There was no elimination last week and so it was four designers — Kelly Dempsey, Candice Cuoco, Edmond Newton and Ashley Nell Tipton — who sent collections down the runway at New York Fashion Week. Kelly's work, which featured Spandex, bedazzled wedges and fanny packs, was described by Zac Posen as "a little flashy, a little trashy." Edmond's line was exclusively dresses, but the judges felt it lacked cohesion and didn't represent the designer they'd seen all season. Candice's looks were leather and costume-y, and her collection also didn't feel complete to the judges. Ashley's collection was edited based on the critique from last week's episode and, although the judges still had some critiques (she took shortcuts, Zac wasn't so into the romper), the judges loved it and named her the winner of Project Runway.
Ashley's fans have been rabidly loyal all season, so they were predictably thrilled to see her take the prize and excited about what it meant to have a plus-size designer win with a plus-size collection.
I am so happy Ashley won Project Runway! My fave the entire season! Now to score one of those flower crowns..— Ruth Beck (@ruderuthie) November 6, 2015
She gets having big boobs and a big ass. She will become to voice we need so places can bring in plus size clothes for women. #ProjectRunway— 제시카 (@Planet_Rose8187) November 6, 2015
I'm sooooo happy @byashley_nell won! The only plus size designer EVER on Project Runway & YOU WON! I'm elated! Congrats to you!— Juiice ☺️ (@iamNiish) November 6, 2015
A girl who makes plus size clothes for plus size girls & is a plus size girl herself won Project Runway. History has been made. Fuck yeah.— alexis (@lenahallyall) November 6, 2015
There were, of course, the detractors. There were those who thought Ashley's designs were terrible (including other plus-size women) and that she won because the judges were trying to be "politically correct."
I feel like once Ashley got the opportunity to design for plus size women she didn't. That collection wasn't innovative #ProjectRunway— lil ghetto dove. (@gotMoooooook) November 6, 2015
Kelli had the better collection. I'm a plus size woman, and I would never wear such unflattering outfits. #ProjectRunway— Allison Tidwell (@ivyzpoizon) November 6, 2015
@ProjectRunway - so disrespectful to the designers just because it "seemed" like a good 'story' to have a plus size collection winner.— Eliane Pereira (@Lilica_tweets) November 6, 2015
Both Kelly and Ashley were strong in the competition from the beginning, and their styles and collections could not have been more different. It had to have been a hard decision for the judges, but while it was a risk to name a plus-size designer who designs for plus-size women the winner, it was not, as some suggested, a "pity" vote for Ashley. Her models were not exactly plus-size; they just weren't the size of conventional models and her clothes didn't attempt to mask plus-size figures. Folks argued that they wouldn't wear her designs, but let's be real about the wearability of any of the clothes on Project Runway. We might admire it and wish we could afford it, but it's not exactly the kind of thing most of us would wear. Ashley's collection ranged from casual to more couture and also included styles that some labeled as "matronly," which probably means that they didn't attempt to make a size 20 body appear like a size 2 body. The looks were diverse, risky and deserving of the top spot.
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