In my humble opinion, this has been a great season for design. No model was forced to wear butt floss made out of candy, dress like a turkey crossed with a feather duster, or have rosettes stuck in unmentionable locations. That being said, it has been a slow season for drama. No one was kicked out for cheating, no family pictures were defaced, and the only guy that cried consistently did so at his own doing. Will the finale be any different? Will there be cheating accusations? Budget trouble? Missing models? Footwear controversy? Let’s all cross our fingers and hope for some whiff of drama before the curtain comes down on Project Runway 4.
Christian humble? What is this, opposite day?
No time is wasted and we jump into the action at the top of the show. There are only three days until the final runway show and loads of stuff must happen before the three dozen or so skinny girls traipse down the flat white sheet that serves for the runway. Christian just wants Friday to show up already, Rami is glad it is settled that he’s in, and Jillian worries over her hair being poofy enough. They arrive at the workroom and begin to unpack their collections.
Christian is just not himself; he’s concerned about the competition and actually says that he values Jillian’s and Rami’s opinion of him. He wants them to like his work and consider him real competition with a chance to win. He’s rather fidgety, but not in bundle-of-energy way. Soon enough, Tim arrives to take a look at the collections’ progress since he last saw the work.
Jillian shows Tim a striped sweater top with sleeves made of layers of fat yarn loops; Tim thinks it is a bit incongruous with the rest of the collection and wonders if it could be toned down a bit. Jillian really has no other option, so she can’t really make any changes. Rami’s collection has been toned down a bit from the time Tim visited him; he proudly shows off a top and a skirt that will come together to form a gown. It is made out of layers of vintage 1930s lace running in overlapping horizontal strips. It isn’t draped and it is quite pretty. Finally, Tim takes a gander at Christian’s designs. He notices the volume on many of the jackets and the big puffy thing that forms a collar to go across the model’s face (we saw it last week), and Tim wonders if all of Christian’s exuberance caused him to over-design a bit.
Before Tim heads out, he lets them know they’ll be conducting a model casting in a few minutes. After he leaves, Christian remains nervous, Jillian remains stressed, and Rami is not showing being all that affected by the situation.
Fierce tallness and walks for days.
The models haven’t pulled that much focus this season, and the lack of thought to models really becomes obvious in Jillian during the casting. She’s never cast a show before and has a great deal of difficulty choosing her models. She admits she has a hard time making a quick decision and sticking to it, but we already knew that. Perhaps she should call up that clairvoyant her mother talked to many years ago an get some advise. Christian knows he wants two types of models: edgy and dark-complected. Props to him for casting women of color, as they have been more and more neglected in runway modeling.
After the models are cast, the day winds down and everyone crashes out, tired as can be. The next day, two days before the big show, Collier Strong comes in for the obligatory consultations on makeup. Rami wants looks that emphasize the angles and shadows of his models’ faces, Christian started out thinking dark lips and nude faces but went with nude lips and emphasis on eyebrows, and Jillian goes for a natural look with a bit of drama.
With the makeup choices made, the models come in for their first round of fittings. The designers have six hours to work this day and it is quite busy, what with all the outfits and lanky women hanging around. Rami observes Christian’s outfits and comments that Christian needs to start designing for real women and not only for models. Big talk from a guy who thinks Grecian dresses are something to be passionate about. The models aren’t even that happy with Christian because he’s chosen super-tall heeled booties for them to wear. Two of he models gripe that the shoes are uncomfortable; seriously, if they want comfort footwear and clothes, they need to be in a different industry altogether. There’s a reason you don’t see Crocs on a runway. Christian tells the girls to suck it up because if he can wear the shoes for days, they can walk down the runway and back.
Jillian has caught a bad case of buyer’s remorse on the models she’s hired. Looking at all of their pictures, she’s realized that the girls don’t present a cohesive look and she decides to see if she can get some different models. She calls a couple of people to see what can be done, but only gets voicemail. Christian has no sympathy for her, saying that she’s the most indecisive person on the planet and it’s her own fault. Humble Christian has left the building, and we’re back to the original model. This “drama” (if we use that term loosely) continues to the next day. Jillian finally gets someone on the phone and asks to see some different models. The guy on the other line points out that, as it is the day before the show, she’s stuck with what she’s got. Rami notes that Jillian worries too much and is kind of annoying. With all that settled, the designers continue working on their final fittings and details of their designs.
