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Project Runway 5, Finale, Part One


Welcome back to Project Runway. Last week, our intrepid designers had to conjure up an evening dress inspired by nature. Jerrell won, but the judges couldn’t decide which was worse: Kenley’s fuchsia horror that looked more like it had been inspired by a dragon or mutant snake than by anything at the New York Botanical Garden, or Korto’s escapee from a beauty pageant. The judges therefore decided to have a run-off that involved everybody, not just Kenley and Korto. (Feel free to read last week’s recap for my opinion of this.) The designers now all have to go home and make looks for Fashion Week. Only three will actually go on to Fashion Week.

Heidi gives the designers their directions: They are to make ten outfits apiece. They will each have two months, a budget of eight grand, and their models. She also throws in a final challenge: They have to make a wedding dress inspired by their collection. The designers with the three best wedding dresses are the ones who will go on to Fashion Week. Korto is annoyed by this, as she’d wanted complete freedom. I agree with Korto, and I think that Heidi and Co. had done a much better job resolving this dilemma last season. In Season Four, the run-off had only involved the bottom two designers, and they had been told to bring their three favorite pieces from their collections. Doing it that way had insured that the designers would be able to play to their strengths (or what they believed to be their strengths). What if Jerrell, last week’s winner, hasn’t made a wedding dress before? This challenge could be a problem for him then.

Later, Kenley blames the other designers for “sabotaging” her, and leaves the apartment without saying goodbye. The other three designers all comment on her rudeness and exchange cordial goodbyes with each other.

Four weeks later, Tim visits Korto at her workplace in Little Rock. It’s in the country, and thus it’s not a surprise when she tells him that she is inspired by nature and her own culture. Korto is Liberian and wants to give her clothes an ethnic flair. She also tells Tim that the woods near her workshop are full of snakes, and thus she uses snake skin in some of her garments. Tim likes the colors of her dresses, but questions the placement of snake skin in one dress, saying that it looks “sexual.” Korto then shows Tim her wedding dress, which is beige. (Interesting color choice — but it could work for an older woman, especially if it wasn’t her first marriage. My mother wore an ivory dress for her second marriage.) Tim comments that it’s not immediately obvious that it’s a wedding dress. To him, it looks more “red carpet.”

Korto then takes Tim to meet her family. She has a husband and a daughter and they have a house in the suburbs. A bunch of friends have also stopped by, including one who plays the drums. Korto also plays, and she and her friend perform for Tim. During the visit, Korto tells us that her father had worked in the Liberian government. When civil war broke out, the family fled into exile, knowing that if they had stayed, Korto’s father would have been executed. She is proud of her Liberian roots and her family is proud of her for pursuing her dream.

Three and half weeks before Fashion Week Tim goes to Portland, OR to visit Leanne, who is living with her boyfriend. While she’s showing him her collection, Leanne tells him that she’d spent a few days at the waterfront “clearing her head” and sketching. She has been inspired by wave patterns. Tim likes her collection, but worries that some of the white pieces look too “stark.” He also thinks her wedding dress looks overworked and doesn’t quite match the rest of the collection. Leanne promises to work on it. Later, she and Tim go for a ride on her tandem, and she takes him to a park. Leanne tells Tim that she has wanted to be a designer since she was twelve years old. She had been a dancer in high school and designed her own dance costumes.

Three weeks before Fashion Week, Tim visits Jerrell in Los Angeles. Jerrell tells Tim that his overall style is evening gowns and that he is inspired by textures. Tim thinks the top portion of Jerrell’s wedding dress looks “unstable” — which is a polite way of saying that the bride’s boobs might fall out. Tim examines the rest of Jerrell’s collection and comments that, “It’s a lot of look.” True to form, Jerrell has used lots of different fabrics and textures. Tim urges Jerrell to edit his collection.

Jerrell then takes Tim to meet his mother and sister. His mother says that she always knew Jerrell would work in a creative field. During the visit, we also learn that he was born in South Central L.A., a very rough area. In fact, his family used to live just a few blocks from where the riots started. His father became a truck driver, so he could earn enough money for the family to move someplace safer. Jerrell assures us that he’s going to put on one hell of a fashion show.

Finally, two and a half weeks before Fashion Week, Tim visits Kenley in Brooklyn. Her inspiration is “Alice in Wonderland.” During the visit, we also learn that Kenley’s grandmother, to whom she was very close, had been a “calendar girl” and model back in the 1940′s. She also died a few months ago.

Tim is put off by the rope collar on one of Kenley’s dresses, and says it looks like the wearer is about to hang herself. Kenley explains the rope is meant as a hat-tip to her seagoing father the tugboat captain. Tim loves Kenley’s wedding dress, a white confection covered with what looks like ostrich plumes. Uh-oh, this does not bode well for the other designers!

Six days before Fashion Week starts, the designers all return to New York. Korto and Leanne are first back, and they quickly agree to share a room, leaving poor Jerrell to share with Kenley. But Kenley may have mellowed during the two months away; she actually apologizes for her earlier behavior. The designers then find a present from Tim: champagne and a note welcoming them to the Presidential Suite at the Westin.

The following day, the designers start to unpack their collections. While they’re doing so, Tim stops by to issue yet another challenge: Make a bridesmaid dress to go along with the wedding dress. Oh, come on! This is getting ridiculous. Earlier challenges had already established that Jerrell has time management problems. He likes to make showy, elaborate pieces, which means he tends to bite off more than he can chew. The result: pieces that can look sloppy and unfinished. Kenley, on the other hand, has shown a better grasp of time management. We saw this most plainly in the Diane von Furstenberg challenge, in which Kenley opted to make a single dress as opposed to rushing through a layered outfit.

