Dom Streater went from working two jobs to support herself to winning Project Runway and a half-million-dollar prize package -- the biggest in series history.
She wowed the judges -- Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia and Zac Posen, along with guest judge Kerry Washington -- with her "Retro Redux" collection at New York Fashion Week. Her work, which included prints that she had created herself, helped her beat out fellow finalists Alexandria von Bromssen, Bradon McDonald and Justin LeBlanc.
On Friday, she talked to The Hollywood Reporter about her time on Runway and what's next.
What was going through your mind during the final judging? Did you think you might win?
I knew I really wanted to win, and there was just so much anxiety and excitement wrapped up into one moment. I'm not even sure my brain processed what was happening. It was very nerve-racking, and I just can't even describe how I felt. Waiting to hear Heidi say whether I won or didn't win, it was just an insane, intense feeling.
Who did you think your biggest competitor was in the final runway show?
At the finale, I thought Justin was my biggest competitor. He makes really great clothing -- incredible, modern clothes that look great on most women, and I thought they were so beautiful. He had a great show.
Are you still working two jobs?
I was able to quit my day job, the one I was working full time [as an animal-care technician at the University of Pennsylvania]. … I am able to wake up every day and design full time. I still do work at night occasionally [as a hostess at a restaurant]. I don't do that all the time but occasionally. But I'm doing design full-time now.
You said in Thursday's finale that you were going to start working on your next collection. How's it coming?
I am working on my fall/winter collection for 2014. I was very inspired by Russian ballet, and I'm excited about the softer side of design that I don't get to access. Usually I do edgier garments that are realistically wearable to women who do work real job and have real lives, and I never have a softer, more romantic hand. This time I'm using it, and I'm really in love with [the collection]. I'm planning to show at Philadelphia Fashion Week in February.
Do you have any plans to relocate to New York?
I actually really love Philadelphia. It's a great city. I love New York -- don't get me wrong -- I just don't want to live there. I absolutely love New York; there is no place like it, but Philadelphia is an incredible city and there's a great community of people. This is where I'm staying for the moment. [And New York] is less than two hours away.
What did you learn from the judges or from your time on the show?
After the Belk challenge, where I was in the bottom, I learned my first major lesson: to really trust myself and my instinct and not second-guess myself. That was my first lesson and I carried it with me through the rest of the competition. My gut instinct is the one that my creativity comes from.
Was there one judge in particular you really looked to impress or took the advice of?
I love magazines and looking at fashion every month and seeing what's in the magazines. So the judge I always really aspired to please was Nina. I love Heidi and Zac, but I always was just like, "I hope Nina likes this."
Kerry Washington also had a lot of nice things to say about your collection.
She was so beautiful and stunning. I was so star struck: "I can't believe she's talking to me and looking at my work." It was insane, and it was great to be able to speak with her and hear her point of view.
What was your favorite challenge?
For me, it was the bowtie challenge and the HP challenge. With the bowtie challenge, it was such a great forum for something so important to a lot of us there, with gay rights and how every human should have that right. I also loved the HP challenge obviously because I made my own print; I was in heaven. I was like a kid in a candy shop.
Which celebrity would be on your wish list to design for?
I love the singer Cassie. She is beautiful, and I love her style. She takes risks with everything she wears, and I love her edginess. She's kind of like my inspiration, my muse, in a way. I always design with her in mind.
Will we see you on Project Runway All Stars one day?
I don't know if I could subject myself to that [laughs]. I always tell Kate [Aconfora], "I don't know how you did that twice."