Sabrina Spanta acquired an eye for design watching her father work as a tailor in Afghanistan, where she was born. When she and her family fled the war-torn country, her birth mother tragically died during their journey. Spanta later came to the United States at the age of eight, where she was adopted by her great-aunt who she now considers her mom.
Growing up in Bloomfield Hills, Spanta attended Andover High School and earned a BFA in fashion design from The Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Upon graduation, she relocated to Florida to work in corporate fashion for the retailer White House Black Market, among others.
Then came the pandemic, which took a toll on the industry. Spanta lost her job and headed back home to Bloomfield Hills. After hundreds of job applications and no offers, she decided to apply to Project Runway – and was eventually selected to be one of the 16 contestants. The 29-year-old was recently featured on season 19.
Working in the fashion industry often means sitting at a desk from 9-to-5 on designs done on a computer. “With Project Runway, it’s on the spot, making, creating and using every skillset I learned in school,” Spanta said.
“The fashion world is tough and Project Runway is a competitive world that teaches you resilience. It’s an amazing experience that helps you figure it all out so much more.”
Spanta gained an even better appreciation for the show and how much work goes into it, from the producers to the crew.
“There is a beauty to doing a TV show because it tells a story and it brings fashion into the world,” she said. “I was the first Afghani designer and I had so many Afghanis reach out to me, and non-Afghanis who did not know anything about the culture.”
While she did not win the grand prize, she did make it to the fifth episode, learning plenty and teaching others along the way.
“To wake up and know you inspired someone’s life through this platform is a very humbling experience,” Spanta said.
She recently launched her own eponymous brand inspired by her cultural roots. Her fashion-forward collection includes her signature X-Pants that have been well-received. When Spanta first came to the U.S., her adoptive mom would be the first woman she ever saw to drive a car and wear pants. That was when she realized the power of wearing pants.
“Because I went to school for design, I am very specific about what I put out there,” she explained. “It’s so important to bring a fresh perspective and introduce something that tells a story and evokes emotion. My designs are edgy, chic and bold with a more meaningful backstory.”
Spanta plans to continue putting out statement pieces that combine versatility, sustainability and philanthropy. She also designs custom wedding gowns.
“I want to make my pieces available for more people and body shapes,” she said. There will also be some collaborations from the savvy fashion designer that are currently in the works.
Wherever her creations take her, Spanta considers living in Bloomfield Hills a real privilege and she knows there are many other women and girls who would want the same opportunities, which is why she tries to be a positive role model and supports specific charity organizations through her business.
“I went from having nothing to coming here,” she said. “My appreciation is vast. I wake up every day with gratitude.”
Website: sabrinaspanta.com. Instagram: @sabrinaspanta.
Story: Jeanine Matlow
Photo: Chris Ward