Project Runway: Finale Part Two
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Capping this summer's most thrilling ride, Wednesday night saw the finale of television's most beloved reality show, Project Runway. After thirteen intense weeks of competition, FIDM's very own Leanne Marshall, Florida native Kenley Collins, and Liberian born designer Korto Momolu squared off in the hopes of winning on fashion's greatest stage, the runway at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City.
Mentor Tim Gunn began the episode by announcing that each designer would need to edit their runway collection from twelve pieces to ten. Before they could start, however, Gunn alerted the designers to the start of model selections, and led them to a smaller area for immediate work. Asked to pick an additional nine models, the designers were greeted by a number of high-profile names, including Danielle and Bianca from CW's America's Next Top Model. While the selection process was mostly respectful, another round of drama involving Kenley arose, as Leanne bristled at her competitor's seemingly endless advice of "which models to pick."
Back in the workroom, Gunn visited with the designers again to "get a sense" of their collections. Visiting with Kenley first, the interaction between the two quickly deteriorated as Gunn critiqued the multi-colored adornment on a short, purple dress in her collection. Calling the rope embellishment "arbitrary" and "contrived" she responded, "Tim doesn't like the rope--I do, so I'm leaving it. My decisions are final!" The two continued on, as Gunn openly questioned the idea of putting Kenley's model, Topacio, in the wedding dress from last week's elimination. Openly challenging him, she took him to task for mentioning last week's comments from judging panel, which called her a "knock-off." Interrupting him, she yelled, "They've done that four times to me already, and I'm sick of it. It's insulting, and I did not take my work from anyone else!"
Conversely, Gunn's visit with Leanne and Korto was far less dramatic. While Leanne debated which piece to remove from her collection, Korto found it difficult to remove her wedding dress from her overall presentation. Calling it a "gut" decision, she pledged to stand by her collection and "love it." Reassessing her overall look, however, encouraged her to reinvent part of it, and as a result, Korto made the decision to create two new pieces: the first, a short dress with long, billowy sleeves; the second, a single-strapped evening gown.
As the clothing received final touches, the designers' sights were simultaneously set on completing other preparations for the show. Visiting Collier Strong in the L'Oreal Paris Makeup Room and Jeanie Syfu from Tresemme Professional Haircare, the designers added a variety of aesthetic details towards creating the final runway look. In one final "gather round," Gunn told the designers that the order at Bryant Park would be Kenley, Korto, and finally Leanne. Hugging them, he gave them his best, and told them that he was eagerly awaiting the show.
Waking up at 3:00 AM, the day of the final runway show brought the designers down to Bryant Park for an early look at the facility. As the show grew closer, the designers were surprised with the help of college-age students to assist in the preparation of all ten looks. While Leanne and Korto accepted the help, Kenley again proved to be difficult, refusing to let them touch any of her outfits. Leanne, meanwhile, faced an unexpected challenge, as the top of one of her outfits was stretched to a point of not fitting her model. The result of over-steaming, Leanne was forced to make a last-minute switch, and dress her muse model, Tia, in a long-blue gown.
Now, on to the final runway! Hostess Heidi Klum kicked off the show with an expression of her great excitement for the long-awaited moment. Addressing the absence of any guest judge, Klum communicated that Jennifer Lopez was a no-show due to injury, and that Tim Gunn was her replacement. Waiting in the wings, Kenley appeared shocked by the switch as she reflected on her many ill-thought words to Gunn. "Maybe I should have improved my attitude," she muttered quietly.
Kenley kicked off the show by giving a brief introduction to her work. Describing her inspiration as trending towards "painting, fantasy, and Alice in Wonderland," she proclaimed the collection, her "dream wardrobe."
Korto was up next, as she proudly introduced her collection. Describing "nature" as her biggest influence, she reminded the audience of her natural link with her homeland, Africa. In a touching moment, she dedicated the entirety of her work to her beloved young daughter.
FIDM alumna Leanne was the last to show on the snow-white runway. Dressed modestly in a black pencil skirt, she took the professional approach, introducing her work confidently as a "beautiful collection." Admitting she "loved" the final look, she openly expressed the hope that the audience would embrace it as well.
Following the debut of the final collections, the designers garnered rave reviews from none other than three past Project Runway hopefuls. Kenley found an admirer in Season Five contestant Daniel Feld who noted, "I'm really rooting for Kenley because of her use of colors!" Korto's work, meanwhile, was praised by a Season Four competitor, Chris March who commented, "I really loved Korto's, I think it was just beautiful!" Leanne also found a fan in none other than Project Runway Season 2 competitor, educator, and FIDM spokesperson Nick Verreos who said, "Leanne's looked elegant, mature--it's something that could be in Elle Magazine!"
Back at final judging panel, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, Heidi Klum, and Tim Gunn mulled over the three collections. As the first designer to present, Brooklyn-based designer Kenley Collins collection made for prolonged conversation between the industry veterans. Michael Kors echoed many of the judges' opinions in identifying the "charm" and "personality" of her collection, and again in describing the "remarkable" nature of her hand-painted fabrics. The feedback turned negative, however, as they chided the same painted fabrics for a similarity to the style of a well-known fashion designer. The comment represented a second run-in, in as many weeks, after the judges noticed the same tendencies in Kenley's wedding dress. Fearing a lack of originality in Kenley's designs, she became the fourteenth designer eliminated from Project Runway.
That left Liberian-native Korto Momolu and Portland-based designer Leanne Marshall as the remaining finalists. Korto was praised by Michael Kors for her ability to "inject her heritage" into her collection, "without making it look like a costume." Nina Garcia also appreciated her line, and called it "extraordinary" in it's ability to "appeal to many women." Heidi Klum, however, was less impressed, and called the show "overworked" with "too many ideas." Leanne, on the other hand was praised by Michael Kors for her excellent "workmanship" which he called "divine." Tim Gunn, also chimed in, calling one of her pieces, "smashing," "smart," and "fantastic." The judges wondered however, if Leanne's wave motif was too "one-noted," and whether or not she could expand upon on that idea.
After much deliberation, FIDM Grad Leanne Marshall was announced the winner of Project Runway, Season Five! The lovely and talented designer won a spread in Elle Magazine, a 2009 Saturn Vue Hybrid, the opportunity to sell her line on BlueFly.com, a year of representation from Designers Management Agency, and $100,000 to start her own line, furnished by Tresemme Professional Hair Care.
Congratulations, Leanne!! We couldn't be prouder of you!
Want to learn how she did it? Find out more about the program that launched Leanne's career, the Fashion Design Major at FIDM: The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising!