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"Project Runway": A make-it-work moment

FinaleBased 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

Comments () | Archives (80)

I must say that I am truely disappointed with project runway, which deeply bothers me because I am a big fan of the show. The only items that were pleasing to me were those created by Carol Hanna. It is seeing true talent like this getting turned down that makes me not want to continue to watch future seasons. There has been talented participants in the past that as well, I think were unfairly overlooked. How could they have started with all positive comments about Carol Hanna,yet eliminate her first. The comments were definitely conflicting to their actions. The pieces created by Irina and althea were very plain and uninteresting. Honestly they looked like pieces that anyone could put together. I just think that Carol Hanna's pieces showed true creativity, yet at the same time, pieces that women would actually want to wear.

Dominatrix look??? OMG! Irina's "winning line" was a flatout and obvious PONY FETISH collection, right down to the equestrian helmets and the models PONYTAILS! I was sitting next to my college-age daughter, screaming this at the judges, but to no avail.

How appropriate that this dud season should end as farce!
When more people take a second look at this, those judges will humiliated. And rightly so. Plucky Carol Hannah clearly had the better collection and no pony fetish in sight.

I think the designers were not as talented as past contestants on PR. I think Irina deserved to win, she was consistent throughout the show. Please ask Irina why she didn't want to make friends. It plucks my nerves when people get on these shows talking about they aren't here to make friends they are here to win. There is nothing wrong with making friends ever in life! Your talent will show for itself, making friends will not stop you from winning. I question her character on that comment. Your character means more in life than winning anything.

this season was just awful and I blame, not only the network shift to farty, old Lifetime, but the locale change didn't help either. sorry, but L.A. is more red carpet oriented than NYC is and the celebrity judges were mostly a joke. I mean really, Rachel Bilson - actress and designer? please. the rotating judges publicly attributed to the L.A. move made the whole show less watchable.

personally, I knew the season was totally a write-off during the Bob Mackie challenge - I've never seen such tame outcomes from a challenge that screamed for over-the-top! can you imagine what Chris March and Christian Siriano would've come up with??

Irina - Do you feel that you need to wear metaphorical armor in everyday life, much like your literal line of armor at Bryant Park?

WHO put Lindsay Lohan on as a judge !! What does she even know about fashion ! Carol Hannah WAS and IS the BEST ..who did that winner / whinner have to pay to get to that final win. Why does a uptown New Yorker always have to win . She also has an ulgy personality . This was a lame PR from start to finish .

I agree with a lot of the posters here about the final three: Carol Hannah had the most wearable collection, but Irina's was much more thematic and the judges really go for thematic (remember Leann's collection last year.

I don't agree that this season was the worst of the six. For sure, Seasons 3 (Uli-Jeffrey-Laura-Michael) and 4 (Christian-Jillian-Rami) were much better, and season 2 (Chloe-Daniel-Santino) was some better, but I thought seasons 1 and 5 were not quite as good. So this was a mediocre season, mediocre meaning middling-low, but nothing to get upset about.

I thought this season was disappointing as well. The rotating judges was an issue for me, but most importantly the weekly challenges for the designers lacked vision. Carol Hannah clearly deserved to win. I was very disappointed with the overall show this year.

Runway will always be competing with "The Year of Santino". It was a special group of designers that made that year the top show of Runway. Runway is only as good as the personalities of the designers. The ones that are amusing naturally are voted out early and we are left with less drama and entertainment. I do want to say that I felt the three finalist this year had one of the best collections and a very close race. From their portfolio's on line prior to the show Irina stood out to me. She is very deserving to win but my heart was with Carol.
A young girl self taught her talent is amazing. Design and fashion is in her blood. Naturally you couldn't have a winner that was not associated with a school. But have you noticed that you see more of the runner ups than the winners????

Well, I'm done with PR. The move from Bravo to Lifetime was bad enough, but to pick Irina as the winner was just too much. I think they had the order exactly backwards. Carol Hanna designed clothes that were marketable to several age ranges as well as having some "fashion" pieces. The only place Irina's line is going to be marketable is a Halloween Costume Shop. I have to be honest though, she did have one piece that I could see walking down the street and that was her hooded fur vest/jacket. But all of Carol Hanna's collection could be seen on the street or at a cocktail party. Some smart investor is going to snap up the opportunity to bankroll Carol Hanna and make a mint by doing it; while Irina will go on making "fashion" pieces that no one outside the models will ever wear.

