Friday, November 6, 2009


Tonight's "Project Runway" brought the regular competition to a close with the last challenge -- and finalized the Fashion Week lineup. Going for the win in the Bryant Park tents will be: Irina, Althea, and Carol Hannah.

But first we need to look at how these three ended up in the winners circle -- and I'm sticking to the clothes, because the in-fighting is just boring and I'm over Irina and her complaining. For the record, I've thought this season was a bit underwhelming -- too many red-carpet frocks and not enough fashions created in the produce section of Whole Foods. Where are the drag queens?

Tonight's challenge was a variation on past themes -- drawing inspiration at a museum. But I do have to hand it to the show, because oh what a museum. Anyone who can't find inspiration at the Getty Center needs to check themselves for a pulse. It actually surprised me, though, that designers spent so much time inside. The Getty's collections are spectacular, but the setting is so amazing that the art is almost secondary.

At any rate, here's how it went down:

altheaharper_projectrunway_s6_290.jpgAlthea, inspired by the architecture and flow of the buildings, made a dress with an elaborately constructed, pleated, overworked skirt that made the model look like she wore maybe a size 2 -- but what's worse is that she spent so much time belaboring the skirt that the flowy tank-style top of the dress looked like an afterthought at best. It was ambitious, but as the judges pointed out, ambition needs a plan to succeed, and this looked like a big mess. But as we know, risk-taking is encouraged.

Christopher went outside to a fountain for his inspiration, going with a gray palette with green undertones that were supposed to represent the algae on the rocks. He came up with a dress that was beautiful on top, with a high neck and no sleeves in a flowy print, weird in the middle with a corset, and unfathomable at the bottom with a long skirt of stiff fabric that barely moved with the model. Unusual inspiration is favored, but execution is key.

Carol Hannah took to an elaborate, light-blue French bed with swooping and draping brocade, and ended up with a beautifully fitted gold dress that bore little resemblance whatsoever to the shapes and materials that she saw -- except for some braided trim looping over the left shoulder. It was a stretch at best to try to link them together, but (a) she did heed Tim's warning and headed off what could've been a disaster, and (b) it fit the model like a glove. And we know that craftsmanship is rewarded.

Irina chose a painting calleirinashbayeva_projectrunway_s6_290.jpgd "Mischief and Repose" by John William Godward, shooting for a feeling of lushness, texture and diaphanous fabric. She ended up with a mint/seafoam green, knee-length concoction that resembled Grecian lines but without the tailoring or fit that Rami Kashou offered up in Season 4. The back was nice, but the length was dowdy, proclaimed the judges -- and Irina couldn't style her way out of a paper bag on this one. But you could see the inspiration, and that counts. And at least she dropped the idea for the fur wrap.

Gordana's dress was inspired by Monet's "The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light," with its dreamy purples and doorway shapes. Her dress, a floor-length, strapless layering of colors of silk organza, definitely looked like the painting, but while it fit really nicely and the judges liked it, the front was pretty and the back was not. It also struck me as an awfully literal interpretation of the inspiration, and not ambitious enough for the final challenge.

Thanks to a panel including guest judges Cynthia Rowley (whose hair is beyond fabulous) and Cindy Crawford (who looks amazing but seemed thoroughly bored), our Final Three of Irina, Althea, and Carol Hannah is set. Now the question becomes how well each of them can pull together a collection worthy of Fashion Week.

What did you think? Did the judges make the right call, sending the three best designers to Fashion Week? Did you think the pot was introducing itself to the kettle when Irina called Althea "her highness"? Whose collection do you most look forward to seeing?

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