By Nadine Kam
The designers enjoy dinner on the Seine. From left, Uli Herzner, Emilio Sosa, Joshua McKinley and Anthony Ryan Auld.
"Project Runway All-Stars"
Episode 11: "Couture de France" recap
How lucky are we to have been able to tag along with the designers on their shopping trip to Paris and a voyeuristic peek into the House of Valentino?
Needless to say, the designers were ecstatic to be able to observe the process of creating an haute couture garment, spend $3,000 euros shopping for some of the fabrics of a quality worthy of the luxury houses, and do their sketching on the lawn fronting the Eiffel Tower. A very wish I was there moment!
At Valentino, they met with creative directors Pierpaolo and Maria Grazia, and were presented with tickets to Valentino's amazing haute couture show.
Of course, this being "Project Runway," they had little time to bask in "the dream." It was a 24-hour whirlwind trip, and next thing you know, they were back in the New York workroom, where they had 10 hours to create their garment. Impossiblé!
Needless to say, you don't learn couture techniques in a day, and their handiwork doesn't come close to touching that of the many hands of the women who have been doing such work for decades. But the inspiration definitely showed in their work.
Emilio really rised up to the challenge, creating a beautiful, restrained and elegant red gown with a fitted bodice and full skirt that was an about face from his street-costume style. The only thing he didn't give up was color.
Emilio and Anthony Ryan ended up on top, though once again, Anthony showed his main talent is as a copyist. The sleek black gown he created was elegant with a touch of menace. Even so, his black gown, with peek-a-boo fabric appeared to mimic designs off the Valentino runway they had all just seen! I guess the judges don't know how close his designs have matched others' in the room through the entire competition because they gave him the win.
Meanwile, the judges couldn't decide whether Uli or Joshua should be sent home. For once, I actually liked the bravado of Joshua's creation. Only he took a risk in pairing fabric that most people wouldn't think to mix together, but it was a little like a pared down Lacroix. Its downfall was that it was ill-fitting in the bodice and proportions were off.
So, the two were given another challenge, another first in the competition's history. They were to face off, given an hour to deconstruct their garment and reinvent it. Uli compared it to the "Hunger Games," in which winning meant killing your friend.
At the end of the challenge, Joshua had pared his dress down to a charming dress that he said would have been the ready-to-wear version of his couture creation. Uli remade her ensemble in entirety, taking the nude lining the judges had made so much, and creating a sexy halter dress, topped with a black lace jacket with gold detailing at the shoulders.
The judges liked both of them, and Georgina Chapman said the challenge was supposed to have made it easy for them to send one designer home, but they made it just as difficult.
In the green room, Anthony Ryan and Emilio wondered why the judging was taking more than an hour.
In the end, Uli's total reinvention led to her staying. Now the three designers move on to creating their collections, but instead of the usual month-plus allotted on "Project Runway," they will have only four days.
Can't wait to see. Still rooting for Uli.
Anthony Ryan's winning design.