And just like that, our winning streak is over: Yesterday we predicted Mondo — sweet, colorful Mondo — would prevail at the end of the Project Runway finale, but instead Gretchen took home the big prize (despite those horribly depressing hot pants, the likes of which you'd see under Miss Hannigan's pinafore on laundry day). Of course, to prevail, she had to get through perhaps the lengthiest and most contentious judging in the series' history, complete with Michael Kors's voice reaching dog-whistle levels. Join us as we rehash the ins and outs of what is already — at least according to Twitter, surely an unimpeachable source of public opinion — a controversial finale.
Jessica: So, that happened. Have we ever seen such a long, impassioned debate between judges on this show?
Heather: It was fascinating. But when it was Nina and Michael on one side and Jessica Simpson and Heidi on the other, I figured that was the end for Mondo. Especially because the more J.Simp said she'd wear his clothes, the more Nina and Michael's faces said, "And that is a huge strike against him."
Jessica: When the people arguing your case are Heidi Klum and Jessica Simpson ... you are in the weeds.
Heather: The thing is, I think Simpson and Heidi were both absolutely right. In general we're always told that the fashion show is the aspirational vision, and that it's toned down for ready-to-wear. And then Michael and Nina seemed to punish Mondo for that. If you don't like his vision that's one thing, but they were mostly berating him for not being able to wear it right off the catwalk.
Jessica: Yeah, to be honest with you, I don't really understand what Michael and Nina's respective problems are. Kors, in particular, got downright shrill arguing on Gretchen's behalf. Their impassioned defense of what Nina has always — even just last week — claimed are "clothes" rather than "fashion" really took me by surprise.
Heather: I genuinely think it was a case of them becoming more defensive of Gretchen the more Heidi and Jessica advocated for Mondo — like how you might mildly lean in one direction and then when the other side of the debate gets impassioned, it pushes you further the opposite way.
Jessica: When they said Mondo's collection was like a cousin to Seth Aaron's, I began to wonder if they were going to decide they couldn't reward similar aesthetics back-to-back. I disagree that they're similar, other than use of plaid, but as soon as someone brought up "Seth Aaron," I suspected Mondo was in serious trouble.
Heather: I'd argue that Seth Aaron's was a lesser cousin to Jeffrey Sebelia's, and that didn't stop them, although those men were seasons apart. But still.
Jessica: Honestly, I feel kind of bad for Mondo and Gretchen — Mondo because he lost, and Gretchen because I think a lot of people, including us, are going to take issue with this win.
Heather: There was no forward thinking in her line, except in the sense that it was thinking itself forward to the nearest Chico's. Nina often dings people for making what's hot now and not looking ahead, and then tonight she lauded Gretchen for making what's hot now.
Jessica: Although, giving credit where credit is due, I do think Gretchen's accessories were good. I just don't think the rest was all that special.
Heather: And I'll advocate for her, in the sense that I do think this wasn't Mondo's best work, and I agree with Nina and Michael that making clothes that look easy is not easy, and Gretchen has a real adeptness with that. However, the fact that nobody gave her hell for those awful gray hot pants ... I wonder if they had to cut that out, because they're totally inexcusable.
Jessica: I also find it kind of incredible that Nina Garcia, of all people, was arguing that Gretchen should win because her stuff will really appeal to department stores. There's nothing wrong with being appealing to department stores, of course, but it seems like such a lukewarm — almost backhanded — endorsement. When has Nina ever worried about the plight of the buyer?
Heather: When the buyer is feeling bloated and needs a blouson shirt.
Jessica: Maybe it was because Nina felt that in her third trimester she might need some stylish granny panties.
Heather: Seriously, couldn't Simpson have said she'd wear those? That would've sent everyone running to Team Mondo in a snap. But I totally agree — I will give Gretchen credit for what she does well, but the arguments made in her favor and against Mondo were out of character and a little unfair.
Jessica: And totally contrary to what the judges had been saying all season long!
Heather: The outcome was, in a way, fitting for the whole season — there were times when I was certain somebody had been hitting the crack pipe vis-è-vis what they liked and didn't like. Beginning with Gretchen's jumpsuit in week two.
Jessica: I think even the contestants said that during the reunion segment. Not in those words, but the emotion was the same. Namely, "WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING?"
Heather: As a season, though, I think it was a success. Runway might take some lumps for this resolution, simply because of Mondo's popularity and sympathetic story, but the leap to 90-minute episodes was shockingly effective. Other than tonight's padded two hours, it was time well used, certainly during judging but especially in the backstage conversations. And for the most part they had decent judges. I will say that as strange a choice as Jessica Simpson is, she brought up a lot of good points — I liked that she wondered if they scared Andy away from the warrior aesthetic entirely, which is exactly what I think happened and it was shrewd of her to pick up on that. And she totally stood her ground in cheering for Mondo.
Jessica: I also thought her comment to Gretchen that Ashlee [Simpson-Wentz] will wear her line was surprisingly astute. I think Simpson is a weird choice because she herself is not particularly well turned-out of late — including, I have to say, on this particular episode — but, love her or loathe her, her own line of shoes and whatnot does incredibly well, so it's not completely beyond the realm of possibility that she knows more than you might anticipate.
Heather: I just hope she knows enough not to wear Mondo's bubble dress. EVER. I know she said she wanted to, but honey, that is a bad idea, especially when Heidi Klum is saying she'll wear it with you to the same party. ABORT. I am rooting for that kid, but dress the body you have.
Jessica: As far as that goes ... history is not on her side.
Heather: Eyesight is not on her side, either. Oddly, this finale often causes us to dream up random new shows or Lifetime movies, and I think for this season, it's Get-A-Grip Friend, in which someone like Tim Gunn goes to people's houses and put his hands on their shoulders and says, "GIRL, NO," and refuses to let them out until they see reason.
Jessica: Jessica Simpson can play herself.
Heather: She might be in every episode. Lord knows that child needs a weekly dose of rationality. And mirror time.
Jessica: Well, then now maybe at least something good will come out of this finale.
Heather: You know, they said they wished they could have two winners. Maybe this was their compromise: Mondo is so beloved that he might not need the help, and Gretchen will get the leg up she felt she needed.
Jessica: Let's just make the executive decision that that's exactly how this will all play out.
Heather: And people think we don't have a heart.
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