Cast Blog: #PROJECTRUNWAY

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Even Designers Get The Blues

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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

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!

Finale, Part 2

Impressive work by all but alas only one designer can win.

Well, for me, this episode was the Project Runway first among Project Runway firsts! Why? Because I served as a judge for the first time (and, hopefully, the last time) ever. Here's the back story: Bravo and the executive producers approached me before our Bryant Park show to say that there may be a problem with our guest judge and, consequently, how would I feel about filling in. At first, my response was a roll-up-your-sleeves and "make it work!" form of positive thinking, but as I contemplated the reality of it, I pushed back and refused. Consider the following: I still had another visit to the designers that night and there would be a considerable amount of time needed to support them in the morning before the show. How could I be both a mentor and a judge and service their needs appropriately and responsibly? I believed that I couldn't. So, to make a very long story a wee bit shorter, we ended Thursday night's bevy of phone calls in the following way: Bravo and the producers would ardently search for a replacement judge and I would return to my work with the designers assuming that I would not be a judge If I were to be needed in that role, then I wouldn't be informed of that need mere moments before the show. Otherwise, I could be perceived by the designers (and anyone else mind you) as being duplicitous and insincere. That would never do. Furthermore, Kenley and I were engaged in an semi-incendiary relationship, and the worst thing that could happen would be for her to lose and have me perceived as being the reason why. Oy! So, we know what happened: Our guest judge backed out at the last minute, a celebrity replacement couldn't be found on such short notice, and I filled in. With 10 minutes and counting until our show, Heidi came to me and asked, "So, you're ready to do this, no?" I replied, "To be honest, I don't know. I have an altogether different relationship with the designers than you and Nina and Michael have. I don't know." Heidi reared back and asked, "Tim Gunn, are you telling me that with all of your years of teaching you can't put your relationships aside and look at their work impartially? I thought about her wise words and responded, "Of course I can! Let's go!" We hugged and kissed and off we went.

Don't ever wish to be a guest judge on the show! To be blunt, I don't know how the judges do what they do and as well as they do: The collections pass by quickly, you have to wrap your brain around each piece of each collection immediately, and you have to come to terms with some comparative assessment right away. AND, I had the distinct advantage of intimately knowing the designers' work, yet is was still daunting. In any case, it really was very, very difficult. And there was one very important dimension to this process: seeing the clothes walk. Generally speaking, I don't see them walk. Rather, I see everything static on dress forms. Walking is an altogether different experience and it brings everything to life. So, in that sense, my experience with each designer's collection couldn't have been fresher and newer.

Here are my thoughts about the three collections: Leanne WINS, and what a win it was! We saw all of the conceptual content that really is at the core of Leanne's point of view, and we saw it tempered and orchestrated with precision. As I said to her during the home visit: "I always trust that you will present masterful technique, but can you give your work feeling, emotion?" This was her personal challenge. And she did it All of the strong architectural elements that are Leanne were clearly present, but her looks possessed a buoyancy and an ease, an effortlessness that belied each items structure. Furthermore, her collection was the result of superb editing; had she not brought her critical eye and judgment to each looks and its relationship to every other look, then there may have been a different outcome. Kenley presented a strong point of view and excellent execution, neither of which were surprises, and both of which were appropriately lauded.

I loved Kenley's textile choices and her hand-painting, which was a risky endeavor, and the silhouettes couldn't have been more her. But when the looks walked, they possessed a stiffness that I wasn't prepared to experience. Static on a dress forms, her looks beautifully captured the essence of her inspiration: "painting the roses red" from Alice in Wonderland. (When I made my home visit to her, Kenley resisted revealing her inspiration, which confounded me. When she finally relented, she gave me an epiphany. "Now I get it!" I declared.) But when the clothes walked on the runway, they retained much of their static appearance; that is, most of the looks moved like stiff pasteboard. I could see Kenley's collection emanating a major "wow!" factor in an editorial spread in Elle, but I had a hard time imagining how they would or could navigate and function in the real world. Still, I loved the fantasy aspect of the collection and its other-worldliness. Korto fully embraced her African heritage and her Americanism. Furthermore, she was successful embracing that goal, which is no small task, especially since the entire collection could have been a costume festival. Her silhouettes, alone, told her story, and when you add the colors, textures, and jewelry, her entire collection was uplifted. Color is nothing if not subjective, and I applaud her decision to step away from the expected and mix up her largely taupe palette with vibrant greens and blues. And the jewelry? Well, from my perspective it was all inextricable from the larger aspect of her point of view and, more particularly, to the individual looks themselves. I loved it. Is her collection for everyone or anyone? Of course not, but whose is?

Congratulations to all!