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The Project Runway Finale Is Tonight! What You Need To Catch Up

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Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

After ten seasons of Project Runway and two of Project Runway All Stars, the producers decided to shake things up a bit this year and make some changes to Project Runway Season 11. Fortunately, although these changes did lead to some controversies, none created the problems of the show's Season Six move to Los Angeles. As we head into tonight's finale, let's examine what did and didn't work: the teams, new judge Zac Posen, the international trips, Michelle's do-over, and Heidi's inexplicable Patricia Love.

An unhappy team
Did the teams work?
This season the designers were forced to work on teams for each challenge. It actually played out better than we expected—although the designers all made it obvious that they would have preferred to be working solo.

In the early weeks, when they were divided into two large teams, individual designers had to be really good, really bad, or really annoying to stand out. Once the number of designers got winnowed down and they began working in teams of two or three, things got more interesting. We got to see their strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of their colleagues, and also how they inspired or hindered each other. Generally if a designer was teamed with Michelle, it probably raised their game. But if they ended up with Richard, it was often an express ticket to the bottom three. While we suspect that the producers set up the teams configuration to create more conflicts, learning how the designers collaborated often made their creative processes more interesting to watch.

Thumbs up, Zac

How did Zac Posen do as judge?
As the season premiere illustrated, while Zac doesn't have the rapier wit or orange complexion of Michael Kors, he made a decent judge. Throughout the season he continued to give smart advice, was respectful to the contestants, and never tried too hard to be a larger than life personality. Also, he is adorable. We hope Zac comes back next year, and is given a chance to show the designers and viewers more on the intricate construction in his own gowns.

Ed Note: If you're jonesing for Michael Kors, you'll get a dose of him as the guest judge in tonight's finale.

Daniel and his Berlin-inspired design

Why didn't they send any of the designers to Italy?
While Project Runway and All Stars designers have visited Paris in past seasons, the show has never sent each of the designers to different foreign cities before. And while we enjoyed getting quick peeks at the designers cavorting around London, Paris, Barcelona and Berlin, we've got to ask, why not Milan? We've heard there might be an influential designer or two there. (Japan, admittedly, was probably too long a plane flight).

Michelle's do-over

Should Michelle have gotten that second chance do-over?
No and yes. No, it wasn't fair, and if we were Layana we'd whine bitterly about it for the rest of our lives—as she is likely to do. But as viewers, we were glad to get a chance to see more of Michelle's work. Her garments tended to be stylish and creative—even her losing design wasn't bad (she just didn't follow the challenge's instructions). (Sidenote: For the record, we were not down with Michelle being so ungrateful after she got her second chance. She kept pouting that she didn't get a trip to Europe like the other finalists.)

All that said, we're particularly glad Michelle's making it to the finale. Back when we attended the live Project Runway Fashion Week show back in February, the audience was not informed which of the eight collections (three finalists, and five decoys) were created by which designers. After last week's home visits, we now know which collection was Michelle's —and it was our favorite, by far.


What does Heidi see in Patricia?
From week one, Heidi Klum has been in love with Patricia's work. She insisted that her designs were visionary and fresh. Nina Garcia, however, didn't seem to get it, and neither do we. From our television vantage point, Patricia's designs seemed more like baggy craft projects—the kind of garments Heidi would normally hate because they wouldn't be fitted or sexy enough enough for her.

When Heidi introduced the Fashion Week runway show, she told the audience, "For the first time, I have one designer back there that I'm rooting for." We assume it was Patricia. In Season Eight Nina got her way over Heidi and gave Gretchen the season win over Mondo. Who will have the power in naming the victor this season? Tune in tonight, or check back for our recap tomorrow.
· Secrets and Hints at the Project Runway Show [Racked]
· All Project Runway Posts [Racked]