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Final Four Designers Play Peek-a-Boo on "Project Runway"

After two weeks, we finally got our final four showdown on last night's Project Runway. Or did we?

In a rather (un)expected twist, the final four contestants--that would be Michael, Uli, Laura, and Jeffrey for those of you asleep by 10 pm--went head to head in a challenge that tested their creativity and sense of self, only to discover that none of them would be auf wiedersehen'd by Heidi and they would all present collections at New York's Fashion Week in Bryant Park.

And thank god it turned out that way because I was more than concerned that Michael was going to be the one booted after he seemed to spend the majority of Day One still sketching and trying to figure out what he was doing. Big mistake on his part to select a gown for presenting to the judges (especially when the prize was an actual page in Elle magazine with the winning design photographed by a top fashion photog). Everyone--especially Michael Kors--knows that Michael's strength is in his sportswear and specifically in his ability to create flawless separate pieces that are pulled together with flawless styling and accessories. (Just look at what he did during the recycled challenge to see what he was able to accomplish with garbage!) Don't get me wrong: the aubergine peek-a-boo evening gown wasn't ugly or trashy. I really liked the braiding of the straps, even if the peek-a-boo was a little OTT. It just wasn't Michael and didn't represent him as a designer at all. And that was the real crux of the assignment in the first place. Lucky for us (and especially me as I am a huge Michael fan), he was able to slip by elimination because of his potential and past performance. But if ever there was a week to really wow the judges--while staying true to yourself--this was it.

The one designer who really grasped this concept was Uli, who initially made me very nervous last night. Let's call her the (Not So) Good German. I was horrified at first that she would steal model Nazri from Michael (who's had her the entire competition), but I do have to give her credit for being gutsy enough to do just that. After all, Project Runway is a competition (lest we forget) and there has to be a certain amount of gamesmanship involved. Why shouldn't she snag Nazri, after all? Uli made up for the steal, in my mind anyway, by feeling so guilty about it afterwards. (Michael was pissed!) But then she sort of meandered into off-the-wall territory by starting to create YET another diaphanous printed Miami Beach dress that has become synonymous with her name. Once she had Jeffrey try it on and he was flying about the studio using the dress as wings, I realized that I did agree with Uli: it looked like a housedress. Ouch.

Fortunately, Uli came to her senses and started from scratch, turning in a blue patterned dress that ultimately was shorter with a much more sleek and tailored silhouette than we're used to seeing from Uli, complete with a v. flattering skinny peek-a-boo, bead detailing, and a off-kilter use of the pattern she selected. Nazri looked amazing and Uli hit the nail on the head: it was still her design aesthetic but it was turned up to the nth degree. And it wowed the judges, who gave her the top prize: a first look fashion photo in Elle. Brava, Uli. It was urban, but not Miami or LA urban. Even her photograph--depicting model Nazri playing with a street band--captured the essence of both her design and her sense of self as a designer; it was fun, and completely represented her chosen buzz words of "fun, life, and adventure."

I actually quite liked Laura's design, a plunging v-necked soft pink dress with metallic beadwork and overlay. It was sleek, elegant, and even a little provocative; had Nazri worn it I think that it would have looked completely stunning. But the judges felt that it was too in keeping with her previous designs, too similar, too familiar, too much of what they'd expect from Laura. I thought it was perfectly constructed and fantastically styled. I really did like it. And even Heidi admitted that she would wear any one of Laura's designs. But Laura definitely does have that evening cocktail aesthetic and, while beautiful, it does seem like she could have created this outfit any other week. Given a completely blank canvas to work with and no restrictions (other than budget, of course), Laura could have done anything, yet played it a little too safe. Yes, she altered the hemline on the dress to make it more youthful and it did have a sexy confidence to it, but it wasn't enough to push her to the top. Still, I'd be very curious to see what Laura's full collection will entail.

I was completely baffled by Jeffrey's design this week. He attempted to step outside of his rocker sensibilities to focus instead on his softer side, his "romantic side," by bringing us a red, white, and blue dress that, um, defies description somewhat. It had a soft velvety bodice-cut top, a weird red ribboned belt, and a sack-like skirt that reminded me of those turn-of-the-century hobble skirts, only a little more loose. Still, it looked like a cinched sack of a skirt and the look just did not coalesce in any way, shape, or form. Plus, his selected photograph showed his model in a rickshaw and made the dress look dowdy rather than the "provocative" design he envisioned. I didn't care for it in the least in the sketches, I cared even less for it in the photograph, and I thought it looked ridiculous on the runway. (Was anyone else thinking it resembled a patriotic Snow White? Or was that just me?)

Ultimately, none of the final four designers were air kissed and auf'd by Heidi and all managed to squeak by to get the opportunity to present their collections during Fashion Week. (I've managed to avoid that spread in Entertainment Weekly that showcases some of their collection pieces, but if you're not as spoiler-phobic as I am, check out this past week's issue.) I can't wait to see the runway shows and I am ready to see these four vastly different designers present four completely diverse collections. Make it work, designers.

Next week on Project Runway: Those of us on the edges of our couches for those collections will have to wait a little longer as next week bring us the ubiquitous Bravo reality show reunion episode. See Jeffrey accuse Angela's mom of deliberately deceiving him about hating those judicial robes he designed her! (Wait, that was a dress?) See Keith attempt to defend his actions! See Vincent explain his predilections for becoming aroused by his own designs! It's the reunion show that's got it all!

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Survivor: Cook Islands (CBS); My Name is Earl/The Office (NBC); Smallville (CW); Ugly Betty (ABC); 'Til Death/'Til Death (FOX); Desire (MyNet)

9 pm: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS); Deal or No Deal (NBC); Supernatural (CW); Grey's Anatomy (ABC); Celebrity Duets (FOX); Fashion House (MyNet)

10 pm: Shark (CBS); ER (NBC); Six Degrees (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: My Name is Earl.

Was I the only one let down by Earl's lackluster season premiere episode last week? On tonight's episode ("Jump for Joy"), the owner of a strip club (guest star Burt Reynolds) will lend Earl money if he can convince Catalina to work there. Catalina? Oh wait, remember Nadine Velazquez and how she used to make an appearance on this show every now and then? Well, the producers have finally remembered her too.

8:30 pm: The Office.

On tonight's episode ("The Convention"), Michael, Jan, and Dwight head to Philadelphia for an office supply convention and Michael attempts to throw a party in his hotel room. Knowing Michael's track record with parties of any kind, it's going to be a lonely night in Scottsville.

10 pm: Six Degrees.

Six strangers discover that their lives are seemingly connected in the latest drama from producer J.J. Abrams. On the drama's second episode ("What Are the Odds?"), Carlos takes on an attempted murder case while Mae stays in New York to work for Laura, who starts a job working for an interior designer.


Anonymous said…
First, you were definitely NOT the only one let down by Earl last week.

I both wish I hadn't heard that all 4 made it and was happy to know, cause I was SO nervous for Michael, but in the back of my mind I figured the rumor was true.

I was kind of upset w/Uli for taking Nazri, but like you said - it's a competition.

Jeff's definitely looked like a Snow White dress - I hated it.
Michael is my favorite but I'm glad that all four designers will be competing during fashion week. They all have such a distinct style. It keeps things more interesting!
greebs said…
I kept saying that Jeffrey's dress looked like Dorothy - but you are actually right, I was saying Dorothy but thinking Snow White. God, it was awful.

I'm very happy all four of them will go, because they couldn't be more different. It will be quite interesting to see who "shows up" at the competition.
Nikoletta said…
For a more sarcastic review of this episode of Project

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