“Project Runway”: A make-it-work moment


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Based on the runway show, I had a definite pick to win the sixth season of ‘Project Runway,’ and just like when Chicago was painfully knocked out of the running for the 2016 Olympics, my choice to win was rudely elbowed aside first. I had to admit that despite this disappointment, it was a strong show overall, probably because Tim Gunn freaked out and set everyone straight before the show (just kidding: what Lifetime billed as his OMG BIG MELTDOWN was more like a case of flustered consternation. He adjusted his glasses.)

Althea Harper led off the show with her sci-fi inspired collection. I agreed with the judges’ comments: I couldn’t see a lot of futurism in her pieces, which worked best when she played with proportions and color and texture--even though I’d never wear them, the cropped/harem pants she made looked good, and, like Nina Garcia, I really liked the green dress with the black leather jacket. I also agreed with Heidi Klum that the silvery metallic top was a winner. I did think one of Althea’s models received an unfortunate makeup job that made her look a bit like a drag queen, however. But while the judges loved the everydayness of Althea’s separates, I wanted a bit more pop from her line, especially in terms of color. I also thought the big grey sweater that kicked off the show was just past the line of dramatic and entered costumetown.


Poor Carrol Hannah Whitfield still looked sick when she introduced her collection but I thought she put a great line down the runway. I especially loved the leadoff beige and black halter dress (and so did the judges), the purple pieces in the collection, the detailing on the black dress, the 13th-look blue gown, and the flouncy party dress made of a pretty beige/brown iridescent material. The judges didn’t see enough of a ‘story’ throughout the pieces but I couldn’t see how there was more of a story in Althea’s line than Carol Hannah’s. There were a lot of pieces that she showed that I would like to see again, either in photos or in my closet.

In terms of a ‘story,’ Irina Shabayeva certainly stuck to her New York look: there were a lot of dramatic, tough black pieces in her collection, which wasn’t perhaps didn’t provide as much eye candy as Carol Hannah’s but represented a lot of beautiful structure and looks that everyday women could pull off. I thought at times it veered a little bit towards a dominatrix look when the black leather was invoked a few extra times, but I have to say, as a Midwestern girl I appreciate a stylish and comfortable t-shirt as well as a warm yet fashionable sweater. Michael Kors pooh-poohed that the ‘warrior woman’ was not a ‘new character on the scene’ but even though I thought Irina was rather mean-a this season, I have to admit that I like the warrior woman.

My complaint about the episode was that I didn’t think the judges’ comments matched their actions. I wanted Carol Hannah to win, and the judges had nothing bad to say about her collection except that the story wasn’t cohesive enough--I didn’t understand then why she got eliminated first. I especially thought Suzy Menkes gave Carol Hannah a special blessing when the be-banged one said, with a special smile, ‘I noticed it,’ referring to Carol Hannah’s inverted pyramid dress The judges seemed to have a bigger problem with Irina’s lack of color in her collection (although how would Michael Kors know, since he wore sunglasses during the show?) but they deemed her the winner.

I was glad for Irina (and for my old pal Tim Gunn, since his student won), even though my first pick didn’t win.

I know some people who have described this as the worst season ever of ‘Project Runway.’ Do you agree and if so, what was the issue? I personally didn’t feel any problem with the show being on Lifetime, although perhaps the show being set in L.A. did throw something off. Good news though, fans: ‘Runway’ will be back in January, with the season of the sashay!

(PS: tomorrow I have ten minutes to chat with Irina. If you have any suggestions for questions for me to ask her, leave them in the comments!)


--Claire Zulkey

Irina Shabayeva and model Kalyn Hemphill. Photo credit Mike Yarish/Lifetime Networks 2009