By Christopher Muther
Globe Staff / September 13, 2008
NEW YORK - Midway through yesterday's "Project Runway" Bryant Park fashion show, it was beginning to look as if style and well-designed couture had yet to return from summer vacation. Three of the reality show's six remaining contests - Jerell Scott, Stephen "Suede" Baum, and Joe Faris - showed collections that ranged from dull to shockingly bad. But for fans of this season of Bravo's "Project Runway," this news should come as no surprise.
In its last season on Bravo - the show is soon jumping to Lifetime - the current group of designers has failed to create clothing that resonates with viewers. To borrow a phrase from famously tanorexic contestant Blayne Walsh, the show has been dull-ilicious.
There is the added pressure of measuring up to last season's winner, a talented pixie with an asymmetrical haircut named Christian Siriano. The petite designer was a reality program dreamboat: outspoken, opinionated, and talented. No matter how hard this season's contestants have tried coining catch phrases of their own or stitching a frock that won't bore Nina Garcia, they have left us drowsy.
All of which made yesterday's Bryant Park show feel less electric than previous seasons. Die-hard fans who don't want the show's finale to be ruined by this story should stop reading now. It was very clear, after the three gentlemen had shown their collections, that the three finalists for this season are Kenley Collins, Korto Momolu, and Leanne Marshall. The hunch was confirmed when a previous "Runway" contestant in the audience said, "I'm so happy that the finalists are all girls." Bravo will edit the runway program and air the collections of the three finalists only.
Based on the collections shown yesterday, choosing the three women as finalists was a smart decision. The Bryant Park show, one of Fashion Week's hottest tickets, started with Scott's series of metallic and black dresses that were fussy and over-styled with too many trims, gold belts, and disco jackets. Perfect for the junior prom, and not much else.
This biggest shock on the catwalk was Baum's collection of pink and blue dresses that looked as if they were designed by a 6-year-old girl who likes unicorns and princesses. The fabrics looked cheap, the colors were gaudy, and the silhouettes unflattering.
Faris's collection, inspired by Americana, was well-made, but extraordinarily average. It consisted of cropped leather tops (clearly, fellow contestant Stella Zotis was an inspiration) and jeans.
For the three finalists, there seemed to be a clear consensus in the audience that Marshall, the woman who resembles a timid librarian, was the winner.
"All I can say is thank God for Leanne," said former contestant Steven Rosengard after the show. "It was a relief to see her designs."
Marshall's dresses were truly artistic and stunningly crafted. Her elaborate layers and pieces formed symmetrical patterns in subtle creams and pale blues.
But Marshall faces a strong challenge from Momolu, whose nature-inspired collection showed that she is able to design more than belted coats with full sleeves. Collins worked with her favorite medium, floral print fabric, and stayed within the realm of vintage-inspired dresses. Beautiful, but predictable.
"I think it will really be a tough choice between Korto and Leanne," said season four finalist Jillian Lewis. "Both of them showed beautiful, cohesive collections. I think they both deserve a win. It's the last show on Bravo; maybe they'll try something different and call it a tie."