It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's Kate the Great!

By laurareineke Fri., Jul. 19, 2013 ,12:36 pm EDT

The mystery is finally over as Kate returns once again to try her luck at becoming "a much nicer, less vocal version of Kate Season 11," and it's ironically comforting to start this season with a familiar face returning to our living rooms on the 12th installment of the Emmy-nominated series "Project Runway." However, inviting 15 strange new faces into my home, I was sure to lock up all my couture, put away all the fine china, and take cover like Anne Frank!

Right out of the gates the aroma of things leads me to think Barnum & Bailey is headed into town for what surely will be the greatest show on earth. From psychopaths to sociopaths and all illnesses treated by laying on a couch while a therapist doodles into a yellow college-ruled notepad while draining your bank account, this is going to be a fabulous season of pill-poppin' personalities.

On the topic of poppin' pills, I'm not talking about Amanda Bynes: I am pretty sure Alexandria has been in violation of an S.U.I during this ENTIRE first episode. “S.U.I?" you ask? This acronym originated during my college years and stands for Sewing Under the Influence.

Side Note: I myself have accrued a few S.U.I.'s over those years, but it was all worth it to spend sleepless nights integrating myself into New York City, meeting some of the most influential people that have aided in the success I have today. There is always a price to be paid in the fashion world, but if you find the right people, you will have an unlimited balance.

Alexandria is an ex-model-turned-designer and quick to point out that Sandro is an "idiot," while a few others don't even "belong" in the competition! With the mouth of a boxer and the look of a figure skater, let's hope she can hold her own next to Mike Tyson and Tonya Harding. If not, she'll be out an ear and a kneecap! I think it's rather ballsy to make such bold statements so early in the game; however, I am going to give her the benefit of doubt and blame it on every model's depravity: Hunger.

Speaking of Mike Tyson and ears, it's awe-inspiring to see Justin on the show even with having a hearing disability. I am already a fan of his personal strength and attitude because this show is more than just designing pretty dresses but having the confidence to stand in the face of judgment. What I am most intrigued by is his architectural background, because I believe it can make for a very strong and innovative designer.

There are DEFINITELY some unique characters on this show, but no one takes the crown from Milwaukee's Best -- and no, I'm not talking about the beers I have consumed during this episode -- Timothy Westbrook! His explanations and platform were the comedy of the episode, watching him create, define, explain, and demonstrate his garment and its purpose. Though his intentions seem genuine, the man on Canal Street in Chinatown told me the same thing about the Louis Vuitton bag he was trying to sell me! Timothy may be odd, but his hometown comrade Miranda Levy seems to think she is above him, barely reciprocating the hug he tries to give her. I don’t know about you but I am intrigued to learn more about drama behind these Farm Town Fashionistas!

It was such an explosive and dramatic show opener using the sky divers to deliver what became the designers' fabric for the challenge: The parachutes! These are people jumping from thousands of feet in the air using a VERY lightweight material known as “ripstop nylon” fabric which is resistant to tearing and ripping.

Definiton: Ripstop nylon is a light-weight nylon fabric with interwoven ripstop reinforcement threads in a crosshatch pattern. The material comes in many different colors and sizes, including thickness. It is woven with coarse, strong warp and filling yarns at intervals so that tears will not spread.

I don't know about you, but wearing last season Dolce & Gabbana is as dare-devil as I get! With that said, it was great to see such beautiful color options and an excess amount of fabric to work with. In the end I think that was the triumph for Bradon that he used so much of what he was given but had the ability to manipulate the parachute into a stunning editorial piece. In this competition it is all about taking chances, especially on the first challenge! Nina nailed it when she said, "First impressions are all that you have!" I couldn’t agree more.

My favorite first impressions and personal picks I'm intrigued to see more from are Alexander Pope, Sue Waller, Jeremy Brandrick, and Bradon McDonald.

Who are yours?

