Thursday, November 12, 2009

Alas, it turns out that I’m a better forecaster of Project Runway than I am of baseball. To wit:

If I had to guess today (and that’s why I’m writing this), I would project an all-female finals consisting of Althea Harper, Carol Hannah Whitfield & – most likely to win – Irina Shabayeva.

I posted that sentence here on October 15, and I turned out to be exactly right. Not that it was as easy as it seems in retrospect. Althea sort of fell apart on the final challenge and was nearly taken out by Gordana Gehlhausen. The other final contestant eliminated on the cusp of going to Fashion Week was Christopher Straub (the Shakopee, Minnesota, designer who deserves the Where’s Andre? award for the contestant most likely to shed tears at the eensiest provocation). Straub was, to my eye, no better than the third strongest of the male designers & even he seemed to shocked to be, in his words, “the last boy standing.”

All three of the finalists had made it top the top three in at least six of the show’s twelve episodes to date. Shabayeva – “Meana Irina” to at least one of her competitors – has finished in the top three seven times, winning three episodes, Althea has been in the top three six times, winning twice & Carol Hannah has also been in the top three six times, winning once. No other designer won more than once, nor finished in the top three more than three times, and the two who managed that were Gordana & Christopher.

So the three showing at Fashion Week had 19 of the 36 top-3 finishes. I still think Irina is going to win – I think she’s heads above the other two women, and if you don’t believe me, check out her collections on her own website. One could reasonably argue that she’s the best female designer the series has had to date. But it’s a feature of the competitive pressure and simple constraints of Project Runway – the final challenge included a “tour” of the Getty museum that lasted all of 30 minutes(!) – that none of her designs for the show have come close to what she can do working by herself.

Which may be one reason why this has been the most tepid season Project Runway has ever had. They really need to rethink the challenges. One wonders what will become of this show if its standard sink any lower. Runway has been a huge hit, at least by basic cable standards, and there are now knock-offs of it in 13 other countries. But as Tim Gunn likes to remind his protégés, they need to make it work.