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Newly-crowned "Project Runway" Season 11 winner Michelle Lesniak Franklin took some time to talk with me about her experience on the show, her "do or die" moment and her reaction to being called a "mean girl." Check out the full interview after the cut, and don't forget to tune in for the Season 11 Reunion Special on Thursday at 9.8c.
This recapthe last of the season!is brought to you by the sight of Patricia and her kids taking a time-out for an adorable, giggly shimmy-dance in the workroom. It put a big smile on my face.
We see the usual flurry of workroom activity at the start of this episode. Stanley, who found himself in the bottom last week, knows that he needs to hem and style his way back into the judges' good graces. Patricia is "under the gun" to give her collection some cohesion. Michelle has to re-tool her models' hair and makeup. The trio is granted $500 and one last trip to Mood, plus more time with their sewing assistants (Amanda, Richard, and Layana), PLUS a special visit from their family members for a pre-runway morale boost. Interestingly, the designers are not given any last-minute challenges, twists, or rule changes to deal with. To be fair, the first episode's introductory surprise of the team challenge conceit was enough of a twist/challenge/rule change to last a lifetime.
The big conflict this episode stems from Stanley's under-preparedness, or rather the juxtaposition of this flustered Stanley with the strict, detail-oriented time manager he appeared to be during the rest of the season. It's not totally clear if his struggles to finish garments in time is the result of poor time management during the collection-building hiatus, or if the judges demands for a younger, hipper vibe proved too overwhelming in the lead-up to the runway show. Either way, he really has to scramble to make things presentable for Fashion Week. The stress just radiates off him, and he notes a few times that he feels like he might be sick. Tim, Michelle and Patricia all individually express concern that Stanley might not present a finished collection.
But with the help of a small army of sewing assistants (and a patient stage manager), Stanley turns it out, and we finally get a full look at what he and his fellow finalists have put together. It's Fashion Week! [insert dramatic music here]
(By the way: Mr. Michael Kors is back as our finale guest judge. I've enjoyed watching Zac Posen get more comfortable in his judging role, but if I had my way both Zac and Michael would be regulars on the panel.)
Michelle - The first collection to walk. Michelle's looks expand on the casual-but-tough attitude she presented in her capsule collection last week. Lots of quilted fabrics, leather details, belts and studs, shown alongside knits (like a "bleeding heart" sweater) and more flirty paneled dresses.
Michael Kors doesn't love her closing gown"You're talking to a guy who LIVES for heavy fabrics, but [it's like] a cardboard box walking"and he and Zac dislike her inclusion of chiffon ties in some looks. Heidi likes the lone-wolf story behind the collection, as well as its cohesion, and Nina likes that everything is wearable and clean. All of the judges can picture young celebrities gravitating toward this collection, and they all feel that Michelle really represented her point of view.
Patricia - This tree-inspired collection walks second, opening with a pink embroidered silk dress, moving into a variety of handmade fabrics, flowy printed scarves, chunky jewelry, sequins and mushroom-y headpieces, ending with the blue dress she showed the judges last episode.
Each judge seems to be drawn to a different look from this collection, but they all praise Patricia's work with textiles and her out-there ideas. Zac and Heidi love her more forward-thinking looks, like the leather hole-punch pants. Nina (again) says that she wishes Patricia could clean up her aesthetic into a slightly more refined package.
Stanley - "Urban Opulence" opens with a chic black pant and detailed jacket. It's followed by lots of rich textures and expensive-looking fabrics, including a strapless brocade mini and a gold belted coatdress.
Michael Kors has a lot of words for Stanley's closing gown, including "Betty White on 'Dancing With The Stars'" and [his classic] "Holly Hobby" (and he hilariously calls the multi-finger ring "an appetite suppressant"). Zac calls out Stanley's old-feeling mix of fabric; Heidi questions some of his shoddy hemlines. Nina reiterates that Stanley's excellent pieces are dragged down by his dated styling choices. Zac also notes that Stanley's stubbornness really got in his way in designing and executing this final collection.
The judges spend quite a bit of time deliberating. Should the winner of "Project Runway" be a designer with a modern, borderline over-designed sensibility (Michelle); someone with ideas that are innovative, if at times inconsistent (Patricia); or someone who designs beautiful but utterly staid pieces (Stanley)?
After a long discussion, they choose Michelle as the winner. I'm behind that decision 100 percent. From my spot at the Fashion Week runway show (where her work got a very vocal response from the "Runway" alumni in attendance), her collection was exciting, cohesive, and totally wearable, not to mention fully representative of her personal taste and aesthetic. Plus, it was constructed well! What more do you want from a "Runway" victor?
