Here we are again, the episode that decides which designers will be in the finale. I thought it an interesting challenge for the finale setup. Meaning, the previous challenges were all about pushing creativity to the far nether regions of fashion that often negated practicability, but this challenge was about setting parameters on creativity in order to make aesthetic and point of view sellable. A challenge that gives the designers a real marketable budget really forces the designers to get down to the brass tacks of their aesthetics. It's the reality behind the runway, not unlike taking the photoshop element out of a glossy magazine spread. Of course this makes the runway seem less punchy than in past weeks, so nothing was a gasp-wow.
The designers were required to make a ready-to-wear garment for New York designer and fashion district advocate Nanette LePore. Not only did she ask for the design to be feminine, timeless, and customer driven, but the designers also had to account for manufacturing costs and stay within a strict production budget in order to meet a specific price point. The winner will have their garment produced and sold by Nanette LePore with proceeds going to savethegarmentcenter.org.
First, the "Mondo doesn't sketch" drama. In most challenges this is not a problem, and in this case I think he worked around the problem okay. But I both agree and disagree with Kenley (and it's none of her business in the first place) that Mondo needs to sketch in order to be a designer. On one hand sketches smooth the path of translating ideas into realities in a world where Mondo isn't creating everything from start to finish. But if he figures out another way to communicate his ideas clearly to a pattern maker, then yippie-yay-ki-yay. On the other hand I think he would better service himself as a designer if he at least learned to sketch in some way, even if he traces over croquis. (Croquis: a line drawing of a 9-head fashion figure that can look something like this.) I'm not sure if this practice is against the Project Runway rules, but it a perfectly legitimate way in fashion and costuming to produce sketches. I'm sure some look down on this and shame it, but it's not about the sketch, it's about the final product.
Despite Mondo's seeming un-designerly attributes, he won the challenge. I will admit that his reaction to winning made me a little misty. (But that's not saying much because I am an acute bawl-baby.) His dress really screamed what Mondo is all about: color and mixing patterns within clean lines. Would I wear this dress? No. Do I really like it? Yes. Will other people buy this dress? You betcha. You can buy it here. I'm excited to see what he comes up with for the finale!
Austin was second in line, and he also produced a dress that screams what he's all about: romantic silhouettes with extreme femininity, which likely includes loads of volume. I was torn with Austin. I thought the overall silhouette of the swing coat was great. The fullness and amount of pleats were in good proportion. However, the neckline looked like a mistake, and I was absolutely horrified by the hem. The stitching pulled the hem in weird ways and it needed to be pressed so badly, as did the belt and the rest of the coat. (Here's a little tip for all you burgeoning sewers out there: pressing accounts for at least 50% of the final appearance of your garment. The more you press as you go, the more professionally finished your garment will look.) All Austin's problems may have stemed from poor fabric choice. Also, the garment did not photograph well in the least.
Michael came in third with a dress that we've seen from him before, but it was pretty enough. I thought the print was particularly lovely. But if a dress plunges in the front it should not plunge in the back and visa-versa. Without that counterbalance it's impossible to keep the dress on the shoulders unless you use tape or body glue. It fails all wearability tests, and wearability was part of the challenge. For this reason Michael was particularly lucky that he didn't go home.
Last and eliminated was Kenley. This dress bothered me for all the reasons various people mentioned and more. I suppose it was nice enough in idea, but I had the following problems: 1) she shouldn't have used that large print for this silhouette, the design fights with the fabric; 2) she should have at least tried to match the pattern and/or place the pattern more carefully when cutting; 3) the trim on the sleeves ruined the inherent movement of the fabric; 4) the neckline was too high which killed the proportions; 5) she should have kept the keyhole; and 6) all things said and done this dress is frumpy. Additionally I could not believe the attitude she gave Nanette LePore during the workroom critique. She can't even listen to critique let alone internalize any advice that might help her improve her designs or sellability. She kept saying she was "sticking to her vision," but no one was ever trying to change her vision, they were honestly trying to help her make the best possible version of her vision. P.S. The outfit that Kelney wore for judging was adorable.
One more week and then what fashions will we discuss? Leave ideas in the comments if you got 'em.