''Project Runway'' cast-off Marion talks about getting auf'ed by Sarah Jessica Parker, and why the $15 challenge was his ''nightmare''

By Jessica Shaw
November 22, 2007 at 12:00 PM EST
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Just how bad does it hurt to be told you can’t make $15 look good? Not that bad if you’re too avant-garde to care. Project Runway designer Marion Lee, the pale and meekish Texan of the season, got the boot from Sarah Jessica Parker and the judges for making a poncho-and-skirt mess that Heidi Klum deemed ”sad.” Marion called us to defend his honor and diss jersey.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I didn’t get to see your reaction when Sarah Jessica Parker showed up. Did you cry like Chris did?

MARION LEE: I’m not a real big star-struck person. It was really nice to see her, but I’ve never watched Sex and the City so I’m not a big fan. I wasn’t blown away.

When Tim Gunn said you could only spend $15 on the outfit, what were you thinking?

I was thinking: Kathie Lee Gifford. I didn’t know how I was going to do that. I design collections that are really deep and avant-garde, and there’s a lot of meaning and thought that goes into them. It’s a lot different than designing a $15 outfit. Also, Sarah Jessica chose me because she liked my color sense and sophistication level. That threw me off too because that meant she basically wanted me to do a beautiful outfit for $15. I should have just gotten some jersey and cut a little dress and I’d still be on the show. Actually, looking back, I should have used jersey for all my challenges and I’d be in the final four.

Okay, we need to discuss jersey. It seems like everyone is using it this season. Is it a really easy fabric to work with?

It was irritating me. I was like, ”If one more f—ing person uses jersey…!” You can cut hems and they don’t fray. You can drape it. It’s kind of like a kindergarten fabric. I’ve never been drawn to it. It’s not anything I would use. But if I went back on the show I would definitely use it.

Elisa not only used jersey for this challenge, but she also used the same exact color that she used last week.

Yeah, that’s all she uses. I really like Elisa a lot, but she even said that’s her favorite fabric.

Well, at least the fabric of your outfit looked like it cost more than $15.

I’m very much a concept designer. I don’t design one piece at a time. When I saw my outfit I saw 30 more pieces along with it. I guess I should have focused on doing something really basic to get me to the next round. I think Michael Kors might have seen a future vision for that outfit. He said, ”It looks like you’re trying to do Hermès.” I think he saw more depth to the outfit than was shown. I was railed so hard by the other people, though.

Actually, I think Sarah Jessica compared it to Hermès, albeit badly, whereas Michael called it ”Cousin It.” When you hear that kind of criticism, do you want to crawl under a rock?

I don’t want to crawl under a rock. I think I was given my nightmare challenge, which would be designing a $15 outfit. I don’t want to design a cheap, mainstream, budget-store outfit. I wanted to go on the show to make delicate lace out of an 18-wheeler. I kind of got screwed by the challenge.

You seemed so calm and quiet for the two episodes we saw you. Are you really like that?

I’m silly and quirky and funny. It takes me a while to warm up to a group. I wasn’t on long enough to have my silly side come out. I’ve seen things on the Internet with people calling me doughboy, ghost, pale, Victorian street waif. It’s funny because Victorian is my favorite period in time.

Who were your friends among the contestants?

Simone and Chris.

I love Chris!

Yeah, he’s really funny. He doesn’t let stuff get to him.

Why did you choose Steven as your partner?

Steven was my roommate at Gotham. None of us really knew each other for every long. I chose him for the non-drama. If you notice, we were the calmest team.

Let’s discuss the opposite of calm. Did you all think Elisa was nuts?

At the beginning you’d hear people go, ”Ooh, she’s crazy!” but as we progressed people saw it wasn’t an act…that’s how she really is. Most of the designers commented on her being irritating. It’s a little too much to handle when you have other things to think about.

What did you think of her?

She’s one of my favorite designers, actually. She’s coming from somewhere otherworldly. I think she has a message. Otherworldly, all right. So which designers are you

looking forward to seeing for the rest of the season?

It’s hard for me to answer that because I know the final four. But I know Rami does dresses. I get tired of dresses. Christian is very Vivienne Westwood-inspired. I’ve seen that. I’m a little interested in Jillian. She’s quiet at times and she’s really into getting what she wants. I haven’t seen her designs too much but I’d be interested to.

Christian was in the top two the first week and alongside you at the bottom this week. Were you surprised by that?

Christian and I come from the same thought of design. He and I are both avant-garde designers. He might not admit to struggling with this challenge, but I think we both struggled. It was WalMart, as in ”How many of those can we sell?” I don’t see how my designs would fit into that kind of line.

Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano guide undiscovered designers through the harrowing rites of fashion.
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