Released Into The Wild

The designers get to show their true colors!

Couldn't you just feel the designers getting excited to finally get out of the workroom for this challenge? I remember being "released into the wild" after countless challenges where all we had seen was Parsons and Mood, and feeling like I could finally stretch my creativity as an actual fashion designer, not just one who plays one on TV! Also, with their trip to Mood, they finally got to have complete control (which, let's be honest, every designer likes to have).

Although I have concerns about some of the designs sent down the runway, I'm happy to see a few of the designers starting to define who they are. Granted, I'm not a fan of all of their work, but this show is really about wrapping yourself around each challenge, without losing your own personal point-of-view. That being said, let's dive in!

Oh crap I almost forgot! Can someone please explain to me why Sandra Bernhard was the guest judge? Can anyone name one spectacular outfit she's ever worn? Perhaps a glamorous red carpet look that blew us away!? Shoot, I'll settle on a picture of her wearing a good pair of jeans!!?! ANYONE!?!?! I have seen her one-woman show and thought it was hilarious, but judging a fashion contest to choose "the next big American designer?" I don't get it ...

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Blayne
Hmmmm. Again, I applaud his color choices; they're fun and energetic and definitely leave the viewer with no doubt who he is as a designer. That being said, I feel like Blayne has a tendency to just "stick things on" in his designs, there's not a lot of cohesion between the garment and the "pop" element of his work. Much like the first challenge where he sent down the "Diaper-clad Playboy Bunny", it was the blatant placement of the white pad that made it seem so arbitrary. I think he does a nice job with choosing the color, but needs work on making the design itself not seem secondary.

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Daniel
Here is another designer whose POV is coming out loud and clear: chic, elegant, flirty. I think that his dress was very appropriate for this challenge, and aside from a few finishing details, was one that he should be very proud of. I think the asymmetry creates some beautiful movement in the dress, and though the skirt part seems to be a bit (unnecessarily) lopsided, I think the fact that she was moving on the runway helped keep that hidden from Nina's usually keen eyes.

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Emily
To be honest, I wouldn't have chosen this one as the one to go home. Granted, I think that there are issues: the fact that both Emily and Blayne stuck the main focus of their designs onto basic, boring, black dresses, the ill-placed ruffle, and the length of the aforementioned ruffle. That being said, it really just needed some tweaking to make it work. Her photo had great energy and movement, and with placing the ruffle in a horizontal/vertical position it really looses the impact. Perhaps if she had thought more three-dimensionally about the design, taking the ruffle up and around the shoulder, or trimming it down in places to create less bulk while leaving other areas full and voluminous, she would've had something fabulous! I do think Emily is a talented designer, and hope that her next venture is a successful one. Oh, and Emily, if you're reading this, my boyfriend thinks you are the most beautiful thing to ever come across the TV screen, he literally shouted "NO, not the pretty one!" as your name was called ... I just thought you should know you have a crush.

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Jennifer
Jennifer you're starting to make me nervous my dear. Very nervous. As I've mentioned before, I think that you are perhaps the sweetest girl I've ever met -- I still remember how polite and cordial you were in castings and how meticulous your designs were. That being said, I think you should loosen up a little and infuse a little more sex into your designs. Granted, there were definitely construction issues (As Michael says every year, silk charmeuse must not look like it was touched by human hands -- though I'm not sure what other hands would be touching it besides human ...) The combination of navy (which is a very mature color), the tiered skirt (making it too sweet), a high-ish neckline (for "a night out in NYC" don't be afraid to show a little skin) and sleeves, it all comes across as too prudish. Changing any of the above I feel would've helped to give the design more life.

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Jerell
If I had seen this dress on the runway, without knowing the challenge I would've thought to myself "Wow, I can't believe the designer did so much work in such a little amount of time, especially for a red carpet challenge." Much like Jennifer's I just don't think it's appropriate for "a night out in NYC." That being said, it was beautifully constructed and definitely possessed the visual impact needed for the runway, but it was just the wrong dress for this challenge.

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Joe
Sigh ... this is not good. I see the inspiration (obviously) but I don't find it the least bit interesting. Joe's designs are seeming more and more to be a bit dated to me, I'd put them circa 1993 with the gold, and the choker, and the pairing the top with a simple black skirt ... there's just nothing forward-thinking about it. Nice for some but it just doesn't provoke me to see more from him.

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Keith
I have mixed feelings about this dress. I don't care that the models shape was lost, I don't think that he was going for a body-hugging silhouette anyways, which could've easily been solved with the simple addition of a belt if he was. I understand that the judges were being critical about how much white there was, but his inspiration photo WAS white. I get that it could've been more nitty-gritty, but I must admit that I kinda like it. I find the texture interesting and though it could've been cleaned up a bit all over, I thought he did a pretty good job of completing this challenge.

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Kelli
Kelli on the other hand, loses me completely from point A to point B. I see the picture, and I see the final look ... and I don't know how she went from one to the other? The top looks so over-designed I don't know really where to start, and then pairing it with even more complicated gladiator sandals and a faux-hawk just pushes me, and the look, over the edge.

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Kenley
I LOVE and hate this look. I love it because it's one of the first truly "designery" pieces I've seen on the runway, not just another pretty dress. I think the proportions are JUST awkward enough to keep it interesting, the print JUST ugly/pretty enough to keep us looking, and the model JUST sexy enough that she really can make anything work! I truly love this dress ... but the fact that it reminds me so much of Balenciaga Spring/Summer 08 makes me dislike it. I know that's why it seems current, which is great, but the overall shape, color/fabric choice really leans in that direction. I love Balenciaga so thus, I love this. Love/Hate. However, I think this really pushes Kenley to the front of the pack ... definitely one of the fighters this season.

