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Project Runway: Business Lessons You Shouldn’t Miss from the Finale

The season 19 finale of Project Runway had the usual excitement and anticipation as the four finalists waited to hear who would be named the winner. For the finale, the four designers were sent home with $10,000 each and six months to put together their 10-look collections. As the designers presented their final collections on the runway, the uniqueness of each designer was evident. Although I only saw a few episodes of this season, I definitely liked the collection of one designer more than the others.

Beyond the clothes, however, there were some key business insights that should not be missed offered by the three judges: Nina Garcia, Brandon Maxwell, and the finale’s guest judge… Tommy Hilfiger.

Since this is a design competition, the design of the clothes is absolutely a key factor in determining the winner. In fact, after the finale, many fans were upset that the design of the clothes didn’t seem to be the primary factor in the final decision. However, there were some important marketing lessons that can be applied across businesses in multiple industries.

*** Spoiler Alerts! Stop reading if you have not watched the finale
and want to be surprised. ***

Lesson 1: Be willing to think “bigger”

When Chasity Sereal’s collection was review, Tommy thought that Chasity’s designs were stunning. He asked here where she saw herself in 3 to 5 years. Taking my brand for me, worldwide” she replied. “And not only that, I see myself as a designer helping the next generation.” 

Tommy told her he was missing one thing… that she should focus on designing costumes for celebrities such as Beyonce, J. Lo, Ariana Grande and others. When Chasity heard that recommendation, she replied with “I would love that!”

Sometimes we need someone else looking in from the outside to give us the insight we need. How many times in business do we limit ourselves by focusing only on what is before us at the moment. Chasity’s focus was on the task at hand… designing her collection for the competition to start her business. However, his suggestion opened her mind to a new opportunity that could potentially be life-changing for her career. Don’t be afraid to think bigger!

Also – it’s okay if not everyone loves what you provide. Chasity’s ruffle pants were not a hit with all the judges, but Brandon loved them. Make sure you are presenting your services and products to the right market.

Lesson 2: Is your product or service marketable?

When reviewing the designs, the judges considered the marketability of the designs as well as what would survive market trends. Whether we are discussing clothing or cars or a new video game, originality of design is always important. However, our business sense must always kick in and we must consider whether our product or service will be marketable. Uniqueness is import… but considering market trends is also import. The judges chose Shantall Kacayo as the winner… because they thought her design met those requirements.

“We believe the winner has everything it takes to be a household name, and has a brand that can carry on for years to come,” said Nina Garcia when the judges revealed their decision.

Lesson 3: What makes your brand stand out?

One additional element that the judges loved in Shantall’s design was her unique serpent design. From the difficulty in construction of the design to its uniqueness… the judges loved it. That serpent design could be her brand. Think of brands where you see the design and you instantly know the brand… Nike’s swoosh… the LV stamp that makes a Louis Vuitton… and the can’t miss Apple. If you can create something that is unique and memorable, it can become your brand.

Whether you agree with the judges final decision or not… I hope you will take the time to rewatch (or watch) their deliberations after the runway show to pick up on these key business lessons.

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