Project Runway Season 12, Ep. 7: Best Foot Forward

The designers meet Tim Gunn and Marie Claire's Editor-in-Chief Anne Fulenwider in the magazine's amazing fashion closet located in the Heart Building. This is where all the latest accessories they shoot for their fashion pages reside. Kate comments, "It is every girl's dream. There are shoes up the wall.  It looks like a library full of shoes. This is heaven."  Shoes are to be the inspiration this challenge and they're a great one.  Most women love shoes.  It's the one fashion item you can indulge in freely as you age with few limitations.

On the floor in front of the designers are buzzers they will need to use. This week they are going to do a fashion quiz to decide what order the designers get to select their shoes. They are actually limited to just a specific grouping. As the challenge winner last week, Alexandria gets to choose first without participating in the quiz. She selects a super cool pair of thigh-high gladiator sandals with knee pads.  The rest fall in this order:  Ken (black strappy ankle shoes), Jeremy (black suede boots w/ gold metal chain down the side), Karen (yellow/grey dress heel), Helen (black ankle boot with studded toe), Kate (red swirled strap with an unusual modern heel), Alexander (off-white open toe high wedge with red stripe down the back), Justin (cool pair of high wedge with patterned fabric - I NEED these), Bradon (jeweled ecru flats), Dom (funky purple/fuchsia/turquoise creepers - very risky) and Miranda (super shiny, red flats). Funniest moment is when neither Dom or Miranda have any idea what designer made the term the Little Black Dress popular - Coco Chanel of course.

Designers with their shoes and a few buzzer still on the floor.
The designers were given 20 minutes to sketch and had widely differing ideas on how to use their shoes as inspiration. They have 30 minutes to shop at Mood Fabrics with a suggested budget of $250.  Note - Alexander ends up buying plaid even after he sees that Miranda already has almost the identical fabric cut and in her basket. Then they both end up making pants - not good. As Jeremy was 2nd to pick up the plaid, I think he should have moved a different direction right from the fabric choice. There are 2 guest judges this week - Anne Fulenwider and The Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco.

Anne Fulenwider - Kaley Cuoco - Nina Garcia - Zac Posen - Heidi Klum
I just want to note that I appreciate the incredible hand work that went into some of the designs whether the final look worked.  This includes Bradon for the incredibly well done hand-draping. Hopefully he finds a way to use it better in the future. I also was intrigued by Bradon's creation of a cable knit effect out of chiffon. Nice to see something original. It just needed to used be for a different challenge. I was disappointed to see only black looks in the top 3.  It would have been nice to see a bit of variety.  I also felt for the very first time that Justin belongs here and would have love to see him rewarded by a top 3 placement. Tim's response at the end was that he actually responded to Miranda's look. He went on to say that it was such a talented group that designers will go home each week even with a good look. They need to stand by their convictions.

Top 3 -- Helen (Winner) - Alexandria - Ken
Helen wants to play off the embellished metal toe and create a red carpet dress with embellished cape. She has been criticized for shoddy workmanship in the past so decides to do a very simple black dress and then a cape which will be heavily embellished.  Tim sees Kate Middleton. The way he says it makes you think bad, but he means good.  He does tell her that embellishing the cape makes it look like her mother.  Alexandria notes it doesn't look modern and I agree. I also find it too simple. That's good if the shoes were complex, but these shoes were simple except for some toe accents. If nothing else, I wish she would have brought a little silver studding up onto the dress. It is lovely, beautifully made and something I would wear.  My objection is, "Does it meet the challenge?" The judges said a resounding yes. Comments include - when this walked out I was AHH I want that look, minimal and classic, sophisticated, so fantastic I want to wear it tomorrow on a red carpet, sexy and chic, fits immaculately, simplicity is next to godliness, I would wear it in an instant and very young and modern.

Alexandria doesn't realize quite how high the gladiator sandals go until she gets back in the studio. She quickly realizes to show them off she's going to need a fairly short dress. She wants to downplay the S&M vibe and make it more a statement making - chic with a wink. Karen feels that the fairly simple shift dress didn't do the shoes justice. The dress - black with black lace accents - is flow-y which is a nice contrast to the harsher gladiator shoes - softening the look. I also think the simple design is a great counterpoint. I would have given this the win. Comments include - I think you did the perfect thing for these shoes because the dress is whimsical and the shoes are hard, soft and hard, a wowser, super sexy, very cool attitude, very editorial, (Zac) I don't like gladiator sandals but I get it - it's just a little pedestrian, a complimentary look to a stellar pair of shoes, it's bold and shows confidence in yourself and I love the feminine detail at the top.

Ken decides to do a jacket-style coat dress with a ballooned hem in a textured black fabric. Tim feels it's looking dated - the zipper, the volume, the puffy shoulder.  Don't over design.  So Ken decides to take out the volume in the hem and shoulder. Not sure I like the large peplum detail that seems to be attached about 1/2 in above her waist. Although the design is improved, I still didn't think it was top 3 (of course Ken thought it should have taken the top spot). Comments include - I was surprised in a good way, very modern, love the texture of the fabric, nicely done, the fabric looks rich, man-eater I love, a great balance, so cool and kinda cute, top is well made, fabulous, a killer, I would have given it another inch in the hem and she can take over the world in that dress.

