NYFW: ‘Project Runway’ finale under the tents -- and under wraps

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This morning at the Bryant Park tents, designer John Varvatos was sitting next to hiphop singer Akon. Season 4 winner, the fierce Christian Siriano, sat two seats away, looking balefully at the gregarious Season 1 winner, Jay McCarroll (whose documentary, ‘Eleven Minutes,’ premieres today), who presided over the mini-reunion on the catwalk as the audience filtered in.

Posing for pictures at the top of the runway were the three amigos themselves -- Nina Garcia in a purple strapless cocktail dress, Michael Kors in a black suit over a black crewneck T-shirt, and Heidi Klum in a fuschia pencil-thin pant suit, and hair in a severe bun.

“This will be a little different,” host Klum told the crowd a few minutes later, as the cameras started rolling for the catwalk finale of the fashion reality show’s sixth season. “We’re all in a bit of limbo right now.”

Usually, by the time the finalists hit New York Fashion Week, the bulk of the season’s episodes would have already aired and the crop of 16 designers whittled down to three finalists, whose names would be widely known -- at least to fans of the show -- by the time their handiwork hits the runway.


But because of the show’s legal imbroglio in the aftermath of a shift from taping in New York to Los Angeles and from airing on Bravo to Lifetime, not a single episode has aired, so the three collections showed in anonymity, separated by a brief blackout and the familiar sight of a model’s silhouette passing behind the backlit “Project Runway” logo scrim.

IMG sources told me additional footage for the finale had been shot earlier that morning, prior to the arrival of the press and invited guests, complete with nondisclosure agreements to prevent leaks.
The only surprise of the morning came with Klum’s introduction of the guest judge -- Suzy Menkes, Paris-based fashion editor at the International Herald Tribune, whose trademark bang-flip hairdo is a familiar site bobbing through fashion weeks around the world.

Most of the clothes that came down the catwalk had two things in common -- lots of black leather and lots of ruffles. The amount of intricate folds, woven strips, pleats, pin tucks and delicate floral twists and details seemed to be an exercise in demonstrating facility with needle and thread (as such a contest should, indeed, be). It was actually freeing -- and much closer to reality -- to view the collections without knowing anything about the designers.

Each had some fun pieces. The first (whom we’ll call Designer A) had lots of chunky cable knit sweaters, black leather bustiers and jackets. Designer B went to town with tulle and ruffles; one piece caught the eye because the silver was edged in a shade of blue that made the whole piece shimmer.

Designer C seemed to have the most consistent and noticeable point of view, which focused primarily on strips of black leather interspersed with black fabrics and edged in black sequins, on dresses, tops and handbags. Many of the outfits were topped off with pressed felt caps that were part-Peter Pan and part-equestrian toque. And who doesn’t love a woven black-leather corset?

At the end of the show, Tim Gunn came out and briefly addressed the crowd. “I’m here as the nervous dad,” he said. “We really wish we could bring all three finalists out here -- but we can’t. Harry and Bob Weinstein couldn’t be here, but they asked me to thank you all for coming …” followed by a brief sideways glance.

“Bob! You are here,” Gunn said to Weinstein, who was seated in the front row off to his right. “I was given different notes.”

With that, the audience laughed, Klum thanked the crowd and the lights went down on another season of “Project Runway.”

Let’s hope it will see the light of day before next Fashion Week unspools in Bryant Park this September.
--Adam Tschorn


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Photos from top: ‘Project Runway’ judges Michael Kors, from left, host Heidi Klum and Nina Garcia. Looks from as-yet-unnamed finalists, Designer A, Designer B and Designer C, respectively. Photo credits: Peter Stigter and Jonas Gustavsson