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Fresh off her victory, "Project Runway" Season 12 champ Dom Streater chatted with me about her favorite challenges, her friendships with her fellow designers, and what it's like to be the first African-American winner in the show's history. Check out the full interview after the cut, and don't forget to tune in for the Season 12 Reunion Special on Thursday at 9.8c. (followed by the premiere of a new season of "Project Runway All Stars" at 10.9c).
You had kind of a low profile during a lot of the season; you’d get good feedback in a challenge but you wouldn't win, or you'd be safe and get no feedback at all. Did that affect your outlook going into the finale?
In the beginning of the season I was on top a few times. Then I was safe for a lot of the challenges. And then I was in the bottom because I was nervous about being safe; I didn’t want to be someone that the judges were like, “She’s neither here nor there. She doesn’t really need to be here.” I was definitely nervous at first. But then toward the end of the season, the last couple of challenges before the finale, I was getting really good feedback from the judges so I was not nervous going into it. I was very confident.
Well, folks, this is it. After a season full of wild cards including Timothy, Sandro, and Ken, we made it to the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week finale with four talented, relatively well-adjusted and drama-free designers. Alexandria, Bradon, Dom and Justin have turned in good work this season, and they seem like very nice people all around. Snaps for them.
The group heads to Mood with $250 each to spend on washable fabrics for the Tide-sponsored part of the final runway challenge. The workroom is relatively chilled out, too, with the usual last-minute running around but no major meltdowns or arguments. Tim does a final round of critiques and makes sure to give Bradon and Dom a little extra attention, because while those two got the perk of not worrying about securing a spot for NYFW last week, they also missed out on a valuable feedback session from the judges. We see Justin and Alexandria sweating a bit about that feedback: Justin quickly eliminates the wigs Heidi railed on, and Alexandria struggles to get rid of (or at least minimize) the parts of her collection that Nina hated.
There are a few bumps backstage at Fashion Week. It turns out one of Justin's models broke her ankle, so he has to rush to refit a garment for a new body. Poor Bradon is on edge when his models eat breakfast and drink coffee around his looks, and then he turns out he was right to worry when one of his models spills coffee on his blue charmeuse gown.
Our guest judge is the fabulous Kerry Washington!
Bradon | full collection | unconventional look | washable look
Bradon's work is inspired by the first sign of spring. It's a mix of metallics, florals, and bright blues, with lots of silks and other shiny fabrics. Zac: "Your hand is expressive and abstract, which is a great thing to have as an artist." He and Heidi disagree about the use of metallics in the opening look. Nina says that she's admired Bradon's laser focus throughout the season but that she felt she didn't see that focus in his final collection. "When I see this collection, it's disjointed. We've got too many things going on."
Final assessment: A strong, meticulously constructed collection lacking in cohesion. Bradon's auf'd.
Justin | full collection | unconventional look | washable look
Justin's collection builds off a palette of white, greys and black, inspired by the transition he went through as an 18-year-old learning to hear with a cochlear implant for the first time. Zac likes that the shapes are easy and feminine, and Nina agreed that the variety was good, though she also says she would've liked to see two more looks that had a real "wow" factor. The whole panel is impressed by his use of 3D printing for his accessories.
Final assessment: Justin's best work all season, but he needs more time to grow. Justin's auf'd.
Alexandria | full collection | unconventional look | washable look
This collection earns applause at the outset with Alexandria's eye-catching unconventional look, then moves into more of the neutral-colored separates she hinted at last week. Lots of shorts, relaxed-fit pants, loose tops and boho accessories. Heidi loves it, no surprise. Zac thinks the looks reflect Alexandria's own strength and power. Nina appreciates the effortless editorial spirit of the collection and Kerry's happy with how nicely everything could be assembled and reassembled to mix and match.
Final assessment: A collection full of cool and wearable clothes, but ultimately not powerful enough to warrant a win. Alexandria is our runner-up.
