During a competition that challenged Project Runway contestants to create a ”young professional” look for college grads (with the sometimes insipid input of their mothers), ordinary-guy designer Joe Faris was sent packing. His offense? An ’80s-inspired suit that rivaled Diane Keaton’s in Baby Boom. Was Joe sad to see his days on Runway wind down so soon? Not so much: Unlike all the other designers who’ve been auf’d this season, he actually got to show at Bryant Park, since Fashion Week, in which only Runway finalists typically participate, occurred weeks before the show’s finale. (All of the remaining contestants got to take part to avoid revealing who the finalists really are.) So, he still scored! EW.com called him up to talk about the show’s most heinous contestant, that Bryant Park show, his favorite challenge, and what he’ll do next.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how are you feeling about being auf’d last night? Do you feel like you achieved everything you wanted to on Project Runway?
JOE FARIS: Yeah, definitely. I have to say, even right down to the way the show was edited. Yeah, I’ve been more than happy with everything. The fact that I did get to show at Bryant Park is a big part of that because, you know, that’s truly all that I wanted going on the show. So that was an amazing experience, and I’ve just been happy with everything.
To go along with that, you mentioned how the episodes were edited. What do you mean by that? Do you feel you were depicted in a fair light?
Yeah, it made for good TV. I think it was reflective of me. You realize they’ve got three days worth of film, and they cram it into 40 minutes. They’ll show like three seconds of something, and you’ll be like, What’d they show that for? Then later in the episode, you’re like, Oh, okay, now I see. I just think the way they did it was pretty genius when you look at the amount of footage they have.
So you were pleased with how you were portrayed on screen? Lots of times the producers like to zero in on certain ticks of contestants while ignoring much of the rest of their personality.
I was very happy with the way that I was presented. What you’ve gotta understand, too, is that they have you on film. It’s, like, you did it! It’s there. They didn’t create something that wasn’t there. Yes, clearly they can edit something and make you look a certain way, but you did it in the end. You said what you said. I stand by everything I said, the way I was portrayed. I think they did a great job. I was very happy with it.
NEXT PAGE: Joe talks about why last night’s challenge was especially difficult for him
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s talk about the suit that sent you home. I was reading blogs this morning, and everyone was obsessed with how ’80s it was. Is that what you had intended? Did it go in a different direction as you were working on it?
JOE FARIS: First of all, I had a hard time with this challenge.
What was so difficult about this challenge for you?
There are two things I don’t typically do. One is work with clients, and within the dynamics of that, you had the mother-daughter dynamic, which meant little feedback from Laura, the daughter. I was getting all the input from the mother. I knew in the end that the daughter wasn’t going to agree with the mother. But the daughter wasn’t giving me anything, so I kind of had to go with the mother. And then the other thing was I don’t make people over. It’s just not what I do. I don’t look at women and go, ”I would change your hair and do this!” It’s just not me. Those are the two things that I was struggling with. No, this was not my best work. I’ll be the first to admit it, but I do think in the end I achieved what the challenge was. The minute Laura came out on the runway, Janet, her mother, was crying. She was in tears. She really was excited. So I knew that I achieved it. Was it dated? Yeah. Was it a cliché? Okay, Michael [Kors], yeah. I have to agree. But again, I don’t know what women are wearing in the workplace, so I think it just fell to the fact that I just followed [the assignment] too literally. And I had done that a few times throughout the season.
Was there a point during the challenge where you thought, ”Oh, s—, this is going to send me home”?
I’ll tell you, there was a moment where I went, ”Yeah, this is not great.” Then I’ll tell you, I looked over my shoulder and looked at Suede, and I’m like, ”Oh no, I’m good.”
Do you think Suede should have gone instead of you?
Yeah. You know, to be honest, it was like eeny, meeny, miny, moe. It truly was.
NEXT PAGE: ”[Kenley] just had no respect for anybody, no regard for anybody — the judges, Tim, anybody else competing.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you think there was a divide between the talent of the men and the women this season? Seems like the three ladies — Leanne, Kenley, and Korto — are poised to be the final three.
