On Wretched Gretchen and the Finale of ‘Project Runway’

"All I can hear is my own greatness!"

If it’s true that American Idol desperately needed a tuneup (like Steven Tyler cares what Kid Rock thinks?), then it must also be true that Project Runway probably needs an overhaul.

Thursday’s final-winner reveal makes the case clearer than ever.

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Gretchen Jones won? Talk about someone spinning dross from gold. OK, this is TV, not a discussion of nuclear waste or how to intercept terrorism or Sharron Angle’s white-woman racism. But I’m a confirmed Runway fan — and this year you may consider my sadness/fury/revulsion to be duly registered.

The wrong person won. I mean, I’ve hitched my stitches to the show through the years — during its imbecilic jaunt to La La Land (has anyone ever looked less comfortable in LA than Tim Gunn?), even during those seasons that pomposity cases like Christian Siriano took all the marbles.

But Gretchen Jones?

Lord, let us pray. May we please just get the Apocalypse over with?

My problem with Jones winning is partly that, yes, the woman came off as so hateful — not to mention treacherous, sneaky, snappy, snarky and underhanded. She was the Pol Pot of Season 8.

I do understand that Project Runway is a competition, and that some of us on this difficult and crowded planet simply can’t compete unless their trigger-finger is on a nuclear device every 20 minutes.

In Jones’ case, if there was at least some coherent talent there — real talent, a sense of individuality, something beyond the mercenary and the cunning — then maybe I could overlook her unpleasantness.

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An even bigger issue, though, is that the extraordinary debating marathon that raged the Hundred Years War between the Project Runway judges — Heidi Klum and guest Jessica Simpson, favoring Mondo Guerra; and Nina Garcia and Michael Kors jonesing for Jones — actually told us more about the judges, about the serious challenges facing the show, than about the designers themselves.

Maybe I know nothing about fashion. Maybe I should stick to calling out Rethuglicans for ruthlessly destroying our country. But watching Project Runway on Thursday night, watching Kors yabber on and on and on about what’s hip, hot and happening right now, listening to the man kvetch, whine and moan about Guerra’s clothing being “too young” when Kors himself is a patently over-bronzed and tubby 51, made me wonder if a generation gap is starting to brew on the show if a generation gap is already in evidence.

Does that sound ageist? You bet your bippy it does.

I realize perfectly well that age has nothing to do with the ability to identify and promote that which is fashion-forward. But something about the judges’ blather this year, especially everyone asserting the better knowledge of what is young and trendy right now, made me think to myself, “Hey, Nina, you’re 43!” and “Hey, Heidi, you’re 37!” I shouldn’t even be thinking in those terms, right? Why did it feel with all the judges like the lady doth protest too much?

Perhaps the seeds of doubt were planted throughout the season, and were ripe for picking.

After all, it was more glaring than ever this year that the judges are as inconsistent in their tastes, standards, demands, reviews and expectations as Christine O’Donnell’s claims of being chaste (sorry, I mean, chased). Kors, Klum and Garcia were, more often than not, beyond inchoate: “We want this and now we want that” one week became “We want that and now we want this” the next. They were whimsical, fickle, tempestuous, amorphous, contradictory and impossible. No wonder half the contestants on this year’s Project Runway looked like they wanted to slug someone. If Lifetime wants to produce reality-TV shows about King Henry VIII, Catherine the Great and Margaret Thatcher, let them at least be up front about it. (You can draw which judge parallels which tyrant any way you want.)

The press release announcing Jones as the winner of Season 8 included this copy:

Narrowly beating out fellow designers Mondo Guerra and Andy South, Jones ultimately won with her bohemian inspired, fashion-forward collection that won the praise of host Heidi Klum, judges Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and guest judge, Jessica Simpson.

There isn’t much spin in a centrifuge.

What happened was Klum and Simpson went to bat for the superior Guerra and ultimately caved to Kors and Garcia. Why I’ll never know. Maybe because the producers demanded a lowest-common-denominator winner?

Sorry, Mondo.

But as Adam Lambert learned, it’s probably better to be a runner-up on one of these programs than to win.


