''Project Runway'' cast-off Katherine: ''I do think it was unfair.'' The latest designer to get cut from the show talks to Jessica Shaw about Keith not finishing the challenge, why her aesthetic didn't seem to work for the show, and more

By Jessica Shaw
Updated July 27, 2006 at 12:00 PM EDT
Katherine Gerdes: Barbara Nitke

For the second week in a row, the absolute wrong designer on Project Runway was sent home. And for the second week in a row, Michael Kors didn’t show up to the judging panel. Coincidence? We’ll leave that up to you conspiracy theorists. For now, let’s listen to the latest Runway reject, Katherine Gerdes, vent about why people are asking for her dress, why she chose the right room to sleep in, and what on earth is going down next week.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, here’s the thing. You: simple dress. Angela: sales-rack dress at Whores-R-Us. What happened?

KATHERINE GERDES: Yeah, I was not expecting to go home that day, honestly. When you’re up on the runway, nobody is safe. You can never just assume you’re going to stay, no matter how much you like your garment. There’s always part of you, in the back of your head, saying, I could go home. They might hate it. But watching it last night, I still don’t think I should have gone home.

Most people I know are surprised by the judges peculiar choice to save Angela.

I definitely enjoy hearing that. I’ve had a lot of great response from people feeling the same way. Everyone at my party last night was screaming and booing at the TV. It’s good to have that recognition knowing I’m not just crazy and seeing something nobody else is.

Have you been throwing a party every week?

My mom and her husband own a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, and this week we had 70 people come to watch.

Was it really hard to hold back from telling your friends when you were going home?

Everyone I work with, they’re all designers. Everyone around town knows me from fashion shows. Everyone was convinced I was secretly working on my collection, because I quit my job. Every time I saw anyone they’d be like, ”How’s the collection?” I couldn’t say anything either way, so I had to just keep saying, ”I’m working on things.” I was worried people would be disappointed.

Tim came up to you while you were working and said he was concerned your dress was too bland and perhaps you should make the matching hoodie. Are you kicking yourself now that you didn’t listen to him?

No, I actually made the hoodie. There were just a few little things to do — adding the draw cord and the trim I hadn’t finished. They didn’t show it, but the big worry Tim had was that it was too evening wear. I hadn’t cut it short because it wasn’t on [model] Amanda yet. It was the design I wanted. Putting the hoodie on covered the detail on top. It looked like it was something made last-minute. In the end I decided to focus more on the dog outfit. I firmly believe in listening to Tim’s advice, and I know people are like, ”Why didn’t you?” But I don’t think I would have been happy with it. Who knows? Even with it I might have gotten kicked off.

Since you focused so much energy on your dog’s outfit, what do you make of the fact that Keith didn’t design anything for his dog, thereby not even completing the challenge, and he got to stay?

I agree he didn’t complete the challenge. I think the challenge was very blatantly stated: You were supposed to make an outfit for your dog as well as an outfit for the woman who owns the dog. Regardless of whether they liked his dress — it wasn’t a bad dress — we all focused time and energy making our dogs outfits. Did he have an advantage with only making a dress? I do think it was unfair.

Keith comes off like the biggest jerk on the planet. Editing or reality?

You know, there’s no music when you’re there, so you’re aware of everyone’s personalities. There are no distractions other than sewing. Keith was sharing my table so I sat right next to him. It’s pretty obvious from the show what kind of person he is. He’s interesting. There are interesting characters on the show.

Very diplomatic. On the flip side, are there designers on the show you love?

My two favorites are Kayne and Michael. I think both of them have great points of view while at the same time branching out and trying new things. Kayne is a great pageant designer, but it’s not like all of his pieces are constructed dresses with sequins everywhere — though I’m sure he would love it. He’s one of nicest people there. Michael’s designs are always well constructed. I’m really surprised he wasn’t in the top three this week. I thought his crisscross was great.

Next page: Katherine on the judges’ decisions, the hem issue, and the future