Op-Ed: Brandon Kee Deserved to Win Project Runway Season 16

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I’ve watched Project Runway since the very beginning — well maybe not the very beginning, but for a very long time — so you could say I’m pretty invested in it.  And I have to say…I have never been more upset about a finale.

Let me make one thing clear before I begin: I believe that Kentaro Kameyana, winner of Project Runway Season 16 is an excellent designer. His final collection was extraordinary and beautiful, and the fact that he composed the music that the models walked the runway to is incredible; however, I think that given his performance throughout the season, he was not the most deserving of the win.

I should also clarify that I think that Ayana Ife was also deserving of the win. She’s very talented and I think that she will continue to have an amazing impact on more conservative styles. I have chosen to focus on Brandon Kee for this article because I think that his style brings a twist to womenswear and his style is a bit more in line with mine.

Brandon’s Final Collection


Point 1: Brandon Kee, a finalist on Project Runway Season 16, went into the season as a menswear designer exclusively. He was in the top three for the first two challenges and stunned the judges with his win on “Episode 3: A Leap of Innovation!” bringing his menswear knowhow into a female look while maintaining his personal style. His competitors, on the other hand, were exclusively womenswear designers. As seen in Season 16 Episode 7: “The Ultimate Faceoff,” all of the designers were terrified by the thought of having to design menswear (lucky for them they just had to design looks using menswear fabrics). While they all had their own styles, Brandon’s stood out because he established his signature style right off the bat and continued to improve on the details of his work throughout the season. I mean seriously; he’d never designed womenswear and he was in the top three for the first three challenges! For which he had to design womenswear! That’s insane! That’s totally impressive! Someone who went through such a huge transition is worth the win. Meanwhile, Kentaro, the official winner, was in the bottom three for the innovation challenge…just a thought.

A Kee Menswear Collection


Point 2: According to this handy chart that tracked the status of the Project Runway season 16 contestants, Brandon’s looks were in the top three 8 times, 3 of which were wins and 2 of which were the runner-ups. Brandon was never in the bottom three. That means that Brandon was in the top three or a winner for 8/11 episodes and safe for 3/11 episodes leading up to the finale-qualifying episodes. He was never in the bottom! How is that even possible? Has that ever happened in the history of Project Runway? I’m not sure, but it seems unlikely. Now let’s look at Kentaro’s stats, which, to be honest, are less than extraordinary. He was in the bottom three 3 times, two of which were the two episodes leading up to the finale-qualifiers. He was in the top three 4 times, one of which was a win. So, Kentaro was in the top three or a winner 4/11 times, safe 4/11 times, and in the bottom 3/11 times, 2 of which were at the tail-end of the season. With those stats, how is it even possible that he would’ve won over Brandon? I know that the win is technically based on the runway show, but seriously, Brandon never stopped impressing the judges! And his runway show was impeccable!

Point 3: Let’s delve into the judges’ opinions on his looks. In the final episode when the judges were critiquing Brandon’s designs, none of them had a problem with his designs themselves, only with his choice to use only two fabrics. Jessica Alba, the guest judge for the finale, said that “cool girls who want to blend streetwear and femininity” would love to wear Brandon’s clothes. Nina Garcia stated that she thought Brandon had given the other designers a run for their money all season, and Zac Posen thought that Brandon had an “incredibly strong collection.” The only critique that the judges expressed was that Brandon needed more variation in his fabric and colors (paraphrased from Episode 14: Finale Part 2). If the only critique that Brandon received was not about his designs, but his presentation on the runway, and he’s been consistently designing clothes that a) are easily translated into all sizes, b) are cool, accessible trends, c) are clearly showing his point of view, and d) are well-made, why should his minor presentational error cost him the show? …I don’t think it should have. And was it even an error? I don’t think so. I think that his collection was cohesive and cool, and I did not get bored for a second. His cool silhouettes and structured draping kept me engaged and intrigued. I saw every detail that he put into his collection, not to mention the fact that he bleached an outdoor fabric to create really interesting gradients and ombres in the flamingo pattern. I do not think that his collection lost its wow factor as it came down the runway, even though it was all in the same print, because the details in the designs are particularly exquisite. I believe that he was the designer who best understood his own point of view and could best execute his visions most consistently. Brandon Kee is a very strong designer, and it’s a shame that he did not win because of a detail as minute as the fact that he used the same fabric for all of his designs.

Overall, Brandon’s final collection and his work throughout the season consistently left me in awe…and I know others believe this too. I just really don’t know how he does it, how he adapts menswear to womenswear at the snap of a finger for the first challenge, or how his designs for men and women are nearly the same, but are still different enough to accentuate feminine features. His designs always maintain flirtatiousness while still giving off a cool, edgy vibe, a combo almost impossible to find anywhere these days, even on the runway. He isn’t afraid to play with proportions and he’s always willing to take risks with fabrics and silhouettes. I think that his designs are super new and interesting. His view is entirely his own…it even influenced other people this season, including Kentaro. Brandon’s designs are also intriguing because they’re very conceptual. They aren’t things that you’d typically see on the street, but they’re easily adapted to streetwear. His designs are by far the most marketable and the most wearable designs that were shown on the runway this season. He’s even designed for the band Imagine Dragons since the show ended! I would seriously wear all of his designs — or at least try to wear them…I’m not sure I’m cool enough to pull them off. But alas, I hope that we all get to see more from Brandon Kee in the near future.