Seriously, I'm asking. What more do you want? What do you think of Michelle as the winner of "Project Runway" Season 11? What looks from each collection stood out to you? Do you think our final three would have made it this far in a non-team season? Let me know in the comments.
"Project Runway" Season 12 is underway! Here's a look at Marie Claire's Katie Connor, Tim Gunn (!) and PR alum Seth Aaron Henderson at the casting table in Seattle.
There will be an open casting call in New York City on April 24 from 10:00 to 4:00 at the Hilton New York, Concourse C. For more details, click here.
Which city do you think will have the best designers? Sound off below!
We're down to the Final Four: Stanley, Patricia, Michelle and Daniel. Heidi and Tim sternly remind the designers that "now is not the time to rest on your laurels," and that "any one of you could win this"! The four each receive $10,000 to create a 12-look collection for Fall 2013. They'll show three looks each to the judges, who will then choose three designers to show full collections at Fashion Week. And with that, they head home to detox from the cameras and get to work.
It's time for home visits! Tim heads out on a cross-country trip to check in on the final four and critique their collections. In Taos, NM, Tim meets Patricia's family. "People enjoy our celebration [of] our culture," Patricia explains, "but then they don't want to be intrusive, so that's what made me think of [making] contemporary clothing." In her (huge!) studio, she presents Tim with the seeds of her collection; his advice is for her to back off from her more literal tendencies. Stay away from the arts and crafts, Patricia!
Tim jets off to Portland for a meal with Michelle's husband, brother and parents. He confesses to speaking on Michelle's behalf after a few "dicey moments" with the judges. She shows off the beginnings of a wolf-inspired, dark-hued collection, to which Tim responds favorably. "Just don't over-design!" he whispers on his way out the door.
Time for Daniel, whose hair has grown out like a Chia Pet. In his Austin studio Daniel describes the melting pot of inspiration for his collection: the cosmos, astronomy, Salvador Dali and surrealism, and his trip to Berlin. Tim seems to dig a lot of what Daniel has put together, but he also has a viscerally negative reaction to many of Daniel's other ideas. Which is...probably not good.
On to West Hollywood, where Stanley is putting together a very dramatic, opulent group of garments that Tim cautions must be edited well in order to be effective. The only problem Tim really has is with a discordant orange dress that Stanley agrees to get rid of. Over lunch with Stanley's partner and niece, Tim tells him that the other designers see Stanley as a force to be reckoned with.
Back in NYC and back in the workroom, the designers unload their collections and get to work making adjustments and finishing things up, with special help from Amanda, Richard, Layana and Samantha. The rest of the episode is a lot of busy-busy workroom stuff. Tim comes in to critique again. Michelle notes that Stanley has an enormous amount of work left to do and very little time in which to do it. Layana and Samantha gossip about the uneven quality of Patricia's looks. But let's get right to the runway!
Michelle - I confess that Michelle's aesthetic is right up my alley, but even if it wasn't I think I'd approve of these pieces. They demonstrate an attention to detail and cohesion that wasn't totally apparent in Michelle's earlier work this season. The judges compliment the mini-collection's wearability and the incorporation of different fabrics, but Nina asks that Michelle refrain from adding too many unnecessary details, namely the messenger bags and the compasses. Heidi also hints that she'd like to see more color. Michelle easily moves on to Fashion Week.
Patricia - I was very curious to see what Patricia would produce with more time and fewer constraints. The horsehair cape with leather pants is a total knockout, and might be my favorite thing that Patricia's ever sent down the runway. But that grey dress with the gaudy necklace and scarf is horribly misguided, and the sequined blue dress is one of those divisive looks that can make or break a runway show. The judges go back and forth, acknowledging the merit of Patricia's artisanal techniques but hesitating over the thought of her sending out a collection that lacks cohesion and maturity. But they err on the side of generosity, and Patricia moves forward.
Stanley - Stanley's interest in and skill with luxe, ornate fabrics are his saving grace after showing these otherwise "blah" looks. Zac and Nina both decry the proportions and the dated styling, with Zac taking a moment to call Stanley out specifically for not producing anything more interesting in his time away from the show. "Chic banal," Zac calls these looks, and the other judges seem to agree. But Stanley's done too well this season (and impressed the judges too often) not to move on, so he's confirmed for Fashion Week as well.
Daniel - These looks are a far cry from the white, red, black and light blue ensembles we saw in his studio space at home. Heeding some of Tim's advice about staying away from unexciting colors, Daniel chooses to emphasize his use of stingray. But showing three all-black ensembles that mirror work you've done before is certainly not the way to convince the judges that you belong at Fashion Week. The judges are bored, and Daniel is auf'd.
