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Project Project Runway 2012: Finale Runway

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The end of another PPR season is upon us, which means its time for the finale runway!

Our finale challenge, from the hosts at Just Crafty Enough was to create a single showstopping look or to create a mini collection of as many looks as we so desired. We were encouraged to use leftover fabric from any of our prior challenges for a look if we so wished. We were given a budget of $300 (it’s always 1/10 of what the designers on the show receive) though it seems unlikely any of us would spend that much. We were also given four days to complete our collection, the same as the contestants on the show.

Unlike last season’s finale, it took me no time at all to figure out my inspiration for my final collection. Spring has come very early this year, and along with seasonal allergies and having to run the air conditioner, all the flowers are out in full. And around here (Washington, D.C.) the focus is on one specific kind of flower–the cherry blossoms. If you aren’t familiar, cherry blossoms are a big deal around here–there’s even a cherry blossom festival. So that’s my inspiration. Although I haven’t been to the Tidal Basin yet this year, the trees around my apartment complex are also blooming and it is just beautiful. I took this picture just this morning:

I was very inspired by the colors of the blossoms–the white, the green, and the palest of pinks. I also liked the idea of the petals. They fall to the ground in the most gorgeous way, fluttering down on the lightest breeze. I wanted to do a collection that felt like spring–light, fresh, and airy.

Let the runway begin!

First out we have Gia, my model from last year. She is wearing a pair of tight white leggings, a pale green shell featuring scalloped hem, topped with a pale pink single-breasted coat with scalloped hem featuring white buttons.

I wanted to start the show with something I’ve never done before, a coat. I really love the look of the coat and think the buttons add such a dainty detail to the look. I also tried a new technique for drafting the leggings, and it worked perfectly. The pants fit Gia like a glove. This is the early spring outfit, when the weather is still cool enough to want to wear a jacket.

Next out we have Lys, who is wearing a strapless white cocktail dress featuring a pale pink belt and pink beaded cherry blossoms on the bodice. This garment was the “twist” look, it is made with fabric from previous challenges, specifically the excess fabric from Challenge 8: The Flag Challenge.

This look is quite simple, but I think the beaded flower details keep it from being too boring. This is the party look, showing some skin, but still a bit sophisticated.

Next down the runway is Astrid, wearing a pink sleeveless shell with the scalloped, petal-like hem and beaded neckline and a pale green pencil skirt.

I think the beading at the neckline gives this look something unique, it is almost like a built-in necklace. This look is meant to be the more professional look, something that could be worn to an office and then out for drinks afterward.

Makeda is next on the runway, wearing a long-sleeved scoop-neck shirt featuring pink “cherry blossom” beading and a pair of pale green shorts featuring the petal-like scalloped hem.

I am so happy with how the shirt turned out. The sleeves are inset perfectly, probably my best sleeves to-date. This look was meant to appeal to a younger consumer. The scallop-hem shorts are a trend item, a departure from the more classic look of the prior garments.

Next is Lina, who is wearing a pink strapless cocktail dress featuring a layered skirt meant to represent the petals of the blossoms and a wide white belt to give the eye a rest in that sea of pink.

I love the look of the layers of the skirt. I developed quite the callous trimming so many strips. This look is the “red carpet” look, a dress that is eye-catching and would photograph well.

Finally, May comes down the runway in my final look–a wedding dress. It is a white strapless gown featuring a multi-layered scallop skirt and a pale pink sash.

I think this dress is a nice culmination of the whole collection. It feels fresh and spring-like and features the techniques that define the collection–so many layers. I am really thrilled with how this look turned out.

Now, some pictures of the whole collection–I like to see all the looks together, as I feel they work nicely as a whole.

Don’t you love my risers? Yep, they’re juice glasses.

This picture amuses me greatly. Not every look is perfectly visible, but it’s so fun! I love playing with perspective.

I’m really happy with how my collection came together. Although it probably doesn’t seem like it, I used up a significant portion of my four-day time limit. With a couple of looks featuring separates, I had to draft a lot of pattern pieces, all of which were from done from scratch, except maybe the sleeves, which were based on a pattern piece I drafted previously. I tried to really conceive of this collection as whole; I wanted every look to work with every other look, have repeated techniques and themes in this collection, and make each look fit a different situation or different customer.

