TORONTO - The tough economic climate should pose more opportunities than obstacles for emerging fashion designers just starting their careers, says "Project Runway Canada" host Iman.
The lanky supermodel, who dismisses each week's fashion flop with the blunt catchphrase, "You just don't measure up," says this year's finalists face a rough road as they pursue careers beyond the series, but she suggested they can actually benefit from some aspects of the downturn.
"Most of the department stores have been complaining that nothing is really moving and selling, so they have to clean house," notes Iman, who also has a year-old accessory line called Iman Global Chic.
"They have to get rid of some stuff that's not selling, and of course, the whole of fashion is about new (ideas), so they have to bring some new people in. It's the perfect opportunity for young designers to come in and showcase a breath of fresh new air and everybody really wins. The customer gets a new outlook, the buyer's (get) new designers and the new designers have an opportunity to get into the doors."
Global's "Project Runway Canada" crowns a winner Tuesday, when its final episode features runway collections from finalists Sunny Fong, Jessica Biffi and Jason Meyers.
Footage will include the trio's triumphant arrival at Toronto Fashion Week last month, where they paraded their designs in front of a packed house that included celebrities like model Coco Rocha, soprano Measha Brueggergosman and dancer Rex Harrington.
Last week's episode offered a glimpse of the clothes as Fong, Biffi and Meyers prepared for the show.
Fong, widely considered the frontrunner, worked faux fur into a cream-coloured collection inspired by Alexander the Great while Biffi earned early praise from mentor Brian Bailey for pieces that paired gold with black and brown.
But if there's an underdog, it would seem to be Meyers, who was kicked off once before for a dress Iman called a "train wreck" and only brought back recently in a plot twist. Bailey questioned Meyers' unusual design choices, among them a gold ruffle tacked onto the behind of a black cocktail dress, and accused him of using another contestant's design in order to complete a last-minute challenge.
Those who follow the show may be tempted to crown Fong the winner because he's won more challenges than any other designer, but judge Shawn Hewson said the final runway show carries a lot of weight in the final decision.
"While we will consider the work of the designers throughout the prior challenges, I think really what it comes down to is what they show in the runway as a collection - where they're sort of uninhibited in the sense that they're showing what it is they want to show, a collection that says something about who they are as a designer," says Hewson, creative director of Bustle Clothing.
"It's not necessarily as significant, who was in the lead going into the finale as you might think."
Bailey agreed, saying that the fashion world is too unpredictable to allow for anyone to definitively dominate.
"What's a clear leader from one season to the next?" Bailey asked. "In fashion you can be a clear leader and fall flat on your face the next season."
He said the faltering economy has been tough on everyone on the industry, but like Iman, did not believe it would be prohibitive to the young designers hoping to make their mark.
"I don't think the economic climate in fashion has ever been perfect. You have to work very hard and you have to ask people to believe in you. There's still people that need clothing and there will still be people looking at new talent."
Iman said all designers would do well to pay attention to what the consumer is willing to pay.
"Women still buy beauty because they really do need it, it's the one luxury item that's affordable," she said.
"But it will be about price point, because customers are not looking for really cheap products, what they're looking for is good value. And so, to do something that's in good value but has a unique point of view, a signature, something they haven't seen before, I think there is an opportunity to be made. As always, when the economy is bad, there is an opportunity for somebody to make something out of it."
The finale to "Project Runway Canada" airs Tuesday on Global.