Bottom 3 -- Miranda (Sent Home) - Bradon - Jeremy
Miranda is in pretty low spirits after last week, but does like the shoes and goes with a design she personally would like to wear with them (a high-waisted plaid pant, a white with small black polka dots blouse and a white leather jacket). She heads straight for the wool plaid. Of all the fabric she has, Tim feels the polka dot fabric looks really inexpensive. It needs pizazz and sex appeal. Jeremy also expresses concern that the top and jacket are too similar to a previous design that was not well received. To me it didn't look bad on the runway, but I didn't like the combination of white top and white jacket with the red pants and shoes. The judges hated it.  Comments include - she does not look like a cool girl, I don't know what era she's from, (Zac) I sort of like it's not a cool girl it's Nerd Alert but I don't know if it's kooky enough, where is the eggnog, very Xmas, very retro but not in an inspiring way, not digging this either, a little forced, I don't see any rock and roll and it looks like you ran out of time with the top.

Bradon wants to push himself so is uses a French draping technique called Bouillonne, I think, where the surface of the fabric looks like bubbling, boiling water. He tells Tim he would dress the shoes down if he were a young woman - even with jeans - but was scared to put a a dressed-down look on the runway. His first concept was a dress full dress from the draped fabric. Tim's question was - Where is she going in it?  Bradon had no answer which was disturbing. He realizes the dress is not right for the flats, so turns it into a top and then he rushes to complete a circle skirt in time for fittings. He tucked a few glittery bits into the top, but the look overall still doesn't work with the flats. Unfortunate as the hand draping is really done well.  Comments include - thought of swing dancing and happy days, so old school, I didn't love it, needs something simple, so overworked, frumpy dumpy, top texture is well done but not in a flattering shape, least favourite look, someone's grandmother's pillow, fabric looks cheap and looks like a bad bridesmaid dress.

Jeremy decides to let the gold chain down the side be reflected in a cable sweater top, but created from white chiffon. Paired with this are a black tube skirt and a gold camisole worn underneath. He is actually recreated the cable with strips of fabric. Tim encourages him to put most of his energy into the top. I actually kind of like this because it is so out of the box and original. The negative is that it did make the model look a bit thick on top but unless you're super skinny - let's face it - so does a cable knit sweater. Probably not the right look to pair with the boots but I'm not sure I would have put this in the bottom 3. Comments include - it does not look current or modern to me, because the boots are so sexy I think it's all too much, a lot going on, it verges on trampy, subliminally I think you were thinking Julia Roberts, you have these cool rock and roll boots so should have been something edgy and I'm starting to question who you are as a designer.

Alexander - Dom - Justin
Alexander decides to create a power woman's outfit in plaid. He is really glad to see Tim because he is worried about the fact 2 of them doing plaid.  Tim's response? We could have a tartan challenge. What matters is how does the design distinguish itself from the other tartan plaid. I actually kind of like a few things about this look  The top reflects the shoe in color. But although the colour is quiet, the pleated origami accent like folds create a very modern interest and counterpoint. I don't mind the plaid, but also think it does nothing for the look. There had to better fabric choices. Just glad he didn't make black pants. There were too many on the runway already.

Dom loves that the shoes have so much personality and fully embraces colour as a designer.  She decides to do a cute skater girl-type funky quilted dress. Tim is bang on when he says they're either going to love it or hate it and loves that fact that she is willing to walk that line. While I love the colour and think her concept was solid, in the execution it didn't really work.  The colour blocking as it makes the model look flat-chested and wider in the hips. There is also a bit of a thonged bustier look to the purple section.  It also seemed chunky through the middle on the runway. Don't know if that was the quilting or that the cut needed to be changed.

Justin has seriously statement making shoes which are one of my favourites. I would LOVE to own these.  He tells Tim he is doing 3 pieces and shows some coloured fabrics. Tim feels using the colours would be too matchy-matchy, so he moves to all black. I would have personally liked to see a just a wee bit of colour from the shoes somewhere as accents to echo and enhance, but the look turned out great. This is the first outfit from Justin I have seen that has a younger, edgier style and the first I would have put in the top 3.  I would altered the shape of the top of the bust slightly, but the shrug in particular is really interesting. One designer called it - CRAZY HOT.

Karen - Kate

Karen was inspired by the colour (her favourite) and felt the shoes had a real sex appeal.  She chose to mirror the wide straps of the shoes in the dress's bodice. Tim questions whether she is concerned about the matchy-matchy aspect of it. You can't tell here but the jacket was overly big and boxy in the front went closed which I didn't like. It looked fine when propped open with hands on the hips. Several designers around her commented on how much they liked this, so perhaps it looked better in person. Middle of the road is probably quite right. Nothing wrong and very well constructed, just nothing exceptional overall in terms of design.

Kate decides to do a pants and a top that are plain in design and out of black and white, but with a lot of detail. The shoes are the only real accent. Supposedly she wants to play up the surrealism of the shoes. WHAT????  I see understated classy with a truly unique pair of shoes. Don't get this one at all and I think it failed the challenge. Tim's only comment was she had to execute it perfectly. After putting so many great things down the runway this season, I really thought she'd find a way to bring something unique to this challenge. Instead I see absolutely nothing in the design that speaks to being inspired by such a wonderfully unique pair of shoes. They only get shown off as the model walks because of super high leg slits in the front of the pant legs. Obviously the judges didn't agree as I saw Zac nodding yes. Great technical construction, well designed and the outfit on it's own is one I would wear. But again - does it fit the challenge?

To see larger or more images of any of these designs, go to RATE THE RUNWAY.