Pushing Until It Breaks

Testing the designer's ability to the extreme.


I think that one of the most exciting challenges is to see them work with unconventional materials. Because I think that– although they probably, in the real world, will not be making clothes out of garbage or candy, or going to the flower shop– I do think that you will have to make a silk purse out of a cow's ear at some point. It's gonna happen.

You're going to suddenly have the challenge of something that's hard to work with, that might not be your first choice. You're going to have to figure out, "what am I going to do with this?" So this is testing that ability to the extreme, which I think is very essential to a long career in fashion. michael_406_02_320x240.jpg

If I had to pick my favorite challenge we've seen on Project Runway, you know, pretty consistently, I think we're talking about it. I'm very turned on by the unconventional material challenge every year. Whatever we do with it, I think it's all great. And then I also think it's very interesting when we take them out of the realm of dressing models.

Whether it's dressing your family members or anyone in real life. Whether it's Sasha Cohen who's 5' 1" or Tiki (Barber). Because it can all look terrific on a twenty-year-old girl who's 5' 11" and a size two, but really, can you get past that? But the plain and simpled truth is -- if they can't, they're never going to have a career. rate_runway_05_406.jpg

Jillian is the only one who actually used candy. The people who found fabric in the Hershey's Store, that's a more conventional way of doing things, and they made their lives a lot easier. She really worked with a very challenging material, and made it impeccably. To me, it's the same thing as what we saw Austin do with corn husks. A designer with vision and the willingness to push themselves to create.

I think that when you're working with the most beautiful fabric in the world, you don't really have to do too much with it, and in fact, you would rather you didn't. rate_runway_10_406.jpg

It's like a great piece of property: you want to notice the property. But when you have no view, you better decorate the apartment. And I think that Rami worked with something that was certainly not luxurious, certainly not tactile, and because of the intricate work, transformed it. There was a real transformation.

I think the whole thing is: if you're going to last as a designer, and really have a career that lasts for longer than a nano-second, you have to have some range. And I think that Elisa consistently would stumble. "Oh my gosh, it's not knit, how do I work with this?" "How do I finish clothes differently and still be myself?", and I think that this really tripped her up. Because suddenly, this wasn't beautiful silk jersey.

So, this kind of "loving hands at home," crafty approach certainly does not get shown off to its best advantage when you're dealing with brown velour. michael_406_03_320x240.jpg

I think Elisa's very creative. She's never going to be an accountant or a bookkeeper. This person was meant to be in the creative world. And I think that she was trying through the whole process, you could see her forcing herself to step out of her comfort zone. When she made the little satin shift dress with the colors around the neck, that wasn't her usual thing. It's always nice to see someone who does have a point of view try to push it.

Can you push it further? Can you push it further? But at the end of the day, there was only so far she could stretch without it breaking.

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