Project Runway Blog

Finale, Part 2: And the Winner Is...

By laurareineke 04/26/2013 04:27AM GMT

This recap—the last of the season!—is brought to you by the sight of Patricia and her kids taking a time-out for an adorable, giggly shimmy-dance in the workroom. It put a big smile on my face.

We see the usual flurry of workroom activity at the start of this episode. Stanley, who found himself in the bottom last week, knows that he needs to hem and style his way back into the judges' good graces. Patricia is "under the gun" to give her collection some cohesion. Michelle has to re-tool her models' hair and makeup. The trio is granted $500 and one last trip to Mood, plus more time with their sewing assistants (Amanda, Richard, and Layana), PLUS a special visit from their family members for a pre-runway morale boost. Interestingly, the designers are not given any last-minute challenges, twists, or rule changes to deal with. To be fair, the first episode's introductory surprise of the team challenge conceit was enough of a twist/challenge/rule change to last a lifetime.

The big conflict this episode stems from Stanley's under-preparedness, or rather the juxtaposition of this flustered Stanley with the strict, detail-oriented time manager he appeared to be during the rest of the season. It's not totally clear if his struggles to finish garments in time is the result of poor time management during the collection-building hiatus, or if the judges demands for a younger, hipper vibe proved too overwhelming in the lead-up to the runway show. Either way, he really has to scramble to make things presentable for Fashion Week. The stress just radiates off him, and he notes a few times that he feels like he might be sick. Tim, Michelle and Patricia all individually express concern that Stanley might not present a finished collection.

But with the help of a small army of sewing assistants (and a patient stage manager), Stanley turns it out, and we finally get a full look at what he and his fellow finalists have put together. It's Fashion Week! [insert dramatic music here]

(By the way: Mr. Michael Kors is back as our finale guest judge. I've enjoyed watching Zac Posen get more comfortable in his judging role, but if I had my way both Zac and Michael would be regulars on the panel.)

Michelle - The first collection to walk. Michelle's looks expand on the casual-but-tough attitude she presented in her capsule collection last week. Lots of quilted fabrics, leather details, belts and studs, shown alongside knits (like a "bleeding heart" sweater) and more flirty paneled dresses.

Michael Kors doesn't love her closing gown—"You're talking to a guy who LIVES for heavy fabrics, but [it's like] a cardboard box walking"—and he and Zac dislike her inclusion of chiffon ties in some looks. Heidi likes the lone-wolf story behind the collection, as well as its cohesion, and Nina likes that everything is wearable and clean. All of the judges can picture young celebrities gravitating toward this collection, and they all feel that Michelle really represented her point of view.

Patricia - This tree-inspired collection walks second, opening with a pink embroidered silk dress, moving into a variety of handmade fabrics, flowy printed scarves, chunky jewelry, sequins and mushroom-y headpieces, ending with the blue dress she showed the judges last episode.

Each judge seems to be drawn to a different look from this collection, but they all praise Patricia's work with textiles and her out-there ideas. Zac and Heidi love her more forward-thinking looks, like the leather hole-punch pants. Nina (again) says that she wishes Patricia could clean up her aesthetic into a slightly more refined package.

Stanley - "Urban Opulence" opens with a chic black pant and detailed jacket. It's followed by lots of rich textures and expensive-looking fabrics, including a strapless brocade mini and a gold belted coatdress.

Michael Kors has a lot of words for Stanley's closing gown, including "Betty White on 'Dancing With The Stars'" and [his classic] "Holly Hobby" (and he hilariously calls the multi-finger ring "an appetite suppressant"). Zac calls out Stanley's old-feeling mix of fabric; Heidi questions some of his shoddy hemlines. Nina reiterates that Stanley's excellent pieces are dragged down by his dated styling choices. Zac also notes that Stanley's stubbornness really got in his way in designing and executing this final collection.

The judges spend quite a bit of time deliberating. Should the winner of "Project Runway" be a designer with a modern, borderline over-designed sensibility (Michelle); someone with ideas that are innovative, if at times inconsistent (Patricia); or someone who designs beautiful but utterly staid pieces (Stanley)?

After a long discussion, they choose Michelle as the winner. I'm behind that decision 100 percent. From my spot at the Fashion Week runway show (where her work got a very vocal response from the "Runway" alumni in attendance), her collection was exciting, cohesive, and totally wearable, not to mention fully representative of her personal taste and aesthetic. Plus, it was constructed well! What more do you want from a "Runway" victor?

Seriously, I'm asking. What more do you want? What do you think of Michelle as the winner of "Project Runway" Season 11? What looks from each collection stood out to you? Do you think our final three would have made it this far in a non-team season? Let me know in the comments.