Who says you need people screaming at each other to make good reality TV? Season 14 of Project Runway has been one of the most enjoyable on record, thanks to the strength of this year’s crop of designers, less emphasis on the product placement challenges, and the unusually harmonious workroom, where the designers not only aren’t trash-talking each other, they’re actively helping each other and giving each other real advice. Last week’s challenge brought the four remaining designers to Los Angeles, to create looks suitable for the Red Carpet, and to be inspired by the view from a Hollywood hills mansion, and by their lavishly appointed rooms at Best Western. (I didn’t say they got rid of the product placement, I said they toned it down.)
Last week’s episode was a tough one because Edmond, my guy, my rock, the one I picked to win the season way back in week two got eliminated, and – I hate to say it – deservedly so, as his design was the weakest on the runway. But I’m not so sure we’ve seen the last of him, and from here it’s on to New York (formerly Mercedes-Benz) Fashion Week 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.
4.Edmond (Last Week: #1)
I don’t think I’ve ever been as confident in a designer to win a season of this show as I have been in Edmond – if you’ve read any of these Power Rankings you already know that. But Edmond overthought himself right out of the competition this week by straying a little too far out of his comfort zone. Realizing that his color choices had been a little one-note, he chose a loud sequined fabric in blues and purples, but then couldn’t decide what to do with it: At first he insisted that a Red Carpet look had to actually touch the Red Carpet so he planned to make a long gown, but then realized that wasn’t compatible with the fabric. After a day and a half of dithering, he finally made kind of a reverse gown by making the skirt short but the sleeves long and drapey. It achieved an interesting balance, but the sequins were more than it could overcome. As Nina Garcia put it, “It was almost as though he was overcome by the fabric.” I was all set to put on a black armband and mourn poor Edmond until I remembered those three magic words:
What is the Tim Gunn Save™ for if it’s not to rescue the strongest designer in the competition from blowing it right before Fashion Week? Also, when I presented this notion to my sister-in-law, who has been my Project Runway pen pal all season, she pointed out that they did not play the usual sad music or show Edmond cleaning up his space and turning out the light – come to think of it, they didn’t even show Tim telling him to go clean up his space, which strongly suggests that this week’s episode will open with Tim Gunn bursting out onto the runway for a Tim Gunn Save™. If it doesn’t, I just don’t know what to believe in any more. If I’m right, I still think he’ll win the season – note that when asked which two other designers should accompany them to Fashion Week, Edmond was the only unanimous choice – but he did get technically eliminated so I can’t rank him any higher. Rules are rules!
3.Ashley (Last Week: #3)
Ashley has been all over the road this season, alternating between near-perfect work and total trainwrecks, and her Red Carpet design was unfortunately closer to the latter. She started with an interesting shiny gold fabric, and she seemed energized by returning home to California (she’s from San Diego). But she quickly reverted to struggling with her confidence, worrying that Red Carpet is such a different animal from her specialty, Ready-to-Wear. Tim was also not in love with her asymmetrical design at the critique, which dealt her confidence another blow. As often happens on this show, her design-in-progress looked like it was shaping up to be a total disaster – whether it would even keep the model covered for the length of the runway walk was an open question. The finished product looked much better, but it was still too odd to take seriously. Not even Ashley’s model could really sell it. I can see how it was judged to be better than Edmond’s look, but considering her volatile emotional state and some of her more questionable looks over the course of the season, she’s the one I’d have sent home last week.
2.Candice (Last Week: #2)
You won’t believe this, but Candice chose black for her Red Carpet gown. Noting that she has come under fire for getting repeated notes from Zac Posen about walking the fine line between sexy and trashy, Candice decided to try to simplify and make something elegant and sophisticated. Also black, because Candice. Like she does every week, Candice did a great job, her construction is impeccable, her design is both original and classic, and hers was the only look of the four that actually looked like something an actress would wear on a red carpet. But still: enough with the black! She didn’t make her Red Carpet gown out of leather, so I guess that’s something, but still, as poised and professional as Candice is, she’s not going to be able to win this thing if she doesn’t show the judges something they haven’t seen from her before, much less something they haven’t seen anywhere before.
1.Kelly (Last week: #4)
I can’t deny it any longer: Kelly is for real. Some of her early designs were so bizarre that I had trouble shaking them, and have been biased against her for the whole second half of the season, when she’s really stepped up her game. Three wins in a row? If that’s been done before on this show, I can’t remember it. It’s also worth mentioning that as the show has gone on Kelly has loosened up a lot – her frequent asides about how little money she has, and working at the deli are quite charming and I want to be friends with her. As for her chances at Fashion Week, I can’t quite say that I think she’ll win – my money’s still on Edmond, given a TGS™ – but the judges are quite right to point out that she’s grown the most of any designer over the course of the season. Her Red Carpet look was a little unconventional, a form-fitting jumpsuit, but the time she spent creating her own textile really paid off and totally wowed the judges. Kelly said she had Katy Perry at the VMAs in mind when she created the look and she definitely nailed it – Heidi called it “modern and chic at the same time,” which is probably a coded message that she would like to meet me for coffee sometime. More than any of the other designers, I’m genuinely curious to see what Kelly’s collection will look like.
This week: Part 1 of the season finale follows Tim Gunn on visits with each of the designers at home to critique their collections-in-progress, and Edmond (hopefully) gets a Tim Gunn Save™!