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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, too, wanted Carol Hannah to win. Why is it that the designers who are so bitchy on the show always give the excuse "I'm here to win?" You can win and not be a total bitch. Please point that out to Irina. Let her know I'm sorry she won.

Carol Hannah was robbed. If I wanted 80's slouch sweaters and should pads or leather dominatrix wear I'd head to a vintage shop...

I too was pulling for Carol Hanna. I'm also pulling for Project Runway in general. The show has seen a lot of bad press this season.

I do admit that the show did not have the heart that it had in past seasons. However, I appreciated the fact that the right designers were "outed" throughout the season based on the challenge (for the most part). In previous seasons it was obvious that they kept the controversial designers around for ratings. Yes, I was disappointed in the winner, but I am thrilled that I only have to wait until January for the next season.

Was anyone else reminded me of the 1968 movie Barbarella?
I feel all the 3 designers do excellent work, but I was disappointed in the lack of color in two of the designers' shows. Irena is extremely talented. For that reason I was surprised at her use of black that seemed to hide design details and frankly, played it safe in not addressing color use. I tried not to dislike her for her ongoing ugly comments about the other designers and their work, which had grown tiresome.
Carole Hannah and Althea put on youthful, fun shows. But Carole Hannah's use of color was refreshing. I thought in hearing the judges' discussion that she was the winner. I can't imagine a more dark, depressing photo shoot than the one Marie Claire will be doing.

I just thought the whole season was a big yawner. What a bore! It dawned on me this morning that I couldn't remember one memorable thing any of the judges said the whole season (OK, except maybe for Heidi's "Oktoberfest Moment" descriptions in that one episode). Why is Nina Garcia even on the show anymore? She doesn't say anything of interest, or if she does, they edit it all out.

And the clothes: so much black, grey, silver, and beige. I was longing for the days of Uhle and her fabulous prints, or Laura Bennett's exquisite evening wear. And this show took place in L.A.! Why so little color?

I get the feeling it was just a bad selection of contestants, or a weak field to choose from, and the show ended up boring. Lifetime kept promoting it as "the most talked about season" of Project Runway, but that only really applied to the legal issues moving it from Bravo. There was nothing substantive to talk up in season 6 except how drab and boring the clothes and contestants were. Even the contestants seemed bored!

As for the "worst" season, hard to say, but right at the bottom. As the judges often said , there wasn't much of a "story" in here--except what the editors concocted after the fact from some really thin gruel. At the beginning, there was a diverse group, age, race, gender orientation, and some fun prospects. BUT, the hysterical work load offered no opportunity to develop any personal stories. And the dopey challenges (newspaper, MK's travel snapshots, or using a museum as inspiration) put the designers in worse trouble. Making things out of car parts last time was bad enough, but this was just awful. Could they not have noticed the OCEAN in LA, and done something with the beach - or skate punks, or, or or or - any of the million unique LA types who generate fashion styles New York copies two years later? The young Hollywood show, for example, clearly indicated that even the judges had no idea what people in LA wear, let alone these poor kids from Idaho, or Ohio - who never saw Melrose, or WEHO, or even Rodeo Drive (how THAT for inspiration, producers)
Then there were those weirdly questionable eliminations - or non-eliminations. I mean watching Christopher cry was sort of fun in a weird way, once, but much of his stuff was just terrible - and the SAME terrible week after week. Earlier on people got bumped for ONE missed step, later on it was nothing but missed steps. and to finally go with an LA show that featured an all black line as winner was just...unsalable.

Irina is very talented but she needs to learn a little humility. Her personality needs an update. She needs to learn that "if you can't say anything nice, say nothing at all".

I agree! Carol Hannah should have won! Meana Irina, while talented, was out for blood!

