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'Project Runway' exit interview: 'I'm not afraid to make something ugly.'

SPOILER ALERT! If you did not watch last night’s episode of Project Runway and do not want to know who was eliminated,  go no further. Nothing but spoilers ahead.

She may have placed eighth in the competition, but between those nutty clown pants and that hairy catsuit, Amy Sarabi easily wins the title of this season’s boldest Runway designer. Here’s what the amiable, über-creative gal had to say about her time in Tim Gunn land, which sadly came to an end last night.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I was sorry to see you go last night. How did it feel, watching your elimination episode and reliving it?

AMY SARABI: The part that really was heart-wrenching for me was Jonathan’s reaction, how emotional he was. That made me more emotional than my actual departure.

Did you have a sense it would be you getting Heidi’s auf?

Yeah, I did. ‘Cause I had been in the bottom twice before, and from the last challenge, I was getting really tired. I started to feel myself slipping a little bit, just not being able to wrap my mind around my ideas — which is obvious from the hairy catsuit. [Laughs]

Other than being exhausted, what went wrong? Did you just not have a strong enough sense of the Upper East Side?

Yeah. It was my first time in New York City and so, honestly, when I landed in New York, I was taken into custody by Project Runway. [Laughs] We weren’t going around New York at all. I moved between Parsons and Atlas and that was it. Also, I knew I wouldn’t be good with a team challenge because I’m so in my own head when I design that to have to explain or vocalize my ideas kind of distracts my thought process. So I knew that I was gonna struggle through that one.

Do you think about what you would might have done differently?

Yeah. I actually thought about it this morning. I personally didn’t find the Upper East Side that inspiring, culturally. Francisco Costa said you could have done a white shirt dress with flats. Well, that’s not something that inspires me, really.

And if you had done that, the judges would have torn you apart for being derivative or something.

Yeah, yeah. Even now when I think about it, that’s a tough one. So I don’t know. I wouldn’t have chosen the colors I did, I can tell you that. And maybe not done so much intricate detailing in the pleating, which took up so much time.

You were this season’s most daring designer. Do you feel like that hurt you more than it helped you?

If you think about it being a competition, yes it did. Because when you look at the panel of judges, it’s Michael Kors, America’s designer; Heidi Klum, a supermodel who’s definitely looking for wearability and sexiness; and Nina Garcia’s with Marie Claire magazine. So you didn’t have that person on the panel that was applauding attempts at trying to make something unique. I’m not going to say that my attempts were all that successful, but I’m happier that I did that because that really is how I am. I’m not afraid to make something ugly. I’m not afraid to take something completely way overboard just so I can backtrack and get down to the strongest idea. That’s just how I work.

Two of your boldest designs were the so-called “clown pants” and catsuit with the shelf of hair. Do you stand by them?

Yeah, definitely with the so-called “clown pants.” I could look at that garment and just within the techniques, the color palette, the silhouette — all of that could inspire many other garments. The hair catsuit … [laughs] What really bothered me wasn’t the hair because the hair was something you could take out. You could almost consider it an accessory to the garment. What bothered me was that the actual foundation of the garment wasn’t standing up correctly the way that I wanted it to. It collapsed. It wasn’t the wisest decision on my part to do something like that. But I’m happy that it showed that I’m not scared.

You certainly are not!

[Laughs] That’s my one thing: I’m happy that I conveyed that, that I took a risk, it didn’t turn out, and I can admit that. But I’m still happy that I took the risk. The idea was that she would have almost like a ponytail coming from one side and around the other and her hair would fall into this cauldron or whatever you want to call it. But what happened was, they [gave me] hair extensions that had been used, so they were frizzy. It wasn’t, like, undulating waves of hair. Had I done it again, I would have taken the hair out before I sent her down the runway. But I was so caught up in what my idea was that I couldn’t remove myself from it. I couldn’t edit and say, “It’s not working, just take it out.”

How do you feel about how you were presented on the show and how it was edited in general? I ask because Jonathan, for instance, seems very funny, and I wonder why he’s not on screen more.

With me, there was really not one moment that I thought, “Oh my god, I can’t believe they made me look like that!” Jonathan and I were extremely close from the first challenge…and yeah, I definitely agree. Jonathan is hilarious. He is so clever and witty, so, the fact that they don’t shine more light on that shocks me, too. And even Anthony — oh my god. The guy would dance in the middle of the day all the way across the workroom. And the great thing about both of them was that they were exactly the same way off camera. You can’t turn Anthony off. Off-camera, he was just cracking jokes left and right. Yeah, I think they definitely could have capitalized on that more.

You got to show at Bryant Park as, we now know, one of several decoys. I liked a lot of the pieces, but I confess I did not get the high-necked turtle dress. Could you explain it to me?

That one was about adjusting a silhouette. If you take the height up and move it out, then you lose the shoulder line, and there was something that interested me in being able to make a garment look like a dress, while drastically affecting [the model’s] shape. The movement of that garment was achieved because of the height of the neck. Is it the most wearable thing? No, it’s definitely not the most wearable thing. You wouldn’t be able to eat in that. [Laughs] I’m not comparing myself to Gaultier or anyone like that, but when I look at work like that and I look at mine, I just think, God, I could still be so much more creative. But even Tim questioned it. When Tim saw it, he was like, “Okay, I don’t know about the Cousin It dress.” [Laughs]

What’s next for you?

I’m not gonna stop designing. I have plenty of collections to come. My goal is to find an investor because I need a financial partner.

And in the meantime?

I’m still with Gap Inc, [designing for] Old Navy. I graduated two-and-a-half years ago from college and within those couple months of graduating, I started with Old Navy and I’ve done three collections since then. So it’s kind of having that balance of things.

I love the irony that you design for one of the most mainstream brands out there.

Yeah, exactly. [Laughs] It’s really the design process that I’ve learned and that I bring to Old Navy. I know who the customer is. I’m not gonna make a hood full of hair or anything — although I have joked about it with them!

Originally posted March 19 2010 — 4:14 PM EDT

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