Project Runway season finale recap: A Stunning Season Finale
Talk of a dual crown follows the Fashion Week runway show, but after a prolonged debate, Michael and Nina get their way
I am aghast. As I sit here at 11:16 p.m., the minutes piling up before I get to go to bed and try to forget the travesty that was tonight’s finale, I am at a loss as to what to say. Other than this: Project Runway has betrayed me. Nina and Michael have betrayed me. No, they’ve betrayed us, we the faithful Runway nuts who have stuck with the show through thick and thin, even when it went off the rails in L.A.
I’m heartbroken. Disillusioned. And no amount of Heidi arguing that “this was the toughest decision in Project Runway history” is going to make me feel any better. Heidi, you should have put on those boxing gloves and knocked some sense into your fellow judges.
Gretchen. Not Mondo. Gretchen. She’s the winner of Project Runway. No matter how many times I say it, it doesn’t sound any less wrong.
I could stew in this mystifying reality for the next three pages, but I’ll probably wake up the neighbors with my ANGRY LOUD YELLING TYPING. So lest I get kicked out of my co-op, let me take a breath, step back, and start at the beginning of this sh** show. If I can.
The first twenty minutes of the finale were eaten up by a reunion show that was about as zesty as soggy lettuce. What a missed opportunity. After the season we’ve had — backstabbing bitchery up the wazoo, sociopaths in the workroom — I was looking forward to a wooly-balls-to-the-wall blowout. Instead, we got Gretchen attempting humor (“I’m not a bitch; I just play one on TV” — hardy har har) and playing the sexism card. Which — sorry — this proud feminist thinks was a total cop-out. I’d have laid on the snark just as thick had those delusions of grandeur been voiced by a megalomaniacal man. But anyway… The closest we got to a confrontation over the rumbles between clashing personalities was Ivy claiming that Gretchen’s I’m-actually-really-nice-when-you-get-to-know-me routine was “fake” and April (whose hair sprouted a second bun) accusing Ms. Jones of being two-faced. There was nothing, not a word, about Ivy’s vendetta against Michael C., nor for that matter, her display of generalized nastiness. Poison Ivy was the snarling, growling, feral elephant in the room, and the producers lamely looked the other way.
Back to the workroom the finalists went, followed by Tim, who relayed the news that they’d only be showing 10 looks, not 11. He then moved on to his check-ins with each designer. When he got to Andy, he unsuccessfully tried to convince the unbeweavably coiffed guy to rethink a one-piece bathing suit that looked like it had hair growing from the bikini area. Classy! A sartorial first: swimwear in need of a Brazilian!
Other than Mondo getting stood up by three of his models on fitting day, the workroom was pretty low on drama. (Well, there was also Gretchen’s announcement that she’d be adding some drama to her collection by…putting her models in high heels.) The gang went back to their hotel to wax tearful about how badly they all want a career in fashion. It’s their dreeeeam! The next day, they all rose at the crack and got all spiffed up — Mondo especially. After sculpting his hair into a shiny Eddie Munster pompadour, he hair-sprayed his socks. Can’t have any unsightly stickage on finale day.
NEXT: Michael and Nina throw a Haterade slushie at Mondo’s collection.
Before we knew it, there was Heidi in the Lincoln Center tent, decked out in a…uh…bright red suit and squeaking “hello everybody!” Gretchen was first. Dressed in a sheer black dress that advertised a big ol’ pair of granny panties (foreshadowing!), she shed some tears and said her collection was called “Running Through Thunder.” Hmm, thought I, as the looks made their way into my vision. “Sleeping Through Thunder” or “Stumbling Aimlessly Through a Tornado and Covering Yourself With Whatever Debris You Happen to Encounter” have a nice ring to them, too.
Andy was next. He wore a version of those atrosh Jackie O raver pants that almost got him booted all those weeks ago. What else to say about Andy? Well…how about…A for effort? While there were some pretty details in his collection and he tailored it all perfectly, overall, I found it to be monochromatically muted and uninspiring. The clothes were neither hip nor innovative. They had none of the edge that Andy wielded so easily in previous challenges. Did he kill off the warrior woman? The happy-ending tea hostess too? (Oooh… maybe they killed off each other?) And good gawd were those deely bopper headdresses distracting. Andy made a good showing, but not good enough. I sure wasn’t surprised when the judges took about 10 seconds to agree that he was out.
Mondo was the last of the three to present in the tents. When he came out and thanked his family, the camera cut to his parents sitting in what looked like the third row. Huh? Gretchen and Andy’s families get front row and Mondo’s posse doesn’t? Odd. He dedicated his Day of the Dead-influenced collection to his grandmother (aww…). And when the show was over, there seemed to be a consensus from spectators (including Betsey Johnson, natch) that Mondo was the strongest. Victory ahoy!
But then came the judging. After the Holy Trinity, plus guest judge Jessica Simpson, bade Andy farewell, they got down to that tough decision. Despite a few tepid reservations about Gretchen’s lack of bold color and underwhelming choice for a first look, Nina proved to be the designer’s most vocal fan. She praised Gretchen for turning up the volume with the styling and cooed over a number of pieces — including these patchwork pants that I thought were jank. MK also chimed in on the pro-Gretchen chorus, raving about the relaxed elegance or something or other in her proliferation of brown and burnt orange.
