Project Runway Recap: S8 E14 (The Season Finale!)

First off, get caught up on the entire season with my Season 8 Scorecard. Compare who won each challenge with who should have won, and analyze the season portfolio for each of the three finalists!

Back to the finale: We’re all angry, dear readers. That is undeniable. But let’s try to rein in our fury and judge these looks with an open mind, and try to forget how much we want to throw things at Michael and Nina.

In defense of Gretchen, Michael and Nina were correct that her design aesthetic is very trendy now. I personally do not understand the appeal of slouchy, oversized jumpsuits and similar relics of the 1970s, but you cannot deny that this aesthetic was all over the runways at New York Fashion Week. Michael Kors designed his Spring 2011 collection around a similar concept of relaxed, casual, wearable garments, so it’s unsurprising that he wanted Gretchen for the win.

However, the blogosphere is ablaze over Mondo’s loss, and rightfully so. His collection had an originality that Gretchen simply cannot match. His overall work in the competition, including his final collection, has been thought-provoking, joyous, and unique. I cannot say the same for almost anything that Gretchen designed this season. (Stay tuned for my post reviewing the entire season, and I’m sure you’ll agree.)

Was Mondo’s collection youthful, as Nina and Michael claimed? Absolutely. But since when does fashion have to appeal to an older customer? Average teenagers and twenty-somethings may not buy as much fashion as older women, but it is young women who inspire designers, and young women rock their looks on red carpets every day. Fashion is not for the elderly, or even the 30something crowd. Fashion is for the people who inspire designers and delight in their work. I think Mondo’s youthful aesthetic is one of the best things about his work.

We can argue for weeks over whether it was appropriate to judge this design competition over whose looks were more commercial, instead of whose looks were more creative or fashionable. The point is, even if we’re judging based on what Nina can sell, you can’t dismiss Mondo as un-sellable. He has an incredible commercial appeal that the judges are, forgive me, too damn old and stubborn to recognize. I’m sure there are many women who will be thrilled to wear Gretchen’s flowy jumpsuits, but there are just as many women who would kill for a Mondo original in their closet. And the fact that the judges neglected to comment on Gretchen’s offensive use of diapers was absolutely ridiculous. The parade of giant burlap panties should have been enough to auf Gretchen.

I could go on like this for hours, but let’s just start the show.

ANDY

Cool pieces individually, but the colors are practically unwearable, even though they’re very eye-catching on the runway. I don’t like the wiry headpieces – they look like cheap Philip Treacy knockoffs, and I think they are primarily responsible for the loss of Andy’s real vision throughout this collection. They substitute his usual Asian Warrior Bitch for some sort of Alien Fairy Queen; it’s not nearly as interesting, and it doesn’t feel like Andy. Furthermore, the judges were right to point out that you need to open with something much bigger and bolder than this.

As soon as this hit the runway, I said, “This is a throwaway piece if I’ve ever seen one.” There’s just nothing to this look – the jewelry is much more interesting than the clothes. If it were in brown instead of silver, I’d swear this was a design by Gretchen, not Andy.

I think the mismatched silvers and greys were very poorly chosen. I think that mix of colors is very unattractive. And I think the blouse is fighting with the jacket for attention, which is nearly always problematic.

The shorts seem cute at first, but I’m not sure I can really picture the customer who is wearing metallic olive green high-waisted shorts that make her look like she has a huge gaping vagina.

I can see too much vag, and Tim was right – it does look like pubes coming out of her bikini bottom. The robe helps, but not much.

I actually agreed with Jessica Simpson that this was Andy’s best look. I love the modern twist on a 1920s flapper – very trendy, wearable, and beautifully done. But this looks like a Laura Bennett creation, not an Andy South creation.

These pants are kind of cool, and I love the neckline to that blouse, but I think the ruffles are awful.

I want to like this, because I think it’s unique, but I just hate the way those shapes make her look. I don’t think Andy understands that the geometric aspects of the garment need to be not just interesting, but flattering. And the shoes are AWFUL.

The blouse is undeniably gorgeous, and I’m warming up to the pants, in spite of their strange vagina. (Once again, Andy can make things look interesting, but he doesn’t take a woman’s body into account.) I just don’t see how the top and bottom go together.

I love the top half of this garment. I think it’s a stunning shape and the handiwork on all that pleating is absolutely incredible. But the bottom is such a let down. First of all, the proportions are way off; that skirt needs to be two inches longer to counterbalance the top. And second, the bottom just seems like a cop-out after all the work that was clearly put into the top. It’s like he forgot about the skirt entirely.

GRETCHEN

The jacket is actually quite cute (although the colors are awful), but I cannot believe that Gretchen opened her show with a giant brown diaper. And the judges praised her for styling her the way they recommended, but I’m still seeing Southwestern Granola all over this. The giant platform wedges and center-parted wavy hair are not high fashion. And I think the necklaces look very elementary. Any first-year design student could have designed that jewelry.

Definitely a step up from the panty, but the accessories are still a nightmare. If Gretchen could just put a simple pump or Mary Jane or heeled sandal on a single model, it would improve things so much. But she insists on these bulky shoes that focus the eye on the woman’s feet instead of her clothes. I don’t hate this dress. I think the cut-outs on top are lovely, but I think she stole that shoulder-slit idea from April. But a mullet hem (longer in the back than in the front) is rarely, if ever, a good idea.

