Eye Candy

Field trips + untraditional materials= stress!

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I love our field trips, and I love it when we use untraditional materials, but I'll confess that both always give me an exacerbated level of stress. Heidi introduces this challenge by merely informing the designers that they will have an early start. Indeed, they do. I arrive at their apartments before the crack of dawn. Rousing them, I declare that they are to get dressed and meet me in the lobby. We're going on a field trip!

The ten designers and I pile into the Project Runway van and head northeast towards Times Square. We park a block from our destination, which is unknown to them, and take a little walk. Eventually, we land at the Hershey's Time's Square emporium, a literal Hershey's lovers dream come true. The designers are clearly excited, but it's apparent and they're equally daunted by the speculative prospect for this challenge. tim_406_02_320x240.jpg

We meet Hershey's Michelle Gloeckler who tells them that anything and everything in the store is available to them. Furthermore, there's no budget for this challenge. Rather, the designers are given two shopping bags each and five minutes to amass their materials. To their relief, the design challenge is open: create an outfit of your choice. Whew.

There is no additional shopping, even for notions. Glue, glue guns, staplers, other adhesives, and needles and thread are being provided, so the additional resources are an even playing field. They will have until midnight to finish their look, because there will be almost no time available to them the following morning.

The always thoughtful, always insightful, and always dead-on Zac Posen is our guest judge. Hurray! rate_runway_10_406.jpg

Rami wins! And he is the first designer this season to win two challenges. Using York Peppermint Patty paper* for a pleated skirt and vinyl Twizzler pillow cases for an innovatively constructed top, he created a look that was simultaneously edgy, fashion forward, and wearable (i.e. believable). His look was superbly constructed and the fit on his model Sam was perfection. What more is there to say? Congratulations, Rami! rate_runway_09_406.jpg

Elisa is OUT. To me, this outcome was inevitable. Elisa listens to two inner voices (at least two...) that operate from opposing positions: that is, one tells her to be fantastically innovative and avant-garde while the other deludes her into thinking that she successfully attains that goal. When I engage with her, I listen seriously and respectfully, but I find that the words she speaks and the work that I'm looking at don't jibe.

For this challenge, she used her daughter as her muse and sought to achieve an outfit suitable for Gretel of "Hansel and Gretel." She said that she wanted a "fashion confection of fairytale fantasy." Okay, but what does a stale brown velvet dress have to do with that? I won't even comment on those ludicrous faux sleeves made out of the Hershey's Kiss pillows. Ho-hum. If Elisa's design had been as interesting as her words portrayed, then she'd have been the winner. rate_runway_08_406.jpg

Chris knew only too well that this challenge would either make him or break him. As a costume designer extraordinaire, Chris is more than adept at using untraditional materials, such as food. But were he to go the way of the food circus, then he would have delivered a parade float to the judges, and we know where that would have led. In his own apt words, this design was "Stephen Sprouse meets Andy Warhol." I loved his strapless mini-dress with "Hershey's" emblazoned and repeated vertically from the bust-line to the hip: very Warholesque, indeed. The look was clean, beautifully fitted, and his model Marcia looked sublime. Furthermore, it was a strong contender for the win. Chris, I'm proud of you! rate_runway_01_406.jpg

Christian, I suspect, will have a polarizing effect on our viewers. I write this largely out of projection, because I alternate between wanting to give him a big hug and wanting to give him a sobering slap. In a manner that evoked the discovery of penicillin, he believed that the material he chose (hundreds of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrappers), coupled with his design (a mini-dress with a halter and choker), would ensure his win.

Furthermore, he was "finished" hours before the deadline. When I found him in the workroom gloating over his achievement and offering spare-time critiques to his fellow designers, I pulled him aside to suggest that he consider giving his design some more time and thought. "I certainly don't think that you're going home (and he won the last challenge, so he had immunity), but I'm not as confident as you are that this design is the winner." If looks could really kill, I would have been a goner. rate_runway_05_406.jpg

Jillian was the only designer to construct an entire garment out of edible materials. I supported her intentions from the onset, but I was also bluntly concerned about time; that is, her design was extremely ambitious to execute. I, too, found the Twizzler's to be an inspirational material: substantive, pliable, and a rich color.

But merely handling the Twizzler's was a challenge, because the heat from her hands caused the dense pillars of candy to turn squishy. Oh dear. The consequence was that gluing would not be an option. Instead, each individual piece would have to be sewn onto an infrastructure. Time. I know that Jillian was writing her own epitaph, but in the end she made it work. Her flapperish mini and Valkyrian bustier were stunning, and all the more so for being made of candy. For me, this would have ensured her win. But for our judges, it was a matter of taste - forgive the pun. rate_runway_04_406.jpg

Kevin's design was nothing if not wearable. He created a cropped bolero jacket out of the chocolate velvet of the Hershey's pillows and used ROLOs for buttons. A corset-shaped halter top in silver (from Kiss pillows) was over a chocolate pencil skirt. His use of a silver ruffle under the hem of the skirt struck me as being a bit contrived and trying to hard, but it passed successfully through the judges' review in the first round. Go Kevin! rate_runway_02_406.jpg

