Friday, October 28, 2011

Project Runway, Season 9 Finale: The New Era

Dear readers, there is much to discuss about the grand finale of Project Runway Season 9 and we haven't a moment to waste, but before we get down to the nitty gritty of it all...

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't yet watched last night's Project Runway Season Finale (and have somehow avoided the onslaught of Facebook statuses and tweets), look away before you turn to stone!

Now, before we discuss the end result, I think we should first do a thorough examination of the process leading up to it. Like any good blogger, I believe due diligence is... ahhh, f**k it...


Yes... the conspiracy theories turned out to be true and Anya took home the prize. ConDRAGulations, or something.

Not too much happened before the runway shows that is worth noting, though the entire process of these last two episodes brings up the question: should the designers have a critique with the judges before Fashion Week? If you are an Anya fan, I imagine your answer is "hellz yes" because girlfriend pretty much redid her entire collection with the $500 they were given after last week's critique, but there is something to be said about setting the designers free and just seeing what they come up with. Shouldn't the Tim visits be enough? Shouldn't the winner of a design competition be someone who can show up to New York Fashion Week fully prepared? I understand this isn't a phenomenon new to the show—the same thing happened in Seasons 4, 5 and 8—but it does dramatically effect the outcome. Would Daniel Vosovic have ditched those ugly bags in Season 2? Would Irina have been spooked by Nina's "I hate all black" critique and added color into a collection that simply didn't need it? Would the dramatic impact of Christian Siriano's collection have been weakened if the judges had already seen almost half of it prior to Fashion Week?

The mind reels, and we should get back to the matter at hand... let's breakdown the collections in order of appearance, shall we?

Kimberly Goldson

First up was Kimberly with her "elevated urban chick" aesthetic. I didn't ultimately see this as a winning collection, and there were a few missteps in there—namely, the hot pink skirt in Look #6, the bulky top in Look #8 and the way Look #10 was in desperate need of some lining—but overall I really enjoyed this collection. There was an excellent use of color, a wide range of looks and the styling was much improved over last week. That metallic cocktail dress (Look #2) is fabulous, as are Looks 3, 4, 5 and 7. Most of all, she presented a collection with a clear vision and a clear client—I know exactly who she is trying to sell these clothes to and I think there is a huge market for it. It might not all be my cup of tea, but that kind of reasoning got Chloe Dao the win in Season 2, didn't it?

Favorite Look: 5

Bottom Line: Not a winner, but Kimberly could really make a name for herself in an upscale urban market.

Joshua McKinley

Let's start with the positive: Joshua's show was, if anything else, exciting and entertaining. I may not be a huge fan of the neoprene, but you have to give him credit for going there and trying something new and at least attempting to innovate. And he was smart to keep the girls' styling to a minimum and let his loud clothes speak for themselves—can you imagine if those models had crazy hair and giant bags and sunglasses on top of everything else? Now on to the negative: this was an incredible schizophrenic collection. We started off understated and chic—that first dress was a lovely recreation of the bird challenge look, toned down without that flower corsage—but by Looks 4/5 we were in Crazytown. Those shorts... are... insane. You know we are dealing with high levels of insanity when Heidi and Nina both compliment those eye-burning things. Yikes. Then after those WTF moments, we got a fabulous little black dress—without the modesty tab, of course—which transitioned us into Neoprene Station. I didn't see much of a through-line, and that last dress just looked like a potato sack. Probably some of the best we've seen from Joshua in terms of editing and polish, but this was a clear third or fourth place finisher. That is, until you hear the producers judges say that he's had "one of the most dramatic evolutions" on the show. Then you get nervous.

Favorite Look: 7

Bottom Line: When you throw in everything but the kitchen sink, you're going to run into issues. Any collection that contains those horrid shorts next to that amazing LBD is going to be a bit of a head-scratcher to me.

Viktor Luna

What a collection! We know Viktor for his excellent tailoring, his polished looks and his laser-like focus on the rock 'n roll city girl. He's been criticized in the past for not turning up the volume and providing any wow moments. Well, take a look—this collection was his wow moment. The prints and mirrors were beyond stunning, and not just from a general aesthetic point of view, but also from a technical standpoint. The way he crafted everything together was truly masterful. Girls would be lining up to get their hands on these clothes. Of course, the pieces that got the most criticism were the chiffon looks (2, 5, 6, 7), but to be honest I wasn't really offended by them. While I wish he would've thrown a print into one of those four looks, I thought it added some range and depth to the collection. An entire collection of prints and mirrors would've felt one-note (or could've gotten him the win... more on that in a minute). Plus, those sheer tops and dresses are perfect for the red carpet. It probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to hear that this was far and away my favorite collection, and the fact that the judges quickly dismissed it in their deliberation was heartbreaking.

Favorite Look: 4

Bottom Line: The best collection, no matter what those mean ol' judges say!

Anya Ayoung-Chee

Yes, the prints in this collection are stunning. Yes, there are looks in there—hello, #1, 2 and 9—that take my breath away. But by the fifth plunging neckline, I'd had enough. This was pretty much the same thing 10 times over. Eight looks had the same exact neckline, not a single look has a sleeve, there's only two instances of separates—and I'm being kind by calling the 3 yards of fabric the caftan in Look #3 a separate. It's all cute and it's all very Anya, but something she said during their trip to Mood at the beginning of the episode really stood out to me, and I think it speaks for the exact reason I didn't see this as a winning collection: "I'm not thinking about the shapes, I'm not thinking about the designs." AND THERE IT IS! There are hardly any interesting shapes, any interesting design elements or really anything of interest in these clothes except for the fact that it's in a gorgeous print. Scroll back up and take a look at the way Viktor expertly crafted his prints into unique silhouettes and shapes—there isn't any of that in Anya's collection. Where is the range here? I seem to recall Uli losing this show for relying too heavily on her fabric choice, and Uli was far more masterful when it came to prints than Anya is. The judges once again graded her on a curve, judging her potential instead of the actual product in front of them.

Favorite Look: 9

Bottom Line: One-note collections get some designers the boot, but not when your name is Anya.

Congratulations, you're the winner of Project Runway.
I wish I could say I am genuinely surprised, but the truth is that we are now living in a new era of Project Runway—the Gretchen/Anya Era—that makes no sense to me. At least this season we knew what we were getting ourselves into. We knew from the second she uttered, "I've only been sewing for four months," that Anya would be going all the way. The producers seem to have taken over the decision making process and that's just something we need to accept. I miss the days when Seth Aaron, Christian Siriano and Jay McCarroll won this show. Let's be honest, if Season 1 happened today, Wendy Pepper would've taken the win.

All of this isn't my way of saying goodbye to Project Runway. At the end of the day, I truly love this show despite all its shortcomings. I am beyond excited for the All Star season—go, Mondo!—and I'm sure I will be back for Season 10. I just hope that when we return, it will be with a new lease on life. Stop rewarding dramatics and back stories, go back to rewarding solid design and craftsmanship.

What did you think of the finale, dear readers? Are you pleased with the results or are you sad we are in a new era of this show? What did you think of Season 9 overall? And will you be back for more? Sound off in the comments, y'all!

Many thanks to everyone for joining me throughout the season. Stick around these parts for lots of judging on fall TV, Oscar season and... coming in 2012... Project Runway All Stars!!!

[Fashion Week Images courtesy of]
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