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Project Runway NZ Recap: And then there were three

This is it! The moment to crown the winner of the first season of Project Runway NZ has arrived, and any one of the designers could snatch the top spot.

Benjamin, Jess and Kerry are the ones meant to be in the final. They’ve always had the "right stuff".

Having won two challenges each they were the designers who gave us the most interesting and varied peeks into their designing styles and future careers throughout the competition.

Benjamin’s unique aesthetic and personality gave him the edge early on. From the moment he sent down the runway his salted lychee inspired dress with big sleeves to last week’s utilitarian earthy look, he has given us a glimpse into the mind and work of a natural born designer.

Kerry's collection.
Kerry's collection. Source: Tom Hollow

I’ve always felt an affinity for Jess. There was something so ethereal and luminous about her first look that it ignited my imagination and made me yearn for the stories behind her creations. Of all the designers she’s been the only one who’s taken challenges, de-constructed them and made them her own.

It was great to see Kerry’s work ethic from the start. The first ensemble he sent down the runway had the signature of a professional and meticulous dressmaker. From then onwards, all his designs, although problematic at times, were impeccably and methodically made.

For the final runway show, the designers have been given $2000 each and sent away for three weeks to work on a five-look collection. This should include the one they have already designed on the previous episode.

Kerry's collection.
Kerry's collection. Source: Tom Hollow

Three weeks can go very fast, especially on TV, but Andreas still manages to visit each one of the designers at their workspaces to check on their collections.

Jess is feeling the pressure to deliver since she’s the one who won the challenge that gave us a peek into her collection. She’s trying to create similar elements, but Andreas tells her to avoid repetition.

Andreas thinks that Kerry may be doing a series of pieces that may not be related to each other. He also believes that Benjamin’s choice of fabrics makes his looks feel corporate.

A few weeks later, there’s a full house for the runway show, I can spot a few of the eliminated designers in the audience. Beau is among them. Of all the designers he’s the one who left too soon. I wish we could have seen more from him.

Benjamin's collection.
Benjamin's collection. Source: Tom Hollow

The show starts after Georgia - looking like a million bucks in green, introduces the regular judges Benny and Sally-Ann, plus special guests, fashion stylist Kylie Cooke, and Kiwi designer Sean Kelly, winner of Project Runway US season 13.

First on the runway is Kerry’s collection, a celebration of coming out of the darkness and stepping into the light. Every single piece is immaculate, and I love the way the organza links every look.

I believe Kerry’s newer pieces are better than his previous lace yellow suit. They convey a more inspirational story of successfully coming out of the darkness.

Soft masculinity and brutal femininity, that’s all you need to know to appreciate Benjamin’s collection. Every garment and details are a work of art.

Although there’s a restrained use of colour, Benjamin’s managed to create rich textured looks that add vibrancy to his collection. His pièce de résistance looks superb on his muse Gracie.

Benjamin's collection.
Benjamin's collection. Source: Tom Hollow

An army of women clad in pink and red marching down the runway sums up Jess’ youthful and empowering collection.

By using the strong women who shaped up her life as inspiration, Jess has created a collection of bright voluminous jackets and bottoms that loudly announce their presence. Armoured in Jess’ fashion, these women on the runway are ready to take on the world and conquer it.

It won’t be an easy decision for the judges. Every designer has delivered unique and distinctive winning looks.

Benjamin’s collection has a good combination of commercial and editorial according to guest judge Kylie. Sean finds it cohesive, and Georgia loves the colour and believes all the pieces are sellable.

Sean loves the silhouette of Kerry’s collection and thinks he has taken suit tailoring to a new level. However, Georgia thinks she would see more colour in the collection, it didn’t need to be so dark.

Jess' collection.
Jess' collection. Source: Tom Hollow

Benny loves the play with colour in Jess’ collection, it brings fun and personality. Sally-Ann thinks she has delivered some of the best elements of the day, but there are a few construction issues.

In the end, Kerry finishes third, Jess second and Benjamin is declared the winner of the first season of Project Runway NZ.

The three designers’ collections not only shone on the runway show but also offered a glimpse of the type of designer each one will be.

Kerry, who’s already an industry pro, will find his niche designing for women who appreciate good tailoring and want to look elegant and sophisticated. Likely, he’ll become the head designer of a brand company.

Jess' collection.
Jess' collection. Source: Tom Hollow

Benjamin will most likely design for the 1%. I can see his exclusive designs being worn by the glitterati around the world or showcased by an edgy celebrity on a red-carpet event.

The other 99% will wear Jess. As evidenced throughout the competition, she will push for new shapes and unimaginable colour combinations that will make her work a "must have" for women. The same way purchasing Kate Spade bags became a rite of passage for some, young women will aspire one day to own a piece of clothing by Jess.

Benjamin wins Project Runway NZ. Jess is second.
Benjamin wins Project Runway NZ. Jess is second. Source: Tom Hollow

I’ve enjoyed this season of Project Runway, and although storylines and character development were not as elaborate or dramatic as in the American version, there’s no doubt, they cast very talented people for this season.

Here’s hoping for season two.

* Project Runway New Zealand is available on TVNZ OnDemand

By Luis Portillo - 1 NEWS producer

The three final designers: Jess, Benjamin and Kerry.
The three final designers: Jess, Benjamin and Kerry. Source: Tom Hollow