Project Runway NZ Week 11 recap + exit interview with Judy Gao

Project Runway NZ Week 11

The final four Project Runway New Zealand designers with their models on the runway. Image by Tom Hollow.

It’s the second to last episode of Project Runway New Zealand already with the competition narrowed down to the final four designers. This week’s episode opens with Jess excited that it’s the final challenge and Kerry notes that he misses Peni already and how quiet it is without him. Kerry, Judy and Benjamin have all won two challenges so far and Jess has won one challenge at this point. Benjamin disagrees that his design last week was safe but is taking the judges feedback on board. Judy admits that she thinks she is the weakest link because of her lack of training but is going to try her best. Benjamin says that Kerry thinks he is top dog since he won the challenge but Benjamin says he’s not.

The challenge

Host Georgia Fowler and mentor Andreas Mikellis welcome the designers to the runway and congratulate them on being in the final four. They tell the designers that they will be creating a Spring/Summer look that is a taster for the collection they will create next week as a full collection and is to showcase their personal style and taste. Benny arrives to advise the designers that cohesion, personality and execution is how they create a strong collection. Andreas tells them they have $500 and two full days for this challenge.

Jess says she’s nervous and didn’t think she would make it this far, while Kerry is feeling confident that he can do this and that it’s important that the designers make it personal and true to themselves. Judy isn’t sure what to make and the designers head off to The Fabric Store to figure out what they’re going to use for their outfits.

Andreas reminds Kerry not to go to far and do too much. While Judy and Benjamin choose the same fabric which surprises them both and Judy decides to choose something different as she doesn’t think she can compete with Benjamin. Judy picks quite contrasting fabrics while Jess goes for pink, red and white.

Into the workroom

The designers head to the workroom with Benjamin and Jess comparing ideas and Benjamin says he hates being told what to do and always does what he wants. He says that this competition has proven that anyone can go home as the judges can like “bloody anything”. Kerry wants to make his collection very personal and explore how he felt at the end of a long relationship and wants to tell his story with the collection. Judy isn’t sure what story to tell with her collection and feels a bit lost.

Project Runway NZ Week 11

Jess picks her bright fabrics for the challenge at The Fabric Store.

Jess says that herself, Benjamin and Kerry are really motivated and “gunning for the top three” but that Judy isn’t sure what she’s doing. Benjamin says that Judy is “away with the fairies” and that she isn’t focused enough. Andreas arrives and Jess explains that her outfit is an ode to powerful women, which he tells her to be careful with to make sure the outfit isn’t too top heavy. Kerry says he wants the fabric to speak for itself and Andreas says the design needs room to move. Benjamin says what he loves in clothing is exaggeration of proportion and Andreas says that if he can get enough volume it will be great. Judy shows Andreas the tiered pant she wants to go with a jacket and he is concerned that she is being too timid.

The models arrive for their first fitting and Jess says that she doesn’t understand her model Heidi’s comments and Kerry says that Heidi looks uncomfortable. Judy notes that everyone else is a lot further along than her. Benjamin is pleased with how his garment looks on his model Gracie but that it needs more. He rings his mother and says that he has been feeling vulnerable but that he projects confidence because this is what he wants to do and he “bloody wants to win”.

Day two

Jess says she feels quite sentimental about the designers spending their last day in the workroom together. She adds that she’ll feel really disheartened if she goes home at this point and Benjamin jokes that if he goes home this week he would trash the apartment and walk calmly out the door. Judy is feeling calmer that she has things together and Kerry and Judy remark that they’ve enjoyed being roommates since the beginning.

Kerry says that he’s glad it’s the last day and that they really have to sell their designs to the judges. Jess is annoyed that she won’t have time to line her leather jacket but she’s excited about her design. Kerry is rushing to get his shirt finished and the buttonhole machine keeps showing an error so he has to do his buttonholes manually. Andreas arrives in the workroom to tell the designers they have two hours to get their models styled and ready for the runway. The models arrive for their final fittings and Jess is relieved that her jumpsuit fits Heidi perfectly and Benjamin also loves his design on Gracie. Kerry fits his model but then rushes to get his jacket finished.

Runway time

It’s the last runway of the competition and Georgia arrives to greet the final four and introduce the judges, Sally-Ann Mullin and Benny Castles as well as guest judge Georgia Currie, designer of womenswear label Georgia Alice. Jess’ outfit is first up on the runway and she loves the colour and silhouette but isn’t happy that some of the pleats have separated. Judy is next up and she thinks her model looks really cool and she loves the front of the garment but thinks she could do better. Kerry’s look is third and he thinks his model looks tall and proud and notes that Benny is wearing the same colour as his outfit. Benjamin thought his look was perfect and that it was everything he wanted.