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Korto
I feel that since Korto was reprimanded for her "winged" design on the runway last week, she's retreated into a safe zone. I think this look is cute, flattering, and very wearable, but for a challenge like this, on a show like Project Runway, there's only so many times that you can send out black jersey before you get called out. I hope that this allowed her enough time to recover, regain her confidence and jump back into the mix!

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Leanne
Leanne is the most "young New York designer" of the bunch, her looks always centering around the hip, young girl ... basically, she designs for herself. Excellent work this week. I think this look was just what she needed to bounce back after last week's beatdown. Unlike Korto, who also took the safe route, Leanne still brought interest and texture to her designs and kept the inspiration a main focus. Proportions are great and the execution looks impeccable -- welcome back girl!

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Stella
I just don't think Stella knows how to design clothes that she hasn't already designed. I feel that she does what she does really well, and though she tries to incorporate her own POV into each challenge, I just keep seeing garments that have been around for years ... since the '80s in fact. Don't get me wrong -- I think she has a distinct style, and one that her customers will go to year after year, but I would like to see her REALLY get out of her comfort zone while still keeping it her own ... studded chiffon perhaps?? Ha!

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Suede
This is another example of losing me from Point A to Point B ... and besides the fact that I think Point B is boring and looks way too much like something Kimora Lee would send down a Baby Phat runway, I just don't get it. Aside from the super dated styling, I find the dress pretty stale, especially considering the innovation he showed last week. You raised the bar Suede, not us, so get back up there and "Rock It Suede!"

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Terri
Now, last week I exclaimed my love for Terri, thinking she was a bit of a dark horse. Unfortunately, I just don't get what the judges were so enamored over this week? Aren't these the same judges who ripped Kara Saun a new one for pairing a dress over pants for the Grammy Challenge? Would Nina ever style a pair of boot cut, black pants with a printed chiffon top for a "going out look?" Heck no! Hmmphf... That being said, I DO like the dress and wish it was, in fact, a dress. The watercolor print reminds me of Water Lilies by Monet, and making THAT street-style is cool enough on its own ... so just take the pants off and leave them at home next time.

Rock N' Runway

Feeling the music and rocking the runway!

Heidi instructs the designers to meet me in the workroom where I announce that for this challenge they will be designing for each other. Furthermore, they will each be assigned a musical genre: pop, rock & roll, country, punk, or hip hop. The designer who designs for them will have to embrace that genre and create an appropriate persona.

The designers have an hour for a consultation. Then, we go shopping at MOOD where they each have a budget of $150. And there is one day for this challenge.

The incomparable LL Cool J is our guest judge! How amazing is that?

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Korto WINS! She designs for Suede's punk persona and, together, she and he bring down the metaphorical house; that is, her design and execution were fabulous AND Suede really rocked this look -- he was menacing and truly punked out. I must be truthful and admit that I wasn't enthusiastic about the top - an athletic looking textile of gray mini-mesh with some organic leather forms appliqued - but the judges loved it, thankfully. I was wowed, however, by her treatment of the jeans, which she splattered with bleach to create a very unique look, and she treated the black Converse sneakers in the same manner. The look was cohesive, the hair and makeup were huge enhancements, and she - and he - ruled the runway. Congratulations, Korto!

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Suede is OUT. His design for Jerell's rock & roll persona fell flat, regrettably. Frankly, the black skinny pants with the exaggerated fly zipper, the tie-dyed plunging top, and the leather (pleather?) patchwork vest simply didn't stretch the theme far enough. In fact, Jerell looked like he looks every day. Even the judges remarked, "He [Jerell] doesn't look as good as he does every day." Furthermore, Suede invested an enormous amount of time in the pants, which had a dramatic texture created through the use of horizontal cutouts, but that detail was lost on the runway. In addition, owing to the extra tight fit of the pants, they looked more like leggings. Suede, what happened to the rock & roll?

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Jerell designs for Kenley's pop persona. His black mesh mini-dress with a spangly bust and under-skirt indisputably resonated pop. Over this was a purple faux fur vest/shrug that served as icing on the cake. Add to this the perfect hair, makeup, and accessories and you had a look that competed for the win. As Jerell declared, Kenley was "Kenley Spears!" Indeed, she was.

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Kenley designs for Leanne's hip-hop persona. What didn't Kenley understand? High-waisted jeans, and demure floral print tank, and a shrunken leather jacket? How did this look say hip-hop? Furthermore, any of the items could have been purchased in "anywhere mall," today. I tried to give her some constructive feedback, but she pushed back with unbridled resistance. Therefore, it was with more than a little satisfaction that I listened to LL Cool J take her down a few pegs. Kenley, please mind your game.

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Leanne designs for Korto's country persona. This look reminded me of Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun (which is amusing in these days of Sarah Palin!). Leanne created a full-length skirt in black (which read as chocolate on the runway), a sleeveless fuchsia western-style shirt with yoke detail and tied at the waist, and wide gold belt, and a black-and-white gingham print scarf tied around her neck. Her look was beautifully executed, but it fell short of her intention: to make Korto into a country music STAR. Had there been more drama and flare, then her look would have been a contender for the win.