Project Runway 5: Meet the Designer - Kenley Collins
Heading into the finale of Project Runway 5, we all know one of the key points to Kenley Collins' background: she is the youngest daughter of a tugboat captain. The 25-year-old designer from Pompano Beach, FL has referenced her dad's line of work as both fashion inspiration (as in her use of ropes in some of her designs) and as an explanation for her scrappy and stubborn nature.

We also learned, when Tim Gunn visited Kenley as she prepared her finale collection, that her grandmother was a calendar girl, and a stylish lady of her time, possibly also inspiring Kenley's love of vintage looks. As we prepare to watch Kenley compete in the finale of Project Runway 5, here is a look at a little more about the designer.

While her hometown of Pompano Beach isn't a fashion mecca, it's possible it also helped define her personal retro style. She told the Miami Herald that the town is “Retirement Central. There was this one cool vintage boutique called Jasmin's. I went to a lot of thrift stores, Goodwill and Salvation Army.” Kenley would reconstruct the vintage looks, but at that time, fashion was not necessarily her career goal.

She attended Florida State University, where she pursued a marketing major, saying, “"I didn't know I wanted to do fashion…I wanted to stick with marketing so I could keep my options open."

She moved to New York City upon graduating, and after a stint as a restaurant manager, started making the move towards fashion. She took a job in sales with Missy Wear, which she has described as “really cheesy old women's clothes.”

The company must have been forward-thinking enough to see her design potential, though, as she was promoted to a design role within a week.

Although her career was progressing in fashion, it would appear that she still might not have been completely settled on that as the path her creativity would ultimately take. During this time, she auditioned for HGTV's interior design competition show, Design Star.

But then again, maybe she was just itching to get out of her day job. She told the Gothamist blog that she considered leaving New York, when she “was unhappy working from 8 a.m. to midnight every night designing for horrible mass market women's wear getting horrible pay.”

She also auditioned for Project Runway for the first time during this period in her fashion career, but it was not the right moment then. “Tim Gunn didn't think I was ready,” she said. “I did not have a very professional portfolio. I had been in the industry for a year and a half. I didn't have my line, just ideas for what I could do for my line.”

After two years with Missy Wear, she was ready to turn those ideas into reality. She quit, started teaching sewing, started her own label, and did some freelance work in children's clothing. She eventually auditioned again, and this time, as we've seen, the young and self-described “ambitious” designer made it on the show.

Whether or not she will take it to a win remains to be seen, and so we will have to watch what happens on the finale of Project Runway 5 on Wednesday.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Images courtesy of BravoTV and