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Challenge 5: Judges' Verdict

The final two tackled their own lines, but only one had what it takes to capture the grand prize.

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The FN Shoe Star:

Rachel Fishbein
Fishbein snagged the FN Shoe Star crown after impressing the judges with her keen attention to detail and well-crafted collection, which featured a high-heeled bootie and platform sandal (below). “You really have to appreciate the research and thought that went into this, and she’s been like that since the beginning,” Michael Atmore said of Fishbein, who made repeat visits to the Saks Fifth Avenue shoe floor to discuss her plans with salespeople. “As far as building a story around [the] work, [she’s] phenomenal.” While the strategy may have given Fishbein additional insight into the wants of the Saks consumer, Ron Frasch questioned whether the approach could hamper creativity. “She’s buttoned-down, organized and professional, [and] the quality was fantastic,” he said. “But you have to have your own vision and not interpret [the salesperson’s] vision.” Still, it was the complete presentation of a well-focused business plan and clean collection — which featured embossed emerald stingray, suede and calf hair — that drew high praise from the judges. “The shoes were really executed beautifully,” said Diane Sullivan, who commended Fishbein for using comfort details in her line. “It’s rare that you see someone trying to solve a problem.”


Who Goes:

Keena Fleming
She may not have won the title, but Fleming still wowed the judges with her creativity and fashion-forward sensibility. “Do I see Saks in this [collection]? Absolutely,” Ron Frasch said of the wrapped wedge shoetie and strappy sandal embellished with colorful, tribal fabrics (below). “She has a lot of creativity and vision, [and] she thought a lot about heel heights and materials.” Diane Sullivan complimented Fleming for tapping into her own DNA, delivering a concept for the bohemian consumer and offering a full breadth of flats to boots. “The theme was carried throughout,” she said. However, she questioned how the collection would evolve and wished for a more developed business. “Where do you go from here? What will the life be after this?” Fleming’s free-spirited approach may have been her greatest strength, but the judges were concerned that it would interfere with her ability to design for the masses. “She has admitted that ‘commercial’ is hard for her,” Atmore said, “but you really get where [she’s] coming from as a designer.”