We couldn’t have a finale without a Nathanial Hawkins hair consultation. Luckily, this part is as brief as the makeup consult. Christian goes for up-dos with a twisted end to have the hair stick out a bit at the back to match the feathers in his collection. Jillian has long, flowy hair that moves naturally, and Rami’s hair designs are up, off the face, and clean.
Tim’s last visit to the work room: the kind of pep talk everyone should get.
Pre-show prep is just zipping along after the makeup choices are made. Jillian has decided to embrace the diversity of her cast of models and let the regret go. Everyone busies themselves with packing up their collections to take to Bryant Park. Christian is back to his exuberant self and is just ready to go now. You know he was the kid on family vacations asking, “Are we there yet?” every five minutes.
Tim arrives to share his final words of encouragement. First he tells them the show’s order will have Jillian first, Rami second, and Christian last. Then Tim gets dewy-eyed and asks them to all gather ‘round one last time. He is so proud of this group he doesn’t have adequate words to express his feelings. He thinks this group had the highest level of skill of all seasons and produced the most consistently good work. They have shown superb skills and have been an inspiration to him. He calls them all in for a group hug, which is kind of sweet. With that, we’ve made it through the entire runway prep without any scandals or fights, which may be a first for any reality show.
The Heart Beat of American Fashion.
The big day has finally arrived; the designers are up at 4:15 a.m. and get to Bryant Park before sun-up. True story, the night before the show my sister was near the Bryant Park area, having been out for dinner; she called me as she was walking to the train and I asked her to head up and sneak around to see if she could spot any PR activity. She flatly refused, citing some need to get home and it being cold and whatnot. Clearly I need better New York operatives.
The designers survey the empty tent, the really long runway, and all of the as-yet unoccupied seats. They marvel that the room will be filled with 2,000 people in fairly short order, while all are overwhelmed, nervous and excited. They don’t have much time to sit still and worry, because the models start arriving and last minute sewing and fitting commences. I noticed Jillian had several people helping her out—dressers, I think they were called. That’s a change from bringing prior contestants back to help out, and I like it—makes it seem more like a real runway show and less like a game show.
The tent begins to fill up and we see a bunch of past contestants; Jack is there with Dale from Top Chef, Jay is around, as is Kayne, Kara Janx, Dirty Diana, Kevin, Victorya, and some others I’m sure I missed. The designers’ families are present and accounted for in the audience, too. The only speck of pre-show drama kicks in at the two-hours-till-show time mark when two of Christian’s models aren’t there. He frets and frets, and still, with only one hour to go, one girl is still missing. Eventually, though, she turns up and all is well. With the models dressed, the designers reflect a moment before the show starts. Rami can’t wait to show his work to the audience and fulfill his dream. Christian knows the show is a once in a lifetime chance and can start his career off well. Jillian gets choked up at the sight of all her designs and is proud of her work.
Last Runway Show.
Finally it’s what we’ve all been waiting for: Heidi bounds out on to the stage in what appear to be sprayed-on light denim jeans and a sparkly gold top. She introduces the judges: Nina Garcia, Michael Kors in some goofy aviator shades, and Posh Spice herself, Victoria Beckham. I’m no big fan of ole Posh, but at least she has the sense to not spell her name with a “y”.
As we knew, Jillian is up first; she quickly introduces her collection by noting it is her first and hope it inspires. Her collection includes a variety of looks but most predominant is her use of fitted, well-constructed jackets and knits. She sends down: a coat with a fitted pant; a dress that is topped off with a giant, multicolored scarf that I covet; an equestrian look with tan pants, a short jacket and boots; a short gold dress with a pleated skirt and a bodice that reminds me of Wonder Woman; a brown jacket with full sleeves at the top seemingly accented by velvet paired with slim pants; the horizontal stripped sweater with the loopy yarn sleeves on top of a short, brown skirt; a look with the focus being a longish coat with cut-out details on the sleeves; a grey sweater with an empire-ish waistline that has cut-out details at the waist, paired with a legging or slim pants; a short dress with overlays that has very structured sleeve that stick out on their own; a really pretty blue shorter cocktail dress with a draped collar that out Ramis Rami; and a long “gown” that is really wide-legged pants made out of skinny pleated fabric. The last look is really quite stunning.
