It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times...Project Runway Season 8 Finale!

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Wowie! I have to say, this year's reality television has, for the most part, been a bit more compelling than usual. To get my other programs out of the way:

Amazing Race - I have a strong hunch *this* will be the season for the all female team to finally clinch it. Thus, watching the two remaining female teams will prove to be interesting. I'm still heartbroken the glee guys are gone, and not in love with the remaining ladies (Dustin & Kandice for reals!) but I'm crossing my fingers this pans out.

Survivor - I have a feeling this season will start to stretch its legs at the merge. There are plenty of interesting characters this season but the way they've been arranged, and split up, has proven to be a little problematic for the producers. I suspect this week's forthcoming merge will really bring some interesting personalities and conflicts to the forefront. Will Marty be able to create a counter alliance and save his ass? Are Sash and Brenda the next Todd and Amanda (circa China)? Will Alina prevail over her former tribe's haters? When the hell are they going to boot Naonka? How will Holly and Jane fare in the new 'blended' tribe? And please, please tell me Fabio will stick around as he is hilarious / awesome / kind of dreamy in a himbo sort of way?

ANTM - I have to say, I am digging this season of America's Next Top Model. It's still gimmicky and faux fashion as all hell, but I am impressed at the roster of guests Tyra has brought in, and I appreciate that they are more involved with the girls and at panel, versus bringing in the latest celeb flavour of the week. My gut is saying Kayla will take it based on her edit, but I'm also rooting for friggin gorgeous Jane, and curious to see how Ann's storyline plays out. This has been my most must-watch show of the season...

After Project Runway that is. This season was a resounding success, and not just with me apparently - ratings were up, fans were pleased, and naysayers returned to the season with fresh promise. The main reason? The show's casting directors did an excellent job, proving that a good talent competition doesn't necessarily lie in the talent, but the personalities at hand. The last few seasons had pretty boring designers and a lack of the bitchery that made the first few seasons rock. They also, in my humble opinion, were a little lacklustre in the design department. Maybe it's just because the show has been on for 8 seasons, but I feel the last three in particular have felt tired in terms of being WOWed on the runway. The last time I remember feeling like the final showdown was indeed a showdown (or might be a showdown) was the Kenley/Korto/Leanne finale, and indeed it was one of the better finales we saw.

This season? Well, the first three or four episodes proved promising. Gretchen's heinous bitchery was a riot (and regardless of her crocodile tears at the reunion, it was bitchery, same as all the other nasty comments made by other designers...hers was just more notable because it was tinged with self-righteousness, as if her commentary was somehow constructive), the designers ganging up on Michael Costello was an interesting storyline, and evolution of Mondo from weirdo to whiz kid was a joy. That being said, I felt this was quite possibly the worst final 3 collections in the show's history. In fact, after viewing all of the decoy collections, I was sorely disappointed by them all.


Let me explain. Andy and Gretchen's final collections were, to me, equally blah. I thought Mondo should have won, however I have major issues with his show as well. Andy, eliminated first and without much conversation, was screwed because of his devotion to Laotian fabrics, and therefore had to complete 10 looks in 10 days - instead of the 45 days the designers were supposed to get. I thought he did the most interesting things with his clothes, but it often looked like he was being different for the sake of being different construction-wise, versus finding ways to make existing silhouettes feel fresh and interesting. I liked his two colours - green and grey - but I felt like he fell into the trap the judges discussed on the show last week, wherein a collection is NOT just about colour, but about a story. Andy's work could have used some more diversity in colour (or even sticking to the same colour scheme with different fabrics) and it ultimately made his work fall a little flat. I just felt like there wasn't a story behind it other than the fabric's origin and the distracting headpieces. I think back to collections I didn't even like that much - like Mila's 'shadows' last season or Irina's winning 'New York warrior woman', and at the very least I can point to the fact there was a definitive vibe and feeling with both of those shows that rightfully knocked out Andy South from taking the crown.


In that sense, Gretchen's created 'woman' did earn her some points in my book, and apparently the judges. The fact that the woman Gretchen designs for her is herself also probably did her some favours, because it's easier to buy into a design concept when it reflects a designer's incredibly strong point of view, as Gretchen demonstrated week after week both on the show and on the runway (sidenote - WT EFFFFFF was up her with ridiculous sheer dress for the win? Parading around in panties when you take home the crown is not my cup of tea). For that matter, I hated the crocheted panties that popped up throughout her show. No one but Beyonce or Lady Gaga (while on holidays in Bali) would wear those things. I also hated her pattern and fabric choices for the most part, although - forgive me if this sounds weird - I sort of enjoyed her worldly, muted colour palette. It had a very now feel when you just absorbed the colours and not the gross patterns / materials she chose. I loved the two longer dresses she created (including the final one pictured above) and I could see her stuff selling where I always thought it would - the likes of Urban Outfitters or ModCloth, although most ProjRun designers aim a little higher than that. That being said, I literally wouldn't wear 99% of this collection, including the pieces I 'liked'. I could see Nina's point that they would work in a fashion spread, but I would flip right through it because her clothes are just NOT appealing to me, at least not in this collection.

