At the start of the "Project Runway" season eight finale, the final three designers - Mondo Guerra, Gretchen Jones and Andy South - were milling about nervously as they got their final collections ready for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
I sat with my eyes glued to the TV, buzzing with anticipation and wishing the two-hour finale could fast-forward to the moment when Guerra, the breakout star of the season, is crowned the rightful winner. It didn't happen quite like that, though.
Instead of being placed right into the hustle and bustle of putting their shows together as per usual, the final three were thrust into a bland half-hour reunion segment with the eliminated designers from the rest of the season. Far be it for me to force drama upon anyone, but as a longtime fan of the show, I expected some name-calling or backstabbing rather than an easy-going resolution.
When the time came for the designers to show their collections, South, a 23-year-old Hawaiian designer, took the floor first. He sent out a beautiful collection inspired by Hindu and Buddhist gardens complete with lush fabrics and serene music. The collection was not without its faults, though. Its monochromatic quality made it feel a bit one-note and the headpieces and styling felt amateurish.
Next up was Jones, a hippie-chic girl from Oregon. While she was widely regarded as this season's villain - much like season two's Santino Rice or season one's Wendy Pepper - she always stayed true to her original aesthetic. Her collection consisted of mostly neutral browns with billowy fabrics and dramatic accessories. It was an undeniably beautiful collection, but her concept of "urban chic" felt played out and many pieces were ill-fitted.
The final designer to send his collection down the runway was Guerra, a Colorado native best known for his distinctive personal style and bold textile choices. It was definitely a signature Mondo collection, showcasing what he does best - mixing contrasting patterns and incorporating bright colors. He showed off his artistry by presenting a hand-beaded sequin shirt inspired by the Day of the Dead. While his styling could be considered a bit over-the-top and childish, I thought it was bold and daring - the obvious choice for the win.
Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia and Jessica Simpson comprised the judging panel for the evening. They set out on the daunting task of choosing who would take home the hefty prize package that included $100,000 from L'Oréal Paris, a spread in Marie Claire magazine, a $50,000 technology suite from HP and Intel for running their business and the opportunity to design and sell an exclusive collection through retail company Piperlime.
After heated remarks from the judges complete with Kors' priceless quips, Garcia's sassy comments and a few "I would totally wear that" outbursts from Simpson, South's collection fell by the wayside. The debate was centered mostly on Jones' "wearable, up-to-date" aesthetic versus Guerra's bold theatrics. Once they brought the finalists back on stage, Klum gave Guerra her "auf wiedersehen" and announced Jones the winner.
While I was a bit upset and maybe threw around a few things in a violent rage, I've come to understand why the judges made the decision they did - Jones created a beautiful, saleable collection while Guerra's was too over-the-top for the new Lifetime viewership. Even though "Project Runway" has evolved slightly since its conception, loyal fans will still find comfort in the formulaic setup and eccentric personalities that are sure to come.