on the street. It’s bizarre. I guess they just quickly decided to forget about that, forget about the denim challenge. They forgot about the men’s challenge, they forgot about the skinny challenge. I could name you many challenges they wanted to forget about, just so they could put me in that corner. They were determined about it. And I still snuck out of it, in the end.

Rami’s winning Hershey’s challenge creation

I’ll tell you, to be honest with you, I wish they would have treated the other designers that way as well. Without giving you names, there were other designers who created the same body of work over again, but they were not criticized for it. Where’s the fairness in this?

Because my work is specific, and because it stands out, I was bashed for it. Yet, the first time they saw it, I won the challenge. So in a way, that sort of revealed to me that there is some type of an agenda. It’s their agenda, it’s their show. I’m just a team player, and I did my best to do my work and make sure that people out there get to see. And I hope they make their own opinions about my work.

And they do. I see these people on the streets, and they say some amazing things. And the quote I keep hearing over and over and over and over again is, we love your draping. Keep on doing it. And I will, but the point is, I do so much more than just drape. I was stereotyped in that way. It’s TV, you know.

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