Even Designers Get The Blues

A nail biting finish during this tension filled challenge!

On the runway, Heidi tells the designers that they're taking a field trip -- with me -- and that they'll learn about the challenge on the trip. There are audible groans from almost everyone ....

I meet the designers in the lobby of Parsons and we load into our van. It's a gorgeous, bright morning for our field trip. We travel through the city, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and to the Brooklyn Dockyards on the East River opposite South Street Seaport and Lower Manhattan. There, I lead the designers to meet our special guest, Caroline Calvin, Senior Vice President of Design for Levi's. We're standing in front of a garage door that begins to open. As it does, I declare, "Behind this door you will find the raw materials for this challenge -- more than 500 pairs of 501 jeans in a variety of sizes and colors, and one-yard bolts of white cotton." Caroline delivers the challenge: to create an iconic denim look of your choice that captures the spirit of originality and creativity of the 501 legacy.

The jeans and cotton fabric are hanging from clotheslines strung throughout the inside of a massive warehouse. The designers are palpably daunted by the sight. They have three minutes to gather as many items as possible, and they have laundry bags in which to store them. With that accomplished, we have a lovely, but speedy, al fresco lunch on the dock, which all of us truly enjoyed. As Christian said, "I don't know when it was when I last saw the sky!" Back in the workroom, I inform the designers that Levi's has provided them with notions for the challenge -- zippers, metal buttons, the Levi's insignia, rivets, and a riveting machine. There is no extra shopping trip. And the designers have until midnight of this same day to finish the challenge.

Caroline Calvin is our guest judge. She surprises all of us when she declares that the winning look will be sold as a limited edition on the Levis.com. How thrilling is that?!?!

I just want to add that time management was an egregious issue for the designers. This was the first time this season when I witnessed such a collective meltdown in the workroom. It wasn't pretty. Furthermore, I feared that most of them wouldn't finish.

Finally, there is no immunity for the winner of this challenge, nor will there be for the winner of any future challenges. With so few designers still standing, it's a tougher -- and rougher -- playing field. raterunway_03_409_220x415.jpg

Ricky wins! I don't know who was more surprised by his win -- Ricky or me. I cannot tell a lie: I was profoundly concerned about his look. I thought it was too basic and too poorly finished. On the show, you hear me say, "It's stunning," and it's true that I did say it, as in, "Fix all of this and make certain that it's stunning." The editors were stuck with a conundrum, because so little of what I said to Ricky (and I said a lot) could be used. In any case, I was baffled by the judges' rhapsodic support of his design. It was so similar to Rami's look and even to Chris's design, but it was less ambitious than either. The judges celebrated the look's fit. It's a strapless tube dress! How challenging can the fit be? But please don't get me wrong: I'm sincerely pleased for Ricky that he won. But I'm equally baffled. Chacun a son gout. It's a matter of taste. raterunway_05_409_220x415.jpg

Victorya is OUT. Victorya struck me as being listless and lackluster from the moment the challenge was presented and she was faced with that daunting warehouse. Her elimination did not surprise me in the slightest. Her iconic look, the classic trench, was a sound idea, but how she executed it was more like the work of a stylist than a designer. By that I mean, she barely altered the classic denim jacket: She added a wider lapel and a "skirt" of sorts to give the jacket additional length. It was so "ho-hum, who cares" that I suspected she would put the judges to sleep. Instead, their incredulity equaled my own. Goodbye, Victorya. raterunway_02_409_220x415.jpg

Chris eluded me. Did his ambitiousness in the last challenge wear him out? Not only was his design -- a quasi-halter mini-dress -- so basic and un-Chris, but his execution was uneven: one frayed edge on a trim detail that becomes the halter. It was so odd and, as I've already written, so un-Chris. Thankfully, he passed through the judges' lens. Chris, come back to us! raterunway_01_409_220x415.jpg

Christian entered into the challenge as the last designer to have immunity, and while that factor may have fueled his attitude during the challenge, it didn't impact his work. I loved his look: a feminized motorcycle jacket with a pair of super-slim jeans. It was an innovative biker outfit! The shrunken jacket had an oval pleated placket and ruched shoulder embellishment that soften the tailoring, and the jeans were fabulous -- the piece de resistance being his use of a jacket sleeve for the lower portion of the leg. His creation was indisputably iconic, so I assumed that we would be a top contender for the win. Fierce! raterunway_07_409_220x415.jpg

