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January 3, 2013

Project Runway's Dark Horse

Dmitry Sholokhov's Project Runway triumph came as no surprise to the designer. After giving up on everything to compete for fashion's coveted prize, winning was his only option.

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On the set of his victory photo shoot for Marie Claire, Dmitry Sholokhov worked the room like a veteran. The season 10 winner, a former professional ballroom dancer, is used to making major moves. "I have no idea what's going to happen," he says. "All I know is I'm not going to lose this momentum."

It's that forward-motion mentality that propelled him from the ballrooms of his native Belarus (he started the sport at age 6) to the showrooms of New York City. "Dancing was hard work," says the 33-year-old. "But that's when I started sketching costumes. By the time I was 11, I felt like I was already a fashion designer." While Sholokhov’s physician mother viewed drawing as a distraction from her son's schoolwork, his father, an interior designer and architect, hailed his creativity. "He would always back me up and say, 'Let him do whatever he wants. He is an artist.'"

And like many young artists who move to New York determined to make a name for themselves, Sholokhov discovered passion and talent didn't pay the rent: "I started taking classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology and waiting tables like crazy to save money." Modeling gigs and work as an extra on Sex and the City helped a little, but when he was admitted to Parsons, friends had to cosign his student loans. (He didn't want to ask his parents.) The risk paid off when Sholokhov landed a job as a design illustrator at The Jones Group, the multibillion-dollar company that owns labels Anne Klein, Nine West, and Jones New York. After only five months, Sholokhov was promoted, but he wanted more.

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