Not that it makes me any kind of expert, but I am pretty good at predicting what’s going to happen on Project Runway. Usually that’s just the result of what my preschool teacher called “paying attention,” because it’s usually pretty obvious when one of these things is not like the others, and someone is out of their depth relative to the other designers.
This has been pretty obvious with Merline since the first or second week of the season. Her constant insistence that her work is somehow “architectural” has not deterred her from making poorly constructed, head-scratching designs for the entire season. Her winning the lingerie competition with an asymmetrical, unflattering “architectural” negligée was one of the most puzzling moments in the history of this show.
Not that she’s not a nice person; in fact, I strongly suspect that the reason she stayed on the show so long is simply that everyone liked her, including the crew and the judges. What she lacks in taste and sewing skills, she makes up for and then some with personality. Despite that, I have been predicting her departure for the last five weeks in a row and this week it finally came, ironically the same week that she pulled together probably her best work of the season.
One thing that has made this season unique is how genuinely nice and supportive all the designers have been of each other. Apart from one episode where all the girls seemed to decide to throw Ashley under the bus during a team challenge, there has been zero personal drama, just (mostly) talented people working their asses off.
Now that we’re down to the Final Four, there are no more frauds or pretenders loitering at Parsons; the field has been fully winnowed, and there’s only one more elimination (probably) before Mercedes Benz Fashion Week (as everyone on this show is legally obligated to call it) so let’s get to the Power Rankings!
Note: Power Rankings are totally unscientific, coming as they are from a straight man. But this straight man has successfully predicted three of the last four Project Runway winners no less than five weeks before the end of the season. In any case, they are an amalgamation of the designers’ work, their entertainment value, and whatever hints the editors may drop about what’s to come, in that order of importance; they’re presented in reverse order, last week’s loser first.
5.Merline (Last week: #5)
Last week’s challenge was to create an Avant-Garde look with the aid if the Cube™ 3D printer, with each designer assigned a New York City bridge to be inspired by. You mean, this is an ARCHITECTURAL challenge? Not only that but an Avant-Garde challenge? Considering that almost everything Merline has made could be fairly described as Avant-Garde, you’d think this would finally be her moment to shine, but no: she made a somewhat conventional dress with a slightly unusual skirt that seemed familiar for good reason: as the judges pointed out it was very similar to the “umbrella dress” from one of the best episodes of this entire series, season 13’s “The Rainway.” Still, this was probably Merline’s best work of the season; the color and fabric of her dress was really beautiful and for once she didn’t Merline it up with any weird “architectural” elements, not even with the explicit invitation to do so with the Cube ™ 3D printer (she used that to decorate the design, not as a true part of it). With all of her odd malapropisms and consistently cheery demeanor, she was one of the best personalities the show has ever had, but she is simply out of her depth, particularly at this late stage.
4.Kelly (Last Week: #2)
For the second week in a row, Kelly won the challenge, and for the second week in a row, I am not putting her atop the Power Rankings. You could have been forgiven for thinking her Brooklyn Bridge look came from Merline (if Merline had a sewing assistant); it was Avant-Garde, it was (actually) Architectural. The other designers clucked that Kelly was being too literal but the judges loved her look while chiding the other designers that they had played it too safe, even the ones whose work they loved. So why doesn’t Kelly sit at the top of the PRPR? Because we’re in the Final Four, the next challenge is for a Red Carpet look, and wins no longer carry immunity. Kelly did a great job on this challenge, but looking at the other competition, particularly in a challenge to make a gown, I just don’t see how she stays in. Like Merline, I like her personally, she seems like a really cool person, she doesn’t rattle, and she’s had nothing but good things to say about the other designers. The other three remaining designers are just stronger.
3.Ashley (Last Week: #4)
I’m putting Ashley above Kelly on the basis of the whole season, not just the last challenge; her work has been strong all season. The blue pants-and-halter top combo she made last week was terrific, it fit the model perfectly and the sheer vertical sections along the legs were sexy, playful, and original. But the cape she added, particularly with the results of her 3D printing order, was bizarre, and transformed the look into something Nile Rodgers might have worn with Chic. Ashley is highly skilled and truly gifted, but more than any of the other designers she’s struggled with wavering confidence and an unpredictable energy level. If she can keep her head in the game and rise to the occasion I expect her to go to Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, but of the top three she seems likeliest to stumble.
2.Candice (Last Week: #3)
More than any other designer, Candice has a distinct aesthetic, and unlike a lot of designers, you don’t need to see any of her work to understand it; it’s all over the designer herself. If you like high-contrast, black-leather goth dominatrix looks – granted, with a much higher attention to detail than those labels imply – Candice is your Project Runway season 14 winner. But I don’t think the judges will reward her for turning in 12 variations on the same thing week after week. Her Avant-Garde bridge look last week was typically meticulous, with by far the most interesting use of the 3D printer,and she cleverly form-fit it to accentuate the model’s curves rather than just decorate the finished dress with them. The fact that she worked in red rather than black is a step in the right direction, and if she can get out of her comfort zone for this week’s Red Carpet challenge she could very well ride that momentum to a win at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.
1.Edmond (Last Week: #1)
I don’t know how much it evoked the Manhattan Bridge, but Edmond took inspiration from one particular detail – the Xs in the bridge’s girding – and went hog wild with it, using a textile with Xs in the texture, creating X-shaped labels and constructing the back of the dress out of them, and even making an X-shaped bustline that was very flattering to the model. One of the other designers (Kelly?) said at some point in this episode that Edmond’s looks are all different, but when you see them you know they’re his, and that seems to be the highest compliment a designer could ask for. Heidi Klum called this dress “perfect,” which suggests to me that she is riding for Edmond the same as I am, which is like the 11th week in a row Heidi and I have been in perfect sync. (Call me, Heidi! I know we could make it work!) Zac Posen was also impressed, repeating that Edmond “played with dimension and texture.” I will be truly shocked if Edmond does not win this season you guys.
This Week: The Final Four becomes the Final Three in the last challenge before Mercedes Benz blah blah blah, as the designers create high-fashion looks for the red carpet!
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