Unexpected Twists

By kim_messina Fri., Jul. 19, 2013 ,12:26 pm EDT

Season 12 of "Project Runway" has arrived, with an entire new cast, new rules and unexpected twists. The first episode of the season is always my favorite, you get to meet a whole new set of designers, personalities and design aesthetics. However, this season could not have begun without a twist. Kate Pankoke from Season 11 was chosen to return. Ummm ok.

This season the stakes have been raised. The winner will receive a price package worth over half a million dollars, the biggest price in the history of the show. Makes me want to sign up and compete again! Now, lets get to the real deal. This week’s challenge was presented on a different kind of runway, an airport runway! An unconventional challenge where the designers had to create a runway look made from parachutes. Some designers flew over the competition and some simply failed.

The cast this season is eclectic, which is a perfect mixture for drama. You have the class bitch, Helen! Overconfident Kate, Drama Queen Timothy and those are just three designers. This season will definitely bring up the drama and I cannot wait to see the seams unravel. I was very touched to meet Justin, a talented designer who despite his hearing disability will be a force to be recon with.

The judging panel consisted of the Zac Posen, Nina Garcia, Heidi Klum and the fabulous Kate Bosworth. This season the judges will also be joined by Tim Gunn. A silent judge who has the power to save one designer during the season.

Finally runway time! I am impressed with this group! My thoughts:
Timothy: As I saw his look coming down the runway, I thought cute if the model has just gone through a fire. It was a poetic tragedy, who left me with a bitter taste. He sent his model down the runway without shoes, makeup or hair. Why? I do give him props for rocking heels on the runway, although I wish they had been a more tasteful pair. Next time make sure your model has heels before you do!
Sue: Chic and thought out. The rouching she created on her dress was visually pleasant.
Angela: As I saw her look going down the runway all I could think of was color blocking meets trash bag.
Miranda: Easy, chic, except she used very minimal of the parachute material. As cute as her design may be to me she failed because she didn’t execute the challenge properly.
Bradon: Without a doubt his look impressed the judges the most. He shut it down.
Sandro: Where do I begin? A designer's worst nightmare became his reality when his model burst onto the runway. "Vagina drops" was an accurate description made by a fellow contestant. I could not believe that the tightly fitted body suit exposed a lot more than what the model had signed up for.

Winner: Bradon! I 100% agree. His look was fabulous.

Out: Angela. Her poncho simply was not runway material. It lacked creativity and failed to impress the judges.

I’m excited to see what else will unfold this season. What designer will be saved? Who will crack under pressure? How far will Kate, the comeback kid make it? And who will make it to the top? I guess I’ll just have to sit tight and wait for next week’s episode!

See you on the runway!

Diving Right In

By laurareineke Fri., Jul. 19, 2013 ,4:48 am EDT

It appears the producers might have been listening to the fans. Or perhaps they just realized that they needed to change things up in "Project Runway" Land after 11 seasons, because they certainly have!

Straight away I noticed that the format and opening are different: Edgier, more interesting editing and not as much the old predictable format. I like it. The prize package is the largest to date: $150k to start, and a gaggle of additional prizes like a Lexus and a trip to Maldeves. The runway show is "anonymous" (hmmmm), to hopefully eliminate any question of favoritism (because we know some judges become a little attached to certain designers). And this is huge: not only does Tim make an appearance and weigh in during part of the judging process, but THE JUDGES CAN SEE THE CLOTHES UP CLOSE (EEEEEEK)! Sometimes people ask me if they ever inspect the garments or see them up close. No way, thank goodness...until now! I am a big believer of good finishing, inside and out. When I was on Season 7, I learned quickly that I had to use shortcuts to save time, because the garment only has to look good on the outside. It just has to make it down the runway. The judges are never close enough to the garments to know you that didn' line it or that your seams are all ugly on the interior. What a fright some of our pieces looked on the inside! I wonder how many people who purchased them online after the show were shocked at that.

I also love the fact that the first challenge was slightly "unconventional" (materials-wise), although I hope that is not the sole "unconventional challenge" because we need to see the designers whip out their glue guns and pliers. What a way to throw off the deer-in-headlights newbie designers in the inaugural challenge by taking them to an airfield and making them wonder what lies ahead. Will they be designing flight suits? Jumping out of planes? No, just fighting over the parachutes left behind by the skydivers.

