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Joshua McKinley became the latest designer to be eliminated from Project Runway: All Stars season two in one of the design competition’s biggest twists ever.
Thursday night’s episode of the Lifetime series saw the final four designers fly to Paris for a private tour of fashion house Valentino, whose fashion show they later attended. The challenge tasked them with creating a couture-inspired dress on a budget of 3,000 euros (nearly $4,000).
McKinley designed a gown featuring a black lace bodice with a full skirt made out of a flower-patterned print. The runway scores put him and Uli Herzner in the bottom, and the judges decided they needed to see more to make a decision about who would go on to compete in the final three.
In a surprising twist, the two designers were asked to deconstruct their garments and make a new design right there on the runway — and in just an hour. While the judges praised both designers’ new creations, McKinley ultimately was eliminated, leaving Herzner to compete alongside Anthony Ryan Auld and Emilio Sosa in the finals.
On Friday, McKinley talked to The Hollywood Reporter about whether the one-hour challenge was a fair tiebreaker, his biggest disappointment about being eliminated, and what’s next.
THR: You seemed sad when you realized you were the one being sent home on last night’s episode. How hard was it when you were eliminated?
McKinley: At the end of the day, it was a tough competition. Like I said from the beginning, I didn’t come back to play it safe. My whole goal the second time was to do work I loved. I’m proud of the work I did. It was really different and had a lot of thought behind it, and I stepped outside the box but stayed true to what the Joshua McKinley brand is about. I was a little sad watching it on TV.
THR: How hard was the one-hour challenge?
McKinley: I think it was just a very off-the-cuff, stressful thing, and I don’t think it was an appropriate way to decide for a tiebreaker, because ultimately designers don’t make collections or fashion in one hour. But it truly showed that me and Uli have talent as designers and how we’re able to transform something so quickly. That shows true talent and courage, and we could have just thrown down our scissors and said, “Oh, my god, I can’t do this.” It shows you how much we are fighting for what we love to do.
THR: Mondo Guerra recaps the show for THR.com and called this “possibly the most dramatic elimination on the runway ever.” Would you agree?
McKinley: I think it was definitely dramatic, but that’s Joshua McKinley — I will always be a bit dramatic. I love the drama; I love bringing something interesting. Even if you look at the critiques of the judges, they might not understand what you’re doing, but couture can be an experiment. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. We really created a conversation among everyone in that room, and that’s what fashion should do. I should make people talk and think, and if we’re just bringing simple dresses down the runway week after week, I don’t think we are broadening the intelligence of fashion consumers, fashion lovers or fashionistas around the world. My whole look was based on the idea of 1930s and Technicolor and thinking Judy Garland and Wizard of Oz. When the narrative of what the piece is about gets lost and people don’t understand it — ultimately art in general is very subjective, and at the end of the day, the judges have to decide who they want to stay and who they want to go.
THR: Joanna Coles has said the workroom seemed really intense this season, as the designers all came back focused on winning. How did the experience compare the second time around for you?
McKinley: I think there’s some truth to that statement. The talent was heightened, but at the same time, what makes it all different is that we truly do all have a different niche market that we design for. [Project Runway] takes each one of us out of our normal comfort zone of design into a one- or two-day challenge where we have to basically manipulate who we are as designers. What probably makes me most upset is not being able to show that mini collection [in the finale]; that is something that will really show exactly who you are as a designer at that moment. Ultimately, being a designer is about making things people actually are wearing, and I’m fortunate enough to already have a men’s collection in boutiques in New York, and I’m working on lines. For me, it’s all about seeing people wear it. Working with a model is one thing, but it’s great seeing everyday people rocking out your looks.
THR: What are your thoughts about the final three designers?
McKinley: I think Emilio has a really great eye. This week, he did a very great dress that showed his true craftsmanship. That man was the best craftsman this entire season — next to myself, of course. Uli, truly, her eye is so amazing. I told her, “If only I could learn how to style like you.” At this point, I’m in the learning stage really as a designer. Anthony Ryan really made a transformation and is finding himself as a designer. [On Project Runway season nine], you didn’t get to see too much of him, but he’s really transformed and knows who he is as a designer.
THR: You mentioned you are working on some lines right now. What can you tell us about what you have coming up?
McKinley: Next week, I’m doing the costume portion of the Miss New York pageant. It’s something crazy that’s Victorian-inspired; that’s the 20th of January. I’m also working on menswear stuff and launching a collection of dresses and gowns this fall with Jonathan Kayne. And my sister just had a baby, so my dad really inspired me to try and work on some baby clothes — so Heidi Klum is going to have some competition with her Truly Scrumptious line.
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Portia de Rossi
James Gordon Meek