Project Runway Tries to Trompe le Monde; Christian Siriano Transmits Girly Bliss


Discussed: Project Runway finale, Christian Siriano

“Reality” television? Not so much. Project Runway tried to dupe our fragile young minds on Friday at their finale taping, sending not just the top three finalists but the top 10 contestants’ collections down the Bryant Park Tent catwalk. Ten collections with ten looks apiece, in precise, unyielding waves–a solid hour of booming techno, bright lights, and big glittery. It was a unprecedented, Olympian effort: the first design decathlon.

As camera cranes swooped overhead, Runway host Heidi Klum greeted the packed hall and announced that ten designers, not three, would show; she met the murmurs of surprise by explaining that, this way, everyone in attendance would be surprised by the final episode and the true top three designers. It was a clever idea, and a way to keep pesky journalists like me from giddily spoiling the ending and/or doing smug tribal dances of barely tamped secrets, but it did diminish the real three finalists’ glory; it is a rare achievement to show at Bryant Park, and one they deserved to savor alone.

Many of the collections were terrific, though; Ben’s high-concept, futuristic structures and Anthony’s gorgeous, saturated ruffled eveningwear were cohesive knock-outs. Jesse’s pin-up majorette suits and Seth Aaron’s plaid rockabilly swingers were most analogous in concept, and Jonathan’s voluminous proportions were experimental performances; despite the eventual fatigue that accompanied the endless presentation (standard runway shows are seven minutes; this was an hour), it was impressive to see so many designers delicately and quickly transition ideas within their aesthetics.

In my H&M-sporting, categorically unprofessional opinion, I’m going to wager that, based on collections and their general demeanor, the true three finalists are: Anthony, Ben, and Jonathan. And, by default, not the designer who sent this out as her introductory look. May I submit to the jury:

It was only fitting that Christian Siriano present his Fall 2010 collection at Bryant mere hours after the Project Runway marathon; as the show’s Season 4 winner, he is the singular breakout star of the series, a 24-year-old wild talent who has maintained his brand by studiously continuing to design while embracing his celebrity. (This is where so many other Runway winners go astray; they stop innovating behind the scenes and squander their tremendous industry momentum.) At his catwalk rehearsal, he showed a refreshing grace under pressure; rare is the designer who will sit with his family, text-message, and laugh at his models’ jokes mere minutes before curtain time.

His collection showed a similar whimsy; models courted the lights in his staggeringly tall, bright Payless shoes. Metallic cocktail dresses were draped in diaphanous chiffon, and chevron-print wool suits flared playfully at the hip (this seemed largely lost on front-row dwellers Mena Suvari and Leigh Lezark, who texted surreptitiously throughout the show). Siriano’s trademark ruffles made a strong appearance in the middle segment, but were less bountiful–this being his main criticism while on Project Runway, and also what set off recent uproar when the New York Times calling curvy Mad Men star Christina Hendricks “a big girl in a big dress” in his peach gown at the Golden Globes.

Siriano, a former intern for recently passed designer Alexander McQueen, said nothing of his former mentor’s shocking death, which may have been a logistical issue but still disappointing. Still, no one does hyper-girly couture better on this earth; his closing fuschia organza floor-grazer was absolutely arresting. In the front row, Kanye’s better half, Amber Rose, gaped at it with wide eyes; get out the checkbook, Mr. West, because that’s going in her closet. And then I’m borrowing it.


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