There's a lot about Irina Shabayeva that wasn't shown on Project Runway's sixth season. For one, she and Tim Gunn go way back. "My first memory of Tim is from my senior year at Parsons," the 27-year-old recalls. "He was on staff there, and I was in the studio working late with some students. Most of the faculty were gone, but in walks Tim with cookies, just to see how we were doing." Little did Shabayeva know then that five years later, she and Gunn would cross paths again — and the world would be watching.
Now, three months since her crowning episode, Shabayeva has put the past behind her. She's set the record straight on Sweatergate: "It's been so overanalyzed," she says of her claim — in front of the judges — that fellow Runway designer Althea Harper copied her knitwear. Instead, the New Yorker is focusing on the future and avoiding the post-victory slump. "People think that because you won, you can stop working hard. But winning doesn't guarantee success — hard work does, so that's what I'm going to keep doing." As for her portrayal as the season's resident bitch, she takes it in stride. "I was watching a show about Bill Gates, and everyone was saying how no one liked him. I'm like, 'Who cares? He still changed the world!' You're always going to have fans, and you're always going to have haters. You just have to take the best of it and move forward."