What happens after you appear on a reality TV show where millions watch weekly and your work is critiqued in front of the world? After the competition is over, people recognize you on the street and bloggers continue to post their opinions not only of your work, but about you, too.

Project Runway, Lifetime's realty fashion show, is now in its 14th year of challenging up-and coming designers, who create while the camera captures the tears, tantrums and jubilation of a win or a loss. Producers and hosts Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn return this season, and are joined by judges Zac Posen and Nina Garcia, along with celebrity and guest judges from film, music and other reality shows.

This month, Benicia Fashion Runway Weekend will welcome six designers who have participated in Project Runway during the past thirteen years. Two of the designers also competed in the spin-off, Project Runway All Stars Season 3. Each designer will be presenting their latest collections on the runway Saturday night, September 26, and will share their stories at a meet and greet at the Rellik Tavern Friday, September 25.  

Working with these talents, I have found that appearing on Project Runway can open some doors and offer notoriety, but does not always prepare a designer for the harsh reality of the business of fashion. The filming for the show takes about 35 days and it’s broadcast for three months. Contestants have to leave their jobs or businesses in order to move to New York and compete; if they win, they go home with a huge check, endorsements and a new car, but no promise of success. Those who don't win are faced with the same realities (minus the loot) of working hard to becoming successful. It’s one thing to make a dress out of a garbage bag (a show challenge) but creating for real women is the reality of the business. Famed designer Calvin Klein is quoted as saying, "To have success and to really make it, you need staying power. It's not an accident. Those designers who are successful work at it all the time, they never stop."

The 7th Annual Benicia Fashion Runway Weekend, September 25-26, benefits Soroptimist International of Benicia’s efforts to build a women's shelter here in town. A raffle will be held during the weekend, featuring items donated from the designer collections and Christina S.

Project Runway Designers Participating in Fashion Weekend

Richard Hallmarq, Sacramento, Season 11
This is Hallmarq’s fourth time participating in Benicia Fashion Runway. He opened his own retail studio in downtown Sacramento and his collection can be found at Benicia’s Christina S.

Emily Payne, San Francisco, Season 13
Payne has her own label, Leathertongue, and also designs children's clothing. She showed her collection last year in Benicia while still a contestant on Project Runway.

Melissa Fleis, Los Angeles, Season 10 and All Stars Season 3
Fleis designs for the contemporary woman, recently focusing on handmade garments and accessories while building her brand through shows, gallery events and workshops.
Stanley Hudson, Los Angeles, Season 11
Hudson has a formidable resume in costume design, with his work in films such as The Legend of Zorro; Yours, Mine and Ours; Gospel Hill; Public Enemies and Lemonade Mafia.

Bert Keeter, Los Angeles, Season 9
Keeter has made his mark with a minimalist approach to design. He has worked with the who's who of fashion designers including Halston, Holly Harp, Arnold Scaasi, and Bill Blass.

Ari South, Honolulu, Season 8 and All Stars Season 3
Since becoming a top-three finalist on Season 8, South has been designing for Neiman Marcus and opened her own store in Honolulu. After completing her transition from Andy South to Ari South, she returned to compete on last season's show.