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.

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.