Good Queen Fun

A challenge of queen size proportions!

Heidi announces, "Let's bring out a special guest." The silhouette of an exaggerated Valkyrian presence appears behind the Project Runway scrim: It's season four semi-finalist Chris March in drag! Chris informs the designers that for this challenge they will be designing for drag queens, and out come 11 captivating individuals who line up on the runway. They introduce themselves and say a little about their persona. Then, the designers each choose a drag queen with whom to work. Chris concludes, "Fashion is all about putting on a show. So, be as theatrical and over-the-top as you can be." Mark those words, designers!

The designers have 30 minutes to consult with their new clients in the workroom. Then, we're off to MOOD with a budget of $200. There are two days for this challenge.

And the stunning and inimitable RupPaul is our guest judge. How uber-fabulous is that?

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Joe WINS! Joe designed for Varla Jean Merman. He created a pink sequined catsuit with a "Hi ya, sailor!" twist that was so spot-on perfect that for the first time this season, I actually was able to predict who would win. For me, it was only too obvious: Joe's concept was superb, his execution was flawless, and the sublime Varla Jean Merman worked this look on the runway as though there were no tomorrow. Isn't it ironic that our only hetero male would win this challenge? Congratulations, Joe!

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Daniel is OUT. Daniel designed for Annida Greenkard. Using yellow and orange jersey in a creamsicle print, he created a strapless gown with a flamenco-like skirt and cascading train. The dress was beautiful -- there's no denying that. The problem was two-fold: The look wasn't exuberant enough for the purpose of the challenge, and the judges have grown tired of seeing Daniel regurgitate evening and cocktail dresses. Daniel, best wishes. We'll sincerely miss you.

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Blayne designed for Miss Understood. He created a crazy, gay Jurassic Park-ilicious pterodactyl outfit in pink. Oy! The bodice of the dress was fine and meshed perfectly with Miss Understood's sensibility, but those wings! Not only did they look patched on and arbitrary, but their engineering failed: One was flagging. I thought it was miraculous that he squeaked by without being cited as one of the bottom three. Blayne, this was a close call!

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Jerell designed for LeMAY. He created an "ocean inspired" sequined dress with a very odd collar treatment. Oy, again! This look was the biggest loser in my opinion: The dress was a simple silhouette, albeit jazzed up by the piecing of the sequined fabrics; the green collar was too high and too GREEN for LeMAY's relatively short neck and fair complexion, thereby dwarfing her head and giving her a sickly pallor; and that fringe along the hemline? Egads. he fringe looked saggy, it was too long, and did it have to be asymmetrical, too? The judges were correct to be stumped by why-oh-why over-the-top Jerell would hold back in a challenge that's all about being over-the-top. Jerell, you're very lucky that you're still in!

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Keith designed for Sherry Vine. Given that the judges placed him in the bottom three, I know that he regretted not having immunity for his win in the last challenge. He designed a mini-dress that was expressly intended to expose Sherry's bra and panties, which is evidently a Sherry Vine signature (go figure?). I was concerned about the possible vulgarity of this display, and Keith assured me that he had reeled in this request and that the panties wouldn't show. This look was topped by a stole (or sorts) made out of strips of black, white, and gray fabric, and this treatment was echoed over the skirt. This led to a potent issue for the judges Keith's repeated use, challenge after challenge, of this layering method. They're simply tired of it and want to see what else he can achieve. RuPaul, who was not familiar with Keith's designs for prior challenges, actually declared his fondness for the outfit and even stated that he would wear it. OK -- go Keith!

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Kenley designed for Farrah Moans. She created a long column of a gown in silver sequins that was enhanced by a large collar treatment using black and white ostrich plumes. The look was very Marilyn Monroe, but a costumey Marilyn, not a modern 2008 Marilyn. Still, she passed through the judges' discerning eyes and was safe for the next challenge.

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Korto designed for Sweetie. Her concept, "an animal in heat," was realized as a red sequined cocktail dress with an empire waisted, detachable skirt in duchesse satin. Sweetie isn't diminutive, and Korto mitigated her size with deft thoughtfulness and consideration. The proportions of the pieces of the look all worked beautifully and harmoniously, and the detachable skirt made for a dramatic reveal. And to top things off, Sweetie really worked it on the runway!

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Leanne designed for Sharon Needles. She created a modern, edgy mini-dress in black with jagged origami-like extensions on the shoulders and the skirt. The look she designed was pure Fashion with a capital F, because it said "Paris couture" just as potently as it did "drag queen." I was stunned, quite frankly, that Leanne didn't remain on the runway as one of the top three. Her look was perfectly conceived for Sharon Needles and it was superbly executed.

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Stella designed for Louisa Verde. Stella used a rather lackluster tartan and an odd black spandex fabric to create a floor-length dress with a train. It was dull and basic, but for the peculiar tartan panel in the front, the bottom of the skirt, which swung like a doggy door. Furthermore, the grommets and lacing (surprise!) on the back of the dress were used arbitrarily. As with Leanne, I was equally stunned that Stella wasn't kept on the runway for being one of the bottom three. I believe that her savior was her drag queen, Louisa Verde. Louisa's presence was profound and captivating: Her hair and makeup were memorable, as was her jewelry. In my opinion, those were the only good aspects of this entire look.

