It’s probably a good thing for Project Runway that tonight’s season finale comes a full year after the previous season ender, because frankly, viewers needed about that much time to calm down after Gretchen Jones's surprising defeat of Mondo Guerra. Unfortunately, we can’t predict whether it’ll be easier on our blood pressure this time around: This season, we haven't felt inspired by the clothes enough to care if someone loses, but we admit there’s just enough WTF out there that whoever eventually wins could still boil our blood. Per tradition, though, we can try to predict who will emerge victorious by handicapping the four finalists, using what we’ve seen on TV and what came down the New York Fashion Week catwalk. Warning: Spoilers within, so if you didn’t take a sneak peek at the collections when they showed in September, you may want to avoid this until after it’s all over and you can gloat about how wrong we were.
Anya Ayoung-Chee: 5-1. A favorite throughout, Anya’s worst criticisms came at a bad time: In part one of the finale, the judges hated two of the three outfits they saw from her collection, and based on their feedback, she seemed sure to get sent packing. But — surprise! — they gave her a second chance (and extensive notes), and here’s our theory why: The show suffered hugely at the hands of Twitter last season after Gretchen's inexplicable win, so this time Runway needs a happy ending more than ever. Anya was gracious and a team player throughout, but she also has the best story, auditioning for the show without entirely knowing how to sew — which kind of feels like going on Top Model without entirely having a head — and then racking up a bunch of challenge wins. For the needlework novice to claim the whole thing would be the ultimate season-long story arc. Anya can also really take feedback, which the judges always appreciate (if nothing else, it appeals to their egos). Of the three items in her preliminary collection, the judges loved her short print dress, but hated its giant belt; photos from her final show indicate Anya swapped in a skinny brown one. They hated the unflattering, unsexy black bathing suit she'd paired with a flowy caftan, so she scrapped it entirely, and appeared to belt the robe over some shorts. And Anya altogether ditched the gold satin evening gown that looked like an Oscar someone left on their dashboard in 115-degree heat, used messy-glam ponytails instead of updos, and replaced the hated shoes with thong flats. Basically, once she had reworked it, the whole effect added up to the distinct Caribbean chicness the judges had missed. Beginning with that arresting first look, we think they will notice the editing and appreciate that it’s the most polished and consistent collection of the bunch. So the happy ending should also be the right one.
[Side note: For ANTM fans, yes, we think Anya’s sixth outfit is on Leslie from cycle seven, who apparently fixed up that weird broken gait. Looks like everyone can take a note.]
Viktor Luna: 9-1. Viktor is technically talented — his clothes are well-constructed — but his actual design work is often a bit of a snooze. Wearable? Generally. Commercial? Usually. (And, as Michael "Commercially Appealing" Kors is often quick to note, that's not a bad thing.) But it also feels like something we're already seen in Ann Taylor. Which is great if you want to get a job at Ann Taylor, but it might not bring enough oomph to take home the prize tonight. That being said, Viktor got a healthy serving of praise in part one of the finale, and absorbed all the notes he was given, moving his standout white leather jacket from being paired with a gown to being shown with simple pants, and toning down his all-over-the-place accessories. But in the final analysis, his line struck us as trying to be too many things to too many people. For example, he showed a supremely ladylike and constructed top and skirt, and then leather hot pants, which made his collection feel a little bit like Joshua had snuck in and done some work for him in the middle of the night. Which brings us to .
Joshua McKinley: 15-1. If Joshua wins this thing, we are packing up and going home. In fact, we would have ranked him last here, had the judges not tongue-bathed him last week (even if Nina’s “You are ... a great designer” sounded suspiciously sewn together in the edit bay). Keyed by a cool grey jacket he paired with bright pink pants, Joshua did surprisingly well with the judges in the first section of the finale — and therefore, did the least amount of editing, even ignoring several suggestions regarding the styling of his accessories. (He did, however, wisely undo the "Dress in the Front, Jumpsuit in the Back" monstrosity that almost gave Michael Kors an aneurysm, so at least he's smart enough to realize that some concessions must be made, if only in the name of health and safely.) Unfortunately, we don’t think Joshua’s line was particularly cohesive — is the girl who wears this fairly basic striped tee and black pants look the same girl who would wear these insane, lace-up, neon bike shorts? We don't think so — unless she herself had the aforesaid aneurysm. We also don't know if Nina Garcia genuinely could stomach giving the win to someone who expects a modern woman to wear insane lace-up, neon bike shorts. Joshua is entertaining television, certainly, and he can sew — as he has noted time and again, he is a better technician than Anya, although, we'd like to point out, not a better one than Viktor — but to quote Tim Gunn, we have some concerns about his taste level.
Kimberly Goldson: 20-1. Our first reaction to this collection was, “Wow shiny.” Our second was: It’s a bad sign when the outfit the designer herself wears down the runway is cuter than most of what she sent out beforehand. In fact, we suspect she only stuck around this long because the judges couldn’t bear to cut Anya, but couldn’t justify keeping her over Kimberly based solely on what they saw in part one. They did hate the hot-pink bubble skirt she showed them, and while we can’t tell if she decreased the swelling on the final runway, she did pair it with the ivory jacket that hadn’t fit properly in time for the panel preview. She also, per their recommendation, swapped out the matchy blue shoes that capped this look in favor of something black instead. But although Kimberly's collection had a nice relaxed vibe with a couple sufficiently cute pieces (this blue dress is appealing, and the effect of this top is interesting — and yes, THAT is ANTM’s cycle twelve champ Teyona, which goes to show how little separates a winner on that show from a near-forgotten also-ran) it also looked totally ordinary, as if it she picked brightness over brilliance. And there is no excuse for these hideous pink floods with that matronly top. That’s not youthfully funky; that’s what you’d bury your grandmother in if you sort of hated her and wanted to give her cankles for all eternity. We had higher hopes for Kimberly — and we suspected the judges did, too. (For more from the Fug Girls, visit GoFugYourself.com)