The Project Project Runway experience is just the best; the supportive atmosphere amongst the participants cannot be more wonderful. I love this group and all the gorgeous output we, as a whole, come up with. I appreciate and admire every single one of the other designers. There is just something so exhilarating to me about a group of people who all choose to spend their time on a project like this, sharing their hard work and encouraging others to do the same. I am very sad that another season of PPR is now behind me. My designing “muscles” have been greatly stretched, I have learned and taught myself so much, I have shared the experience with such great people. The PPR Flickr group is sure to be on fire today, so make sure to take a look. And hopefully I’ll see everyone again next season!

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Project Project Runway 2012: Me-Ology

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As I did last season, I thought it would be fun to do an “-Ology” post, taking a look back at my output from this season, Tom & Lorenzo style. Plus I need a break from working on my final collection!

Hmm, looking at everything I’ve made side-by-side is kind of weird. I guess I didn’t really stretch myself much when it came to silhouette this season. With a few exceptions, most of my garments are more or less the same shape with slight variations—oh my gosh, I’m a Kenley, aren’t I?! On the more positive side, I used a lot of bright colors this season, which I love. I’ve also been a lot more confident when it comes to trims–beads, marabou feathers, metallic braid. Although my silhouettes have been fairly simple, I see myself trying a variety of techniques within that silhouette, such as beading, painting, and paper piecing. I’ve also been a bit braver when it comes to materials. Last season, I don’t think I ever used anything but cotton wovens or poly knits (except maybe in the finale.) This season I tried both crepe and brocade, both of which were very difficult to handle. Overall, I think it’s been a pretty great season, but I really need to get back to work on my final collection–I have a lot to finish up today before I can get to photographing tomorrow!

Project Project Runway 2012: Challenge 10 Runway

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This week’s Project Runway episode title, and therefore our challenge name at Just Crafty Enough is “Let’s Get Down to Business.” Needless to say, every time I’ve thought about the challenge this week, this song has gotten into my head. (WARNING: This song is catchy as all get-out and will not leave your brain all day.) The actual challenge was to create a ready-to-wear garment that is “irresistible, feminine and timeless under a budget.” In the show, the designers had a coster figure out their budgets, for PPR, we were to work within a budget of $4.65. I decided to take the challenge a step further and try to find inspiration from Nanette Lepore’s collection, as the designers on the show had to use materials from the label’s fabric choices.

As I wanted to work within that additional parameter, I spent a while on her website, looking at what kinds of shapes she used, what kind of color combinations and textiles were available, and what seemed “missing” from the collection. Overall, I found that the collection lacked in separates, but as we were asked to create a single garment, filling in those separates didn’t really make sense. I found that the collection really focused on dresses, so I decided to go that direction as well. Most of her dresses have an easy, wearable quality to them, so I wanted to reflect that. I decided that I wanted to make a dress using the color combination found on a pair of shorts called the Rebel Shorts. I really was drawn to the unusual color combination on the textile and I loved the stripe to it.

(Image from nanettelepore.com)

I knew that there was no way I would find a similar textile, so I went into the store with a plan of creating my own striped textile myself. For the past 9 weeks, I have been taking a quilting course, so I decided it might be fun to apply a technique I learned in the class to this project. I decided to use the quilting technique of paper piecing to recreate Nanette Lepore’s textile.

May heads down the runway in a girly lavender tank dress feature an inset of paper pieced stripe in orange and light red.

Building this garment was actually a lot of fun. I really enjoyed translating the paper piecing technique into apparel. The shape of the garment developed because I didn’t want to make a shape that was already found in Nanette Lepore’s collection. Most of her dresses tended to feature a more flared, a-line silhouette and the more form-fitting skirts were mostly found amongst the separates. So I decided to do the dress with a fitted skirt. During this challenge I was very focused on creating something that would fit in with the already established collection (as on the show the winning design would be sold by the retailer) yet I also wanted to make something that was identifiably  mine. So I fully admit that this look is only a minor variation on one of the dresses I made for last season’s finale. I do like this design better, though, as it is more complex due to the finicky inset.

