Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, ...
Credit: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

The tents were crowded and over-heated, the place was overrun with rude folks convinced they were too important to stand in line, and the guy sitting next to me reeked of booze — at 9 a.m.! But I still had a ball at the taping of the Project Runway finale at Bryant Park this morning. Who was on hand? More like, who wasn’t? Fighting my way to my seat, I spotted former contestants Kara Janx, Daniel Vosovic, Jay McCarroll, Chloe Dao, Jeffrey Sebelia, and Laura Bennett. The holy trinity of critique was also there, joined by guest judge Posh Spice. (pictured, between Michael Kors and Heidi Klum). Once I was safely in my seat, who should I spy with my little eye but Meryl Streep. Yes. The most nominated actor in Oscar history was at the Project Runway season 4 finale. Did The Devil Wears Prada ignite a passion for fashion in the thespian extraordinaire? If so, she chose the right show to attend today, since according to an even chirpier than usual Klum, it was “the best finale we’ve ever had!”

Oh yeah, the current contestants — they were there too. But before I divulge which ones got to parade their creations down the catwalk, I offer this warning: Do not read any further if you don’t want spoilers. Seriously. Don’t blame us if you end up regretting clicking forward past the jump.

Alright then.

In a new twist, all five contestants who were still in the runningafter Wednesday night’s episode showed collections today. This reallywas the only way Bravo could have played it without setting off a waveof spoilers for next week’s ep. In the past, four designers haveparticipated in the Bryant Park défilés, with one acting as adecoy. (Except for last season, when all four competed.) It’s hard toknow what kind of cloak-and-dagger game Bravo is playing this year. Howmany of the five were decoys? Or were they all legitimately in therace? So tricky, those Bravo folks.

Whatever scheme the network cooked up, there is little doubt as towhich designers came out strongest: Rami and Christian. Rami, who’sbeen on the downward spiral the past couple of episodes, delivered anabsolutely stunning collection that incorporated color and texture, and— shocker! — relied on none of his ho-hum draping. There was somedrape-ish folding, but not a hint of that tired thing he doeswith jersey or off-the-shoulder Grecian gowns. A particularly gorgeousblack-and-white polka-dot dress got a round of applause all its own, asdid two other gowns with the most intricate detailing on earth. (Do Iexaggerate? Nah….)

While Rami’s work was feminine and wearable, Christian’s wasdramatic and avant garde. Working in an almost exclusively blackpalette (there were a few beiges and browns here and there), he offeredthe audience one extraordinary piece of clothing after the next. Mostwere variations on the ruffle theme, which he echoed in striking hatswith huge brims. (I couldn’t even see one model’s face, her hat was sogigantic.) It’ll surprise no one to learn that there were a number oftailored jackets. And yes, he did utter his favorite word whileintroducing his collection: “Everybody looks fierce!” he said, beforescurrying off backstage.

I’d reserve third place for Jillian. After saying a few words with typically loooooowenergy, she unveiled a line that intermixed gold tones with greens andblacks. Nearly every piece seemed to tip its hat (so to speak) to theclassic tailoring of Ralph Lauren, which is of course her employer.Some exceptions: long, flowing silvery-black accordion pants, and afull-skirted dress in the same tones, the latter modeled by none otherthan Top Model season 8 winner Jaslene. (All together now: “This is my life…”)

Making good on her name, Sweet P teared up while introducing hercollection, which was stronger than I’d expected, with lots ofmustard-y golds, purples, and plaids. Overall, though, it wasn’tparticularly memorable and really couldn’t compare to the two obviousfront runners. She herself looked fab in a sparkly black frock. I’msure she made her entire family proud — and I do mean entire.Before the show began, about 500 of her kin whisked past me to theother side of the velvet ropes while I was trying to get inside thetheater to my own seat.

And now to Chris. Those who read my Runway TV Watch know thatI’m a huge fan of the warm, witty guy who’s often caught loungingaround in his blue bathrobe. But it’s not just his personality that Idig. I’ve admired a number of his garments from this season, like themagnificent purple gown from challenge one. (He was robbed!) But whathe showed this morning? Oouf. It pains me to report that hiscollection was a costume-y parade of red and black crushed velvet,accented with what appeared to be horse hair. I repeat: crushed velvet and horse hair.Save for a few flowy gowns, everything was heavy — as in Victorian,festooned-with-brooches heavy. To quote my colleague Tim Stack: “Itlooked like the models took out their weaves and stapled them oncostumes from Sunset Boulevard.” If Chris did incorporate weaves, perhaps he got a donation from Top Model‘s ferocious Bianca, who was the first of his mannequins to strut down the catwalk. (What’s up with the Bravo-CW synergy?)

So there you have it, Popwatchers. If you had to guess, what do youthink Bravo’s up to, allowing all five designers to show? And based onthis report, who’s your pick for the top spot?

addCredit(“Michael Kors, Victoria Beckham, and Heidi Klum: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images”)

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