October 12, 2013

TV Talk: Project Runway's Justin LeBlanc Spanks The Competition

Three looks from Lifetime's "Project Runway" Season 12 - Episode 13 fashion designers Justin LeBlanc, Alexandria von Bromssen, and Helen Castillo.

Season 12 of Lifetime’s Project Runway  television reality competition series eliminated a fashion designer Thursday night, and it was a shocker. I was excited to see Episode 13  “The Finale, Part 1,” and it was a GREAT episode with lots of drama and intrigue, that moved me to tears.

After episode 12 “Butterfly Effect,” fashion designers Bradon McDonald and Dom Streater, were guaranteed spots in the final runway show at New York Fashion Week. Helen Castillo, Alexandria von Bromssen, and Justin LeBlanc, were sent home to design ten look collections, to compete for the chance to join Bradon and Dom in the finals.

Upon their return to New York, Helen, Alexandria, and Justin, had to choose their 3 best looks, for yet another runway show, which would determine who would move on to compete in the finale for the Project Runway  crown.

I’m a huge fan of Helen Castillo’s because of her tremendous talent, and New Jersey roots.  Helen won 4 challenges going into the finale, and was considered a favorite to win Project Runway.

Alexandria has been one of the more quiet competitors this season, and I was surprised that she was competing for a spot in the finals. While she won the “Let’s Go Glamping” challenge, she created the “poopy pants” look for the “Having A Field Day” episode which nearly caused her to be eliminated, and that single bad look is still seared on my brain.

Alexandria is a bay area based fashion designer, who lives in San Mateo. During the course of Season 12, she kept her emotions and feelings largely in check, and I admired her singular focus on her work. She saved her best stuff for the finale, and created over 30 pieces to show at New York Fashion Week.

The fashion designer that impressed me the most this season was Justin LeBlanc. When we met Justin during the first episode, we learned that he is deaf. We also learned that he was competing on Project Runway because he wanted to win, and you couldn’t help but admire his confidence. Over the course of season 12, we also learned that Justin is gay.

Justin was eliminated in the “Let’s Go Glamping” episode (Episode 6), and mentor Tim Gunn vetoed the judges decision, and saved Justin from being sent home. At various times over the course of the season he made allusions to the challenges he’s overcome in his life, and whether he was speaking publicly or privately to the camera, he maintained an optimistic countenance, and didn’t slam or criticize his fellow competitors

More than any other designer, Justin listened to the judge’s critiques each week, and incorporated their suggestions into his work. He kept his nose to the grindstone, worked his ass off, and improved week after week, while thousands of Project Runway fans across the country were pulling for him (including myself).

Bradon won 4 challenges, Helen won 4 challenges, and Dom won 2 challenges, and they were the three favorites to win.

My favorite episode of Project Runway  every year is the "Finale - Part 1," when Tim Gunn travels to the designer’s home, to check on their work.
Tim went to Santa Monica to see Bradon and his fiancé, and it was great to see Tim on the beach (the only thing missing was a boater hat). He went to Philadelphia to see Dom and her family, and New Jersey to see Helen and her family.

My favorite segments were Tim Gunn’s visits to see Alexandria in San Mateo, and Justin in Raleigh.

We learned more about Alexandria and her work as a mentor and teacher at her Camp Couture (no pun intended), which was heartwarming and incredibly admirable. We saw a softer side of Alexandria that was missing in the first 12 episodes, and learned that she’s an amazing teacher who loves her young students. I have to say that I’m now a fan, and admire her empathy and compassion.

During Tim’s visit to Raleigh, we found out that Justin has a degree in architecture. We heard about his cochlear implant, and saw how Justin was incorporating technology into his designs. I personally think that his use of 3D printing is genius and very fashion forward. Using test tubes for his unconventional look was stunning, and he’s in it to win it.

We saw the fashion designers return to New York, as Helen, Alexandria, and Justin, prepared for their final showdown.

Each designer has a distinct point of view that was reflected in the 3 looks they chose for their final runway show at F I T. Alexandria’s 3 looks were easy and breezy, very commercial, and she made a clear statement that she’s a contender. Justin’s designs reflected his journey in life, and he told a compelling story with 3 cohesive looks. Helen’s looks were less cohesive than the other 2 designers, and Nina Garcia commented that her last and final garment looked like a “strait jacket.” I loved the vibrant red dress that she designed, but one good look does not a collection make.

By the end of the “Finale - Part 1,” Helen was out, and Justin and Alexandria are still in.

I love underdogs, and am an unabashed fan of Justin LeBlanc, and my fingers and toes are crossed, as I want him to win. He’s confounded the pundits and overcome Herculean odds, to earn a place in the finals. He’s worked twice as hard as everyone else, and has won the hearts and minds of Project Runway fans, across the country. In many ways, Justin LeBlanc has already won.

GO Justin!

[NOTE: In spite of how the producers characterize New York Fashion Week, during Fashion Week, the top 8 fashion designers create a 10 look collection for the Project Runway  fashion show, and the top 4 designers compete for the Project Runway crown.]

Project Runway  Season 12  - Episode 14 “The Finale, Part 2” will be broadcast on Thursday night October 17th, 2013 on Lifetime. The 3rd edition of Project 

Runway All-Stars  will premiere on October 24, 2013.

Project Runway  airs every Thursday night on Lifetime at 9pm Eastern and 8pm Central time.

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