Rings Of Glory

The challenge was to design for the Olympics -what happened?

I take the designers on a field trip to the Armory Track and Field Training Center in Washington Heights in the upper reaches of Manhattan. It contains the largest indoor track in the world and is the center for Olympic training for track and field events. There, we meet U.S. Olympian Apolo Ohno who presents the designers with their challenge: Create a womenswear look for the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics. An additional highlight of our field trip is our visit to the National Track and Field Museum, which contains a rich resource of materials to help inform their designs. (But did some of the designers interpret the museum's historical images a little too literally?) The designers have 30 minutes to sketch in the museum. Then, we're off to MOOD with a budget of $150. And the designers have until the end of the day to complete their design.

Appropriately, and still thrilling, Apolo is our guest judge!

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Korto WINS! She created an extremely sophisticated look: a white cotton/linen blend pant, a stretch satin camisole, and a white leather vest with red shoulder insets and a black mandarin collar. There was an unexpected aspect to the all-white look, and the construction and fit were perfection. Furthermore, you could easily see how this look could successfully morph into menswear, which is not an unimportant element in this challenge. Congratulations, Korto!

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Jennifer is OUT. Oh, I reflect upon our museum visit and Jennifer's demise all makes sense to me: She saw the historical images (some of them being adorable dresses that looked like they were going to a garden party) and she saw the "Nike" refrain (the flying foot of the Greek goddess who personifies victory) and became entranced. Jennifer designed a gold and white striped high-waisted skirt (with an odd "purse" on the back, I'll add) and paired it with a navy shrunken jacket with the museum's Nike symbol appliqued in sequins on each lapel. Yes, it was a touch of Schiaparelli, but the whole look was too girly and too child-like. Jennifer, we'll miss your intellect and your good humor, really!

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Blayne began with a white jacket with Sgt. Pepper detailing. (He didn't know the iconic Beatles reference! I am an olde farte!) I feared that there were too many "Members Only" allusions in the jacket's design, so I was relieved that he modified it into a one-shouldered top. This was paired with a white skinny pant. I found his look to be fairly lackluster and even anemic, as though he was merely flirting with his intentions. But, his design was more athletic looking than most others. Holla, Blayne!

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Daniel finds it difficult to step away from his comfort zone. Yes, he possesses a sophisticated, high-end point of view, but does than exclude everything other than cocktail dresses. His blue dress with red satin piping (although whether the dress was blue or purple is debatable), was lovely, but hardly innovative and head-scratchingly odd for the Olympics. If her were designing uniforms for Olympic Air, then I'd be a believer.

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Jerell, oh Jerell! Did he listen to the content of the challenge? I'm still reeling over the look that he created: a high-waisted skirt in vertical stripes with a horizontally striped waistband; a pink top with ruffled cap sleeves; and red, white and blue polka-dot bib kerchief, black leggings(!), and this all topped off with a wide-brimmed hat. In another context, this look could be fun and sexy, but for the Olympics? Preposterous!

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Joe embraced an all white palette. He designed a skort (a combination of skirt and short) with a wide cuff and a jacket with red, white and blue stripe details. The stripes were rather painterly (i.e. random) in their placement, but the red trim on the collar, cuffs and hem helped give the jacket some definition. And he spelled out "U.S.A." on the skort. The look was nothing if not patriotic, but it was also nothing if not dull ... Keith created a white, sleeveless tunic-like top that descended into a blue-and-white print mini bubble skirt. The tunic had a high, exaggerated collar that was further accentuated with a billowing red and blue scarf. I thought his model looked like an ice skater. Isn't this the Summer Olympics?

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Kelli designed a look that is more sweet than sophisticated. She used a small-scale red and white print for the top with a white embossed bib insert and sleeve detail. This was paired with a navy skirt with odd extension that look like oversized pockets, especially for their being piped in white. The look was '40s reto with absolutely no semblance of modernity. Was it the influence of the museum, again?

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Kenley entered into this challenge with immunity, so she could have napped through it and still been safe. She created a cocktail dress with a white satin cap-sleeved top with a modified bateau neckline (irreparably stained by model's makeup during the fitting) and a high-waisted large-scale purple and white plaid skirt on the bias with a non-bias waistband. In the paraphrased words of Lucy Ricardo, "Kenley, if that's the look you want, then you sure have a good one!"

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Leanne, what happened? She designed another all-white look, this one with a cuffed short and a sleeveless top with a dramatic stand-up collar in layers of red, white and blue. The collar looked haphazard and lacked polish. And with all that was happening with this look, did she really need the button placket of the top to be off-center? This look was reto-modern, like an episode of "The Jetsons." Leanne, I'm just glad that you're still here.

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Stella, oh Stella. How is it that you continue to persist? Black stretch satin Capri pants and vest? Dark red, silver, and blue leather chevrons and waistband? An exposed midriff? Biker Olympics? Enough said.

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Suede has even me speaking in the third person! His design was another head-scratcher: a navy ballerina skirt with red and white ribbon detail at the hem, paired with a white halter-top. The look brought to mind a majorette or a cheerleader, but an Olympian? Tim is very confused, very confuse, indeed.

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Terri designed the most classic American look of the group. It was successful, it was stunning, it was appropriate, and it was ambitious. She created a menswear tailored jacket with a wide lapel over a horizontal striped strapless top, accessorized with an ascot-like scarf. Below, she had a beautifully fitting white pant with a tuxedo stripe on the right leg, only. I swooned. So as happy as I am for Korto, why didn't Terry win?

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!