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Project Runway: Reap What You Sew

Keith MichaelMystery revealed!  Project Runway reality show contestant Keith Michael, the subject of intense speculation about a copying scandal, was ousted from the program -- for a different offense.

The rules violation turned out to be not a fashion design sin, but the near occasion of one.  Namely, the possession of a contraband patternmaking book, use of the internet, and sneaking away from the production without permission -- all of which could have given Keith the opportunity to copy his design from an outside source.  As the oracular Tim Gunn explains:

Why are fashion-related books against the rules? They offer references and points of departure that the designers can borrow, thereby compromising the integrity of their designs. Imagine if these books were to be allowed and later we discover that so-and-so’s design for the “X” challenge was a copy of the Alexander McQueen dress on page 184 of “20th Century Fashion Design.” That would present a huge issue.

Tim also took the opportunity to put to rest the earlier rumors about one of Keith's sketchbooks, submitted as part of his application to become a contestant -- and at the same time to draw a distinction between inspiration and copying. 

Although the sketchbook included drawings copied directly from photographs of other desginers' work, the judges were apparently cognizant of this at the outset and assumed that the sketches were just for inspiration.  This is a common practice; indeed, in Tim's words, "Fashion designers have a responsibility to look at the design work around them." 

Just not to copy it.