Dom | full collection | unconventional look | washable look
Titled "Retro Redux," Dom's work is focused on bright prints she designed herself in blues, purples, and whites, with embellished plastic details and structured jackets. Kerry is impressed by the modern, tribal, architectural quality of her prints. Zac nitpicks the bathing suit look and Nina thinks the collection would've been better served by the purple gown walking first, but the panel is very pleased overall.
Final assessment: Zac says with a smile, "She's a very sophisticated lady. I don't think she knows how sophisticated she is yet." Based off her masterful work with print and her spunky, modern point of view, Dom is crowned the winner of "Project Runway" Season 12.
So Dom's our winner! Alexandria handles the loss gracefully ("I'm happy [Dom] won. She's a good person. I sincerely mean that.") and Dom handles the win adorably, laughing and crying with her boyfriend and family and accepting lots of praise from the judges.
So what do you think? Was Dom your first choice? If not, whose collection and work throughout the season better warranted the win? Let me know in the comments!
5 designers. $9000 each. Six weeks. Two last-minute challenges (an unconventional-materials look and a Tide-sponsored washable look). Four spots at New York Fashion Week. Let's do this.
This is a busy episode for Tim Gunn, who spends the first part of the 1.5 hour telecast jetting around the country to visit our designers and the second half with a bruised and battered face from an awful-sounding fall down a flight of subway steps. A moment of respectful silence for Tim, please. He's maybe one of the most selfless humans in all of reality television.
Dom - Tim heads first to Philadelphia to meet with Dom. Her print-heavy collection (which she's working on when she's not hosting at a local restaurant) was created under the influence of "Blade Runner" -- lots of greens and purples based off watercolor-and-ink pieces Dom created. The designs earn praise from Tim, though he's concerned at how behind she is in actually executing her looks. He helps her decide to use knits instead of silks and jaunts away.Bradon - In Los Angeles, Bradon introduces Tim to his spring-inspired collection, on which he seems to be making decent progress. I admit to being a little perplexed at the mishmash of muted florals and metallic silky neutrals that seem to dominate Bradon's looks, but Tim is pacified. And then he's literally Pacif-ied when Bradon and his fiance Josh and their dog Eddie take Tim to the Pacific ocean! Ugh, that was an awful pun attempt. I apologize. Let's move on. Alexandria - In San Mateo, Tim meets up with Alexandria. Her "neo-nordic" collection is based on her mantra of edgy, strong, and modern. She has boatloads of pieces (thirty, I think?) to show Tim, all of it muted but very detailed, with lots of separates for mixing and matching. She takes Tim to her super cool kids' sewing camp, Camp Couture, where he gets to see the hilariously on-point series of ugly dolls the kids made to resemble this season's "Project Runway" designers. (Timothy's is called Unicorn Doll, of course. Sue's has dreadlocks! They're fabulous.)
Alexandria's three looks are met with squeals of glee from Heidi (no surprise whatsoever on that front) for being accessible and cool. "I want to have all of this," she says. Zac calls the looks "luxe" and compliments the professional detailing as well as the individualism of Alexandria's three models. Nina is less impressed. "When you put a show for New York Fashion Week, these clothes are going to look like anything. Do you have the goods to present something wow?" And on closer look, Zac smartly observes that all the elements Alexandria has used are just a shorthand of what's cool at the moment. Helen - Our tatted diva is camped out at her home in Union City, New Jersey, where Tim gets a sneak peek at her collection, which is based off the concept of clairvoyance and a blown-up photo of her boyfriend's eye. She's working with red, greys, and black, and focuses intensely on the cocoon cape concept that got her so far this season. "Where's the excitement?" Tim asks, and frankly that's a question that viewers have been asking of Helen for ages; her work is solid and wearable but seen in succession it's clear that Helen is a bit of a one-trick pony.
