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Project Runway 5, Finale Recap

Welcome to the finale of Project Runway’s fifth season! Last week, our designers had to start getting ready for Fashion Week. As there were four of them, they had to prove their mettle by making a wedding dress and a bridesmaid dress. Jerrell lost, resulting in the first all-female Final Three in Project Runway history.

It is now three days until the big show. Korto tells us that she’s upset that Jerrell is out, while Leanne thinks it’s “awesome” that the finalists are all women. Tim stops by to congratulate them and to tell them that each designer will be showing ten looks, which means they are going to have to “edit” their collections, since the wedding challenge means they all have more than ten outfits to work with. But before the designers get a chance to sort through their clothes, they have to sort through the models first. In other words, it’s time to cast the models they want wearing their duds. Korto wants models with long hair, while Leanne wants models who look like “space aliens.” She is irritated by Kenley’s attempts to give her advice about which models to pick.

Afterwards, Tim stops by to see how the designers are faring with their “editing.” He is dismayed to learn that Kenley plans on showing her wedding dress and warns her that the judges have already told her that it is too similar to Alexander McQueen’s wedding dress. Kenley says the judges did like the dress, and that she’s not worried about the accusations of doing “knockoffs,” as she’s heard it before. Umm, a lack of originality will sink you, m’dear.

Korto has already made one easy decision: She isn’t showing the bridesmaid dress from last episode, as the judges all disliked it. Leanne is considering ditching one set of separates as she doesn’t like the top, but Tim advises her to keep them, since the outfit includes her one pair of pants, and the judges will want to see variety. As Tim departs, Kenley shouts that she has reconsidered her placement of the wedding dress, and Tim tells her that it’s a good compromise. Korto apparently isn’t happy with her current collection and has decided to make two new dresses for her collection, as she thinks her wedding dress and two of her other dresses might look “overworked” to the judges.

Two days before Bryant Park, Collier Strong of L’Oreal Paris stops by to consult with the designers about what kind of make-up they want for their models. Korto tells him that her inspiration is nature, so she wants earth tones. Kenley wants her models to look like porcelain dolls with cherry-red lips. Leanne simply wants a modern look. The models come in for a fitting. While the models try on clothes, Kenley tells us that Leanne can’t use color properly, and Leanne tells us that Kenley’s clothes look childish and amateurish.

On the day before the big show, the designers have a “hair consultation.” Korto wants her models wearing buns, while Leanne wants a “clean”, pulled up look. Kenley wants classic waves. The models come in for another fitting and one, Tia, brings her dog, which promptly does its business on the floor. Worse, Tia then cleans up after her mop-hound while wearing Leanne’s dress. Leanne, understandably, is upset about this, as dog poop isn’t her idea of an accessory. Tim stops by for one last “gather round” and tells the designers the order of their appearance: Kenley first, then Korto, and then Leanne. He then gathers them all in a group hug and tells them that he’s proud of them.

The day of the show finally arrives and the designers get up at 3 a.m. to get down to Bryant Park and prepare themselves. En route, Kenley tells us that she had sneaked into last year’s show only to get thrown out. Leanne tells us, again, about how she’s wanted to show at Bryant Park ever since she was twelve years old. Kenley admits to feeling nervous since her parents will be there.

Backstage, each designer gets a team of assistants to help them prepare. Korto puts her team to work so she can put the finishing touches on one of her dresses, while Kenley decides to do everything herself. The models come in to get dressed, and Leanne soon discovers that one of her tops has expanded after being steamed and is now too big for its model. She quickly finds another piece for her to wear.

Finally, it’s time for the show to start. Heidi greets the audience and introduces them to the judges: Nina Garcia and Michael Kors. Heidi then says that Jennifer Lopez was supposed to be the guest judge, but had to bow out because of a foot injury. Tim Gunn, whose day job is with Liz Claiborne, will be stepping in. The designers are shocked and Kenley wishes she’d dialed down her attitude. Tim assures everybody that he won’t let his past dealings with the designers influence his decisions. He’ll be an impartial judge.

As mentioned earlier, Kenley goes first. She tells the audience that she was inspired by painting and Alice in Wonderland. She says she made her “dream wardrobe.” Her first outfit is a black shirt with a magenta skirt. The skirt is short in front, but long in back. Her second look is a green gown with large shoulders, akin to her dress from the zodiac challenge, but more restrained. Her third outfit is a purple and white wave-patterned tube dress. Her fourth look is her blue bridesmaid dress from last episode. Her fifth look has a sleeveless black and hot pink top and a poofy, knee-high black skirt made of tulle. Next up is a slim, slinky, sleeveless black dress. Then comes a creamy dress with hand-painted flowers on it. Her eighth look is a short-sleeved, knee-length floral print dress. Next up is a short black skirt with a green shirt that has a plunging v-neck and lots of ruffles. The feathered wedding dress from last episode is the finale piece.

Korto is next. She tells the audience that she was inspired by nature and dedicates her collection to her daughter and husband. Her first look is a long aqua gown. Then comes a short beige dress with long, wide sleeves. Next up is a short, emerald green dress. Her fourth look is a white pantsuit. The shirt is sleeveless and has lots of ruffles down the front. Her fifth look is a skirt with a floral print and yellow belt. Next up is a long beige dress. Then comes a short, sleeveless green dress. Her eighth look is a long, sleeveless white gown with ruffles. A mustard yellow skirt is her ninth piece. Her finale piece is a long, emerald green gown with an asymmetrical halter top with bead work in it. As the models finish showing their pieces, Korto takes her daughter by the hand and brings her onstage and marches off the runway with her.

