The 16th installment of the original version of Project Runway had its finale this week, as the season ended with four fashion shows.
This season of PR was in many very different from other seasons. It started out with a twist, namely that this time around; designers would not have a “muse model” anymore, but rather work with a rotating group of models, who, for the first time in the show’s history, were of all sizes. Models were also one of the focuses of the show. Even though they no longer had a stake in the contest – in other seasons, the model paired with the winning designer would also win a prize – they were often featured as they gave their feedback on the clothes. This approach is definitely worth discussing. On one hand, it works, because it adds a dimension to the show where we also hear feedback from the “customer”. On the other hand, it does not work all that well, since, more often than not, the clothes are an expression of the designer’s vision and models are supposed to wear them, regardless of their thoughts. Very likely, the purpose of giving the models a voice was to draw attention to plus-size models, as the show quite quickly turned into the Liris show, as someone pointed out; with Jazzmine as a supporting character. This approach also reinforces the idea of commercial fashion, where a designer’s inability to design for various sizes is a cause of elimination.
And, speaking of commerciality, many people online have discussed throughout the season that the show has gone a lot from an approach of high fashion to an approach of accessible, day-to-day fashion. This was also seen in the JCPenney “accessories wall” and the Avon beauty studio, both brands that appeal to a large customer segment. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but it is important to note the fact that the approach of the show has changed. Moreover, most of the challenges were one-day challenges and implied a lot, thus not giving the designers enough time to come up with really extraordinary pieces.
Which brings us to the cast. This season, the group of contestants consisted of sixteen designers who competed for the win. The cast was chosen in such a way to look diverse and eclectic, but not to the point of true confrontation or pulling apart. This, of course, makes sense, since the show is targeting a certain demographic and needs to reinforce their world view.
The first episodes at least, were kind of lackluster in terms of what the designers created. Later on, when the competition narrowed down, the clothes did become more appealing, but there were not many “wow” moments on the runway this year. However, there was a lot more enthusiasm. Two seasons ago, Tim Gunn said that the group of designers were not really invested in the show and seemed that they didn’t really want to be there. This time around, even more than last time, the designers definitely fought harder and were more involved in the outcomes of their creations. We really appreciated many of the designers: Michael, Kenya, Amy, Batani (even though she flopped a lot), were some of our favorites.
This season also brought in a couple of designers whose presence on the show soon became quite controversial. We’re talking, of course, about the twins. Shawn and Claire were two of the designers featured on the show, who, despite being sisters, competed against each other. They, however, felt more like an addition for the drama, since everything about them was over the top and dramatic. From the fact that they were always helping each other, which created a lot of turmoil in the work room, to Claire getting angry that Shawn was always asking her for ideas to Shawn’s dramatic elimination, where she decided to leave the competition because her sister deserved more to be there, as they were both up for elimination. Of course, it all culminated with Claire’s elimination, as it was revealed that she was secretly breaking the rules of the competition.
Four of the sixteen designers made it in the last episode, where they showcased their collections at New York Fashion Week. These were Kentaro, Ayana, Brandon and Margarita. They each had a different approach. In a way, each one represented another movement in fashion. Brandon’s clothes were sporty and baggy, Kentaro’s clothes were easy to wear and elegant, Ayana’s designs were catering to a demo who is strict about not showing certain parts of the body and Margarita’s collection was for the vibrant and colorful. In the end, it was Kentaro’s win. If you ask us, Margarita should have taken the prize. Her collection had everything: it had a variety in terms of types of garments (not just sportswear or just gowns), it was based on a 100% original print, which was used very creatively and which was enhanced by hand one bead at a time. Her silhouettes were also dynamic and cool and gave us one stunning runway moment after another. Speaking of runway moments, Margarita was the only one who had people standing up during the show. If that’s not a winner, who is?
In the end, as Tim pointed out, it comes down to taste and sensibility when you have a series of collections that were obviously all well-crafted. While this season of Project Runway was not as spectacular as one might have hoped, it is still a great reflection of the fashion world. On a more personal note, it’s always great to hear from Nina Garcia – her evaluations are always great.
According to recent news, the show has been contracted for at least two more seasons, so we’re excited to see where it’s going to go next. Last year, we were saying that we wish they would take it further and they have. This season, they showed that things can change and we’re excited to see how more and in what other directions Project Runway can change.
Fraquoh and Franchomme
P.S. We want to hear from you! Who was your favorite this season? Why? Who should have won? Share your feedback, questions or thoughts in the comments below! For more articles on style, fashion tips and cultural insights, you can subscribe to Attire Club via e-mail or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!