The looks she sends down the runway almost offend the judges. Nina and Zac slag on the "tortured" quality of her sleeveless print dress. "Spooky" and "contrived" are tossed out, too. The trio express surprise at the lack of easiness to these clothes, that the design seems forced, and poor Helen gets tongue-tied trying to explain herself. It's her worst crit yet. The consensus: Helen might be a little too young and a little too inexperienced to show a full collection. Justin - Tim's off to Raleigh, North Carolina. Justin shows him the 3D printing machine that he's using to create accessories for his collection, which are meant to help illustrate his theme of sound waves. His collection combines greys and whites with hand-painted details and the aforementioned accessories.
Justin shows the judges a gown (his unconventional look), a shorter dress, and a pantsuit, which is wise: The judges appreciate the variety of silhouettes. Heidi and Zac frown at the wigs used on the models, and Zac also notes that some of the details need to be cleaned up, but along with Nina they seem very impressed by the cohesiveness and modernity of his looks.
Justin is tapped to move on. With the choice between Alexandria and Helen, the judges decide to allow Alexandria's more polished and interesting work through to Fashion Week. That means that after churning out competitive work all season, Helen is finally auf'd.
What say you? Are you surprised to see Helen miss the mark? Of our final four -- Alexandria, Bradon, Dom, and Justin -- who do you think will stand out the most at NYFW? Let me know in the comments before we head into our final episode!
Want a refresher on the season's winning looks? We've got a gallery ready for you right here.
Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think had the Top and Bottom looks each week!
It's the final countdown! We're down to Dom, Alexandria, Justin, Bradon, and Helen, who are whisked away by Tim to Sweetbriar Nature Center. Surrounded by butterflies, they learn about their next challenge from Billy B., L'Oreal's consulting makeup artist. Their task is to create an avant-garde look -- experimental, daring, cutting-edge fashion -- completed by hair and makeup by L'Oreal. Suggested budget: $500. 30 minutes to shop at Mood.
Midway through their workroom time, the designers are presented with an additional challenge. They have to choose one of the looks that got their fellow designers eliminated and rework it. "When the judges look at the transformed look," Tim says, "they have to believe that it came from this point of departure." The gang snaps up the looks they want. In a bold move, Justin decides to reinvent the look that got him eliminated originally. Helen grabs Kate's awful mess from last week and Dom picks Jeremy's misguided jacket-and-dress combo from the Belk challenge. Alexandria uses Miranda's plaid pegged pants and blouse. Meanwhile, Bradon picks Sue's unconventional-materials dress, then balks when he realizes how little fabric was actually involved in the original look.
Off to the runway, featuring guest judge Emmy Rossum:
Bradon - He wanted to capture "the frantic energy of the silent but energetic butterflies" (okay) with ">this buttery soft midriff-baring white sculpted gown. The avant-garde look is totally up Nina's alley. "Every angle is an interesting angle!" she exclaims, clearly thrilled that someone remembered to make their garment editorial. Zac: "I went gaga for it, and I think Gaga would probably wear it." They're impressed by the level of detail. They love that it's a bit outlandish without being silly. The judges gush over the reworked dress, too. He wins the challenge, which automatically gives him a spot at Fashion Week.
Dom - This season's queen of patterns chose to mix a few different ones in tribute to the cross-breeding butterflies they encountered. The judges adore Dom's avant-garde look, and are even more excited when Dom reveals a low-backed jumpsuit underneath her structured jacket. "The World of Dom. I see a brand," Zac says before complimenting the way Dom breaks up prints. Emmy's so excited about the coat that she tries it on. Remembering how much they hated Jeremy's losing look gets the judges pumped about the changes Dom made to it. Dom's easily safe and through to NYFW.
