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Season 13, Episode 14: Finale, Part 2

Posted By laurareineke 4:25am GMT

We pick up right where we left off last week, with Kini in a huge pickle about his sudden need to rework half his collection is just a day and a half. Dude's freaking out. Char has to replace four looks and infuse the remaining garments with more youth and fun. "You gotta make it seem as though you would wear every single look," Tim says, recommending Char ditch her fluttery teal dress and pink jumpsuit. Amanda needs to polish things up but is in good shape, apparently. Sean needs to find more variety and think critically about his use of fringe: Is it a pro or a con? Tim blesses them with $300 more each, plus another trip to Mood. Amanda smartly doesn't take him up on that offer, citing it as a potential distraction from the real work she has at hand. For the other three, though, it's a godsend.

Char, Sean, Amanda, and Kini are supportive of each other and don't waste time throwing shade at each other's work, which keeps this episode blessedly drama-free. Once the designers get their hands back on their garments in the workroom, they find more confidence in the direction their collections are headed and chug right along toward NYFW. They have productive critiques with Tim, a presumably unrestful night of sleep, then model fittings, consultations with Philip B. (literally, Philip B. himself) for hair and Luis Casco from Mary Kay for makeup.

Then, BOOM, it's the morning of. The designers breathe in the calm before the storm at Lincoln Center, then get right to work. They show at 10 a.m. and it's an early start and a busy, busy morning for the four of them while they put all the finishing touches in place. The judges introduce themselves along with our finale guest judge, actress Emmy Rossum. The show comes off without a hitch (I was in the audience and can attest to this), so lets jump right in to the final judging of the season. Here we go!

Final judging of the season. Here we go!

Char - "I think there's a customer out there for this," Zac says, citing her collection's Solange Knowles feel, "however, you're gonna have to bring up the fashion game a little bit." Heidi liked her last-minute hoody dress, and she and Emmy praise the black and white two-piece, but Heidi frowns over the fabric in the final look. Nina doesn't like the "tissue box" dress at all, giving it a shake of her head and a "no bueno." Emmy says she saw two different girls in Char's collection: A colorful resort girl and a clean-cut sophisticate. Nina thinks Char understands print and color and sexiness, but that she's trying too hard to be someone she's not. The judges' overall sentiment is that while Char does good work, it's not bigger or more interesting than what can currently be found in stores. Char is the first to be eliminated, landing her in fourth place.

Kini - The panel has lots of love for Kini's pleated dress, and Heidi praises the neoprene off-shoulder top and leather shorts, and everyone reiterates that Kini is a very gifted technician, especially in his manipulation of denim. "I do question sometimes, stylistically, where you're going," Zac adds. "Too many ideas and you wanna do it all in one look," Heidi agrees. Zac thinks Kini needs more time to hone his editor's eye. "That's why when he only had to days to turn stuff around, he made such good pieces," Heidi chimes in. Kini places third.

Amanda - She says she made tweaks to ensure her collection looked less hippie-dippy than her previous work. Nina says the whole thing looked effortless. Zac compliments her patterning in the final look, and flat-out adores her jewelry: "I want to see it at Opening Ceremony." He calls her collection the most original on the runway. Heidi's all about Amanda's long flowy dresses. Emmy thinks Amanda's point of view is very clear in this work. Zac says that while not every woman will look at Amanda's clothing and find it easy-going and accessible, he thinks the attitude behind it is. Nina agrees that the effortless freedom of Amanda's work reminds her of Stella McCartney's time at Chloe.

Sean - "This is probably the most editorial of the collections here," Nina says, citing the softness of fabric and the harshness of the lines in his opening look. Emmy is impressed by his use of orange fringe and liked the storyline tying all the looks together, something Heidi cited as a favorite aspect as well. "I think you are the full package," Zac says. Emmy says that "Runway" is about discovering a new voice and that Sean was the designer who had it; Nina calls back to his rainway challenge look as proof. Plus: Sean has great taste. "To have taste AND surprise us with risk and wow moments is really refreshing," Zac says.

It's down to Amanda and Sean, and Emmy sums it up: "Do you want the person to win who can build a brand like DVF or Donna Karan? Because that's what Amanda feels like to me. An American woman who's designing for the American woman. Or do you wanna pick high art, someone that's combining menswear and womenswear and doing something different?" Because that's Sean. And apparently Door #2 is the judges' pick this time. There's an obligatory hold-your-breath moment and then Sean is named the winner. Congrats, Sean!

It's the end of the line of another "Runway" catwalk. What say you? Are you happy about Sean's win? Were you at least a little sad that Amanda made it all the way through a second season only to fall short of the finish line? What'd you think of Kini and Char's collections? Who else would you have liked to see present at NYFW? What was your favorite challenge this season? So many questions! Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

It's been a pleasure reading your feedback and discussions each week. If you wanna keep this party going, I'll also be recapping the new season of "Project Runway All Stars," which premieres next Thursday night. See you then!


RIP Oscar de la Renta

Posted By kim_messina 10:04am GMT

Oscar de la Renta and model Karlie Kloss (left) walk the runway at the Oscar De La Renta fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2015 on September 9, 2014 in New York City

Legendary designer Oscar de la Renta died Monday at his home in Kent, CT. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, but said last year that was "totally clean." He was 82.

