Project Runway NZ Week 12 recap + exit interviews with Jessica Hunter and Kerry Ranginui

Project Runway NZ Week 12

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

After 12 weeks of creativity and drama on the runway, 14 designers have been narrowed down to three for the final of Project Runway New Zealand. Host Georgia Fowler and mentor Andreas Mikellis meet the final 3 designers – Benjamin, Jess and Kerry, at the runway where they are congratulated on making it to the last stage of the competition.

The challenge

For the final challenge the designers have $2000 and three weeks to create a five piece capsule collection that showcases their personal design aesthetic and includes the look they created for the runway last week. Andreas reminds them that they need to bring the most creative and innovative ideas that they’ve got.

Ben says he isn’t nervous but it is public and that anyone can say anything while Jess is excited that the winner will take home $50,000 cash, get a six page editorial in Fashion Quarterly and drive home a brand new Holden Astra.

Creating the collections

Andreas visits Jess in the workroom a week into the challenge and she has been second guessing her work. She says she feels a lot of pressure because she won the last challenge and has to do similar things. Andreas reminds her not to repeat herself and tells her to give her collection a creative twist and to be playful. She has spent half her budget and is now re-thinking how it’s going to work.

Next Andreas heads to a private studio space to visit Kerry. He is feeling confident and explains that his collection is about going from the dark into the light. Andreas says that he has the bones of something interesting but that the collection needs to be cohesive. Kerry is hoping he has enough time to finish it all and keep up his momentum.

Lastly Andreas visits Benjamin who is questioning his fabric choices. Andreas says he is surprised that one of the garments is quite flat and isn’t quite there yet. He reminds Benjamin that the best designers are story tellers and that he needs to tell a story with his collection.

Getting ready for the runway

The designers return to their accomodation to find a note from Georgia who says she’s excited to see their spring collections. Jess is nervous but Benjamin says that he’s just excited and Kerry comments that he still can’t believe he’s in the final three. Jess comments that Benjamin has had a clean run and been in the top each week. Benjamin says that the three of them deserve to be here but he “didn’t come into this competition to come f**king second”.

Project Runway NZ Week 12

Mentor Andreas Mikellis with models in Jess’ designs.

Jess started over after her critique from Andreas and her garments are not quite finished before the runway and is worried it might let her down. Benjamin and Jess have arrived to meet Andreas but Kerry hasn’t arrived yet and Jess says they don’t mind if he doesn’t turn up although adds that Kerry is always late. Kerry finally arrives as he slept in and the others are amazed that he managed to do that. Andreas tells them that the models will arrive shortly and they will have two hours to style them and get them ready for the runway.

The designers take their models to the Maybelline makeup room and Schwarzkopf hair room to get styled for the final runway challenge. Each designer has specific looks in mind to make sure their models project their style on the runway. Andreas tells the designers that winning this show will change one of their lives and that he wishes all three of them amazing careers in fashion.

The runway finale

The runway has arrived and a full house including all the Project Runway designers are there to witness the show and cheer on the final three as well as their families and friends. Georgia Fowler greets the crowd and congratulates the top three designers before she introduces the judges Sally-Ann Mullin, Benny Castles and guest judges stylist Kylie Cooke and designer Sean Kelly (who won Season 13 of Project Runway in the US).

Kerry is first up on the runway and introduces his collection explaining how it’s a celebration of coming from a dark place into the light. He is pleased with the fabric combination of the opening model and thinks she looks fantastic. He loves the that the models are carrying off the collection beautifully and he loves the organza elements of it. The final model is Christina wearing the bright suiting from the previous week and Kerry says he feels complete but is nervous going up against the others and feels his stuff has to be impressive to win.

Benjamin is up next and tells the crowd that his collection is an honest and personal body of work that is dedicated to the beautiful women in his life. He is relieved to get the first look out on the runway which is his final look from last week. He thinks the models are selling his looks perfectly and that the collection is looking strong and it’s incredible to see all the weeks of work coming together. Gracie closes the collection and Benjamin adds that he’s dead on the floor as it’s perfect and so is she.

Jess is last on the runway and says that her collection is inspired by all the women that raised her and inspired her to become a strong woman. Jess is over the moon to see her first model take to the runway in her final look from last week. She loves the colour combinations of the collection and loves seeing each outfit take to the runway. Jess adds that it’s surreal to have made it this far and that she wants everyone else to love her collection too.

