Project Runway‘s 16th season came to a close on Thursday night as four designers — Brandon Kee, Margarita Alvarez, Ayana Ife, and Kentaro Kameyama — battled it out with 10-look collections at New York Fashion Week. (Read the full recap here.)
Spoiler alert: We’re about to reveal the winner, so turn back now if you have not yet watched.
After host Heidi Klum, judges Zac Posen and Nina Garcia, and guest judge Jessica Alba praised all four collections, Klum announced Kameyama as the season’s big winner. Although he had been a favorite most of the season, Kameyama had also received the worst critique just days before NYFW. But it didn’t matter — he went for what he wanted and pulled off the win.
Fresh off his success, EW caught up Kameyama to talk about his thoughts from the season — including that cheating scandal — and what his next venture will be.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: After you showed your two-look preview to the judges last week, you seemed convinced that you had already lost. Did you really feel that way?
KENTARO KAMEYAMA: Yeah, I really did. … It was kind of a scary moment.
You then said you didn’t care about winning or losing, that you just wanted to do a beautiful collection.
I didn’t want to give myself weird, unnecessary pressure. I was really not listening to the judges or Tim Gunn. Tim Gunn didn’t really like what I was doing, so I kind of had to be true to myself at that point.
Do you think that the fact that you did a collection for yourself instead of for the judges helped you win?
I was for sure that the judges were not understanding my point of view, my vision when I was explaining verbally. So I kind of [thought], I just need to show it and they’ll get it. [I thought], I need to have my dresses in the right order, with my music, with my models, and they should be able to understand.
People were very surprised about the inspiration for the music that you composed for the show.
Yeah, that’s an interesting inspiration.
I didn’t mean to have that dead cat like that happened. That was kind of the musical inspiration, but my inspiration is from everywhere. I don’t want to put myself in a very specific spot that I have to force myself to look at something all the time. … Everyday life is sort of like a little bit of an inspiration … that cat story is one of those — it happened to my life, it’s one day of my life.
You were very close to Brandon, so close you guys called each other brothers. Was it hard competing against him in the finale?
He would ask me things like, “What do you think? What should I do?” I always tried to give him my best opinion to help. Whatever Brandon does is whatever Brandon does. It’s nothing that I would do, so I just wanted him to do the best. I wasn’t really having any competing feelings toward Brandon. I wanted him to do well.
Are you guys still close?
Yes, we are friends. I talk to him. … I wanted to have designer friends at the show; it’s good to have someone I can trust.
Out of all the looks you designed this season, what was your favorite?
Maybe winter wonderland. It was kind of easy for me to make it. [Laughs]
The idea came to you easily or it was easy to put together?
Our inspiration was almost like nothing. It’s like they didn’t give us, “Okay, this is Dixie cup, this is what you have to do with these ladies, or warriors, and you have to do this.” This was basically nothing, just do whatever, but in the winter, which I get. I could come up with whatever.
So you thought some of the challenges had too many components?
For the Dixie cup collection, my lady said I want to go to an Indian wedding. They are saying this is ready-to-go women, so this ready-to-go woman is going to an Indian wedding party, so what am I supposed to do? They said ready to go, I think of those ladies who work for big company, many phone calls, you know a business lady.
Speaking of the Dixie challenge, we never really heard your take on Claire and the cheating scandal — what was your feeling on that situation?
Oh, well. I don’t know. It’s kind of, it was very weird. Because I know that people take tools to the hotel, not intentionally because we work late and are really tired. But I have seen other designers having a tape measure around their neck and then we go to the hotel.
So did you think it was fair that she went home?
I don’t know. It’s weird because I’m a guy so I cannot take a dress. But women can bring a dress. And they can go to the bathroom and take a look at the garment, but like we couldn’t do it. To be fair, everybody has to enter the competition naked. Like Naked Project Runway so we assure no one is doing anything sketchy.
Surprisingly, Shawn and Claire are nice people, especially Shawn, and she’s really cool to talk with. They looked really bad and a lot of people hated them, but I liked them. They’re nice people. They did not talk to anyone, but they’re nice.
What’s next for you?
I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just don’t know. I’m coming from a different country, I’m a classical pianist, and I wasn’t expecting all that. I kind of wait and see what’s going to happen.
But part of this collection is at JCPenney?
Yeah, it’s on JCPenney’s website. And a capsule collection will be coming next year at some point on JCPenney.
Oh, that’s part of the winner’s package! And you also won a trip to Japan!
I know. I told my friend, I prefer to go to Grand Canyon over Japan.