It's certainly an eclectic mix of people this season as well. Is it me, or are there an unusually large number of the cast who currently have or formerly had another profession (i.e., dancer, model, soldier/mechanic, musician, house-husband/full-time dad, part-time babysitter)? And then we have the array of personalities, with no shortage of egos. I guess I miss the days when there were more "real" fashion designers in the cast. Yet another twist: Kate Pankoke, a contestant from Season 11, is competing again. She was chosen by fans (among three designers) to return for "runway redemption." Not a favorite of mine, I have to say. She is already showing her smugness by making a look she calls her "little princess" and thinking she will win every challenge (yet doesn't feel she has an advantage in any way). Let me tell you, there is absolutely an advantage psychologically to having been through the experience already. No one could ever fully comprehend what itʼs like to compete on "Project Runway" unless he/she has been through it. There are not enough words (besides, weʼve been forbidden to talk about it to some extent)!

If I were on Season 12 I'd definitely want to slap Timothy in the workroom. His holier-than-thou approach is quite off-putting. It's great to have a sustainable business model, but just because it's sustainable doesnʼt mean it can't be beautiful; in fact you have to work even harder to make it beautiful and fashionable. Stella McCartney is a great example of doing this successfully. Can anyone imagine Timothy as the winner of "Project Runway"? Ironically, his theatrics and lack of "finishing" (i.e. no makeup, no use of electricity, even in hair styling) come across as gimmicks. Does this mean he will never use an iron for the entire season? And I'll bet you anything those glittery heels he wears are made in China out of super-industrial non-biodegradable material. I love how Zac called him on his mega-toxic technique of using a flame on synthetic material. That poor model of his had to feel like the ugly duckling. I'm glad she decided not to fully execute his silly, overly-affected choreography on the runway.

Speaking of runway, there are too many looks to critique so early on. But I do agree with Braden's win, with a very close second in Sue's look. It was so clever of Bradon to use the cords, and the color he chose was airy and sky-like. Sue's use of color was fantastic, as was her asymmetry and strategically placed ruching. Not bad for someone who can't use a sewing machine! Both of them were smart to use the fabric in a complementary way, rather than overworking it or torturing it the way some designers did. I could not understand what the hype was about for Miranda's dress, which was not interesting enough to warrant her being in the top. Then the judges look more closely and find out the black fabric was not the parachute material so suddenly she's in the bottom two? Hmmm. Seems suspect to me. Angela's colorforms smock looks like a child's sleeveless rain slicker. It is a tough call to say who should have been eliminated, though, because Sandro's taste level is clearly questionable, and his poor model didn't really want the world to see her lady bits. It is awful to send your model down the runway like that.

More changes this season include having to manage one's budget for the ENTIRE season. While this is interesting, what happens if someone blows through their money and makes it to top 5 and has none left? Sudden death? Making an outfit out of muslin and styrofoam coffee cups from the lounge? I wonder if Tim will give them any "suggested" budgets for each challenge. It would be a bummer for a designer to think they would need to scrimp every time, only to be eliminated early on and feel like they should have spent more at Mood. The show also has a new sponsor for the accessory wall/prize package: Belk. Honestly I had to look up Belk on Wikipedia. I had no idea what it was. And when I looked at the website I wasn't impressed. When I thought it couldnʼt get worse than Piperlime, it just did. Nothing against Belk as a company or store, but I'd think in a competition in which contestants are predominantly criticized for either not being fashion-forward enough, or having poor styling, there could be a more fashion-forward sponsor. Belk appears to be a very mainstream store. You can imagine how thrilled we were on my season of All-Stars to have Neiman Marcus accessories to use to elevate our looks. But I have to tell you, no matter whom the sponsor is, there will always be something you need to style the look that is not on that wall. And often times the styling is criticized when either there was nothing appropriate to choose from, or another designer is using that ONE pair of shoes that would have been perfect for your look.