Oh, so budgeting. I came in well under budget for this garment:

I probably could have done even better had I been able to get away with an eighth of a yard of the knit fabric, but I needed the stretch in the correct direction for the dress to be fitted properly.

For styling I went with something really easy and summery. The weather here has been crazy warm (80 degrees in March? Really?) so I guess I am in a summery, breezy mood. I wanted May to look like a cool girl going out for a day of shopping or out for supper on the patio of a fine restaurant. Unfortunately, I did go quite matchy-matchy. These colors were really difficult to work with, so I felt I pretty much had no choice but to go that direction. I styled the look with a great pair of Prada Suede Cork Wedge Sandals in Coral (which I love) and an Aurelie Bidermann Enamel Coral Bracelet.

For hair, I really would love a low, sleek ponytail, something cool (temperature-wise) yet chic. For makeup, it might be fun to do a very, very pale coral lip and a more subtle eye. Put-together but summery.

As always, a trip over to the Project Project Runway Flickr group is encouraged. Everyone is just so talented!

Project Project Runway 2012: Challenge 9 Runway

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We are really getting down to the last few challenges this season. I feel like I am running out of steam a little bit, but not as much as I did last season. I feel like this season’s challenges have really been pulling me out of my comfort zone and it’s difficult to get bored when each week is quite challenging.

This week our challenge from Just Crafty Enough was to create an avant-garde look using lighting technology. We had a budget of $35 for lighting effects and $10 for other materials and two days to complete the look.

After watching the episode, I almost immediately knew from whence I would draw my inspiration–bioluminescent creatures. I immediately remembered that jellyfish not only fluoresce under a black light, but some also glow naturally. So I thought that would be an interesting take on the challenge.

And it was quite the challenge this week. I am not well-versed in lighting technology at all. I had no idea how I was going to approach this challenge technically, so the first thing I did was head to Michaels and walk around for an hour or so, up and down every aisle looking for glow-in-the-dark materials. I don’t usually use glow-in-the-dark, so I really had no clue what products were out there. Surprisingly, there are quite a lot of GITD materials out there. While I was out, I also picked up a black light. When I got home, I played around with a few of the materials I had picked up, and though they glowed fine, they just weren’t wowing me. So this time I went out to Joann’s, and I found exactly what I was hoping for: mini battery-powered LEDs. After I found those, everything just clicked and I was able to fabricate my look with confidence.

May heads down the runway in a jellyfish-inspired look featuring an exaggerated dome skirt lit with mini-LEDs and ribbon “tentacles.” Her top is hand-painted using glow-in-the-dark paint, and her hair appears purple-orange under a black light. Who knew?

I also want to show how cool this looks even without the LEDs turned on, simply lit with a black light; it really highlights the hand-painted bodice and lets the “tentacles” shine.

I took these pictures using a really long exposure–somewhere between 15 seconds and a minute in length. Maybe later this week I’ll show a couple of “behind the scenes” pictures of my hilariously slapdash setup for this shoot.

I actually really like this look. I think it is a bit avant-garde, but not too much of a departure from my aesthetic.

I love it both in the dark and in the light and it totally looks “jellyfish” to me. I styled the look with Prada Exclusive Sequin Degrade Platform Pumps and a John Hardy Kali Pave Ring in Black Sapphire. I initially thought pearl accessories would be cool, but then I thought that would be too literal “Under the Sea,” so I went with these instead.

For hair, I think a sleek, low ponytail would be nice, nothing that would compete too much with such an already over-the-top look. The makeup should be fresh and simple, maybe with a dramatic eye in white to create some cool effects under the black light.

As always, check out the wonderful work of the other Project Project Runway participants over at the Project Project Runway Flickr Group!

Project Project Runway 2012: Challenge 8 Runway

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It’s Thursday, which of course means it’s Runway Day! So let’s get to it.

