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Waiting for the WOW

By Tracy_Goldenberg Fri., Oct. 19, 2012 ,11:00 am EDT

Le FINALE. Yes, kids, last night was the Finale of “Project Runway.” Four designers showed on the biggest fashion stage—Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. All season long, the judges, Tim (and I) have made a plea for the designers to “WOW US.” So did they succeed on the most important stage? Well, before I answer that, I have lots of other things to say, so if you will indulge me...

Middle-of-the-Road Four
When we last left our four designers—Christopher, Dmitry, Fabio and Melissa—they had gone home (or to somebody else’s home) to create their collections. Five weeks passed, and they returned to NYC and showed three looks to Heidi, Michael and Nina. It was hinted that one designer may be eliminated, but our esteemed judges could not make up their minds, and so all four designers stayed to show at NY Fashion Week.

No Wigs Allowed
As we begin this Finale episode, there are quick recaps of what the judges told each of the designers that their collections needed. Fabio’s garments lacked sophistication and required polish; Dmitry’s needed to look younger; Christopher’s leather items were praised, but the judges wanted more “wow”; and Melissa’s clothes were deemed “limited.” In addition, we can’t forget all the questionable styling issues from last week, including those wigs (Fabio, Melissa), HOOCHIE leather shorts (Melissa, Christopher) and Dmitry’s dowdy girls. They now had two days to somehow correct their styling mishaps and improve on what they already had.

Producer Nick
If I had produced what would be next in the episode, I would have begun with Tim walking into the workroom and announcing to the four designers that he recruited a Hollywood A-List stylist to come in and guide these kids through the 101’s of Runway Show Styling, followed by a shopping excursion to Lord & Taylor with an unlimited budget for accessories. A second scenario would have involved Tim dragging out some of the auf’ed cast members (like they’ve done in the past—with their downtrodden attitudes) to help the finalists in their last 48 hours.

Mood Shopping Gift Card
In reality, Tim eventually does walk in—not to introduce a stylist or say that Kooky Kooan will be everyone’s intern for the next two days, but, among other things, to give the designers an extra $300 to shop at Mood. This is a not-so-subtle way of telling the designers that their collections need help. At Mood, Fabio looks for more luxe fabrics to add sophistication, Christopher is panicked searching for the right fabric, Dmitry finds some interesting silk, and Melissa eyes a red leather hide to add a pop of color to her otherwise all black-and-white collection. Christopher’s early season bitchy side make a reappearance when he makes a quip about Melissa describing her RED leather fabrication as “blood orange.” The claws are coming back out.

Missing Model Castings and THAT White No-Slit Dress
It’s model fitting time. But wait, what happened to the actual model castings? In past seasons of the show, extensive time was spent on showing the model castings, which was kind of interesting to see. This season we got nothing. During the fittings, Christopher was being a “Negative Nancy,” complaining about everything, and a model is having problems walking in Melissa’s white dress. Melissa blamed it on the shoes, but even a four-year-old could tell that THE DRESS NEEDED A SLIT. Hello. The following day—and only 24 hours before the finale show—Christopher is still in a petulant mood, and Melissa is stressed trying to finish her new creations. On the flip side, Fabio and Dmitry are cool as cucumbers, sitting back having tea and lighting scented candles. Tim makes a “bonne chance” champagne toast, and soon it’s time for the Finale runway show.

Live vs. TV
As was the case with my fellow bloggers here, I attended this finale fashion show back in September (I sat next to Season 1 Winner Jay McCarroll and Season 2 Winner Chloe Dao!!). I’ve been lucky enough to get invited to every “Project Runway” Finale show since my season, and I’ve attended many of them. I have seen my share of Finale shows, some great (Rami Kashou, Christian Siriano, Chloe Dao, Leanne Marshall) and some not so much (can we PLEASE go back to just allowing the top three or four finalists to show during Fashion Week?). It’s always interesting to see these Finale runway shows LIVE and then later on TV. TV is usually better. Many times when I sat there watching the runway show live, I noticed EVERYTHING—thread hanging, bad side-boob fit issues, wonky zippers. I’ve walked out with a “That was a MESS!” feeling. Months later, I watch it on TV and the same collection looks FAB-u-LOUS! OK, so let’s get to the clothes and the judging...and my two cents.