Not enough Micheal Kors. The odd coincidence that the finalists were all women for the first time - seemed like Lifetime fan base pandering. This is the first season in which the ability of the contestants has not, in general, surpassed that of previous contestants. It's plateaued, you know? And being on Lifetime, the commercials are just awful.

This is the first season I've ever watched the show but I really enjoyed it. I definitely thought the three that made the finals deserved it. I agree with the author though, I don't agree with who ultimately won it. I really thought Carol Hannah deserved to win. Her use of color, varied shapes and her wonderful detailing all deserved merit. Even the judges thought so - or at least I thought so based on their comments. I think she was trying to show her versatility. Too bad she didn't comment on her inspiration of architectural shapes - maybe then the judges would have understood the theme of her collection. Althea's clothes are nice but all the same and I HATE the jodphur pants! Not only is Irena a "mean-a" but her entire line was SO dark and not just color-wise! I had to explain to my 18-year old daughter what I meant by "S&M" as I watched her clothes come down the runway. I mean I love black too but that was a bit much! Carol Hannah's clothes were romantic and for the most part very wearable. I can only reassure myself that she will be a success anyway. Go Carol Hannah!!

I can't believe people are expressing surprise that Carol Hannah didn't win. The designer who creates beautiful clothing that real women would actually buy and wear NEVER wins "Project Runway." Ask Laura Bennett and Rami Kashou.

I enjoyed the show but definitely was thinking Carol Hannah should win. Somehow I knew that Irina would win from about mid season. I wouldn't wear any of her stuff but then I can say that about alot of designer wear. My problem was with the judges, some of Heidi's outfits were less than stellar and could someone buy a comb for the other judges.

LOL ok Claire. Lifetime should have gotten it correct in the first place.
Well Models of the Runway is a cute show but not a HAVE TO watch type of thing in my opinion. I just watched it because it came on right after Project Runway.
I do have a question. I was able to Google and find some good info on this last Project Runway but nothing for a follow up for the designers. A where are they now kind of things since this seasons show was so delayed because of the legal issues they had. Would something like that be in the works?

Caroll Hannah was by far the best designer of the group. I think a little investigation is in order to see who Irina paid off!!

Carol Hannah was the best designer there BY FAR, no contest. I was flabbergasted when she didn't win. Irina's clothes were ordinary and boring and all black, for crying out loud. So what if she included a T-shirt, why is that interesting? She's a conformist, not edgy or original. Carol Hannah's clothes were downright gorgeous - I actually gasped when her first dress came out - and, besides that, were beautifully tailored. I agree with the poster who said it didn't make sense the judges were so complimentary to CH, then voted her off. I also think it was lame that, when asked why she thought she should win, Irina said because she's an immigrant. Huh? The only issue should be who the best designer is, period.

I have always loved Carol Hannah's designes. They're incredibly beautiful. If I were a hollywood celebrity, she would be the one I would call to design a dress/gown for my outing. Loved every piece she made. I'm sorry she lost. I gasped at some of the dresses she made throughout the show. I can't say this for the rest of the designers.

Carol Hannah should have won, she was consistently innovative and produced wearable, beautiful clothes throughout the series.

Irina was nasty. She picked on Althea, who was also a great contender, neck and neck with Carol Hannah on many occasions, I thought. A charming young woman, too!

Irina is talented, don't get me wrong, but yes, I agree that the immigrant issue came into play and the mean one should not win.

I concur there wasn't enough Tim Gunn. I actually liked having a different, new judge each show. I think that Heidi & Nina's perspectives are sufficient to maintain an overall view of the performances of the designers.

I wish that the designers were given an oppportunity or asssistace to dress up for the finale... some of their outfits were uninspired, and quite surprising to me to see.

Did anyone else feel like Heidi had a little chip on her shoulder in several episodes towards Gordana? She seemed a little bit cold a few times, it seemed, to me. That was out of character for her; usually she is even-keeled and bright towards everyone. I applaud her vision for creating the show, and also for continuing, thru pregnancy and other demands.

Carol Hannah (and Althea) were my first choices; Irina made some great items. I wish them all the best!

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