Rami is up next; he introduces his collection by saying it is a celebration of women and he thanks his family for support. Rami’s looks employ the most use of color of any of the contestants but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Actually, his shiny fuchsia and teal blue fabric looks remind me of Chloe Dao’s fabric choices in her winning runway show; at least he didn’t bust out some fugly prom-like dresses with the material. His looks consisted of: a short shiny teal blue dress with a rounded collar and oddly constructed sleeves; a teal suit that looked like something from Le Suit; the black and white draped dress we saw last week (the one everyone liked); shiny fuchsia slim pants with a matching draped top; a fuchsia dress that was pretty much the same thing as the first blue dress; a fuchsia skirt topped by a shiny silk ruffled blouse; jodhpurs with a fuchsia blouse that came to the waist with a big bow; a jacket with woven detail in the back; brown slim pants with an asymmetrical draped top; a chocolate brown gown with a really cool woven fabric detail at the bustier top; a long gold draped gown with a really weird gathering at the side that made it hang strangely; the truly beautiful vintage lace gown; and the black gown from last week (the one with the weird hip things).
Christian closes out the show with his collection. He introduces his collection by thanking everyone and saying everyone looks fierce. If you have been playing the at home “fierce” drinking game, you undoubtedly were in a coma by this point or being treated for alcohol poisoning. Christian’s first five or so looks are pretty much the same thing: a well-structured black jacket paired with slim black pants that no one with an ounce of fat on their thighs could wear. The five jackets are all a little different but all have voluminous collars and/or sleeves. The models all wear large hats and I can’t say that they look that much different from what he turned out for the Met challenge. He gets away from that monotony after a while and shows: a cream long sleeved, buttoned up blouse with a looser pair of black pants, a burgundy jacket with wide, three-quarters sleeves over another cream long sleeved blouse and skinny black pants, another pants outfit with a blouse that was fitted at the waist with an almost-cummerbund waist; a pair of skinny ivory pants topped with a really full, fluffy ivory coat made out of layers of fabric; a knee-length dress made out of many horizontal layers of light-weight fabric (possibly chiffon) that was brown on one side and ivory on the other and it reminded me of a black and white cookie. It could be that I just like cookies. Finally, the big gown of the night was a brown and ivory fitted, long dress made of feathers. It was perfectly winter red-carpet ready. I was super-happy the feather pants didn’t make the cut.
After the show was over and the guests were milling about, a few people were polled as to their favorites. First season winner Jay liked Rami’s collection. Kit favored Jillian’s show and Kevin liked Christian’s. Padma of Top Chef fame would pick Jillian while Uncle Nick chose Rami. Thankfully we are spared inconsequential opinions of people like the Wal-Mart dude from last season’s finale. Perhaps my threats were taken seriously.
You’re all winners. Except two of you.
Judgment Day has arrived, and, with no Terminator in sight, we have the next best robot, the Posh 2.0, who is joined by our usual panel of Michael Kors (now thankfully sans the shades), Nina Garcia, and Heidi. Even before the designers appear on the runway, Michael comments that the show was exciting and he was impressed, while Nina thinks that the quality of the designs rivaled anything else shown at Fashion Week. You know Nina really does like the designs because she’s speaking softly, in the more girlish voice she uses when she’s happy. The designers are then called out on stage, which gains them “Bravos” from both Nina and Michael. Clearly they know who is writing the checks.
Each of the designers’ models from the season come out on to the runway; none of them are sporting the final look of the show. Jillian’s model is wearing the jacket with the holes-in-the-sleeves detail, Christian’s is wearing one of the voluminous black jacket/skinny pants combos, and Rami’s is wearing the fuchsia skirt and black blouse outfit. They start by talking to Jillian, who explains her concept was born out of the last challenge and the inspiration painting at the Met. Victoria thought the looks were very feminine and had fantastic attention to detail. Michael found the looks to be feminine and modern, and loved the knits. Heidi appreciated seeing new shapes on the designs, and Nina thought Jillian took chances, even if the chances she took ended up with a bit of a disjointed collection.
