The Art Of Fashion

The MET helps produce art inspired fashion!

Heidi announces that this is the final challenge of the season and that of the five designers still standing, two will be eliminated. She declares that the designers are taking one last field trip and instructs them to meet me at Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street. Thus ensued lots of "Where are we going?" speculation. Didn't any of them know that this is the address of the Metropolitan Museum of Art? I was absolutely ecstatic about meeting the designers there, because the Met is a major NYC obsession of mine and I was thrilled to share it. The Met is a treasure trove of masterpieces with something for everyone, and that's a massive understatement: 5,000 years of art and artifacts! I'm at the Met all the time; it's my church. Imagine my thrill for all of us when I learned that we would have access to this great institution before opening hours. Wow!

I greet the designers on the front steps of the Met and we enter. Their challenge: Choose a work of art to serve as the inspiration of a look of their choice. They have three destinations: the Greek and Roman Sculpture courtyard, the European Painting wing, and the Temple of Dendur. And we have a mere 45 minutes for all three! Any one of these destinations could consume days! Thankfully, the designers were presented with cameras to record their inspirations. We return to the workroom at Parsons where the designers can print their digital photographs and select one for the inspiration for their design. They have an hour to sketch, followed by 30 minutes at MOOD with a budget of $300. They have two days for this last challenge.

Later in the workroom, I introduce the designers to Collier Strong, consulting makeup artist to L'Oreal Paris, who will advise them how to best enhance their designs through the makeup for their models.

I want to add that this is the first season in the history of the show when most of the designers didn't disappoint me with the last challenge. In prior seasons, the designers performed in a way that said, "I don't care about winning the challenge, I just don't want to be out." The results were lackluster at best. This season, most of the designers were motivated by wanting to WOW the judges, with our special guest judge being Roberto Cavalli. Don't disappoint Mr. Cavalli! raterunway_02_411_220x415.jpg

Christian wins! His look was inspired by a dramatic 17th Century Spanish portrait by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. Christian brilliantly translated the militaristic costume in the portrait into womenswear. Was the outcome a little costume-y? Well, yes, in a way, but it was also dramatic and editorial. And most important from a design standpoint were the silhouette and proportions, which were sublime. His slim, dark jodhpurs offered the perfect counterpoint to the voluminous, billowing shirt in white organza. Over the shirt was a high-collared shrunken vest, and the look was topped with a fedora. Lisa looked ready for a stroll with her petit chien along the Avenue Foch. And Christian, you're ready for an emblazoned tiara! Bryant Park, here you come!Sweet P is out. Her inspiration was a colorful, highly-detailed, and exuberant 17th Century Dutch painting entitled "Peacocks," which was nothing if not a fabulous inspiration. So, what went wrong? For me, it all began to unravel at MOOD: I was confused by her fabric choices, especially the print, because she seemed to want it to serve as faux peacock feathers, rather than layering the fabric in a feather-like way. The result was so disappointing and unambitious: a weird, dowdy house dress that could have been part of Shirley Booth's wardrobe in Come Back Little Sheba. Although the dress was a very basic silhouette, its weirdness derived from these odd side pockets that looked like misplaced godets. Huh? And I was surprised to hear the judges applaud the fit of the dress. What? Lea looked like a waif who was being gobbled up. Sweet P, we love you, and we'll miss you. raterunway_01_411_220x415.jpg

Chris disappointed me. I loved his inspiration: an 18th Century portrait of the Marquise D'Argence by Nattier. What evolved out of that inspiration was, in my opinion, a mere riff on the avant-garde dress of his and Christian's collaboration. Chris used yards and yards of duchesse satin in pearl gray for the body of the floor-length gown and used a darker gray satin for a shoulder-piece-cum-collar. Then, he took a nap. I was annoyed. I was annoyed, because the shoulder piece was so derivative of the earlier dress and the gown wasn't taken far enough. And I was annoyed, because there was plenty of time remaining to fix either or both. No -- he was content. Sigh. Chris, I can't want you to succeed more than you do, and it was evident that I did. raterunway_05_411_220x415.jpg

Jillian was a strong contender for the win, again, as demonstrated by the judges giving her an assured place at Bryant Park. Her inspiration was a 15th Century narrative battle painting entitled, "Master of the Argonauts." Owing to the fact that she was borrowing elements from many aspects of this highly detailed and complex work of art, her outcome was the least literal of the group and I applauded that. Furthermore, it was the most ready-to-wear, too. She created a stunning military-inspired fitted jacket in black with gold piping. The piping served to punctuate the gold lame lining of the jacket and the matching gold lame mini-dress. The effect was sexy and sophisticated and very, very modern. Frankly, we all swooned. Congratulations, Jillian -- you're going to Bryant Park! raterunway_03_411_220x415.jpg

Rami was very close to being eviscerated by the judges for being "too expected" and "too Rami," and I felt sincerely bad for him. He is the only one of the designers who didn't use a work of art from the European Painting wing as inspiration. Had he, I would have been shocked, since the Greek and Roman Sculpture courtyard had "Rami!" written all over it. He chose a 1st Century AD sculpture of Aphrodite for his inspiration, and inspiration it was, indeed. Rami's tactical error was to focus on masterful craft over drama. I truly loved his lavender matte silk crepe dechine toga dress, but I was also cognizant that it was missing a "Wow!" factor. The qualities of his design were in the details. Those details required thoughtful study and how was that going to happen in this context. "Wow!" it was not.

So, the judges were deadlocked. Rami and Chris will both create collections and compete for a spot in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Bryant Park. When they arrive in New York at the beginning of Fashion Week, they will each present to the judges their three strongest looks. The judges will determine which one of them will be the third member of the Final Three. Fasten your seat belts.

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!