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12
FRI

Eurotrip(s)

Posted By laurareineke 4:34am GMT

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 into—trying to buy fabric on a steep exchange rate; finding iconic spots in which to sketch and discuss—make 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 Daniel—structured jacket, black dress—but 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 look—one of the more accessible pieces she's ever done—doesn'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.

05
FRI

Editorialize This

Posted By laurareineke 4:11am GMT

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 Manhattan—the camera doesn't do justice to the building's beautiful geometric lobby/commissary space; it's really beautiful—where 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 her—smart 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 perspective—I share it, and I know many of you do, too—but 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.

29
FRI

Make It Work (Like A Work of Art)

Posted By laurareineke 4:04am GMT

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 wavelength—it'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 fan—her 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!

28
THU

Season 10 Winner Dmitry Sholokhov to Launch Debut Collection at Lord & Taylor

Posted By kim_messina 10:49am GMT

Dmitry Sholokhov Debut Collection

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.

26
TUE

Check Out Anya Ayoung-Chee's Exclusive Silk Scarf for Able Made

Posted By laurareineke 5:59pm GMT

"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.

22
FRI

Michelle's Winning Spring Dress Available Now!

Posted By kim_messina 11:25am GMT

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.

22
FRI

A Rose By Any Other Design Would Smell Just as Sweet

Posted By kim_messina 4:25am GMT

As much as I'll miss the hunks from Thunder From Down Under, I think we can all let out a sigh of relief because that disaster of a challenge is over. But as it became clear through out this episode, the designers were not quite ready to see past it. (I'm talking to you, Richard.)

It's the Lord & Taylor challenge! Besides the HP challenge (Next week!), this is always my favorite challenge because it gives us, the loyal "Project Runway" fans, a chance to actually purchase the winning design. But more on that later…

I really feel for the designers. At this point of the competition, they are sleep deprived, haven't seen their families for weeks and are so close, yet so far from being crowned the winner. And you can just see the look of despair on their faces each time Tim tells them they have "some business to take care." I don't know what's better anymore—having the judges pick the teams or the button bag. This week the teams were at the mercy of the judges again, dividing last week's teams into pairs with one trio: Stanley and Patricia, Daniel and Michelle, and Richard, Layana and Samantha.

After the usual drill of sketching (This week's inspiration: the Lord & Taylor rose) and Mood (Hi, Swatch!), it was on to 1407 for what should have been a relatively quiet day in the workroom since each person had their own design to worry about. I believe Stanley said in the beginning of the episode that it was going to be, "no drama day." He was wrong. In fact, he was the source of a good amount of drama!

If you were to ask me in the beginning of the season who would be one of the first ones to go, I would have said Patricia solely based on the fact that she typically has unconventional ideas, especially when it comes to textiles. But if there is one thing I've learned over the years, when it comes to PR, there is never a clear winner or loser at the beginning of the competition. And I must admit, Patricia has really won me over. It's a shame Stanley didn't feel the same way! Bless her heart. I would have gone total New Jersey on Stanley's @$$ if he badgered me as much as he did to Patricia. I get it Stanley, you don't like to lose, but leave her alone!

But Stanley's whining was nothing compared to the silent treatment that Richard was giving Layana. Get over yourself, dude. It's a competition—at some point, the claws will come out. I'm glad Layana didn't stoop to his level, but I would have also loved to have seen a full-on confrontation. That girl is a sassy one.

While Michelle and Daniel didn't have any drama, per se, but that pink fabric was a major sore spot for them. I'm team Michelle on this one (I hate pink). However, I do support Daniel's mantra, "Happy clothes for happy people." I do not support his tears over deconstructing his jacket. That was all a little to soap opera for me.

It was nice to see Rachel Roy back on the judges panel. She's a PR judge A-lister at this point! And as always, Bonnie Brooks brought an element of class and poise. She's pretty fab.

