Siriano's notorious hairdo also traces its roots to Sung's advice. She first taught him to relax, straighten and stylishly snip his coarse curly locks, launching a look that recently earned him another online nickname -- "the cockatiel" (he apparently prefers "bird of paradise").
His fashion sense matured further
at the School for the Arts,
where he designed a 20-piece
fashion show for his senior project.
His teachers remember him as a
slave to fashion even then. They
still don't know how, out of all
their pupils, he alone managed
never to drip oil paint on his outfits.
His clothes didn't always treat
him as well. Friends recall the
time a few years back when Siriano's
beloved pony-skin cowboy
boots somehow got stuck on the
gas pedal of his car, causing a collision.
And -- according to
24-year-old Chuck Phipps, a friend
from the mall -- when Siriano
was studying abroad at London's
American InterContinental University
after high school, he was
sometimes at war with customs
officials because of the suspicious
amount of women's footwear in
Worst of all, the finery Siriano
craves is completely unaffordable
for the average 20-something. It
seemed unfair to friends that a
guy who'd interned with the likes
of Vivienne Westwood and Marc
Jacobs couldn't afford the uberexpensive
looks himself. Even after
he made the cut for Project
Runway, Siriano lived in a tiny
New York apartment, barely
making it. Paula McLoud, a
friend from Annapolis, went
shopping with him last summer
in Los Angeles, after Project Runway
filming had started; she finally
forced him to accept a pair
of gold-lame sneakers as a gift.
Nothing makes her happier than
to see him prancing in them today.
"He deserves everything he
gets," McLoud said. "Fashion is
Of course, not everyone is a
supporter. The closest Siriano
came to defeat this season was
the episode where he had to
make a prom dress for a rather
obstreperous teenage girl.
"First of all, I wanted to work
with Jillian [Lewis]," Maddie Eugene,
17, of Aberdeen, N.J., said,
naming Siriano's chief rival. "But
someone took Jillian, and I
didn't have a choice, so I chose
The collaboration went south
"A lot of people have thanked
me for telling him I hated the
dress, because he's so conceited,"
Bernsten has another word for
her friend Siriano's nature.
"He's blunt," she said. "But after
he says something catty, he
will always smile."
The bidding for Siriano's services
began at $5,000, but the auctioneer
could have started much
higher. Siriano had promised to
custom-design "a gown, a blouse,
a jacket ... whatever you want, by
me," and Baltimore's best-dressed
women were elbowing their husbands
and working themselves
into a postprandial frenzy.
Eleven thousand, twelve thousand
-- the price shot heavenward.
"Now 13, 13, bid it up!" the
auctioneer sang as Siriano danced
a gleeful jig on stage.
Eighteen thousand, twenty-three
thousand. Now the field
was down to A.C. Hubbard, whose
wife had her heart set on a Siriano
original for her 70th birthday
present, and Molly Shattuck, wife
of the Constellation Energy CEO,
who raised her hand like an A-plus
student every time the price
At $25,000, though, she finally
bowed her blond head in defeat.
Maybe it was the kindness that
his friends remember that made
Siriano lean over to whisper in
the auctioneer's ear, or maybe it
was affection for his alma mater,
which would collect the money.
Or perhaps it was the simple fact
that Molly Shattuck was wearing
an electric lime leopard print in a
sea of little black dresses--an utterly
fierce fashion statement. In
any event, Siriano announced
that for another $25,000, he
would make a garment for her,
The crowd gave Siriano a standing
ovation. Though we won't
know until tonight what the final
episode holds, he looked like he
was used to it.
Project Runway airs at 10 tonight on Bravo.