Project Runway Season 11 - Finale (ep. 14)

This is the moment for the designers to shine! They will be showing their work on the runway soon and I think Michelle is the most transformed of all.  She shares, "I've worked hard before for other people, but I've never worked hard for myself and my vision and it's a totally different experience...I really can do anything I set my mind to.  I can really tackle every mountain that lies ahead of me." Their assistants are there to support them both technically and emotionally through this pressure cooker time.

Tim Gunn meets them in the studio, let's them know they will have until 11 p.m. that night to work and then shares a great surprise - they are given 30 minutes to sketch and $500 to shop at Mood Fabrics. This gives them an opportunity to respond to the judges comments by creating something new. Michelle took out a coat I really liked and added a bright yellow top that didn't draw me.  It had a deep neckline with a square edge to the bottom I find odd, but the judges ended up liking it so kudos for trusting her instincts. Patricia decided to make several new pieces which has Layanna worried as there was way too much to finish already. Stanley keeps saying he only has trims and alterations to do, but that's not the truth. He is absolutely buried under the mountain of things that need to be done. It has everybody worried.  Guest judge this week is Michael Kors.

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Michelle (still working with Amanda) - "I have a 33.3333333% chance of winning this.  It would mean everything. It's been a really long hard journey. I think going through these trials helped me find my voice and I have a hell of a lot of conviction."

Stanley (still working with Richard) - "I've never been in the bottom before. That was a huge wake-up call.  All the work I've put in just to get to this place, it makes you really hungry to win."

Patricia (still working with Layana) - "I'm under the gun because I have to make my collection cohesive. I know I take big risks when presenting myself, but I have to keep doing what I believe in. I feel like this is my voice talking to the world."

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Tim gives them each a last critique - Michelle's was pretty positive, but he felt Stanley's stuff looked like it was from a vintage shop - he needed to modernize it a bit.  Stanley didn't listen and decided instead it was a compliment. For Patricia, he noted a serious lack of cohesion she needed to deal with. Through this time Michelle was the only one that was on track and excited. She might have been way behind when Tim came to visit her in Portland, but she came to New York with the collection ready. She spent time supporting the others by delivering coffee and words of encouragement. While both Stanley and Patricia were behind, Stanley was actually constructing the garments on the models at fitting and still cutting new ones after they left. The tough day had a bright moment when family members came into the studio to offer their love and encouragement.

The day of the show arrives. I love Tim's tears as he shares, "I want you to have this unconditional confidence and high-spiritedness about what you've achieved because I'm so proud of you guys.  I've never been confronted with a season with such extraordinary qualities of character. Someone is going to win and as far as I am concerned it could be any of you. I love you all."  Michelle is packed, calm and excited. It's no surprise she is the only one in that head space as she was best prepared from the moment she arrived. She wants to win, but keeps her generous attitude and chooses to help the others - even offering Stanley four of her backstage workers to sew his unfinished garments. When Tim finally realizes the state Stanley's collection is in backstage at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week he is shocked and not amused. Heidi Klum steps out for a brief chat and then the show begins!

And the winner is MICHELLE!  I have been rooting for her all season and could not have been happier. I wondered how the judges would respond to some of her details such as the sweater with the heart dripping blood, but they embraced her unique collection that exuded who she was as a designer. Michelle brought her joy in her work instead of ego and jealousy to the final show - a wonderful change from previous bitchy seasons. I wish her all the best and hope to one day own a piece of her work.  Judges comments include - great story, phenomenal opening dress, consistent silhouettes, lots of standout pieces, I know who you are, you applied one message on the runway, smart as she styled and layered to make sense, real clothing with a real fashion show and modern, confident and personal. The surprise for me was that Nina Garcia loved the bleeding heart sweater and wanted one.  I bet it comes in the mail shortly.  

Patricia took second place this season. I still struggle with the unifying theme of this collection. There seems to be at least 2 distinct threads, but I cannot help but enjoy her very original point of view and the amount of hand work that went into each garment. Every sequins, every wig, every piece of jewellery, every bit of fringe was created by hand. She even mixed her own chemicals. Judges comments were mixed and include - love you took the craftiness that obviously comes 2nd nature to you and put it into some clothes that could work in the city, I enjoy the difference in your clothes. I love that you make your fabric, Techno Powwow, love it and remembered it, some didn't feel fresh, I like when you take it in a more abstract and edgy space, some were very strong but some had a disconnection with styling, you have to make it more understandable. the artistry is spectacular, new and different, outside the box pure, I don't understand who the customer is and you marched to the beat of your own drummer.

I think Stanley was truly shocked to be the first one sent off the runway as he had been a front runner all season, but it was well deserved. He arrived in NYC too far behind and then didn't work with the critiques. One of the things Nina stressed the most was the need too modernize it - in particular to split up the jeweled top and skirt (2nd row on the left) - by shortening the skirt and pairing the jewelled separates with other pieces. This would take advantage of their beauty, but make them more young and hip. Nina noted her surprise that they were still together on the runway - not good. Stanley also ignored Tim's warning that it was too vintage shop. I also found the gold dress a total yuck. Imagine my surprise to discover the judges actually liked it - especially Michael Kors. Judges comments include - Betty White on Dancing With the Stars, the beading is effective but the mix of materials felt dated, I like that you shortened things, old ladies gown is the weakest of all the looks, should have put the beaded top with black pants, some are phenomenal but you need to bring them to the 21st century. not very exciting, old styled, the mother of the bride, if it had been wild colours it might have worked and some special pieces.

I wanted to share this one last picture for a reason. The local fashion schools seem to be removing illustration from their programs in favour of more technical drawing. I think it's a very short sighted decision driven by the local fashion market. According to experienced industry professional I spoke to, to work internationally, be respected and be the best you can be, the ability to create the mood and look of the garment in an illustration is an important skill. I can understand where Michelle is going just by looking at these images.  Hopefully more research will go into what this decision means in the long run to the students going through their programs now.

To see any of the runway looks in larger format, go to RATE THE RUNWAY.