Margaret Russell

Margaret Russel breaks down the designer's windows.

on Sep 18, 2008

Could there be a more perfect Top Design challenge than this? First, creating a window display involves basic principles of interior design. Second, the spaces are really confined, so a well-planned concept can actually be finished within the insane deadlines inflicted by notoriously sadistic reality-competition producers. And third, the couture clients are five of Project Runway's beloved star talents, who provide both fashion inspiration and behind-the-scenes drama. Even though it was difficult to see some of the details in the windows (and we taped the show on a night so cold I swear there were snow flurries in LA) I loved this challenge.

Shop windows are all about impact and seduction--the ability to engage someone's eye in a split second. A deft grasp of color, scale, composition, and balance, is key--as well as an ingenious use of materials, boundless imagination, and a hefty dose of fantasy. The best windows are truly memorable; they both inform and inspire. They're never safe; they have to be over-the-top sensational.

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The Butterfly Emerging window Ondine and Natalie conjured for Sweet P won because it was finely crafted, whimsical, and fun. Most important? Sweet P "absolutely LOVED it." The designers embraced Sweet P's butterfly/cocoon fantasy and shaped it within their own point of view. Benefiting from Ondine's admittedly boho sensibility--an ideal match for the colorful tiered dress--the team succeeded because Ondine was an organized leader and Natalie wasn't a passive, subservient slave; she spoke her mind and worked hard. They didn't appear to struggle greatly with time or budget constraints; in fact it looked like they enjoyed putting the window together. Natalie even found time to affix a butterfly tattoo to her cheek.