Laura Bennett Meets The Addams Family

The final three for Fashion Week!

Wow -- what an emotional roller coaster of an episode! It's amazing how a photo montage of a home visit, the right mood music, and a thought-provoking glance from Sir Tim Gunn can make one recall the good ole days when it was happening to me. I must applaud all four designers for showing such excellent craftsmanship in their designs -- each of them had obviously put so much time and effort into their clothes and even in the brief glances we were shown this episode, it was easy to spot.

So this episode was obviously centered on who gets the third and final spot for Fashion Week, which would obviously go to either Rami or Chris. I thought that the three looks that both of them showed were unexpected and very creative, and were excellent representations of who they seem to be as designers.

That being said, I have to say that I didn't understand the comment from the judges critiquing the fact that the collections were so "dark". I think that they both chose moody yet romantic inspirations, Rami's had a stronger feel with the armor influence, and Chris's seemed to have a precocious quirky-Tim-Burton-awkward-main-character-vibe. Though both showed a lot of black, I thought that they weren't depressing but instead, were mysterious.

Rami

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I love the color and general shape of this coat. It definitely reflects the inspiration with the overlapping shoulder cape and the high neck that is reminiscent of armor. I do have to agree with the judges though, in saying that it looks slightly over-worked. All of the design elements -- the volume, the top-stitching, the trim, the asymmetrical collar -- are all fantastic, but when put all-together on one outfit it can quickly seem like too much. That being said, I still kinda like it! rate_runway_03_413.jpg

I adore this dress, it's the definite definition of the word "understated". I remember watching this dress walk down the runway at Fashion Week and it was one of the most striking pieces in his collection. Smart move on Rami's part to not put three voluminous, intricately worked pieces on the runway, and instead balanced the two "wow" looks with this more subtle one. I love it. rate_runway_04_413.jpg

He starts with a bang, follows with a breath, and ends with a wow! I have nothing to say other than absolutely gorgeous.

Chris

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I think the combination of textures in the first look is phenomenal. It makes you look up and down again and again, looking at all of the details, finding something new every time. I'm not bothered by the use of human hair, and find it quite interesting, and quite honestly, ballsy on Chris's part. The neckline on the jacket is gorgeous, how it frames the face, and the way the hair naturally folds over gives it such a soft feel. I too must applaud Chris for making velvet look so rich and expensive. Oftentimes it can appear heavy and dowdy but I think it works with this jacket. rate_runway_05_413.jpg

Again, I actually really like this look. Aside from the hair and makeup being utterly chic, I think the textures, and play on matte/shine really make this an interesting look. I can see someone like Renee Zellweger wearing this on one of her more courageous days on the red carpet. It's like Laura Bennett meets the Addams Family ... I LOVE IT! rate_runway_02_413.jpg

This is really the only one I didn't like. It comes off as very dated and although I find the whole silhouette interesting, the actual construction of the dress seems very simple (or at least from what I can see). Obviously, the fact that she can't walk in it doesn't bode well for him either.

Overall, I think they both did EXCEPTIONAL jobs and if there had been four official passes to fashion week, I think based on these three looks, they both are worthy. Congratulations to both designers, and an especially big good luck hug to Chris on his next venture -- it's undoubtedly sure to be a big one.

I'm off now, but I'll see you all next week when the next and newest winner of Project Runway is determined...surely to piss off some, relieve others and to the rest, leave them completely unaffected.

Good luck to Rami, Christian and Jillian!!!

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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!

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