Project Runway NZ Week 11

Guest judge Georgia Currie, judges Benny Castles and Sally-Ann Mullin and host Georgia Fowler.

The judging

Georgia Fowler reminds them that only three of them will make it to the final before the models return and Jess is first to explain her look. She says that her final collection would be inspired by her mum and all the women who are powerful and strong. Sally-Ann says that it looks expensive and is one of her favourite colour combinations and Benny says her mother would be very proud. Judy says her collection would be inspired by her journey here and that it is about embracing imperfections. Georgia Currie says that it can be difficult to find your vision as a designer and that she loves the look but isn’t sure who the girl that would wear it is.

Kerry says that suits make you feel tall and proud and that his collection is about moving on from the darkness into the light. Georgia Fowler says it’s well constructed but that the shirt is a little much for real life. Benny says that the outfit made him smile and that fashion is about bringing positivity into people’s lives. Benjamin says that his look is everything he loves about clothing and that no matter how much you go through in life the bullshit doesn’t define you. Sally-Ann says that every week it’s a joy to see Benjamin’s work every week and Benny agrees that the outfit is gorgeous.

Now it’s time for the judges to get a closer look at each outfit with Andreas who leads the models back out onto the runway. Georgia Fowler is impressed how well Jess’ fabrics matched and Benny says that her sense of proportion and style is perfect and he wants to see more of what she can do. Georgia Currie comments that the back  of Judy’s outfit isn’t flattering and Benny isn’t sure that it’s the best Judy could do. Benny loves the concept of Kerry’s outfit and Sally-Ann says he’s done a good job of paring it back this week. Benny says the sleeve on Benjamin’s outfit is phenomenal and Georgia Currie says she loves everything aside from the pants which aren’t quite perfect.

The verdict

The designers return to the runway and Georgia Fowler tells them this week’s decision was a really hard one for the judges. Georgia tells Jess that the judges were blown away by her look and that she is the winner this week. Benjamin is runner-up and Georgia tells him it’s an incredibly runway piece and they can’t wait to see his collection. Kerry is in third place and Georgia says that there was a lot to love about his look. Judy is eliminated this week as Georgia tells her that the competition was really fierce but that they have loved having her on the show. Judy says that she has really surprised herself with the competition and that she has so much more potential and more to give. She notes that it’s been an awesome experience and that she wouldn’t change it for anything.

Project Runway NZ Week 11

Judy Gao is the eleventh designer to be eliminated from Project Runway New Zealand.

We caught up with Judy to find out more about her experience on the show, what she would have done differently and what’s next for her.

How would you describe your Project Runway New Zealand experience in five words?
Emotional, Stressful, Challenging, Exciting, Unforgettable,

What was your favourite outfit that you designed on the show and why?
My favourite by far was the Avant Garde look. It was fun because cutting out the shapes and putting it on the form was completely random, I was surprised it turned out so well. In our day-to-day lives, we don’t often get to experiment with new techniques like how we did in this challenge.

Which challenge did you find the hardest and why?
The hardest one for me was the Resene challenge because I felt drained at that point and had a creative block. Especially with the high pressure after winning two challenges, nothing I designed was good enough and that feeling of not meeting my own expectations was hard for me to deal with.

Is there anything you would do differently if you could do the show again?
In hindsight, all the challenges where I did poorly was when I wasted so much time being indecisive, doubting myself, and complaining that I can’t sew. If I did the show again, I would stop focusing on what I can’t do and use my strengths to my advantage.

Which other designer/s did you bond with on the show? 
I couldn’t have asked for a better group of designers to share this experience with. I’m a huge introvert so meeting new people was really daunting, especially for a competition. These designers were so friendly and easy to bond with it made the experience enjoyable.

What was your favourite moment from the filming of the show?
There were so many great moments but I loved trying on the other designers’ garments and having a bit of fun with them.

What is your advice for anyone who wants to be on Project Runway New Zealand in future?
Be kind to others and 100% authentic to yourself. Push yourself outside your comfort zone while also playing to your strengths. Learn from the feedback and think critically about your designs. And make the most out of this opportunity, you’ll grow so much as a designer.

What’s next for you?
I would like to expand my business internationally. I’ve recently been invited to show a collection at Paris Fashion Week so will be designing a new collection for that. Also launching a bridal range!

Tune in to Project Runway New Zealand next Monday, 7.30pm on TVNZ 2 to find out who will win the challenge and who will walk. We can’t wait! If you missed an episode you can always catch up on TVNZ On Demand here.

See every look from the runway this week below.

Images by Tom Hollow.

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