  1. Could not have said it better myself. When Gretchen made the final three I had a feeling this was coming. The only thing I would add is that on more than one occasion Tim Gunn’s advice caused a contestant to be sacked by the judges. This time it was Mondo.If he had switched the black dress for the polka dot he might have had a chance with stuffy Garcia and Kors. I think they were upset that he ignored their advice completely not that they thought he wasn’t the better designer.

  2. Did anyone notice what Gretchen was wearing for the Fahsion Show? Classy?? Fashion Forward?? Both Mondo & Andy had her beat on that also.

  3. I couldn’t have said it better. The only consolation to this wretched, unfair and regretful decision is that Mondo Guerra like Lambert, is off to fame and fortune. True talent can’t be hidden and Mondo acquired enough fans to guarantee his success. Yes, PR needs a total makeover, starting with the judges.

  4. I thought Gretchen Jones should have won. I feel like her collection was more on trend, better conceived and had originality. I didn’t think she was a bitch during the show, like she said in the reunion if a man is confident no one notices but as soon as a woman shows confidence people call her a bitch. And I’d take Nina and Micheal’s opinion over Heidi and Jessica any day. Micheal is one of the best ready wear designers in the world and Nina is/was the fashion director of Elle and Marie Claire. Heidi is a former model and Jessica is a former singer. Their opinions don’t count.

  5. Of course Gretchen won. PR is now on Bravo which is owned by NBC Universal which in turn is owned by GE. If it won’t play in middle America, they don’t want it.

  6. Personally I felt that Mondo should’ve won! While his looks had the fashion “show” feel to them, they could still be worn straight off the runway! Gretchen’s line was one too many pajamas ‘glammed’ up with accessories! And I completely agree with the author of this post, Nina Garcia and Michael Kors (while respecting their influence jnthe industry) are getting old and perhaps what is too young in their eyes is what the market needs!
    Nonetheless, Mondo show cased his work at the fashion show, people in the industry saw what he could do and his talent will only push him forward!!!

  7. PR is not on Bravo; it is on Lifetime. And I’m sure it’ll be just a matter of time before women in middle America are heading to the mall in Gretchen’s knit underpants.

  8. That decision was a shocker. Judges need to leave their big egos out of the decision making and adhere to fair standards, not whether a contestant tried to personally please them. Gretchen’s designs are so bland, so unimaginative that I can’t imagine her potential clientele. She’s a step up from WalMart and that’s about it. Her personality will certainly be a turnoff to anyone forced to work with her. Ultimately she will end up right back where she was — broke and whining. Mondo, on the other hand, is brilliant, creative and daring. He will enjoy the kind of success he so richly deserves.

  9. I was a fan of Mondo all the, but the couple of challenges got me cheering for Andy. At the end I really thought Andy had the best up and coming creativity. I’ll always love Mondo and his style, but I really thought Andy should have taken the prize. P.S. Can we see a replay of Ivy getting hit in the eye.

  10. I could not believe that Mondo did not win. I think that Kors and Garcia were just upset that Mondo did not take their advice and change his designs. Of course, Gretchen, the drama queen, did adhere to what Kors and Garcia suggested and her sloppy designs won. I wish that Heidi and Jessica had fought harder for the best designer on the show. I guess only Kors and Garcia can make the final decision. PR should get other judges who know what they are talking about.

    Mondo is creative, imaginative and true to himself. Sorry, Mondo, but you are on your way to fame. Good luck!

  11. Michael C. also got robbed when they took Gretchen over him. His clothes are pretty! Judges complained his color was monotone…what about Gretchen’s? And even Andy’s lacked colors. PR made a horrible choice. New Judges ASAP!

  12. I haven’t decided if I am going to stop watching PR or pull out my old simplicity patterns and get some cheap fabric from walmart to make some Gretchen like clothes and audition for the show.(Hey, it worked for her) It is unbelievable that they gave it to her( and they gave it to her-she didn’t win). We thought they were suppose to give a show-like Mondo and Andy did. Not send down a collection that looks like it came from the clearance rack at Kmart or a yard sale. And styling? Please. Gretchen couldn’t even style herself. Oh well now she has the money to get a real hair cut and some make up. PLEASE someone give that girl a make over. Then give Nina Garcia one. She could use an update with her hair and clothes too.

