Jennifer: Staying True To The Vision

Jennifer Diederich defends her choice in color and design in the Olympic challenge.

rate_runway_jennifer_504.jpg What was the inspiration behind your Olympic look?
We had the great opportunity to draw inspiration from the Track & Field Hall of Fame for this challenge. I love to research my designs! I saw an old tracksuit from the 1920s that was teal and white striped and had an embroidered logo of the Track and Field club. I used the logo as an embellished closure on the cardigan and the stripes as an inspiration for the skirt. What were the most important things to remember in order to be successful in this particular challenge?
Well, I think the designers went either one of two ways with this challenge -- a more formal/fashion forward look or a sportier/athletic look. Obviously, the judges were looking for a more athletic design -- everyone else was on the chopping block as soon as their models stepped foot on the runway! Have you ever watched the Olympic opening ceremony?
Yes, I have watched it! The opening ceremony is particularly great, because there is excitement in the air. At that moment, there is still the possibility that anyone can be a winner and everyone has high hopes! Why did you make the decision not to use red in your design?
I chose to use the colors navy, white and gold, as opposed to red, white and blue, with the thought of the Americans "going for the gold." I do see where the judges were coming from with their concern that without the red, the design wasn't immediately recognizable as the American team.

pr_episode_504_pic01.jpg What did you think of having an actual Olympian, Apolo Ohno, as guest judge?
I thought it was an honor to have an Olympian as a guest judge. I should have realized that Apolo would be looking for a design with an athletic point of view. Since my style is very girly, (I never wear pants--just dresses and skirts) I tried to combine a more sporty fabric, the fleece jacket, with a more feminine skirt. I really thought about the athlete's needs by adding a back pocket to the skirt for storage of digital cameras, passes, etc., but it seems it was not enough to impress Apolo or the judges. What did you think of the other designers' designs?
I really liked Korto's design. I thought it was modern, chic and portrayed beautiful American sportswear. Joe's and Terri's designs were what the judges were looking for, but I didn't see too much innovation. Jerell's look was "out there" for the challenge, but he sure knows glamour and how to make a statement. Daniel's didn't really say "Olympic" at all to me. It had similar problems to mine -- it was more fashion than athletic, and the colors were purple and red. I definitely think some of the other designers in the middle range skated through even though they had outfits that didn't fit the challenge. Did you think you would be going home after hearing the judges' comments about all the designs? Do you think that someone else deserved to go home instead of you?
I knew I was on the chopping block after hearing the judges' comments. Ironically, I was told by other designers that they thought I was a contender for the win. I felt my design was well thought out, executed beautifully, (I even embroidered "USA" on the silk bias-cut tank with gold thread from the skirt fabric!) and playful. Did I think it was the worst design? Definitely not! I loved it! I would rather not say if someone should have gone instead of me. Bringing someone else down to lift myself up is not my thing. Nina said that you put too much of what you would want to wear into your designs -- do you agree with that?
What's wrong with that?! Many successful women designers design for themselves. I take into consideration what makes me feel and look my best when designing for my collection. And that's as it should be. I was also trying to stay true to my vision as a designer, even in the Olympic challenge.

jennifer_504_widget.jpg What was the best advice you received during your time on the show?
Actually, Jerry gave me some good advice about business, seeing as he has more experience in owning his own business. He may have gone home first, but he knows a lot! Thanks, Jerry! Do you have a prediction as to who will go all the way? I think Kelli is an innovative designer, who works really hard. I also think Leanne has a new point of view, and Jerell is somebody I root for as a friend. Where can your fans see you in the future?
Visit for more of my line "suite." Are people noticing you? How has life "outside" been? Do people in Italy recognize you?
I am recognized in New York, when I'm there. Twice, on flights from New York and Syracuse, my hometown, Project Runway has been on TV and the person watching it next to me didn't realize I was sitting next to them! I think I was probably the most "normal" looking girl on the show, so I'm not always recognizable right away. I flew back to Italy about a week ago, and while it's beautiful and sunny here, I can't wait to get back to New York! (And no, nobody recognizes me yet in Italy because the fifth season of Project Runway won't air here until next year!) What was the first thing you did after leaving Atlas?
I hopped in a cab and went to a friend's apartment to stay in New York for a few days for a little business and a lot of fun -- without any cameras!

The Real Winner

No doubt about this years Project Runway 5 winner!

Just a heads up that my book Fashion Inside Out is almost upon us! Though I've heard places are starting to ship it out, the official release date is on 10/28, so mark your calendars! I'm heading out on a book tour to celebrate with you all, so be sure to check my website for details on times, dates and locations: After a year and a half in the works it would be delightful to see all of your supporting faces!

But NOW, it's down to business! PR5 has finally come to an end. I hope after a week of digesting we've all be able to form clear-headed opinions about who we really thought was the winner.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I hands down think it should have been Leanne, but what did you think? Tightly edited, unique and comparable to no one, I think she did an excellent job of taking her inspiration and running it cohesively through each and every piece she sent down the runway. Unlike some of the other designers, Leanne's work is both subtle and intricate, and I applaud her to no end for being able to successfully straddle that fine line, especially at exactly the right time. Korto and Kenley both showed very nice collections, but I do think that Leanne was the one who had the whole package. Korto's sense of color and proportion are excellent, and the way she styled the looks was just intoxicating - the high buns, dewy skin, and fluttering fans - she certainly infused a lot of "earthy sexiness" into it. That being said, you take away all of the extras and we're left with clothing that didn't quite stand up to Leanne's more intricate work.

To me, watching Kenley's show was like watching your friend go into her glamorous closet, and parade out to see if the look is a "keeper" or a "throwaway." Although it was filled with definite highlights and interesting (sometimes costume-like) elements, I just didn't feel that it was a cohesive collection. One of the highlights for me was the green silk dress with the ballooned shoulders - I just thought it was a chic, well made, and truly stunning look.

All in all, these designers will find work and hopefully create stunning collections in the future. Congratulations to them all for coming this far and a HUGE congratulations to Leanne for the win! I'll see you in NYC sweetheart!