Baltimore fashion designer Bishme Cromartie was named the winner of Bravo’s “Project Runway All Stars” Thursday night.
Cromartie, competing against two other designers — Brittany Allen and Laurence Basse — in the season finale of the reality TV series, wins a $250,000 prize, a mentorship with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and a feature in Elle magazine.
Designer Christian Siriano, who grew up in Annapolis, was the last “Project Runway” winner from the Baltimore region and the host of this season’s show.
“I’ve dreamed of winning ‘Project Runway’ ever since I [saw] Christian on his first season,” Cromartie said at the end of Thursday night’s show. “And to be here the second time and win, it honestly felt like the kid in me is just extremely proud and just excited as hell.”
The 20th season of the signature fashion-design competition featured 14 competitors from previous seasons sewing their hearts out in a variety of challenges, from designing uniforms to creating looks using toys. Cromartie has been a standout in the current season, winning several challenges, including last week’s signature “Project Runway” avant-garde challenge.
On the finale, each designer had to create a fashion collection of eight looks in eight days with a budget of $10,000. Cromartie designed a collection he said was about “powering through.” Judges, including Elle magazine editor Nina Garcia, top designer Zac Posen and actor Billy Porter, were impressed by the “genius” of Cromartie’s inspirational looks in red, white and black, in particular a design he called “the anxiety gown.”
“It doesn’t feel like the anxiety is oppressive. It feels like you’re moving through it,” Porter said about the showstopping black gown with layers of tulle and a bodice featuring the profile of a woman.
“You got to that place where evening wear can become art,” Posen said. “You did something very special and very moving.”
“You have a gift and I want you to feel confident about it,” Garcia said, calling his clothes “fashion with a capital F.”
Cromartie is familiar with coming out on top. In 2019, he was one of the four finalists in season 17. Celebrities like Lizzo, Jill Scott and K. Michelle have worn his looks and his work has appeared in fashion plates such as Vogue, Elle and Essence.
The 2010 graduate of Reginald F. Lewis High School in Hamilton started sketching at 7. Cromartie’s aunt eventually taught him how to sew, but he said everything else he learned from books.
Throughout “Project Runway All Stars,” Cromartie has struggled with grieving the 2022 death of his sister, dedicating his performance this season to her memory.
“I miss my sister so much and before she passed away she told me I was going to win,” an emotional Cromartie said on Thursday’s finale. “All I had to do was just believe it.”
Fans can watch a livestream of Cromartie’s runway show from New York Fashion Week on Tuesday.