Christian says he wanted to have both hard and soft looks; he appeared ready to collapse on the runway and confessed to being really nervous, something we haven’t seen before. Victoria noted that the designs were very much her taste and in her parlance they would not be “fierce” but “major.” Michael found the collection to be chic and dramatic; the feather dress was spectacular but the near all-black first several looks suffered because they were so dark and the detail and workmanship could not be seen well, even in the front row. Nina found the collection to be a bit repetitive, but Heidi saw it as a statement. Christian apparently has some magical elfness in him because his collection made Victoria smile, a difficult task, or so she says.
Rami cites Joan of Arc as his inspiration and says he wanted to show a range of clothes from separates, to cocktail dresses, to gowns. Heidi particularly loved the woven fabric details on the dress and jacket, as did Michael. He did not, however, like the use of the “Brady Bunch” colors. The collection was cohesive and showed all categories of clothes. Victoria thought the workmanship was impressive and showed he put loads of time into the clothes. Nina found Rami to have a very strong point of view, thought the separates were good, but he really shined in the gowns he created.
After the grilling, which, let’s face it, was pretty light and everyone was by and large positive, the designers are sent away for deliberation. Talking about Jillian, Michael said the knitwear was great, they enjoyed the different and new shapes presented, liked the feminine aspect and cohesiveness of the collection. Nina expresses concern that Jillian doesn’t yet know her signature look (here I was thinking it was overalls!) but does say that her designs are something women would want to wear. The judges thought Christian’s looks were strong, dramatic, and consistent. While Michael points out that not everyone could wear it, Victoria says she’d wear every piece that came down the runway. Michael also says that some of the outfits looked overworked and over-designed and didn’t possess the effortless look it should. Finally, Michael describes Rami’s looks as cerebral and well-thought-out, but he and Nina have serious doubts about Rami’s ability to use color. The judges then all exchange knowing looks and it is clear—a winner has been chosen!
Jillian, Rami, and Christian appear again, for the last time, on the runway. They are all clearly nervous and all want to win. Heidi tells them they all put on an amazing show, but there can be only one winner. Even better, that is the last time Heidi states something patently obvious for a while, at least until PR5. Heidi calls Jillian’s collection beautiful and youthful and compliments her on stepping outside of her comfort zone. Rami’s designs are strong, exquisitely crafted and show an enormous talent. And wee Christian is a showman with drama and creativity. (What kind of showman would lack drama and creativity, anyway?)
The time saved by the fast catwalks was used to create the dramatic pause that we had to endure to hear that…Jillian is out! Foul! I call foul! She graciously says she appreciates the experience but privately says she was very disappointed, despite not regretting any design choice she made.
Rami and Christian remain on the stage; Christian is quietly crying and practically vibrating with nervousness. Heidi then says, “Christian..….(long pause)……you are the winner!” Christian about collapses into Rami’s hug; Rami then bids everyone farewell and Christian can’t believe he just won. Rami says that he will keep moving ahead and this will not be the last we hear of him. Given that he’s got a decent sized operation in LA, and he’s far less annoying that Jeffrey, I can see it.
Christian’s model and family come out on the runway, Heidi hugs him and tells him he’s uber-fierce, and all is happy in the land of the littlest winner. Victoria tells Christian that she would be hono(u)red to wear any of his creations and seems to really mean it. Then Tim comes out, asks Christian if he can believe he won, and Christian, in true Christian style, says, “Yep!”
In his final confessional, Christian goes on and on about taking a vacay, a breaky-break, and promises to keep on producing fashion, because, after all, people need more of the fierceness. Before the show wraps entirely, Tim takes Christian to his new red Saturn, which is, of course, fierce.
If any PR also-ran or wannabe wants a fierce used 2002 L300 Saturn with
a proclivity to break down every three monthspractically all new parts, PM me and we can make a deal. As a bonus, I’ll throw in the last four months of the extended warranty.