As of this writing, four designers remain on the Project Runway Season 8 chopping block: Mondo Guerra, Michael Costello, Gretchen Jones, and Andy South. After the events of last week’s episode—when post-nasal gloomy-Gus April Johnson and her pathologically asymmetrical gothwear were sent packing—Runway shifts into full Fashion Week mode, with each hopeful preparing rack after rack of conceptual frocks that most viewers will never be able to afford, and three ascending to the Bryant Park finale. My prediction, and fear? That Jones won’t make the penultimate cut, and that even if she somehow does, we’ll be stuck with what might be the most personality-deficient, conflict-free final three in Project Runway history.
I know, I know: fashion is all about the clothes, the styling, the attitude. And Guerra, South, Jones, and Costello—each with two challenge wins apiece, except for Guerra, who won three—are all promising (if not universally versatile or consistent) young designers.
Guerra and South are the clear favorites. Guerra’s work with loud patterns is nothing short of stunning; the vibrant yellow, pink, and purple plus-sign print he devised—the one inspired by his HIV-positive status—still burns in memory when I close my eyes. (His work reminds me, somewhat, of Runway Season 7 winner Seth Aaron Henderson‘s flamboyant court-jester punker ensembles.) The following descriptors all apply to South‘s warrior-woman wear: “sleek,” “modern,” “inventive,” “elegant,” and “subtly Asian goth”; on some level, he seems to be a student of the Christian Soriano/Irina Shabayeva school of matte-black, nightmare 1980s cocaine-chic-cosmopolitan fashion.
Jones and Costello are the wild cards. Early in the season, when Jones won two challenges in a row, she fancied herself a sort of associate Tim Gunn, and couldn’t rub enough Ben Gay on her head to get the swelling down, this solipsistic Eleanor Friedberger clone looked like a horse to bet on. Since then, though, her perpetual parade of separates has descended into a wormhole of hippie/gypsy/Talbots Jr. variations. The embattled Costello blew the judges away in the round that felled Johnson with a black, Statue of Liberty-inspired dress that presented as deceptively simple but praised for its sexiness and elegance. What’s weird about Costello is that he makes the kind of dresses that immediately fade from memory once they’re whisked offstage; he’s almost this season’s Christopher Straub.
In other words, the Season 8 collections—conceived and created outside of the Project Runway pressure-cooker—will probably be amazing or at least interesting to behold, to eye-fondle; the problem is that as people, the favorites are television kryptonite. Stiff, gnome-like Guerra mumbles everything—expressions of frustration, happiness and indifference—in an empty, lifeless monotone; he never seems to be having any fun. South’s problem isn’t so much a lack of personality as a lack of presence; he projects this sort of laidback-pro-surfer élan, often threatening to disappear into whatever background he’s situated near. Throwing the ingratiating Costello into the final-three mix will suck the life out of the finale; he and the frontrunners get along fairly well and seem to respect one another, which augurs well for situations in which teamwork and cooperation are key but not for the couture ninja showdowns that we’ve come to expect from Project Runway finales.
Throwing the two-faced Jones into the mix may cause a few sparks, but I doubt it’d be a clash for the ages. We Project Runway trannies? We want outsized personalities. We want drama. We want bluster, backbiting, fireworks, severe fabrics; we want amiable Seth Aaron facing down ego-gigantism suffering Emilio, savant-esque Christian vs. cartoon costumer Chris March, bitchy Jeffery Sebelia facing off against pregnant, proper Laura Bennett. And regardless of which three finalists get to send their collections down Bryant Park runways, we’re unlikely to get anything quite that exciting.