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Episode 10: "Inspiration Deficit Disorder"

By CaitlinBergmann Fri., Oct. 23, 2009 ,4:45 am EDT

Michael Kors presenting the challenge on episode 10 of Project Runway Season six

This week, Michael Kors met our remaining seven designers down at his West Coast flagship boutique and gave them a window into his design process. As anyone who is aware of his brand will tell you, Michael Kors evokes the luxurious age of the international jet-setter, so it’s no surprise that he chose seven of his favorite destinations as inspiration for our remaining designers. The challenge for episode ten, for them, is to take these locales and do their own interpretation of these places, “whether real or imaginary,” but to also remember to “have fun.” Among their choices are Aspen, St. Tropez, the Greek islands, Manhattan, Palm Beach, Santa Fe and Hollywood.

Now, understanding that this is a challenge coming from Kors, a proven purveyor of classic American sportswear, there is an unwritten mandate that each designer address this idea in some way, or at least not show up with a red-carpet gown. Given the iconic nature of all these places, it should have been simple for each designer to arrive at something that not only resonates with their own design aesthetic, but that also evokes the local color of these regions. However, I have to agree with Irina when she says that the level of creativity in the room seems to have plateaued. Indeed, what happened to everybody this week? Perhaps they are just exhausted, because everything that came down the runway was pretty lackluster.

When Michael Kors gave us a similar challenge in Season 2 of “Project Runway,” I remember people digging deep to try to find unusual sources of inspiration, as well as inventive sewing techniques, to communicate their ideas. One doesn’t have to be Tim Gunn to know that a great designer should be able to find a way to “make it work.” Wowing the judges should still be possible even if, like Logan, you have the misfortune of having to design yet another “Hollywood-inspired” ensemble. There should still be several design stones that have been left unturned, and one would think this would be a chance for the designers to pull out all the stops.

Irina Shavayeva's design on episode 10 of Project Runway Season six

And yet Irina Shabayeva, who is clearly the front-runner in the competition now, does this by going beige. BEIGE. OK, beige with fur, but it’s still beige! (See photo.) It’s clear now that the grand prize is basically hers to lose. Her ensemble for Aspen wins because it is a complete design statement that’s competently executed, even though it’s not much of a surprise. Michael Kors accurately laments that her ensemble is a little too “on the nose” in its homage to 1980s “jet-set style.” Even with the deep cutout in the back, it seems terribly familiar, and could actually be something from a past Michael Kors collection. And yet I think that’s just how far ahead of the pack Irina is. She can waltz in, give us the Aspen look as seen on “Falcon Crest” during the 1985 fall sweeps and still be better off than everyone else. As she says, after three wins, her only competition is herself.

As far as the rest of them go … I wish them well, with the following reservations:

Congratulations: You wisely also did three pieces of sportswear in the Michael Kors Challenge. Clearly you have the skills that we expect from a new voice in American fashion.
Beware: We’ve seen a lot of jackets with tanks. Hopefully this is just a time-crunch thing, and not a pillar of your aesthetic.

Carol Hannah
Congratulations: You created a classic dress with a slightly unconventional detail. It’s something familiar, with a twist in the bodice (literally).
Beware: We’ve seen a lot of dresses from you. Make sure you do some separates. Fashion empires rise and fall based on the cut of their jackets and pants.

Nicolas Putvinski and model on episode 10 of Project Runway Season six

Congratulations: We love you, and we all cheer you on as you find the confidence of your own voice. You continue to infuse your designs with innovative construction.
Beware: I think you barely saved your neck by making sure that incredible crystal necklace could be treated like sportswear and worn with other clothes. The secret to winning this competition is to create sportswear separates. Make sure you address this later.

Congratulations: You made a really nice pair of jeans. This is not an easy thing to do on this show, particularly since there are no laundering facilities.
Beware: Dude. Sleeves? You will most likely need them in the next challenge. You will definitely need them in Bryant Park.

Congratulations: You survived this one, even though you didn’t go Koo-Koo for Kokopelli enough.
Beware: They are all asking, “Why is he still here?” You will need to wow us with the answer. It’s time to shock us, Shakopee!

Congratulations: You showed us you can certainly create sportswear, and you stuck to your aesthetic guns. (See photo.) We’ll still miss you Nicolas Putvinski!
Beware: White is not always right.

And that should do it.May the best woman win!