This should be an interesting season; it looks like there are a LOT of locations! The jury is still out on my early favorites. I'll let you know next time.

Season 12 Premiere: Pretty Pretty Parachutes

By laurareineke Fri., Jul. 19, 2013 ,4:33 am EDT

We're back! And on the heels of some flattering Emmy nominations, no less. I'll be here each week to deliver recaps of each Season 12 episode, along with the occasional contestant interview. You can also check out episode reviews by former "Runway" contestants, including our new blogger Althea Harper, here.

Let's get to it. A number of important changes are being incorporated into this, the twelfth (TWELFTH!) season of "Runway." For one thing, the runway show will now be anonymous: the judges won't know to which designer each garment belongs until after the designs have been scored. Tim Gunn will join the panel during runway shows to offer the judges his perspective of the happenings in the workroom, and he'll also have one opportunity during the season to save a designer from elimination. I'm all about this! More Tim is always a good thing.

Tim and Heidi introduce this season's gaggle of designers at an actual airport runway (a visual gag I can't believe it took twelve seasons to make). There they meet Kate, who fans voted to bring back to the competition after her unjust elimination in Season 11. Then skydivers pop out of a plane high above to deliver the materials for the first challenge. The designers must turn the divers' parachutes into garments that represent their aesthetic and individual point-of-view. They receive extra black and white fabric, but Tim emphasizes that their design must be primarily made of the slippery, crinkly, bright-colored nylon parachutes. There's an enormous sigh of relief when Tim tells the designers they have two days to create their looks. Spoiler alert: No one makes parachute pants! What a bummer.

In the workroom, we start to get to know the gang. Justin is deaf, and points out that in some ways this is an advantage: if the other designers' outrageous personalities get on his nerves, he can just turn his hearing aid off. (Hah! I already like Justin a lot.) Miranda is dubbed "a real-life Rosie the Riveter" when she tells the group about her past as an Army mechanic. She has a less-than-happy reunion with a fellow Milwaukee designer Timothy, an earnest and frankly kind of annoying "sustainability-focused fiber artist." In his quest to be environmentally friendly he refuses hair and makeup for his model. Then he choreographs a bizarre "conceptual performance" for his model to do when she hits the runway. I didn't get a good look at the dance-thing because I was too busy rolling my eyes, and his model is clearly over it, too; she abandons the performance aspect during the actual runway show.

Returning judges Heidi, Nina Garcia and Zac Posen are joined for the runway show by guest judge Kate Bosworth and, as previously noted, Mr. Tim Gunn. (Be sure to check out all the looks from this episode in our Rate the Runway slideshow!)

Top Two
Bradon - A voluminous gown with a fitted bodice. The judges rave about the movement of this garment on the runway and the way Bradon constructed a clumsy fabric to look lighter than air. Zac notes that the various concepts—cording, strapless neckline, straps—were expertly combined.

Sue - A double-layered neon ruched gown with pin-tucked pleating details along both sides. Zac likes the sculptural quality of the dress, and Nina compliments the placement of the ruching. Tim says it could fit in a Bergdorf's display window.

Bottom Four
Miranda - Here's the thing: the judges might love your modern cut-out dress, but if you deviate from the challenge rules that require you to use a certain percentage of a given material, you will land in the bottom. Miranda learns her lesson here, hopefully.

Sandro - A one-piece pseudo-swimsuit fit for a '30s bathing beauty. The judges admire the impeccable fit but call out Sandro's heavy hand in accessorizing, which they feel notches down the taste level of the garment considerably. Also affecting the taste level: The model's vagina popping out mid-walk. Yeah, that definitely had something to do with it.

Timothy - Zac dubs this flowery butter-yellow dress "Tinker Bell at Burning Man." Heidi and Nina feel that the lack of hair, makeup and shoes don't help an already-muddled design. There's also a fair bit of dubious eyebrow-raising at Timothy's choice to burn the nylon fabric.