This week’s challenge was titled “O Say Can You Sew” which is really a groaner of a corny title, but it’s what I’ve come to expect. Come on, Project Runway production team, you can do better than that. Anyway, we were to chose a country’s flag from a shortlist (Chile, Greece, India, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea or the Seychelles) and create a dress inspired by the colors of the flag and the culture of the country. We had one day and $20 to create our looks.

I decided to go with The Seychelles because I was drawn to the bright colors of the flag, wanted to learn a bit about the country that would create such a colorful flag, and wanted to see if I could make something better than the fairly awful look Austin made last week.

Image of Seychelles flag from Wikimedia Commons

In thinking about this challenge, I decided that I wanted to incorporate a bit of each color of the flag into my dress, but I knew that I would have to change up the proportions of the colors. In the flag, each color is used almost equally, which works for a flag, but in a garment five colors competing for attention would be overwhelming. I also did some research (thanks Wikipedia!) on the country. I learned that The Seychelles are a group of islands Northeast of Madigascar, they are super multicultural (no indigenous populations) their main industry is tourism and they have amazing beaches. I decided to make a dress that would work for walking along the gorgeous beaches, but that could also work for exploring a town or eating at a restaurant.

May heads down the runway in a cool white column dress featuring halter straps and multicolored stripe treatment at waist and hem.

I decided to primarily use white, as the climate in the Seychelles is pretty darn hot, and white clothes are better than dark for staying cool(er). I wanted a simple silhouette that transitions nicely from day to evening and that wasn’t too bulky and had an ease to it, like something you could just pop on in the morning without too much thought. The dress itself is made out of a very lightweight synthetic knit (if it gets wet, it can probably be hung up to dry out) and won’t hold wrinkles if balled up in a suitcase. The textile was so thin that I had to line the whole dress with a second layer because it was way too sheer otherwise. Maybe it’s a wicking layer (just kidding!)

I decided to incorporate the other colors of the flag by adding ribbon trim. Each strip of ribbon was sewn on separately using clear thread. Initially I had planned to only place the trim at the hemline, but the whole look was really bland and I was unhappy with it. There was also some added bulk at the waistline where the bodice and skirt were attached, so I added a ribbon belt to which I also applied the multicolored ribbons. Sewing ribbon to ribbon was a real pain, the foundation ribbon kept shifting on the bias as I tried to sew it, but it actually came out okay.

For the styling from the Neiman Marcus Accessories Wall, I continued the easy island look with a pair of Tory Burch Abitha Leather Flip-Flop in pale gold, as they look like they could be easily slipped off to dip one’s toes in the surf, but also have a sophistication to them. (These shoes were actually not on the official “Wall” but there were no shoes that appealed to me this week and besides, the wall is “inspired by Project Runway All Stars” not the actual accessories used in the show.) I also added Kendra Scott Danielle Earrings in mother of pearl to add some interest up near the face. For hair, I’m thinking a loose, low side bun, a look that has been on the red carpet a lot over the past couple of years. For makeup, I think simple and summery is the way to go–very light eye makeup and a shiny, peachy-pink lip would be very pretty.

As always, don’t forget to click on over to the Project Project Runway Flickr group to admire the wonderful work from all the participants.

Project Project Runway 2012: Challenge 7 Runway

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First of all, thank you so much for the condolences. They were very much appreciated.

So, Project Project Runway. This week our challenge was entitled “Puttin’ on the Glitz” (someone on the production team has way too much fun coming up with corny episode titles for this show!) With a one day time limit, we were to create an over-the-top costume consisting of separates for a wealthy character in the play Godspell. This season’s challenges have been really, really difficult. It makes sense, the season being All Stars, but holy moly am I have to reach outside my comfort zone and usual aesthetics this go-round.

I think the biggest problem that I had with this challenge was that I’ve never seen the play before! And furthermore, costuming is a completely different animal than fashion. I really struggled towing the line between making a costume that fit with the already established aesthetic of the show (of which it was quite difficult to find photographs) and doing my own thing. In the end I decided to more or less take the costume my own direction rather than worrying about it “fitting in” so to speak.

