Season 15 Premieres September 15 at 9/8c

Nick Verreos' Blog

A Modern Southern Redo

By kim_messina 09/13/2013 04:40AM GMT

A modern Southern woman. Now, this is something I have a little bit of knowledge about: this past Summer, I designed a line, NV Nick Verreos, that was sold to a major department store and I traveled around the South doing a bit of "market research" during my in-store appearances. So, I was looking forward to what the designers would think was their vision for this "modern Southern woman." As it turned out, I was left as confused as most of the judges. And what was up with that ninth hour Bottom Three face-off? And Ken's attitude? And all that plaid and handkerchief hems? Lots to discuss...

Put Down Your Mint Juleps
The episode began with Heidi walking onto the runway, telling the remaining designers that she was giving them a morning off because they needed to "relax, unwind and have some fun" (Yeah right!). The designers head to Juliette Restaurant, a French brasserie in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for a Southern-style brunch. As they were enjoying their croissants, coffee and French toast, Tim Gunn walks in—in a double-breasted suit from Zac Posen's closet—to announce that it's time to finish those mint juleps and pack all the extra beignets in a "to-go chien bag." Tim tells the designers that this "lovely, civilized, relaxed" brunch describes who they will be designing for next.

A Modern Southern Woman...Who Loves Plaid?
It's the Belk challenge: to create a day or evening look for a modern, Southern woman. Gunn describes this M.S.W. as someone who dresses vibrantly, expressively; always fashionably put-together; knows how to accessorize; and loves color and anything with feminine details. Even though the designers were told that they were having a morning off, the designers all somehow brought their HP tablets and were ready to sketch. Afterward, they headed to Mood where a lot of the designers caught the PLAID fabric virus...again!

Southern Woman Expert Ken
Ken, who hails from Birmingham, Alabama, deems himself the go-to guy when it comes to what a modern, Southern woman likes and wears. In his direct-to-camera interviews, he keeps wondering what the heck the other designers are doing and how disconnected their designs seem from the woman he knows. Part of me (the I've-done-my-research-in-the-South part) agrees with him, but at the same time I just have a feeling that Ken will be on the bottom, while his plaid-loving co-designers will end up on top. It's my "Southern belle" intuition.

Belk Bragging Rights
Back at the Parsons' workroom, Tim Gunn introduces John Thomas, Executive VP of Private Brands for Belk, who informs the designers that the winning design will be manufactured and sold at Belk and After the designers begin working, Tim revisits the designers. Tim loves all the plaid both Alexander and Bradon are using, admits his hatred toward the fabrication Alexandria is using, and reacts positively to Ken's purple fabric color.

Sybil Ken
Speaking of Ken, he has some Skype time with his mom, which turns out to be an "enlightening" conversation. I just about spit out my red wine when Ken's mom asks him if "the other side has come out yet." Wait! Can you repeat that again? Momma Laurence knows about Ken's "Sybil-esque" persona? Of course she does! Note to self: don't let your mom get clearance to talk on camera, especially if she knows about your (alleged) multiple personality disorder.

Runway Day
The guest judges are actress (and former George Clooney main squeeze) Stacy Keibler as well as John Thomas, Mr. Belk. The designs come out and here's what I wrote on my "judging from my living room" piece of paper:
Ken: His purple hi-lo maxi dress was OK.
Helen: Why would you create a gown? It's Belk, not Neiman-Marcus. And was the model wearing BLACK SHOES with a canary yellow/while appliqué lace gown?
Justin: I liked the color but it was too low in the back; a dress to be sold for a department store must be "bra-friendly."
Alexander: Cute, but too much handkerchief hemming.
Alexandria: Another handkerchief hem? No. This looks like a crazy school uniform.
Bradon: Pretty. Surprised by how much I like the plaid fabrication but needs editing and some tweaking. The horizontal bias-binding detail in the front needs to go to make it more sellable.
Dom: I like the color-blocking but a high-side slit GOWN? Who is she selling to? The Miss Universe contestants?
Jeremy: Very department store "Missy" section. And yeah, very "Virgin Atlantic" flight attendant (the Purser, perhaps).
Kate: Love the print, like the dress style, but seems a tad high-waisted. But this is the closest to something I could see at Belk.

Who's On Top?
When the runway was done, I had no idea who would be on the top and who ended up on the bottom because none of these looks A) looked like a modern, Southern woman, and B) were department store sellable looking, except Kate's. I understand that it's difficult to design for a department store and hit the right balance of being sellable yet not boring and at the same time, have a "fashion" element. I also get that the judges, especially the Belk exec can look beyond the tricky seaming/construction and too much handkerchief hemming, and see a dress that can be "re-tooled" for his customer. I think this is what happened when eventually Bradon's dress was chosen as the winner. Congrats to Bradon.

Now to The Bottom
On the bottom were Dom, Ken and Jeremy. These three were the most un-modern, Southern woman, I guess. Ken was NOT HAVING it as the judges were critiquing his design; you could see that "Sybil Ken" was two seconds away from making an appearance. Now, instead of going right ahead with choosing the worst and sending them off to "Auf'ed Designer Land," Heidi announced that for the first time in "Project Runway" history, they were getting a "Do Over": the the bottom designers were given one hour, access to fabrics and one designer-helper, to re-create their looks.

Why do this?
The jaded watcher—and "Project Runway" alumni&3151;in me felt that maybe the Belk exec didn't like ANY of the looks and was coerced into having to chose something,but still felt that something else could come out of this. I also thought that maybe a designer the judges didn't think should go home was about to (Dom perhaps?) and therefore let's try and give her (and the others) another chance. Who knows? It just seemed a little odd. In the end, the designers re-tooled their looks and they all received positive feedback. Personally I thought Ken's was way too hoochey and he should have been out. However, he was in. They LOVED Dom's printed handkerchief hem dress (I thought she did a great job as well) and subsequently, was also chosen to have her dress be manufactured and sold at Belk. I felt a little bad for Bradon since his "1st Prize Thunder" was taken away. Oh, and yes, Jeremy was out.

So what did you guys think of this entire episode? Do you think the modern, Southern woman loves plaid and handkerchief hems? Would you wear any of these looks, especially the winning designs? I'd love to know your thoughts and theories on this episode—and especially the additional bottom three do-over twist! Do you guys have any theories?