Alexandria - Her reworking of Miranda's losing pants-and-blouse combo gets mixed reviews. Surprisingly, Nina digs this one, specifically praising Alexandria's decision to lower the waistline of the pants. Heidi doesn't like that it seems like a punk costume. As for the avant-garde look? Heidi loves it, calling it goth and sexy, and Emmy appreciates the hand work and the intricate details. Nina's not a fan ("It's like the butterfly that got stuck in a spider's web") and Zac is pretty much over Alexandria altogether: "I can appreicate the different techniques that you work in; however, I don't find it that transporting or that magical or that beautiful. I think you're very talented but the looks were not successful for me today." I get the vibe that Heidi is the only judge keeping Alexandria around at this point. Your mileage may vary.
Justin - Justin was inspired by an albino butterfly for his avant-garde look, a black jacket over an intricate white dress. Nina says it's the best work she's seen from him all season. Zac is impressed by the "penne velvet cording" on the jacket, though he and Heidi both agree with Nina's earlier assessment that the details and finishes are a little on the messy side. They're also pleased with his reworking of the dress that got him eliminated originally. "It was hideous before," Heidi says, "but you've made this so sophisticated."
Helen - Based off a butterfly's fluttering wings, Helen's avant-garde look is a form-fitting orange gown. We've seen this shredded effect from Helen before, but not in a bright color like this. Zac: "It sort of felt like a carrot in the grater." Nina and Emmy also think the color is too much. The reaction is really sort of like a group shrug. But Helen remade Kate's losing look and the judges are really into it, way more so than the avant garde. They dig the simplicity and cleanliness of it. "Chic," "elegant," and "modern" are other adjectives thrown around.
It's that time again for our remaining designers to wax poetic to the judges about why they should move on to Fashion Week. There are a lot of tears! We've whittled the season down to a bunch of softies. Interestingly, none of the designers picks Alexandria as someone they feel should accompany them to the final round. (Dom, meanwhile, had everyone's vote.) During the judges' follow-up chat it's clear that my earlier vibe was right and that Heidi is really the only one on the panel still invested in Alexandria. It's sort of inevitable, then, that no one is eliminated this week. Dom and Bradon move through to Fashion Week, and Alexandria, Justin, and Helen are moved into a bit of a holding pen: They'll return home and build out collections as usual, but will then compete against each other for the remaining spot(s) alongside Bradon and Dom.
How do you feel about this week's looks? Whose reworked look most impressed you? How do you feel about the lack of an elimination? Which of our bottom three do you think will move forward? Let me know in the comments.
Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think had the Top and Bottom looks each week!
Rob Le Bras-Brown, the Senior VP of HP Worldwide Marketing, accompanies Tim into the workroom at the top of the episode because it's the HP INTEL PRINT CHALLENGE! "I've been waiting to do [the HP Intel print challenge] since the beginning of this competition," Bradon says, and he's not the only one counting down to this moment. The print challenge has been a big deal since Mondo crushed it back in Season 8. This is for a couple reasons, I think. Making their own prints requires the designers to 1) use prints at all, which many avoid like the plague during the rest of the season; 2) think a little more adventurously about color; 3) get introspective about incorporating their personalities into their looks instead of just their aesthetic taste.
Le Bras-Brown fills them in on the twists and turns. The designers will be paired up with a group of next-generation thinkers and innovators who will serve as their muses. (Hear that? Not models, not clients: Muses.) The designers splinter off to meet their muses. The group includes Nigel Sylvester, a professional BMX rider (paired with Bradon); Ilana Greenberg, creative Director at graphic design mag GD USA (paired with Alexandria); Tiago Silva, executive pastry chef at Catch, a seafood restaurant in NYC (paired with Alexander); Maria Gonzalez, a 17-year-old who works with Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that teaches computer science skills to young women (paired with Kate); nonprofit co-founder and Miss USA 2012 Nana Meriweather (paired with Justin); Premal Sha, co-founder of crowd-funded lending network Kiva (paired with Dom); and Ryan Keeley, an abstract artist and photographer (paired with Helen).