Known as the "Sultan of Suave," his career has spanned more than five decades. He became internationally known in the 1960s as one of the couturiers for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and has worked for fashion houses Lanvin and Balmain. Most recently, de la Renta made headlines for designing the wedding dress for the new Mrs. George Clooney, Amal Alamuddin.

"Project Runway" judges Nina Garcia and Zac Posen took to Twitter after hearing the news of his death:

Our thoughts are with his family. Leave your condolences below.

Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images


Season 13, Episode 13: Finale, Part 1

Posted By laurareineke 4:49am GMT

So! Much! Happened! This week! First, Tim and Heidi tell our final four -- Char, Kini, Sean, and Amanda -- that they will each have $9000 and five weeks to complete a ten-look collection to be shown at New York Fashion Week. But first, the fun part: They'll be treated to a trip to Rome, Italy, to find inspiration for their collections.

The quartet pack up and head out that same day, along with their mentor and now tour guide Tim, who gives them an informative walking tour of the city. In an interview, Sean admits that he never thought Char would make it to Fashion Week, and that he thinks she should buy a lottery ticket after finishing the show because "she's had a lot of good luck." Harsh! But as Tim reminds us, Char never won a challenge this season, and she was eliminated once already. She's got a lot to prove.

Tim checks in with each of the designers, then takes them to Valli, a high-end fabric store. They're not obligated to buy fabric there and Sean and Kini choose not to, feeling antsy about committing too much money to fabric before they've settled on ideas for their collection. Amanda goes for it, though, and Tim strong-arms Char into picking something as well.

Back to the States we go, and after a letting the designers marinade in their terror for a while, Tim jets off to visit them individually. Kini's in Hawaii putting together a "Park Avenue Princess in Rome" collection. Lots of denim, lots of shapes, and Tim seems happy with things so far. In Detroit, Tim is concerned with the costume-y quality of much of Char's collection. He thinks she needs to find cohesion. "If I had my way I'd stay here as your coach right up through Fashion Week," Tim admits. Char might have a lot to prove, but so does Tim, who chose to keep her in the competition over any other eliminated designer.

Amanda's in Nashville throwing a whole lot of elements into her collection, including jewelry she designed herself. Tim cautions her against trying too hard: "Rake out all that extra stuff." Meanwhile, Sean is set up in Williamsburg, where he explains to Tim his inspiration of Caesar's betrayal in ancient Rome. He stresses that he's restraining himself from over-using fringe though he also gets defensive about it: "Nina's not the dictator of fashion! She can't tell me what to do!" True, but she IS one of the people who gets to decide if you win this whole thing or not. Tim's confident in the direction Sean is headed.

Finally, we're back in NYC and just a few days out from Fashion Week. The final four reunite and get their first looks at each other's collections in the workroom. Sean thinks Amanda is his biggest competition. Kini doesn't see Char's point of view as a designer in her work. They do hair and makeup consultations, then get a bombshell from Tim: The judges want to see three looks as a preview of the designers' final collections. They look at him, agape, but Tim reminds them that this is actually the nicest possible thing that could happen to them at this point in the competition. No "Create another look!" challenge, no last-minute curveballs, just free time in front of the judges for feedback.

On the runway, Heidi makes sure to reiterate that no one is getting eliminated, that this is just for feedback, and I have to question why. Do we really need all four of these people in the final showdown? Now's not exactly a fair time to get rid of someone, but the field is feeling a little crowded. Oh well. Here we go:

"It's all very clean, and I want it to feel luxurious," Sean says of his collection, explaining how it follows the storyline of Caesar's betrayal. The judges are in love with it. Zac calls it "exciting" and he and Nina both praise his work with separates. Nina does admit that she's worried about him overdoing the fringe. "How much is there?" she asks Sean. "....Enough," he answers slyly. Nina reiterates that they want to see range from him, not just one trend, but otherwise there's nothing but love for his looks.

Char says she's going for a youthful, fresh vibe with her looks but Heidi immediately notes a lack of cohesion: the three models all look like different women at totally different events. Nina straight-up tells Char to ditch her one-shoulder dress with partial transparency because she hates it. The judges say they want to see more of Char's bright attitude and eccentricity in her clothes.

Amanda tells the judges about finding inspiration in Rome's heavy old buildings covered in bright graphics posters and graffiti. They're immediately struck by the jewelry and tell her to put more into the final collection; Nina thinks the jewelry makes all her clothes look more expensive, and we all know how much Nina loves expensive-looking things. Nina also gives the same commentary to Amanda that she gave to Sean when she advises her to step back a bit from the bohemian style Amanda has so strongly identified with in the past. Nina wants the designers to grow! Amanda says she knows that means she needs to cut out one of her maxi dresses.

Kini sounds very nervous as he presents his looks to the judges, and with good reason, it turns out. "I think you're much better than this," Heidi says right off the bat. Oof. She thinks that despite great construction -- a Kini trademark -- it's all too serious and too dated. Nina tells him to get rid of his coat, which Zac agrees is too '90s. They also go in on his styling choices. They go in on everything, really. Too much eye shadow, not enough sex appeal, too "lady," not enough separates. Too much to do, too little time? Zac thinks Kini can step it up and put out something great. All the judges seem very confident in Kini, actually, which is bizarre given how much work they've just asked him to do in less than one day.