Here we go! Off to the final runway show of Season 11. How do you feel about the final three? Who of the eliminated designers do you wish would have made it this far? Were you as bored by Stanley and Daniel's capsule collections tonight as I was? And based off what we saw in this episode, whose collection will come out on top next week? Let me know in the comments.
This recap is brought to you by Stanley's confession that as a little boy, he wanted to be a vampire. I am not at all surprised by this.
We ended the last challenge on a weird note. Michelle was on the verge of elimination until a last-minute reprieve from the judges, and now we see the follow-up to their "You have one last chance!" threat. Heidi and Tim meet the designers on the runway to explain that for this challenge, they'll be creating high-end runway looks with a budget of $1000...and finding inspiration and fabrics in Europe.
Unlike in previous seasons, when the whole gang would pack up for the same exotic locale, each of our final five is headed to a different fashion capital. They'll be accompanied by an eliminated designer acting as travel buddy/sewing assistant. I can't remember another season in which auf'd designers were called upon for help so often, so I'm glad Amanda, Richard, Samantha and Kate were given a bit of a reward in the form of a super-quick Europe trip.
The tickets are dispensed: Layana to Barcelona, Patricia to Paris, Daniel to Berlin, Stanley to London...and Michelle to good ol' New York City, where she'll have to atone for her sins in the previous challenge. Womp womp. She handles this disappointment with an understandable mix of resignation, bitterness, and turning-lemons-into-lemonade enthusiasm.
Watching the rest of the group gleefully jaunt around Europe is refreshing. They seem excited and inspired, and the shenanigans they get intotrying to buy fabric on a steep exchange rate; finding iconic spots in which to sketch and discussmake for a nice change of pace, not to mention a nice change of scenery. And later on in the episode, the judges (including guest judge John Legend) have an interesting discussion about art vs. fashion while debating which contestants should get to move forward. But sandwiched in between is some intense workroom time and a very solid runway show. Let's talk about the looks:
Stanley - "A woman tucked away inside the dark, dramatic Tower of London" is essentially Stanley's story behind this garment. It's not a flashy look, but the judges love the pop of sequins lining the dress, and Stanley gets compliments on the sleek capelet.
Michelle - On her NYC sightseeing tour, Michelle spots the patterns left on the sides of many buildings from old fireplaces and chimneys and incorporates those ideas into a quilted patent leather harness/breastplate and a strapless cashmere-wool dress. Heidi dislikes the messy quality of the dress hemline ("It looks like a dirty horse blankie," HAH), but otherwise the judges are impressed.
Daniel - A geometric, modern building inspires Daniel in Berlin, and Amanda encourages him to work that into a design for a hipper woman. The result is classic Danielstructured jacket, black dressbut with a more current sensibility than he's known for. The judges love it, and unanimously praise the way the look evokes the city to which Daniel was sent.
Patricia - I like Patricia's intention to emulate the rougher edge of Paris, rather than the uber-romantic ideal many of us are used to, and I'm surprised that this lookone of the more accessible pieces she's ever donedoesn't get a better reception from the judges. Nina is underwhelmed at the oddity of it ("It looks like a collage you put together with paper-mache") and John Legend dislikes the lack of the character in the slacks. Heidi likes it, though. (Patricia is really becoming a point of contention between Nina and Heidi, which could prove interesting as we head into the end of the season.)
Layana - It might've been best for Layana to avoid mentioning that she was inspired by older architecture in Barcelona because the judges latch on to "old" as their primary issue with this look. I am so into the print and piping on the coat, but the judges rightfully call Layana out for its matronly length and the ridiculous sleeves. But Layana isn't phased: She loves her work.
Heidi asks, as she does every season, why each designer feels he or she should go to Fashion Week, and which other designers should accompany them. Michelle and Stanley get the most love here, and combined with their solid work in this challenge, they're shoo-ins. (Stanley gets the challenge win.) Daniel and Patricia are also picked to move on, leaving Layana to be eliminated.
Which look was your favorite? Which do you think best encapsulated the city that inspired it? How are you feeling about the final four? Let me know in the comments.
This recap is brought to you by the looks of elation from the remaining five designers when they're told that they'll finally be responsible for producing looks ON THEIR OWN. So long, teams. It was nice knowing you.
Tim takes the designers to the headquarters of Hearst publishing in midtown Manhattanthe camera doesn't do justice to the building's beautiful geometric lobby/commissary space; it's really beautifulwhere they meet up with this week's client, Nina Garcia. She explains their task: Create a fashion-forward editorial look to be worn by Jordana Brewster in a fashion story in the May 2013 issue of Marie Claire.
