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Siriano Wins Runway Crown

Observer Scene | Friday, March 14, 2008

The fourth season of Bravo’s hit show, Project Runway, did more than crown a winner with its conclusion last week. The finale, with 5.2 million total viewers, set a viewership record for the channel in the 18 to 49 year-old demographic, with an average of 3.75 million viewers, up 9 percent from last season’s finale. This number put Bravo ahead of two of the three broadcast networks (ABC and CBS) at the 10 p.m. time slot that night.

Many celebrities attended the finale, which showed three finalists’ collections in a runway show in Bryant Park during New York Fashion Week. Supermodel and host of the show, Heidi Klum, designer Michael Kors and Elle fashion director Nina Garcia sat front row to observe and critique the new creations, and Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham joined them as a guest judge for the final episode.

Beckham has begun her own fashion line, DVB, and is rumored to have her own fashion-themed reality show coming to Fox.

Also present under the tent were the families of the top designers, the contestants that had been eliminated by Klum this season, and contestants and winners from previous seasons. Industry insiders and celebrities alike filled the remainder of the 2,000 seats along either side of the tent’s long runway.

The caliber of the contestants relative to established designers who presented at fashion week was also something that stood out. Garcia was especially impressed with the amateur collections. “This is the last day of New York Fashion Week, and I’ve seen a lot of it, and it could fit right in there,” she said.

The first designs to hit the runway were those of Jillian Lewis, a 26-year-old former designer and illustrator for American design icon Ralph Lauren. Lewis’ designs were inspired by Master of the Argonauts, a 15th-century Florentine work of art. She discovered this painting during the last challenge of the season, in which designers took a field trip to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Lewis was praised by the judges for the knitwear she sent down the runway, which stood out amid the subtle fall colors and bold coat silhouettes in the rest of her collection.

Next down the runway were the Joan of Arc-inspired pieces created by Rami Kashou, a 31-year-old born in Jerusalem. Kashou beat out Chris March’s human hair decorated collection in a design-off to make it to the final show in Bryant Park. His final collection was punctuated with bold colors against black pieces and intricate details in his folding, pleating, weaving and draping.

The last two looks that Kashou showed were elegant gowns, one in a cream colored tiered vintage lace and the other in a textured and layered black. However, the judges objected to many of Kashou’s design decisions. Kors said that the colors were not chic enough for the clothes and referred to them as “Brady Bunch colors.” He did however, praise the designer’s showcasing every category of attire. Garcia’s thought Kashou had the strongest point of view of all the designers, and his main strength lay in eveningwear.

Finally, the youngest finalist had his turn to show off his work. Christian Siriano, 21, moved to London right after high school to study and work with famous British designers Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood.

Siriano’s mostly black collection contrasted hard and soft looks, with full, feathered coats and voluminous neckpieces paired with skinny pants. Kors praised the collection, saying that it was “cohesive, powerful-looking” and had “chic drama.” Even Beckham was pleased, “You really made me smile, and I’m not easy to make smile.”

Siriano was declared the winner, due to the consistently stylish look of all his pieces, and how well his show was delivered as a whole. Klum congratulated the top designer by calling him “über-fierce.”

As the winner of Project Runway, Siriano will receive a fashion spread in Elle magazine, an all-new 2008 Saturn Astra, the opportunity to sell his line on fashion retailing Web site bluefly.com, and a year of representation from Designers Management Agency and $100,000 to start his own line.

Siriano had previously been named the season’s Fan Favorite, as voted on by viewers, with 43 percent of the vote. He told The Washington Post that the first thing he was going to do with the $10,000 prize was to purchase a bed to sleep on. “That’s no joke, because I really need it. I still don’t have one,” Siriano said.