No, it wasn't a surprise when Belarus native, Dmitry Sholokhov won Season 10 of "Project Runway." The 33-year-old former ballroom dancer delivered top rated designs week after week, featuring his signature structured, architecturally inspired, and impeccably tailored creations. Frankly, it would have been a shock if he hadn't won.
What made the finale so compelling was the remarkably strong performance of the three runners-up. As delightful as it was watching Dmitry's body-conscious geometric cut out dress and swingy fringe numbers come gliding down the runway, we already knew we were going to see those, didn't we?
It was Fabio Costa's flowing layers of beachy, pastels (paired with unlikely chunky short boots) and Christopher Palu's cool but creepy print of his mother's x-ray that fascinated viewers. The competition was tight - and the runway shows as a whole were the strongest to date for the mother of all fashion reality shows.
Fueling the increased sophistication and polish of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week production were key changes in the show's format. Gone were the frantic and frankly cruel "final challenges" that have distracted and frustrated past finalists. Instead of spending their last two days before the big runway show frantically throwing together a bridesmaid's dress to match the wedding dress they previously designed, this year's contenders were free to focus on internalizing the judges' critiques of their preview show and tweaking their collections.
It worked. We actually got to see what these designers could produce with the right professional support from their hair and makeup teams and their mentors. The result was an impressive finale replete with all the drama we have grown accustomed to. Let's face it, trying to make a ten look collection more sophisticated, colorful or youthful in only two days introduces plenty of stress - no final challenge needed.
When Nina Garcia advised Fabio to make his carefree, ice cream hued looks "more rich," the situation seemed hopeless. After all it's light weight beach wear. How expensive can it be made to look? But that's the difference between real designers and arm chair fashionistas. A pro can amp it up in short order, and Fabio delivered in spades, adding pieces with unexpected shapes in richer fabrics, and classing up the styling.
Melissa Fleis addressed the judges' complaint about her all black and white collection by making a new dress in a bright red leather - which she dubbed "blood orange" - for the finale. This season's "cool girl" stuck with a successful design from earlier in the competition, featuring a high neck line and form hugging silhouette. The dress was a favorite of guest judge Jennifer Hudson.
Christopher also won points from the judges for his use of print and a technique he invented for spattering leather with bleach. He delivered some beautiful finisher pieces in a rich royal blue and a stunner of a leather jacket that was artfully constructed from smaller swatches of material.
With Season 10 concluded the producers of "Project Runway" aren't taking any chances on losing their audience to the likes of copy cats like "The Fashion Show" or "Fashion Star." "Project Runway All Stars" takes over the time slot next Thursday without a pause to so much as congratulate the new champion. Many of our favorite designers from past seasons will be there, along with some we love to hate. See you there fashion junkies.
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