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Salt Wins Over Sugar

By CaitlinBergmann Fri., Oct. 29, 2010 ,5:00 am EDT

"Project Runway" Season 8 ended last night with a THUMP: Mondo Did Not Win. Pause for dramatic effect. Let it sink in. Let me repeat: Mondo is NOT the winner of "Project Runway." The winner, instead, was Gretchen. Yes, Granola-Crunch-Whole-Foods-Hipster-Chick Gretchen, the Most Hated (by Internet standards) Contestant of the Season. For a hot minute, I thought, I'm going to totally shock everyone and say how Gretchen is the deserved winner, the judges were right and "Yeaaaaay!" I'll get 22,568 Hate Comments and be the most-read blogger in myLifetime.com history! And then I remembered how I had to live with myself tomorrow. So I decided to tell you the truth: I was NUMB. I-Need-to-Have-a-Stiff-Drink Numb. What happened? Well, let's figure it all out ...

Class It Up, No Costumes and Find Some Heels!
When we last left the designers, the remaining four finalists had to be narrowed down to the Final Three. Michael C. was eliminated, stood speechless for, like, FIVE HOURS, punched a wall and then cried A LOT. He then became the National Spokesperson for "It Gets Better America" and lived Happily Ever After. In the meantime, we are left with Andy, Gretchen and Mondo. At the end of the episode the judges left them with warnings: Andy was told to "class it up"; Mondo needed to be "less costume-y"; and Gretchen somehow had to find a bunch of FIERCE high heels ASAP.

Project Runway Reunion PhotosThe Ambien-Infused Reunion
The Top Three were invited back to Parsons "to see some friends." In other words: Put down the Hilton Continental Breakfast, pay your In-Room Dining Tab and get dressed; we have a Reunion Episode to Film! The Reunion portion of this final episode was completely and utterly uneventful. It was all too "OMG, we all LOOOOVE each other." I expected claws. Instead we got manicured nails and robotic faces. There were hints of all the Michael C. hatin' and some rolled eyes toward Gretchen, but why on earth did Heidi not force these kids to be more forthcoming? Gosh, I miss those liquor-infused Reunions of Season 1 and 2: Those were the good ol' days. Finally, this waste of 30 minutes was over and we got down to real business: The Day of The Show.

It's Show Time
After getting their "finale outfits" on (Mondo, you SLAY me with your looks!), they head to Lincoln Center, site of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. There's a fake group hug, Gretchen throws herself on the runway and they head backstage to get workin'. It's Show Time! Runway Ringmaster Heidi welcomes everyone, including the star guest judge, Jessica Simpson — in Michael Kors, of course.

Whole Foods Hipster Girls Go to Happy Hour
Gretchen is up first. Her Theme is "Running Through Thunder," but it should have been "Running Through the Same Damn Print Over and Over Again." It was VERY monotonous. I wondered what the judges were going to say, since the previous week, they had eliminated Michael C. for being, yes, MONOTONOUS. In addition, I felt as if I'd seen her collection before — in several of Diane von Furstenberg's past collections, in fact. But at least she gave it a little runway "Umph!" (the makeup, styling, heels). Her "Whole Foods Sales Girls at their Boss's Sobriety Party" of last week decided to go to Happy Hour!

Buddha Shantung Bar
Andy South was up next, with his Buddha-inspired collection, and yet again, I was underwhelmed: a lot of silver and gray. Oh, and there's that apple-green shantung that all the judges just LOOOOVE! (Not I.) Like Gretchen's collection, it was repetitive. It also needed finesse. It reminded me of a Fashion School Student Graduation Show. It's not good when HIS own outfit was better than most of his collection.

Mami, Why Are You in the Third Row?
Mondo finished the show with a fun, sassy and colorful "Day of The Dead"–inspired collection. From the pompom shoes to the polka-dot prints to the hair accents, he thought of the whole look. There was color and print variation. Two questions, though: Was that really his music? Because it had NOTHING to do with Mexico City Circuses or Day of The Dead. And why were his parents sitting in the THIRD ROW?? Someone should have been fired for that snafu. Just sayin'.

Celestial Headpieces Be Gone
Now on to the judging: After the requisite "You ALL Deserve to Win" disclaimer, the judges told them how they REALLY feel. The judges felt that Andy's collection needed diversity and was narrow in focus (I told you so!). Nina also wondered what had happened to Hard & Edgy Andy (I told you so, LAST WEEK!). As a result, Andy and his kooky celestial headpiece-wearing Buddha Girls were out.

Project Runway Finale Full EpisodeDrinkin' the Gretchen Kool-Aid
Now it was on to Gretchen and Mondo. The judges went back and forth, praising and criticizing both of them, comparing them to Salt (Gretchen) vs. Sugar (Mondo). They agreed that Mondo has incredible talent and created a cohesive, very "Runway," collection, but disagreed on the polka-dot gown and thought he might be too theatrical. For Gretchen, they all somehow drank the Kool-Aid and said she did a fantastic job. Heidi even went as far as to say that she would wear a lot of her clothes. I began to shake at the thought of what was happening: Gretchen might actually win! As the judges argued more and more toward a Gretchen win, I also found myself shouting at the TV screen: "Did we just see the same collection?" Now, I get it: It is one thing seeing a runway show on TV as opposed to being there LIVE. There are nuances you miss. But I spoke to MANY people who WERE there, and they all told me that Gretchen's collection was repetitive, kind of boring, and certainly far from being the winner. Boy, were they wrong.

Don't Argue With Nina and Michael!
After much debate, the judges were split into two camps: Team Gretchen (Nina and Michael) and Team Mondo (Heidi and Jessica). Do you want something that's already at Urban Outfitters and Barney's CoOp OR something fresh and NEW? In the end, Heidi I'm-Just-a-Multi-Million-Dollar-Model Klum and Jessica I'm-Just-a-Multi-Million-Dollar-Singer Simpson caved to the actual Fashion Industry Authorities. In other words: Don't mess with Marie Claire Fashion Director Nina Garcia and CFDA Gretchen JonesLifetime Achievement Award Winner Michael Kors. Gretchen Jones of Portland, Oregon, was crowned the Season 8 Winner of "Project Runway." Salt won over Sugar. (Side note: First Leanne Marshall, then Seth Aaron and now Gretchen Jones — all from the Pacific Northwest. There must be something in the water.)

Silver Lining?
Yes, the one person that fans across the nation despise has now won the $100,000 Grand Prize! Let the blogosphere hatin' begin! I might not agree with the judges' decisions — and frankly I didn't agree with A LOT of what they had to say this season — but in a weird, twisted way, having Gretchen win has been a positive: The fans' mutual hatred and distaste of her has awoken them from a deep "Project Runway" Fan Slumber and made them involved in watching the show again. In a way, Gretchen has now (almost) singularly revived the "Project Runway" brand. So see, there is a positive. Now, Lifetime: Send her a huge bouquet of flowers! Congrats, Gretchen. And don't fret, Mondo — somehow I have a feeling you will be part of the "Illustrious Runner-Up Club" right alongside Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert. Love me some sugar.