By Nadine Kam
Nadine Kam photos
Fans lined up for photos with Andy South at the “Project Runway” finale viewing party Oct. 28 at Honolulu Design Center. Andy’s manager Monica Ivey, right, was there to make sure there was order to the madness, although his Honolulu Community College instructors Lillian Zane, Joy Nagaue and Karen Hastings inadvertently cut earlier, in the excited rush to congratulate him.
A couple hundred people poured into the Honolulu Design Center’s Cupola Theater on Thursday night for Andy South, whose fate on season 8 of “Project Runway” was finally revealed during a public viewing of the finale.
Fans lined up for picture taking that started at 7 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session with the designer before the finale screening at 9 p.m., which meant that people who stayed home to watch learned of the results before most in the room.
I say “most” because those who really, really, really wanted to know who won needed only to have looked at Twitter or Facebook, where East Coast viewers had begun spilling the beans at 5 p.m. Hawaii time.
OK. I peeked. But I had a print deadline to deal with before I left the office for the event, though it was uncomfortable to interrupt him midway through the event to ask him the main question of how he felt about the results.
In an interview prior to the event, Andy confessed to feeling relief that finale time had arrived and he would be free of the secret he’s kept for nearly two months.
But there was one other secret he revealed in his audition video, which was also screened for the audience. That is, he tries on all his designs, including gowns, and, oh Lordy, swimsuits!
“It’s fun!” he gushed in the video. He posted it to his Facebook and you must watch it. So funny and insider-ish with his reference to the way “PR” needs him for ratings, knowing how Hawaii people go nuts whenever they see other Hawaii people, anywhere.
Prior to admitting guests, Andy dressed his models, including placing this rose headpiece on Daniela Voicescu, also shown below, for a fantasy ensemble. The pheasant feathers were from HCC professor Karen Hastings, which Andy dyed to suit his designs.
Another secret revealed when his mother took the microphone, was that even at age 4, he was already attracted to beautiful things. During a trip to Thailand, she said, the future designer admired the long nail ornaments worn by the Thai dancers, and told his mom, “I want those.” When she said she would shop for them tomorrow, he said, “Now.”
After he got them, he put them on and tried to mimic the dancers’ movements. Oh, and he also wore his sisters’ dresses, which, broadcast to the room, made the designer bury his head on the floor, where he was sitting and watching the show unfold for the first time, just like the rest of us.
Somehow, that wasn’t a shock after his saying he tries on all his women’s designs, but there’s a lesson in that for everyone else. Unless your mom is a public person, who understands the game, never let her tell stories about your childhood, when you were too young to self-edit! LOL!
Jenny Chen wore a lace top deemed “very Casanova,” inspired by another of the “Project Runway” designers. Her cries of “Noooo,” regarding the winner, echoed through the elevator and parking lot as I left the building. It was a little crazy as one guy zipped out of the parking lot without regard to people walking to their cars. There could have been a lot of dead stylists on the ground in his wake. Below, Casanova at work on his Episode 5-winning garment:
There was a roomful of groans and “Noooo’s,” when viewers learned that Gretchen Jones had won the competition, but, ever gracious, Andy said he was happy for her, and thanked guests for staying out until 11 p.m. to watch the finale with him.
“This isn’t the end,” he promised. “Keep an eye out for my next project.” You can read more about what he’s working on in the Sunday Star-Advertiser.
Kudos to Malie Moran of Hawaii Red Magazine for putting the viewing party together at the last minute. She told me about it at the Waikiki Edition opening a few weeks ago, but it was only when I got there that I found out I would be formally asking him a question during the question- and-answer session. By that time I was pretty much asked out, after a lengthy interview I had for a wrap-up story to appear in print Sunday.
I was going to ask him a simple question but decided to center it on the New York challenge, during which he was inspired by Central Park. Based on what I already knew, I thought it would illuminate for the audience his background, work style, inspirations and connection to the land. I noted in his design, when the episode aired, that the front and back of his garment were very different, but he explained how the pattern in the back reflected the paths of Central Park, so that was enlightening.
Gretchen’s win was a big shock to me, but then I realized something I’d missed. In an interview I had with Andy last Friday, I mentioned that this season’s longer format made the designers’ back stories appear to be more prominent than in seasons past. So I was hyper-aware of the struggle it took all of them to get to be where they are.
It was sad enough to know Mondo’s story as being closeted to his family, and it got very teary when he announced he’d been H.I.V.-positive for a decade but was afraid to tell anyone up until this point.
I mentioned to Andy that I felt sorry for Michael Costello because of his family situation and I felt sorry for Gretchen because of her financial situation, and he shot me this look that took me aback a bit, and said with a laugh, “Don’t feel sorry for Gretchen, she’ll be just fine.”
I took that to mean she tends to whine and may have exaggerated her circumstance. I didn’t put two and two together because I thought either Mondo or Andy would win. In Twitter posts with #projectrunway, leading up to the broadcast, I couldn’t help noticing a majority were rooting for Team Mondo.
Gretchen’s collection didn’t register with me when I was looking at the finale collections online in September. There were many beautiful collections, including Ivy’s on-trend spring collection and Valerie Mayen’s fun and vibrant, color-saturated collection, but Gretchen’s brown, woodsy color palette just looked drab and uninviting.
But one thing that is not apparent in photographs is the way clothing moves, and her dresses flowed beautifully.
I would say the final three were evenly matched. Each had some strong points and points of contention, and any of them could have won.
There were pieces from all that I would like to wear, although Andy’s and Gretchen’s pieces were more subtle. The ones I would immediately pull off a rack first for their memorable, hit-’em-over-the-head audacity were Mondo’s skull tunic and multi-color pink-aqua-silver tunic, which also won over co-host Heidi Klum and guest judge Jessica Simpson.
I’m not one to make snap judgments, but the more I think about the results, the more I’m convinced Mondo should have won. Gretchen’s pieces probably speak to a mass of consumers and at this moment of financial uncertainty and desire for comfort, I can see why Michael Kors said this is a sportswear moment and will continue to be so for a while. But I’m not so sure. There’s been a sportswear moment over the past couple of years, and when I woke up this morning I thought, I’m tired of it. I’ve been waiting for something new, and I just thought Mondo brought it. His clothes are whimsical and happy. The Mexican inspiration is bold and I’m thinking his may be just the kind of pieces people need to feel excited about fashion again. With the relative sameness of ready-to-wear today, it’s no wonder people aren’t spending, even when they have the money. One tank top is like any other.
For anyone interested in purchasing the designs, SeenOn.com, in partnership with Lifetime, is offering the one-of-a-kind, hand-stitched, Heidi-approved finale fashions for purchase to its members through Monday morning, at www.SeenOn.com/projectrunway. I noticed that Mondo’s designs are nearly sold out, at prices of $299 to $899, as of 4 p.m. Friday. Gretchen’s have not moved.
Some of my weekly stories were framed to show Andy’s journey throughout the “Project Runway” season, filled with high and low moments.