Kini's a mess in the designers' lounge afterward, silent and shaking. The other three have their own stuff to worry about but they seem palpably relieved to have gotten off better with the judges than Kini did. And that's how we leave it this week. What say you? Did Kini deserve that much negative feedback? Do you think his three looks were worse than Char's? Did you love Sean's as much as the judges did? And based on these capsules, whose final collection are you most excited to see? Let me know in the comments, and tune in next week when Heidi names the Season 13 winner!


Season 13, Episode 12: Fashion Week: Who's In & Who's Out

Posted By laurareineke 4:43am GMT

Tim wakes our five remaining designers in the wee hours of the morning, as is his wont, and invites them up to the roof of their apartment building. Perched high above the city where no one care hear the designers scream "LET ME GO TO FASHION WEEK," he and Brian Bolain, Corporate Marketing Manager for Lexus, introduce their final task.

Challenge: Design a "street chic" look inspired by New York City. It should be something that can be worn any day of the week, and it must be fashionable and progressive.

Parameters: The designers will be given cameras and sleek new Lexuses to cruise around the city to find and photograph inspiration. Two days to work. $200 to spend.

Amanda zeroes in on graffiti -- and there's plenty of it in NYC -- while Emily already has a plan that involves an elaborate hoodie she's been wanting to make all season. Char snaps pictures of window displays while Sean gets inspired by a man wearing a clean white caftan. The gang hits up Mood and gets started in the workroom. They seem pleased with their designs and they have a productive first day of working. Over dinner they have a mini celebration about Korina's exit. Everything is going well!

Just kidding. Nothing's ever that easy. When they get to the workroom for day two, a series of mannequins are there, displaying the looks that got five previous designers kicked off. "Ghosts of the past," Sean mutters. Tim walks in with his button bag and a little announcement: There's a twist. They must create a new look from one of the season's losing looks. It doesn't have to be cohesive with their street chic design, so this is essentially asking them to participate in two separate challenges simultaneously. Rough. The designers will choose their look by button bag order, and they'll get a second trip to Mood (and another $100) to make it work.

Emily gets first dibs and takes Samantha's plain blue gown from the jewelry challenge. Char takes Korina's look from last week because it has the most fabric. Amanda nabs Fade's avant-garde ensemble. Kini takes Mitchell's red carpet look, which means poor Sean gets stuck with Sandhya's bright pink American Girl jumpsuit. They go to Mood and seem to have everything under control. They're handling this curveball better than I would, to be honest.

But, again, nothing's ever easy! Back in the workroom, Tim herds in the designers of the losing looks and offers them up as helpers for our top five. That means Korina's assigned to help Char. Technically this is Char's fault -- she picked Korina's look! -- but it doesn't matter one bit to Korina, who is livid about being there in the first place. She shakes her head, crosses her arms, and tells Tim, voice wavering, that she's still too upset over her elimination to help Char with this challenge. Tim, likely sensing that pushing Korina on this would make for the uncomfortable kind of drama and not the kooky-zany kind, lets her stomp away. (She slams the door and rips off her mic, too, for the full effect.) Alexander is brought in instead.

Listen, it's gotta suck for someone with a proud streak like Korina to have to return to the workroom in service of the designer who beat her one step closer to Fashion Week, but as Amanda says in an interview, getting cut sucks for everyone! "It's not any more painful for her," she says. "I've been eliminated! I know!" Probably better for Korina's bad vibes to be as far from the workroom as possible, though.

Our guest judge this week is "Pretty Little Liars" star Shay Mitchell. Let's go:

Amanda - The judges are properly jazzed up about her floor-length dress. Nina nitpicks the styling but otherwise, the panel loves its sophisticated, "bohemian chic"-ness. They think it's fashionable and that it's VERY Amanda. Shay compares the less-great redo look to something from "Tron," and Heidi calls it "borderline nightclub hostess." She doesn't see Amanda in it. (This is a refrain we'll hear a lot during this week's judging.) But the street chic look is a "wowza," for sure.

Char - Two very basic looks that the judges are more generous in critiquing than I thought they'd be. "You have a nice eye for color," Nina demures. "I think you have some really great ideas," Zac says. "I think the street chic look is bright and vibrant," Shay says. But all these compliments are said in a tone that suggests they're being delicate with their phrasing. Her redo gets yawns.

Emily - The judges don't hate her street style look, but each piece gets mixed fabric. Shay likes the jacket but Zac thinks it looks "homeless." Heidi likes the silhouette of the top and pants but Nina thinks it reads like a Cirque du Soleil costume. Her second look is a bust. "You seem to have a definite point of view," Nina says, "but I'm disappointed that I did not see that with this do-over." (Toldja we'd hear that again.)

Kini - His trenchcoat gets raves, but the top and skirt underneath are too busy for the judges' tastes. "Less is more," Nina reminds him. Zac says that in comparison, Kini's red gown redo is a great example of the importance of editing: It's sleek and clean, much more polished than the street style look. As usual, there are no qualms about Kini's construction. Dude had time to put fully lined pockets in that trench! What kind of wizardry!

