Missy Schwartz
March 09, 2006 AT 12:00 PM EST

Okay, Santino didn’t win, and for that we can all breathe a great big sigh of relief. Chloe Dao, the diminutive entrepreneur from Houston, easily beat Project Runway’s towering inferno of hubris — adios, pal; you and your turkey feathers have a nice life! — as well as golden boy Daniel Vosovic (don’t cry for him; he has probably already picked up his first paycheck from Michael Kors). I thought Dao’s collection was dramatic, beautifully tailored, and flattering to a woman’s body. So I’ve got no quarrel with her beating the boys. What I’m not so hot on is her triumphing over Kara Janx (pictured), who was the decoy Runway designer at New York’s Olympus Fashion Week back in February, and whose collection was clearly the best.

Colorful, textured, and innovative, the 13 looks Janx trotted out that morning had in spades what the finalists lacked (albeit in varying degrees): vision and personality. Her outfits ranged from street-chic — blazers, T-shirts, skinny cropped trousers — to edgy elegance. She even managed to incorporate her now signature wrap dress (look out, Diane von Furstenberg!) into a diaphanous purple evening gown. I’m still drooling over this gorgeous plaid skirt and silk halter number. If I owned it, I just know it would make me a better EW worker bee! [Editor’s Note: Pssst, Missy, check out PR‘s website, where you can actually bid on and/or purchase some of the final designs.] On the finale, the judges applauded Chloe for the cohesiveness of her line. We can only wonder what they would have told Janx, whose collection flowed like the softest silk charmeuse from one look to the next. Pictures do it justice just fine, but trust me, Janx’s stuff was even more fun live.

Of course, by the time Janx plugged in her sewing machine to prep for her two minutes of Fashion Week fame, she knew she had no chance of taking the prize: She’d already gotten the boot. (Oh, if only she hadn’t defended Santino for that hideous jumpsuit! For shame! For shame!) So here’s to you, our vowel-bending friend from South Africa. Your collection was killer.


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