Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn’s Project Runway wrapped up its twelfth season last Thursday, announcing Dom Streater as the final winner. The show, now nine years old, has hosted and celebrated designers in all different shapes and sizes – and each one has a strong personality to match their unique point of view. Despite any dramatic flaws that come to a head during the stressful competition, many of the designers also have very admirable traits, such as determination and endurance. Most of us aren’t fashion designers, but there are still a few surprising life lessons we can learn from the reality show Project Runway.
The drama queen never prospers– This season had a few “drama queens,” but Sandro and Ken took the cake. Of course, many of the designers get frustrated with each other, and all are encouraged to dish on each other for the camera. Yelling, swearing, and hurt feelings are common. Dramatic outbursts and temper tantrums? Not so much. In episode 4, Sandro became so frustrated with his “safe” position and lack of critique that he stormed out of the set and punched his camera. He was not up for elimination in that round, but was automatically kicked off because of his violence.
Later in the season, Ken threw a tantrum of his own, including a yelling match with the generally off-screen Project Runway talent manager. He was not eliminated because of his anger management issues, though it was enough of a problem that Ken was given special living arrangements and Tim Gunn arranged a powwow with all of the designers to resolve the issue.
The moral of the story – the drama queen has yet to last very long in any season of Project Runway. Temper tantrums may not get you eliminated, but they certainly reveal some deeper personal issues that might be holding the designer back.
Is this the hill you want to die on? – The fashion industry is often liberal-minded by nature, and Project Runway has shown designers with various political and spiritual belief systems. Timothy was this season’s activist, making a few waves with his passion for “sustainable” fashion. In the first episode, he abstained from makeup and almost any hairstyling on his model because they were not allegedly environmentally friendly (the makeup consultant later did some research and found out that the products were, in fact, up to Timothy’s standards, so Timothy used them in the next episode). He also never used a sewing machine because it ran on electricity. Instead of shopping for new fabric at Mood, he would dig through the store’s garbage to find scraps. Timothy’s approach was interesting, but it never translated well to his final product. His dresses were odd and simple; his fabric choices were ugly and low-quality. Although the judges respected his environmental commitments, he did not have the talent to pull off that kind of activism. He was eventually eliminated because he sacrificed the quality of his garments.
Great ideas can be crappy final products– Designer Justin did not start out strong, but Tim Gunn saw potential in him and saved him from elimination. The judges were not a fan of the unique glue gun materials on his garment. Nina Garcia said it looked like “a foaming vagina.” The idea was creative and original, but clearly it did not work in the final product. However, the judges loved his last “unconventional materials” challenge garment, which was made out of scientific test tubes.
Listen to advice from experts – Frequently, designers in the show are faced with the choice of either following the advice from the experts or forging their own path. Sometimes the judges are impressed by their creativity and moxy; other times, it’s a flop. Designer Jeremy had this problem. Consistently, his garments looked outdated. One judge proclaimed his final outfit to be too “soccer mom.” Jeremy tried to improve after this first critique, but just couldn’t figure it out.
Whatever you do – don’t try to bring back the ‘90s! – Designer Helen started out rough, but was a strong competitor throughout most of the season. In the finale part I, Helen was given a chance to compete with two other designers for a spot at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week runway show. The remaining designers – Helen, Justin, Dom, Alexandria, and Bradon – were all sent home with six weeks to complete a full collection (about 10 outfits). Dom and Bradon were guaranteed spots while the other designers had to prove themselves. When they returned to New York City, Helen’s collection did not make the cut. Justin, Dom, Alexandria, and Bradon all went on to compete in the last episode.
Helen’s final looks were just weird. This isn’t enough to eliminate a designer, though, as many different pieces displayed on the show have been bizarre. However, it just didn’t work for the judges. It definitely didn’t work for me. All of it was far too ‘90s, but not even the good part of ‘90s fashion. Helen’s creativity was impractical, not flattering, and kind of just an eye sore.
So that wraps up Project Runway season 12! Overall, it was a great season. There were endearing designers, gorgeous outfits, and lots of juicy drama. What more could you ask for in a reality show revolving around fashion?
What was your favorite part of season 12? And did you learn any surprising life lessons?