Fleis moves through avant-garde challenge to make final four

She is in the top four. With only two episodes left to go, Rogers City native Melissa Fleis has survived all sorts of designing challenges to make it to the top four of the reality show “Project Runway.”

She has survived designing a costume for the Rockettes, an outfit for a baby, creating an outfit using candy, creating a new look for a client and a design for at work among others.

(Photo courtesy of Lifetime)

The latest challenge took the remaining five designers to a large estate outside of New York where the designers were challenged to create a garment inspired by a make-up scheme. Those who made it through this challenge would be one step closer to the show’s finals, “New York Fashion Week,” with a chance to win the grand prize.

“Avant-garde means new and experimental. So this is your opportunity to wow the judges,” said producer and mentor Tim Gunn.

The designers were given at budget of $400 at the fabric store and two days, instead of the usual one day, to create their garments. Given the budget and the time, Gunn told the designers the judges expect about two-months’ work to be completed in the two days. That set the bar very high for the already pressured contestants.

“All I’ve ever wanted this season was an avant-garde challenge so I am really, really excited,” Fleis said during the show. Melissa was given the character of an artsy muse as her inspiration.

In the workroom, Gunn cautioned Melissa on her use of time, as that has been a concern in prior challenges. Fleis agreed that her plan required lots of work.

“I think I can do this. I just have to keep moving forward,” she said after Gunn’s visit the next day. But 15 minutes before the judging, Fleis was frantically attaching snaps to make sure the garment closed.

What she created pleased the judges and pleased Fleis as she watched her model on the judging runway.

“It is basically me out on the runway,” Fleis said.

The judges were critical of Sonjia Williams’ creation, comparing it to an ice skating outfit. Christopher Palu’s outfit was called a little gothic and resembling a costume, and was critical of the feathers he used on the model’s arms. Designer Dimitri Sholokhov got credit for his impeccable tailoring skills while creating a stunning look. Fabio Costa’s design drew compliments for a jacket, which he turned upside down from his first try.

Fleis, judged last on the runway, drew compliments for the color combinations used and the design.

“When I looked at this, with all of the color, I knew you must have been scared (to death) because dust for you is a color, and you handled it well,” said judge Michael Kors.

But host and judge Heidi Klum said she couldn’t decide which outfit was uglier, Melissa’s or Fabio’s. The other three judges quickly said how much they liked Fleis’ creation.

On the judging runway, the five designers were asked the uncomfortable question of who they thought should advance to the finals. Melissa said Sonjia and Fabio should advance.

Since the judges were split in their opinion of the week’s designs, they drew upon each designer’s entire season of work to see if they would advance. They felt Melissa would come up with a good show, if given the chance to advance.

In the end, Sonjia heard the “you are out” line from Klum. The remaining four designers were sent home to come up with an assortment of designs to bring back to New York for the final two episodes.

The next episode, airing at 9 p.m. Thursday, will determine which designers will make it to the finals.

Rogers City native Melissa Fleis works on her avant-garde design in the episode 12 of the Lifetime television show "Project Runway." (Photo courtesy of Lifetime)