In the ''Project Runway'' season finale, Ms. Dao plays it safe and talks corporate, beating the more deserving Santino
Project Runway
Credit: Project Runway: Virginia Sherwood/Bravo

The ”Project Runway” finale: Chloe wins

Perhaps it was a mistake. Perhaps Jack Nicholson went onstage, opened the envelope, and read the wrong name. Santino should have won. I mean, he rapped for his collection. Conversely, Chloe was five minutes away from giving a Power Point presentation on the cost-benefit analysis of crowning her champ.

And so season 2 of our beloved Project Runway has come to an end. What a joke. I just knew that when Debra Messing assumed the Parker Posey guest-host position, something was amiss. I mean, Messing doesn’t even have crazy hair. (Thank goodness we have Lupe and her insane headwear.) A final look at the finalists:


It’s official. I love Santino. ”I’m not just good TV,” he proclaimed. ”I’m a great designer.” True and true! Certainly, we’ve had our differences with the guy, but I realize there’s often tetchiness with the most talented of visionaries. And between Santino’s show of unexpected humility before the ”Mount Everest of fashion” and his hooting ”My mom’s the s—, y’all!” what’s not to like? Oh, and one more thing: He composed his own music! It was actually a pretty solid glitch-hop diversion from the usual Runway Eurotrash electro. (That was him rapping, right? I need that CD now.) But why no Red Lobster-Andrae jokes?

Mr. S’s line was easily the most elegant of the three. It was the only collection that seemed worthy of being shown at Fashion Week. The only misstep, I’d say, was that Lord of the Rings-worthy frock-muumuu-thingy. Oh, Frodo! And yet, that wasn’t the focus of the judges’ complaints. According to Heidi, there were some ”boob” problems. Santino had the elegance, but not the fit. That may be true, but what largely bothered the judges was, as Michael Kors said, the ”quieter” nature of the designs. Nina Garcia argued that the 1940s Hollywood aesthetic showed a certain ”maturity” but was ”very safe.” Ugh. The judges claimed that they didn’t see enough of Santino’s iconoclastic spirit in this collection. I don’t buy it. My boy showed versatility: ”I know beautiful things,” he said, ”regardless of whether they come off crazy or if they come off safe.” Darn tootin’. If Santino had returned to his more avant-garde, ruffly designs, I bet the judges would have admonished him for repeating himself. The fix was in. I think the judges were reluctant to give the prize to someone who was too much like last year’s winner, Jay.


I suppose I’m at least glad Daniel didn’t win. He was the favorite, but while he had momentum, he quickly lost favor. The youngest finalist got overconfident, realized he lost ground, and then started playing the age card. And Miss Messing nearly ate it up, saying, ”He wants to learn.” Ahhh! In the course of the last two episodes (and, I suppose, in real time, two days), Daniel went from ”Why isn’t Tim piddling in his panties from overexcitement?” to ”There are a lot of things I have yet to learn.” Boo to pandering.

Once again, Daniel’s designs were serviceable but uninspiring. He relied too much on that shimmering navy blue satin to carry him along. And while his white accordion skirt was a joyful sight and he got props for his ”13th look” — a loose, draping camel dress — the rest was simply pedestrian and lacking coherence.

Daniel argued that his aim was Japanese sleekness with a military bent, pointing to the gown his model was wearing. Kors agreed it was pretty but said that Daniel’s purported theme was bunk. (Then again, there was that weird pentagonal patch on the model’s chest. It looked like some sort of crest for the Knights of the Round Table. That’s kinda military, right?) ”But I kept you looking, didn’t I?” Daniel responded. Um, if that’s your basis for designing, how the hell did you get this far? Where’s Kara?


All season long, Chloe has been dogged for her seeming lack of passion. But in the finale, she busted out of the gates with a fury: Hollering ”Here’s my baby!” at the start of the show, being a bit of a slave driver to demure Diana, and yelling, ”I don’t like it!” upon glancing at her first model’s makeup. ”I didn’t want to be a bitch about it,” she said, ”but, look, this is my fashion show.” Well, Chloe, you were being a bitch. And it’s about time you showed some life.

Toward the end, however, Ms. Dao’s new peppiness seemed too put-on, as if it were just a ploy. ”If I win, this is gonna be a real business,” she proclaimed. ”Bottom line.” Yuck. Chloe, this isn’t the real world; it’s a reality show (and not even The Apprentice). Go take your due diligence and professionalism to Madison Avenue or something. Reality TV’s about easy street; it’s for slackers looking for a simple way out (and up) or for lofty dreamers without any practicality. Seriously, I was waiting for Chloe to bust out her copy of Atlas Shrugged and start spewing forth the gospel of free enterprise.

Still, I kinda dug Chloe’s collection, although her first dress was way too poofy. It made the model look like a little girl trying on her mommy’s evening wear. Actually, it just made the model look like a giant magenta cupcake. Yummy. Heidi hated the recurring monotone shrugs covering the models’ shoulders, but I feel it gave Chloe’s collection a welcome continuity, as opposed to Daniel’s line. Here you knew every work was made by the same hands.

While Chloe’s line was sleek and sexy, however, it was also safe. In fact, Chloe’s always been too safe. I suppose the judges appreciated her consistent devotion to vapidity. But looking at Chloe’s dresses, I’m always reminded of Banana Republic. (That’s no compliment.) Project Runway is about haute couture. I wanna be awestruck by the collections. I wanna feel insignificant and unworthy of the divine designs shining before me. (Let us pray.) Santino has that power. Chloe and Daniel do not.

And so corporate-speak beat out true creativity. Perhaps I’m being too hard on Chloe. After all, I did admire her collection. But had I known that business acumen would have factored so largely in the finale, there’s no way I would have cared so much. Alas.

What do you think? Was Chloe deserving? Did Santino ever have a chance? And should Kara have been a finalist, judging by her decoy line?

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