Since the beginning, Project Runway has always sent the final three to compete with a complete collection at Fashion Week. But in the last few seasons, they’ve allowed four designers to create a collection, only to eliminate one of them right before the big show. Personally, I think this is horribly cruel. It’s one thing to be eliminated after a weekly challenge but to pour your life into a collection, six weeks of work and all that stress for nothing? I think that’s why Michael C was so devastated when he was sent home last night. It truly is the worst elimination spot on the series.

Still, the show must go on, right? So here’s a closer look at the mini-collections from each of the final four.

Andy was first up and with all of his inventive genius, he didn’t show much of it in his outfits of choice. He told the judges that he kept the wow items back for the main show but that was taking a huge risk that almost cost him the competition.

His first dress was a short, silver number with lots of ruffles and pleats. It was too much stuffed into a small space. A longer hemline would have given it more proportion. His second piece was a bathing suit with wings. I have no idea what he was thinking here. Do designers ever walk a bathing suit with a red carpet gown? Maybe he was going for a seasonal theme? I didn’t get it and neither did the judges. His best piece was the one he had to make in two days after returning to New York. He used a shimmery green material which was stunning because of the rows and rows of hand finished pleats. That was the dress that pushed him into the winner’s circle.

andy.jpgMichael C was up second and his collection looked like it belonged together mostly because of the color choice. The draped gown was his last minute addition and like Andy, it was the best of the three. Makes you wonder if these guys can only produce properly under pressure. I can see where he was going with the short dress but the feather skirt looked like a barrel and the top didn’t fit right. His separates looked like something from the movie Hair. The top was made of strings and kind of cool, but the odd-patterned bell bottoms made it look so (as one designer commented) bow-chicka-bow-bow. 

Gretchen took the runway next with three outfits that didn’t belong together either. The drab green romper was her last minute outfit and was the most successful of the three. For her pantsuit she mixed patterns probably going for an African theme but even the hand-made jewelry didn’t make it look special. And then there was that. . . I don’t even know what to call it. A short belted robe over underpants. Who would wear this? Where would you wear it? In the bedroom, maybe, but the hat suggest she envisioned it out on the street. Alert the vice squad.

The judges labeled her collection “granola” saying that while Michael’s client gets up at midnight and goes clubbing, Gretchen’s gal never leaves the house after dark. Gretchen protested, saying that she had a cocktail dress and “her version” of a red carpet dress in the collection. The judges didn’t buy it. They said it looked like cheap, every day wear. Not the kind of clothes you send down the runway at Fashion Week.

gretchen.jpgThe final collection belonged to Mondo and as you’d expect, it was loaded with patterns and some bursts of color. His last minute outfit was the skirt with the blue top. The top is kind of a mess with the pink cuffs and whatever is happening below that, but the skirt is adorable and it was a hit with Heidi. His short and blouse set was total Mondo. A bold mix of patterns, whimsical, a little pink belt for pop. Very trendy and cute. The polka dot gown was the most talked about piece. Heidi loved it but Nina, not so much. Michael Kors was afraid that these pieces were the advance crew for the circus which was coming to town.

Given that Mondo based his collection on Mexican clowns and Day of the Dead, Kors’ circus remark was a compliment, but it wasn’t all that wacky. Unless he kept the really wacky stuff for the big show, this looks like the kind of thing you see at Fashion Week. It’s inventive, eye-catching and just a little over the top. Mondo easily made it in to the top three.

mondo.jpgWhen all was said and done, Gretchen and Andy joined Mondo and Michael was cut loose. The judges said they thought he was a great dressmaker, especially when it came to easy, flowing draping, but that as a designer, he didn’t have anything new to say. Michael was devastated and it was one of the toughest eliminations I’ve ever seen on the show.

Given the final designs, I don’t think Gretchen deserved the third spot either. Her clothes were so pedestrian, same as she’s been doing all season and I don’t expect that to change for Fashion Week. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a battle between Andy and Mondo and I expect Mondo to win. I think that Andy is as good, and just as creative but he second guesses himself too often. If he would allow himself the freedom to design what’s in his head, he could have won this whole thing.

Who do you think deserves to win this season of Project Runway?

(Image courtesy of Barbara Nitke/Lifetime Television)

Cynthia Boris

Writer, BuddyTV