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Fleis advances to Runway finals

October 12, 2012
Diane Speer - Lifestyles Editor , The Alpena News

Rogers City native Melissa Fleis has made it to the "final four" and hopes her fashion design sense will be the winning formula in the popular Lifetime television network show, Project Runway.

Fleis is one of four designers still competing in Season 10 of the runway-reality hit where contestants do battle with fabrics and high style in their quest to become a professional designer and win a $100,000 prize to start their own clothing line. This year's final episode of Project Runway, in which the newest winner will be revealed, takes place Thursday at 9 p.m.

Fleis, the daughter of James and Doris Fleis of Rogers City, holds an MFA in Fashion Design from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where she currently resides. This week's episode of the show featured judge Tim Gunn visiting the final four competitors at their individual homes and design spaces.

Fleis and her parents were depicted with Gunn on a boat cruise out in San Francisco Bay as well in her living quarters, where for the previous five weeks she worked on her final collection of clothing separates.

Her dad said during the nationally broadcast show Thursday that being a designer has been his daughter's dream: "She comes from small town Rogers City and said 'no,' this isn't enough. I need to fulfill my childhood dreams."

"And now here she is on Project Runway," her mom said.

Fleis told Gunn and viewers, "I'm from a town of 3,000 people, from going to Rogers City to New York Fashion week. Who would ever thought this would happen?"

Season 10 started with 16 contestants, evenly split with eight males and eight females. Fleis now is the lone woman remaining in the competition.

In this week's segment, the four finalists showed off portions of their recently created collections on three models who strutted down the traditional runway wearing their clothes. The four operated for most of the show under the assumption one of them was being voted out before next week's finale, but in the end, the whole quartet was put through.

While previewing her collection on the television broadcast, Gunn told Fleis, "It's you and that's why I want you to feel confident when you present. The quality is here 1,000 percent."

In response to questions posed on Lifetime's official Project Runway website, Fleis indicated she views herself as having a "forward, distinct look with couture garment construction and experimental design techniques."

Supermodel Heidi Klum, the show's executive producer as well as its host and one of several judges, told Fleis during a critique of her clothing designs, "It's goth. It was very you. There was definitely not a doubt in my mind who was the designer."

Public comments posted on the show's website are overwhelming positive regarding Fleis. One online poster called her style "edgy and cool without being cliche." Another said, "I love your modern, young feminine aesthetic."

Performer Jennifer Hudson will serve as a guest judge for the Oct. 18 season-ending episode. The finale was shot at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City.

Whether Fleis ultimately wins or loses, she has brought positive recognition before a national audience to her hometown of Rogers City. Ray Spain, executive director of the Rogers City Area Chamber of Commerce, and Rich Lamb, publisher of the Presque Isle Advance, currently are spearheading efforts to fly Fleis home from San Francisco and honor her at the Nov. 3 Rogers City Area Chamber of Commerce annual banquet.

For more information, photos or clips of the show and Fleis, go to

Diane Speer can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5691.



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