Sean - The judges practically drool over Sean's crisp white street chic look. Nina declares it one of the best pieces she's seen on "Runway," and while that's mighty hyperbolic, I get where she's coming from: This look could fit effortlessly into a number of reputable houses' fall lines, and it looks high fashion, not like a project with an abbreviated construction timeline and a budget of $200. Onnnn the other hand is his costume-y redo look, which no one likes. Sean can't win 'em all.

Our top five explain to the judges why they feel they should move on to Fashion Week, and it's the usual batch of "I want to show you the REAL ME" stuff we hear every season. The judges make their final decision: Kini, Sean, Amanda, and Char will move on, but Emily is out. She handles it well -- considerably better than our dear departed Korina, though that's not a hard thing to do at this point -- and we head on to Fashion Week with four designers in competition for the big win.

We've made it to the final countdown. How do you feel about this week's double challenge? (Do you, like me, think the redo challenge was sorta pointless since none of the judges liked those looks anyway?) Do you think Korina should've been forced to stay? Would you have preferred to see someone other than Emily eliminated? And who are you rooting for as we head into the next showdown? Let me know in the comments.


Season 13, Episode 11: The Highest Bidder

Posted By laurareineke 4:33am GMT

Our final six designers wake up to a video message from Heidi directing them to a warehouse at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where Tim is waiting in front of a series of storage lockers. He wastes no time telling the designers that this is going to be a team challenge, and he whips out the button bag to pair 'em up. Everyone wants to be matched with super-sewer Kini, but Amanda lucks out. Emily and Korina are put together, and both seem fine with it. That leaves Sean and Char. "The only problem is she can't sew as well as the rest of us," Sean says. Foreshadowing? Yeah, probably.

Challenge: In teams of two, the designers must create two cohesive looks using the contents of storage units.

Parameters: Each team has two days to work and $500 to use to bid on the storage bin(s) of their choice. There are five units and three teams, so at least one team will have more than one unit.

The first unit -- a pile of chairs and old furniture -- goes to Korina and Emily for the paltry sum of $25. The second unit is full of children's toys; Amanda sees a painting of a "psychadelic yeti" in the back and is determined to have it, so it's theirs for $190. The third bin, containing barely anything, goes to Sean and Char. Fourth unit: Lots of random stuff, including a wedding dress, so Emily and Korina snatch it up. The fifth container is lots of leather and random fishing and hunting gear. Sean and Char get it. The designers grab everything they can from their units and head back to the workroom.

Sean has to assist Char with a lot of the construction of their garments. Korina takes the opportunity to call her "dead weight," reiterating that she was already previously eliminated and that only people who know their basic skills should still be in the competition. Again: Foreshadowing.

Tim pops back in the workroom to announce a lil twist: Each team will create a third look that must be cohesive with the initial two. But this one must be made primarily of Mood fabric instead of materials from the storage unit. Amanda and Kini are thrilled, since they were struggling with a lack of fabric to begin with; Sean and Char aren't thrilled because they're pressed for time as it is.

There's a lot to cover this week, so let's jump straight to the runway, where our guest judge is none other than Season 4 champ and "Runway" success story Christian Siriano.

Look #1: Pink crop top with pants, Look #2: Soccer ball dress with fur coat, Look #3: Graphic top with full skirt
Amanda explains that they were going for an "American popstar in Tokyo" wardrobe, and the judges are into it, praising the reinvention of their materials (an ottoman, a painting, the soccer balls) and the creativity on display. They're all super impressed by the soccer ball dress. Zac gets a late-'80s/"Clueless" vibe from the looks, but it sounds like a compliment. Christian thinks this is precisely how young girls would dress. This collection comes out on top, and Kini gets another win.

Look #1: Quilted jacket, crop top, skirt, Look #2: Lampshade dress with racerback, Look #3: Black dress with sheer blue top
The most cohesive collection, which wins it some approval, but Christian sighs at the "been there, done that" cutouts-and-mesh theme. Zac calls Char's look a "walk of shame" dress, and he and Christian both chastise the lampshade dress for restricting the model's movements. The highlights are the coat, which Nina likes, and the bright blue racerback on the gown, which Heidi thinks is beautiful. But it's very safe, and as Heidi says, "Safe is not exciting." Sean is safe, but Char's on the bottom.

Look #1: High-necked cape with and skirt and hat, Look #2: Structured jacked with skirt, Look #3: Sweater with leather leggings
Emily describes this collection as "A Peruvian fashion photographer who's traveling to Helsinki to do a street style fashion shoot," which is...specific. Nina gets one of those scrunched-up looks of disapproval on her face as she clarifies that the sweater look is made of Mood fabrics. "There is nothing contemporary here," she says. She thinks everything looks dated. Heidi feels the concept was clearer and more innovative than Sean and Char's. Korina and Nina get into a bit of an Ice Queen standoff when Korina defends her looks as more wearable than Sean and Char's and Nina counters that her presentation is lacking regardless of wearability. Emily is safe. Korina's on the bottom.

