Design scandal alert! Why I hope Irina doesn’t win "Project Runway"

Gabriela Maj/Getty ImagesGabriela Maj/Getty ImagesAre you guys following "Project Runway" this season since it moved to Lifetime? I am still completely hooked, and can't wait for Thursday's finale! As a fashion editor who lives in New York City, I was bummed to see the show head out to Los Angeles--sure they have their own small-scale fashion week, but it's just not the same. And while it was cool seeing some big celebrity judges, we missed seeing our regular panel with Michael Kors and Nina Garcia.

The contestants seemed sort of hit-or-miss this season, but there was some real talent displayed. I think the top three--Irina, Althea, and Carol Hannah--all deserved to go to Bryant Park to show their collections because they seemed the most consistent throughout the season. But man, Irina just seemed so catty sometimes. You can't deny her abilty and she won three challenges--more than any other competitor. But sometimes talent alone isn't everything! Irina didn't get along with any of her cast mates, and often commented that she wasn't trying to make friends, but that she wanted to win the competition. I understand that logic, but she has been downright rude and even called out other designers for allegedly copying her designs. Well Irina, I'm about to call you out for doing the same exact thing.

The Coney Island silkscreen Irina had hoped to use on her shirtsThe Coney Island silkscreen Irina had hoped to use on her shirtsThose of you who watched last week's episode of "Project Runway" saw design mentor Tim Gunn (oh how we love him) travel to the homes of the three remaining competitors to check out the progress of their collections. When he visited Irina's apartment, she showed him these Coney Island silkscreened tees (on the left) she wished to use in her show. I thought this seemed odd, as she said she had found the designs--she did not design them herself. (Also I noticed the shirts said "Conney Island" which is misspelled. Sheesh.) When Tim Gunn returned to New York he called Irina, informing her that the images are trademarked, and thus Irina's final t-shirt design on the runwayIrina's final t-shirt design on the runwaycould not be used in her collection. That seemed like it should have been obvious--all creations are supposed to be 100% original. Irina was sent back to the drawing board.

When the finalists reunited to put the finishing touches on their runway looks, Irina showed Tim her redesigned t-shirts. She kept the bird images, but surrounded them with rows of text: "Reasons to love New York." Though the scrawling looked a bit odd, I thought it was kind of a cute idea. Now for my delayed SPOILER ALERT!! The image on the left is one of Irina's finalized tees on the runway that you will surely see tomorrow night. Some clever bloggers over at ProjectRungay did some decoding work and read the phrases on the tees. A few of them were:

  • "Because Robert Moses would have a coronary if he could see our streets now."
  • "Because people will still do crazy things to live here."
  • "Because just when you take the Empire State Building for granted, it seduces you again."
  • "Because we're resilient."
So... guess what? They're not her words! Irina stole every single phrase on her tees from a December 2008 article from New York Magazine entitled--guess what--"Reasons to Love New York."

We're not sure if published written material falls into the same category as copywritten images, but this seems like some form of plagiarism. Tim Gunn discussed the tees with her, and Irina passed the phrases and design off as her own. Clearly this oversight was not detected in time for Irina's final presentation in Bryant Park, but we're wondering if they will comment on this in the judging panel on the finale episode.

Why would Irina use something that wasn't hers a second time after the producers already told her not to? Couldn't she have come up with her own idea? And does this make her a hypocrite after calling out Althea and other designers for supposedly imitating some of her designs?

What do you think of this swiped design? Do you think Irina has the talent to win? Who are you rooting for to win "Project Runway" this season? [ProjectRungay]