“Project Runway” fixtures Nina Garcia and Tim Gunn have wrapped up the show’s tenth season (the finale on Lifetime airs Thurs. Oct. 18 at 9 p.m. ET), and the good news? While neither will give away any secrets about what happens, Gunn will only say he’s “enormously happy with the outcome of this season,” which I have to hope means Fabio threw out his pastel beachwear and started over. In any case, both Gunn and Garcia spoke to reporters in a conference call, revealing what the designers did after last week’s disastrous Fashion Week preview, the winning designer Gunn didn’t like and what they believe makes a “Project Runway” winner.
Gunn noted that this season stood out not for great design, but a dark mood — and not in the clothes. “This season, not that I don’t always feel close to the designers, but this was a really difficult season. It was like a rain cloud was over the workroom… but I was able to explore dimensions of emotions with these designers that I haven’t before. I was rooting for all of them, and this is not a Miss America response.” Still, he moaned, “I would walk in the workroom and there would be this audible groan… Come on, you’ve seen the show!”
Though last week’s show may have given viewers a reason to doubt that any of the final four are deserving of a win, Garcia says no one should worry too much. “Here’s a little hint. I think the pre-show to the finale was a wake-up call to the designers. What you’ll see at the finale is they really step it up, and there will be a clear and definite winner. And I think it was very unanimous. Yes, there was a struggle because they came back with their best game, but there was a real, solid winner.”
Not that she predicted who would make the final four, though. “Yes, I was surprised who made it to the finale,” she admitted. “We had some very colorful personalities, and that was very distracting… It’s all about that personality and it kind of clouds other people’s work. [But] as the show goes on and you see the skill set and you see their determination, you start to see the clear winners.”
Gunn, who calls this season’s finalists “a strong group,” said that, while “this season it could have been any of them,” this finale was better than others. “I have not been happy with the outcome of the last couple seasons. I don’t want to denigrate [winner] Anya [Ayoung-Chee], but I thought Viktor [Luna]’s collection was infinitely stronger. But I was enormously happy with the outcome of this season. Enormously.”
Garcia was also quick to add that she has no regrets about sending anyone home this season — and part of that has to do with the fact she and the other judges don’t see the workroom theatrics that can turn viewers against some designers, like this season’s Ven Budhu. “Sometimes what has happened in the past… we will be at home watching a personality that is despicable and we’ve given them a really good review. As judges, we don’t see what happens behind the scenes. If I had known how this person behaved [a certain way, or]what he said or she said, it would have swayed my perception of them, but in the end, I am only there to judge them on their clothes, not on their personalities or what they do in the workroom. So I feel very comfortable with the judgements I have made. We watch it when the audience is watching at home, so we are not biased by any personalities. We grow to know these designers through the season, but we don’t see behind the scenes.”
But that didn’t mean Gunn was above dishing on competitors, both old and new. “Most of [the designers] are wonderful. The ones that stand out for me are the ones that aren’t so great,” he said. “One of the worst was edited in such a way you wouldn’t know it. The editing of the show is kind to everyone, and the home visit that was so dramatically edited was Gretchen [Jones, winner of season 8]’s. We were playing croquet and her mother kept knocking my ball into traffic. I’d run out and get it and she’d hit it right back there. It was so hostile and angry, and I thought the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
He’s also no fan of current competitor Christopher Palu’s passion for working with fur. “I’ll be absolutely honest. I didn’t know that,” he admitted. Though he said he is always “very respectful of the designer,” he’s not okay with the use of fur. ” With so many faux fur options, I don’t believe it’s necessary [to work in fur] and, frankly, rather vulgar.”
He also had strong words for the two drop-outs of the season – Andrea Katz and Kooan Kosuke. “On the topic of Andrea, I was totally and completely and thoroughly mystified. She’s a fashion teacher! Why would she bolt in this way? Just in terms of quality of character, especially when you’re a teacher, a mentor to young people… We gave her the opportunity to come back and tell her side of the story, and she wouldn’t do it… What a weak sister…”
As for Kosuke, Gunn sighed, “Kooan, [we called him] our Japanese meatball, he was on the threshold of leaving the moment he came into the workroom.. there was no reason to talk him off the ledge. It was kinder to say, okay, go. [But] this leaving set in motion something… you worry about all the other designer. Thankfully no one else did leave, but it was dicey for a while.”
And while Garcia praised Fabio Costa for coming from “a very organic place” and “thinking outside the box, always,” Gunn says he was horrified by what he saw during the home visit. “I thought it was one of the worst collections of clothes I’d ever seen in my entire life,” he said. “That talent is so junior. He’s incredibly smart and knowledgeable and I thought maybe he was pulling my leg, ‘guess what, this isn’t really it!’ I just don’t know what happened… I was hugely relieved he passed through the judges’ analysis and I was glad to hear what they had to say, because it was hugely similar to what I said, too.”
Garcia and Gunn clearly have different perspectives — even when it comes to staying on the show. Garcia joked, “I don’t want to be there in a wheelchair! ” before describing how she and the other judges joke about being old and infirm on the show.
Gunn, however, said, “As long as there’s ‘Project Runway,’ I’ll be there, even if I’m in a wheelchair or an iron lung.” And for that, we can all be grateful.