Sam Donovan Dishes About ‘Project Runway: Under the Gunn’ [Updated]

The Newton-born designer is the proud runner-up of the Lifetime competition.

Photo courtesy of Lifetime Network.

Photo courtesy of Lifetime Network.

Updated April 11, 2:25 p.m.: When I spoke with Sam Donovan, he had just lost his car keys. But any stress over misplaced keys pales in comparison to the anxiety that the Newton-born fashion designer has experienced lately: “After being on Project Runway: Under the Gunn, I have no fight or flight reflex; it’s more of a chill-the-hell-out reflex,” he says. Parsons grad Donovan, 23, is the first contestant from Massachusetts to make it to the finals of any “Project Runway” show. In the April 10 season final of Under the Gunn, Donovan finished as the runner-up designer after 40-year-old Oscar Garcia-Lopez. Despite leaving the season in second place, the Newton-bred designer has a lot to be proud of. Before the final aired, he talked with us about his background, his influences, and more; plus, check out a clip of the final below. — Abby Ringiewicz

How has your Boston background influenced your style and design?
There’s one thing I always hear shopping in Boston: I don’t have anywhere to wear that; and I think it’s so weird. I think Boston has a very utilitarian, practical approach to fashion. I like to do dressed-down pieces, dressed up. It’s more fun.

Is it difficult designing for women as a man?
Yes. I’m always trying to create things with attitude, and because I’ll never, ever know what it’s like to be a woman, I’m constantly talking to women about what they like to wear. A lot of girls tell me they like to be comfortable.

Who is your style icon?
I’m always designing for Amelia Earhart; the idea, if I want to wear a suit, I’ll wear a suit; if I want to fly a plane, I’ll fly a plane. So strong.

Any particular designers that you look up to?
I love, love, love Gap. And Rachel Roy is one of my design icons! When she was introduced as one of the guests, I freaked. Her designs are just so wearable for women.

How was it working with Tim and Heidi? Is Tim as much fun as he seems on TV?
He might be more fun than he appears on TV. I think we were sisters in another life or something. He just got me and my designs; I like to create wearables rather than costumes, and he always supported that.

And Heidi?
Heidi and I may have had some words. Let’s just say, when Lifetime calls and says, maybe don’t trash talk Heidi, it probably means something.

I know we can’t discuss the winner, but honestly, how was the finale?
It was insane. I had one helper and we had three days to [create an entire collection]—like, that is not possible. I whipped around a couple of times waiting to see the barrel of a gun pointed at my head. It was crazy.

In terms of spring 2014 trends, what are you wearing now?
I love crazy prints paired with denim—any denim, and really bright, fun prints. It’s really hard for men to find a print other than flannel, you know? You girls have it easy. I’m actually wearing the denim jacket that I wore in the show with a slouchy T-shirt and Gap women’s pants. Amelia Earhart pants!

Interview has been condensed and edited.