Boston-area native and recent Parsons School of Design grad Sam Donovan knows how to fashion a successful coming-of-age tale, given that his first post-college gig involves showing off his designs to Tim Gunn and a national television audience. On Lifetime’s Project Runway: Under the Gunn, hosted by a Heidi Klum-less Gunn, the 23-year-old contestant seamlessly won the affection of all three of the show’s mentors on his first challenge, displaying what former Project Runway contestant Nick Verreos called a “use of fabric far beyond his years.” A fan of deceptively comfortable clothes, Taylor Swift and Gunn’s laugh, Donovan tells us how he breaks the mold while sewing inside the lines.

“There’s less time to second-guess what you’re doing, so if you’re a good designer with good instincts, you can really come up with these beautiful, uninhibited ideas that you might not have the balls to otherwise.”

“The energy in the workroom is a lot more lighthearted than they like to portray on the show. The editors, for whatever reason, try to make us look really detached from each other…I personally hate watching Project Runway when it’s basically just manufactured drama, so I hope that Under the Gunn decides to take a different editing direction. If I end up bored watching myself on TV, I’ll know there’s a problem.”

“I’d love to put Tim Gunn in a super-chic sweatshirt. I know that he’s a fan of his suits and his turtlenecks, but I think that he’d probably dig my more Bostonian—i.e., utilitarian— fashion sense.”

“I think I helped out at least one designer per challenge because I think if you’re not willing to help out another designer—if you can—it has much more to do with the lack of confidence you have in your design than anything else.”

“I think the sassiest instance thus far was when I told Stephanie [Ohnmacht] that if she sent her model down the runway assless, she’d be going straight home. I think I say something about Kit Harington’s abs, too, but honestly, how does one resist those?”

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