After four engaging NYFW runway shows, the season 13 winner is crowned.
Project Runway Recap
Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

At the beginning of the season, Tim Gunn exclaimed “Lucky Season 13!” And for one person, it was very lucky. For the other three finalists, it was… still pretty lucky—they were each able to grow as designers, meet industry leaders, and show a collection at New York Fashion Week. But they probably weren’t thinking that when someone else was announced as “the winner of Project Runway.”

They’re likely thinking less “I’m so lucky to have been here” and more “second place is just the first place loser.” Because, yes, losing sucks—but they all showed collections they should be proud of and just two days before NYFW, that wasn’t necessarily the case. Let’s go back to that time, shall we?

Post-judge’s critique, Kini was quite lost. He’d just been told to rip apart his entire collection and “hit the ground running.” Tim wanted to “talk through” everything they had just heard (a.k.a. create a recap for viewers when we split this into two episodes): Char needs to have more sass and fun with her collection, to make it all things she would rock. Amanda needs to elevate the “ethnic” aspect of her collection and keep it sophisticated. Sean needs to make sure his collection isn’t one-note. And Kini, poor Kini, he’s got to rework his entire collection to make it look not as serious.

And they have a day and a half to do this. But good news: There’s one last Mood trip involved with an extra $300 each. Amanda, the old pro, brought enough fabric for backup and can use the time to work instead. Most designers probably wouldn’t suggest selecting and buying fabric in 30 minutes to use in NYFW in two days. But the designers seem to make good quick selections. Mood trip highlights: Lazy Swatch (obviously) and the cashier saying “No fringe today?” to Sean. Ha.

When they get back to the workroom, they GET TO WORK. The only challenge that had this much stress was probably Korina and Char’s one-hour design-off. And in that head-to-head, Char proved she can pull off a look quickly. She does the same here: She adds a long, sporty dress with a hood—which ends up being one of the better looks of her collection. She also works on sweatshirt that says “FLY,” and she attempts a full skirt with a printed top, but Tim isn’t a fan. She is all over the place with her designs.

“Hurricane Kini” is just the opposite. The trip to Mood gave him back his confidence—he knows what he has to do, and with his speedy sewing skills, he knows he’s up to the task. Given this short amount of time, it’s almost like it’s helped him narrow his focus and find his voice in the collection.

Sean swaps out a fringe dress for an orange silk drape dress. And Amanda twiddles her thumbs and starts to worry about Sean being her biggest competition (as she should).

NEXT: “One last push, and then we give birth to our Fashion Week baby.”

The day before the runway show, the producers are kind enough to give us a flashback history of the final four contestants. Remember when Sean made that mummy look? Gah. But that rainway look. That definitely will go down in PR history as the next cornhusk dress. Remember how Char always made shorts and was saved by Tim? Ahh, the memories.

For the designers, the day is filled with final fittings, new Mary Kay consultations for Kini and Char, and hair consultations (with Philip B. himself). The judges told Char they wanted her collection to be what she would wear, so she gives her models her own hairstyle. Kini wants a high pontail; Sean wants the sleek, wet look (said this last week, but I’m never a fan of that); and Amanda wants, surprise, surprise, loose waves.

In the workroom—where there’s still way too much scrambling than there should be the afternoon before Fashion Week—Tim gives them one last pep talk. He says they are the most talented group of designers he’s worked with… and he may not be exaggerating. This is a very strong final four.

Yes, season 13 started out a little bit rocky (mostly because the judges had their claws out for no apparent reason) and the Korina drama was highly entertaining but took away from the design aspect of the show, but in the end, the season gave us a final four with very distinct voices. And the best part, they each seem like good people who deserve a win—and that’s not always the case.

After one last “group hug” (which really was just individual hugs with Tim), the designers head back to Gotham West for one more sleep. They awake at 3:30 am—an ungodly hour—and head to Lincoln Center and the Mercedes Benz tent. It’s fun to watch the designers enjoy the quiet of the fashion tent, watching them realize they actually made it.

But that doesn’t last long: The crazy of backstage is intense. Char switches her models clothes like they’re paper dolls. One of Amanda’s models goes rogue and decides to wear her own shoes. It’s frenetic back there (mostly because there are actually five other designers showing, so as not to give away the final four too early). But the lights go down and the show begins…

NEXT: Last Dance (down the runway), Last Chance

Heidi comes out in her glittery pink best and introduces guest judge Emmy Rossum—who turns out to be a very astute judge and fan of the show—and reminds the audience that these designers put together an entire collection in five weeks. Every other designer at NYFW has been creating collections for months. But here goes…

Amanda‘s collection is an expanded version of the preview we saw last week: leather, color-blocking, cutouts, ethnic prints, and funky jewelry. It is impeccably her style. The final look is a more dramatic version of the boho dress she made for the final challenge. If nothing else in season 13, she has definitely found her voice. The judges don’t really have anything bad to say aside from wishing there was more suede. (Full disclosure: I was at the runway show, and, personal style-wise, this was my favorite of all nine; never knew I had something in common with Taystee.)

Char clawed her way through this season, and she says her collection is about being “Free to be who you are.” And that freedom took her all over the place. There is color, prints, sweatshirts, dresses, hoods, a romper, and crop tops. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but her collection lacked the cohesiveness of the others. And just like the judges (and other designers in the workroom) said, while it’s “what women want to wear,” it isn’t exactly runway. And this is Project RUNWAY.

Kini—looking fabulous in his red suit jacket with cropped pants and his signature sewing scissors—was able to whip his collection into shape. It’s very Kini: high-class, structured denim. His girls look more fun than during his preview (but still a bit too polished); there is a dress with an open back, leather shorts, a structured A-line dress, and a final look that was “wow”-worthy. The judges were impressed (but not surprised) by how quickly he was able to turn it around. It felt a touch over the top, but Kini always seemed to push that edge.

And Sean‘s “Betrayal of Caesar” collection came last. He definitely had the most specific inspiration in his collection—and it showed. It was incredibly cohesive, even the last-minute orange silk look blended in perfectly. The white to black to orange transitioned perfectly between each look, a color explosion that built perfectly. It’s youthful, yet luxurious. Nina does think he could do better, but agrees that it’s the most editorial of all the collections.

Zanna Roberts Rassi (don’t forget All Stars starts next week!) says this will be impossible for the judges to decide—and it is. After each designer gets to fight for his or her life, the judges have one more discussion. Sean and Amanda come out as the obvious top two: Emmy says it’s about deciding whether they want someone who wants to build a brand like DVF or DKNY or someone who is basically an artist on the runway. And apparently they want an artist because…

Winner, Winner, Red Robin Dinner: Sean.

Amanda was this close to her “ultimate redemption,” but she’ll still be in the pages of Marie Claire! Despite his tendency to go “fringe Muppet” (thank you, Zac), Sean had the strongest runway collection of all four. And he’s a worthy winner. Red Robin, I hope you enjoy your fringe vest accessories.

Be sure to check out my interview with Sean about his win. And if you are crazy like me and stayed up to watch Threads, you can read my thoughts here. Come back next week for a recap of the season 3 premiere of Project Runway All Stars. The season 13 reunion show will air next week as well; not sure yet if I will recap it, but we can always chat about it on Twitter: @realdalener.

Auf wiedersehen, Runway fans.

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Project Runway

Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano guide undiscovered designers through the harrowing rites of fashion.

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