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'Project Runway' exit interview: Eliminated designer on Helen's tears, and a stylish Kickstarter project

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Image Credit: Lifetime

SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t want to know who was eliminated on the first episode of Project Runway season 12, stop reading now. 

The second episode of Project Runway season 12 was over-the-top with glamor and emotion. When the dust settled, it was the calm-spirited Kahindo Mateene who was sent packing.

The Congo-native took a risk with her fabric selection for the challenge — to create an ensemble that was worthy of wearing with diamonds and other precious gems — and the judges were underwhelmed by her understated cocktail dress. But this is not the last we will see of Mateene, who has multiple exciting fashion plans already in the works, both in New York and Chicago and internationally.

Mateene chatted with Entertainment Weekly about Timothy’s second strike out, Sandro’s entertaining shenanigans, and the Kickstarter-funded fashion project she’s planning to launch in the near future.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your initial reaction when Heidi announced the diamonds and evening wear challenge?
Kahindo Mateene: I was first a little nervous because I do not do a lot of evening wear. I typically do more day wear and ready-to-wear looks. But I was also excited because I got to try something that is a challenge for me and new to me.

What drew you to the diamonds and model that you chose?
The pieces were very classic and simple. The gold was a beautiful color to work with, and the necklace and earrings looked beautiful with the greens in the fabrics that I chose, and Jillian’s red hair.

If you could go back and make some design edits, what would those be now that you have heard the judges’ critiques?
I would probably have picked a different fabric because it was very difficult for me to work with the silk charmeuse. I think if I had used a fabric I was comfortable with then my original design would have been very successful. I created much more stress for myself by taking on a task that I did not have the experience to accomplish the way I wanted to.

If you were to go back to Mood, would you pick a similar pattern despite Zac’s “sand art” comment?
I probably would have picked an even bolder pattern. I design a lot of solid colored, neutral pieces, but working with patterns makes your piece stand out and the judges remember it. There were many designers this challenge that had simple and safe gowns that were one color. Dom used a pattern, and her’s was also one of my favorites. I really liked that look.

One of the toughest critiques to overcome is when a garment is described as “boring.” How did you feel about that comment?
I think there is a difference between boring and clean and simple. The diamonds were very beautiful and did not need a crazy gown to go with them. I think my dress was classy and sophisticated, and I loved my design. I thought Helen’s gown was a boring color and was not made well, and she should have gone before my dress did.

Speaking of Helen, what did you think of her emotional runway moment?
I am an emotional person too, so I can’t knock her for that. I think her tears saved her out there, because the judges could see how emotional she was about the challenge and how much she cared about it.

The judges had to remind everyone that even with a passion for design, you still have to deliver. Do you think Helen will be able to deliver in the future and stick around?
I think that the judges love her so she will probably stick around. She is definitely one of their favorites, and there are always a few favorites. I thought that she should have gone home because of her poor design. It was messy and unfinished. I did not like it. I think she could continue to go on in the competition if she continues to get lucky like she did last night.

How was it dealing with Sandro’s workroom hysterics?
It was very distracting. He made the work environment very tense and noisy. It was difficult to work because the distractions can get in the way when we are trying to focus. Luckily I was not involved in all of the drama, and I do love his personality. He is a very emotional person but he is a good person.

Did you think he deserved to be in the top three this week?
I do think that his idea was good, and the top and bottom were well-made. But I think that his garment was not very wearable. His model was having trouble walking in it. But I love his personality and I think he will continue to do well in the competition.

 What about a favorite look from one of your fellow designers?

I loved Jeremy’s! I thought that the tulle moved very beautifully down the runway. It was very original.

What are your thoughts on Timothy being in the bottom two weeks in a row?
In the first challenge, I knew right away that they would never send home a design who was sustainable right away in the competition. But, I think that he should have gone home this week because his dress was made poorly, for the second time. It does not seem like the judges like his designs, and he won’t be able to continue being safe in the bottom.

Sue is still struggling in the sewing room. Is this a Project Runway problem, featuring designers without the basic skills?
I don’t think it is a Project Runway problem, I think it’s a Sue problem! No sewing machines today are very different. These aren’t industrial sewing machines, they all work in similar ways. And Sue self-taught for many years, so she should be able to figure it out. If you teach yourself your skills then you know how to learn things like a new sewing machine by yourself. She was just wasting time and making a big deal out of nothing.

Is there a challenge you wish you could have done on the show?
Yes, I would have liked the prints challenge. It would be exciting to create my own print. It is also interesting to use the technology to do that. I would like to continue to work with bold colors and bright prints a lot, and I think that would have been a great challenge to express my creativity and my aesthetic.

Who do you plan to stay in touch with from the show?
Angie [Angela] I will stay in touch with. We are very similar. We both have our own businesses and similar interests. Also, Alexander, because he just cracks me up! He is very funny.

What are your plans moving forward?
I already had a lot of things going on before the show, luckily. I plan to return and continue working on those engagements. I just launched my website yesterday, so now you can buy my garments directly from me. I am also showing a collection at Harlem Fashion Row on Sept. 5, right at the start of Fashion Week. I also have been working on a Kickstarter program in Congo, my home country.

What are your Kickstarter plans?
I was recently in my workroom and I realized I had so many extra pieces of fabric and materials lying around. I decided to put them all together and began to create clutches out of the leftover materials. The clutches can also be used as iPad covers. Designing this line of clutches is part of my plan to raise awareness for sustainability and ethically designed products in my country. I want the women there to experience these causes and live good and strong lives. My plan is to have this Kickstarter provide jobs to the women of Congo.

Where can fans find and buy your work?
You can find it all on my website, www.modahnik.com. Also, two stores in Chicago sell my designs, Floradora and Vile and Valiant. Sapelle in London, and Modavanti, too. All of the retailers are listed on my website.

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