  13. I also thought that Mondo’s designs were head and shoulders above Gretchen’s “Little House on the Prarie” style. And as far as Jesse’s comment that Nina and Michael’s opinion is more valuable than Jessica Simpson or Heidi’s let me remind her that both of those women buy a lot of high end designer clothers and the taste of the customer is what makes a designer successful.

  14. Gretchen brought back the 1970’s and the Woodstock Nation. Nothing wrong with that but is it really establishing a trend and establishing new fashions? She could have added color—a Southwest theme could have included the range of colors evident in the SW, blue, emerald, greens, etc.

    The judges were a complete inconsistent mess over the season. Too edgy, not eddy enough, be yourself, don’t bring the circus to town, no more warrior woman, Andy lost himself, blah-blah-blah. Gretchen probably won because she was willing to bend the most with the advice from on high by glamming up her models hair and makeup. Andy lost because he toned his line down—in response to the judges critique. Mondo had the audacity of putting the polka-dot dress on the runway when two of the judges had already told him they didn’t like it—-and the two who didn’t care for that dress were the two that put him in his place for having the nerve to show the dress.

    Have to thank all the participants for putting their creative hearts on the line. To live the life of the artist and pursue their dreams has required them to make heavy sacrifices. Wish they all succeed in the future.

  15. I’m in shock that Mondo did not win! Gretchen, besides with being a complainer, was the worse designer of the three. Mondo’s designs were wonderfully different. I also think Tim Gunn has given bad advice during this season. I’d like to see NEW judges next season. Their opinions are tired and old. Time for some younger judges!

  16. Agreed! And I love that you pointed out the inconsistencies in the judging. I don’t remembe the designers, but they hated a back bow one week and loved it from someone else the next. Major foot-in-mouth moment! I agree with everyone that Mondo is destined for great things with or without the win. Hope to see him at Houston fashion week next year!

  17. What happened to the ”WOW FACTOR”? I , agree Mondo should have won. Project Dumbway needs new judges. Throu
    the episodes Gretchen was boring, that was noted. I hope Mondo knows his line was great.

  18. Gretchen’s designs were wearable and beautifully executed. Don’t believe everything that you see on television; they edit film like crazy to manipulate viewers AND to cause drama. I felt that both Mondo and Gretchen deserved to win. Personally, I would wear more of Gretchen’s designs, but that’s just my opinion.

    I really did not like how some of the other female designers on the show called Gretchen “fake” during the reunion. I thought that was incredibly immature and hypocritical of them. They were pointing out how Gretchen said negative things behind Christopher’s back in regards to his design aesthetic. WHO CARES! EVERYBODY ON THE SHOW DOES THAT! INCLUDING THE GIRLS WHO WERE CALLING GRETCHEN “FAKE”. It’s just so ridiculous. Especially April who seemed to have it out for Gretchen since the beginning by saying that her designs were boring and lacked creativity (all of this coming from a “designer” who made her model wear diapers as “hot shorts”). Yet, towards the end of the show, when April had to become roommates with Gretchen, she all of a sudden was best friends with her. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that you don’t like someone’s design aesthetic, that’s what most of you are doing on these posts. Why does Gretchen get chewed out for it?

    Gretchen is not manipulative, she’s misunderstood. ALL of the designers are guilty of saying negative things behind each others back. At the end of the day, most women would want to purchase Gretchen’s designs and that’s why both Michael Kors and Nina Garcia agreed that she was the winner. Think about how experience they both are in the fashion industry. Many of us on this forum are not nearly as experienced as they are or hold the kinds of credentials that they do in fashion. It’s clear that they know what many women want and what will sell. Gretchen may not be as out-of-the-box as Mondo, but there’s no denying that she has talent in her own way. I can’t wait to buy her designs!