Angela - A sporty color-blocked hooded raincoat...thing. The judges agree it would have been greatly improved by the addition of pants. When they get a closer look, they find more to dislike, like the darting at the bust. Boring design + sloppy construction = an easy auf this early in the season.

Do you think Angela deserved to be the first eliminated designer of Season 12? Were you as impressed by Bradon's winning look as the judges were? On a scale of 1 to 10, how insufferable did you find Timothy's shenanigans? And most importantly, who do you have your eye on as the season gets rolling? Let me know in the comments!

The 3 Types of "Runway" Designers

By laurareineke Fri., Jul. 19, 2013 ,4:11 am EDT

Hello! Once again I find myself working with "Project Runway." I believe most designers that have been on the show, if they are honest with themselves, have mixed emotions about the program. I know I have. I also know I would never be where I am today without "Project Runway." So, with that feeling in mind, here's my blog for Season 12!

Certainly this season starts off with an appropriate launch pad, a runway. Not a fashion one, but an airport (small as it is). This is symbolic to design beyond the obvious as those of us in the fashion business become well-aquainted with mass transit. Buses, subways, the tube, cabs, planes; it all becomes second nature to a designer. In fact, when I started in design I actually ran so many errands during my internship with Anna Sui I was nicknamed "the queen of mass transit"—lucky me.

We are quickly introduced to the contestants of this season's cast. We are also introduced to the first of the "tweaks" for this year; a previous year's cast member, voted back by fans. This season it is Kate Pankoke, from Season 11. I can't help but think not only were the fans short-sighted, but that this season's contestants are extremely lucky that my season-mate and friend Ra'mon-Lawrence Coleman was not picked. I think he would have been an immediate front runner.

We now progress to hear a bit about the contestants, including their struggles, design aesthetic and background. I was a bit taken aback by the lack of solid design school graduates. I do think I read somewhere that Jeremy Brandrick is a Central Saint Martins grad. Having attended the prestigious school while working in London, I know firsthand the amount of talent and work it takes to graduate there, and I am hoping to see this showcased in his designs.

I know everyone loves the contestant who never attended school but who has vision and talent to be the next big designer. It's sooo romantic. While this can sometimes happen with a great team around you, realistically, no matter how talented you are, you really need that training to not only be versed in the terms and history of design but also to understand how to run a fashion business in the long term (which is not something you learn in business school either). "Project Runway" has been great for the fashion industry, but when I was a contestant on Season 6, Tim Gunn wanted predominantly fashion school grads on the show, and I would have thought this trend would continue. Again, I could be wrong, but I did some research on the contestants. Nothing was defined and they didn't mention anything about it.

We head into the work room, and at this point I have no favorites based on first impression. Sandro Masmanidi, the outspoken Russian, has the right idea: create a story, a theme, for your design (we learn later that what he gains in story he lacks in taste). Bradon McDonald, the self-deprecating dancer from Kentucky, also quickly finds a good trajectory. Sue Waller, a NYC designer "outside the fashion world," seems to struggle (producers?).

In my opinion there are three kinds of contestants on "Project Runway." Type A is the serious fashion student. On my season there was Irina, Nicolas, Ra'mon, Shirin, and actually Malvin. Christian Siriano, the best-known of "PR" alumni, is of this school, as is Jay McCarroll. Another type (B) would be like my fellow "All Stars" contender Joshua McKinley: the camera just follows them. The final (C) would be the self-taught "my big chance" player. Carol-Hannah, my season-mate and housemate, would be the pinnacle of this group. So far in Season 12 I see a lot types B and C. Type A, not so much.

Alas, the designs! Justin LeBlanc, the deaf design teacher, delivers just what you'd think, a well-executed frock, nicely done, if safe. I think he will be around for a while. Alexander Pope (really?) -- named after an English Poet, and looks like the singer of Prodigy—will be rembered for snark, not design. Alexandria von Bromssen looks like a player. Helen Castillo looks more like a caricature to me than a contender, but I could be wrong. I thought Jeremy Brandrick's pants were very cool and had a high difficulty level. With 16 designers, it's hard to keep track. I saw a lot of expected dresses, as you usually do in the beginning: Easiest to make for the most "wow factor."

