Team USA Athletes Challenge Austin Project Runway Designers For Medal Gowns

Designer Sergio Guadarrama – Photo Barbara Nitke/Bravo

Article By:  Kelsie Davis

Week eleven on Project Runway really put the phrase raising the bar to new heights. With six designers left, this competition was as patriotic as it gets with a challenge to test the best FOR the best of the best.   So let’s hope our Austinites take a winning medal!

The group was asked to design a victory dress for six female summer Olympians who will compete in Tokyo, Japan.  “Athletic bodies are a little harder to dress because they have either bigger arms or big shoulder blades. So, we really have to showcase how strong and beautiful their bodies are,” said Brittany Allen.

“Competing at this level of competition takes raw talent, a lot of hard work, and, most importantly, heart”, added host Karlie Kloss.

Each designer was paired with their respective athlete and Austin designer Sergio Guadarrama, worked with indoor volleyball player, Foluke Atinuke Akinradewo, who also happens to be 22 months pregnant.  “I asked him for a floor-length gown because for someone really tall, it’s hard to find something like that,” Akinradewo said.

Kim Rhode, Olympic Shotgun Athlete – Design by Brittany Allen -Photo Barbara Nitke/Bravo

Guadarrama selected a yellow, flowy fabric, all while remaining attentive to Foluke’s design requests.  “I want to try to make her look as feminine as possible, and just keep it very elegant and beautiful and classic because that’s really what she asked for,”  added Guadaramma.

Designer Brittany Allen paired up with six-time Olympic double trap and skeet shooter,  Kim Rhode.  “All of these athletes are super accomplished, so the fact we can give them something that makes them feel more like a winner, I think that’s what we’re all ‘shooting’ for,”  Allen said.

One of the challenges for Allen’s model was tan lines from her sports uniform and she requested to camouflage that as much as possible.   Rhode also explained that she would love an elegant dress with a plunging neckline to wear to dinner by the beach with her husband.

Allen decides to cover Kim’s black dress with a sheer charcoal-lined corset.  She also decided that the sheer would hang a little longer than the lining of the floor-length dress after Christian Siriano said she should spruce it up a little.  “I’m going to take Christian’s advice and I’m just making sure that my aesthetic is here in this garment by bringing up the lining in the hemline,” Allen said.

The guest judge for the competition was Olympic alpine skier Lindsey Vonn.  She holds 82 Worldcup victories, which is more than any other woman in history.

Sergio’s model Foluke entered the runway radiating the entire room as she walked the catwalk.  The yellow dress was flowy with flattering cutouts the embraced her body and baby bump.

Foluke Akinradewo Gunderson, Indoor Volleyball athlete – Design by Sergio Guadarrama Photo Barbara Nitke/Bravo

Judge Nina Garcia expressed her own personal feelings about how to dress while expecting.  “Having been pregnant, it is hard to dress the body and I think you were able to celebrate this stage of her life, and still look feminine and sexy. I think the back is fantastic,” added Garcia.

Other comments from the judges included the ultimate simplicity of the gown sharing that the dress could have been more form-fitting.  In true Sergio style, he adamantly stood up for his design and felt it was on point.

Brittany Allen’s model featured a glittery, formal but modest black dress that complimented athlete Kim Rhode hugging her curves in all the right places.  It was easy to tell Allen designed it, as her subtle touches were clearly visible with luxe fabric flattering Kim’s shoulders and torso area, trickling with detail all the way down to her feet.

“I’m a tomboy at heart so this is way out of my element,” Rhode said. “I am a shotgun shooter; I’ve competed in the last six Olympics. But I have to say, I feel very beautiful.”

The judges asked Rhode if she initially wanted a low v-cut in the front and she said I’m not afraid to show some skin.

“As an athlete, I think that I want something very particular, but the designer or stylist may have chosen something for myself that I would’ve liked even more.”  The judges pointed out that they wanted just a little more from Brittany, but she too stood firm on her design and was thrilled she created a dress the client loved.

Designers Victoria Cocieru and Nancy Volpe-Beringer received the highest scores, with Nancy winning her first challenge.  The remaining four designers, Sergio, Marquise, Brittany, and Geoffrey Mac were left nervously standing on the runway to hear who would be going home.

In yet ANOTHER Project Runway twist host Karlie Kloss announced that all the designers were safe and all would move on to the last challenge.  Two designers would be eliminated for the next challenge and that will determine the final four designers to show full collections at New York Fashion Week.

Now on to that medal-winning final four and a Project Runway WIN for either Austin designer!!

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