  19. I was, like the others, shocked that Gretchen won. I loved Mondo’s runway show because it was just that. I’m sorry Andy didn’t think of the color palette and the white runway because he show was washed out. I also think had he added more jewel tones to his lime green it would have surpassed Gretchen. I am also sad that Michael C. because I think he would have had a beautiful show. Gretchen is too Kmart for me. I think she will be overpriced for her look and therefore be a PR has been like Jay from Season 1. I agree with the judging being very wishy washy this year. I hope they turn it around for Season 9.

  20. I will not be watching project runway next season, this win by gretchen was borning, i don’t watch this for off the rack, hippie wear, MONDO should have won, they criticized Michael C for a monochromatic color scheme, and yet they pic Gretchen, I love Michael Kors stuff but question his and Nina’s opinion on season 8. booooooo poor choice,

  21. I’m surprised as well that Mondo did not win! They even compared his collection to Seth from season 7 and both are not even close to compare. What about Gretchen not owning up to her attitude from the start of the season to the end. It was all fake! I think they gave it to her because all she was talking about is that she was poor and all. Fashion is about identity! Betsy Johnson, John Galliano or Alexander McQueen won’t be them if they were not themselves designing.

  22. Most of us are long time fans of PR and we have good memories. We remember that just last year both Nina and Michael voted against Emilio Sosa in the finals because he showed a line and not a collection. His “line” was head and shoulders above Gretchen’s. Seth Aaron was edgy and fun and deserved to win, but so did Mondo. I rarely write to complain about a tv show, but this decision is so bad I couldn’t keep still. Unless there are new judges next year I have seen my last episode of Project Runway.

  23. I’ve already lost interest after the first few episodes for Season 7. This season definitely cemented my opinion that Project Runway has lost it’s steam. Lacklustre designers with huge ego and their usual formula of an eye candy designer (Logan/Christopher Collins – mediocre designs produced on the show) for the female audience.

    Time for me to boycott L’oreal and Garnier products for a year..poof..well until the next season anyway. :P No sense boycotting MK’s products since that’s not much to it – never own one and never will!! In my opinion, Anne Klein’s are way above MK’s ;)

  24. It’s terrible that Grethen won! Her designs are boring and the shortest shorts are not to be worn for anybody over 15. Green leather anyone? Paired with the drabest brown print?! Nina Garcia lost her mind thinking that it is “now.”

  25. I totally agree with most of the comments about Grethen’s I did not see much depth and creativity in her designs on a whole and those final pieces she showed blah! i am in shock.

  26. The discussions everywhere across the net agree that this was a poor decision by the judges and that Mondo should have won. I could see this travesty unfolding weeks ago and have actually been yelling at my TV! Gretchen should never have made the top 3, let alone won. She is a miserable human being, mean spirited and snarky, then turns whinny and weepy! Give me a break. I think everyone should boycott all Michael Kors purchases, Marie Claire, Lifetime and Project Runway…hit these dummies in their wallets..Gretchens crappy designs will never sell, she is already done..I used to enjoy PR, now I know they do everything to grab attention and they succeeded with this ridiculous choice for a winner. I’m done with PR…BOO HISS



  28. Michael Kors….get OVER yourself! You missed by a mile on this one. I wouldn’t buy a dime’s worth of wretched Gretchen’s brand, nor yours. Mondo was the clear winner this year…it doesn’t take an over-the-hill, overly inflated ego like MK’s to see that!

  29. Michael Kors and Nina Garcia said Gretchen’s clothes were very wearable and would do really well in department stores. HEY! If I want to buy cheesy panties and dated hippy droopy tops and pants with plastic glued down the butt, I will go to the Goodwill. MONDO RULES!! I would never commission Gretchen. She’s nasty, and she doesn’t care what the client wants, witness her talks with Heidi! Nina and Michael should pack their knives and go. ALSO, the show needs FIVE judges to break stalemates like this one!!!

  30. Mondo should have won. I can’t get my head around WHY Michael Kors or Nina Garcia voted for Gretchen. It almost seems like they took offense when Mondo didn’t listen to their advice about the polka dot dress. Boo to them!

