Cast Blog: #PROJECTRUNWAY

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En Garde!

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Kenley Blogs Episodes 510-514

On The Road

The Real Winner

The Final Showdown

Leanne Speaks!

Finale, Part 2

What's Next

Tim Responds To Your Comments!

Love Is In The Hair!

History Repeating Itself

Garden Of Locks

Nature Calls

Rock 'n' Runway

Rock Steady

Rock N' Runway

Suede: Rockin' Out

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Take A Bow

Transformation

Joe: Straight Talk

Working Girl

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Best Of The Best?

Written In The Stars

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What's Your Sign?

I Saw The Sign

A Designer's Dream

Fashion Inside Out

Stella: Lovin' The Leatha

Double 0 Fashion

No Leatha, Mo' Problems

Making The Most Of It

The Fashion That Drives You

A Softer Edge

Fasten Your Seat Belts

Show Some Love

It's All An Illusion

Daniel: Oy Gevalt!

Good Queen Fun

Drama, Drama, Drama!

Joe: All Aboard!

RuPaul: A Drag Race

En Garde!

Teamwork was a bit of a challenge this time.

On the runway, Heidi tells our eight remaining designers that for this challenge they are to create an avant-garde look that is inspired by their model's hair. She adds that this is an opportunity to push themselves as designers and "create something artistic and conceptual."

Back in the workroom, I inform the designers that, owing to the ambitiousness of this challenge, they will be working in teams of two. I determine who is teamed with whom by drawing their names out of our velvet bag. The teams have 30 minutes to determine whose model's hairstyle will be the inspiration for the design. Then we're off to MOOD with a budget of $300.

There are two days for this challenge. On the morning of Day Two, I had to make the most anxiety-provoking announcement of my entire Project Runway career: "Designers, you will be responsible for a second look, one that is a ready-to-wear complement to your avant-garde look." Gulp. Why was I such a wreck? Because, each team had so much work remaining on their single look, how were they going to handle this second aspect of the challenge? As I wrote last week regarding Christian: If looks could kill, then the designers' collective stares at me would surely have dealt fatal blows. In any case, we needed to return to MOOD to shop for the materials for this new look, for which each team was given an additional $50. Owing to our time constraints, only one member of each team was required to go.

The always-wonderful ever-patient Nathaniel Hawkins, lead stylist for TRESemmé, was the creative force for the models' avant-garde hairstyles and worked with the designers to determine the ready-to-wear hairstyles.

The legendary Italian designer Alberta Ferretti is our distinguished guest designer. She served to buoy the spirits of a group of very grumpy designers! raterunway_03_408_220x415.jpg

Christian wins! As the leader of Team Christian and Chris, Christian was awarded the win -- and immunity in the next challenge -- for the team's jaw-droppingly stunning work. Their avant-garde creation was as close to true couture as any design that's been created on the show. It was constructed of 45(!) yards of organza cut into countless layers of circles, and Marcia wore it with nothing shy of grandness. A four-foot high "wing" projected from her shoulder, also covered with layers and layers of organza. All of this was in a gorgeous color of cafe-au-lait. Even Nina was visibly swooning! Their ready-to-wear look included a beautiful sleeveless top with an exuberantly ruffled placket in the same color, paired with a rather lackluster pencil skirt with the most peculiar darts at the hips. C'est la vie. The ho-hum skirt didn't matter. Team Christian championed! And I'll add that this was a case of two heads -- and four hands -- being vastly better than one, because Christian and Chris had a truly synergistic collaboration. Bravo, guys! Or should I say, "Fierce!"

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Kit is OUT. As leader of Team Kit and Ricky, Kit was singled out as the member of the team who should own responsibility for the outcome of the team's concept and execution. Indeed, it was her concept and, additionally, she had Ricky infantilized throughout the entire process. Her concept was "nesting," owing to the bird's nest hairstyle of her model, Marie. Frankly, the only nest-like aspect to her avant-garde design that I could discern was the circular shape of the skirt, but that's a stretch. I was struck by how much the corset top, voluminous Southern-belle skirt, and apron overlay made me think of a poor man's Marie Antoinette dressed for her le petit hameau. It screamed "student work!" And the ready-to-wear look was like a poor man's Laura Ashley dress: a sleeveless mini-dress that looked like it was made for that same madame's maid. So, that was the theme: poor. Kit, we'll miss you. raterunway_07_408_220x415.jpg

Victorya and Jillian were Team Victorya, but there was conflict over who would lead, with neither designer wanting to play second fiddle. Although I respect Victorya's leadership position, it was clear that the lion's share of conceptual thinking belonged to Jillian. Her Vivienne Westwood-like trench epitomized the self-described theme: rebellion. Executed in a midnight fabric, it was lined in a red tartan. The coat was drop-dead stunning and impeccably executed. However, I was dubious about the jodhpurs and ruffle-smocked top executed by Victorya, but the judges loved it (chacon a son gout). raterunway_08_408_220x415.jpg

Back to leadership, please remember that the ready-to-wear look was not even given full consideration, let alone execution, until THE MORNING OF THE JUDGING! I was a white-knuckled wreck and had to keep repeating to myself about the two of them: "I can't want you to succeed more than you do...." In the end, succeed they did. The judges didn't have a clue about the almost-no-show of the ready-to-wear look. They loved the sweet asymmetrical midnight dress with tartan piping, thankfully. This was a big "Whew!" Congratulations, ladies! raterunway_01_408_220x415.jpg

