When we left our four remaining designers, they were prepared for a honeymoon period — a time to create a full collection reflecting their unique creative voice without the stress of incessant intervention. The finalists knew one would be eliminated before Fashion Week. But they didn’t suspect there would be one more challenge that would determine their fate.
Yet the four remaining Project Runway contestants — Jerell, Kenley, Leanne and Korto — were not to be assessed based on their entire collections. Instead, host Heidi Klum told them they would have to compete for a spot at Bryant Park with a wedding dress that should represent their entire collection, which they would have to create in a month with a budget of $8,000.
So, the designers went to work, and Tim Gunn hit the road (as he does every year), dropping in on the contestants in their home bases, meeting their families and offering his sartorial critique. This season, Tim must have wracked up the mileage on his Saturn (curiously, a show sponsor; did they pay for his gas?): In Little Rock, Ark., he saw Korto; in Portland, Ore., he stopped by Leanne’s work space; in Los Angeles, he met with Jerell; and in Brooklyn, N.Y., he reunited with Kenley.
Tim acted characteristically cautious but optimistic with the designers’ creations. In Arkansas, he delicately alluded to the yonic nature of one of Korto’s snakeskin-embellished dresses, telling her, “Can I tell you what bothers me? Look at the shape of it. It gets a little sexual.”
Tim also buried the hatchet with Kenley, approving overall of her colorful, hand-painted collection. And on a fun note, he jumped on a tandem bike with Leanne, riding through Portland and throwing caution to the wind. Well, not quite: He did wear a helmet, cinched tight, and offered a soundtrack of “whoas” and “heys” and general nervous chatter as they breezed through the city.
Back in New York, the designers reunited in a presidential suite at the Westin hotel, bringing along their collections and their hard feelings. The finalists were still unable to forgive the overconfident tugboat captain’s daughter Kenley (who was the last to arrive), and they worried about how she would act. When she did finally make her appearance, she offered what seemed like an earnest apology, telling her competitors, “I’m sorry I was a bitch and everything.”
Thank goodness for champagne! With a drink in hand, the designers quelled their animosity and moved on.
But the bubbly wasn’t the only surprise. The contestants were faced with another challenge. The next day, Tim announced they would be forced to create a bridesmaid dress to match their wedding dress. The two looks would be assessed on the runway, and one designer would be auf’d for an incongruous pairing, leaving just three to show at Fashion Week.
After much hemming (literally!) and hawing, it was time for the runway show. Leanne presented a wedding gown with gorgeous origami pleats that flowed like waves — the inspiration for her collection — down the runway. Her accompanying bridesmaid dress was seafoam blue and earned uniform praise from the judges.
Kenley’s creation — a poof of feathers and dreamy tulle — was at first derided by Michael Kors for resembling too closely an Alexander McQueen look. (Is Kenley’s Dress Too Similar to Alexander McQueen’s? Take our poll.) Kenley was typically defensive but finally calmed down, and so did the judges. “It’s romantic without being syrupy,” Kors said, later calling her blue bridesmaid dress, “the cutest damn dress I’ve ever seen.”
In the bottom two, Jerell and Korto earned lackluster reviews. The former was chastised for showing a garish design, while the latter’s wedding dress was seen as too overworked. Ultimately, though, the judges sent Jerell home for his bejeweled and bedazzled — but hardly dazzling — grey gowns.
Alas, the female finalists will walk down the aisle at Bryant Park in the Project Runway finale while Jerrell, for now, will be only a bridesmaid and not the bride. — Brian Orloff
Tell us: Did Jerell deserve to go? Who will win Project Runway?
Check back later for our interview with Jerell.