    My boyfriend found this mondo t-shirt site for me (justiceformondo.com). I want to send one to Gretchen! :p

  31. I agree with the writer – Mondo was best. I was a faithful follower of Project Runway but will not be watching any longer.

  32. To Sam (aka Gretchen or Gretchen’s buddy):

    Gretchen not manipulative; just misunderstood. What planet are you from?

    Nina and Michael Kors KNOW what women want to buy? How about us women ourselves? I KNOW WHAT I WOULD BUY AND WEAR…and it’s not Gretchen’s tasteless granola. Never will one dime of mine end up in her pocket!

  33. I didn’t find Gretchen’s personality as objectionable as Ivy’s, personally. Gretchen grew on me a litle as a person (not as a designer), whereas Ivy came off as a bitter and angry bitch.

    However, I was a Mondo devotee from the 2nd challenge, and I’m sad that he didn’t win. Fashion should feel young. Sure it gets moderated for people my age but the cutting edge should be edgy.. and cut.

    Gretchen was dull
    Mondo is a star.

    And in 10 years people ‘might’ remember him, but noone will remember her.

  34. I am so upset. I cannot believe that Gretchen won. I think based off of Episode One and Two: Yes, she had two nice looks there, but the actually ending show was so frustratingly not as good as Mondo’s, it was so obviously Mondo. I’m just glad that he can hopefully have the exposure he needs to be successful, but I feel like Gretchen won just because she is poor and needed the money.

  35. I have to agree with the person who said the judges were horrible this season. Every show it became more and more obvious that they need new judges. One week they wanted one thing and then the next they didn’t like it. I couldn’t believe that Gretchen won on the horrible pantsuit on the second show! It was dull and boring like the rest of her designs though the season. I think that this season is my last. The judges have no idea what women want to wear who aren’t runway models. Also can’t wait to see someone try and work with Gretchen. Her personality is grating and she’s so fake.

  36. Having read several blogs about the Project Runway finale I am actually really surprised to see that NO ONE is supporting Ms. Jones. The way she “played the game” might have left a soar taste in many viewers mouths but bottom line is that the woman can design and dress a woman. I would wear every single piece that came down that runway, cant say the same for Mondo (and I feel like a lot of you need to ask yourself that same question). He is a talented designer and I have no doubt in my mind that he wont be successful but for what is happening RIGHT NOW, he isnt there just yet. She is what ever 27 year old girl is craving to be right now; bohemian, comfortable and sexy! Congrats to Gretchen and cant wait to wear her pieces!!

  37. I can’t believe Gretchen won. I wouldn’t wear ANYTHING of hers in the final. Nina and Michael Kors are obviously oblivious, and look at Nina, the fact that she’s not able to pull off any of Mondo’s clothing has NOTHING to do with his design abilities…it’s HER. This used to be my favourite show, but no longer, I can’t believe the results of this season. Gretchen is NOT a fashion designer in comparison to Mondo.

  38. you are ABSOLUTELY right. And I’m twice their age!!! This was so dowdy-dom wins the day. Mondo, you’re the Queen!

  39. So far there are at least 4,000 PR viewers who are proudly middle American, who first objected to Gretchen being picked over Michael Costello, and now object to Gretchen winning the competition over Mondo. None of us would dream of wearing her clothes.

    I am also, proudly, an older woman, who loves the show and thinks that Michael Kors and Nina Garcia are too old and out of touch with the current fashion world to continue to be judges.

  40. This was an issue about judge’s egos. Nina has openly said on her Facebook page that she chose Gretchen because she listened to them. Because Mondo did not bow to their ‘greatness’, he lost. Talk about judging inconsistencies throughout!!
    And Michael Kors screaming at Jessica Simpson to “READ A MAGAZINE” – she’s in the magazines for Christ’s sake.
    Kors and Garcia are too out of their minds to know what is and isn’t on point. They need to go!! The only thing that’s going to save PR is getting new judges and featuring more of Tim Gunn (who is the fan favourite of the show).
    Change the judges, or PR is over for good.
    Link to Nina’s feeble excuse: http://www.facebook.com/FashionNinaG?v=wall#!/notes/nina-garcia/about-project-runways-finale/137969192920610

  41. Ten years from now Gretchen will be selling her riduculous earthy-crunchy clothes and hand-made jewelry at the weekend Saturday Market in Oregon and bossing around the other outdoor vendors under the guise of giving helpful advice; Mondo will be a huge creative success on the New York runways!

