Transformation

Does mother really know best?

Heidi brings six mature women onto the runway while suspense reigns among the designers. Heidi declares, "These ladies are an important part of your challenge..." Pause. Next, six younger women appear and fall in place between the mature women. They are mothers and daughters. The daughters are all recent college grads who are transitioning into new lives as young professionals. The designers are to perform a head-to-toe makeover on the daughters, beginning with reconceived fashion and concluding with makeup and hair, for this is the TRESemmé challenge.

Heidi determines which designer designs for which daughter by selecting names from our velvet bag (how the designers loathe seeing that thing!). We adjourn to the workroom where the designers have 30 minutes to meet with their new clients - both daughter and mother. The designers have to manage the input of their clients while maintaining their own vision as a designer. Each designer's point of view must be evident in the final look. After the consultation, the designers go shopping at MOOD with a budget of $100. There are two days for this challenge.

The fabulous Cynthia Rowley is our guest judge. And the winning look will be featured in Elle magazine. Both the designer and the daughter wearing the look will appear. How thrilling is that?

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Jerell WINS! He designed for Caitlin, a printmaker and an artist's assistant. Jerell created a high-waisted skirt in chocolate with a ruffled top. I found the skirt and top to look very "cocktail," rather than professional, but perhaps Caitlin is going to a gallery opening? Thankfully, a long, but slim-fitted cardigan with oversized croc buttons dressed down the look, allowing for an easy transition from day to night. Congratulations, again, Jerell! (By the way, the chapeau that Jerell wore for the judging had been intended for Caitlin. Had she worn it, do you believe that the outcome would have been different?)

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Joe is OUT. Joe designed a most unfathomable look for Laura, a graphic designer by education who is seeking employment. Ho-hum: a navy blazer with an exaggerated rear peplum and brass buttons over a candy cane wrap-top and charcoal chalk-striped skirt. This looks says banker or lawyer, not graphic designer. Joe insisted that this dowdy, humdrum look personified "professional," but what about Laura's field of graphic design? Has Joe never considered fashion as semiotics? That is, the clothes we wear send a message about how we want the world to perceive us. To look at our budding young graphic designer, you'd think that she doesn't have a creative bone in her body. She does! Joe, you're a doll and we'll all miss you!

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Kenley designed for Anna, an accessories buyer. It's no surprise that Kenley's point of view was extremely evident in this look. She made a classic style dress out of a brown/pink/cream cotton print. The design resonated 40's vintage, but that's our Kenley. She designed a menswear-inspired vest, which I thought worked beautifully in counterpoint to the girliness of her dress. But, alas, Kenley insisted that she take the pink snakeskin belt from the dress and put it over the vest, thereby negating the menswear vibe. Still, hers was among the top three looks as determined by the judges. I disagreed. And from my perspective, I couldn't get over how much Anna looked like Kenley's mini-me.

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Korto designed for Megan, who's debating between med or another graduate program and who works in a lab. I was worried sick when I first checked in with Korto, because the green printed dress looked like it was traveling down the dowdy trail. Furthermore, the burlap textured cafe-au-lait textile for the jacket with ¾ sleeves appeared to be an unlikely partner for the print. Thankfully, Korto's tailoring of the jacket and construction of the dress were impeccable, so the judges' deliberation would conclude as a matter of taste, and she was in the judges' top three. Whew!

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Leanne designed for Holly, a teacher. Leanne's clients purported to HATE her first look, a dress with a Leanne-like semi-circular pleated embellishment across the top. Frankly, I thought unhappiness was coming for an over opinionated mother rather than an unhappy daughter. Typical of these bad client/designer relationships, the mother didn't know what she wanted; she just knew what she didn't want. Ever the rallying trooper, Leanne reconceived her look and, thankfully, it was received well by the client (well, the daughter at least: mom didn't get a chance to see it, again, until the runway show). In any case, I stood in support of Leann's final look and disagreed with the judges, who expressed disdain. The aubergine dress with a light gray high waistband and the light gray shrunken jacket with wide charcoal piping were sophisticated, polished, and well-proportioned.

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Suede designed for Avital, a photographer. Suede's design began as a pants look, but when Avital saw the riotous purple/brown/white print draped on Suede's dress form, she loved it so much that she wanted a dress. Really? I found her request to be inconceivable considering the impact of the print; specifically, why would you want to see more of it? And wasn't this really another cocktail dress for which imponderable excuses were being made? The only thing even more imponderable was the jacket-y cardigan (or cardigan-y jacket?) with the trumpet sleeves and odd pocket placement, and piped pockets, no less, so they would pop more. Oy! Suede, had it not been for that '80s business suit of Joe's....

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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.

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