November 20th, 2009
05:36 PM ET

The ‘Runway’ of our (Life)time comes to an end

Here’s the thing about “Project Runway”: yes, we watch for the drama brought by the designers, but we also watch it to witness the talents of the undiscovered.

There’s no better mix of those two elements than the final episode of every season, when there’s nothing left to do but show and prove. I wasn’t at all surprised that the final three came down to Carol Hannah, Althea and “Meana Irina,” who, despite her attitude problem, can design her butt off.

Full disclosure: I started slacking on my “Runway” devotion about halfway through this season. I became one of those fans who blamed everything on the show’s move to Lifetime: this season’s lack of bite and wit “never would’ve happened on Bravo,” I said.

But last night, I realized how shortsighted I’d been. The final episode had everything: tears from a sick but still sewing Carol Hannah; anticipation; the trinity of Nina, Heidi and Kors, plus frenzied pacing as the designers and three resurrected from eliminations – Christopher, Logan and Gordana –whipped up a 13th look for their 12-piece collections at the 11th hour.

And if that wasn’t good enough, we even got a Tim Gunn breakdown! A Tim.Gunn.Breakdown. When the always suave, never flustered one is walking around flailing his arms and yelling threats that “he’s about to lose it,” you know it must’ve been one tense tent.

If you missed last week’s episode: Carol Hannah drew her inspiration from the “ethereal” architecture at Duke U., Althea from retro sci-fi movies and Irina wanted to do her take on the urban woman warrior with an all-black collection – which Nina explicitly told her not to do. Yeah, she did it anyway. And it kinda rocked.

See, Irina’s like the girl from high school whose meanness was really a line of defense – much like the hooded outerwear and knits, black leather and hats that she thought a New York woman needed to battle it out in the Big Apple. It was dark, but cohesive; ready-to-wear, but with sparks of original detail.

Carol Hannah’s was equally impressive in terms of construction and tailoring – just look at the inverted pyramid tutu topped off with body-hugging silk, or her exquisite Grecian gown – but it completely lacked cohesion. I haven’t agreed with the judges on much this season, but I co-signed out loud when they noted Irina was the only who presented an actual collection.

Because, sadly, Althea the suit-maker just didn’t bring it, from her runway day outfit – halter top, leggings, and ankle Uggs? Really? – to her mishmash of “sci-fi” looks. Never mind that none of it actually appeared futuristic or innovative (see: Jay McCarroll, season one, if you need a refresher on what innovation looks like). The judges kept commenting that she was "plugged into the street," and I have no clue what that means other than I don't particularly want to wear it. Yes, she can do separates, but unfortunately, that separated her collection from winning the title.

What did you think of the season finale? Was this season everything that you expected - or wanted - it to be? And more importantly, is there a tiny piece of you that thinks Carol Hannah was robbed?

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soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Betty Boop

    I, too, was very disappointed that the judges chose Irina's ugly collection. Carol Hannah's lines and colors elevate the spirit; isn't that what fashion is all about?

    November 24, 2009 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dinana

    So Irina created a "cohesive" collection...who could have worn it? Who would wear it??? It looked like a line for dominatrix! It was ugly , edgy & dark and so, I suppose, that's why it won. Carol Hannah's collection was wearable...a sure sign that it won't win! Whenever I like a collection, I know it won't win. Hopefully the next season, which will be more real time, will be better!

    November 24, 2009 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  3. TedE

    Loved Carol Hannah's work, but it did not have a solid theme. They like their themes in fashion...and she should have took that more into consideration. Irina's did have a strong point of view, and looked like it had excellent craftsmanship.....but all black...really??? I was hopin' for more from Althea(being an Ohio girl)...but...her line was a little blah. It wasn't bad...but not very exciting.

    AND WHAT WAS UP WITH THE 4th JUDGE?!?!?!!? Really?!?!?! I laughed every time they showed her!!! I'm glad she deals with fashion and not hair!!!

    November 24, 2009 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  4. missbrendee

    I thought Carol Hannah should have won hands down...That girl can create elegance and yet keps her things "wearable" by the masses.

