‘Project Runway’ finale recap: Did the right designer win after ‘The Final Runway’? [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

It’s been three months, and the end is here! “Project Runway” concluded its 17th season on Thursday night with “The Final Runway.” It was an especially meaningful moment since this season marked the return of the series to Bravo after spending the last 10 years on Lifetime. It was also the first season without original host Heidi Klum and mentor Tim Gunn, who were replaced by Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano, respectively. So how did the show wrap up? Did the right designer win? Scroll down for our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.

Last week the judges sent home Bishme Cromartie, narrowing down the show to the final three: Hester Sunshine, Garo Sparo and Sebastian Grey. I was surprised by the judges’ choice in “One Elle of a Day” given how consistent Cromartie had been all season: only one low score and then one final look that was doomed because of a pair of emotional traumas that hit him while he was working on his final collection: a death in the family and then his sister’s diagnosis with cancer. It was sad to see him go after so much good work.

With him out of the running, Grey strengthened his hold on the top of our predictions after spending most of the season at the top of our charts, but we’ve been surprised before. We didn’t see Kentaro Kameyama‘s win coming in season 16, and we were shocked by Michelle Lesniak‘s “All Stars” victory earlier this spring. Fashion is fickle. You’re only as good as your last look. Or as “Runway” has always told us, “One day you’re in, and the next you’re out. Find out what happened below starting at 9:00pm (times listed are Eastern).

9:02pm — “We made it,” says Sebastian to Hester and Garo Sparo. They head to the workroom, where Christian tells the designers that they’ll be showing their collections at the Skylight One Hanson. And hooray, Marni Senofonte will be back to help them with styling!

9:03pm — And there’s one last twist, though it doesn’t sound too bad. The designers have 11 looks now after their challenge last week, but they need to pick just 10 of those to show. Sounds like a good problem to have, kind of like getting to drop your lowest grade in class. The problem for Garo Sparo is that he apparently now has 17 looks to choose from. Sounds like he might be able to really narrow things down to the best of the best, but how much work did he put into those 17 looks? Did he spread himself too thin? Will those looks be underwhelming no matter which 10 he picks?

9:04pm — Time to cast their models, who walk in one by one. There are 50 of them. Garo wants fuller figured women to stand out in his corsets. Hester wants badass tough chick willing to be weird. Sebastian and Garo fight over Asia. Hester is determined to get Thijin, who she won with in “Power Play” and “Blame it on Rio”: “No one’s taking my Thijin from me.”

9:07pm — But wait, there’s more! One more twist: The designers will have the option to go to Mood with $300 if they want to change things up, but their time there would be taken away from their time in the workroom. Sounds like another good problem to have.

9:09pm — Garo isn’t using Nina’s look in his collection because it didn’t work, none of the judges thought it worked, and he doesn’t have time to make it work, especially when he has 16 other pieces. But he does want another breather look. He might not have time for that and for all his finishing. Meanwhile, Sebastian is thinking about ditching his Nina look even though Nina loved it. Christian thinks he’s cray. So do I kinda.

9:11pm — Sebastian is seeing how hard his competitors are working and wonders if he should be doing more. He’s questioning himself a little, which usually means he’s going to win. If he threatens to quit the show again, he’s a shoo-in.

9:12pm — I love Hester’s descriptions of her collection. Now it’s “rococo meets cyber ‘Clueless’ ’90s” with “‘Matrix’-style” eyeliner. Sounds like “Tron” starring Alicia Silverstone — as if!

9:13pm — Garo still hasn’t picked his final 10 looks at the end of day one, and I’m worried for him. I feel like he’s going to overthink, overwork, and end up with some haphazard mess of a collection that doesn’t really reflect the usual quality of his work.

9:17pm — Sebastian is the only designer who makes the trip to Mood. If he’s only there for some thread, Christian might kill him, roll up his body in organza, and dump him in the river. “How do you think Sebastian is doing?” Hester asks back in the workroom, and Garo says, “Dude, he’s always okay.” He’s never not okay, even when he thinks he’s not okay.

9:20pm — Garo is “horrified” by Kate’s gown because he got her measurements wrong. Good God, Garo, Kate has been though enough this season. You’d better make her look glorious or I’ll dump you in the river.

9:21pm — Marni Consultations: She thinks Garo’s collection is too dressy. It needs to be tougher, more punk rock. That gives him the inspiration for exactly which looks he should choose. Sebastian needs to pare down his accessories because the looks themselves are pretty busy. She loves Hester’s collection, though, which makes sense because I feel like Marni would wear Hester’s clothes in a heartbeat.

9:23pm — The guest judge for the finale wants to meet the designers in the evening. A car will come to take them to one last undisclosed location at the end of the day.

9:26pm — They roll up to Diane von Furstenberg‘s store, and indeed, that’s who will be judging their work. Everyone is starstruck, and she tells them that what matters most is to be true to themselves. “I need somebody to hit me in my face to see if this is real,” says Sebastian. Just ask Christian to get you some thread, he’ll happily give you a smack.

9:33pm — Sebastian has edited down a lot of his looks, including the one he went to Mood for, and Christian seems to think they’re all the right calls. But Christian is freaking out that Garo is taking out the only dress the judges liked in his preview — reconsider, man!

9:35pm — Christian gives the designers an end-of-day pep talk. As a former “Project Runway” winner, he knows exactly what they’re going through and how little they’ll sleep thinking about the final runway. Honestly, I think the best thing about this new “Runway” season has been the addition of Christian. He has been a worthy successor to Tim Gunn.

