Episode Five: What's The Skinny?

Unable to defend that hot mess.

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For this challenge, Heidi brings in the models: twelve women, each of whom has undergone a significant weight loss. They are wearing the outfit that they loved most when they were at their heaviest, so on the runway they look like deflated balloons. Heidi announces that for this challenge, the designers will create a beautiful new look for these women using the clothes they're wearing as the raw material for that look. She then assigns each model/client to a designer by selecting names from our velvet bag.

The designers are given 30 minutes to meet with their new clients in the workroom. That accomplished, I take them shopping for extra fabric and/or notions with a budget of $10 (yes, ten dollars). They have until midnight of that day, with a possible hour or two in the morning, to complete their work for the challenge. tim_guest_405_320x240.jpg

Oh, I almost forgot, these new looks are for each woman's daily life -- think about that when you bring your own evaluations to the outcomes. Patrick Robinson, head designer for The GAP, is our guest judge. jack_01_405_320x240.jpg

Finally, I'm terribly sorry to say that we lose Jack in this challenge. He was seized by a repeat episode of an extremely serious staph infection, one that would require a week in the hospital with an IV drip. Morally, ethically, and medically, it was impossible to keep him on the show. Chris March was the last designer to be out, so we brought him back to replace Jack. Owing to the fact that Chris began the challenge very late, we allowed him to work through the night. rate_runway_05_405.jpg

Christian wins, and in his own words, "Finally!" Our resident wunderkind really deserved this win, too. He created a look that embraced his spirit of innovation, but it was grounded enough to navigate the real world, too. And that, readers, was the challenge. His client, Kerry, looked "fabulous" in the reinvention of her heaviest weight outfit: a fitted and cropped jean with a shrunken jacket (a metaphor?) over a nude top. I was crazy about the horizontal pleats in the placket of the jacket. Furthermore, the silhouette and proportions of the entire look was "fierce." Go, Christian! rate_runway_10_405.jpg

Steve is OUT. I felt sick for Steve from the moment he received Laura as his client, because of -- omigod -- that wedding dress. To be blunt, the prospect of working with a full-length gown of white polyester/acetate with prefabricated adornments of cheap-and-cheerful lace, pearls, and beading was daunting even to me. And Steve's decision to create a black dress and use remnants of the wedding dress for a collar and cuffs was risky. A black-and-white design scenario, especially with a collar and cuffs, is rife with cliches, and how to mitigate that trap added another dimension to the challenge. Had the dress been flawlessly executed, Steve would have had a hard enough time on the judging runway. But given that it was an oversized jumble of disparate parts, he was unable to defend the hot mess. Steve, we will sincerely miss you! rate_runway_04_405.jpg

Chris returned to replace Jack, who had only barely begun to work with his client, Sylvia, when the impact of his infection became too serious for him to remain. So as happy as we are to have our dear Chris back in the workroom, what-oh-what was he thinking when he created Sylvia's new look? Considering his background as a costume designer, I have been pleased that he has avoided that potential trap -- until now. If one were to remove the red sash from the skirt, then you'd be left with a baby-blue top with a scooped neckline and a navy pencil skirt. But even the skirt's red kick-pleat was a costume nod. So was Sylvia's runway styling: another slash of red in the form of a scarf that was tied around her neck. I didn't get it. Was she boarding the HMS Pinafore or was she engaging in a French apache dance? Perhaps both! rate_runway_07_405.jpg

Elisa's design point of view was simply too dominant in this challenge. Tracy, her client, had lost 102 lbs., so Elisa had volumes of fabric with which to work. Frankly, those excesses contributed to her derailment, at least in my opinion. The look she created had too many layers, too much asymmetry, and was just, well, too much. This was to be an outfit for Tracy's everyday life. I wasn't a believer, unless Tracy is a ringmaster for Barnum & Bailey. Elisa, please tone down the clown clothes! rate_runway_02_405.jpg

Jillian stunned me with her bold decision to barely use any of her client Erika's wardrobe. Frankly, I was prepared for the possibility of a "disqualification" ruling from the judges. Jillian told me that she replicated the red of Erika's shirt in the fabric that she bought (and I'm not at all certain how she obtained all of that fabric for a mere $10), and she cut up Erika's pants for strips for piping I have to say that her design was strong: a red dress with a halter cum racer back. And her use of the piping to create the illusion of a longer and leaner silhouette was outstanding. I'm merely happy that the judges subscribed to the package, whereas I would have balked. rate_runway_09_405.jpg

Kevin created a strapless, modified bustier top that flared from the waist and fell to mid-thigh. This was paired with black leggings. The top was in canary yellow with graphic accents in black: large buttons and piping. I found the look to be sleek and modern, and it looked adorable on his client Elise who walked it on the runway with extraordinary confidence. I saw Kevin as a strong contender for the win, except for the limitations of where Elise could really wear this look: everyday? I don't think so. rate_runway_08_405.jpg

Kit's design was ambitious. Her client Alicia had lost 160 lbs, which was even more ambitious an achievement! Kit had a difficult shade of pink with which to work, plus a non-cohesive black and white print. To her credit, she made it work: a short and "girly" (her words) trapeze dress in the difficult pink with an underskirt and waistband in the print. It was a pretty dress, but was it fashion? rate_runway_11_405.jpg

Rami created a tailored, high-waisted skirt paired with an organic, draped top. The skirt was sleek and beautifully fitted on his client, Lisa, and it offered an excellent counterpoint to the superbly draped top of twists and pleats, his Greco-Roman signature. Frankly, I was surprised that he didn't remain on the runway as one of the three strongest designers for this challenge. Was his work too basic in the eyes of the judges? We'll never know. rate_runway_03_405.jpg

Ricky designed a baby-doll top and cropped jean for his client Penny. The top was in a nude fabric with a jeweled neckline. He gave the silhouette additional dimension by using a sash at the waist. Penny looked great on the runway, but regarding the top, I had to ask myself at how many stores on Madison Avenue could one buy an almost identical look? rate_runway_01_405.jpg

Sweet P's client Chris lost 100 lbs, thereby leaving Sweet P with ample fabric with which to work. She took the olive gray poly-blend and created a halter dress that evolved from basic to stunning with the use of white piping along the seams. Heidi asked for "beautiful" and Sweet P delivered it! rate_runway_06_405.jpg

Victorya's model Ory had lost 139 lbs. When Heidi made the initial introduction, Ory was wearing a dark green velvet floor-length dress. That meant that Victorya had plenty of material with which to work. What eluded me was how little innovation and invention Victorya brought to this challenge. Basically, she shortened the dress and fitted it very well to Ory's newfound figure. Victorya even described it as a "cocktail dress." How was it that so many of the designers lost sight of the premise of the challenge: to create an everyday look? To repeat: it eluded me.

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.