I would never missed a show when Project Runway was on Bravo and I tried to make the switch to Lifetime Lifetime has no HD offering on Comcast in the San Francisco Bay Area which is a huge market for the show. Project Runway was just no good blurry. I also agree Nina and Michael were missed as consistent judges, there were some earlier designers that should not have gone... I quit watching mid-season, I'll give it one more try in January but if no HD it is looking bad. I do like the new Bravo show and feel there is room for both but Lifetime and Comcast need to offer HD to one of Project Runway's biggest markets

It was all so far removed from the everyday reality of 98% of the women in the world that I fail to see the relevancy anymore. Introduce me to one attorney, one doctor, one full time mother who would wear most of that, let alone Irina's clothing. Of the three finalists hers with the farthest removed from accesible and relevant; unless you're a dominatrix I suppose. I feel like I wasted a season watching this and I won't bother with it again. The lesson learned from this season of Project Runway? Mean self absorbed people who see the world as black and forbidding apparently rule the fashion world.

And come on, who here believes that that all black nightmare was really Irina's heart won idea of a line. She KNEW that's what would win. If you look back at past winners it's always the street hardened dominatrix look that wins. Where was her hard edged all black nightmare of a vision prior to the finale? She learned her lessons well, I'll giver her that. She paid attention when Christin and Jeffrey won and played to the past.

I dont feel that the personalities this year were as good as others,overall I was not feeling it, like in the past years. Hopefully net season will be better.

I think just to add drama and create surprise they showed judges' opinion that were different from their judgement. But it was a poor judgement indeed. I started watching the show for first time and felt like good, it wasn't worth my time earlier anyway. I thought that Carol Hannah deserved to win but I think like everyone else. And if they gave the same decision as us - regular consumers - than they would not be the 'know-it-all-fashion-gurus', right? Irina's collection was so unattractive except few soft Ts but I think they went for the story/style than substance - fits the industry :-)

Sad...Sad show....Cat women, bat man...helment hat...ask Irina where the average women would be wearing her colLection......HELMETS....ROLLERDERRBY if anything. Disgusting, plus she is an A-class Bitch.

Carol Hannah deserved to win, classy, colorful, fun. She has dignity and integrity.

What is the deal with Tim and Irena?

It was obvious when Tim met with Irena to see her collection that they knew each other prior to the show. I began then to suspect that she is a Parson's graduate. Did they move the show to LA to avoid the appearance of cronyism?
Of course the judges would choose the NYC fashion insider. What would it say about Parsons if a talented and creative, but unschooled, Southerner won? What a good recruiting tool for the school to have a graduate as the show's winner!
The entire season was rather dull and disappointing.

Definitely Carol Hannah should have won. Imaginative & pretty. Or is pretty a bad word? Maybe that's why Irina won--dominatrix black sure isn't pretty, at least in the things she designed. She said it herself--defensive, armored. We already did that a while ago.

All black does not a cohesive collection make. Not even with nifty little Halloween black helmets. Though, like the judges, I also liked the one with the chin strap. Great dominatrix piece. Carol Hannah's collection was cohesive, beautiful, elegant, and the only one of the three that most body types would look fantastic in. And her collection was also ageless in who it would appeal to. It will be my last season as a viewer; it's just too frustrating. Season after season "costumey" designers are rewarded, the judges are forever doomed to confuse theatrical with innovative. Hopefully Tim Gunn will be back on Bravo with a second season of his own show. He's the reason I and so many viewers, I suspect, have hung in there.

It WAS the worst season ever, for a single reason - it was BORING! Where in past seasons I eagerly awaited each episode, this year I watched the first three, then didn't bother till the finale - and even then I yawned my way through it. The designers and the designs were boring.

We're an addicted mother /daughter team of watchers, and we were somewhat annoyed at this season's "go for the tears and sob stories" in the early weeks, and agree with prior posters that getting to know (without getting too up close/personal) the designers as professionals would have been welcome.

While we love Tim G, has anyone noticed that the contestants who follow his advice seem to get disastrous reviews from the judges?!

Looking forward to great things from Epperson and Carole Hannah outside PR.

I was very disappointed in this season: boring cast (or perhaps poor editing and story crafting), uninspired challenges, wack judging. One contestant was treated so poorly I found it rather shocking and while I don't necessarily think she should have been in the finale, I was unhappy about her fate on the show overall. I own all 5 previous seasons on DVD but I didn't even watch the last few episodes of this season. I think having it in LA definitely was part of the problem, at least insofar as causing excessive absences for Michael and Nina. I did like the spinoff show. I didn't watch it every week but it was nice to hear what the models were thinking.

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