Tim explains further: the designers can work in the Bluefly.com workshop and they will have a budget of $150.00. They also have until midnight to make the bridesmaid dress. Hmph. Things are looking good for Kenley and not so good for Jerrell. At Mood, Leanne decides to make something colorful. Korto isn’t worried, as she thinks a bridesmaid dress is an evening dress fancied up for a wedding. Jerrell chooses some silver-gray fabrics, and Tim warns him that they look somber.

Back at the workshop, Tim stops by to make his usual rounds. Kenley is making a medium blue, pleated, bubble dress, which Tim likes. Then he stops by to see Jerrell and mentions that his dress looks “sloppy”, because of the puckering in some of his seams. (Told you.) He urges Jerrell to fix his seams. When Tim visits Leanne, he finds she has completely remade her wedding dress, and he likes the results a lot. Her bridesmaid dress is pale green with wavy pleats. Tim advises Leanne to shorten her bridesmaid dress. He tells Korto that her bridesmaid dress looks like a wedding dress. Both dresses are long and beige. Tim then tells all the designers that he believes in them and cares about them — and he seems to get a little choked up doing so.

The following day Tim sends in the models, leading to the usual montage of them getting dressed and made up. Kenley notes with disgust that Korto and Leanne have shortened their bridesmaid dresses; she thinks they’re just copying her. I think, more likely, they’re trying to follow Tim’s advice. When the designers go to the runway, they learn that there are no guest judges; it’s just Michael Kors and Nina Garcia today.

Jerrell’s pair of dresses are first. His wedding dress is off-white and has yards of gray tulle at the bottom. He apparently didn’t take Tim’s advice regarding the top, as the area looks floppy, as if it might simply be too big for the model wearing it. The model is also wearing a bunch of pink flowers in her hair. The bridesmaid dress is made of some slinky turquoise material with a silver-gray cummerbund.

Kenley’s dresses are next. Her wedding dress is the white feathered creation I mentioned earlier. The model also sports a small feathered headdress with a veil attached to it. While the model shows it off, Kenley tells us that she would wear the dress to her own wedding. Her bridesmaid dress is a blue bubble skirt with a snug sleeveless top.

Korto’s wedding dress is beige and has lots of ruffles down the front. Her bridesmaid dress is beige, short, and has a plunging, V-neck haltertop. It’s cute, but a little plain for a bridesmaid dress.

Leanne’s wedding dress is white and it has a single wavy pleat at the neckline. It has a bubble skirt, with a longer skirt underneath. Her bridesmaid dress is short in light aqua. It has wavy pleats at the neckline.

After the show, Heidi reminds the designers that three will move on to Fashion Week and one will be out. The judges then start with Leanne. Michael tells Leanne that her wedding dress is chic and beautifully crafted, and that he immediately knew it was hers. Nina thinks the fabric is interesting and that the dress itself is modern and dreamy. She also loves the bridesmaid dress. Leanne explains that her collection is inspired by waves and that she translated the pattern and movement architecturally. Heidi also loves the dresses.

Michael likes Jerrell’s wedding gown, except for the bust and the “flower pot” on the model’s head. He thinks it’s garish. Jerrell counters that it’s regal and opulent and what real women would wear. Heidi thinks it’s messy. She also thinks the bridesmaid’s dress looks “mumsy.” I thought it was a pretty dress, but I’m 45. Come to think of it, it is a little old-looking for a presumably 20-something bridesmaid. Nina doesn’t like the gray tulle on the wedding dress, as the color makes the dress look dirty. Nina goes on to wonder out loud about Jerrell’s collection and how much thought he put into it. Jerrell assures her that he put a lot of thought into his collection, and that he wants to show it to the judges.

Michael notes that Kenley’s wedding dress looks like an Alexander McQueen dress, and Kenley claims she’s never even heard of Alexander McQueen. Michael does say, “It’s been done, but beautifully.” He calls her bridesmaid dress the “cutest dress ever.”

Heidi thinks Korto’s wedding dress has too many elements. Korto says that it fits with her collection and isn’t unflattering. Michael thinks the wedding dress looks overworked while the bridesmaid dress looks underworked. Nina doesn’t think the two dresses go together. The judges ask Korto why she should go to Fashion Week, and she answers that she would bring a different point of view.

The judges then dismiss the designers and discuss what they’ve seen. They like Leanne’s work. Michael comments that it’s not easy to translate architecture into a wedding dress, while Nina likes her mixture of modern and romantic. Heidi likes Kenley’s dresses and says they would appear at a “fun wedding.” Michael says she’s “kooky and meticulous,” while Nina believes her Fashion Week collection would be amazing. Korto’s wedding dress, however, is “overkill,” while her bridesmaid dress is simply dull. Jerrell’s gowns are “overwrought,” and Nina notes that “all he does is embellish.”

The judges then call the designers back in. They have good news for Leanne and Kenley: They’re both going to Fashion Week. As for Korto and Jerrell, the judges did not think Korto’s dresses related to each other, while Jerrell’s gowns were garish. Korto is going to Bryant Park, while Jerrell is out. (Actually, as you may have heard elsewhere, the top six designers all showed at Bryant Park, but the three men, Joe, Suede, and Jerrell, were decoys. As Fashion Week actually took place a few weeks ago, the producers didn’t want to give the game away by revealing who the finalists really were.)

As he gets ready to leave, Jerrell tells us that it’s hard to come this far and then lose, as he was ready to give a great show. His goal is to become one of the world’s great designers and give a retrospective at the Met when he’s eighty. The previews for next week show everybody getting ready for Fashion Week.


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