Meanwhile, Heidi and Jessica held fast in Mondo’s corner. Frau Klum loved the black polka dot dress that closed Mondo’s show, the bedazzled skull t-shirt, and oversized tunic dress. (Neither of the latter two were my faves.) Everyone seemed to agree the first look (my favorite) and the strapless plaid dress were divine. But then Nina and MK started pouring on the haterade. Tag-teaming, they contended that Mondo’s collection was too teenager-y, too costume-y, too circus-y. They complained he didn’t listen to them about toning down the kooky playfulness. They claimed he needed to learn to edit. To grow. To develop more sophistication. MK said he could have used a black dress — the very thing that Mondo decided not to present.
NEXT: Heidi goes down swinging wildly.
But Heidi, bless her, kept on defending the hell out of our guy. She rightly pointed out that it was absurd to praise his exuberant use of color all season only to punish him for it in the finale. She even contended that he was “more special” as a designer. To which I say, go get ’em, Klum. I thought Heidi was articulate and feisty during deliberations. To wit: When Nina said that if she were a department store buyer, she’d order Gretchen’s ready-to-wear collection, Heidi replied, “Because it’s safer.” And when Nina reminded Heidi that she herself had expressed admiration for Gretchen’s jewelry (and should therefore join Team Gretchen), Frau Klum told her: “This is not a jewelry show!” (Oh, but you just know Lifetime is thinking about developing one now!)
It was here, in the middle of the heated deliberations, that I started to realize that the Mondo victory that seemed so inevitable at the top of the hour was no longer a fait accompli. It was not a good feeling. It’s true that Nina proposed (albeit rather unconvincingly) that they hand both finalists the crown. But that suggestion quickly disintegrated under the force of her increasingly fervent defense of Gretchen (“These clothes are on trend!”) and MK’s increasingly bitchy demeanor. To Jessica Simpson’s observation that Gretchen’s clothes were loose fitting, MK barked, “Hello! Read a magazine!” (That was way harsh, Tai.) Then he barked some more about how much he hated Mondo’s polka dress and how no one would ever wear it. Except, you know, two of the women sitting with him. He also had sharp words about couture versus ready-to-wear: “Women are wearing my clothes!” Down, Kors, down. You’ll get back to your tanning bed soon enough.
On and on it went, this bickering. And with it, Mondo’s rightful title drifted further and further from his grasp. It drove me bonkers listening to the judges, who’ve fallen over themselves all season to praise the youthfulness of this or that design, argue that Mondo was too youthful. By the time Heidi named Gretchen the winner, I was no longer shocked. Just sad.
Now I’m not denying that Mondo’s collection wasn’t exactly the life-changing showstopper of couture genius that I’d envisioned. I had hoped to see more unforgettable ensembles like his Jackie O. winner or his adorable Marie Claire challenge contender. I won’t try to argue that this is on par with those previous masterworks. And he probably did hurt himself by choosing that contested black “polka dress” (as Heidi called it) for the final interrogation. But to give the win to Gretchen, who repeated her earth-toned patterned fabrics until all of our eyes crossed? Whose ridonkulous granny panty motif is unflattering even on a size 0? I’m dumbfounded. Was there ease in Gretchen’s collection? Sure. In spades. And I’ll concede that this dress had pretty movement. But this is a pure monstrosity. Those briefs look straight out of an old 1950s knitting book. Who. Would. Wear. Such. A. Thing.?! And where?! There was no spark, no fun, no joie de vivre in her collection — unless, of course, you find wrapping yourself up in 1970s rec-room wallpaper for a night on the town to be joie-ful.
NEXT: Wait! That chick who stunk up the Melrose Place remake is Gretchen’s target audience?
So Runway missed out on anointing a true visionary. They chose the Casual Canyons Collection, which they claimed was of the moment, over forward-looking House of Fabulous Mondo. Boo, hiss. But of course, of course, Mondo handled his second-place finish with grace, surmising, “Everything happens for a reason.” Backstage, as he hugged his family (and boyfriend?), I wanted to crawl through the TV and let him know that he was already a star, beloved by legions. Mondo, you are the Adam Lambert of season 8. (Which is not to say Gretchen is Kris Allen. No.) So maybe being the runner up ain’t so bad after all. I have no doubt that this guy will go forth and conquer the world, armed only with his zebra-print flat iron and fertile mind. What more does he need?
Okay, so it only took me 1750 words and a few jokes at Gretchen’s expense to lift my spirits. At least now I understand who the hell Gretchen’s client is. “I know that my sister is going to rock [your clothes] impeccably,” our guest judge said last night. Aw, yeah. That’s right, folks. Ashlee Simpson-Wentz is Gretchen’s target audience! Hey, do you think if she buys some of Our Lady of the Baggy Boho’s duds, she’ll wear them to lip-sync on SNL? A recapper can dream…
And with that final bit of snark, I bid you all farewell until next season. Thank you for reading my ramblings and for cracking me up in the comments section. Anticipating your witty observations has helped me get out of bed on Friday mornings.
Now you. What did you think of the finale? Were you shocked that Mondo didn’t triumph? Should Heidi and Jessica have pushed harder for a dual victory? Anyone out there a fan of Gretchen’s collection? (It’s okay if you are.) Was anyone rooting for Andy? Did you, like Jessica Simpson (and moi), get misty-eyed when Mondo said he’s learned to love himself more thanks to Runway? And — oof — were those staged Fairy Job Mother commercials with the Runway cast as insufferable as it gets?
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