Buuuut Heidi decides to throw a curveball: Korina and Char have one hour to design a look from the ground up, unrelated to this challenge, using leftover fabric from previous challenges. Sean and Emily will assist them. They get right to work and Korina is downright pissy, whining as she cuts and sews about the unfairness of this last-minute hurdle and what she feels is Char's comparative lack of talent. "The resentfulness that Korina is feeling is gonna show in her dress," Emily says, and she's right. Char's flowy blue dress could walk off the runway and into an event, while Korina's mod black-and-white dress looks slightly tortured. Also tortured: Korina's mood on the runway. She's defensive of her choices to a degree that clearly annoys the judges. Korina's out.

In the designer lounge, we're treated to more defensiveness and anger from Korina, who -- if it wasn't yet apparent -- does NOT feel she deserved to be eliminated before Char. She brings up, again, that Char was kicked off earlier in the season, but Char snaps back that five challenges later, she's still around. "Are you mad?" she asks Korina. OUCH. She starts to defend herself against Korina, who instead snaps, "Char, please. This isn't about you." She leaves to pack up her things without hugging anyone but Tim goodbye.

PHEW. I don't know about you, but I found this episode very stressful. How did you feel about the judging this week? Was it fair to pit Korina and Char against each other? Would Char's second look have been as successful without Sean's help? Did you think the original teams were balanced, or did someone get off easy? Which locker would have been the best to snag? Let me know what you're thinking in the comments.


Season 13, Episode 10: Muse on the Street

Posted By laurareineke 4:25am GMT

We're inching ever closer to Fashion Week, and the designers are hyperaware of it. They're starting to feel the pressure that comes from knowing that they really might be the next one auf'd. They file into the workroom, where Mary Kay Global Makeup Artist Luis Casco and Tim are waiting to outline the next challenge.

Challenge: Inspired by Mary Kay's campaign, "Discover what you love," the designers must make over a randomly selected muse.

Parameters: 30 minutes to find a model in Washington Square Park, another 30 minutes to talk and sketch with them. $200 budget to work with and -- gasp! -- two days to work. Their muses will also model the looks. The winner and his or her muse will be featured in a Mary Kay ad in Marie Claire.

I was a little peeved to see the designers find only young, relatively thin women to model for them, especially given the diversity that can usually be found in Washington Square Park. But they're in a competition and the closer they can stick to traditional model measurements, the better off they think they'll be. We'll see about that!

This week's design crises fall in the laps of Kini, who just seems to be in a rut, and Alexander, who...well. Tim comes around for critiques and seems frozen in place while assessing Alexander's dress, a high-waisted skirt and crop top combo made from amoeba-like shapes of black-and-gold honeycomb fabric placed on top of a hunter green and black plaid. "This is one of the most hideous garments I have ever seen in my entire existence," Tim says, mincing no words. "It is hideous. You've GOT to change this. You've got to." The rest of the designers sit in stunned silence while Alexander starts to panic. He decides to take Tim's advice and starts over on a new look.

Now that we've narrowed down the field, it's natural for everyone to get a little more shark-like about what they perceive their competitors' flaws to be, but Korina's the one getting the Cutthroat Mean Girl edit this season, so we're treated to a a nice supercut of her talkin' smack about her fellow designers. Add that to the ego boost she got (but didn't need) after winning a challenge and it's getting a little hard to root for her. Likability isn't the end-all on "Project Runway," but it IS important. Just ask Gretchen.

Anyway, right before the runway show, Char has a huge problem: The zipper on her look has totally fallen off, leaving her model's side exposed from armpit to hemline. Tim says that if it were a normal week with normal models, he would tell Char "It is what it is," but that it doesn't seem right or reasonable to ask an off-the-street muse to walk a runway half naked. So he takes the dilemma to the other designers: Would they object to Char receiving ten extra minutes of work time to add a new zipper?

The designers are taken aback enough that none of them argue and Char is able to make a quick fix. Afterward, they express their understandable annoyance. "We basically let another Tim Gunn Save happen for Char," Alexander says. Korina shrugs because she doesn't think Char's gonna win anyway.

Heidi and the judges are kept waiting while Char gets extra time, but Tim refuses to fill them in on the details before the runway show. Speaking of! Our guest judges for the week are actress Michelle Monaghan and model/TV host Asha Leo.

Korina The tweed-and-leather jacket earns raves, and the judges like that the skirt plays into her muse's dance background. Heidi at first thinks it looks a little too "'80s mall" but she comes around, and then there's nothing but love for this look, and Korina gets the win.

Kini - Zac, who saw Kini's denim work in his audition, praises him for bringing those skills back at this point of the competition. This look was Heidi's favorite because it looks like something a real woman would wear. As usual, his construction is impeccable, and the muse herself is very happy with the outcome. Kini is safe.

Emily - Emily's muse explains to the judges that she would wear this outfit to fit in at an art gallery opening, "or maybe be the highlight of the opening." I think this story helps edge Emily into the top, because while the judges are torn on the overall look -- it garners comparisons to an origami flamenco -- but they agree that it suits the client's wishes and needs. Nina also says it's the best technical work Emily's done so far. She's safe.

Amanda - Nina says that the general idea for her look was fine, but the execution was totally off. Asha describes it as "More clothes, less fashion." The length of the dress and the vest both come under fire. Amanda doesn't disagree with any of their criticisms. What goes unsaid: Amanda had two days to complete a look, and this is the best she could do? She's safe.