JOE FARIS: You know, I think we’re all talented in our own way. It’s funny because I just made the comparison to somebody. Leanne is an amazing sewer. What she does with fabric is amazing. When she wakes up in the morning, she sits down in front of her sewing machine and she’s creating. Me, I wake up in the morning and I’m sitting in front of a design program, and I’m whipping up sketches and sending them overseas to China. It’s just different. We’re all different in our own way. Yeah, the level of talent is there — it was there with all 16 of us, as with every season. I do think that maybe this season the women, sewing-wise, yeah, are a little bit more skilled than the men. Talent-wise, I don’t think so.
Kenley doesn’t seem like a gracious competitor, and the way it was edited last night, she was laughing about your pocket square. And she ribbed you in the workroom. But how did the runway guffaw make you feel?
In the workroom, Jerell and I had been ripping on each other all season. We’d get back to the room, I’d rip on him, and he’d rip on me. Coming from Jerell, it was not a big deal. It was just us ragging on each other. I was cracking up when he was making fun of the pocket square and mentioning Nancy Reagan. It was hilarious! Then for Kenley, I didn’t have that kind of relationship. She just took it as an opportunity to make fun and laugh out loud. She, to me, was like nails on a chalkboard. She just had no respect for anybody, no regard for anybody — the judges, Tim, anybody else competing. So her on the runway, it was just Kenley being Kenley. Whatever. I completely disregarded her.
NEXT PAGE: Why Joe loves drag
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you have a favorite challenge or look that you did? You made it through so many.
JOE FARIS: For me, it’s two. My favorite challenge was the drag queen challenge. It was my favorite not only because I won but also because it was so unexpected as to how much fun I was going to have. I just loved the whole process. I loved Chris March and working with Varla — just the whole thing was a great challenge for me. I do have to say my favorite outfit was my Olympic outfit. I was really happy with that. There were a few issues there with the skirt length and whatever, but had I had a few hours to polish it, yeah, that was my favorite.
Do you think a couple extra hours would make a difference on most challenges?
Yeah, I do. You know, Michael had said, for me, as a criticism on the Diane von Furstenberg challenge, it was two outfits. It was the front and the back. I didn’t take a look around and step back and that really was the issue with a lot of us. We just didn’t have the time to step back.
Back to the drag challenge, I thought it was interesting that you, the one straight guy on the show, won the challenge. Ironic, no?
I’d never done it before. I don’t live in a gay/straight/purple/black/white world. I totally live as people, and I connect with people. As I said before, the minute I knew what gay was, I had gay friends. Some of my closest, closest friends are gay, and so I don’t look at them that way. I know drag queens. I’ve seen a million drag shows. But I’ve never done anything like that before. So, you know, I was comfortable in the elements. There was nothing there that I felt threatened by. It was just me having fun.
NEXT PAGE: Joe dishes on who he wants to be the last designer standing
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I was at the show in Bryant Park on Friday. Walk me through your experience there.
JOE FRARIS It was amazing. Honestly, all I really wanted was to get to Bryant Park, and to have it actually happen was amazing. To be able to put out the collection that I really wanted to put out was amazing. Then to see everyone’s collection was awesome. It was a dream come true. I don’t think anything is going to compare to that in a long time.
We’re running short on time, so let’s get to a really good question: Do you have a favorite to win, now that you’ve seen all the final collections?
I’m really pushing for Korto.
What’d you love about her designs?
I think she’s great. I just think she showed great range and a lot of versatility in her collection. I just thought it was amazing, down to her jewelry and the styling.
So last question: What are you up to now?
I’m going to resume my senior design post at Schott NYC, and so I’m working on their collection, and then I’m working on a small Joe Faris collection to have for January.
For Fashion Week?
Yeah, it’ll be Fashion Week. Most likely like the Project show [a gloabal trade show] — the one in New York and Vegas.