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The Project Runway Blog

Season 10 Q&A: Nina Garcia and Tim Gunn Dish About the Final Four

By laurareineke Wed., Oct. 17, 2012 ,4:27 pm EDT

Tim Gunn and Melissa Fleis

"Project Runway" seasons come and go, and with them all kinds of talented, promising designers. Judge Nina Garcia and mentor Tim Gunn have been around for all of them. The pair took the time during the run-up to the Season 10 finale to chat with us about this season's developments and to share their thoughts on the final four designers. Check out the Q&A below, and don't forget to watch the finale episode (full of Fashion Week goodness) tomorrow night at 9.8c.

Q: In the first part of the finale all the judges pointed out the poor styling of the models. Do you think there are many talented designers that tend to have styling problems, or is it just a matter of inexperience with this particular group?
Nina: I think that is something that designers – real designers – deal with all the time. One thing is, designers that have enough resources use a stylist especially for that because they will turn out a more polished and concise message. It is hard to do. It’s a skill set unto itself – the styling and the whole presentation of the show. It is not just a problem that these designers on Project Runway deal with. It’s across the board. But any new and upcoming designer who does not have that service has to be very resourceful and find a way to do it themselves.

Q: What qualities do you think the winning final collections on “Project Runway” tend to share?
Nina: It has to be a standout collection. It’s got to have creativity, but at the same time it has to have wearability, because this is something that you want to aspire to have but at the same time be able to see yourself wearing. Those are my two. When I see the winning collection, that’s what I am looking for. That it’s creative, meaning I haven’t seen it before, and that it comes from a place of authenticity within the designer. That it’s their own point of view. That it says at a glance who it’s from. All in all, that it’s creative. And that it’s wearable: That women are able to identify with it, and that retailers are going to be interested in buying it.

Q: What did you see in each of the final four designers that made you interested in their final collections?
Nina: I mean, they all brought very different things to the table. Fabio is one of those very conceptual, modern designers. He comes from a very organic place, really thinking outside of the box. That’s what I appreciated about his designs. Dmitry has a very different approach; he’s very architectural and he likes to play with geometry. Technically he’s very skilled as a tailor. And he has a very sophisticated hand. Christopher is also very skilled as a tailor. He has a wonderful way of dealing with lightness: Making garments look very light when they’re not, especially the fabrics. He also works with prints very nicely. I love that about Christopher. And his clothes look expensive. Melissa loves separates, and I think that’s so important when it comes to putting together a collection. She lives in the world of separates. She has a very easy and urban attitude to her clothes, and they’re very “Melissa”. She designs for a young girl like herself.

Q: Based on your feelings earlier in the season, were you at all surprised by who made it to Fashion Week?
Nina: You know what? Yes. If you’d asked me that question at the start of the season I’d have pointed out other characters who lost steam throughout the process. The other thing that was very distracting is that we had some very colorful personalities starting the season. Literally, that was very distracting. When you have that kind of personality, then it shifts focus to that personality and kind of clouds other people’s work. At the beginning that was confusing. As the show goes on and you see the people’s work and you see their skill sets, their determination, how tenacious they are with their work ethic, you start to see clear winners.

Q: Is the winning collection the one you were hoping would win?
Tim: This was a really difficult season. It was as though it was always stormy, like there was always a raincloud over that workroom. And accordingly, I was able to explore dimensions of emotions with these designers that I really hadn’t as fully explored with the finalists in previous seasons. I have to say, I was rooting for all of them. This isn’t a Miss America response, I assure you. I would have been happy with any of the final four winning.

Q: Now that the season is over, what are your thoughts on the designers (Andrea and Kooan) who bailed from the competition early in the process?
Tim: Well, on the topic of Andrea, I was totally and completely and thoroughly mystified. She’s a fashion teacher! Why would she bolt in this way? Just in terms of quality of character, what does it say about being a quitter, especially when you’re a teacher and kind of a mentor to young people? Not “kind of” – you are. And to just quit and walk out like that, I was mystified. And we gave her the opportunity to come back and tell her side of the story, to talk about why she left, and she wouldn’t do it. So I just thought, what a weak sister. On the topic of Kooan, who I called our Japanese Meatball, he was on the threshold of leaving from the moment he walked into the workroom. It was just a matter of when. I mean, that morning we were at Michael Kors’ boutique and I was told that he wasn’t coming, and we would have had two designers to tell the other designers about. But then of course he did come. But when we were in the workroom after Mood he just drops this bomb that he’s leaving. I mean, I’m always there on the other side of the workroom wall, so of course I bolted in. And there was no reason to talk him off the ledge, it was kinder just to say, “Fine. Go.” But it was certainly a surprise. And regrettably when people start leaving you worry about the other designers. There was talk of leaving from a number of them, and thankfully no one else did leave. But it was dicey.

Q: Do you think those departures contributed to the “doom and gloom” you felt in the workroom during the season?
Tim: I actually think those two factors are inextricable. I really believe it’s like the chicken and the egg – it’s hard to say which came first. They were partners in the whole season. It was very peculiar, and hopefully we’ll never have it happen again.