While he established himself as a talent to watch from the season's first challenge, his path along the catwalk was never easy.
He arrived in Los Angeles from a small Minnesota town, with no formal design training. Throughout the competition his designs were alternately praised by judges for their quirky beauty or trashed for being a tad bizarre.
Since Straub spent so much time with the season's three young female finalists; Carol Hannah Whitfield, 24, Althea Harper, also 24 and Irina Shabayeva, 27, we asked him to predict the season's outcome. The designer, who is in the midst of launching a signature accessories collection, talked about that and more when he spoke with StyleList this week. Here is an edited Q&A:
StyleList: How did a guy with virtually no design training get so far on "Project Runway"?
Christopher Straub: One word -- tenacity. I just wasn't taking no for an answer. My artistic place, my frame of reference was very different from the other contestants. All my inspirations came from my own experience. I wasn't doing anything based on some preconceived notions of what is right or wrong in design. I also learned never to bore [Runway judge and Marie Claire Fashion Director] Nina Garcia. My mantra became, "Don't bore Nina." Ever.
SL: The judges seemed to love you one week and hate you the next -- or at least that's how it seemed on television. How did you experience them?
CS: I never went to school for this. I was never formally critiqued. So in one respect, I appreciated the judging. It was learning for me. And at the beginning, they did seem to love me. I had them more on my side. The hardest part was being criticized by Michael Kors. My favorite part of watching "Project Runway" used to be when Michael Kors picked on the designs. His comments can be the best part of the show, at least when you are watching someone else on the receiving end because he can be very, very funny. On the runway, it was completely different. When he was saying those things about my designs it wasn't as funny. Another interesting thing viewers may not see as much as the designers do is how much Michael Kors and Heidi Klum play off each other. To watch them go at it when one of them loves something and one of them doesn't is really interesting.
SL:Okay, who is the pretty girl to beat?
CS: (Laughs) It is funny that you said that because I was thinking of putting on my Facebook page, "The winner of 'Project Runway' is a pretty girl." Just to be funny That is one thing we know for sure, because they are all really pretty girls.
But from the beginning for me, I have been a huge fan of Carol Hannah [Whitfield]. Of the three, she is the most joyous and the most fun. I think that comes through in her designs. Who wouldn't want to wear something created by someone
who approaches design from a place of joy. What that joy makes in Carol Hannah's case is beautiful clothes.
SL: Not Irina (Shabayeva)? Last week when the judges asked each of you who should go to Fashion Week, everyone said Irina. Even you!
CS: Well, yes. She definitely won the most challenges. She consistently put beautiful designs down the runway. There's no doubt in my mind she's a contender. She has real talent. And she had a great ability to please the judges.
SL: What's next for you? Are we going to see more of your work somewhere?
CS: Well, the Christopher Straub collection of handbags and accessories! I have done a very high end collection in leather and it's been very well received and I am thrilled. If I sound a little out of breath it is because I am quite literally running to a photo shoot with some of my bags right now! What's also new is that I am doing a line of bags in PVC and fabric and they are going to be much more affordable. I wanted to make something that everyone could access because some of my leather bags are around $400. I want everyone who likes my bags to find something they can afford.
SL: No more gowns?
Straub: I decided to work in accessories and handbags because I think they are the coolest part of any wardrobe. They are a great way for anyone -- from a petite to a plus-size or for a man -- to make a statement. And I really like accessories, so I think this is the right direction for me.
You can see if Straub picked the right pretty girl when Part 1 of Project Runway's two-part season finale airs tonight on Lifetime at 10 p.m. The second part airs on Nov. 19.