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Chance of a Lifetime

By CaitlinBergmann Fri., Oct. 28, 2011 ,5:01 am EDT

For better or worse, "Project Runway" has come a long way. Back in my day we didn't have cash prizes for winning individual challenges, fancy electronic drawing pads, or big budgets to shop with; we didn't even have reasonable amounts of money for fabric. When one contestant in my season asked for a cup of coffee from Starbucks, we were told name-brand coffee wasn't in the budget. Despite all of these changes, I have enjoyed watching every season and I have never been angry or jealous. Until now.

This season's finalists have been given an advantage that no other season of contestants have seen the likes of — a serious game-changing advantage. They were able to show a portion of their collections to the judges, get feedback, and then were given the chance to actually do something about it! Getting to go to Mood with $500 and given two days to make changes is enormous.

In past seasons, contestants showed portions of their collection when one designer was up for elimination, and feedback was given by the judges, but the non-eliminated designers went straight to the runway with no time, shopping trips or additional money to implement any changes based on the feedback.

When you prepare to present your work to the judges, you have no idea how they will react. You can absolutely love something and feel confident, but find yourself slammed and in the bottom. And vice versa — you can be extremely nervous about work you feel is inferior, and then find yourself winning the challenge. Even Tim doesn't know. For example, his advice to Viktor was the polar opposite of what the judges told him. Tim advised Viktor to pump things up, and the judges told him to tone it down. Getting a clue from the judges about how they feel is huge, especially if you can act on it. Adding or deleting just two garments can fix a problem the judges have with your work and be the difference between $100K and nada.

Keep your HP EliteBook 2760p Tablet PC and your name-brand coffee. This makes me jealous.

As for the final collections, first up was Kimberly. She claims to be filling a void and offering the urban girl a glamorous upgrade, but I don't see where there is no one out there upgrading the urbanite. Isn't that exactly what J.Lo and P Diddy do? And do well? I did love her ivory pants and blouse and her long black sparkling finale gown, but otherwise I find her color palette unwearable and those earrings, whether Tim likes them or not, cheap.

I haven't been a great fan of Joshua, but his collection was better than I expected. I have decided that it isn't his clothes that I dislike; it's his color palette (and his personality). When he designs in more sophisticated colors than lime green and purple, his clothes are fine. I especially liked his pieces of plastic and neoprene. Those pieces did look forward, and part of their success was the muted colors. As for those lime-green laced-up bike shorts with the hip-widening graphic details, I want to see Nina feature those in Marie Claire and then get fired.

I still believe that when it comes to creative silhouette, construction, quality of fabrics, taste and variety, Viktor is my winner. I didn't see his black pieces as missed opportunities, and despite what Heidi thinks, nothing in his collection looked cheap. His prints were beyond fabulous, creatively used and tasteful — and they were created by him, not purchased pre-designed off the shelf. They actually reminded me of Ralph Rucci, my personal fashion god. His tailored pieces were innovative and flawlessly made. I didn't hear Nina say she wanted to wear any of Joshua's or Anya's pieces. Just sayin'.

Last up was our winner, Anya, who, by the way, took the best advantage of the two-day turnaround opportunity. Her collection was a point of view we've seen before on "Project Runway." It was a total repeat of the work that Uli did in Season 3, just not as well made. Even Uli had the sense to only send two flowing dresses out of 12 down the final runway. She surprised the judges with a series of chic, urban leather and suede pieces that had her easy vibe but were wearable after vacation. Yes, Anya's show was pleasant to watch, and "easy" was the first word that came to my mind, but it was expected, one-note and not well crafted — all reasons to be one of the losing collections in past seasons.

The effects of my Viktor Kool-Aid haven't worn off, but I'm fine with Anya's win. I do think she is smart and talented, and she does have a clientele. It is heartwarming the way her entire country was rooting for her, and I can only imagine how much fun it is for the people of Trinidad and Tobago to be getting some attention on the international fashion scene. The only problem with Anya's win is that now I feel obligated to view her "tape." Link, anyone?

I am excited to watch the newest "Project Runway" baby, "Project Accessory." So excited, in fact, that I plan to convert the winning accessory each week into a do-it-yourself project. Visit the Project Accessory Blog for directions, suggestions and resources so you can replicate the look of each week's winner.