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Alexander Knox, Chicago’s hottest young designer and Project Runway favorite, takes his next big steps.

Alexander Knox can vouch: The fashion industry presents fierce obstacles for those seeking to ascend to the highest ranks. At the age of 22, Knox was selected to compete on the 13th season of Project Runway, where he faced time- and money-restricted design challenges—not to mention a fashion-critique firing squad comprised of style giants like Heidi Klum, Zac Posen and Tim Gunn. That competition may have ultimately yielded a loss for Knox, but the overall result? Well, the Runway exposure helped the Columbia College grad secure an internship under the Marc Jacobs label—the latest in a string of wins.

As with most fashion-design students on the brink of completing college, Knox was in fevered pursuit of a pedestal from which to launch his polished womenswear creations when Project Runway began its search for new competitors. “The most surreal thing was at the semifinalist interviews when [Gunn] told me that the work I brought with me was some of the best done by a student that he [had] ever seen,” Knox says. He also notes that Gunn likes to hold him up to past Project Runway all-star Christian Siriano—who won the show’s fourth season and whose designs now grace red carpets—and Proenza Schouler founders Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez during their time at Parsons The New School for Design.

While the Marc Jacobs internship has recently drawn him to New York, Knox, who won the Chicago Fashion Foundation’s Fashion Future of Chicago award, has found a way to carry the Windy City spirit out east. “I thank Chicago for my thick skin,” he says. “The fashion industry in New York has just as much, if not more, grit as it does glamour.” And as a veteran of the City of Big Shoulders, there’s no doubt he will be ready for anything.

KNOX’S HOTS
The hipster comb-over, denim on denim (Prada spring 2015), embroidered loafers, Scotch & Soda’s shop in Wicker Park, Diptyque

KNOX’S NOTS
The one side-shaved haircut, ombre anything, shoes with studs or spikes