“This was the opportunity that I was given to showcase who I really am as a designer,” Ashley Tipton – one of the four remaining contestants – tells PEOPLE. “I had to show that this is what I design, and this is what I know.”
Tipton, 24, has mainly designed straight-size clothes on the show, but she knew if she made it to the finale, she wanted to create a plus-size collection for Fashion Week.
“I never thought I would make it this far, but it was always in the back of my head that this is what I want to do,” she says. “To be able to showcase there is just an incredible feeling. It’s just so amazing to have everyone see my work.”
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The San Diego-based designer hopes her boundary-breaking finale show will pave the way for other plus-size designers.
“I hope that I’m starting something, where people feel that it is expected to have plus-size models walk in New York Fashion Week,” says Tipton. “I hope this starts a whole revolution, that plus-size is accepted in fashion.”
Whether or not she is crowned the winner, Tipton feels like she has already won.
“Just seeing my girls lined up, I knew at that moment, whatever decision the judges made, I knew I won in me,” she says. “No matter what the end result, just to be able to show in New York Fashion Week and to make history, this is the prize for myself.”
Project Runway‘s finale airs Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime.