Who knows if Project Runway will ever again claim your Wednesday nights (or Thursday or whenever); you’ve been watching, and waiting, and waiting and watching, for something to happen, I know. Let’s just hope it doesn’t become, as producer Harvey Weinstein suggested, a radio broadcast. (Yeah, I want to hear designers conceptualize an outfit based on the Honda Fit.) However, if a team of producers comes through town to interview potential guinea pigs for another season, they’ll want to make time to see Michelle Lateste.
Lateste scooped her Art Institute classmates at last Thursday’s Peace, Love, and Happiness runway show at Showbox Sodo by winning two awards. Her collection of peachy-cream and mauve, draped and/or highly structured mini-skirts and barely-there tops earned her the “Next Project Runway Star” award, and a elegantly bubble-hemmed, floor-length, tastefully embellished
- if a little literal - Peacock Dress took home “Best Couture Garment.”
Now, it’s only fair of me to say that one of the looks Lateste sent down the runway was a direct homage to Leanne Marshall, the (at the time) Portland-based PR winner from last season. “A direct homage” might be slightly generous. The many-petaled skirt could not have been more influenced by Leanne’s own wavy, prism-like, geometric skirt and indeed it must have been a straight-forward attempt to try out some of Leanne’s techniques. I didn’t get the chance to ask her, but I can only assume that if she entered the look in her school show, she knew everyone would draw the same conclusion and she was okay with that. I think, and my fellow judges agreed (among them Seattle Models Guild booker Andrew Burkhardt and Gisella from Ragamoffyn’s), that the bottom line is: She’s a student, and she did a beautiful job imitating a complicated idea, and an equally beautiful job creating complementary and complex looks to go along with it. Even from our front-row perch, the other judges and I could tell that her garments were very well-made, and each had its own idea—it’s own little blend of flounce and architecture.
So maybe Leanne needs to keep an eye on Lateste. Maybe she needs to hire her. Either way, we’ll be watching her too.
(Photos here by Mark Best for the Art Institute.)