Rami and Sweet P were Team Rami, and it was clear from the onset that Rami would lead. In fact, Rami's voice was the only voice he would listen to. For the avant-garde look, the team ended up with a Rami design -- a gown with a corset and a long, flowing train -- and a Rami execution, with the exception of Sweet P playing sous-chef and making those homely pants. So, the judges were presented with some stunning Grecian draping (surprise!). Was the look avant-garde? I didn't see it. It certainly didn't surprise me. It was the same Rami look that I'd seen before. But the pants were, indeed, unexpected and begged the question: "Why?" And if they were necessary, why not use a fabric that was more in keeping with the rest of the look -- something lighter, perhaps? raterunway_02_408_220x415.jpg

And when it came to the ready-to-wear look, Rami was happy to unshackle Sweet P and tell her to conceive and execute on her own. She did. And her ready-to-wear look -- a ruched/pleated mini-dress in stunning shades of gray and with a wide satin waistband -- was far more pleasing to the eyes than his avant-garde creation. Thankfully, they emerged from this challenge unscathed by the judges, but not without some bruises from each other.

What's Next

Words of advice to Leanne, Korto, and Kenley.

Leanne put together something that was interesting and sophisticated and it definitely had a point of view. In a weird way she managed to have a focused collection that still had variety. She took an idea and she stretched it. The clothes were young as well as sophisticated at the same time.

What's next for her? Well, everyone thinks that they have to put on this big runway show and that's not necessarily always the case. I think her clothes are very much about seeing the workmanship, the detailing and all that, so I definitely think she's got the goods to do her own thing. I don't think she should feel obliged to do a big show right away. I think there's something to be said about things growing slowly and organically and that might be better for her. Then people can really see the clothes up close, because when you put the kind of workmanship into something that's understated, things can get lost. She could do a fun presentation, maybe, or a still life on mannequins. I don't think she necessarily has to rush out and put on a whole show. I think her clothes will be appreciated in both Europe and Japan so she should probably think about bringing it over her line to Paris where you're going to find more of the European buyers as well as the Asian buyers. Once again, I think her clothes will do really well in Asia. I think they have an understanding of sophisticated workmanship. You're not going to see her clothes in the local mall. They're not for that. She's got to keep it high-end and sophisticated and keep her focus, which I think she will.As for Korto's collection. I remember the beads well. There was one asymmetrical dress where the beads were built in and I loved that. Everything she wanted her collection to be - ethnic without being costume-y, playful with color - she managed to hit that with certain parts of the collection. But I think the necklaces, when they were just necklaces on their own, looked added.

With Kenley the reality is you have to have a confidence in what you do and you have to believe that you're right. A designer needs a big ego because you really are going around and telling people "You're wrong and I'm right." But I think that there are ways to do it gracefully. It's the kind of industry where you're always going to have good feedback, bad feedback, or sometimes no reaction, whether it's the woman in a store, the buyer, or the press. It's always a public thing, not a private thing. The important thing to remember is as much as it might burn you when someone criticizes you, the real reality is you don't have to take it totally verbatim. I think she takes things totally verbatim. And one can listen and say, "I got what you're saying but I'm ultimately going to do what I want to do, thanks for the input" and maybe you will learn something. You should learn something. When you think you know it all at 25 then your career's going to be really short. The whole point of fashion is that you never know it all. She's gotta learn how to keep her point-of-view and her confidence, but learn how to be a little more of a lady. Granted, being tough never hurt anyone in fashion.She's obviously got a point-of-view. She's got a great hand. The painting on those clothes was just gorgeous. In general, the quality and the craftsmanship of everything she sent out was beautiful. But I think when people are dress designers, which is really what she is, it doesn't make for the most compelling fashion show. It might make a very nice line. I think that in history there have been a lot of designers who are "dress houses," so to speak. They don't do a whole collection and they can have very successful businesses. It's hard to tell a varied story when you are so specifically dress-oriented and especially when your look is so particular. So I think she could put a line together and do very well with it. There's always going to be someone who likes something feminine and flirty and she's another one where I don't necessarily think the runway is always going to be her best friend. I think the greatest thing that has happened from the show in the last five seasons is that it's certainly made people aware that their clothes don't just appear in their closet. It's kind of like knowing the farmer who grows the crop. Suddenly you have an appreciation for the food that's on your table. I think that Runway has really opened people's eyes to know that this is an incredibly difficult endeavor and it takes real tenacity and talent.

I think that's the greatest part of the show for me. I'm a real fashion person so when something turns the corner and I think it's really spectacular that's the greatest moment for me. When Christian's show started and I saw the chicness of this 3-Musketeers silhouettes I thought "Wow." Same thing with Leanne. I look at the whole thing lined up and I think this is what we're here for. I'm happy when it looks great. My other highlight is sometimes just losing it laughing. Whether it's the wrestling challenge or... just losing it laughing in general! As much as I love it all and we are excited about it and spend so much time doing it, at the end of they day, they are just clothes. And sometimes it's good to just laugh about it all.