One of the most eagerly anticipated events of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York — the taping of the Project Runway finale — went down Friday morning, leaving a frenzy of speculation in its wake. Currently in the midst of its ninth season, Project Runway is a popular reality competition show for fashion designers.
Because taping for the Lifetime show's finale is done before many of the designer contestants have actually been eliminated in the episodes that have aired, the taping was staged so that all nine of the designers remaining as of the last episode shown (on Sept. 8) presented a 10-piece collection. Of course, viewers at home will only see the top three finalists once the finale airs this fall.
As is tradition, the final judging was taped secretly at a separate location.
The presence of the extra contestants invites all sorts of speculation in the audience, of course, with many attendees at the taping watching the reactions and note taking (or lack thereof) of judges Michael Kors, Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia and guest judge L'Wren Scott as each collection came down the runway.
Audience consensus seemed to be that the best collections were the S&M-tinged pieces by Olivier Green and the black-and-gold-themed pieces by Laura Kathleen. Fan favorite Anya Ayoung-Chee, a self-taught designer from Trinidad and Tobago, also won some praise for her Caribbean-flavored dresses and separates.
The final nine also included Kimberly Goldson, a self-taught designer from Bowie, Md., whose skills, especially in making pants, has impressed the judges in episodes airing so far. Goldson's brightly colored collection was a tad uneven but still showed Goldson's touch with tailoring.
The taping also featured a number of Runway alumni in the audience, such as Korto Momolu and Kristin Haskins Simms, which gives fans the thrill of spotting and meeting some of their favorites from past seasons.
Momolu, who showed her own collection later in the day, said it was interesting to watch a new crop of designers go through the same pressure-cooker experience she had been through on Project Runway. But she and other alumni said that the current contestants needed to make sure they made the most of the exposure that the show provides.
"The door's going to open for you, win or lose. You have to keep it moving," Momolu said. "Take advantage of that 15 minutes of fame. You know, people see me in the street and go, 'Hey, African girl.' They still recognize me, and I say that's fine. Here I am."
Added Simms, "Just don't rely on the fact that you're on Project Runway to get you in the door. It will help you, but this is a business. It's not just about celebrity and all that kind of stuff. You have to be smart about the right moves you want to make."
Karyn D. Collins is a contributor to The Root.