Only one can be the winner, and one (or in this case two) will be eliminated.
It’s a reminder Project runway judge Nina Garcia often states at the end of each weekly challenge, and the finale is no exception.
Project runway season 20 brought back familiar faces as previous contestants returned with the common goal of winning the All Star crown — making the competition that much tougher.
The three finalists — Brittany Allen, Laurence Basse and Bishme Cromartie — spoke to PEOPLE ahead of tonight’s finale premiere about how they handled the pressure of competing against the best of the best and recalled what they could have done differently.
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After working with mentor Christian Siriano and judges Garcia, Elaine Welteroth and Brandon Maxwell — among a cacophony of guest judges that included Julia Fox, Alicia Silverstone and Law Roach — the designers were challenged to showcase an original collection at New York Fashion Week for a chance at the award of $250,000, mentoring at the Council of Fashion Designers of America and playing in Ella.
PEOPLE sat down with Brittany, Laurence and Bishme to talk about everything from their journey on the show to their favorite behind-the-scenes moments.
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PEOPLE: Congratulations on making it this far in the season. How do you feel before your debut in the final?
Brittany: I think everyone has worked really hard to get to this point and then to do a whole collection in eight days is wild. We really got involved and competed and put our heart and soul into every piece you saw during all the challenges and in our collections. We’re really excited to share it with everyone and show them what a real collection looks like from the three of us.
What were your favorite looks that you created this season?
Laurence: All the ones we won. No, but the last one, avant-garde, was really the most challenging for me. I’m a little crazy in my head and I forget that I’m involved Project runway and they only give us 17 hours and we are on the clock.
When they say, “Start,” you go, and when they say, “Finish,” you must finish. I didn’t know if I could do it. The [audience] I didn’t see it because on the camera, [we’re] sometimes I pretend to work but I don’t. I did nothing for six hours.
Brittany: I think my favorites were the red ones, obviously. I loved the red challenge and I loved my look for that one, but also, I really loved my look for the underwear challenge, the green one with that little bralette. That challenge was so hard.
Bishme: My favorite look I created this season would have to be the freedom challenge, my outfit for it.
I love the environment and everything. It was just working in nature and trying to see the future a little later to see if what you design will work. That’s what I was kind of happy with.
On the flip side of that, is there a piece you guys would do again? If you could, what would you do with it?
Laurence: There is a piece that I would actually undo [from the] gaming challenge.
You don’t like unconventional!
Laurence: I work unconventionally. It depends on what it is.
Brittany: Well, the thing about unconventional is if you don’t get the materials, that’s it.
Laurence: It depends. Unconventional could be so much, but the toys, I mean, in my season we had three unconventional challenges, and out of the three, two were really good. That one, I just don’t know. You can’t win all the time. It is OK.
Bishme: The piece I would repeat would be my double binding. I think I would have done it differently, I would have stolen someone else’s double bind thing. I think I failed to connect with my basic and bold.
Laurence: Whose would you steal?
Bishme: You know what? Humble, I think I’d still take yours. [Points to Laurence] I won’t even lie.
Laurence: I know. I felt it coming from me. I was like, I was praying. I said, “Bishma, leave me alone.”
Obviously, you’re an All Star, so you’ve done this before. What did you learn coming back to the show? What was different this time, and what was better or worse?
Laurence: The only difference for me is the cast. It was a more mature cast, so it was less cheesy and everyone was there to work. We respected each other.
Brittany: About the same for me. All of the actors this season have done it before, and we were all very close to the end, but we didn’t secure the bag, so everyone was very hungry for it, and they wanted to go back and get the thing that I didn’t get the first time. You felt that in the room.
That feeling also turned into respect because everyone had respect for each other and respected how hungry we were for it. We all looked up to each other and we all looked to each other for advice, and we weren’t afraid to ask for help or if I needed help with this, we did. I mean, what’s there to lose? You can be mean and hateful all you want, but it doesn’t really benefit you in the end. Honestly, just being there for each other made the stress level a lot more, I guess, bearable. I will say that finishing top six this season compared to my original season was 10 times harder, a lot harder.
Did you have a favorite behind-the-scenes moment that we didn’t see that you remember?
Laurence: I favor the fifth.
Brittany: Make a fifth statement. I think it was a double bind challenge. That dance party was even more fun in real life than what you saw. We just danced, had a great time and laughed. That moment was much more fun than you can imagine and than you saw on TV. It was really special.
Bishme: Every morning when we would make TikTok videos, we would just wake up and, remember, it was like six in the morning, but we get into a routine, so that’s all that matters.
Brittany: We’re just trying to get content.
Bishme: That’s it. I love the fact that Laurence always sees us in the morning. She is like our manager, she makes sure everything is in order. She won’t dance. Will let us know if it looks good.
Laurence: I can’t shake my booty anymore. My old booty doesn’t shake like this.
This has been a really personal, emotional season for what seems to be the entire cast. What made you want to open up, and what was the hardest thing to share?
Brittany: I think the hardest thing for me was to tell about my stroke, because professionally I kept it from a lot of people because I never wanted to share that story and then people think that I couldn’t do something because I was weakened or I needed more time to recover or whatever. That was the first time I really talked about it. Not that it’s a moment of weakness, but I just didn’t want to be perceived as incapable of doing anything. My abilities were endless. It was hard for me to share, but I’m glad I did.
Laurence: As for me, I’m not one to talk about a lot of my personal stuff, but for people to relate to you, you have to show that vulnerable side or they’ll just look at you like you’re superhuman.
Basically, it’s important to share with people all the dark things we’ve been through so they can identify with us and know that if they’re going through something right now, okay, that’s okay, but things will change and you just have to believe and succeed you will
Brittany: I think it comes down to inspiring someone else. If we open our mouths and share all these really traumatic things we’ve been through and all these trials and tribulations, it shows even if it’s just one person, a student or someone who’s 55 and wants to change careers. Only one soul watches us and says, “Oh my God, I can do that too,” which makes it all worth it.
Bishme: I think it was important for me to share the grieving process that I secretly still experience, but that was the beginning of it. I think it’s important to show that because a lot of times when things happen that are devastating to us, we want to give up and sit and enjoy that sadness. For me it was like, I can’t do it. That’s not what my sister would want. It’s not going to help me and I have to find a way to deal with it, but also to inspire people who are going through that situation.
And the last question, if you could go back, what would you say to yourself?
Laurence: I would go back and say to myself, “Don’t worry, you’ll make it to the finals.”
Brittany: Stop trying to please everyone else.
Bishme: Honestly, what I would tell myself is, “Everything is fine,” and to trust the universe, to continue to trust the universe. That was it.