Once again, the accessories overpower the girl. Perhaps this is my problem with Gretchen – she tries so hard for this relaxed, effortless, reachable aesthetic, but her styling is anything but. It’s always chunky and huge, trying too hard, and it’s anything but relaxed. This is also a bit of a throwaway look, because the cut of the top is identical to the look before is, and the bottom is something she’s already done on this show. If the colors and prints are going to be this ugly, I at least expect the design to have some originality.

This seems so much more fashionable than her other looks, and I truly believe it’s because the chunky black shoes and bracelets are gone. The sunglasses and jewelry do maintain that Southwestern ease, and these colors are so much warmer and richer than anything else in the collection. I don’t know that anyone actually wants to wear those giant pants, but I think they’re beautiful to look at (except for the vagina), and the blouse is chic and effortless.

Another throwaway look – a diaper and a grandma sweater, styled terribly to boot. This was downright offensive – I can’t believe Gretchen got away with sending something so half-assed and designless down the runway.

Awful styling again, but this jumpsuit is pretty wearable. The fabric moved in a really fascinating way when she walked. I’m not sure I would want those pointy seams around my hips, flapping in the wind, but I suppose it looks good on a size zero Amazon woman.

What does this have to do with the rest of her collection, besides the fact that she’s wearing a diaper?

And I thought the judges instructed her to put her models in heels (like every other model on every other runway in the universe) instead of flats? Things can almost never look high fashion on the runway without high heels. They just make the model walk in a completely different way – there’s no replacing that.

Those prints together are an absolute nightmare, and I don’t know who the hell is wearing cutoff midriff-baring tees these days. And again, the pants flapped down the runway in the most peculiar way. They look fine in a photo, but their movement is just bizarre.

I know this look is supposed to tie in the black jacket with the rest of the collection, but I still don’t think that fabric makes any sense here. And that shirt is just ugly.

By far my favorite look of the collection, and definitely the best to close with. This isn’t quite a showstopper, but it’s as close as Gretchen is going to get. It’s obviously not something that you could ever wear as evening wear, but it steel feels much dressier and more formal than the rest of the collection. So it seems this is Gretchen’s vision of formalwear. I’d never wear it as such, but it makes a beautiful day dress.

MONDO

It’s interesting that Nina felt Mondo’s looks needed to be edited down, and yet this was one of her favorites. If any look needed to be watered down a bit, it was this. The blouse, scarf and shorts were a lot to begin with. The belt gave it a fun pop, but Mondo should have nixed one, perhaps even two, of the loud accessories. They were incredibly distracting.

I didn’t notice these little robot shoes on first glance, but I think I hate them. Regardless, the blouse and shorts are funky, beautiful, and wearable. The styling is over-the-top, but only in a “That’s Mondo” sort of way and not at all in a circus show way.

This is probably what gave the judges the impression that this collection was too youthful, and I understand that. Few women who are beyond college age would really be able to rock this look. But I truly believe that these pieces, while wild, are wearable by real women as separates. I think those leggings would be unbelievable with a super-short black dress, and you could throw on skinny jeans and boots with that shirt and look totally badass. The judges took these pieces too literally and refused to see their potential off the runway and on the streets, but I stand by Mondo.

Still one of my favorites of Mondo’s collection. Just enough design elements to keep you on your toes, but it doesn’t cross the line into costumey. I think it’s a brilliant use of color.

This was a favorite of the judges, but more importantly, it was the favorite of everyone who I watched the show with. This is the reason Betsey Johnson loved Mondo’s collection – it’s very Betsey-influenced without feeling copied. A strapless poofy plaid bubble-skirted cocktail dress with pockets is something I would absolutely kill to have in my wardrobe. And those stockings are absolutely delicious. I like the pop of yellow in the shoe, but I wish he’d gone for pumps instead of booties. We thought this look guaranteed Mondo’s spot as the winner.

This is deceptively simple from afar, but totally beautiful in a close-up. The sequined, patterned top is seriously amazing. I can picture so many different kinds of women incorporating that blouse into their wardrobe. And those shorts look pretty badass, although I’m not sure how comfy I’d be in high-waisted black leather shorts.

These pants are nuts, but I love them. I can see the arguments about their unwearability, but I can’t deny that they look kickass on the runway, especially with that jacket. I wish he’d nixed the long sleeves, and I think the shirt is too busy with those pants, but it’s not a bad look overall.

Another favorite. I had found the full-length polka dot dress to be too much; I agreed with Michael that it needed some skin to balance it out. And this was the perfect balance. These pieces are totally wearable as separates, and look incredible together. Again, I think he could have stepped down a bit on either the jewelry, the headpiece, the purse, or the shoes, but the clothes are beautiful.

Everybody loved this but me. I think it’s totally 80s, and not in a good way, and I think it’s the only piece that gives the collection too much of a youthful vibe. I think the judges loved it because unlike many of Mondo’s pieces, it wasn’t overstyled, but I thought it was too simple and too junior.

This has grown on me since last week, but I still think it’s so awkwardly long. I think if it stopped at the knee, it would be a total knockout. But those shoes were an absolute mistake.

So, congrats, Gretch. I won’t lie and say you deserved the win, but I suppose disco granola girls need to get their diapers somewhere. But let’s hear what you think:

And your results from last week’s episode:

Don’t miss the Season 8 Scorecard, a guide to this past season of Project Runway!

© Democracy Diva, 2010.

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