Pretty standard workroom this week, save for Helen whining about how she's "not good at prints." The judges will be the judge of that! Along with guest judge, designer Peter Som. Runway time:
Dom - Taking inspiration from the Internet's role in connecting people, Dom made a high-necked, long-sleeve sheath dress out of a white, black, and hot pink print comprised of dashed lines. "Runway ready," Zac says, complimenting the butterfly-like patterns on the arms; Nina likes that it's sort of tribal and very modern; Heidi throws down a lot of good adjectives including "dynamic" and "fashion-forward." Peter Som thinks it's sophisticated and blessedly un-costumey. Dom wins! Deservedly so.
Helen - A crop top and fitted skirt made out of paneled ivory fabric and Helen's starry print. Heidi likes that the print is sort of patriotic but nitpicks the fit. Peter Som calls it "Star-Spangled Hipster," which, yes. Perfect summary. Everyone is pleased that Helen decided to cut the garment into two sections instead of leaving it as a one-piece dress.
Bradon - Turning his muse's career as a BMX biker into a kinetic blue, black, and white print, Bradon made a bomber jacket over a form-fitting black dress with a removable neckline. Nina says it's sporty chic, comparing it to jazz music, and Zac goes so far as to call it Bradon's best work this season.
Justin - Justin made a fitted bodice with a sweetheart neckline out of his X-ray-like print, then added a floor-length white skirt. Heidi's the first to call out the shoddy see-through construction where the skirt meets the bodice. Nina says she wishes it'd been a shorter dress: "From the waist up she looks fabulous and sexy. From the waist down it's just very drab." Peter Som loves the idea of the print but thinks something got lost in translation, and Zac echoes all these sentiments, saying that he would have preferred the print continue to the bottom instead of allowing the garment to look like a snake shedding its skin.
Alexander - "Even though I'm super gay I've never decorated a cake," Alexander says before introducing his cake-inspired open-backed brown dress with dolman sleeves and a white stripe accent (meant to play off the religious symbolism of his last name, Pope). Zac likes the cut of the dress but doesn't like how decidedly un-sexy the brown print is: "She looks like a cult leader. Of chocolate." Heidi thinks the white accent looks like masking tape and Nina takes issue with the seriousness and modesty of the garment. Alexander's out.
Kate - I quite like Kate and I've enjoyed her work this season, but this is objectively awful. I don't even know how to describe it. I guess it's a sleeveless collared belted dress made of sheer fabric gathered into pleated sections at the bottom, layered over her baby-blue print (which you can barely discern is a print). "Oh God," Nina sighs. She's overwhelmed by the pleats and confused by the belt. Peter Som nails it again: "She looks like she fell into a Kleenex box." Zac says it's sad.
Sometimes Heidi does a "One...OR MORE...people will be going home" fake-out, but unfortunately for Kate, this week's threat was 100% true. Kate gets auf'd for the second time. It's gotta sting to come back for a second round of "Runway" and make it so much closer to Fashion Week only to lose again, but aside from her tears Kate handles it well.
Onward we march toward the season's end. How do you feel about this week's double elimination? Were you as shocked as I was that Alexandria's look didn't land her in the bottom? Who are you most excited to see duke it out next week for the coveted Fashion Week spots? Let me know in the comments.
Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think had the Top and Bottom looks each week!
We open this week with Tim. He tells us that eight "Project Runway" super-fans have been flown in to have "the ultimate 'Project Runway' experience," which includes a tour of NYC and participation in this season's Real Women makeover challenge. We see Tim lead the women on a tour of the "Runway" facilities before introducing them to (and pairing them off with) our designers, who dive right in on creating makeover looks for their new clients.
Parameters: 2 full days to work! Hallelujah! Plus 30 minutes to sketch and a suggested budget in the $200-$400 range.
The women are so thrilled! They're thrilled to meet Tim, to work with the designers, to go to Mood. They're excited and eager and clearly loving every second, and their joy is contagious: The designers are dedicated to nailing the challenge and doing right by their fans. As a bonus for viewers, this is the first Real Women challenge I can recall that doesn't involve a designer passive-aggressively complaining about having to work with a woman larger than the usual size-0 models. High-fives for everyone.
