Like most budding gay teenagers, my after-school hours were spent watching TV shows on the Bravo and E! channels with my mom. At that point, I was still pretending like I wasn’t a secret homosexual ready to sprint out of the closet the day people stopped looking. There was nothing secret about my obsession with cars, though. Anyway, I guess you could say the seatbelt coat from Project Runway represented a crossover of my adolescent interests. It still looks really cool.
As I was saying: Thursday nights were spent, with my mom, watching 12 or so aspiring designers answer a fashion challenge every week. If you haven’t seen Project Runway, these folks would make chic and couture outfits every week, often out of unconventional materials, every single week. Eventually, my mom tried to “get that gay influence out of my life” and she made me stop watching it (and Ugly Betty or anything on HGTV with David Bromstad) but I still have fond memories.
In season five (2008), Project Runway teamed up with Saturn (the most fashionable of all car brands…?) and had designers create outfits using bits and bobs from the second-generation Saturn VUE. There were a lot of good outfits, but it’s time we remember one in particular: Korto’s seatbelt coat.
The challenge started with all the designers being brought to the roof of the New York City workhouse they’re operating out of. Then, they got four minutes to grab (already removed) materials like taillights, interior plastics, seatbelts, and other trim and fabric pieces from Saturn vehicles. From there they had 48 hours to craft a runway-ready high fashion look. You can actually watch the whole episode on Dailymotion here:
The resolution’s not great, but remember this episode was from an era when we were still seeing T-Mobile Sidekick product placements in shows like this.
There were a lot of gems, but designer Korto Momolu’s coat made entirely of seatbelts is probably one of the chicest and most overlooked garments of the entire show’s nearly 20-season history.
I mean, look at it.
Impeccable workmanship, the wrap-dress style coat was created via weaving seatbelts together and then hemming the sleeves. Seatbelts are thick; made of nylon and meant to stop a human body from propelling you through the windshield. Sewing the coat broke one of the industrial machines they used on the show.
The coat was iconic, yet somehow didn’t win the challenge that week. I, and most people, don’t remember the winning look, it was probably fine but nowhere near as amazing as Korto’s. Korto didn’t even win the season, which was a goddamn shame.
It looks like the coat was sold sometime after the season ended. The new owner was still wearing it, at least as recently as 2015. And it’s still is as striking now as it was in 2008.
Sometimes, car/fashion crossovers can be super cringy (Levi’s AMC Pacer, anyone?), but Korto and Project Runway proved it can look chic as hell.