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Suede designed for Hedda Lettuce. He created a Flintstone-like green print "jacket" with peplum over a strapless green cocktail-length dress. I write "jacket," because, given that the piece didn't have sleeves, it was more like a vest. Instead of sleeves, opera-length gloves with baby bib lettuce embellishments covered Hedda's arms. I'm merely happy that Suede's look walked the runway at all: He and Hedda had such an incendiary relationship, and Hedda was so vocal about how she wanted to re-design the look, that I was concerned that she might refuse to walk the runway. In the end, all was well, thankfully.

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Terri designed for Acid Betty. Her concept was "geisha-on-acid," and the judges loved it. I was dubious about Terri's extensive use of white, especially given that color's discordant relationship with the gummi bear red corset-as-obi. (She and I had a BIG disagreement about this look, but not one second of our several encounters is seen on the show.) OK -- I get it Terri, and I respect the judges' adulations, but I'm still not a fan of this design.

What's Next

Words of advice to Leanne, Korto, and Kenley.

Leanne put together something that was interesting and sophisticated and it definitely had a point of view. In a weird way she managed to have a focused collection that still had variety. She took an idea and she stretched it. The clothes were young as well as sophisticated at the same time.

What's next for her? Well, everyone thinks that they have to put on this big runway show and that's not necessarily always the case. I think her clothes are very much about seeing the workmanship, the detailing and all that, so I definitely think she's got the goods to do her own thing. I don't think she should feel obliged to do a big show right away. I think there's something to be said about things growing slowly and organically and that might be better for her. Then people can really see the clothes up close, because when you put the kind of workmanship into something that's understated, things can get lost. She could do a fun presentation, maybe, or a still life on mannequins. I don't think she necessarily has to rush out and put on a whole show. I think her clothes will be appreciated in both Europe and Japan so she should probably think about bringing it over her line to Paris where you're going to find more of the European buyers as well as the Asian buyers. Once again, I think her clothes will do really well in Asia. I think they have an understanding of sophisticated workmanship. You're not going to see her clothes in the local mall. They're not for that. She's got to keep it high-end and sophisticated and keep her focus, which I think she will.As for Korto's collection. I remember the beads well. There was one asymmetrical dress where the beads were built in and I loved that. Everything she wanted her collection to be - ethnic without being costume-y, playful with color - she managed to hit that with certain parts of the collection. But I think the necklaces, when they were just necklaces on their own, looked added.

With Kenley the reality is you have to have a confidence in what you do and you have to believe that you're right. A designer needs a big ego because you really are going around and telling people "You're wrong and I'm right." But I think that there are ways to do it gracefully. It's the kind of industry where you're always going to have good feedback, bad feedback, or sometimes no reaction, whether it's the woman in a store, the buyer, or the press. It's always a public thing, not a private thing. The important thing to remember is as much as it might burn you when someone criticizes you, the real reality is you don't have to take it totally verbatim. I think she takes things totally verbatim. And one can listen and say, "I got what you're saying but I'm ultimately going to do what I want to do, thanks for the input" and maybe you will learn something. You should learn something. When you think you know it all at 25 then your career's going to be really short. The whole point of fashion is that you never know it all. She's gotta learn how to keep her point-of-view and her confidence, but learn how to be a little more of a lady. Granted, being tough never hurt anyone in fashion.She's obviously got a point-of-view. She's got a great hand. The painting on those clothes was just gorgeous. In general, the quality and the craftsmanship of everything she sent out was beautiful. But I think when people are dress designers, which is really what she is, it doesn't make for the most compelling fashion show. It might make a very nice line. I think that in history there have been a lot of designers who are "dress houses," so to speak. They don't do a whole collection and they can have very successful businesses. It's hard to tell a varied story when you are so specifically dress-oriented and especially when your look is so particular. So I think she could put a line together and do very well with it. There's always going to be someone who likes something feminine and flirty and she's another one where I don't necessarily think the runway is always going to be her best friend. I think the greatest thing that has happened from the show in the last five seasons is that it's certainly made people aware that their clothes don't just appear in their closet. It's kind of like knowing the farmer who grows the crop. Suddenly you have an appreciation for the food that's on your table. I think that Runway has really opened people's eyes to know that this is an incredibly difficult endeavor and it takes real tenacity and talent.

I think that's the greatest part of the show for me. I'm a real fashion person so when something turns the corner and I think it's really spectacular that's the greatest moment for me. When Christian's show started and I saw the chicness of this 3-Musketeers silhouettes I thought "Wow." Same thing with Leanne. I look at the whole thing lined up and I think this is what we're here for. I'm happy when it looks great. My other highlight is sometimes just losing it laughing. Whether it's the wrestling challenge or... just losing it laughing in general! As much as I love it all and we are excited about it and spend so much time doing it, at the end of they day, they are just clothes. And sometimes it's good to just laugh about it all.