And, being Nina, she is quick to list what she doesn't want. No red carpet looks. No gowns. No t-shirts, no pants. "Do not disappoint me! Do not embarrass me!" Also, "the look needs to be bold in the color, in the shape, in the print, in the silhouette, in something, because that's what editors will want to photograph." Nina is nothing if not consistent in her preference for clean, eye-catching editorial looks, so any designer worth his or her salt should know exactly what marks to hit to do well in this challenge.
After a flurry of fabric purchasing at Mood, the designers meet back at the workroom, where the button bag pairs them off with eliminated designers who will act as helpful seamstresses. "Helpful" is the goal here, but let's be real: This is a pool of uneven talent. Stanley snags Tu (who was more or less a glorified seamstress for Kate earlier in the season), Michelle giddily chooses to work with Amanda, Daniel claims Samantha and Layana picks Kate, leaving poor Patricia with Richard just one challenge after their hot mess of a partnership got Richard auf'd.
The workroom is comprised of exactly the shenanigans you'd expect. Patricia struggles with her design and with explaining herself to Richard. Stanley is understandably but obnoxiously bossy in his interactions with Tu. Michelle and Amanda work together well...but no one stops Michelle as she barrels forward with her design of a crop top and olive green pants. Nina's cry of, "No t-shirts, no pants!" echoes it my head right about now.
Stanley - Essentially built for Nina's approval, Stanley thought of everything with this design. It's flattering for Jordana (he even styled his model to look like hersmart move); it's made of three pieces that the photographer and stylist could swap in or out; it looks clean and appropriate for a Marie Claire reader's taste and age. He gets the win.
Layana - The color is eerily reminiscent of Kate's ill-fated duct tape prom gown, but this look screams Layana. The judges respond to her use of leather and hardware in the architectural "armor" top. She's safe.
Daniel - My favorite moment of the episode comes when Daniel's look walks the runway and the camera cuts to Layana, who sort of mumbles "Ohhh..." and looks away akwardly. That's how I feel about this look. It's so very Daniel, with its structured shoulders and bright color, but his is a shtick that I'm tiring of quickly. It's an eye-catching look, sure, but very Easter-y, and it's nothing we haven't seen from him before.
Patricia - If this design had been sent out at this point in the competition in any other season by any other designer, I think the judges would have eviscerated it. Zac and Jordana think that it looks unfinished, Nina doesn't like the shape, Heidi calls it "borderline Pocahontas". I just think it looks juvenile and a little cheap. I understand the judges' fondness for Patricia and for her unique perspectiveI share it, and I know many of you do, toobut c'mon.
Michelle - I love this look. The color and cut of the pants, the use of sheer fabric, the asymmetrical top; it all really works for me. But the judges are rightfully horrified by how wrong it is for the challenge parameters. Nina said VERY SPECIFICALLY that she didn't want a top and pants. I find it hard to believe that Michelle didn't hear that VERY SPECIFIC directive, but I also don't think she's egotistical enough to balatantly violate Nina's rules and then feign ignorance about it. Regardless, the judges find the look too plain for an editorial and throw her on the bottom.
The looks of utter shock exchanged between Daniel, Stanley and Layana after Patricia is declared safe sum up the ridiculousness of the judging. Thankfully, Michelle is barely spared elimination by a twist that we have to wait until next week to hear more about. Do you think she should have gone home? Should Patricia? What do you think is in store for Michelle next week? Which look do you think would have fit best in the pages of Marie Claire? Let me know in the comments.
This blog is brought to you by Stanley's "WOWWEEE" reaction to the finished product of his print design. I don't think I've seen him that excited all season.
The designers meet Tim Gunn at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum, where they're paired off in new teams (Stanley and Michelle, Patricia and Richard, Layana and Daniel). Their objective to design a fabric inspired by the art of the Guggenheim that will be utilized in two looks: One must be "a work of wearable art" while the other should be a more commercial, ready-to-wear piece. The HP + Intel fabric challenge has been a highlight of the past few "Runway" seasons, and incorporating that with inspiration from fine art is intriguing. I'm so bummed Samantha was eliminated last week! I think she would've done something awesome here.
Our top six wander the museum taking pictures and sketching. Aside from immediately agreeing that Richard should work on the commercial look, he and Patricia don't seem to be able (or willing) to communicate their inspiration or ideas to each other at all. Their struggle continues throughout the episode and it's sort of painful to watch. Forget that they're not on the same wavelengthit's like they're not even speaking the same language. Tim accuses Richard of trying to pawn off responsibility for their designs on Patricia should things go wrong. Patricia keeps calling Richard "Daniel." Richard spends tons of time fiddling with a bracelet instead of designing something real. No one comes off well.
