At the start of the 18th season of Bravo’s “Project Runway” in early December, the show featured two Washington state competitors. Now there are none.
Belltown’s Jenn Charkow exited in the season premiere and Melanie Trygg of Eastsound, Orcas Island, was the sixth contestant to depart, in Thursday’s episode.
Unlike last week’s departing contestant, Tyler Neasloney, who seemed to throw shade at host Karlie Kloss for marrying into the Kushner family — Kloss is married to Joshua Kushner, the Democratic brother of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — both Charkow and Trygg exited “Runway” without excessive drama.
“I’m very grateful for the experience I had there,” Charkow said in advance of the season premiere. “I have 15 new friends and it pushed me really hard as a designer. It’s an experience I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. It showed me what I can do and how best I work.”
Trygg says the toughest part of being on “Project Runway” is the time constraints on designing and crafting an outfit in each challenge. That proved to be Trygg’s undoing in this week’s episode, which presented a team challenge.
Guest judge Cyndi Lauper tasked “Project Runway” contestants, separated into two teams, with creating pieces inspired by Lauper’s ‘80s style that merged pop and punk but with a modern twist and each designer’s point of view.
“Mixing pop and punk makes sense to me conceptually but I’m struggling to figure out how I’m going to do that within my point of view,” Trygg said on the show. “I’m definitely inspired by my Scandinavian background. It’s more kind of neutral and flowy and organic. It’s definitely not punk.”
In a phone interview this week, Trygg says her team began with confidence while fabric shopping and they got along. The rival team had more conflict.
“I think in the long run that strengthened their offering,” Trygg says, noting she never had the “ah-ha!” moment where she found a clear way to interpret the ‘80s into her point of view.
A twist in the challenge didn’t help: After choosing a black, chain necklace from the Accessory Wall for her outfit, mentor Cristian Siriano came in and took all the accessories away, announcing contestants would have to make their own accessories.
“That’s when I started spiraling,” Trygg says. “I kind of let myself get frustrated by the challenge and then by the lack of materials [for replacing the necklace] because I’d already cut up what I had with a certain thing in mind and then I was left with pretty limited options.”
In the episode Trygg said she was pleased “how everything is coming together” in her design but fellow designer Shavi Lewis had his doubts: “I feel like anything in the punk-pop movement is going to be a bit of a stretch for Melanie.”
After her creation went down the runway, host Karlie Kloss said Trygg had “skidded by in a lot of challenges.” In the judge’s deliberations, Lauper declared, “I wouldn’t wear that if I was dead” but offered a more conciliatory tone after Trygg was voted off: “Every failure I have had has been part of my success, so just remember that. Take everything you’ve learned from here and move forward.”
In her phone interview, Trygg indicated she took that advice.
“A lot of the work I do is draped and not super-form-fitting and I think that limited me,” she says. “That made me feel like that’s all I could do. In my work since the show I‘ve gotten more comfortable with pushing myself to design more fitted garments with a clearly designed silhouette and not to be scared of that.”