Char - The judges aren't into this. The only thing Heidi likes is the color. Zac calls it a tap dance costume. Nina criticizes the whole concept of putting a gradeschool teacher in an outfit like this one. The judges debate penalizing Char for the zipper fiasco, but in the end, she's safe.

Alexander - A real disaster. Even knowing that Alexander scrapped his original look doesn't compensate for the judges' picking up on his shoddy construction and tame, seen-it-before silhouette. Michelle notes that this muse had particularly interesting personal taste that Alexander could have done a lot with, but instead he played it very safe. Nina also takes issue with the summery silhouette clashing with the wintery fabric. The combination of bad fabric choice, bad construction, and bad concept seal Alexander's fate: He's out.

We're down to the Top 6, folks. How are you feeling? Do you think Char should've been allowed to fix her zipper? Do you think Tim would have allowed it if her model wasn't a "Real Woman"? Was Alexander's second look better or worse than his first? And who do you think is gonna win this thing? Seriously. I know you've got a frontrunner picked out. Let me know what you're thinking in the comments.


Season 13, Episode 9: American Girl Doll

Posted By laurareineke 4:04am GMT

The designers herd into the American Girl Place store in New York City and my ears immediately perk up. Like many late-'80s babies, I was SUPER into American Girl during my childhood. I had one of the make-your-own dolls who I named Tina and who I outfitted with random accessories from all the other characters' period-specific ensembles: Samantha's 1920s four-poster bed, Molly's '40s clothes, Felicity's horse ("Tina loves riding," my 8-year-old self reasoned), Kirstin's wash basin ("Tina loves to be clean"), and Addy's lunch pail ("Tina loves snacks"). My Tina was all over the place, aesthetically and conceptually. I loved her.

This is a long way of saying that I am very invested in this challenge.

Challenge: Paired with an American Girl Beforever character and model, the designers must incorporate the character's time period, style, and story into a modern and fashionable look for a young girl.

Parameters: American Girl is providing some fabrics that the designers are welcome to use if they want. $150 budget at Mood. One day to work.

Designing for children presents unique hurdles, especially in terms of proportion, but in some ways it's easier: There are fewer curves to tailor around, for example. Over lunch some of the designers compare their experience in this area and Emily, who has her own kids' line, seems to have an advantage. Tim's walkaround finds a lot of the designers in brow-furrowing moods over the direction for their looks. He's not at all excited about Char's plan to add fringe to her vest (neither does Sean, who won a challenge just a few weeks ago thanks to fringe), and he thinks Alexander might not be taking his look any further than Kids 'R Us standards. He also admits to Sandhya that he's not sure he can be of much help to her because he doesn't fundamentally understand a lot of her color relationships and choices. Since Sandhya usually just does whatever she wants, and since the judges have so far loved most of her work, there's little he can add to the conversation about it.

There's no drama with the models because they're very small and sweet, but Korina has to hustle a bit at the end to finish up her multicolored skirt panels. Let's move on to the runway. Our guest judges are "Mad Men" actress Elisabeth Moss and American Girl's senior design manager Heather Northrop. Away we go:

Kini - This one delights the judges. Heather likes that it connects to the character and she's complimentary of the mismatching plaids Kini chose. Elisabeth loves the cutouts. Zac thinks it's aspirational: "This is every young girl's dream." Kini gets the win, and this week he doesn't have to share it with anyone! Way to go, Kini.

Korina - This look read VERY "Jessie from 'Toy Story'" to me, but the judges are diggin' it, especially the graphic elements in the skirt and the smart pops of yellow underneath that are meant to reference the flower Josefina (the doll) wears in remembrance of her mother. Korina's safe.

Char - "If I saw Faith on the street, I would ask her where she got this," Elisabeth says. Nina thinks this is one of the most updated looks to walk the runway this week, but that unlike some of the others it still looks age-appropriate AND fun. "Easy" and "happy" are other adjectives thrown around. Char is safe.

Sean - Sean turns bright red when Heidi points out that the peace sign on the back of his vest is missing a leg. The panel doesn't hate this look, but their criticisms boil down to how thoroughly safe it is. Elisabeth would've liked to see a more interesting color, and Heather says that given how popular bohemian-esque style is with tweens these days, Sean could have had a lot more fun with the silhouette -- he probably should have used the fabric provided by American Girl instead of choosing his own. Our usual judges clearly like Sean so he's in no danger of getting the boot, but their pointed stares make it clear they expect more from him next week.

Emily - Heidi is on the fence: She thinks the iridescent ruffles look a little drab. Heather agrees and says the silhouette is too frumpy. Nina hops on board that train of thought and offers that for a tween, Emily's color choices seem sad. Lots of sad trombone sound effects, basically. Nina gets real cranky about this one, but the rest of the judges see enough good here to keep Emily around. She's safe.

Sandhya - The judges like this look...for a one-year-old. Nina says she feels like Sandhya was working off an entirely different challenge and that she should have designed something more age-appropriate. Zac agrees with Sandhya that kids should be kids, but that there's no avoiding the "circus flamingo" vibe this look gives off. The back-and-forth here is that the judges don't think a 9-year-old would want to wear this, ever, and Sandhya politely but firmly disagrees. She's out.

