Cast Blog: #PROJECTRUNWAY

Rings Of Glory

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Kenley Blogs Episodes 510-514

On The Road

The Real Winner

The Final Showdown

Leanne Speaks!

Finale, Part 2

What's Next

Tim Responds To Your Comments!

Love Is In The Hair!

History Repeating Itself

Garden Of Locks

Nature Calls

Rock 'n' Runway

Rock Steady

Rock N' Runway

Suede: Rockin' Out

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Take A Bow

Transformation

Joe: Straight Talk

Working Girl

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Best Of The Best?

Written In The Stars

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What's Your Sign?

I Saw The Sign

A Designer's Dream

Fashion Inside Out

Stella: Lovin' The Leatha

Double 0 Fashion

No Leatha, Mo' Problems

Making The Most Of It

The Fashion That Drives You

A Softer Edge

Fasten Your Seat Belts

Show Some Love

It's All An Illusion

Daniel: Oy Gevalt!

Good Queen Fun

Drama, Drama, Drama!

Joe: All Aboard!

RuPaul: A Drag Race

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?

Finale, Part 2

Impressive work by all but alas only one designer can win.

Well, for me, this episode was the Project Runway first among Project Runway firsts! Why? Because I served as a judge for the first time (and, hopefully, the last time) ever. Here's the back story: Bravo and the executive producers approached me before our Bryant Park show to say that there may be a problem with our guest judge and, consequently, how would I feel about filling in. At first, my response was a roll-up-your-sleeves and "make it work!" form of positive thinking, but as I contemplated the reality of it, I pushed back and refused. Consider the following: I still had another visit to the designers that night and there would be a considerable amount of time needed to support them in the morning before the show. How could I be both a mentor and a judge and service their needs appropriately and responsibly? I believed that I couldn't. So, to make a very long story a wee bit shorter, we ended Thursday night's bevy of phone calls in the following way: Bravo and the producers would ardently search for a replacement judge and I would return to my work with the designers assuming that I would not be a judge If I were to be needed in that role, then I wouldn't be informed of that need mere moments before the show. Otherwise, I could be perceived by the designers (and anyone else mind you) as being duplicitous and insincere. That would never do. Furthermore, Kenley and I were engaged in an semi-incendiary relationship, and the worst thing that could happen would be for her to lose and have me perceived as being the reason why. Oy! So, we know what happened: Our guest judge backed out at the last minute, a celebrity replacement couldn't be found on such short notice, and I filled in. With 10 minutes and counting until our show, Heidi came to me and asked, "So, you're ready to do this, no?" I replied, "To be honest, I don't know. I have an altogether different relationship with the designers than you and Nina and Michael have. I don't know." Heidi reared back and asked, "Tim Gunn, are you telling me that with all of your years of teaching you can't put your relationships aside and look at their work impartially? I thought about her wise words and responded, "Of course I can! Let's go!" We hugged and kissed and off we went.

Don't ever wish to be a guest judge on the show! To be blunt, I don't know how the judges do what they do and as well as they do: The collections pass by quickly, you have to wrap your brain around each piece of each collection immediately, and you have to come to terms with some comparative assessment right away. AND, I had the distinct advantage of intimately knowing the designers' work, yet is was still daunting. In any case, it really was very, very difficult. And there was one very important dimension to this process: seeing the clothes walk. Generally speaking, I don't see them walk. Rather, I see everything static on dress forms. Walking is an altogether different experience and it brings everything to life. So, in that sense, my experience with each designer's collection couldn't have been fresher and newer.

Here are my thoughts about the three collections: Leanne WINS, and what a win it was! We saw all of the conceptual content that really is at the core of Leanne's point of view, and we saw it tempered and orchestrated with precision. As I said to her during the home visit: "I always trust that you will present masterful technique, but can you give your work feeling, emotion?" This was her personal challenge. And she did it All of the strong architectural elements that are Leanne were clearly present, but her looks possessed a buoyancy and an ease, an effortlessness that belied each items structure. Furthermore, her collection was the result of superb editing; had she not brought her critical eye and judgment to each looks and its relationship to every other look, then there may have been a different outcome. Kenley presented a strong point of view and excellent execution, neither of which were surprises, and both of which were appropriately lauded.

I loved Kenley's textile choices and her hand-painting, which was a risky endeavor, and the silhouettes couldn't have been more her. But when the looks walked, they possessed a stiffness that I wasn't prepared to experience. Static on a dress forms, her looks beautifully captured the essence of her inspiration: "painting the roses red" from Alice in Wonderland. (When I made my home visit to her, Kenley resisted revealing her inspiration, which confounded me. When she finally relented, she gave me an epiphany. "Now I get it!" I declared.) But when the clothes walked on the runway, they retained much of their static appearance; that is, most of the looks moved like stiff pasteboard. I could see Kenley's collection emanating a major "wow!" factor in an editorial spread in Elle, but I had a hard time imagining how they would or could navigate and function in the real world. Still, I loved the fantasy aspect of the collection and its other-worldliness. Korto fully embraced her African heritage and her Americanism. Furthermore, she was successful embracing that goal, which is no small task, especially since the entire collection could have been a costume festival. Her silhouettes, alone, told her story, and when you add the colors, textures, and jewelry, her entire collection was uplifted. Color is nothing if not subjective, and I applaud her decision to step away from the expected and mix up her largely taupe palette with vibrant greens and blues. And the jewelry? Well, from my perspective it was all inextricable from the larger aspect of her point of view and, more particularly, to the individual looks themselves. I loved it. Is her collection for everyone or anyone? Of course not, but whose is?

Congratulations to all!