TV Review: Project Runway, Sky One, Wednesday 1 August, 8pm

I can get a little sleepy at times and that’s when I know to go have a nice nap. Not so on Project Runway. It was Red Bull and espressos all the way for the last three contestants, as they fought off their tiredness, as well as each other, in the show’s grand finale. The wannabe fashion designers each had to present a collection of 13 outfits, originally only 12, until that minx Heidi Klum told them to whip up another outfit with mere days to go, with the success or failure of these garments determining who would walk away with the big prizes.

These big prizes included the chance to show at New York fashion week, a fashion spread in Elle magazine, a mentorship at Banana Republic, $100, 000 to launch your own range, a one-year contract with Designers Management Agency and a Saturn Sky Roadster car – not to be sniffed at.

In the first part of the final aired last week, the remaining three contestants, Santino Rice, Chloe Dao and Daniel Vosovic were each given an extra pair of hands in the form of a former contestant. With these new recruits, the trio looked to create the 13th outfit while finishing off the other 12. Daniel barely slept during the last few days leading up to the runway, saying he had rested for four hours in as many days. Chloe and Santino were equally stressed and anxious, and it was through the help of their assistants that they managed to keep going.

And so the time had finally come. The hopeful few gathered up their collections and arrived at the catwalk ready to get going. Backstage Daniel couldn’t locate some handbags and purses he had made to exhibit, and was frantically searching for them. Mentor Tim Gunn, never a fan of the bags, suggested that maybe their loss wasn’t such a bad thing, but having put in the time to design and make them, Daniel wasn’t surrendering so meekly. At the last minute the bags were located and Daniel’s jitters were over. Not so for Chloe. She was unhappy with what the hair and make-up stylists had done to her models and re-educated them on the look she desired. Feeling slightly self-conscious at being bossy, Chloe kept her focus – this was her chance to shine and she wasn’t going to compromise this for some hurt feelings.

The seats soon began to fill up and we were gradually introduced to each of the contestant’s familys in attendance. Santino hadn’t been able to see his mother in years, and so her being at the event was particularly significant for both of them. Heidi took to the stage and introduced her fellow judges to the excited audience. In addition to mainstays, designer Michael Kors and Elle magazine fashion director Nina Garcia, was Will and Grace actress Debra Messing to assess who should win the coveted prizes.

Daniel’s collection was first and his theme was that of Japan infused with the military (?) Japan, as he was a well-travelled guy and wanted to inject some multi-culturalism into his work, and the military theme as a response to the world’s conflicts. Neither theme was very evident in the clothes, though he did display an impressive array of styles and garments. Daniel was strong in all areas – trousers, skirts, tops, dresses and his collection was feminine and sexy, but sporty and under-stated.

Chloe was to follow, and I had high hopes for her collection. I had been a big fan of Chloe’s simple but elegant work throughout the competition and was intrigued at what she would do with a whole collection. I wasn’t disapppointed. The clothes were bright and beautiful – very refined and sophisticated with originality and heaps of personality. A consistency remained throughout the styles adding a cohesiveness to the collection, with the 13 outfits broken up into colour determined sub-categories. There were the green/pink clothes, the blues and the brown/ golds. She had chosen to focus on evening wear and so there was a smart quality to the clothes, with dresses very much in the majority.

Santino concluded the show and yet this was not the Santino from previous challenges. Where once he had over-designed, making his garments busy, fussy and impractical, he had clearly listened to the comments of the judges and sought to tone things down. His collection was inspired by ‘40s Hollywood, boudoir pictures and the glamour of a bygone era. His very unique and elaborate sense of style shone through in the odd piece, but overall it was quite a tame affair, and not what anyone had expected.

With the collections viewed and assessed, the four judges privately discussed their take on what they had just witnessed. Debra Messing was quiet and softly spoken, though had a definite sense of style and knew what she liked. Nina Garcia expressed surprise at the subdued quality of Santino’s work and feared that the judges’ previous comments had made him forget his flamboyant style and play it safe.

Daniel, Chloe and Santino were called back to the runway, and stood in line in front of the firing squad of judges that were preparing to dash the hopes of two and fulfil the fantasies of another. The judges quizzed each of the three finalists on what they had hoped to achieve, how successful they thought they had been and interestingly, what one individual quality they considered their unique selling point. When posed with this question, Santino whaffled on about his true appreciation of beauty. At this Daniel rolled his eyes and Chloe surpressed a rue smile. Chloe was far more succinct in her appraisal and promoted her commercialism and acute business sense as her winning attributes, while Daniel discussed his viewpoint and desire to learn.

Listening keenly to these responses, the judges picked their choice for the third spot and Heidi informed Santino that he was now out of the running. This had been due to his having been too conservative with his choices, not fully displaying the verve and character that had earned him his spot in the final. In addition, his clothes had not fitted his models very well and when evident in tops and dresses, was told that this shortcoming can ruin the whole look of an outfit. Heidi gave him her customary “auf wiedersehn”, though Nina was keen to encourage him to stay in fashion.

With Santino having exited the stage, that left only two. As friends throughout the competition, Daniel and Chloe hugged as they nervously awaited their verdict. Finally Heidi announced that Chloe had won Project Runway and the diminutive designer stood shocked at the news. Chloe’s appreciation of how to properly clothe women, her original and unconventional seams and her consistent sense of theme throughout her collection were hailed as her winning virtues. She needed to learn how to put on a show, but this small criticism had been heavily outweighed by her many positives.

Daniel was a gracious loser, congratulating and embracing Chloe, and was told by Michael Kors that if ever he needed a job, to give him a call. Daniel was pleased at this news and was applauded for the variety of his work and range of talents.

It was smiles all round as Chloe began to appreciate both how far she had come and what amazing opportunities stood ahead for her. Not to mention some serious dough and a new car – well done Chloe!