I found it interesting, though not unsurprising, that for this kids-based challenge the judges chose Kini's nice but very adult-seeming garment for the win instead of something like Char's, which was more playful and age appropriate. Also, as much as I've been a defender of Sandhya's work this season, I admit she was totally off the mark this week. Still though, sending her home instead of Emily felt a little...abrupt. What did you think? Could you see any of the young girls in your life wearing these clothes? Did Sandhya deserve the auf more than Emily? Did you have an American Girl doll? If so, please describe her for me in detail, and let me know what else you thought of this episode in the comments.


Season 13, Episode 8: The Rainway

Posted By laurareineke 4:55am GMT

After eons of evening wear, we're finally moving on to something a little different. Heidi and Tim, flanked by two of the new curved televisions from Samsung, are tickled to inform the designers that this will be an avant-garde challenge -- and that it'll have a major twist.

Challenge: Create an avant-garde look that is as innovative as the Samsung Curved Ultra HD TV that should inspire it and that, like the TV, is "a 'wow' from every angle." It should also push the boundaries of design, like the television. The looks will be modeled on a specialized rainy runway, so they must also be waterproof.

Parameters: $300 budget, two whole days to work (hallelujah). The designers will be given additional heavy-duty materials to elevate their designs. Korina has immunity.

The designers seem more excited than scared of the added rain element in this challenge, except Fade, who is uninspired. He struggles to come up with some flavor of unexpected design, but nothing's really gelling; everyone on "Runway" has their off days, and this is definitely Fade's, poor guy. Sandhya wants to build something based on the visual of the old colorful television test patterns. Emily is thinking "raincoat catsuit," which doesn't thrill me. When he does his walkthrough, Tim praises Kini's umbrella-esque design and steers him away from over-embellishing. Sean's got a boatload of boring white fabric but explains to Tim that he's going to sew in satchels of dye that will activate on the rainway to change the whole look of the garment. Pause for a slow clap, because that's the best idea I've heard all season. Amanda's garment is allegedly based on heiroglyphics and eyes, but Tim sees vagina imagery and I see an elegant bug lady at fancy bug ball. Korina's combining a lot of elements that look stellar in her sketch; that her final design barely resembles this early idea is a huge bummer.

Meanwhile, Fade isn't doing great. He gets the chance to call home along with Emily and Sandhya, but his call is distinctly more fraught than the others. He can barely get words out around his tears. I'm upset about this! Fade has been low-key all season, slow and steady and turning out interesting, consistent work, and it's no fun at all when his breed of reliable competitor gets unexpectedly emotional.

Let's move on to the rainway! Our guest judge is "Masters of Sex" actress Caitlin Fitzgerald.

Top Three
Sean - Sean's idea to use the rain to transform his look on the runway paid off in spades, and the judges are LOVING it. Nina is very excited about the waterproof crinoline Sean incorporated underneath the dyed layer. Zac admits he thought the color changing might be too gimmicky, but that seeing it in action convinced him otherwise. The chance that the coloring might have totally failed in execution also appeals to the judges; they love a risk. (No one points out that the design of the dress itself is not that interesting. Oh well.) Sean gets one half of a shared win.

Kini - The judges love that Kini heard "rain" and went with "umbrella." Heidi calls it avant garde, Caitlin calls it dominatrix, and both are intended as major compliments. Zac is VERY effusive with his praise: "You are so talented. You have such a skillful hand. You have great technique. It's a combination of Michelle Harper, a little McQueen in there -- it was so impactful when it came out. [...] You brought it today. Big time." You know how cartoon characters are given bulging heart eyes to show how head-over-heels they are? That was Zac's reaction to this look. Absolute hearteyes. Kini is awarded the other half of the shared win.

Sandhya - One of those instances in which I can't tell if the judges are responding to the look or to how easily the designer's unique personal aesthetic shines through in it. This look is VERY Sandhya. Nina thinks it's also very close to being too circus-y, but the whimsy of it seems to be enough to put Sandhya in the top. She's safe.

Bottom Three
Korina - She explains that her inspiration was the mythological thunderbird whose powerful wings create thunder but the judges don't feel the look is very powerful at all. Nina thinks it had potential, but seems unfinished, a sentiment echoed by the rest of the panel. The black dress is too random, the sort of harness-y over-layer too flimsy. Not great, but Korina's got immunity, so she's safe.

Emily - Emily tried for armor but didn't totally succeed. This look got some of the same criticisms Korina's did: Too flimsy, too derivative, too little cohesion. Nina says it's dated, and she and Zac both call it cliche. Not Emily's best moment, but she's safe.

Fade - "Putting a play button on your dress doesn't necessarily make it look modern or tech-y. It makes it look gimmicky." That quote from Nina really sums this one up. Caitlin says she misses the relationship with the rain that the other looks had. This one bores them, so Fade is out.

Onward we march, one less designer in tow. I'll miss Fade, but Sean and Kini really kicked it up a notch this week and I'm excited to see where they go from here. How did you feel about the challenge and their shared win? Do you think immunity was the only thing saving Korina from the auf? If you could design your own element-based runway, what would you choose? (I think I'd do a whole obstacle course. Why not get weird, right?) Let me know in the comments.


