‘Project Runway’ Alum Sabrina Spanta Is Leaving Her Mark in Detroit

In this month’s MI Style, the Afghan American designer talks her own bold look
Sabrina Spanta
Sabrina Spanta wears a denim jacket from Détroit Is the New Black, a vintage shirt that belonged to her father, the X-Pant from her namesake brand, and shoes from Steve Madden.

“I feel like I’ve lived a lot of lives by now.” So says Sabrina Spanta — at the age of 29. Born in Afghanistan, Spanta fled the war-torn country to Pakistan, with her family, in the mid-’90s. After her mother passed away during the journey, Spanta’s great-aunt adopted her and her sister and brought them to Bloomfield Hills, where she currently resides. 

While adjusting to American life as a child, Spanta developed a love for making clothes. This passion would carry her through obtaining a fashion design degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design, working mass-market fashion jobs in Florida, and — most recently — competing on season 19 of Project Runway, which premiered last October. 

As the show’s first Afghan American contestant, Spanta strived to create garments that represented both her Afghan roots (reflected in a floral jumpsuit she made, that aimed to emphasize the beauty of the female body and featured a redefined take on the traditional burqa) and her U.S. upbringing. She was also candid about her lifelong struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. 

Spanta’s work has been well received since her return to metro Detroit in 2020. Last fall, she celebrated her namesake brand’s launch at Birmingham’s Daxton Hotel and began selling her designs in Détroit Is the New Black. Among the shoppable garments is the X-Pant, which she wore on her first episode of Project Runway. 

Here, Spanta talks style, designing, and more. 

My personal style is … Boy-meets-girl, very much so. I’m not scared of mixing and matching and not wearing things in the normal way they were meant to be worn.

My go-to look: I will always have a blazer on. I always have [one] with me in the back of the car.

My design aesthetic: It’s bold — whether it’s with colors, the patterns, or the shape. It has parts of my Afghani roots in it. It’s edgy and it’s sophisticated. … I design for the modern woman who isn’t afraid to dress to be different.

My favorite designer at the moment: [Schiaparelli Artistic Director] Daniel Roseberry — I love his aesthetic. How he brings that artistic side of fashion and fashion expressionism. … I love that kind of passion, where you see something and you question it, and without even saying a word or trying to figure the look out, the art just evokes emotion.

If I weren’t a designer, I would be … A dancer, because it’s been a dream of mine to move the way dancers move their bodies, to express themselves in so many different ways.

How I get in a creative zone: I listen to all different types of music from all over the world, from K-pop to Russian to Spanish. That’s what gets me going.

My advice to aspiring designers: Follow your intuition, keep dreaming, and never lose hope. You’re going to have depressing-ass days where you’re going to doubt yourself. Don’t let that get in the way. Remember the law of attraction: The more beauty and creativity you put into your mind, the more that’s going to come out to the world — and the world’s going to give it right back to you. 

Find Sabrina Spanta’s work at sabrinaspanta.com.

This story is featured in the February 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition. And click here for more MI Style.