Project Runway and Shark Tank are two of the most famous reality TV shows of all time. They also happen to be two of my personal favorites. So you better believe that when I heard Lifetime would basically be combining both of these series into one with the new spinoff Project Runway: Fashion Startup, I was excited beyond belief. But one reason why Shark Tank is so successful is because its panel of uber-rich investors has incredible business savvy and tons of personality. Who are the Project Runway: Fashion Startup investors, and will they bring the same amount of expertise and entertainment?
We'll have to wait until Project Runway: Fashion Startup premieres on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 10:30 p.m. ET to find out if we fall in love with these investors in the same way. But if you watch some of the previews for the show, you'll quickly realize that they've tapped the who's who of the fashion and beauty industries to potentially invest in the next big thing. What's also impressive about the group of experts Project Runway: Fashion Startup has assembled is that it's not only full of fashion veterans but also those disrupting the industry today.
When these diverse viewpoints come together on Project Runway: Fashion Startup, it should inspire some lively discussions. Get to know the investors below, and you'll see why they're sure to make some fashion and TV magic.
You've probably seen many of Rebecca Minkoff's designs over the years, whether you realize it or not. The designer label that bares her name includes everything from clothing to handbags to shoes and is worth more than $100 million, according to a preview for Project Runway: Fashion Startup .
But before all of that success, Minkoff was an aspiring fashion designer who got her big break after her version of the iconic "I Love New York" T-shirt turned heads during an appearance on The Tonight Show in 2001, her show bio describes. She then rose to fame as a handbag designer in 2005, thanks to her signature "Morning After Bag." Minkoff debuted her first ready-to-wear collection in 2009.
Working with her brother Uri Minkoff, the company's CEO and co-founder, the fashion designer has expanded the company to more than 900 stores worldwide and even some of its own flagship stores in places like New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo. The contestants on Project Runway: Fashion Startup should be so lucky to have as much success as Minkoff.
For many Birchbox subscribers, that monthly box of beauty goodies is like a gift from Heaven. Well, you can thank CEO Katia Beauchamp for that since she co-founded the company with Hayley Barna in September 2010. These ladies, along with their Birchbox team, have grown the company to have more than 1 million subscribers and operate in six countries around the world: the United States, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Ireland, according to Beauchamp's show bio.
Before getting into the beauty biz, Beauchamp worked in structured finance and commercial real estate for three years. You might not think she uses much of that experience in her day-to-day now, but "her deal-focused background and interest in the economics of the beauty industry were instrumental in starting and scaling the Birchbox business," according to her show bio.
Those in the beauty industry and beyond have taken note of Birchbox's success. Beauchamp has been showered with honors, such as Advertising Age 's Woman to Watch, Fortune 's 40 Under 40, and WWD 's Digital Innovator of the Year. Project Runway: Fashion Startup's entrepreneurs should be begging Beauchamp for her expertise.
It's no secret that the fashion industry isn't always the most inclusive of all shapes and sizes. Well, Christine Hunsicker hoped to change that in a completely fresh way for 21st-century consumers when she founded Gwynnie Bee, an online clothing rental subscription service for women sizes 10 to 32, her show bio describes. Not only is this company giving plus-size women more chic and stylish clothing options, but it's also changing the way people buy and wear clothes.
However, Gwynnie Bee isn't Hunsicker's first successful venture. She kind of has a habit of taking companies to the top. After graduating from Princeton in 1999, she went on to climb the ranks to become the COO of the online advertising company Right Media, which was later acquired by Yahoo in 2007, according to her show bio. She then became the COO of the file-sharing software company Drop.io, which was later purchased by Facebook. Clearly, Hunsicker has a lot of expertise to offer to any fashion company hoping to make it big on the web today.
Think of a fashion design house today, and Gary Wassner has probably worked with it, including Marc Jacobs, Betsey Johnson, Derek Lam, Jason Wu, Alexander Wang, Naeem Kahn, and Vivienne Westwood, his show bio says. Wassner is the CEO of Hilldun Corporation, which has provided factoring and financial services to many designer labels for the past 50 years, according to the firm's website.
Wassner has "spent the last 30 years investing in some of the industry's most prestigious companies," according to a trailer for the upcoming season of Project Runway: Fashion Startup, so he definitely has a lot of experience to impart upon these up-and-coming entrepreneurs. He was a founding member and chairman of Interluxe Holdings LLC and partnered with Lee Equity in 2014 to buy equity stakes in fashion and accessory brands, his show bio says. He's also spent some of that time already helping fashion stars on the rise as a member of the CFDA Advisory Board, a mentor for the CFI Incubator program, and an instructor for the DENYC program.
You may also recognize Wassner's name for something totally not fashion-related, as the author of children's books, such as the GemQuest series, The Mystery of the Jubilee Emerald, and Isabella Cucharella Fashion Designer Extra Ordinaire, his show bio lists. So yes, Wassner completely knows what it takes to strive for success in a new industry.
The Project Runway: Fashion Startup entrepreneurs probably can't go wrong with an investment from any of these experts. And who knows? One of these contestants could even end up sitting in their spot one day.
Images: Zach Dilgard/Lifetime (5)