The looks:
-Patricia: The colors of her outfit look like sherbet to me. I'm not a huge fan of capri pants, but I thought the flowy top was beautiful. I loved the opening in the back. It's not my favorite design of hers, but it was definitely good enough to keep her safe.
-Stanley: Snore. Boring shift dress. Next.
-Michelle: Obsessed. As Heidi said, she was definitely the clear winner. Great color and the leather detail was the perfect touch. I agree with Rachel when she pointed out you could tell that Michelle really took into account what would look good on women of shapes and sizes. I'm literally running to Lord & Taylor tomorrow to buy the dress.
-Daniel: Also another boring dress. I'm just over these simple dresses. It's spring—have some fun! I kinda wish he stuck with the shorts idea. It would have looked dated with the "Joan Collins" blazer he made (RIP), but at least it wouldn't have been boring.
-Layana: I'm a sucker for a good maxi dress. Unlike Heidi, I actually liked the fabric. I do wish, however, she used a lighter fabric than leather for the accents. It was too much of a "hard and soft" contrast for me.
-Richard: OMG, guys! He designed a jersey dress just like the one he did for the senior fling! Gasp. He should have been sent home this week. Richard's been given one too many chances, if you ask me. Not that his dress was bad, it just lacked creativity.
-Samantha: Sammy B, what happened?! I 100 percent get that she wanted to design for the younger L&T audience, but this dress could have easily been sold at Forever 21 or H&M. Too much frill, the heart cutout was excessive and the colors screamed middle school dance. auf Wiedersehen.

19
TUE

Meet Michelle Lesniak Franklin in NYC!

Posted By kim_messina 10:41am GMT

LORD & TAYLOR TO HOST "PROJECT RUNWAY" DESIGNER MICHELLE LESNIAK FRANKLIN

WHAT: Lord & Taylor will host "Project Runway" Season 11 designer, Michelle Lesniak Franklin, at its Fifth Avenue flagship store. Franklin will meet with customers and sign sketches of her design from the show.

WHO: Lord & Taylor, Michelle Lesniak Franklin

WHERE: Lord & Taylor, 424 Fifth Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY

WHEN: Friday, March 22, 12:30-2 pm

HOW: This is a public event and customers are invited to attend.

15
FRI

Menswear Thunderdome

Posted By laurareineke 4:55am GMT

This recap is brought to you by Nina's laugh attack. I can't blame her for falling to pieces at this week's utter mess of a runway show, but it was still disconcerting to see the usually-composed judge lose it.

After the surprising double elimination last week, the judges decide to handle the teams shake-up themselves. They place Richard, Layana, Amanda and Samantha on one team, while Stanley, Patricia, Michelle and Daniel make up another. The teams pick new names, too, but they're no improvement from the terrible names earlier this season: Team Slick and Hip and Team Shades of Grey.

This week's clients are the beautiful buff men from Thunder From Down Under, an all-male revue that's essentially the Australian version of Chippendales. (Their website cheekily bills their show as "The ultimate girls' night outback." Wordplay!) The dudes are in need of new outfits for their opening act. "One of the elements must be a suit," says head Thunderer Alex. "The looks need to be suave, sophisticated, and masculine, but overall, flexible and sturdy." Each team will create three full cohesive looks.

There's a lot of drama this week as the ladies of Team Slick and Hip butt up against Richard's growing attitude and his Vegas-y aesthetic. Over on Team Shades of Grey, Patricia is tasked with creating a woven white shirt while the rest of her team handles almost everything else for their looks. Tim notes that the whole process is "chaos and bedlam" as struggles with fit abound and time management is basically nonexistent. The runway show itself is equally messy; the designers look on in horror as the clothes fall apart in front of them.

I don't have a lot of thoughts about this week's looks. Team Shades of Grey wins by being slightly less terrible than Team Slick and Hip, but no one is named an individual winner, and thank goodness for that; if you take a look through our Rate the Runway gallery, you can see how rough these looks are up close. The only two of any interest to me are Michelle's vest and Samantha's "Converse look," but even those could have been improved with very basic, obvious changes. Amanda ended up getting the auf this week. Her elimination has been a long time coming, so I'm anxious to see who winds up on the chopping block next week as we start to whittle into the core group of talent that remains.

