Ayana Ife (‘Project Runway’): Why the fully modest designer could pull off an upset and win season 16

Ayana Ife is the first “Project Runway” designer in series history to commit herself to designing fully modest garments. Her dedication to that point of view and ability to translate each of the show’s challenges to it has helped earn her the respect and admiration of the judges’ panel throughout the season. Ayana heads into part two of the finale having impressed the judges by continuing this point of view with her two-look preview of her collection during “Finale, Part 1.”

“Finale, Part 2” airs Thursday, November 16, so before Ayana and the other three season 16 finalists show their full collections at New York Fashion Week, let’s consider the pros and cons of her chances to win.


Ayana has repeatedly heard from the judges that her point of view as a designer is unique and interesting. While the show employs an “anonymous runway” in each episode, the judges have always said they can tell which design is Ayana’s and that it’s a good thing. They see a vacancy in the marketplace that she could occupy, and she can establish herself as a leading fully modest designer.

In the last stretch of the regular competition, Ayana took more risks than she had before, resulting in three high score placements and one overall win (her second of the season). Though she didn’t technically win the avant garde challenge, the oversized ruffle-dress with a huge pink bow at the top that she made for model Liris Crosse was one of the season’s best looks from any designer.

According to our current predictions, Ayana is frontrunner Brandon Kee‘s biggest challenger to win the season, holding 9/2 odds that she’ll win and leading the question “Who will finish 2nd?” with 6/5 odds. So we know she’s right in the thick of it.


After winning the season’s second challenge, Ayana began a six-week streak of being called “safe” by the judges. In many ways that safety could have become a death sentence for Ayana because it meant that her designs weren’t inspiring strong feelings, good or bad, from the panel and kept her from receiving closer critiques. While she has improved since then, could that indifference throughout the mid-season be a sign that overall the judges are lukewarm on her ability to be memorable?

Ayana is working with a very muted color palette for her NYFW collection. Compared to the high saturation of Margarita’s collection or the more subtle and clean look of Kentaro’s, Ayana’s show may actually be less visually stimulating when the models walk the runway.

How do you feel about Ayana’s chances to win and what we’ve seen of her collection so far? Sound off in the comments!

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