May takes to the runway in separates meant to evoke luxury and ostentation. She wears a top of crimson crushed panne velvet with gold trim at the wrists; a full, brocade skirt featuring a wide red and gold trim at the hem; a deep plum sash with hand-beaded fringe; and the ensemble is topped off with a triple-wrapped gold beaded necklace.

It feels like it wouldn’t be one of my designs without a long, involved explanation of my inspirations. This challenge I went in a couple different directions before settling. Like Austin Scarlett, my first inclination was to do a Marie Antoinette inspired piece (I actually said it out loud right before his was aired) especially since I just watched Sophia Coppola’s movie a week or so ago. But then, I spent a decent amount of time researching Godspell and looking at the few pictures of the current production available online, and as I developed my idea, it just wasn’t fitting with the feel of the show.  My design instincts for the look were too avant-garde and I couldn’t see my ideas meshing at all. So I decided to rethink the direction I was going.

I then started thinking about the feel of the production. It was developed in the early 70’s and seems to luxuriate in its ideals of a DIY, hippie, “bohemian” style. This got me thinking about the origin of the word “Bohemian” as a person from what is now the Czech Republic. So the idea of folk costume was floating around in my brain quite a bit. Then I thought about cultures that use luxurious, often ostentatious clothing to signify wealth (as we were to design this costume for a ostentatiously rich woman.) I came to the conclusion that I should take a bit of inspiration from the Roma (or Romani) people, commonly (and sometimes pejoratively) called Gypsies. I felt that due to the hippie feel of the show, taking inspiration from the Romani would be appropriate, as their culture was romanticized heavily in the era of the play’s creation. I also thought about the historical Sumptuary laws regarding textiles, and decided I needed to use colors that have been used primarily by only the very wealthiest people. I also took a lot of inspiration from Auguste Renoir’s painting Odalisque. That painting just oozes luxury, and I felt it connected quite well with my other inspirations.

Producing this look was a lot of fun, actually. It is so different than my usual aesthetic (which seems to be my ongoing motto this season.) I usually prefer a sleeker and more simple feel to my garments, but in this case, more is more! It was really fun picking out all the trims to apply to the garments and picking out the fanciest fabrics I could find. The panne velvet was a complete given to me, and I knew I wanted a brocade as the skirt. I found this particular brocade with the sari fabric, and believe it or not, this is actually the wrong side of the fabric! I initially didn’t find anything I liked, as none of the colors were fitting what I had in mind. So I started looking at the back sides of the fabric and found “the one.” The right side of this one is actually primarily a bright, clear red and would have clashed terribly with the crimson of the top. I also knew I had to use some sort of purple in the look, as that is the color I think of when it comes to Sumptuary laws, so I found this silky plum-colored lining fabric that would work perfectly.  I had initially also wanted to add a vest to the look as well, but found that it took the outfit too far into folk costume territory and added too much bulk to the look. So I strung my leftover beads into the necklace and called the thing done. I kind of wanted to keep embellishing, but stopped myself (just in time, I think!) Working with the brocade of the skirt was kind of a nightmare, as it frayed and shed like crazy. And not big thick threads, but wispy, stick-to-everything threads. I think I will be finding those floating around for weeks.

In styling this look, I wanted to continue the aesthetic of over-the-top luxury. From the Neiman Marcus Accessory Wall I picked Velvet Ankle-Wrap Strap shoes by Valentino and Karina Feather Earrings by Kendra Scott, which I don’t think could have been more perfect for the aesthetic I was trying to achieve. I think the hair style for this look should be shiny, long, loose waves. The makeup should be fairly simple, but with a striking, metallic gold eye shadow.

I really don’t know if this look would fit with the current production of Godspell, but I really feel proud of this look. It’s nothing I would have designed usually, but that is the best part of Project Project Runway, stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something different.

Don’t forget to see what the other PPR designers have created this week at that Project Project Runway Flickr group!

Project Project Runway 2012: Challenge 5 Runway

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Yay, another runway day! Thursday is my favorite day; the day to share my weekly creation and the day to enjoy on Flickr what my fellow PPR-ers have concocted.

