'Project Runway' winner is fierceness personified

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All that talk about fierceness was no folly.

Christian Siriano, the Project Runway contestant who created couture-quality clothing — and coined a sassy catchphrase ("That's fierce!") — was crowned the dominant designer Wednesday on Bravo's most-watched series ever, proving aptitude and attitude are a formidable combination in fashion.

The darling of the judges and the audience for most of Season 4 (he was named the show's "fan favorite"), Siriano, 22, won with a dramatic, signature-Siriano collection — lots of black and exaggerated ruffles — out-sewing finalists Rami Kashou and Jillian Lewis. But for the finale (Part 1 garnered 4 million viewers last week), Siriano checked his trademark confidence at the catwalk.

"I'm humbled," he said in a phone interview hours before Part 2 of the finale aired. "Project Runway the show, with the challenges, that's my game. I can make clothes quickly and I can make clothes creatively." But Project Runway at New York Fashion Week? "I was really nervous. … It was a really scary thing. I only planned to win. I didn't know what I was going to do with my life if I didn't win."

Having conquered the Runway runway, Siriano is on to the professional runway, or so he hopes. His goal is to show a "real" collection — 30-35 looks, a mix of wearable and avant-garde — under "Christian V. Siriano" at Bryant Park this fall. His "lovely" $100,000 Runway prize money will help get the sewing machines humming.
Siriano doesn't fear the fate of past Runway winners, who have been largely absent from New York Fashion Week since their respective victories. "I think out of all of them I'm going to go more of a fashion route," says the Annapolis, Md., native, who studied at the American Intercontinental University in London and has worked for Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. "I don't want to go the QVC route. I want to start high-end" — Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman — "and work my way down."

One judge sees a fierce future for him. "I have very high hopes," says Elle fashion director Nina Garcia, who called Siriano "the clear winner" and praised his "very professional" final show. "He's not going to disappoint. He's got the energy, he's got the stamina."

And, yes, he has the attitude. But Garcia finds it endearing. "His cockiness doesn't come from a bad place. It comes from a good place," she says. (Last season's winner, Jeffrey Sebelia, was arguably more the prototypical bad boy.) "He makes fun of himself. He's enjoying that fashion moment. He's playing that role — but he's not mean."

Indeed, Siriano wants to "set the record straight, people" about his critiques of the other designers. His criticisms, Siriano contends, were of contestants' clothes, not their character. "I only said Ricky (Lizalde) didn't deserve to be there because he didn't."

Siriano agrees that, in terms of talent, Kashou and Lewis deserved their top spots, but that in terms of personality, dour, competitive Victorya Hong didn't deserve the scorn shot her way. "I know everybody hates Victorya but I think she's the sweetest person in the world," says Siriano, who talks to her, along with Jack Mackenroth, almost every day.

Viewers saw a softer side of Siriano at the end. He hugged Kashou "for, like, 20 minutes." He pulled a Ricky and cried. (But "not in an annoying way," he clarifies.)

"I put the sassiness away for a little while," he says. "But don't worry — it'll come back again."

There's little doubt his fans will be clamoring for it. "I'll tell you, it's all day, every day — everywhere I go, there's not one place I haven't been recognized," he said. "Just walking to the corner store from my apartment (on Manhattan's Lower East Side), I get people screaming out their windows. It's hilarious."