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Project Runway invades Denver at the Cut 'n Sew: Yves Saint Laurent Challenge

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Denver fashion fixture and Project Runway Season 9 contestant Fallene Wells showed off her Tim Gunn skills at yesterday's Cut 'n' Sew event. Amidst the H&M hoopla at Denver Pavilions beginning at 10 a.m., local designers Melissa May, Tricia Hoke, Rachel Marie Hurst, and Heidi Busk participated in the speed-design challenge for a $100 Denver Pavilion gift certificate first place prize and the title of Cut 'n' Sew supreme master.

"I think this is harder than Project Runway," said Wells in an interview. On the TV show, they had eight hours to design and execute a design versus two to three days she says it normally takes her to create a piece. Though on the show "there are twenty cameras in your face watching you stumble" at all times. Sponsored by Denver Art Museum in conjunction with its March 2012 Yves Saint Laurent retrospective, Wells hopes to organize a similar challenge next year with twelve contestants.

The Challenge: Inspired by a Yves Saint Laurent piece, create a full outfit in four hours with the help of up to two assistants. Contestants were given $100 in supplies and workspace. They brought their supplies and materials to the event. No Mood shopping runs in Denver.

Inspired by YSL's 1976 Ballet Russes collection, Melissa May (right) created an outfit fit for the weather with a dress and faux-fur muff and hat. "The pieces I'm making aren't difficult but there is a lot," she said. Tricia Hoke had two inspirations: a YSL smoking jacket and a black lace-backed dress. She had planned a black dress and jacket over it. She was the only contestant to work alone and she nearly didn't have a machine.

Hoke usually works on instructional machines which are not portable so a producer for the event promised to bring her one. The producer forgot. A make it work moment ensued and a machine magically appeared, Hoke's not sure how but in the midst of feverish competition, she was too busy to contemplate that.

The tailored cigarette jacket was Rachel Marie Hurst's inspiration except she was going to do it up "with more glam." She created a tailored jacket with faux-fur accents and a double layered skirt with a shorter inner tier. Heidi Busk wasn't inspired by a single YSL piece, but rather, his continued use of bows throughout his career. She took that inspiration and gave it a literal twist, creating what she calls a "vertical bow dress." "I never do things this elegant," she said. "I usually do more ready-to-wear but what better time to challenge yourself?" Time's Up! Runway:

Judging: The judges including Wells, Associate Editor of Sew News Beth Bradley and Associate Curator at DAM Darrin Alfred were all indelibly kind. So kind that when Wells took the mic as the last judge, she first said, "Now comes the bad judge."

Their overall comments: Melissa May's dress was expertly executed but perhaps a bit costume-y. Tricia Hoke's jacket was modern and chic while still being very reminiscent of YSL though the absence of a splash of pink lace she had planned left something to be desired; it was a signature touch of many YSL black dresses. Rachel Marie Hurst's piece definitely had a lightness on the bottom but the top, especially the fur on the shoulders, were bulky. Heidi Busk had a clever concept utilizing good (and very Swedish for H&M) colors, but it was perhaps not the most flattering. And the winner is...

Tricia Hoke! She won $100 to shop with at Denver Pavilions.

2nd place went to Heidi Busk ($75 gift certificate to Denver Pavilions); 3rd went to Melissa May ($50); 4th to Rachel Marie Hurst ($25).

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