Fleis makes final six in ‘Runway’

Melissa Fleis (Photo courtesy of Lifetime television)

by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor

One of the early favorites is out while the remaining six contestants, including Rogers City native Melissa Fleis, danced their way to the next round on the Lifetime reality show “Project Runway.” Faced with the challenge of creating a costume for the world famous Rockettes, designer Ven Budhu fell to the bottom, while the judges liked Fleis outfit.

Episode 10 of 14 titled “I Get a Kick Out of You,” put the designers on Broadway, inside Radio City Music Hall looking at the big stage and the famous dancer. The winning designer of the challenge would have their creation used by the Rockettes during future shows, so designers were enthused about the opportunity.

The designers were able to look at other outfits used by the dancers and sketch in the hall. They were challenged to create a stunning outfit which was durable enough to be used by dancers, yet eye-catching enough to be seen from the back of the vast hall.

“This was my first trip to Radio City Music Hall so I was immediately inspired by Art Deco,” Fleis said, adding that she needed to use shocking pink in the design. “I am nervous. I have never made a dance costume in my life.”

Later on the runway where the garments are judged, Fleis made the top half, allowing her to move on to the next round of competition in the show.

“It definitely was a show-stopper,” said host and judge Heidi Klum, but other judges were not as impressed. Other designers had greater problems on the runway. Judges panned the bird-like costume prepared by

Chris Palu, who designed a garment with the skyline of New York on the top, was the winner of the challenge.

This week’s episode challenges the contestants on a smaller level. They will design an outfit for a baby

The six remaining designers are trying to become one of the three finalists for the show’s finale to air in October. The winner will receive $50,000 in technology to be used in their business, a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine, a 2013 Lexus GS 350 automobile and $100,000 from L’Oreal Paris to start their own line of clothing.

Espisode 11 of season 10 airs Thursday at 9 a.m. on Lifetime television, cable channel 30 in Rogers City.

Fleis is the daughter of Jim and Doris Fleis of Rogers City and a 1998 graduate of Rogers City High School. She currently resides in San Francisco.

Advance editor Richard Lamb talked with Melissa about last week’s episode. Here is their conversation.

ADVANCE: Walking down the street and then into Radio City Music Hall brought out some emotion in the designers. What did you think about seeing that place and how did it inspire your design?

MELISSA: I’ve always dreamed of going to Radio City Music Hall. As soon as we entered, so many different kinds of emotions started to take hold. My immediate reaction was simple – “Wow!” The Art Deco architectural, and interior design of Radio City Music Hall is absolutely surreal and breathtaking. What really made us emotional, was the fact that we were enjoying a Rockette show all to ourselves! It was hilarious, and so much fun! However, what I found that inspired me the most overall was all the Art Deco design elements in the tremendous venue. It made me think about the glamorous era in which it was designed, and the people who stood there long before me.

ADVANCE:Was this another challenge which stretched your thought process, designing a dance outfit for the Rockettes? Had you ever done anything like that before?

MELISSA: This was absolutely another challenge, which made me stretch my own thought process. At this point it sounds cliché, but you really do have to think outside the box at all times. While designing, I kept thinking about my old dance recitals when I was a little girl, and all the costumes we had to wear! I have never designed anything like a dance costume in my life – so that was a challenge within itself, but I felt really good about my outfit in the end!

ADVANCE: There was some struggling from the designers on this episode. What were you thinking when you were told there was a second chance to go back to Mood for more shopping?

MELISSA: I was somewhat anti-sequins on our first trip to Mood. I think that was my first mistake!! These costumes have to be seen from the back of Radio City Music Hall, and I realized that my costume needed to have a lot more “bling-factor”. When we were told we could go back to Mood, I was in shock! Has that ever been done before on Project Runway? All I kept thinking while I was there was sequins, sparkle, and shine. Naturally, I exceeded my budget – however Christopher was there for me, and really helped me out.

ADVANCE: In the end, how did you feel about your completed work?

MELISSA: In the end, I feel like I definitely showed a look that was unique and very cute for the Rockettes to wear on stage. What I later realized was how I had lost sight of my editing process while figuring out how I was going to construct my look on time. Time is of the essence, and when you don’t have enough…some things get missed.