After each episode of Project Runway 's seventh season, a gaggle of Slatesters gather to dish about the show. This week, the three finalists showed their collections at Bryant Park. Seth Aaron Henderson was declared the Season 7 winner.
Jessica Grose: So it came down to the predictable final two: Seth Aaron and Emilio. In one corner, we have the spiky-haired softie from Washington state! In the other corner, the hard-edged meanie from the Bronx! Will the forces of good or evil prevail? Seth Aaron showed a '40s military-inspired collection that was excellently designed. You could tell, even without HD, how well-constructed every single garment was. Emilio's collection was colorful and vibrant and reminded actress Raven Symone of the '90s. Mila's collection was a distant third to the guys' work, which is no surprise. Though the judges barely criticized her mod collection, I thought it was frumpy. Her mohair top with patent leather looked like it belonged to a Muppet at a leather bar.
Frankly I thought this finale lacked drama—all the clothes were competent and sophisticated, but nothing was exciting, and they didn't even include a cruel twist at the beginning of the episode. In prior seasons, they've made the final three construct last-minute outfits. They could at least have made them make a hat out of a planter or something. What did you all think of the winner: snappy or snoozeville?
David Plotz: I agree completely with your autopsy, Dr. Grose. Competent, attractive, a little dull. I loved the color in Emilio's collection, at least until he brought out that skin-tight teal mini-dress . And I was very taken with the clever acute angles all over Seth Aaron's collection. Weirdly, I think I preferred those many variations on the black coat that Seth Aaron showed Tim during the home visit last week. Those had more drama, for all their sameness.
June Thomas: I thought the lack of a totally unsurprising surprise twist was a huge surprise! It was always deeply weird that after giving the designers three months to make 10 looks, the judges would then ask them to make another one in 24 hours. (Seth Aaron produced so many, he could just have re-made one of his discards.)
I have to admit I was surprised by the decision and by the collections. I didn't really dig Seth Aaron's collection—and isn't "1940s German and Russian military" another way of saying Nazis and Stalinists? That's So Raving! It was exactly what I would've expected from him. The leather bondage straps, the visual hazard pattern combinations, the oversized checks. The colors that neither went together nor clashed.
I loved Emilio's color story. I agreed with the judges that it was a little too heavy on sportswear—too much Burlington Coat Factory outerwear, but that teal, red, and olive color combo rocked. (And seen from a distance, the E Sosa fabric was actually kind of nice.)
I admit, too, that I liked Mila's line. The rougher styling did make a difference, though I don't know why she kept that horrid, bulky dickey. (And, Faith Hill, shame on you for praising it.) I love the idea of shadows inspiring a collection. I'm a sucker for a good story.
David: Am I imagining things, or did Heidi flinch when Seth Aaron said his collection was inspired by German (and Russian) military outfits from the '40s? Coming soon to a mall near you: The Third Reich Collection, by Seth Aaron.
June: She definitely flinched (or the editors definitely inserted a flinch), as well she might. Springtime for Hitler wear.
Jessica: June, I also liked Emilio's line the best. As we've noted in earlier episodes, Emilio has the most business acumen of the lot of them.
David: What did you think of the existential doubt when they mused about what they were judging: Creativity? Who has the "most to say'? Consistency over the season? They seemed surprisingly flummoxed.
Jessica: The move to Lifetime and Marie Claire has rendered them all chronically confused. I don't think anyone on the show—the producers, the contestants, the judges—knows what they are looking for at this point.
June: Jess, didn't the constant emphasis on wearability drive you crazy? Is this a contest to find designers or a contest to find the clothes that'll be in Daffy's next year? Next season, I wish they'd ban the phrase, "I'd wear that."
Jessica: Yes! Ban the phrase! Are we worried about Proj Run becoming a cult of personality the way America's Next Top Model is? It seems like a lot of designers were met with high praise if "Heidi would wear this" or yelled at if "Heidi would not wear this." It's almost Tyra(nt) levels of egotism!
It was also clear that Tim Gunn was chastened by his initial run-in with Emilio, when Emilio wouldn't take any of his advice. He crept up to Emilio as he was preparing his line and said meekly, "Haven't we seen this before? I am not saying this in a bored, hostile way."
June: I think Emilio's Mylar-like gold dress was the only gown in the final three collections. That seems odd after two seasons obsessed with red-carpet or "industry-event" challenges.
My favorite parts of the collections were linings. I loved the black-and-white stripey lining inside one of Seth Aaron's jackets, and the red lining in the mustard-colored coat Emilio's muse model wore reminded me of a bullfighter's capote .
David: The linings were awesome. So were the tights—Seth Aaron sent out two awesome pairs, particularly that wide-striped black-and-white pair .
Jessica: What did we think of guest judge Faith Hill? I need to say up front that no one compares to Posh in my mind, as finale guest judges go.
June: Much too much "I'd wear that" from Faith Hill for my taste, but, my, she's beautiful. Definitely a kind judge rather than a harsh Posh/Joanna Coles type.
David: I thought Faith Hill was awful! And not at all beautiful. "Impeccable"? Yes. Gorgeous? No. My gold standard of celebrity judges is Milla Jovovich , incidentally.
June: Will you watch next season? Even with so-so challenges, bland contestants, and confused criteria, I'm still excited to watch people sketch out their ideas and make clothes. It's a talent that still seems magical to me, even after seven seasons.
Jessica: I'm on the fence. I have a full reality TV watching schedule to attend to, June! Those Real Housewives wait for no woman. To draw me back in, they're going to have to start getting edgy again. I'll take five loony Pings over a competent-but-boring Jonathan any day.
David: I will probably watch again next season, but I worry. The formula is too hard-coded. They need a new shtick. Maybe do it as one-on-one challenges every week? Maybe divide into teams? Maybe give different contestants different challenges? Maybe force them to change garments with another contestant three hours before the end? Maybe force them to redesign after the runway show each week?
The reason I was most surprised the Seth Aaron won is demographic. As June has noted , an African-American or Latino has never won PR . Emilio would have been a double first. And Seth Aaron is a demographic and tattoo doppelganger of Season 3 winner Jeffrey Sebelia.
Jessica: The triumph of the neck-tattooed! David, maybe you will be voted America's Next Top Magazine Editor if you get one.
June: We should mention that an issue of New York magazine to which our own Hanna Rosin contributed a fabulous piece won a National Magazine Award tonight (see " Personal Service "), and she managed it without the aid of a neck tattoo. Go, Hanna!
Jessica: Totally go Hanna! Celebrate like this .