The Runway Rundown
1. The fashion gods have spoken — and, also, Jessica Simpson. Season Eight of Project Runway has a winner at last — after 13 challenges at 90 minutes apiece, this distills to one resolution well earned. For everyone.
2. The first half of the finale episode is the traditional designer reunion; all past contestants reassemble on the runway sidelines to inflame old rivalries and hug showily, sometimes simultaneously. This is mostly uneventful; Peach weeps, Ivy rolls her eyes in nonstop punctuation.
3. With hours to go before the Lincoln Center finale presentation, the finalists — Andy, Gretchen, and Mondo — find themselves in vastly different stages of completion. Gretchen has all her looks mapped out, with coordinating wild-haired models, and Mondo is in wild, needle-wielding final disarray. As Kors warned them, “You have to treat this runway like it’s your last runway,” which Mondo takes to heart visibly.
4. Tim Gunn’s final workroom visit yields on hilarious clip: He stares, aghast, at Andy’s twisted, ruched bathing suit, a one-piece knot of salacious slate rope. Gunn compares it to hair growing out of her crotch and calls it “disturbing.” Get your mind out of the gutter, Gunn!
5. Aww, but he reattains mensch status with these parting words to the harried trio: “From where I stand, we have three winners. I am so excited about the power of your collections. They’re all so different, the judges are going to have a run for their money.” 6. Mondo has wild trouble with his models; clearly, booking a catwalker is like scratching a lotto ticket (results quite messy… and not guaranteed). Three of his gals do not show up to the fitting, and one does not appear at Lincoln Center, putting quite a damper on the three’s ebullient dancing (including Gretchen’s endearing face-down snow angel) upon entering their tent.
7. The episode doesn’t capture the fantastically inappropriate, prolonged pause that occurred before Gretchen’s live presentation. Fortunately, we complained enough about it then to record the incident for posterity. She is spectacularly histrionic in announcing her work, sobbily calling her line “Running Through Thunder.” (I recall more than a few audience snickers at that; sorry, just keeping it real, as is the Voice‘s wont). Her brown Southwestern colors are very 1970s DVF — giraffe and zigzag prints, high-waisted trousers, green mixed-media paneled pants, a variegated purple-to-jade sweater with high-brief bottoms, the forest green shellacked leather kimono.
8. Andy dedicates his collection to his mother; it’s dedicated to his Asian heritage. His celestial headpieces look as fantastic as we remember, but the clothes seem to have a new near-monotony; the tiered silver silk jumper is a solid opener (but the lime bolero? Less so), and his standby lady-warrior aesthetic is largely missing. Grey diaphanous effects rule, from chain-accented dresses to sweeping robes. His eleventh-hour tiered lime minidress is still the standout.
9. Mondo…God love him, he’s every bit the showstopper. The line is influenced by his Mexican heritage, from the beaded Santorum skulls on his tee to metallic/burnished gold sorts. Punky plaid runs rampant, in excellent proportions, from full cocktail dresses to flippy miniskirts. It’s dramatic but cohesive — and his polka-dotted floor-length offering, after being scalded by Michael Kors’ words last week, is happily intact.
10. On the runway, the judges argue ferociously — aside from special inclusion Jessica Simpson, who is truly the gold standard of useless guest jurors. She offers statements of such incredible obviousness, my Runway panel is reduced to howling, “Good job, Jessica,” for every leaden lack of opinion that she emits. But the judges are nonetheless split, with Jessica and Heidi Klum for Mondo and Michael Kors and Nina Garcia for Gretchen. And it’s true, Gretchen maintained a mostly-solid western aesthetic while listening to her critiques and ramping up the sex in her styling, but Mondo’s collection was by far the most unique — and who didn’t fall in love with him this season? Anyway, this is all bad news for Andy, whose pleasant but tedious collection is eliminated first.
11. After much dramatic soundtracking (the drums! The drums!), Gretchen is declared the winner. Mondo handles this elegantly, congratulating her. It’s not an egregiously unfair victory, but still, she pales next to Mondo! When asked how she feels, Gretchen cries, “I feel like $100,000!” a/k/a her prize money. Telling. Disappointing. Dramatically invalidating. Itchy. And so ends another round of the sparkliest little show on earth. Nachos for everyone!