Judging time

The designers return to the runway with two models each and Georgia congratulates them on their stunning runway presentations. The judges tell them how proud they are of each designer before Benjamin explains that he didn’t want to cloud who he is as a designer and that his collection is for his mum and his sister. Georgia comments that he did beautifully and had a range of different looks while Sally-Ann comments that she loved the colour palette. Benjamin commented that he was also inspired by French 1800s military uniforms.

Project Runway NZ Week 12

Guest judges Sean Kelly and Kylie Cooke, judges Benny Castles and Sally-Ann Mullin and host Georgia Fowler.

Jess explains that her collection was about the women who have influenced her and that she wanted to have masculine and feminine elements. Sally-Ann comments that it was fun and vibrant but that there were some construction issues while Kylie adds that there are strong ideas and that Jess has a bright future.

Kerry says that he was inspired by the song ‘Send in the clowns’ and that his collection was designed to go from darker looks to brighter ones. Georgia says that his tailoring is exquisite while Benny says that he loved the playfulness of the garments and that it had been an interesting journey with the collection.

Georgia asks each designer why they should win, with Benjamin adding that he was born to do it, Jess says that she has learned so much and keeps evolving, while Kerry says that he has something to contribute to the fashion industry and something to say.

Andreas returns to the runway with the models and Andreas says he is feeling like a proud father. Georgia says she was disappointed with the lack of colour in Kerry’s collection and that she was hoping the bright colour from last week would have featured more. Sally-Ann says that Kerry has played to his strengths and that his suit jacket looks perfect and like it would be hanging in a store. They look at Jess’ pieces next with Georgia putting on the pink quilted jacket which Sally-Ann loves but she says that there are some elements that she doesn’t like. Benny says that she played with a lot of colour and it worked. Sean says that one of her strengths is not being afraid. Lastly they look at Benjamin’s collection with Georgia saying that the colour palette is superb and Benny says that the intelligence of design is breathtaking and that his work gets Benny excited. Sean says that he would have changed some of the proportions but that it’s an incredibly exciting collection.

The verdict

The designers return to the runway with Georgia telling them that they put on a great show but only one can be a winner. She tells Kerry that his collection was so emotive and that his technical ability is impeccable but that he is out and has come third. He says that he came and did the collection that he wanted to do so he’s not upset. Georgia tells Jess that her collection made Georgia smile then tells Benjamin that his collection is daring but so wearable. Benjamin is announced as the winner and he is stunned for a moment and says “really?” before giving Jess a hug who then leaves the runway. Jess says that she is so happy that she came on the show and it’s been incredibly worthwhile. The judges tell Benjamin how brilliant his collection was and that he deserved to win before Andreas and Benjamin’s family join him on the runway to congratulate him.

Check out our interview with winner Benjamin Alexander here.

Project Runway NZ Week 12

Designer Jessica Hunter placed second in the competition.

Jessica Hunter Q&A

Congratulations on making it to the final three, what was it like to be runner-up on Project Runway New Zealand and what does it mean to you?
It was an incredible feeling coming runner up, I never thought I would make it so far into the competition, it definitely made me re-evaluate myself and my strengths.

What was it like getting down to the final three and how did you handle the pressure of creating your collection?
I didn’t handle the pressure as well as it appeared on tv! I was a wreck the whole three weeks we were creating the collections. I questioned myself and my design aesthetic the whole time, I wish I had trusted my instincts more.

What has it been like watching yourself on television and have you been recognized in public at all?
It’s been really humbling watching myself on tv. So funny just seeing my quirks from the outside! I’ve been recognized a handful of times!

How would you describe your Project Runway New Zealand experience in five words?
Surreal, challenging, devastating, mind-boggling.

What was your favourite outfit that you designed on the show and why?
My favourite outfit was the one I created in the semi-finals as I feel it was just such a fun and artistic representation of me as a designer.

Which challenge did you find the hardest and why?
I definitely struggled with the upcycle challenge where we were turning old bridesmaid dresses into new outfits. I just had a complete creative block where I just couldn’t think of anything new or exciting.

Is there anything you would do differently if you could do the show again?
I would do everything the same, I can’t change who I am though I do think that I might create different clothes now than I did back then it’s all a journey and I’m so happy to have shared this part of my life with the NZ public.

Which other designer/s did you bond with on the show?
I bonded with Beau most of all, he was my first roommate on the show and we just clicked straight away, I definitely get big brother vibes from him even today I just love him.