Across the workroom, Stanley and Michelle make a great pair. I've been thinking for a few weeks now that their work habits and visual styles are complementary, so it's nice to see them have some genuine excitement for their groupwork. Layana and Daniel, meanwhile, struggle with Layana's creative block. Daniel makes some wan attempts to pump up her ego, which is certainly generous since that Layana can't be bothered to set aside more than a yard of their fabric for his commercial look.
Rachel Roy fills in again for Mr. Posen this week, and our guest judge is designer Tracy Reese (of whom I'm a huge fanher work with patterns is awesome). Let's talk about the runway show!
Daniel - Sleek, sexy, modern, but a bit yawn-worthy coming from Daniel at this point in the season, no? I'm surprised that the judges are so taken with the look. We've seen him build great jackets with tailored shoulders throughout the competition. This didn't strike me as being new or fresh.
Layana - A bit flowery and overwrought. Nina compares it to a period piece; Rachel Roy says it's a "mix of Scarlett O'Hara and a Barbie doll." Layana doesn't exactly jump to defend her dress, either, so it's kind of a wash.
Michelle - I think Michelle's overcoat is great, especially with the painting detail on the train. I also love the styling. Stanley was right to edit out Michelle's crazy hat in favor of the less literal headpiece. The judges are really into this look.
Stanley - I adore the print, and Stanley's choice of silhouette is perfectly executed. The judges give Stanley the win (and the $10,000 prize).
Patricia - Her elaborate handmade textile work is again a thing to be admired, but I don't have any real response to this piece. The judges admire her effort, though Nina (predictably) takes issue with the veil.
Richard - Just a hot mess, and nowhere near the level of work one expects from a designer in the top six. Richard rolled over and died in this challenge, and the judges are quick to send him auf.
I definitely think it was Richard's time to go. Whose look was your favorite? Which pair of garments do you think best met the challenge requirements? Was Stanley more deserving of the win than Michelle? Let me know in the comments.
Next week: A celebrity editorial look, and the return of Tu!
Lord & Taylor announces the exclusive launch of the first ever collection from Dmitry Sholokhov, winner of "Project Runway's" Season 10. The collection of eight cocktail and evening dresses is exclusive to the retailer and will be available March 30. The collection offers versatile dresses for the contemporary woman and features details that have become signature to Dmitry's design aesthetic, such as peplum and cut out styles with strategic darting. The dresses are available in key spring colors including gold, ivory, blush, teal, classic black in satin crepe, stretch knit and embroidered lace. The entire collection retails for $259-$329 and will be available in select Lord & Taylor stores, including the Fifth Avenue Flagship, and on lordandtaylor.com.
Lord & Taylor will host Dmitry for the launch of the collection at its Fifth Avenue flagship store on Thursday, April 4 from 6-8 pm. Dmitry will meet with customers and sign sketches of the collection.
"Project Runway" Season 9 champion Anya Ayoung-Chee has teamed up with cause-supporting retailer Able Made on an exclusive silk scarf design now available for purchase. An illustration by Singaporean artist Anwar Rafiee was the inspiration for the scarf, which combines the figures of Masai warriors with a poem celebrating the strength and beauty of the Masai people. "As soon as I saw the Masai warrior," Anya said, "I knew I wanted to use it for one of my designs, because she exudes an energy and vibe that I love to show through my clothes."
Purchasing the 100%-silk scarf helps to support the TallMan Foundation, which aims to provide access to the arts for those in under-served communities, especially young men who might otherwise have difficulty discovering their creative potential.
The scarf can be styled in multiple ways and would make a great addition to any spring wardrobe. You can pre-order yours at Able Made. The full text of the poem is below:
A Tale of a Warrior Masai
Journeyed from the land of Singapore
Joined arms with Trinidadian Pioneer
Bearing badges of Strength and Regal Beauty
Would now set foot upon paths untraveled
To defend a cause of honor and pride
Crafted by the hands of Anwar
Brought to Life by Anya
The beauty of this creation
Brings forth a Tall offering
For the innovation of Man.
Michelle Lesniak Franklin was the "clear winner" during last night's Lord & Taylor challenge. "I knew I was going to win the minute I dressed my model," Michelle says. "It was so different than everybody else's and it fit numerous types of people."
And now her chartreuse shift dress is available at Lord & Taylor stores and online! Click here to buy the dress online.