The 11th season of the fashion-design competition Project Runway has been doing things a little differently right from the start: the usual (and dreaded) team challenges were expunged in favor of an all-teams-all-the-time approach. And the changes haven’t stopped there.
In past seasons, the show has concluded with a runway show at New York Fashion Week—the ultimate showcase (and test) for the three or four designers who make it past the final challenge. Each one gets time to make his/her own collection between the taping of that elimination and their return to New York for the catwalk event—viewers get to see Runway guru Tim Gunn visit the designers at their home studios. On the day of the runway show, each introduces his/her collection to the live audience, thanking family members and disclosing inspirations.
But that’s not how it will go down this year. TIME was present at the finale catwalk show—which has already been taped—and here’s what was learned about the rest of the season, including a few spoilers.
Because of the timing of this season’s broadcast and the Fall/Winter 2013 Fashion Week, some changes were made. Only three episodes of Season 11 have aired. But Fashion Week began last Thursday, Feb. 7. That means that the bulk of the 16 designers are still in the running, and to see three collections presented would spoil the rest of the season. So, on the Feb. 8 finale catwalk show, seven designers presented their collections—and they did so completely anonymously.
With only a brief pause between each cluster of models (and a change in the audiovisual accompaniment), each collection came down the runway. And, with that many designers presenting without the sentimental attachment that goes with having a favorite—a factor that show host Heidi Klum admitted (live) to be an issue for her. This is, she says, the first season she has found herself rooting hard for one particular contestant—it was easy to see why only a few designers out of each crop are really qualified for Fashion Week honors.
A few of the collections were clear stand-outs, drawing sustained applause from the crowd. Those included collection No. 1, with dark, Spanish-influenced looks; collection No. 2, with a futuristic/Eastern European pin-up feel; and collection No. 5, a rich-looking group with an apparent Scandinavian influence and a covet-worthy sweater with an anatomically accurate bleeding-heart design. Another stand-out moment—though perhaps not in a good way—was the hair styling presented by the designer who went last: his or her model, wearing the collection’s finale gown, was topped with a cascading fountain of fake blue hair, a look more befitting the pages of a Dr. Seuss book than at Lincoln Center.
Though none of the designers got to introduce their collections, they were all present and posed for photographs at the conclusion of the show—thus giving away some of their anonymity. The first designer, who used shots of Barcelona in the video reel and received a warm reception, was probably Layana Aguilar, who emerged wearing one of the black flamenco-type hats seen on the models in that batch. The blackand white fabric seen in one of the other collections was also worn by designer Samantha Black, and the goth accessories seen in another also showed up on a hat worn by Richard Hallmarq. As for the arctic-influenced collection, a subtle nod to its earthy wools was perhaps seen in the cap worn by Tu Suthiwat Nakchat—or maybe that hat was just a hat.
Those hints about which designers make it through the season weren’t the only “wow” factors in the presentation. Project Runway fans who miss past judge Michael Kors—who was replaced this year by fellow designer Zac Posen—can look forward to the final episode of the season. Kors was there at the runway show, and he’ll be the episode’s guest judge.