  42. I am still in shock. Mondo’s collection was far and away better than Gretchen’s. (As was Andy’s.) Not only did the wrong designer win, they rewarded Wretchen for her nasty, backstabbing behavior. I can’t wait to see her collection in Big Lots.

  43. This is the first time I have ever written…but the audacity of knots and Garcia supporting Gretchen was I feel purely personal in that mondo stayed true to himself and not to them…they criticized others for not staying true and then when mondo does rather than taking their command…they oust him…Monro’s fashions so outclassed gretchen’s 70’s fluff…I am sad and frustrated all in one and can’t imagine how mondo must feel…don’t give up mondo…you are sooooo talented…

  44. Yes, hurrah for Gretchen’s horrible little panty outfits. In what era was that fashionable? Certainly not this one.

    Mondo is unique and deserved to win. I think Michael Kors and Nina Garcia have lost their minds.

    I don’t know one woman who would be caught dead in those ugly clothes of Gretchen’s. Well, maybe dead. They do seem perfect for funerals.

  45. I don’t know what the hell they were thinking!!! As a designer Mondo was miles a head of Gretchen. Gretchen’s collection was dull, boring, and unoriginal. It also looked to me that Michael Kors was a bit jealous of Mondo’s creativity and talent. That’s why he was so adamant about Gretchen b/c she is the same “type” of designer as him i.e. dull, boring, unoriginal, and completely forgettable! Generations from now no one will remember either Micheal Kors or Gretchen but Mondo is an original.

  46. First let me say that I was a fan of Mondo from the very beginning, but I have to agree with the judges on their decision. Gretchen’s collection was more polished, chic and very expensive looking. Mondo’s although nice and very colorful to took at, was very confusing. He’s first blouse/short combo was more mature and the rest became to young and costume like. I actually liked Andy’s collection more than Mondo’s. Please watch the show again and everyone will see what I mean….

  47. Move over Jaclyn Smith Your competition has just won Project Runway. I am glad to know that the judges picked the more practical line. I can just imagine the average woman wearing panties to the grocery store, work or a PTA meeting. I especially look forward to seeing the green leather cover and panties on the beach this summer. Way to go judges. You really know the brown drab desires of the average woman.

  48. i couldnt believe Gretchen won. And the argument was infuriating! If, as Michael Kors put it, gretchen’s fashion is “what’s next” then i plan on going naked. Her dirt coloured garments looked like they were from a second hand store. The judges were right that Gretchen’s clothes will be in department stores…probably on the racks at Target any day now. I’m certain Mondo will be a huge success while Gretchen sinks into obscurity.

  49. You are all sweetly naive. There are always one or two contestants each season chosen by the producers to be the designer(s) viewers ture in each week to hate.

    I have never met Gretchen Jones but I loved her clothes and I think people dislike her because she is a strong and outspoken woman.

  50. Not everyone was backstabbing. Michael C did not say a bad word about anyone. He should have been in the final 3. Michael C, Andy & Mondo. Gretchen did not belong there and DID NOT deserve to win! MONDO all the way. I read that Michael C. & Mondo are getting a show. They deserve it!

  51. I loved Mondo’s creations and he will succeed. Gretchen is a drama queen and the producers of Project Runway kept her on and hoped this would help in the ratings. They selected as a finalist Drama Queen Gretchen who designed those ugly ill fitted green play shorts. Michael Kor described Gretchen’s designs as granola and then he picked her as one of the finalist; figure that one. Gretchen won but I think Mondo will get some offers.

    I loved Emilio Sosa’s designs; Seth Aaron’s designs were beautifully crafted but then some of his designs were a little out there. Check out Seth Aaron’s latest collection for 2010.

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