Amazon’s Making the Cut crowned its first winner on Friday in a two-part finale that brought the remaining designers back to where their season-long journey began.
Jonny Cota, Esther Perbandt and Sander Bos returned to New York City to showcase their final collections in fully realized pop-up shops. While Bos’ candy coated display was a success in its own right, it fell short of expectations, resulting in a third-place finish for the 24-year-old Belgium native.
This left Cota and Perbandt to pitch their business proposal to the President of Amazon Fashion, before showing off their final collections on the runway. Following an incredibly close vote of 3-2, Cota was announced the winner, receiving a mentorship, an exclusive line on Amazon and $1 million to invest into his brand.
“It feels like my life just changed,” the 35-year-old Los Angeleno tells TVLine. “I’m over-the-moon excited.”
Below, the first-ever Making the Cut winner shares more of his thoughts with us, including the surprisingly practical use he found for one of his less-beloved designs:
TVLINE | OK, let’s start with what’s really important: How are they giving you this money? Will it be your standard briefcase full of bills, or one of those giant Ed McMahon checks?
[Laughs] It’s actually a wheelbarrow full of pennies.
TVLINE | Ah, of course. In all seriousness, though, I loved the metamorphosis aspect of your final collection.
Thank you. I didn’t know that was going to be the concept until halfway through designing the collection. I was looking at my arc on the show and what I was creating in the studio, how it felt so different from what I’d been doing for the past 10 years. When the idea of metamorphosis came to mind, I was like, “Yes, that’s perfect. Without a doubt.”
TVLINE | And even though that was your personal experience, it’s one we can all relate to.
Yes, 100 percent. I think the most powerful inspirations for fashion designers are the ones that people can relate to and put themselves into. Whether it’s the inspiration for your runway show or for your campaign, I think people want to project themselves into the vision. That’s the most powerful way to communicate fashion.
TVLINE | It’s ironic that the judges weren’t crazy about the gloves in your collection. Those are now extremely fashionable in the age of quarantining.
You know, I did wear those gloves from the runway show to the grocery store the other day! I couldn’t find any latex gloves at the store, so I thought, “I’ll just wear these and look incredible.”
TVLINE | Speaking of that critique, how did you feel about this show letting us hear the judges’ thoughts as the garments are coming down the runway?
Your first response is usually your most accurate response, so I’m glad that they’re talking about the pieces as they’re coming out. If I’m watching a show, I know in five seconds whether or not I like something. And sometimes looks also blend together during a show, so I like that they’re picking them apart in the moment.
TVLINE | And what an assembly of judges. Who intimidated you the most?
Naomi Campbell, obviously! She is the ultimate intimidation. She really dragged me across the coals in Episode 2. It was a brutal beatdown, but I got up, and I felt almost honored that she took the time to critique me. You only critique people you believe in who you think can do better, so I walked away from that thinking, “She actually really likes me.” I designed for myself and for all of the judges in every challenge, but Naomi was always the one I really wanted to impress.
TVLINE | Do you feel forever indebted to Nicole Richie for breaking that tie in your favor?
I do! I definitely think she was my Making the Cut angel. And I’m thrilled that the judging landed in my favor, but it was close. I really think it could have gone either way. Esther did an incredible job, and I don’t envy the task that the judges had in front of them.
TVLINE | I like that this show really explored the business side of the industry.
Me too. It gave me an opportunity to excel. If all we were doing all day was sewing dresses within certain time limits, I would not do well. And maybe it will scare some young designers away from starting their own label. As grateful as I am to have my own, I tell every young designer to work for another brand first. If you start your own brand, you will spend all your time doing paperwork — managing people, managing payroll. This is what I do. So it was nice to have a competition that wanted to investigate and celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit.
TVLINE | And you and Tim seemed to form a very sweet friendship.
Yes! I hope Tim and I are friends for the rest of my life. I was a little starstruck when he first entered the workroom. I was the bratty goth boy in the corner, so I never thought that we would become so close by the end of this experience. I felt so supported by him, and [when we watched my final runway], I felt that he was proud of me.
Do you think Cota was the right designer to win Making the Cut? Weigh in via our poll below, then drop a comment with more of your thoughts on the show’s first season.