As an educator, I've been forced to face the ugly result of Internet convenience: plagiarized work. (Since September, I've already found three cases of plagiarism from online sources.) Although fashion is no stranger to that--just peruse the copious vendors in Chinatown for a lesson in knock-offs--, I still find it shocking to see it done so blatantly on a show/competition like Project Runway. And even though the judges did call Kenley on that (a charge which she vociferously denied), they seemed more irritated than outraged. The above examples clearly illustrate what is obvious copying--a crime of fashion that should have automatically eliminated Kenley from progressing to the tents at Bryant Park.
Critic Harold Bloom has written about the "anxiety of influence" that writers feel when they metaphorically look up to their gifted predecessors. In some ways, it is true that "there is nothing new under the sun," and we are all, in various ways, required to borrow and build on the ideas of others. But when artistic integrity is called into question--and here I firmly believe designers are in the same category as writers or artists--it is absolutely critical to establish a honest individual perspective. There is a fine line between obsequious referencing and exact recreations (note even the subtle details on the first example, down to the feather on the head and the white shoes). Kenley's inability to make that distinction is what ultimately caused her to lose to her much more talented competitor, Leanne.