    November 23, 2009 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mary43

    I think that CarolHannah's first piece from her collection was worn by Carrie Underwood when she sang on the AMA's last night. So at least her phone is ringing for orders!!

    November 23, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Deby

    Carol Hannah was definitely robbed, Irina's collection was flat-out hideous and unwearable. Ghastly and ugly. Carol Hannah make gorgeous outfits that I would absolutely love to have.

    November 23, 2009 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Devenite

    Irina's collection was a drag! It was all outerwear, I mean, how many black or grey knit vests, hoodies and coats can you make. Plus, everything with black skinny pants and boots! Lame!

    I thought Carol Hannah's was the best, but hey they didn't ask me to judge.

    Kinda disappointed with this season.

    November 23, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lance

    Sick? Oh please, it was morning sickness from those nights with Logan and everyone knows it.

    But all the clothes, and it's true in the "real world" of fashion, were derivative of past winners. Irina was Christian, Althea was Jeffrey, Carol was Chloe. But the show lacked the overall talent that past seasons, save for the dreadful season two, had, not to mention the drama that we all adored.

    And let's face it, the cards were stacked against any man making it to the finales, how odd especially since it was the first season on Lifetime, "Television for Women". They purposefully picked dreadful, whiny men or stoners.

    And for any of you who think Irina can't design or took the idea of the show too literally, I highly suggest you check out her web site, which I did eons ago, and you'll see how talented she actually is. I especially liked her second F/W collection, but the video for 2010 Spring is just bizarre. Yeah I get the whole butterfly thing, but still it's bizarre.

    November 22, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lisa

    Boring, boring, boring. Carol Hannah was robbed. Irina's collection looked like a bunch of old ladies at a funeral. Althea's was nothing special but better than Irina's.

    November 22, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Crazybaby

    I agree with the majority of reviews, Carol Hannah should have won. Irina's collection was just black along with her personality. But I did love how Irina kept harping on how Althea was copying her, especially the makeup discriptions!! Althea really said what I wanted to say to Irina "Just shut up". I guess that is as much drama they could get out of this season. I did feel bad for Carol Hannah when she was sick. We all can relate with you are so sick that no matter how bad you want to do something you just can't do it. Although I want to know what they gave her for her to feel so much better. I'm guessing B-12 in the butt.

    November 22, 2009 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. Stephy

    I am with all black collection. It looked like "Goth Night" at a club. You couldn't see any of the detail of the outfits on TV. Carol Hannah totally should have won. Have fun shooting the winning looks for you magazine Nina. They will look like big puffy black clouds just like they did on TV. Meana Irina lived up to her name with a morbid collection. Stay strong CH you won in my mind.

    November 21, 2009 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bernardo

    Carol was not robbed at all,Irina was in top form using hats,purses,shoes,etc.Herclothes were perfect,dramatic in excellence.Her show really represented her vision.Irina rocked and won,she deserved it.

    November 21, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Erica

    I adore Carol Hannah, yes. She was ROBBED!

    November 20, 2009 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Christy

    Irina's collection did not translate well on TV. They looked like black blobs with no detail. Maybe she won because Michael, Nina and Heidi and the lady with the curler still in her hair (really, what was up with that?) were up close and could see the details which, as they described them, sounded really cool. I think Carol Hannah's collection, while less cohesive, was beautifully made and you could see the details and beautiful lines. I wasn't disappointed with the outcome but sad that Irina's all black collection was so flat and still won. And I think Carol Hannah and Althea both have a future!

    November 20, 2009 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. aquiredtaste

    Carol Hannah absolutely was robbed!! Her designs used color, were elegant, and were fabulous on television as they would be in print. Irinia's clothes were so dark (except for the knits) that detail was undetectable, the all black collection is ok ( if you're at a Goth show or a Harley collection) but God forbid that the colors for clothing next season are all black. Carol Hannah has the skill of a true coturier. Irina will not be the new Christian Siriano. However, I expect to hear from Carol Hannah.

    November 20, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |

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