Women make strong show at 'Project Runway' finale

NEW YORK (AP) - September 12, 2008 For most of the show's alums, the clear favorite was Portland, Ore.-based designer Leanne Marshall, the quiet, bespectacled brunette who went from being in the bottom two to winning consecutive challenges with her folded fabric structures.

"I'm down with the women, and I'm never down with the women, but they brought it," said Terri Stevens, one of two designers sent packing in the most recent episode of the Bravo show. "I think it's going to be a hard decision but for me if I had to go with a tight show: Leanne."

Marshall was one of six designers who presented before an audience that included stylist Rachel Zoe, a bevy of former "Runway" contestants, studio exec Harvey Weinstein and actress Michelle Trachtenberg. Show mentor Tim Gunn filled in as a guest judge after Jennifer Lopez pulled out due to a foot injury, supermodel host Heidi Klum explained.

Marshall sent down a beautifully crafted collection of separates and dresses draped in large panels of white, cream and shades of turquoise. The first look, a cream colored off-the-shoulder top tucked into a turquoise bubble skirt winged with large petals, drew immediate applause.

Korto Momolu, another tent favorite, explained that she was inspired by nature and the landscape of Africa. Her collection of halter dresses and minis with balloon sleeves in bright green, khaki and yellow was accented with heavy, beaded African jewelry that Momolu also made.

Kenley Collins sent down vintage silhouettes in bright prints inspired by painting, fantasy and "Alice in Wonderland." Many of the body-hugging dresses had feather adornment or large pouffy shoulders, reminiscent of Balenciaga's spring 2008 dresses.

The men - who included Jerrell Scott, Joe Faris and the mohawked Suede - showed far less inspiring and innovative pieces. Scott went Medieval disco in black and gold, mixing black netting, metallic plates, ruffles and lace-up bustiers.

Faris paid homage to the American rodeo, offering a collection primarily made of leather corsets and tight denim with motorcycle jacket details. Suede sent out models in pink, baby blue and opalescent white sheath dresses and gowns.

Trachtenberg, who sat in the front row, said she would wear anything by the female designers.

"I thought they were all really, really beautiful. A lot of hard work went into them," she said. "I love Kenley, but Leanne has some great stuff. I think the competition is between those two."

Fern Mallis, who oversees New York Fashion Week, saw a more clear winner: Marshall. "It worked from the beginning to the end. There was a concept, she made it work beautifully, and executed it."

Last year's winner, Christian Siriano, agreed.

"I thought Leanne's was fabulous," he said. "She has to be winner, because everything else was not cute."

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