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Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Friday's final two episodes of Making the Cut.
The final two episodes of Making the Cut are here! Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn's new Amazon design competition series, full of fierce fashion and heartwarming moments, concluded with episodes nine and 10, which culminated with the announcement of the winner of season 1 as the next great global brand. The winner walked away with the grand prize of $1 million, a one-year mentorship with Amazon Fashion and a collection sold exclusively on Amazon.
The three finalists, Esther Perbandt, Jonny Cota and Sander Bos, made their way back to their hometowns from Tokyo to spend a month preparing for their biggest assignment yet -- create, design and merchandise a pop-up shop in New York City, along with designing a 12 to 14 look collection for a fashion show and prepare a business plan to pitch to the president of Amazon Fashion on how they will use the $1 million to grow their brand.
Based on the pop-up store challenge, one designer was eliminated and only two continued to pitch their business plans and show their full collections at the finale fashion show.
All three designers impressed the judges, Klum, Chiara Ferragni, Joseph Altuzarra, Naomi Campbell and Nicole Richie, with their pop-up stores that displayed each of their brand's aesthetic and commercial appeal. In the end, Bos was sent home and Cota won the challenge with his lifestyle brand approach. Cota also made the most sales thanks to his sleek black asymmetric dress, which has already sold out on Amazon. Cota and Perbandt continued on to the finale.
The top two debuted their full collections on the runway, perched on top of a rooftop against the Manhattan skyline.
Cota showed first with his "Metamorphosis" line, an eclectic women's, men's and unisex range that represents the designer's personal and professional growth in rediscovering softness in his edgy designs as he transitions from his L.A. streetwear line, Skingraft, to launching his namesake brand, Jonny Cota Studio. Statement prints and bold outerwear are his collection's standouts.
Perbandt's "Hungry for Life" collection showcased the designer's continuous desire to elevate her creativity. The Berlin-based artist stayed true to her aesthetic and stuck to black for most of her designs, but surprised the judges with a few white check-print pieces incorporated into her mainly dark color palette. The women's line ranges from jackets and pants to evening gowns, punctuated by eye-catching details such as cutouts and PVC panels.
The judges were left to make the most difficult decision of the season as Cota and Perbandt had proved to be both strong designers with their final collections and evolution throughout the competition. It came down to two-for-two (Campbell and Klum for Perbandt; Altuzarra and Ferragni for Cota) before Richie broke the tie -- determining Cota as the winner of season 1!
The full Jonny Cota Studio collection is now available to shop on Amazon. Prices start from $40 and sizes range from XS to XXL. Profits from sales will go directly back to the designer in an effort to support emerging talent and small businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Plus, as the runner-up, Perbandt's designs will soon be available on the Shopbop website and the Shop by Shopbop on Amazon Fashion.
ET recently caught up with Cota, Gunn and Klum on their experience with Making the Cut's first season over audio conferencing.
Gunn reflected back on the first episode of the globe-trotting series when the 12 contestants were flown to Paris to debut their creations in front of the judges at the season's first fashion show, set in front of the glittering Eiffel Tower.
"That was the moment when we looked at each other and just knew that we weren’t in Kansas anymore!" the mentor said.
Although Klum said her "gut instinct" at the time of judging was that Perbandt would be the winner, she is not surprised Cota ultimately came out on top.
"He understands what it is like to be a global brand," the supermodel said. "I think ultimately what was the tipping point, I think also for the judges, for Amazon, to really gravitate towards him more is that he understands that when you buy online it is different than when you actually go into a store and you see the clothes. You can look at them up close and touch them and everything. And I think what a lot of us were trying to explain to Esther is, do not just stay in her black universe, people want color opps. I think when they had their final opportunity to talk to Christine Beauchamp, head of Amazon Fashion, his presentation was just stronger."
Cota credits the series for helping him understand himself as a designer and his brand identity on a deeper level.
"The biggest thing I learned from Making the Cut is that there is no greater strength in the industry than knowing who you are as a designer and putting it into every design," Cota said. "You can see watching the show that the designers who have a strong sense of self move forward and the designers that are struggling to give you identity on the runway start falling behind."
"I didn’t realize I had such a strong sense of self until I had to fight for my life every week in front of the judges and it helps you build a stronger sense of who you are: What is your aesthetic? What do you care about most? And how do you convey that to the judges and the customer? And I think that’s...leaving the show I have left with such a stronger skill set that will help me launch my new collection more powerfully than any collection I’ve ever launched," the winner added.
The A-list panel of judges brought their expertise from various parts of the fashion industry. The judges were never short on honest opinion in each episode, and their genuine passion and care for the designers shined through the screen.
"What surprised me was how much each judge cared deeply for really each designer. I mean, I’m used to that with Heidi, but in this case, it was every member of the judging panel and it was very moving and very welcomed," Gunn said.
"You have to really understand who they are, where they come from. You have to really dive into it and everyone did dive into it, which I love," Klum chimed in. "They all really were one hundred percent invested and fought for who they believed [in], which is nice that you see that the people care. It’s not like, oh yeah, whatever, I don’t care who wins. I mean, in the end we fought for who we believed should win 'til two, three o'clock in the morning, I’m not exaggerating and I love that."
"So it wasn’t just a paid job. They really cared. They understood that we can change someone’s life by every decision going forward here, so they took this very seriously with passion," Klum added.
Earlier this month, ET chatted with Ferragni about her experience on the judging panel.
"It was great, the whole thing -- how it was produced, how it was filmed," the international fashion influencer, who boasts over 19 million followers on Instagram, told ET over the phone. "The idea was it was held in different cities so everybody could take inspiration from different cultures -- it was really international and very well done."
The Milan-based fashion star also has her own namesake clothing and accessory brand, Chiara Ferragni Collection. Ferragni brought her entrepreneurial experience and expertise in social media to the table.
"It was really nice because [the judges] all had different ideas, but we would agree a lot on the same topics and then, of course, each of us would really have their point of view," she said. "For me, every time I was seeing a piece coming out of the runway, I was always trying to think -- would I wear that and would my followers wear that because I’m so aware of what my followers like because I can see what I wear and what they click on and what they’re more interested in. So for me, it was a lot about that -- how much you could sell a piece. I mean, of course, if it was unique and different from others, but for me, it’s not the most important thing all the time. It definitely has to be creative, but it also has to be sellable."
This isn't the first time Ferragni has judged next to Klum. She was a guest judge on Project Runway in 2014.
"I had so much fun [on Project Runway] because Heidi was so nice and so down-to-earth and she really made everybody feel the best version of themselves, which was really nice," Ferragni shared.
"But [Making the Cut] was, I don’t know, so much more interesting, also to film because we were shooting in different locations except the studio where we were giving our personal opinions, but the [fashion] shows were always different in different places [compared to] usually where fashions shows are," she added.
So what's in store for Cota as the next great global brand?
"Right now, I am a hundred percent focused on launching Jonny Cota on Amazon. This is my primary focus and so exciting for me. And my focus after that will be expanding the range," Cota explained. "I presented myself to the judges as a lifestyle brand, not just as a fashion brand, in the pop-up challenge, and so I’m going to explore different categories, launch lifestyle goods, kind of seek out collaborations with other brands and other categories, so really expand the whole world of Jonny Cota. It’s not just a jacket or a dress, it’s a world."
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