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'Project Runway': Why Leanne won

Leanne1_3_2 Whether or not you like nautical palettes and petal-like architecture, "Project Runway" was Leanne's to lose. Not because the other designers, Korto and Kenley, were undeserving but because Leanne's aesthetic has always been ahead of the curve.

Recall Leanne's dress made of car-parts. The shape of it. How she used the seatbelts. Think back to her interpretation of the Zodiac sign Scorpio, a collaboration with eliminated contestant Emily. She, like Christian Siriano before her, elevated bodywear to art. Her designs weren't merely "pretty" or even "gorgeous." They stood out, even in the crowded world of couture, because her perspective is not just unique but unconventional. And, for better or worse, it's the only reason she won.

Her competition's designs were a lot more, well, practical.

Practical might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Kenley's whimsical style; that big black tutu and black-and-pink bustier, wow. But ultimately, it's not a far-fetched idea. She just made it bigger, more pink and over-the-top. What Kenley has yet to understand is that over-the-top is not the same thing as outside of the box. 

But Kenley is not untalented. She's just young, and despite her confident I-know-better-than-you bravado, pretty darn insecure. Putting on airs and mouthing off to cover that fact has been a reflex of hers painful to watch in this season's final weeks. (Who talks back to a class act like Tim Gunn???) Even in the last episode, seeing her roll her exasperated eyes at Tim when he suggested some changes to her show, well, it's something I used to do a lot. In junior high -- OK, and high school -- when I wasn't getting my way. But she's obviously got potential. And that's saying something when she so has not been a student of fashion for long, claiming total ignorance when told that she's, perhaps inadvertently, knocked off her high-end predecessors (see for yourself and decide). It's rather unforgivable when you throw in her insistence otherwise but, mercifully for viewers, she finally admitted that perhaps she needed to do "research" before aspiring to take the fashion industry by storm.

Pg_link_gunn_parker_5fab19 Her fate was almost predetermined as her wild "Alice in Wonderland"-themed pieces -- and a couple of chic exceptions -- kicked-off the show. The judges enjoyed the collection's "charm" and "spirit," which kind of sounds like what your parents told you after sitting through your 5th grade class' spring musical. The hand painting was impressive -- in that she can paint well -- but so much of it (the part that didn't remind the judges of Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga) was big and bold (and hot pink) in ways that I'd only expect to see on Nightclub Barbie. The exceptions -- the green blouse and black skirt combo and the black cocktail dress with the high feather neck -- prove she excels most when she edits.

Korto was initially my favorite. Her produce-lined yellow dress in the first week's challenge was creative and risky -- just like that cornhusk dress Austin made in Season 1. She also designed the seatbelt coat that's stood out in my mind in its ingenious design, and the Diane Von Fustenberg-style ensemble that I'd like to own for myself.

She does colors and the exaggerated, almost kimono sleeves well. She makes clothes as Nina Garcia has mentioned many times that many women (and not just the super skinny ones) would wear and find appealing. It's not a flaw, it's just not the kind of thing that you'd pick out as art.

Certainly not in a season where there's a Leanne (who made pants, shorts, skirts, blouses, jackets, vests and dresses. Using sustainable textiles.) Credit the judges for making a valiant attempt to create suspense, calling Leanne's innovative vision potentially one-note (too many petals!) but, I think it's safe to say there was no contest last night.

Disagree with me? Tell me why. Go vote! And check back for my interview with Leanne.

-- Denise Martin

(Photo courtesy Bravo)

Comments () | Archives (5)

Is it just me or did one Kenley's dresses in her show look suspiciously similar to Leanne's car parts dress? Considering that she has been accused many times of copying other designers and claiming ignorance, I have to wonder. Hmmm. She really never should have made it to the end, even if her attitude added some drama.

Boy, you really don't even make an attempt to try to hide spoilers on this blog. Thanks a lot.

Kenley's aesthetic, which I can't stand, was all about the 80s interpretation of the 1940s-50s. (The 40s and 50s were inspiration to the 80s look as the 30s were to the 70s.) Her color pallet--ick--and fabric choices look like 25-year-old stuff you'd see now in a thrift store, and her shapes look like pieces Joan Collins wore on "Dynasty." Even Kenley's Bettie Page-inspired personal style wasn't authentic, it was an 80s version. It's like she's never even looked through old Vogues at the library, so not surprising she claims not to follow what the couture houses are doing now.
So glad Leanne won, her clothes were the only ones that lived up to the couture ideal of clothing as art.

SO glad it was Leanne who won, not Kenley! I liked Leanne's stuff, I didn't think she was a genius, but that blue dress she made for the Diane Von Furstenburg challenge (I think that was it) was sublime. Kenley in no way deserved to win. She was the true one-trick-pony of the group, she was only able to express one aesthetic, the previously mentioned 80's redux of 1950's wannabe. Snore. She could make some well-constructed pieces but everything of hers looked the same and I could NOT understand why the judges kept letting her slide with that. Not to mention her obnoxious self-centeredness and childish rudeness to everyone around her. The judges and Tim took so much crap from her, I didn't understand why she lasted til the end, it made me think the show was scripted for Kenley. Jorell was more talented imho, and wasn't a jerk to everyone. Kenley dumped all over everyone the way 6th-grade bullies do and then she thought they should all help her when she was in the weeds. Get a clue, bratty girl. Could you imagine how a buyer would deal with her if the buyer didn't like what Kenley thought was great? By never coming back, that's how. And so I hope she fades into the boring, minnie-mouse-sleeve oblivion she deserves. I liked Korto a lot and I thought some of her pieces were great, most of them better than Kenley's limited vision, but in the end I do have to say Leanne had the more avant-garde skills. But Korto can say she was a finalist in Project Runway, and I think she has a future in fashion...maybe not haute couture. Congratulations Leanne!

Not a consistent watcher of PR, but what I saw of this season was interesting. Personally, I would have chosen Korto's collecton (less austere and one-note, although like almost all of the clothes, the skirts were just too darn short).

Mentioning Kenley's re-runs of 80's types such as LaCroix (Balenciaga was also mentioned, I suspect the speaker meant the successors to the actual Christobal Balenciaga, who was much more restrained) reminded me of the great problem with a lot of European fashion from the 1980's on--the fact that most of the fashion houses were simply subsidiaries of luxury-goods companies. Unlike designers such as Dior, Chanel, and more recently St. Laurent, who experimented but also had to produce wearable clothes to stay in business, a lot of the fashion-business stars of the 80's could chuck just about anything down the runway as long as the brand name got mentioned in the papers and fashion magazines, thus allowing the bosses to make money from licensing said brand name for bed sheets and perfumes and such, the real money-makers. Eventually, it got so bad that the designers were ordered to produce wearable clothes. And when some of them couldn't, they were chucked out and replaced with American designers.


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