That brings us to Mondo, the clear winner of the show from a finale collection perspective, a fan's perspective, and a producer's perspective (seriously, I'm stunned the big wigs didn't step in here). First of all, let me say, I was not really a fan of Mondo's design work on the show. I felt like it was all pattern and little innovation in terms of construction or pairing together items in new ways. If you look at the T Lo post on his work throughout the season, it was consistently standard in terms of what he made, and it often felt like he won the challenges because everyone else was so damn lacklustre in what they brought to the table.


But his finale collection won me over in terms of who should have won the season. Let me get the stuff I didn't like out of the way first of all:
- I agreed with Nina's commentary that his styling was very young and it definitely hurt him and made things costumey. There is a lack of sophistication for the woman that is supposed to buy Project Runway winners' collections, and the 'wow' factor that makes his clothes so appealing will surely be filtered down in the actual design realm, thus making him a dicey choice for the win in a very marginal way - can he dial it down?
- I hated the polka dot dress. Hated. I didn't like it with the short bubble skirt either, and I thought that short bubble skirt was horrendously constructed.
- I didn't mind the headbands but the pom poms on the shoes combined with the headbands and the slightly draggy-doll makeup was a little OTT.
- Once again, I'm going to point out his silhouettes were incredibly basic. His most interesting pieces were the ones he bedazzled in my opinion, and that tunic dress everyone was fawning over was a CARBON COPY of the 'square-inspired' leisure wear outfit he created for Heidi's challenge. The high-waisted jumbo plaid pants? Ditto to his 'print-making' challenge outfit. I felt like there was a serious lack of innovation, as there was on the show, at showing me something different, and if the judges wanted to talk us out of the win, that's what they should have honed in on.

Now let's talk about what I did like:
- I am a big fan of sparkles, colours, and rainbows, and Mondo's collection had all of the above in spades. That being said, my sense of style is intimidating for some people - I tend to embrace really dramatic looks and as Heidi explained, while I wouldn't wear one of his looks H2T, I could certainly incorporate almost every single piece of his collection into my existing wardrobe, and that is something I absolutely can't say about the other two collections.
- I LOVED his prints. I've been feeling Mexican-inspired tapestry prints lately and seeing them in Mondo's collection reaffirmed my desire to snap some up for myself. MIA's sense of style let a glimmer of 'Neon Indian' seep into the fashion world a couple of years ago, and based on what I saw for the Spring 2011 runways I anticipate Mondo's collection will still seem very now (and a very bad decision by the judges) by next summer.
- The leggings with the funky prints are something I would fully want to own. They remind me a lot of Douglas Coupland's stunning circuit board / test pattern collection for Canadian retailer Roots, that I am in...love...with. It's hard for me to put into words how I would own his entire collection, and the fact that Mondo's collection reminded me of it made me go squee!
- As I said before, Mondo's best looks were the ones he customized with his own doodads. The pailette-embellished tank, and the skull top and bag were among my faves, but I understand how a big chunk of the shoppers out there might be a little...gah.
- I thought Jessica Simpson felt a little out of her element among the judges, but I do credit her one comment that if you walked into a store and saw Gretchen's collection on a rack, it'd be a little...blah. If you saw Mondo's however, you would naturally gravitate towards it.

Le sigh. At the end of the day none of the finale collections really wowed me or took my breath away or confirmed in my mind that a specific person should win. No matter what, I'm a little choked Gretchen won, mostly because I feel it was a product of the show not wanting to repeat itself with a designer that has a similar avant garde LOOK AT ME aesthetic to last season's winner, Seth Aaron Henderson. ProjRun has never been a show that cares much about (unlike ANTM) having the first "fill in the blank" designer, so I don't know why it would have been a big deal to have Mondo win when he's a designer with a similar, but more whimsical aesthetic to a past designer. After all, Irina's collection was a goddam doppelganger to Christian Siriano's (hats and all) and she still won.

I'm not disappointed in the series as a whole though, and I won't be walking away from it. The story-building process this season was really strong (although surprising they didn't give Gretchen a better edit if they handed her the win...) and I feel like the show's creators are learning as they go for what resonates with audiences and what doesn't. They've had two blah seasons and one weak design season since moving to Lifetime, and I imagine they'll be brainstorming ways to keep fans coming back. At the very least we got to see one of the BEST judging sequences ever, one I like to call 'the lesser of two evils' when deciding a winner. Till next time!

- Britt's On

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