Jillian went crazy with ambition and almost derailed herself. As Nina said, there were far too many ideas happening. Furthermore, Jillian's concept was a mere denim riff on the coat that she presented to the judges in the last challenge, and it was a coat that they all loved. Didn't she fear that she would hear, "Haven't we seen this before?" Has she learned nothing from the runway eviscerations of Rami? She presented a double-breasted coat with a high collar using light-wash denim. It did not embody her brilliant tailoring abilities or her stealth-like point of view. Like Chris, Jillian was off her game. Like Chris, I'm glad she's still here. raterunway_04_409_220x415.jpg 

Rami, in my view, was another strong contender for the win. His look possessed a sophistication that one wouldn't expect from denim. His two pieces read as one: a high-waisted skirt, the bottom third of which was pleated, and a sleeveless, asymmetrical top. Throughout both pieces were zippers used as seam piping. That element made the look sing! I was dazzled and so were the judges. So, Ricky wins? raterunway_06_409_220x415.jpg

Sweet P pulled herself out the alarming potential for a Woodstock-inspired derailment. When I first saw her design, I was woeful. She was creating a denim wedding dress (huh?), full-length and patchworky. It was dreadful. This was a déjà vu from the Hershey's challenge when her first design went completely awry and she barely squeaked by on the runway. For this challenge, she really rallied! By shortening the dress and cleaning up the construction, she created a modern looking, color-blocked chic sensation. I was wowed -- and relieved. Go Sweet P!

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The Final Showdown

Bryant Park was a frantic frenzy backstage but most kept cool.

After weeks of vigorous drawing, designing and sewing, the final three designers arrived at the last challenge. The pressure was on for Leanne, Korto, and Kenley as they geared up to show their collections at Bryant Park for New York Fashion Week!

As the TRESemmé Styling Team entered the fashion tents, we were filled with excitement and anticipation to see what the designers put together. Since each contestant had 10 models each, backstage was buzzing! Kenley was frantic because some of her models were missing and didn't even show up until the last minute. Leanne was the complete opposite - she stayed calm and collected and even had all her models ready to go way before runway time. Korto looked nervous but was ecstatic to be at Bryant Park. She told us it was something she had been dreaming about her whole life. After we gathered the 30 models, we split them up by designer so that the TRESemmé Styling Team could start transforming the girls. Korto's collection reflected her African heritage and culture. To complement the loud prints and bold colors, we decided to give Korto's models an up-do to accentuate the embellished detailing on the neckline of the garments. First, I started by taking a zig-zag section from ear to ear across the crown. I worked in TRESemme Anti-Frizz Secret Smoothing Crème to help create a sleek base. Then, we tied two separate ponytails to the right side of the head within the top and bottom sections. To add volume to the ponytail, we created waves using a 1″ curling iron, and then teased the hair. After, we lightly brushed the surface for a smooth exterior and neatly twisted and pinned the hair into a doughnut-shaped bun.

For Leanne's collection, she found inspiration by the lake near her home in Portland, Oregon. Each piece in her line had some sort of ripple or wave effect to it in different shades of blue and cream. We wanted to create a hairstyle that had a similar wave-like effect. Leanne envisioned the hair to look natural, organic and earthy. I began by generously spraying TRESemmé Thermal Creations Heat Tamer throughout the models' hair. After blow-drying, I gave her models a deep left side part and tied back the front pieces of their hair into a ponytail. I pulled the remaining hair and the ponytail into one low pony and curled it to create soft waves.Kenley designed an assortment of colorful knee-length dresses that she hand painted herself! She wanted the hair to be classic and sophisticated, so we decided to give her models Marcel waves. To get this look, I created a low left side part from above the eye to the crown, then sectioned the hair from the crown to behind the right ear and clipped it aside. Next, I put the remaining hair into a side bun to the right side of the head. After, we released the top section of the hair from the clip and misted the hair with TRESemme Thermal Creations Heat Tamer before blow-drying for a smooth finish. Then, we finished by applying TRESemme Thermal Creations Curl Activator Spray to the front pieces and used a 1" curling iron to create face framing Marcel waves. Finally, we loosely pinned the remaining length of the hair into a bun.

Even though all the collections looked amazing on the runway, there can only be one winner of Project Runway. Tim Gunn, who surprised everyone as the guest judge, thought Leanne's line was uniquely structured and versatile. Heidi said her cohesive collection floated down the runway. The judges all agreed her designs were flawless and Leanne was crowned winner!

It has been such a memorable experience seeing Leanne grow into the designer she is today, and I'm sure we can expect many more beautiful collections from her. I can't wait to see what type of ripple effect this designer will make in the fashion industry!

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