Kit took advantage of the opportunity to spin her name and used Kit Kat wrappers to make a corset with oversized chocolate-colored lacing in the back. This was paired with a flared and pleated skirt made out of the wrappers from extra-large Hershey's bars. The impact was powerful, but a bit busy, if not cacophonous. Furthermore, styling the look with knee-high boots on the runway cancelled out any hope that the look would be buoyant or joyful. Instead, it was heavy-handed. Kit, edit! rate_runway_03_406.jpg

Ricky nailed this challenge and, remarkably, with little to no consternation. His look was adorable: a bubble skirt (I know, I know, but it was fun in this case) fashioned out of "Hershey's" fabric paired with a silver bustier-shaped top with spaghetti straps. The judges responded well, too, by virtue of the fact that Ricky was "IN" in the first round. I believe that this may be the first challenge in which Ricky wasn't left hanging on the runway. Congratulations! rate_runway_07_406.jpg

Sweet P was almost completely derailed by this challenge. Was it a consequence of over thinking her design and being too innovative with the materials? Perhaps, but the earlier stage of her work presented an impossible mess. I was in complete agreement that she abort and begin anew. The trouble was that she had made such a mess of so much of her material resources that they couldn't be recycled into phase II, so there were severe limitations ahead.

This was a classic "make it work" moment. I was proud - and relieved - that she was able to create a garment that looked believable and could walk the runway. Yes, it was a basic look - a silver bodice and pleated miniskirt made out of Hershey's Kiss paper* -- but at least she had a look! Michael and Nina were especially critical of her look's banality, but if they could walk a mile in our shoes! rate_runway_06_406.jpg

Victorya created a look that can be best described as a homely costume. Not unlike Elisa, Victorya can listen to inner voices that delude and, consequently, derail her. Her decision to use the fabric of York Peppermint Patty pillows for her design was compelling, because the shiny silver textile and the bold graphic print had a certain "wow!" factor. So why did she decide to use the flat, lifeless reverse of the textile for most of the garment? This begged the question: then why use it at all? And the design?

Victorya's work is characterized by a sleek minimalism, so what accounted for the ruffled top and multi-tiered girly skirt? To make matters even more incongruous, Victorya called the look "Ice Princess" and instructed her model Jacqueline to walk like Venus Rising. This was a puzzling head-scratcher. Victorya, as far as I'm concerned, you're lucky to still be IN.

* The Hershey's Kiss and York Peppermint Patty papers were rolls of stock from the Time's Square store that had been intended for display purposes. Hershey's kindly offered them to us, and the papers were a godsend to many of the designers.

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Nature Calls

The designers are blossoming in this week's challenge.

This is the designers' final challenge, and it will determine which of them will move forward and present collections at New York Fashion Week. Heidi announces that I'm taking the designers on a field trip. Indeed, I am. In another celebration of New York City, we visit the New York Botanical Garden. There, the designers meet Collier Strong, consulting makeup artist for L'Oreal Paris, who explains that this is the L'Oreal Paris challenge. Collier instructs the designers to use the Garden as the source of their inspiration for an evening gown design (which, coincidentally, is what they declared that they wanted to do when we were in the van driving to the Bronx). They are given cameras and have one hour to explore the garden and take pictures to record their inspiration.

Back in the workroom, they have 30 minutes to choose one photograph to serve as the inspiration for their evening gown. Then, we go shopping at MOOD with a budget of $250. They have two days for this challenge.

Our guest judge is the stunning Georgina Chapman, co-founder of and designer for Marchesa.

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Jerell WINS! And he couldn't have been more Jerell in this design: a fitted bustier and a full, layered skirt with a slight train. The brownish purple duchesse satin body of the dress was gorgeous, and the under-layers of crimson followed by a dark green sequined panel were gorgeous in my opinion. Still, when I called "time," he still had a lot of work to do, including resolving the fit of the skirt in the back. No one is OUT. All four designers move forward to create collections and compete for three spots at New York Fashion Week. In spite of Jerell's win, he will compete, too.

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Kenley used a python print in shades of fuchsia and purple to make a mermaid-like gown with a high neck and a racer back. From the knees down there are multi-tiered layers of gradated "leaves" in the same python fabric, each of which is piped in a different shade of purple or fuchsia charmeuse. The leaves look more like fish scales, ergo the mermaid association of this look. Thankfully, Kenley removed the leaves from the shoulder. But, still, her design looked very costumey in my humble opinion, and her technical treatment of the gradated leaves did not have her usual polish. In the end, the look was very Kenley and she's moving forward.

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Korto was inspired by a dramatic flower in shades ranging from orange to yellow. She chose creamsicle and ochre textiles in charmeuse and created a gown with a deep, plunging neckline and a train with a vent with an inserted panel. A tired-looking ivory lace with beading embellishments was used in two side panels and as trim along the back. Thankfully, she edited the lace down to a more diminutive use, because she had originally intended to cover most of the back with this problematic textile. I had difficulty seeing Korto's point of view in this gown, but she was confident that it was there. Thankfully, she's moving forward!

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Leanne designed a stunning gown in lavender charmeuse, and while she retained her signature details and structural embellishments, this was a "softer" Leanne. The pleating in the one-shoulder top cascaded into a symmetrical flourish that hugged the hips. The judges questioned the efficacy of the darker blue panel in the train of the gown, but isn't that a matter of taste? In fact, with the exception of poor construction, isn't it all a matter of taste?

Chacun a son gout!

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