This week’s challenge was entitled Clothes Off Your Back. It entailed finding a muse and refashioning the muse’s garment. For Project Project Runway we were given a couple of options on how to move forward: we could either pick a human-sized muse and use human-sized clothing to refashion a look, or we could choose doll clothing and use that to create our looks.

As I posted earlier this week, I chose to use a doll and her fashion as my muse, as I felt it was a more accurate representation of the show’s challenge. I picked for my muse the wild and bright Nikki:

I was very drawn to her strong sense of style. I loved that everything from her mini-dress, to her sneakers, to her boombox-inspired purse all spoke to the 80’s style revival that has been popular the last few seasons. I also picked up another dress (for free with purchase) in order to have some more fabric to work with, as I knew Nikki’s mini-dress would not yield enough for me to include 50% refashioned fabric in my final look.

My inspiration for my look came from Nikki’s outrageously bright colors and the music-inspired aspects of her accessories. I knew my outfit would have to be skimpy, because the dresses I purchased did not use very much material. I thought it would be fun to create a look totally out of my usual aesthetic, something bright and fun and truly inspired by my muse.

See? Totally crazy! May heads down the runway in a belly-bearing bikini-style top with halter straps (fabric from secondary dress, ribbon from Nikki’s outfit,) a multi-tiered ruffled skirt with glitter accents (fabric from my collection; glitter ribbon and star from Nikki’s dress,) and print leggings (Nikki’s dress fabric.)

Making this outfit really pulled me out of my comfort zone and is much more of a “fantasy” outfit that the kinds of things I usually make. I knew I would have to do something loud and bright when I picked Nikki as my muse, and I think I achieved that.

After I had my photoshoot with Nikki, I began by completely taking apart the garments I had selected. This took a lot longer than I thought it would. Barbie clothes are surprisingly well finished, with double stitched hems and well-affixed trims! (I just realized I should be thanking my lucky stars that nothing was glued!) After I took apart the dresses, I laid all the tiny pieces out in front of me and tried to figure out exactly what I could achieve with the limited material. I actually had thought that Nikki’s dress would make great leggings when I chose her, so I went with that as the majority of my refashioned fabric. Thank goodness there was enough material. I then decided that I should make some sort of skirt to go over it, as that felt more 80’s to me than just leggings (plus I am not a fan of leggings as pants in real life!) The additional dress that I purchased did not yield much fabric at all, as the back of the dress was an awful lavender knit that curled and unraveled like nobody’s business, so I only really had the front panel of the dress to work with. I decided that I could probably make a bandeau top with the limited material I had. The other details I changed quite a bit from my initial conceptualizing of the look. Originally, I planned to make a denim mini-skirt and a bright Letterman style jacket, utilizing trim and details from my muse’s garments. Something kind of inspired by the aesthetic Gwen Stefani used for “Hollaback Girl” or more recently Madonna’s new single “Give Me All Your Luvin'”. But as I was working, it just wasn’t coalescing for me, and the jacket especially seemed like it would ruin the proportion of refashioned material and new material. So I changed my idea and made the ruffly skirt instead out of fabric I already had on-hand from previous Project Project Runway creations. I’m incredibly thrilled with how the skirt turned out. I love how it pulls some of the bright colors from the prints and adds even more intensity to the already over-the-top look. This skirt may be one of my favorite things I’ve ever made for PPR, just because it is so fun and different for me.

To style the look from the Neiman Marcus Accessory Wall, I decided to just “go for it” and continue with the outrageous look. I found the perfect shoes in B Brian Atwood Suede Colorblock Pumps. The colors are spot-on! I also added the Ralph Lauren Suede Wrap Bracelet in Blue, just for fun. Maybe somebody like Katy Perry could wear this out with her signature brightly-colored wigs and makeup; in fact “Katy Perry goes to Rave” is how I have described this look. Being that I am a huge fan of Electronic and Dance music, I have been to shows where this would not look at all out of place. Even though it is so very far away from my usual aesthetic, I am incredibly proud and happy with this look. Wearable? Not for every day, that’s for sure. Classic? Heck no! Chic? Definitely not. But it is certainly fun, and that’s exactly what I was going for and was my muse’s feel. A definite improvement over the mediocrity I felt with last week’s look.