NEW YORK — "Welcome to Project Runway finale, season 13," Heidi Klum told a large, excited crowd at Lincoln Center. "Who would have thought so many season ago we would still be on the air?"
Like a well-oiled sewing machine, the reality show that revolves around devious designers and juicy backstage drama, just keeps chugging along. This season hasn't been one of its strongest, with aspiring designers who are not especially talented and seem unusually whiny, even by reality TV standards.
"I don't know how they make it happen by they make it happen. And that's what we're about to see."
But once fashion week rolls around, the drama intensifies and all the things that make the show so addictive fall into place.
That was the case when nine of the remaining contestants showed their collections to an appreciative audience during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week that included Olympic great Lindsey Vonn and Project Runway guest judge, actress Emmy Rossum.
"They really worked their booties off," Klum said about the contestants. "Most of big designers have months and months and months to spend in making a collection for New York fashion week. Ours only had four weeks and $9,000, which probably seems hard to do. I don't know how they make it happen by they make it happen. And that's what we're about to see."
Too many contestants
As we have noted before in previous seasons, because fashion rolls around long before the competition has been whittled down to the final three (or four) contestants, Lifetime films all of the contestants who remain while the show is being aired. In this case, the audience had to sit through 90 looks from a whopping nine contestants, including the collection of Fäde Zu Grau, who was eliminated last week after the runway show took place.
So who will be among the final three (or four) on the season finale, scheduled to air October 23?
From observing previous PR fashion week tapings, designers often offer clues as to what the outcome will be, since they already know if they have made it to the end or not. They sometimes look dejected or are overly emotional when talking to the audience, which usually means they didn't make it.
This time around, though, most of the remaining designers except for blubbery Korina Emmerich kept their feelings in check — and she is always on emotional overload — so it is hard to detect whether she is a finalist or not. Her cohesive collection of colorblocked sportswear is surprisingly good, so she could very well be a finalist even though her PR season has been rocky.
The favorite still appears to be Sean Kelly, a young designer who recently arrived in the United States from New Zealand. His collection was on the fringe, with several pieces featuring the tasseled fabric, including a stunning orange fringed dress similar to the blue fringed dress he designed for Heidi Klum to wear to the Creative Emmy Awards presentation in an earlier episode. Half of Kelly's collection is dripping with fringe, which may be too much for the judges.
Hawaiian designer Kini Zamora, a co-favorite all season with his striking designs and lightning-fast construction techniques, showed a disappointing black-and-white collection that lacked the pizzazz of his previous efforts, so I'm guessing he didn't make the final cut.
Polarizing Alabama designer Sandhya Garg's collection seemed a little gimmicky — does she really need to spell out "Fearless" on the front of her opening dress? — but, it has several eye-catching pieces, including a black sequined mini with feathery shoulder pads and, the closer, a metallic tree-like coat over a white dress. And she does have a strong point of view.
The biggest surprise was Amanda Valentine, who veered from her hippy dippy roots with a modern collection that include a spiffy crocheted tunic over leather pants, flowing colorblocked gowns and nifty two-toned vests.
I'm guessing the final three are Sean, Amanda and Korina (with Sandya or Kini if they add a fourth) and the winner, in a big surprise, is........Amanda.
But we'll find out.
Project Runway airs on Lifetime at 8 p.m. Thursdays. Repeat episodes are often shown before and afterwards on that night.