I've written about television from time-to-time on the blog, usually about Last Comic Standing. After last night I feel incensed enough that I need to jot down some thoughts/feelings about the finale of Project Runway.
I've been a fan of Project Runway since about mid-point in the first season when I sat through a ubiquitous Bravo marathon of the show, catching up and learning to love Jay McCarroll. Since then I've been hooked, even during the disastrous first Lifetime network season.
Have I disagreed with the judges' decisions before? Sure. I thought that Chris March shouldn't have been eliminated from the finale and that his use of hair in his designs was cutting edge, not kitsch. And there were a few other blunders here and there but nothing that has incensed me as much as the finale of Season 8 (10/28/2010).
Starting off strong and winning a few challenges, Gretchen Jones seemed the designer to beat on Project Runway this year until the fifth challenge ("There IS an 'I' in Team") when she showed a significant lack of taste but also an incredible streak of animosity toward fellow designer Michael Costello. Gretchen hung a target on Michael C and didn't let up on him, incessantly bullying him and badmouthing him (at least that's what the viewer saw). The more she picked on him, the worse her designs appeared to get.
More than even the clothes she designed, Gretchen showed questionable taste when it came to her own outfits and styling. She would don drab earth tones and do her hair up like a fairy princess as if making herself look dowdy would make her outfits more exiting.
Gretchen eventually turned from outright hatred of Michael Costello to a fake, simpering "friendship" where she would try to touch and hug him whenever they were on screen together. This may have been worse than the abject loathing and backstabbing she'd been practicing. It could have been that Michael C was Gretchen's biggest competition early on in the show but spent the last few challenges in the bottom of the pack. Or, it could have been that Gretchen was getting tired. In the final group challenge ("We're in a New York State of Mind") she whined about being tired of challenges. This was the NYC challenge where Gretchen turned in a completely drab look that had been allegedly inspired by Manhattan's Lower East Side. If it wasn't for contestant April Johnston completely repeating herself then it might have been Gretchen going home at that point. Rather, she stuck around for the finale.
Ironically, Michael Costello's collection for Fashion Week spoke to Gretchen's work. Michael employed a monochromatic palette that the judges lambasted. Yet, Gretchen utilized the same single color theory for her drab collection. Judges Nina Garcia and Michael Kors lauded Gretchen's work for being a ready-to-wear collection, something available to go from a runway to a woman's closet, completely missing the point that her fellow designers' clothes here far more fun and engaging than her muddy, matronly wear.
Instead of praising her taste, the judges should have been questioning it. Gretchen came to the final runway discussion wearing something that looked like it was out of a 1980s Frederick's of Hollywood catalog. More than liking Gretchen's work, it seemed that Nina and Michael were mad that superior designer Mondo Guerra hadn't listened to their advice and made adjustments to his stunning polka dot dress. By bringing this dress to the final discussion I'm sure that they felt Mondo was being rebellious when he was continuing to be adventurous. It seemed that Nina and Michael had forgotten the need for fashion to be fun and backed Gretchen due to her apparent commercial appeal. If Gretchen's clothes represent where fashion is headed then now is the time to panic. The world needs clothes like those of Mondo Guerra, not Gretchen Jones.
In other words: Project Runway Fail.