Every year we wonder: Is this when people stop caring about Project Runway? Judging from the clamor in and around the tents this morning (we could hear them shouting, “Rami! Rami!” from a block away), we believe the answer is no. The celeb presence at the contestants’ show was stronger than ever, including every person who has ever appeared on Bravo — Niki Taylor, Tyson Beckford, Ted Allen, and Padma Lakshmi, with positively radiant skin. The front row was occupied by so many past Runway favorites, like last year’s winner, Jeffrey Sebelia, that Top Chef heartthrob Sam Talbot — looking like he’d been indulging in a few too many culinary delicacies — had to be relegated to the fifth row.
And then there were the non-reality-show celebrities. A very pregnant Ana Gasteyer; Lindsay Price, doing some Method work for her role as a fashion designer on Lipstick Jungle; and surprise guest judge (a huge step up in wattage from last year’s guest judge, Fern Mallis. No offense — we love you, Fern!) Victoria Beckham. She swept down the runway just before showtime in a gorgeous draped orange gown, but tragically, sat on the same side of the runway as we did, so we couldn’t observe her facial expressions. One helpful observer noted, “I saw her crack a smile. No, several smiles. But she was all business during the show.”
Weirdest sighting of all, though, was Meryl Streep, who, along with daughter Mamie Gummer, is a big fan of Runway. We can only guess that Streep used the show as prep work for her role in the Devil Wears Prada. And she still hasn’t dropped the Miranda Priestly habit of making absolutely no sense to anyone around her. Even though a front-row seat had been reserved for her, she ran backstage right before the lights went down, and as far as we know, never saw the clothes.
There was much to see. Five designers showed — Chris, Sweet P, Christian, Jillian, and Rami — one or two of whom must be red herrings thrown in to keep the public guessing about what happens in the episodes that haven’t aired yet. We thought they all showed impeccable craftsmanship but found Rami and Christian to be the most compelling. Rami because he’d found a way to incorporate draping into tailored outfits with very defined waists, and Christian because he has a way of making each piece seem important and dramatic. But what do we know? Below, a survey of the attendees:
Lindsay Price: “My personal style, I would wear everything from Jillian’s collection. I think I’m the one fan of Project Runway on our show.”
Tyson Beckford: “Christian. Oh my God. I just loved his stuff. What is there to say?”
Heidi Klum: “I have one person that I really, really loved. I can’t say. But most of the time, the judges are pretty much on the same track. If not, I’m pretty stubborn. I fight for my beliefs.”
Daniel Vosovic: “For me, it’s the difference between Rami making great clothes and Christian putting on a great show. I don’t know who to reward more! I thought both were fantastic. Both have a great vision. And I’m sorry, Posh Spice could not have been a more perfect judge for Christian’s show. Every piece that came down was like, ‘Yeah, she wants it. She wants it.’ So hopefully that will work well for him in judging. She’s the farthest thing from American sportswear. I don’t think she even owns a pair of jeans and a T-shirt.
Chloe Dao: “Rami. Honestly, I was blown away by him. Christian I loved. Amazing showmanship. But I’m going to say it: I see references to Alexander McQueen big-time. That last look, I could even name the collection. Rami did draping that no one else was doing. I’ve been looking at fashion since I was 13, so I can reference things easily, and he did things that I couldn’t reference, and that’s really hard to do.”
Malan Breton: “I would have to say Jillian and Christian. Jillian had so much individuality, and so much sportswear. And then Christian’s collection was just beautiful. It was like an orgasm of everything.”
Jay McCarroll: “I’m going to have to go with Rami. Christian is probably more my speed, but Rami had a nice package. In both ways.”
Michael Knight: “Rami, definitely. Going in, I didn’t have a favorite, but I thought that it was very beautiful, very feminine, and he still got his point across. He’s all about draping the woman’s body, but he did it in a new way for him.”
Jeffrey Sebelia: “It’s between Rami and Sweet P. I think in the shows from start to finish, I got to see a good breadth of what they could do. I mean, I really love what Christian does, but I saw the same silhouette for ten of the looks. It was the same thing over and over and over. Sweet P and Rami were telling a story, whatever their vision was.” —Jada Yuan