9:39pm — Sebastian feels like he has really found his story after struggling to come up with narratives behind his looks, and Hester finally feels validated that her weirdness actually appeals to others. Her collection is 100% who she is, and I can’t wait.

9:45pm — Each designer gets a team of three dressers to help them get their models ready. I kinda hoped it would be past contestants again because I miss me some Kovid, but I guess that went kinda pear-shaped with Garo and Sonia Kasparian last time, so maybe that’s for the best.

9:47pm — Last minute fabric trims, tailoring, shoe swaps, and a random stain on one of Sebastian’s dresses. These guys are even stressing me out. And Kate’s look needs some last-minute improvisation — I’m gonna be so mad if Garo makes her look bad.

RUNWAY SHOW

9:54pm — Sebastian is up first. His collection is called “Reminiscence” as a reflection of his memories of Colombia. He hits the orange right out of the gate with two gorgeous pieces. And he decided to use Nina’s look — smart man, and it look even better than it did in his preview. I’m not as big a fan of a couple of his tan/beige middle looks. There’s a gorgeous blue coat dress that I’m dying for. And I think the pieces that use that woven style are the best, especially the last one. He’s not a lock with that collection necessarily, but it’s definitely win-worthy.

9:59pm — Garo Sparo is up next. “Get ready for a ‘Detour Through My Cosmic Mind,'” he says. Better not let us down with a name like that for his collection. Solid work throughout. A little more understated at the start than I was hoping for, and I wanted him to push the envelope a little farther than he did, but there were a few gorgeous, unique looks and a couple of cool reveals. But his dress for Kate is a letdown. She didn’t look comfortable in it, and the judges noted how big a mess his zipper was in the back. Of these first two, I’d give the edge to Sebastian, but I think the door is open for Hester.

10:06pm — Hester’s collection is called “Cyber Rococo” or “Y2K Coco,” and “get ready for something extra,” she warns. Bring it! Indeed, this is by far the most extra collection with unusual shapes, prints and combinations, but they all feel like her, all have her singular voice, but all feel like something I haven’t quite seen before — cool, fresh and exciting. Diane seems highly impressed while watching her looks go down the runway. I didn’t think I’d say this, but I think Hester has the best collection and deserves to win. She kept it wild, but kept it under control.

CRITIQUES

SEBASTIAN — Nina loves that he took something artisanal and made it high-fashion: “It looked effortless.” Diane thought they combined casual and streetwear with something extremely refined, and she loved the wrap dress with layers. Karlie loved the details and how aspects of the collection felt like aspects of him. Brandon thought it was “chic,” but the opening orange look probably wasn’t the best to start with; Nina agrees with that. Elaine thinks his potential as a designer is “exponential.”

HESTER — Nina thought it was “extra for sure,” and the opening Marie Antoinette look will capture the eye of editors. It excited Brandon too. But they felt there was a disconnect between the first two looks. They didn’t think she quite followed through on the audacity of that first look. But Nina thinks her skill for accessories is “unparalleled.” Elaine agrees she’s a great stylist, and Hester is a “vibe” unto herself. Brandon didn’t like the “’90s gymnastics print” — hmm, I loved that print he’s talking about. They felt like she had two collection ideas and was trying to mesh them together. But Diane disagrees: she could see the unity of her personality and loved the “fuck you” personality she displayed. “If you don’t win, you can work for me,” says Diane von Furstenberg, which sounds like it might be better than winning. High praise!

GARO SPARO — Karlie thinks a lot of the pieces are wearable. Elaine’s favorite was the intergalactic white look. Nina thought the grey dress with leather piping looked very classic but modern, but the judges are all sad that he left out the one beaded dress they loved from his preview collection. I missed it too. Christian told you so, Garo! Brandon loved the white pant, though, but not the zipper on it. He liked Kate’s dress, but not the black zipper. Elaine wanted the tailoring to be more refined, but likes his edgy quality.

10:20pm — I have a feeling this is between Hester and Sebastian, which is what I thought it would be at the start of the episode.

10:23pm — Brandon thinks they can excluse Garo from the conversation, and the other judges agree. So I was right about that. But Nina thinks Sebastian walks the line between art and commerce “splendidly.” Diane thinks he has a “flawless presentation.” Brandon thinks he makes clothes well enough to rival anyone at Fashion Week.

10:25pm — Elaine feels Hester feels current, the kind of personality that appeals to modern consumers. Nina praises her “unstoppable creativity.” Diane thinks she could sell Hester’s looks “in a minute” — again, high praise from the legend. She could really build a business with the right mentoring. So she might be exactly the kind of designer who could get the most out of winning the show.

RESULTS

10:27pmSebastian is the winner! That means Hester was the runner-up, and Garo was third. A well-deserved victory, and taking the whole season into account I think he was absolutely the best designer, even though I slightly preferred Hester’s final collection. Kudos to all!

10:29pm — Nina thinks Sebastian is “the personification of the American dream.” Sebastian is crying, and they’re gonna make me cry. “Fuck, I win this! I went from cleaning houses to being the winner of ‘Project Runway'” — that reaction was just adorable. And the good news for Hester is that it sounds like she might have a Diane von Furstenberg mentorship in her future even if she doesn’t have the CFDA mentorship to look forward to.

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