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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Drexel chapter.

The fifth season of “Project Runway All-Stars,” which premiered in February, has been full of drama, conflict, and innovative designs. The competitors have faced challenge after challenge, from having to use fabric picked by another designer to dressing nudists. After starting with thirteen all-stars, the judges narrowed down the finalists to Ken Laurence, Dom Streater, and Kini Zamora. Here are our thoughts on their collections and the judges’ ultimate decision on the winner.

The Challenge

The designers started off meeting the host, Alyssa Milano, on the top floor of One World Trade Center in New York. While standing in the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, Alyssa explained that for their finale collections the designers were to draw from their experiences in New York. But following the season’s pattern of challenges, this would come with a twist. For the first time ever, the all-stars would need to integrate a menswear look into their eight-piece collection. Luckily, they would have some help – each contestant was paired with a previously eliminated designer who would act as their assistant. With a budget of $3,000 and only four days to create their collections, the designers were sent on their way.

Ken’s Collection (3rd Place)

“My inspiration for my collection tonight was the elegance and the architectural elements that the buildings here in New York City have.”

For Ken, this was only his second time in New York City. He drew his inspiration from the beautiful architecture that was so different from what he was used to in the South. Leather was also a big part of his looks; so much, in fact, that he wrapped leather around the models’ ponytails! For Ken, every element of his looks had to be strong and powerful, just like his women. Though his primarily black and white collection had flawless construction, Ken’s show would not have been complete without his yellow statement pieces. He chose yellow because it’s noisy and draws a lot of attention, just like NYC. This was out of character for Ken, as he had avoided color for most of the season, but it really paid off.

Unfortunately, his bold pop of color was not enough to secure the win, though he should be applauded for taking such a big risk. While the judges appreciated the cohesion and commercialist appeal of his collection, they felt it was too safe. Guest judge and editor-in-chief of Marie Claire Magazine, Anne Fulenwider, put it best when she said there was just no “wow factor.” On the other hand, the second guest judge, Debra Messing, loved Ken’s collection, noting that “the thing that I liked the most were the little surprises.”

If this were a contest on who could be the most commercial, Ken definitely would have taken the prize. But we agree with the judges that some of his looks were just a little too safe for a finale collection.

Our Favorite Piece from the Collection:

Kini’s Collection (Runner-Up)

“My collection is inspired by the view of uptown NYC and the gridlines of Manhattan.”

Like Ken, Kini grew up in a completely different environment than New York. Though a Hawaiian native, he loved New York’s “Park Avenue Princess,” an uptown, sophisticated kind of girl. He wanted to incorporate the gridlines of Manhattan seen from the One World Trade Center, so he found a gorgeous plaid fabric that his women would love in both pink and blue. His menswear look, which also incorporated plaid, was his uptown girl’s “gay best friend.” Many of his looks had ruffles, which were executed with restraint – something that he had struggled with all season. Overall, his color palette of pink and blue, mixed in with some black and white, had a powerful impact on the runway in addition to making the collection more cohesive.

As Alyssa put it, “Everything about Kini makes me smile.” The judges found Kini’s collection to be the most joyous of the three, not to mention the most well constructed (as was always the case with Kini!). Georgina Chapman, co-founder of the brand Marchesa, thought it was genius just how out of the box his looks were. But the judges were seeking something more – they wanted Kini to push it even further to the extreme. They would rather he choose between either subtlety or going completely over the top.

Personally, we loved that he found a balance between the two. Though nothing about his collection screamed ready-to-wear, it allowed us to imagine what a commercial line of his might look like. Just like the judges, we found all of his looks to be fun, fresh, and joyful.

Our Favorite Piece from the Collection:

Dom (Winner)

“This collection is inspired by my very first experience in New York and how the sensory experience of the city really jostled my senses, all the way from the skyscrapers, to the lights of Broadway, and to the people.”

Unlike the other two designers, Dom was no stranger to New York. Her first time visiting at age 16 was the inspiration point for her collection. She immediately drew upon the chaos and the different moving parts of the city, and decided that she would visually communicate that through hand-painted prints. She created two different prints on leather: a plaid made of primary colors to reflect the grid-like streets, and an impressionist-inspired blue fabric to show movement. The designers’ mentor, Zanna Roberts Rassi, told her to be cautious that her risky silhouettes didn’t become blobs on the runway. She took her advice while still pushing herself to be inventive.

As it turned out, she nailed it, according to judge and designer Isaac Misrahi. Calling her an artist, he applauded her creativity and “intellectual rigor” in creating never-before-seen silhouettes and shapes. Though the judges were not fans of every single piece, they agreed that they would rather dislike something that was new and different than look at something they’ve seen before. Alyssa did question her painted fabrics – she pointed out that both were not necessary, and almost distracted from the interesting silhouettes.

Though we loved Dom’s Monet-like blue fabric, we do agree that the geometric one could have been edited out. However, the designers only had four days to create these looks, and if she had more time to step back from her work, it’s possible Dom may have come to this conclusion herself. Ultimately, it was the risks she took in her silhouettes that got her the win.

Our Favorite Piece from the Collection:

Final Thoughts

This season had a historic win, as Dom became the first female winner in all five seasons of Project Runway All-Stars. As she put it, “It’s the best type of validation as a designer, to have these giants in the industry say you have a voice, and the world needs to hear it.” Ultimately, we loved Dom’s final collection and her overall work on this season of Project Runway All-Stars. However, Kini was a close contender, and it certainly wouldn’t have upset us if he had come in first place. Dom had already won her own season of Project Runway, and it felt like Kini deserved a win. But the judges’ decision was based solely on this season’s final collections, so it was Dom who took home the prize. Her talent for pattern mixing, her risk-taking, and her kind and energetic personality will definitely take her far.

Her Campus Drexel contributor.