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'Project Runway': Why Leanne won

October 16, 2008 |  8:59 am

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)

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