Musings on the Project Runway season finale

[First of all (though one would think this could go without saying), if you haven’t seen the finale of this season of Project Runway and wish to do so without knowing who won, come back and read this post later.]

The other day, in response to Burt’s question about fame, Tod Kelly wrote this:

I remember when Elvis died back in the 70s. There was a bit of national mourning, but not all that much. (The Elvis “sightings” would come a few years later.) The only reason we as a nation recognized his death at all was that he was for so long a game-changing national icon – even if he was long expired by the time of his ultimate demise.

I like to compare that death with Anna Nicole Smith’s back a few years back. I’ve never been a big cable news watcher, but I remember for a solid week every day at the gym there was nothing on CNN or FOX but coverage of her death. I think the message this sends (along with the plethora of reality TV shows that feature awful, awful human beings) is that what is important isn’t “what have you accomplished,” it’s “are you famous or not.”

Just so.  While I don’t remember the death of Elvis, I certainly remember the orgy of ghoulish fascination that followed the death of Anna Nicole Smith (which I also found inescapable at the gym).  I think Tod’s comments about the space created by reality TV for people to display the absolute worst of supposedly civilized behavior are apt.  Project Runway is one of the few exceptions, for the most part.  Even though the fashion industry itself is an unpleasant combination of frivolity, self-seriousness and materialism, in order to succeed on PR you need to have some talent.  You need to accomplish something beyond getting into bar fights or whatever it is the Kardashians do.

But oh, how that comment about awful, awful human beings popped into my head at the end of last night’s show.  Who else could I possibly mean but Joshua, this season’s walking menstrual cramp of a person.  Watching last night, the Better Half and I agreed that he’d be good-looking if he had a better personality (and wasn’t so stylized that he looked like a refugee from an anime flick), but with the personality he has he’s dreadful.  The prospect that this shrill, mean-spirited, histrionic and classless man might win had me howling at the television.Now, it’s not merely that Joshua is a nasty person.  His collection made me envy the blind.  Which brings me to a feature of the show that’s sometimes hilarious but more frequently infuriating — the judges so often seem to like clothes that are plainly hideous.  I’m sorry, but there are maybe three women on the face of the earth who would consent to wear those monstrous green lace-up shorts he sent down the runway, and those women would only do it if they were out of Seroquel.  (Slide five here, though it’s best to wear protective goggles before you click through.)  The garments he crafted out of plastic (plastic!) were apparently designed for women who never sweat, because otherwise they’re gonna need a lot of salve for all that chafing.

It was a positive pleasure to watch him lose.  Not without one last bitchy little comment about Anya’s sewing, of course.  But lose he did, and may his brief fame die a swift death.

About Viktor and Kimberly‘s collections, there isn’t much to be said.  Like the judges, I loved the pieces he made with his custom prints, and hated the horrible sheer stuff he sent down along with them.  I liked her collection more than both of the guys’, but in a kind of shrugging “not bad” sort of way.  Both of them were easily better than Joshua’s drek-fest.  Frankly, I think already-eliminated designers Laura Kathleen and Bert (who grew on me as the season progressed) had decoy collections that were better than anything the finalists sent out.

However, of the finalists I liked Anya‘s collection the best.  The pieces were all at least attractive, and it’s conceivable that there are women who’d really want to wear the garments.  I also think she demonstrated throughout the season that she is a good designer.  Yes, yes — not the world’s greatest at sewing (as odious Joshua never failed to point out), but it’s not called “Project Seamstress” (as Michael Kors liked to point out).  While she’s obviously not on the same level as the show’s one breakout star, she’s also a lot more charismatic and talented than most of the other winners since then.  (Poor Chris March must be crying into his cocktail that he wasn’t on this season, where he would have wiped the floor with the competition.)

More than just for her collection or her talent, though, I’m glad Anya won because the woman is a class act.  Not for nothing was she the fan favorite.  She was unfailingly gracious from start to finish, and it’s gratifying to see her succeed.  As our popular culture seems to evermore descend into celebration of the horrid and vulgar, it’s nice to have at least one more budding celebrity who seems like a decent human being.  I wish her nothing but good luck.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. The finale was Vicktor’s to lose and he did so. Frankly I would have given him the win on the strength of the season. Like Anya he was good natured, seemed to “Get it” about the show being both competitive and consolatory, and every week had really good stuff to put out.

    Anya… made her collection in two days. It was also a set of clothes with the same silhoute she kicked out every week. Plunging neckline, billowing jumpers and dresses. Okay, once in a while she stepped out of that box (go her) and gave us something new. But for the most part I found her the most predictable designer and one that will have run the full gamit of her ideas within her first year as a professional designer. I’ll be her personal celebrity that carries her past that, not her clothes.

    On the other hand… maybe it’s good she won. Vicktor will have his own line for certain after this and won’t need Project Runway as the tool to get it. Joshua…. well.. hmm… yeah. Maybe he’ll learn to edit… Maybe.

    • I do think she did a few interesting things that deviated from her norm throughout the season. However, I agree it will be her personal celebrity more than anything that drives her career. Considering the reprobates and scoundrels who’ve clawed their way to fame in recent years, I don’t begrudge her the chance at success on those terms.

  2. I agree almost wholeheartedly with everything you said. Very disappointing season, and Joshua is a wretched human being. He is everything wrong with a moral code that puts its highest value on achievement rather than treating others with sympathy or respect.

    I only differ in being slightly less enthusiastic than you about Anya, both as a designer and a person. In both cases, she was better than everything else on offer. But that’s not saying all that much. Her collection was lazy and derivative. She was nicer and more mature than the rest of them, but was generous only when she felt unthreatened (e.g., she didn’t share material with Joshua, but she did share a sewing kit with Kimberly).

    Agree with A TEacher that Viktor probably had the most talent, and the best of his stuff was better than Anya’s. Prints especially. THe sheer stuff was just a nightmare.

    Joshua’s horrifying shorts look remarkably like a therapeutic orthotic my son had to wear for a while to ensure correct hip placement.

    One thing she has that the others don’t is taste. She knows when she makes something good and something bad. And that is an unusual trait in a PR contestant.

  3. I second Elizabeth’s comment about Anya: she has good taste. And, she’s level headed and articulate in the way she works with others, as could be seen by the gazillion team challenges this season. As a designer with her own label, wouldn’t she be critiquing the work of subordinates?

  4. I was delighted Anya won and puzzled that Victor choked so badly. To be honest I was astonished at the weakness of the final contestants. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the judges tear into a final four collection so savageley as they did on this season. Indeed there are many runners up from previous seasons who would have blasted through this seasons offerings like a ballistic missile.

    Oddly enough it struck me that outside of the excreable Joshua the rest of the designers were by and large very congenial. There seemed to be a lot of good vibes (Bert issues notwithstanding) in the workroom compared to previous seasons.

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