Christopher: See You on “Project Runway All Stars” Season 3
First up, I must mention the guest celebrity judge, Miss Jennifer Hudson. Unlike some of the collections, she looked good LIVE and on TV last night! Now, let’s discuss Christopher. His collection was based on a theme of “Constructed and Deconstructed.” Kors loved his first exit. I did not. From my seat, that slit was dangerously HOOCHIE. I liked some of his leather jackets but wondered why there was so much leather, especially for a Spring/Summer collection. I liked his final gown and all the raw-edged “Christopher-isms,” but also wondered where that gown came from. He didn’t need it. As Kors correctly said, not every collection—especially one based in sportswear—needs a Finale gown. He was OUT. I’m sure we will see him next season on “Project Runway All Stars Season 3.” Guaranteed.

Melissa: Blood Orange Love and Where’s The Slit?
Melissa titled her collection “A New Exploration of Death to Life.” There was lots of black—yes, it’s Melissa. And again I wondered, is this Spring/Summer 2013? I loved her blood-orange leather dress, and it definitely stood out like a (good) sore thumb. There were two things that were problematic, however: the leather “swimsuit” (live on the Lincoln Center runway stage, I could see panties, and they were creme) and the white dress. When I walked out of the Finale runway show, I think I overheard about 100 whispers of “Why didn’t she put a SLIT in that dress?” Not kidding. It was painful to watch that model saunter down that long runway for what felt like TEN minutes with only about 24 inches of sweep at the hem. If I’d had scissors, I would have run onto the runway and helped a model girlfriend out!

Fabio: Layered Wow
I asked for someone—anyone—to “wow us,” and Fabio did. He wowed me—and everyone seated within a 30-foot radius around me. He was the only one of these four who did that. First off, the fact that he was basically the only designer who showed pastels and a Spring/Summer color palette was a breath of fresh air. His collection was not heavy-handed but was subtly elegant and modern. The level of sophistication was evident—and the judges agreed. I LOVED his askew-draped side-cowl dresses and those necklaces! And as Klum correctly stated, I even left the show craving a layered easy-breezy “Fabio look,” on me! If I was a judge, I probably would have given him my highest marks, especially right after viewing the runway show. So, I was not surprised that he was one of the Top Two. His collection was complete, from beginning to end.

Dmitry: “Uptown Girl” Meets “Dancing With the Stars”?
But it was Dmitry who got the final crown. Why? I can only assume that the judges admired his elegant-yet-edgy polished looks over Fabio’s drape-y, relaxed, layered Downtown Girl. Nina and Michael especially LOVE a NYC vibe, which involves a lot of black and a sophisticated silhouette. Dmitry showed that. I agree with the judges that Dmitry’s collection was polished and perfectly made, but I felt that it just wasn’t cohesive. And it was (once again) too Fall/Winter. No color. Too much leather. Dmitry’s fringed jacket and “houndstooth”-like cocktail dress was great, but I remember when that final gown came out; I think I murmured “Dancing With the Stars.” It made no sense (just like Christopher’s gown), especially with the rest of his sleek, uptown, fashion-editorial-girl looks. It was as if he had to somehow revert back to his ballroom-dancing days. That, to me, was his only misstep. But obviously, the judges—and people who matter—didn’t think so. Which means Dmitry is the new winner of “Project Runway.” One of my favorite things was when Michael Kors described him at the end as being a “gentleman.” Thank goodness that counts in this day and age of reality TV. A gentleman won. How do you say “Yayyy!” in Belarusian?