What was your relationship with your favourite model like and what drew you to her for the show?
I loved all the girls who modelled on the show but I definitely bonded with Dante, Heidi and Maddi the most, they are all such kind and genuine people it was great getting to work with them.

How did you handle runway days and what was the judging process like for you?
Every runway day I would text my mum like “I’m going home today mum, I’m so scared.” But I was always wrong thankfully. It is so stressful wondering whether your work is going to be received well by the judges.

What was your favourite moment from the filming of the show?
Every day was awesome because we had such an amazing crew of people behind the scenes. We had fun even when the deadlines were tight, even when we were all pulling our hair out there were still moments of happiness between everyone.

What is your advice for anyone who wants to be on Project Runway New Zealand in future?
You have to have a thick skin! Everyone in NZ is judging you when they watch the show! If you believe in yourself and you’re quick on a sewing machine you’ll do great.

What’s next for you?
I am open to all possibilities, at the moment I am working in the costume department for a tv production company and I am learning loads of new things, I’m excited for what the future might bring!

Project Runway NZ Week 12

Designer Kerry Ranginui placed third in the competition.

Kerry Ranginui Q&A

Congratulations on making it to the final three, what does it mean to you to come that far in the competition?
It feels amazing to have made it to the top three; my main goal was to be able to make a collection and share my story. It was great to be creative. I took a lot of good things from this experience – it was fun being challenged amongst other creatives.

What was it like getting down to the final three and how did you handle the pressure of creating your collection?
For three weeks I got to work on it in the studio, and it was a very cathartic experience. The theme for my collection was quite heavy, so I had to really focus to make sense of it all and finish it.

What has it been like watching yourself on television and have you been recognised in public at all?
It has been funny to see what other contestants said about each other and their work. I’m kind of used to people staring at me. I used to just look to the ground but now I smile back. Lots of people talk to me and they are always complimentary. I’m glad people have enjoyed watching the show and are super supportive.

How would you describe your Project Runway New Zealand experience in five words?
Fast, intense, competitive, fun, challenging.

What was your favourite outfit that you designed on the show and why?
I think my chartreuse lace suit with organza shirt was my favourite I made because it was personal to me; it was taking something bad and making something beautiful from it. I enjoyed making that look, and Christina looked amazing with her depressed look makeup by Gee Gee.

Which challenge did you find the hardest and why?
Unconventional materials challenge was pretty hard physically. My hands got pretty sore from all the cable wire and smashing up keyboards. My hands were pretty shaky and sore trying to hand-sew at the end – It was extra cool doing the challenge with Judy girl.

Is there anything you would do differently if you could do the show again?
I hated my Resene outfit. The judges thought everyone couldn’t have taken it as a textile challenge and just recreate the print. A few of us had done that and I guess in the short time frame that’s just how we interpreted the brief, we wanted to use the paint. Not much time to think. Lots of decisions and environmental factors get in the way of the design process.

Which other designer/s did you bond with on the show?
I spent the most time with Judy and got to know her quite well; I’m friendly with most of the other contestants and respect all their work – we’re all so different but share the same passion and craft. I probably would have tried to get more sleep, but Judy and I would often stay up quite late talking.

What was your relationship with your favourite model like and what drew you to her for the show?
I worked with Isabelle for the first part of the series. I really liked her body proportions and she had lovely understanding of what she was wearing and how she was going to walk.

My other fave was Christina – such a beautiful soul – she really took the time to get to know me and always gave it 200%. She transformed looks very easily.

How did you handle runway days and what was the judging process like for you?
Runway days were pretty tense, lots of anticipation. You never knew if the judges would be positive or negative. You just had to have a poker face and hope for the best and hope they understood what you were creating. There were so many different designers with such variety of aesthetics. They could have liked anything (was a long filming day).

What was your favourite moment from the filming of the show?
Lots of laughter and getting to know lots of new creative designers. I particularly enjoyed the final runway, was great showing a collection to my peers and family. I enjoyed the whole thing.

What is your advice for anyone who wants to be on Project Runway New Zealand in future?
All you have to do is apply, it’s an amazing experience. However, be prepared to challenge yourself. You won’t regret the experience and you will make some awesome friends!

What’s next for you?
I have a full time job at Karen Walker which is my biggest commitment; I will continue to be creative and work on my own projects too.

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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