This season’s Project Runway has been full of characters, surprises and disappointments, and on Thursday night, it all came to an end when the four designers showcased their full collections at New York Fashion Week and the winner was announced.
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.
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.”
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.