But it's not all fun. Last week we heard Ken's mom ask him, "Has that 'other side' come out yet?" and this week we get another look at the dual personalities she was talking about.
Because of Jeremy's elimination, Alexander and Bradon pack up to move into Justin and Ken's room. But Ken, who clearly isn't hot on the idea of new roommates, blocks their entrance to the door, blithely taking his sweet time to iron a shirt. Alexander and Bradon ask nicely to be let in. Ken ignores them. Finally Alexander squeezes past, knocking the iron off the ironing board as he does: "I can throw drama, too, honey."
This sets Ken off on a rampage mightier and scarier than we've seen from him yet this season (and we've seen a few). Face slathered in a mud mask, he screams at the top of lungs to the crew about the inconvenience of changing his living arrangements. It's...uncomfortable. The next morning Tim mediates an apology session between Ken, Alexander, and the rest of the designers, but the alarming unpredictability of Ken's temper tantrums hangs over the rest of the episode.
Back in good-time land, the clients are getting buffed and polished, with brand new hairstyles and makeup courtesy of L'Oreal. Let's fast-forward to the runway, where our guest judges are designer Erin Fetherston and Marie Claire Senior Fashion Editor Zanna Roberts Rassi. (Nina's out this week.)
Helen - A wallflower with wholly outdated style, Helen's client, Jamie, wanted an Oscars red carpet dress to match her drastic makeover. Helen made a silky navy blue dress with a sweetheart neckline, corset bodice, and gathered back. The sleek look earns raves. Helen wins for the...I've actually lost count how many times she's won now.
Bradon - His client, Jennifer, wanted to look "intimidating, powerful, and classy, with a major edge," so Bradon made a black sleevless v-neck dress with shiny details and a leather vest with an embellished shoulder. Zanna and Zac think the shimmery pieces on the dress might've looked better (read: more expensive) in leather, but that's the only criticism.
Justin - Justin's model had quite a list of requirements for her garment. It had to be modest, to respect her Mormon faith; fitted to flatter her figure, which has undergone fairly extreme weight loss; something personal, to reflect the uniqueness of her experience on the show. Justin rose to the occasion with a knee-length black dress featuring his model's signature sewn on the front, fitted underneath with a custom corset. The judges are impressed by the personal touch of the signature, and they love that he was able to incorporate all the model's requests in a good-looking garment.
Alexandria - Super-fan Stephanie is a 20-year-old art history student who wants something to interview for jobs and internships in. Alexandria created a grey jacket and a printed skirt. The judges are bored and don't think the garment suits the model's age or interests at all. "It doesn't look hip or modern," says Heidi. "Maternity librarian," says Zac. "There's no visual impact," says Erin.
Alexander - For his client Alexander made a straight-up awful tan skirt-suit with black organza contrast details on the top. Zac dislikes the graphic breakup of the organza, Zanna thinks it's boring, and everyone comments on the horrible construction, which Alexander admits suffered because he didn't have enough time to finish properly.
Ken - To jazz up his stay-at-home-mom client, Ken put her in a green dress with leather accents. Heidi dislikes the placement of said accents and Zanna points out that it's not particularly well crafted. Heidi: "There's not much fashion here."
Annnnnd Ken is out. Alexander lets out a "Wow." when they tell him he's safe, and it's hard to blame him for being surprised. It is a bit bizarre that an unfinished garment sent down the runway this late in the season wouldn't get its designer sent home. That said, I'm sure the other designers breathed a great big sigh of relief at the news of Ken's auf-ing, too. The person who really needed a makeover this episode was cranky Ken.
What do you think? Should Alexander have been sent packing for his unfinished suit? Should Ken have been disqualified for his temper tantrum? Which client do you think received the best makeover? And as we near Fashion Week, which designers do you think will make it all the way? Chime in below!