I may not have found her personality to be so fantastic, in fact, i can safely say i spent most of the second half of this season of Project Runway muttering about Irina Shabayeva's smugness and calculating ways...but, as her final collection stomped the runway at Bryant Park, i admitted defeat. Irina, of course, was declared the sixth season winner last night, narrowly (but wholly) defeating Althea Harper and poor, ailing little trooper Carol Hannah Whitfield.
Let's be honest, Althea's 50's themed sci-fi collection looked a little more 80's/90's post-apocalyptic. If some of that wasn't torn straight from the Nebuchadnezzar, i'd be surprised. Aside from that, it was, as Michael Kors mentioned, standard sportswear. Well done, but not particularly memorable, and occasionally reminiscent of Jay McCarroll's season one finale. I can see it on the racks at Urban Outfitters. Actually, i think i have. Gah, harem pants.
Carol Hannah, as likable and hard-working as she was, delivered the Project Runway standard. There's one in every finale: the designer who makes things that are 'pretty'. Very nice, very lovely. Maybe they drape well, maybe they use color well, maybe they're flattering, and (more than likely) maybe it's something the designer herself would wear. Problem is, Carol Hannah's collection lacked an overarching theme, and in between her standout gowns were garish maternity tops and garments so wearable, they already exist. Though, i'd like that puffy tutu skirt to wear to a holiday party or two.
Irina was the only designer to shoot beyond Project Runway 101 for Milan. Everything, down to the little helmet hats (which i loved) brought her closer to Balenciaga than semi-pro. While her New York Warrior theme was maybe a bit contrived, it's still (to argue with Kors) a character that always works on the runway. Irina's outfitting followed through and revealed a remarkably solid understanding of presentation and an ability to work within and beyond couture trends. Irina's got skill. She makes opulent but ultimately wearable clothes. While i would have liked to see her transcend her limited palette, i could definitely use one or two of those giant hooded sweaters.
So, Irina had to win. Mathematically, she got it right. Her collection was cohesive. It was operating in perfect synchronicity with an understanding of high/low luxury and accessibility, the creation of an unusual silhouette, and the then (at the time of filming) exploding menswear for women trend. Irina created a look that was tailored, finished, edgy, and very New York without sacrificing femininity. She gets it. And on Project Runway, that sort of full comprehension is always rewarded, deservedly so.
Still, this was a season that celebrated mediocrity. I don't know if the move to Lifetime or the legal trouble had anything to do with it, but it was bland. It was boring. Its designers were generally subpar. They lacked interesting personalities and outlooks and some made up for that in misplaced boasts (Nicholas, your house is made of ticky-tacky. And Johnny, if i ever see you, it'll take a lot not to put my fist through your jaw). Adding to this seasons issues was a series downgrade in terms of editing. Each episode's focus was so particular it made the winners/loser obvious 5 minutes in. There's nothing quite as uninteresting as watching a competition where you know from the beginning who will be up for discussion. Dull. All said and done, Irina might be boring, she might be mean, but she had talent. Talent and a taste level that was never questionable. You know, not like Christopher.