Austin Scarlett, Season 1
Best remembered for his flamboyant, dreamy glamor, Austin was also one hell of a designer. Although his Runway portfolio boasted many high points, his most successful look was this resourceful cornhusk number created for the show’s very first challenge, in which contestants created outfits out of grocery-store items.
Kara Janx, Season 2
Although she finished in a laudable fourth place, Kara never won a single challenge during her time on Runway. But she did come close a few times — including the “Flower Power” challenge, when designers had to make an outfit out of materials purchased in New York’s Flower District. Sod never looked so stylish.
Elisa Jimenez, Season 4
Elisa didn’t even get halfway through the fourth season, and her triumphs on the show were few and far between. But she was the driving force behind the great outfit in the photo above (which, if memory serves, doesn’t really do the look justice). Designed in partnership with Sweet P, the dress and cape were made with only $15 worth of material.
Sweet P, Season 4
Yes, Elisa’s “Money Changes Everything” challenge partner will also be competing on All Stars. Sweet P did considerably better on Runway, coming in fifth overall. She had a few shining moments, including the look above, which she made for a challenge in which designers’ materials were limited to denim jeans and jackets and white cotton.
Rami Kashou, Season 4
Sweet P and Elisa’s competitor, Rami, made it all the way to the season finale before being bested by Runway wunderkind Christian Siriano. During his time on the show, the designer was known as a master of the drape — and that skill is certainly on display in the dress above, which won him Season 4’s first challenge.
Jerell Scott, Season 5
We remember Jerell, who finished just shy of his season’s top three, as having an especially unique eye for color and patterns. While he won many challenges and offered no shortage of great looks, we’re still lusting over this Brooklyn Botanic Garden-inspired evening gown, with its layers of contrasting fabric and gorgeous detailing at the bust.
Kenley Collins, Season 5
One of Runway‘s most annoying contestants of all time, Kenley somehow managed to hang on long enough to become Season 5’s second runner-up. We were never big fans of the loud, tacky dress that won her a single challenge; the look above, however, from the episode that had contestants designing outfits inspired by An Affair to Remember, certainly made stunning use of a strong pattern.
Gordana Gehlhausen, Season 6
The fourth-place finisher in her season, Gordana always seemed to be cranking out looks that were good, but not great. She transcended those limitations in the memorable challenge “A Fashionable New Beginning,” which found designers transforming divorced women’s wedding gowns into new garments. The look on Gordana’s client’s face tells you all you need to know about her success.
Anthony Williams, Season 7
Dear, sweet Anthony Williams is easily one of our top five favorite Runway contestants of all time. The male southern belle was, in fact, so beloved that he had to be eliminated twice. But Anthony also repressed his tendency to make ’80s prom dresses for long enough to win a pair of challenges. The elegantly folded look above comes from the season’s fifth episode, in which the designer earned the opportunity to dress Heidi Klum for a Marie Claire cover.
Mila Hermanovski, Season 7
Also known as “the color blocking lady,” Mila finished Season 7 in third place. Although her designs really did eventually start to look similar, she did send a few stunners down the runway. This look may have won her a challenge, but we were always partial to the futuristic, almost tribal black-and-white number above, made entirely of items from a hardware store.
April Johnston, Season 8
Remember April, Season 8’s young fifth-place finisher, who was always making awkward diapers? Well, she eventually found a challenge appropriate to her aesthetic — resort wear. Yes, this was really the best thing she sent down the runway all season.
Michael Costello, Season 8
Boy, Season 8 was really filled with uninspiring contestants, wasn’t it? For some unknown reason, Micheal C. made it even further than April, finishing in fourth — despite the fact that he often seemed to be playing JV Project Runway and being judged according to those lower standards. Still, we did find something to like in his portfolio, which includes three wins: this fairy-tale dress, created for an episode in which designers made an outfit to complement a Philip Treacy hat.
Mondo Guerra, Season 8
Mondo was the (far more likeable) Christian Siriano of his season — a designer who was so much more talented than his competitors that his dominance should have been a foregone conclusion. But despite finishing in the top three for almost every challenge and creating a truly wonderful collection for the finale, he lost to mean Gretchen Jones and her brown harem pants, in Project Runway judges’ single worst call of all time (and that’s actually saying a lot). All of which is to say that the clear All Stars frontrunner makes it hard to pick a favorite look. We’re going with the outfit above, which found the pattern-mixing wiz creating his own pattern and making a perfect pair of pants out of it.