By Jessica Shaw
October 29, 2010 at 04:30 PM EDT

Project Runway Exit Q&As

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If you haven’t seen last night’s Project Runway finale, do not click the jump! Alright, PopWatch spoilerphobes, Now that you have been sufficiently warned, click on to see our chat with the surprising victor. Image Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime TelevisionNobody was expecting the season-long villain Gretchen Jones to walk away with the coveted first-place spot on Project Runway, but thanks to some heavy duty endorsing by Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, the Oregonian who, er, spoke her mind all season long, did just that.  After a night of celebrating with friends, she called EW to talk about why she should have won, her next move, and how Tim Gunn’s apology to her never aired.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’re in debt. Your possessions are in storage. But you just won this big prize. What do you do now?

GRETCHEN JONES: I would be silly not to go to New York. My goal is to be there by the beginning of the year. This is my time. It’s the next step for me as a designer.

So were you surprised you won?

I wasn’t. I really believed in myself from the moment I started. You have to, not only as a designer but as a competitor. I felt what I represented was very new for Project Runway, very functional and feminine and real. It’s important that Project Runway choose somebody who could represent how modern fashion is moving – not just someone who puts on a good show.

Was last night the first time you heard the judges’ critiques of your runway show?

To tell you the truth, my group of friends were so loud I didn’t get to hear it. But from what I understand, Michael and Nina fought for me and those were the people I was really trying to reach.  I think Michael really understood me and understood my potential as a designer. Nina has always been my favorite judge. I think all designers have to reach an editorial person. If you don’t speak to them, you’re dead in the water.

Yeah, I don’t really see Jessica Simpson wearing your clothes.

It’s nice to have two industry people supporting me.

A lot of the comments on blogs today were angry ones that you won instead of Mondo. How does that feel?

It’s been a roller coaster. What I had to remind myself was that this is a television show first, and we all have our favorites. There’s always got to be an antagonist, an underdog, and this has been a very crazy experience. Fashion is art and it’s subjective so people have very strong opinions about it. It’s been hard, but this is kind of my life now. It’s only been in the blogosphere that there have been any negative connotations. I don’t read any of them. That’s the first way of ruining your chances as an artist. It’s so easy to have a voice if you can be anonymous. On a day-to-day basis, I have so many people come up to me and tell them they relate to me. In the end, Mondo’s collection was fun and playful and exciting to watch. He’s a master when it comes to textiles. But my goal was not just to put on a great show. It’s to dress women. And my collection spoke to real women.

Do you see yourself differently after watching this whole season – and especially the reunion, when your fellow designers still seemed angry at you?

I do and I don’t. What I’m really grateful for was the way the show was presented, which gave me even more exposure than I was anticipating because of my antagonistic role. I was answering questions. There’s a difference between how I feel about people on a personal level and how I felt about their work. The reality is my friends and family think I’m great. That’s awesome. I know I’m a better designer for having gone through this show and I know I’m a good person. I know I have good intentions. And I’m walking away with a lot of friends and if I was truly the antagonist they wanted me to be, I wouldn’t have walked away with so many friends.

I thought you and Ivy were friends. What was up with her throwing you under the bus?

Yeah, that totally shocked me. I feel like I got attacked in a way that was not really about me. It was just ridiculous. We all had opinions about each other’s work. Like I said, the crazy thing is how much airtime I got. We all said things that could have been used in a certain light. With all that airtime, it just made people talk about me more, and it will make people remember me more in a few years.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable moment of the season was when Tim Gunn yelled at all the designers for letting you manipulate them during the group challenge. Did you make peace with him afterwards?

I felt like his comments were really out of context. Tim isn’t there throughout the entirety of each challenge. All he gets to experience is the runway. And who wouldn’t fight for their life on the runway? We weren’t up there for five minutes; it was five hours! I wanted the best for my team, but if it was my collection, it wouldn’t have looked that way. I don’t think of myself as manipulative. I think of myself as a community supporter. I had just come off two wins and coming in second during the third challenge. Someone had to represent our team. I’m upset that Tim felt that way, but I don’t think I did anything wrong. He didn’t apologize to me for that but I really didn’t pay much attention to it. I don’t think it aired last night, but he did apologize to me and my team during the reunion. And he and I are on good terms now.

You did an actual jump for joy when you won $100,000. Have you bought yourself any presents?

I’ve done some retail therapy. What girl wouldn’t? But the money doesn’t happen right away. And $100,000 sounds like a lot, especially to the viewers at home, but really it’s not very much money to someone like me who’s gone into debt to pay off my dreams. It’ll be enough to get me out of debt and to move to New York but that’s it. I need financial support now so I can keep chasing my dreams.

Have you thought about hitting up Michael Kors up for a job? He’s clearly a fan.

I asked to get a meeting with him on a personal level and he was open to the idea. I would love to work under him because I think it’s important to work under someone who’s not exactly the same as you. He’s a great representation of the classic American designer. I would be extremely flattered if he offered something like that. Even having the opportunity to talk to him personally would change my life more than $100,000 would.

Anyone else you’d like to work for once you move here?

I’d love to work for Phoebe Philo, but who wouldn’t? I’ve had a few people tell me that when they think of me they think of Diane von Furstenberg. I’d be super open to her. A lot of the up-and-coming fashion designers – the Vena Cava girls, Vanessa Bruno, Isabel Marant. They’re all female designers who are speaking to the same client base as I am. I hope to someday just talk to them. My goal is to create a design house in the same vein as Michael or Stella McCartney, and I know the only way to do that is if I’m focused and diligent.

Has Ashlee Simpson-Wentz called you after Jessica said her little sister would rock your designs?

Well, I really feel like her sister is more my client than Jessica. I haven’t heard from her or from very many people. It’s been a little bit quiet. But people want to see how the finalists end up. I’m hoping to get a good publicist and good representation to my brand. I know who my customer is. I know who those “It girls” are. And I know how much you can get just by asking.

Read more:

‘Project Runway’ Recap: A Stunning Season Finale

Project Runway Exit Q&As

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