Fair Warning! If last night’s Project Runway Season Finale is still sitting on your TIVO waiting to be watched, just skip on past this one… nothing to see here! Move along!
And then there were three – Andy South the Fashion Ninja, adorable pocket gay Mondo Guerra and the token meanie, type-A hippie Gretchen Jones from Portland. All wildly divergent in their aesthetic, and all strong technical designers.
It was no surprise to see Andy and Mondo in the final three, but Gretchen did surprise me… after starting the season strong (winning the first two challenges…), she kinda faded into blah-ville for me. Andy evolved from designing badass Bladerunner-esque couture, to actually wearable designs that still held his tough-ass edge, and token weirdo Mondo who designed unapologetically from square one never lost his spectacular ability to merge highly graphic patterns exquisitely.
Of course this 2-hour final episode did all the normal stuff – we visit with the past designers (What up, Lifetime? No fan favorite this time? Because Mondo would have been a slam dunk? Bitches…) There’s laughter, there’s tears, there’s Ivy being a bitch… still… ugh. Peach shares that she has a gay following now. I can see it. She’s kinda like the den mother who would do tequila shooters out of a stripper’s jock, all while wearing an Eileen Fisher boiled wool suit. Casanova’s vague control of English is exploited in a video… he’s still cute as hell.
On to the final Runway show… the last three contestants are shown waking at 3:00am. Which leads me to believe that the Project Runway show must be one of the first ones of the day, around 8 or 9am. All the requisite backstage drama, Mondo’s missing a model, Andy makes a last minute change, hats, heels and hairspray…etc.
Andy sends down, arguably, the most sophisticated line. Clean, sharp, very Asian in its design sensibility – his amazing hand-pleated dress is reminiscent of a fan-dance (see below). He moves past his black leather and zinc studs to a near-ethereal palate of amazing greens and silver, and nobody can rock texture like him. A little discordant as a line, but really slick.
Then Gretchen sends out her line – Yawn… very earthy colors (brown), animal patterns (brown), blowy-flowy dresses and geometric jewelery that she designed and had made. She takes some chances in her styling, which is clearly a stretch for a wash ‘n wear girl like Gretchen. Even if you don’t spend a ton of time styling yourself every day, you gotta know what this industry is expecting G!
I’m rooting for Mondo, and he doesn’t disappoint. He has color and graphic patterns firmly by the jangly bits. He’s sending down young, slick, fitted couture without tripping into trashy territory. He mixes separates with dresses, he uses aggressive colors and patterns strategically, he styles perfectly, and is (as best I can see…) untouchable.
Judgment comes. Pretty quickly Nina, Heidi, Fashion Oompa-Loompa Michael Kors and guest judge Jessica Simpson (really?) all decide that Andy is out of the race… for reals… arguing that his line is the least cohesive as a group. Ugh… at least he won’t have any trouble getting a job after this.
Then there were two… Mondo has it sewn up. He’s a much more assertive designer, he puts on a show, he’s fearless… Heidi and Jessica Simpson love him and think he’s the one. Nina and the Orange one disagree, arguing for Gretchen’s prêt-à-porter goodness, because it will sell better than Mondo’s that will only sell at cheap Junior Miss discount stores in Guadalajara… okay, they didn’t say that, but you know that’s what they were thinking.
Net, net… Gretchen wins. Portland can boast another winner. Maybe the age of the awesome, assertive, structurally significant Pacific Northwest designer is done (Leanimal? Seth Aaron?) and the neurotic, Type-A hippie is the new fashionplate. God help us.
Oh, Lifetime. Since you took over Project Runway, we’ve watched you make it so much more emotional, so much more drama-filled… but if Gretchen is what you’re looking for – someone whose greatest virtue is marketability at Macy’s – then I think I can safely stop watching you…
Who am I kidding… I’m already looking to see when Season 9 premieres. In the meantime, I have a feeling Mondo’s fans will make sure he feels like a winner… even without the prize money.
Les Sterling is an artist living in Seattle, and freelance contributor to Seattle Gay Scene.