A Stale Night at Bryant Park

The most dramatic moments on “Project Runway’s” finale were provided by Carol Hannah throwing up.

Last Updated: November 20, 2009 @ 7:24 AM

If a network acquires a show that was taped almost a year ago and it airs the finale, did the season ever really happen?

I just couldn’t get fully invested in “Project Runway” this time around, and I blame the delay, among other things.  After all, fashion should be current by its very definition. (I should know; I shop at fashionista-friendly Target and once worked at the cutting edge house of style known as the Gap.)

One thing the finale had going for it, though, was that it was back in New York. And, let’s face it; the Big Apple is really the heart of “Runway.”  (That and Tim Gunn!)

The other component that makes the show so compelling is the personalities of the designers, which oftentimes overshadow the actual designs themselves. Past seasons have given us reality gold in characters such as Santino, Jeffrey Sebelia and Wendy Pepper.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that there’s always a villain in the top three. (By the way, if you actually believe that, then you probably also think that it’s just a coincidence that both Voltaggio brothers have made it to the Final Four on “Top Chef.”)

This year’s villain came in the form of ice princess Irina, whose designs impressed the judges and whose personality pissed off the other contestants with her accusations of fashion plagiarism — particularly annoying since she herself had to ditch much of her line due to copyright infringement. But bitches, male and female, often do well in this competition.  

Unfortunately for me, though, the finale did not deliver in the drama department — on the runway or off. Lifetime promised us a Tim Gunn meltdown in the promos. And come on, if anyone knows meltdowns, it’s Lifetime. But said meltdown was basically Tim telling the designers to hurry up. I was waiting for an Irina/Althea catfight, especially when their makeup looks were eerily similar, but it never came. In fact, the most dramatic moments were provided by Carol Hannah throwing up.

The Bryant Park show lacked drama, as well. Remember the showstopping fashions of Kenley or Kara Saun? Or when Jay sent all his models down the runway wearing headphones? In those seasons, the finale was a real show, in every sense of the word. 

The looks were dramatic and the fashion “stories” were obvious. Everything tied together to make an entertaining presentation, from the clothes down to the music. Not so this time around.

Over the course of a TV week, Irina’s collection somehow morphed from a Coney Island-inspired line into some sort of dissertation on “what it takes to survive in the city as a woman.” Interestingly enough, though, I did not see anything that Mariska Hargitay would wear on “Law & Order: SVU.” Apparently, surviving in the city as a woman involves wearing lots of black and some felt helmets.

Althea, often the subject of Irina’s icy glares, presented a collection inspired by sci-fi movies of the ’50s and ’60s and the future. At least, that’s what she claimed. Now, I am no Anna Wintour, but I missed the connection between science fiction and chunky sweaters. Sometimes I feel that the designers throw out interesting-sounding concepts just to make it look like their collections have “stories.”

Althea did surpass Irina in the color scheme department, though, by incorporating not only black but other inspired hues, like white and gray.  Oh, and don’t forget the always dazzling nude.

Carol Hannah’s collection stood out for me, not only because it used real colors but also because I thought it was the most aesthetically pleasing. She was inspired by gothic architecture and fairy tales, as well as a moonlight walk at Duke University. (Huh?)

Still, as much as I liked it (or didn’t mind it, I should say), it wasn’t cohesive and the judges called her out on that.  (Speaking of judges, what was up with Suzy Menkes’ hair? Get her to the Garnier Hair Studio stat!)

In the end, the judges thought that Irina “made it work” the best. and she was the recipient of $100,000, a fashion spread in Marie Claire and a trip to Paris. The only explanation that I can come up with is that Nina Garcia sees herself in Irina’s cold demeanor and that maybe the tanning bed has fried Michael Kors’ brain.

What did you think of this season? Will you be tuning in for the new season in January?