Finally, Leanne’s up. She tells everyone that she lost lots of sleep over her collection. She loves it and hopes everyone does, too. Her first look is an off-the-shoulder white top with a big neck folded over paired with a pleated aqua skirt. Next is a blue pleated bodice and a white skirt. Then comes a blue blouse with pleated sleeves and cream pants. Her fourth look is a white bodice with an asymmetrical beige skirt that has ruffles going down it diagonally. Next up is a beige skirt with an off-the-shoulder white top. Her sixth look is a pair of white shorts and a white jacket with a huge collar made of Leanne’s waves. Next is a sleeveless white top and pale aqua bubble skirt. After that comes a blue halter dress with thin straps. Next up is a long, sky-blue gown made of some floaty material. Leanne’s finale piece is her wedding dress from last episode.

After the show, various designers associated with Project Runway talk about their favorites. Fern Mallis congratulates Kenley. Chris March from last season likes Korto’s work best. Nick from Season Three likes Leanne’s outfits. Daniel from this last season and Jillian both support Kenley. Rami is rooting for Korto and Blayne says he’s proud of everybody. During the commercial break, we’re told that Korto was voted this season’s Fan Favorite.

The judges then discuss the show. Michael reminds us that this is the first all-female final. All of the judges agree that each woman had a distinct style and point of view. When the designers come out onto the runway, Heidi congratulates them and reminds them of the prizes: 100 grand to start their own line, the ability to sell their clothes on Bluefly.com, and a new Saturn hybrid. She also re-introduces them to the judges, probably for the benefit of any TV viewers who might have missed that the first time.

The judges start with Kenley. Michael tells her that her collection is “charming.” He was impressed by Kenley’s doing all the fabric painting herself. He likes how she used separates, but managed to keep a cohesive look. Tim compliments Kenley for her construction and POV. Nina does have a problem with the flower dress, as it reminds her of a Balenciaga dress. When Kenley admits that other people have told her that, the judges scold her for not looking at other designers’ collections. Kenley agrees that she should probably do some research.

Michael praises Korto for giving her clothes an ethnic flair without making them costume-y. He especially likes the emerald green gown. Nina says that the collection looked effortlessly cohesive and that Korto has phenomenal color sense. The green gown would appeal to many women. Tim, for his part, likes the big beige dress. Heidi says that the detail was obvious, but some of the outfits look overworked, and that there were too many ideas in one garment. Nina advises Korto not to go overboard with decorations.

Michael tells Leanne that her first outfit set the tone for the whole collection. Leanne admits that was the top that didn’t fit quite right. Michael praises her workmanship and Tim tells her that he especially liked the blue shirt and khaki pants outfit. Nina praises Leanne for the variety of her outfits: She’d made pants, shorts, jackets, skirts, and a long dress. Tim had been right to tell her to leave the pants in. Heidi says that everything worked well together. Although Heidi feels like she saw some new things, she’s worried about how many petals and waves Leanne used. Michael jokes that Leanne doesn’t want to become known as “Petals” Marshall, which sounds like a stripper’s name. Nina worries that the collection was too one-note. When it’s time for Leanne to show 40 outfits, how will she evolve from this? (I agree with Nina; there’s a difference between “cohesive” and “monotonous”. Between the design and the limited color palette, Leanne’s collection came dangerously close to the latter.)

Heidi then asks the designers why they should win. Korto starts crying and says it’s been a long journey. Being able to show at Bryant Park has proven that she’s capable and worthy. She also has more to show and wants to show it. Leanne assures the judges that she’s innovative and that half her collection was made from sustainable textiles. She has talent and ambition. Kenley declares that she it has it in her and wants to take it far. She moved to New York City with a lot of talent and imagination. Kenley starts to cry, too, and tells the judges that she’s passionate about design and good at it. Heidi responds that all of the designers are passionate about fashion. Michael says they have to be or they couldn’t do it.

Heidi sends the designers away one last time so the judges can deliberate. Tim praises Kenley’s cohesion and execution. Nina says her clothes have an almost couture fit. Heidi thinks Kenley has great ideas and loves her hand-painting. Michael worries that she doesn’t understand the line between her own work and copying other designers’ work. Tim says she needs a fashion history course, while Michael notes she does have talent.

Michael says that Leanne has a gift for making complicated clothes look easy. Nina appreciates Leanne’s use of sustainable fabrics and her eye towards the future. Tim says she has an elegant, sophisticated, polished approach. Heidi says it was obvious that the collection was Leanne’s. Both Nina and Michael are worried that Leanne may get stuck in “petal architecture.”

Tim praises Korto’s silhouettes and her use of African elements. He loves her overall collection. Michael says she’s at her best when her work is complicated but appears simple. Her green gown was a classic dress with a twist. It was interesting, but not overworked. Nina says Korto really knows what looks good on women. We see Korto’s daughter backstage with her mother, napping.

When the designers come back, the judges tell Kenley that she’s out. Heidi tells her that she’ll have a bright future and the judges wish her all the best. Kenley tells us that she’s crushed. Personally, I think third place is quite good for somebody who is apparently self-taught.

Then the judges announce the winner: Leanne. Korto is disappointed, of course, but Heidi tells her that she’s talented and really understands what women like. (Personally, I think Kenley and Korto will both do well. Granted they lost, but they did get all the publicity that goes with being on Project Runway and Fashion Week.) Leanne’s model, Tia, also wins: She gets a spread in Elle magazine. Leanne’s family comes out onto the runway to congratulate her. During the end credits, Tim gives Leanne her new Saturn hybrid.