I think the real problem with this challenge was the Thunder From Down Under's request for dressier outfits. I can't help but think everyone would have been better off by ignoring that directive. This setup was punishment enough, combining the designers' general lack of menswear experience with strapping action-figure bodies AND a one-day time limit AND a tear-away component. Why make things more complicated by designing suits? A mastery of proportion and tailoring is essential in mens' suiting, and this group of designers had neither the time nor the breadth of knowledge to pull it off in this context. "Project Runway" designers have ignored clients' wishes before, and while it can be a gamble, it seemed silly to me that no one stopped to say, "Hey, I know they asked for dressy suits, but let's try something a little more casual that we know we can do well."

Anyway, how did you feel about the challenge? What kind of looks would you have designed for the Thunder From Down Under? Should Richard have been sent home instead of Amanda? And as we inch closer to the finale, who do you think will make it to Fashion Week? Let me know in the comments!

Next week: Get ready for drama between Michelle and Daniel as the designers refocus on ready-to-wear looks.

08
FRI

The Duck-iest Girl at the Prom

Posted By laurareineke 4:50am GMT

This recap is brought to you by Fred the Duck, who hit all his marks and looked great while doing it. Did you catch him waggling his little duck butt? You'll go far, Fred, I can tell.

Time for a second unconventional challenge! Bill Kahl stops by the workroom to introduce Duck brand duct tape as the medium for this week's challenge: Prom dresses. The designers don't appear to be phased by the weird material, but they're understandably alarmed by the abbreviated time allowance (less than a day) and the fact that their looks will be judged by a group of high schoolers before the official runway show. I can't blame them for their apprehension because high schoolers scare the crap out of me.

We also get a bit of a team switch-up. Kate chooses to work with Tu again, which is a smart move. They clearly get along, but the partnership works primarily because Tu is willing to be the seamstress second-in-command to Kate's bossy, in-charge designer/leader. That leaves Michelle and Amanda, Richard and Daniel, and paired together by default, Samantha and Patricia.

Let's talk final products:

Amanda/Michelle - Michelle's pattern-building is perfect, especially considering the folds of the skirt and the cross-over bodice. Chris likes that it's modern and fun, and I'm with him in loving the cut of the skirt. Michelle gets her long-awaited win with this dress, and Amanda is partially redeemed after her mess of a look last week.

Patricia/Samantha - I really am not connecting with this dress. Patricia's intricate textile work is well done and Nina compliments Samantha's work with the closure on the back, and the dress got the highest number of votes from the high school set, but I don't dig the robotic-looking color scheme of blue and silver.

Layana/Stanley - This strikes me as Hot Topic chic, as any garment combining hot pink, black, and zebra print is likely to do. But the skirt has great movement and the judges love the pop of pink in the bow.

Richard/Daniel - A well-constructed piece that unfortunately would not have been out of place on a Texas pageant princess in 1995. Gold, short, ruffles, and strong but misplaced detailing has the judges crying "Dated!" and lands the pair on the bottom.

Kate/Tu - The construction and fit of this gown might have landed them in the Safe Zone in any other challenge, but Nina and Heidi take issue with the length ("So old!" Nina yells) and everyone bemoans the use of denim-patterened Duck Tape instead of something more colorful and interesting. (Also the piece at the top of the bust looks like a fancy cracker garnish that I was served at a steak place once.) This dress gets Tu the auf, and surprisingly, Kate gets the boot, too, in the season's first double elimination.

Preferred prom dress styles vary by year, region, even school. I went to a Catholic high school in Ohio in the mid-aughts, where above-the-knee dresses were reserved exclusively for the fall homecoming dance; long, elegant, expensive-looking gowns were saved for prom, and 90% of them were strapless and solid-colored. The goal was to look good but not to draw negative attention by looking too different from everyone else. (Ah, youth.) Kate is my age and she's from Chicago, so everything about her design made sense for the style of prom with which I'm familiar. That said, it's 2013 and this challenge was built with fashion-forward NYC teens in mind, so I get why the judges gravitated as far away from Kate/Tu's design as possible.

I'll leave it to y'all in the comments to debate whether the double elimination was necessary. While you're at it, tell me about your prom experiences! What dresses were popular when you were in school? How would you have judged this set of looks? Who do you think handled the Duck Tape best? And if you were to go to prom tomorrow, which would you pick to wear?

Next week: Buff men means buff menswear, right? Plus, guest judge Emmy Rossum!