LIKE DOMINOES, the two Portland contestants on season nine of Project Runway have fallen one after the other on consecutive episodes, thereby breaking the region's winning streak. It's hard to act surprised. In a design community where everybody quickly gets to know everybody else, Becky Ross and Bryce Black were almost completely unknown even in their hometown.
Not long after Black and Ross presented their senior collections as recent graduates from the Art Institute of Portland, they were whisked off to compete on the grueling reality show that compounds ridiculous design challenges with long hours and little sleep. It's not unusual for there to be a spectrum of experience on the show. Just look at Anya Ayoung Chee, whose suspicious lack of experience and formal training hasn't prevented her from becoming one of the season's hottest competitors. Still, it couldn't help feeling a little like we were being set up to fail.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing. The proportion of designers on the show hailing from the Portland metropolitan area has helped the scene as a whole make noise across the country. Portland Fashion Week has become something of a haven for other, non-native Project alums to show their work. But while it's a launch pad for visibility, I don't think anyone wants to see the local industry become a succession of reality contestants, nor to have its newly minted celebrities abandon turf, as all but Seth Aaron Henderson have.
Like many who've been watching the current season each week, the absence of Portland contestants won't prevent me from seeing it through to find out who wins. But in this reality, I'm far more interested in find out what Ross and Black are bringing home.