Season 13, Episode 7: Priceless Runway

Posted By laurareineke 4:55am GMT

After mourning Char's elimination, the designers head to the runway, where they're greeted by Tim and Chopard co-president/artistic director Caroline Scheufele. The pair introduce the designers to an array of outlandishly expensive jewelry -- necklaces, rings, earrings, a watch -- on which their next challenge is based.

Challenge: Create an extravagant eveningwear look that is inspired by, and also complements, one or more pieces of Chopard jewelry. The models will wear the jewelry on the runway.

Parameters: One day, $250 budget. Designers will choose the jewelry in a button-bag-determined order. Sean has immunity.

Remember my prediction that Tim would end up using his Tim Gunn Save on Fade? Yeah, just kidding about that. After a few hours of introspection following the previous elimination, Tim decides he wants to bring Char back from the "Runway" grave. The other designers welcome her back with open arms until they realize, oops, this means there are no Tim Gunn Saves left to save them down the line. Too real.

After downshifting from Designer-Saver Mode, Tim goes into Chaperone Mode to take the designers on a field trip to the Charles James exhibition at the Met. The exhibition showcases the legendary couturier's intricate, extravagant gowns and gives visitors an understanding of how those gowns were constructed from the inside out, which seems to drum up a lot of ideas for our designers.

There's a lot less interpersonal drama this week and a lot more design-related problems, which is a nice change. For once Kini's construction doesn't come off without a hitch; he struggles with the neoprene fabric he chose, for some reason, to use. Tim suggests to Amanda that she alter her style lines to look less harlequin, and he suggests to Char that she stay away from anything too prim and bridal. "Charketa, you have to promise me you're gonna get through this challenge," he says pointedly. Tim made an investment and he wants to see some return! The seaming on Korina's coat comes under fire -- it's off by about half an inch, doesn't look great -- so she has to reevaluate. Sean contemplates adding shoulder pads to the hips underneath his dress? For some reason? He changes his mind, thank goodness. Meanwhile, Tim calls out Samantha's boring design (so does Amanda: "Samantha's dress is an elegant snoozefest," she says), but Samantha just seems pleased she's able to make eveningwear in the first place. She admits that her background in streetwear separates is impeding her a bit here.

Let's go to the runwaaaay:

Let's go to the runwaaaay:

Korina - The panel is enamored of this look, head to toe. Zac calls it "Deeda Blair meets Dracula" and tells Korina it's her best work so far. The contrast of the dark, glittery necklace on the dark fabric is a selling point, as is the strength of the dress even without the coat on over top of it. There's a transporting quality to the garment: The judges feel moved and inspired just looking at it. Korina gets her first win of the season.

Sean - Sean says this is meant for a young royal, and the judges agree that it's appropriately elegant. Nina's into the color and the luxe velvet accents. Heidi and Zac are impressed by how nicely the dress balances out what could easily be an overwhelming amount of jewelry. Caroline says this is the kind of look Chopard would be eager to feature on the cover of their catalogue.

Amanda - It should probably not be a surprise that the judges are into this jumpsuit look (they've been into Amanda's stuff all season), but...I'm kinda surprised, especially considering it's sort of a redo of a look she sent down the runway earlier this season. Zac is the only one to voice his concern that it would wind up on a Worst Dressed list. The compliments are on the tepid side, but Amanda's in.

Kini - This one gets mixed reviews. The panel likes the incorporation of sheer fabric, Heidi compliments the movement, Nina likes the styling. But no one understands why the breast cups are so ill-fitting. Actually, that's not true. They understand why -- it's the fault of the neoprene fabric -- but it seems uncharacteristic of Kini to create something with less than impeccable construction. He's safe.

Alexander - Zac immediately points out that he can't see the jewelry because it's hidden underneath the gown's neckline. That's strike one. Strikes two and three are the fabric choice ("tortured") and the silhouette ("Princess Grace stuck in the spin cycle of the washing machine"). But it's visually interesting, and Alexander's done good work in the past, so he's safe.

Samantha - The critique lacks substance because the judges feel the dress lacks substance. Heidi bemoans the utter lack of interest in the look, while Nina calls it a dress for a star's assistant, not a star. "This is like the white t-shirt of long dresses," she sighs. The lack of compelling Design-with-a-capital-D lands Samantha on the chopping block and eventually knocks her out entirely. Being boring at this point in the game is the worst offense.

We're down to nine designers, one more challenge with immunity on the table, and no more Tim Gunn Saves. Do you think any designers will start to pull ahead as the work gets tougher and the field narrower? Who are you rallying behind at this point in the competition? And if you got your pick of all those Chopard gems, which would you wear? (I want that watch, to be honest.) Let me know in the comments!


RIP Joan Rivers

Posted By kim_messina 5:07pm GMT

Heaven just got funnier. Legendary comedienne Joan Rivers passed away this afternoon due to complications from throat surgery. Her daughter, Melissa Rivers, said in a statement: "It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother. She passed peacefully at 1:17 p.m. surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother."

The statement further read: "Cooper and I have found ourselves humbled by the outpouring of love, support, and prayers we have received from around the world. They have been heard and appreciated. My mother's greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon."

On Season 11, Episode 6, "Senior Fling," Joan's classic fashion critiques had us cracking up. Take a look:

Watch Joan's full episode here.

Our thoughts are with Joan's family—she will be missed. Leave your condolences below.