Here's a shout out to the designer who threw in a jacket. That's the sign of a sleeper. Difficult, time consuming. It points to an overachiever. Bravo. Difficulty in pattern making is rewarded as it should be on "Project Runway."

So in the end Mr. McDonald's dramatic design won. I thought he truly utilized the material the best and while I was not crazy about the roping on the front, the back was stunning. Angela was sent packing. While her design was weak, I thought Miranda should have gone home, if only on principle. I don't think she followed the challenge and I completely did not have the love affair with her garment the judges did. It was nothing new and a little Jane Jetson. I also did not understand the love affair with Sue's dress. The "throw it up in the mannequin and see what happens" thing (that is exactly what it looked like and I was not surprised it was her approach) will only work for so long. Sandro's look was clearly not successful, but he did have a vision (enjoyed the Vargas Girl look when the tasteless "jacket" was removed) and I suppose he's too screen-chewing to drop now.

So, the first challenge is over. The unconventional challenge, straight off. That's a tough one. Also, probably the most fun. I'll wait to pass judgment on the tweaks. Is the debit card just product placement? But, it's Season 12 of "Project Runway." For all its faults, it's still the best.

This will be fun!

Runway Freefall

By kim_messina Fri., Jul. 19, 2013 ,4:10 am EDT

"Project Runway" is BAAACK: last night was the premiere of Season 12 of "Project Runway" and there's been some shake-ups. It took almost 10 years (Season 1 debuted in 2004!) and 11 seasons later for "Project Runway" to stir up its own classic format. As the saying goes, "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it," but obviously someone thought it was time for some fixin'—and some new additions. So before I get to the new cast and my "Nick Two Cents" on this premiere episode, let's discuss:

The New
• First "Project Runway" designer/contestant to be hearing impaired/deaf.
• The runway got a "Hollywood set" makeover—stage lights and video screen.
• New retail partner: Belks—a department store chain with over 300 locations, primarily in the South.
• Instead of weekly challenge money, the designers will get a GoBank Debit Card and will manage their spending for the entire season.
• Anonymous runway show—judges don’t know who’s designs are coming down the runway.
• Tim offers opinions to judges and sits with the judges during runway.
• Tim brings up the top and bottom designs so judges can view them up close and personal.
• Tim Gunn gets to save a designer; only one for the entire season.
• And a prize package estimated at half a million dollars!
I am intrigued by a couple of these new additions, such as the judges not knowing whose designs are coming down the runway and the up close-and-personal look into the garments. (God forbid they did that during my season—several of my hot-glue-and-safety pin-loving cast mates would have been IN TROUBLE!).

Cast of Characters
I had the pleasure of judging the Los Angeles Castings/Auditions—along with Tim Gunn—and was happy to see two of the designers we chose make the final cut: Alexandria von Bromssen (the Aristocratic-sounding Euro from San Mateo) and Bradon McDonald (the former Mark Morris dancer who just graduated from FIDM, my alma mater). Besides these two, there's a bevy of "characters": (among others) a high heel-wearing sustainable fabric-burning unicorn lover; a swarthy mustachioed Russian with a Diva attitude; a costume maker who's made costumes for many Broadway shows including "The Lion King" (my guess is he does drag FOR SURE!); a blond-haired girl who wanted to be a "rockstar"; a posh-sounding Brit with a husband and two gorgeous little kids; a former Army officer; and a tattooed girl with lots of self-confidence.

Color and DRAMA
It is worth noting that there seemed to be more diversity than in any of the previous seasons—in terms of not just one designer of color but several. One thing that is not new is the DRAMA. I hear from a lot of the show's fans in my travels and events and they tell me that they dislike the DRAMA but love the creative process. Well, fans, too bad for you because if the preview of the season is any indication, this season will be DRAMA with a capital "D." So strap on your harness and parachute and get ready for a bumpy fashion free fall. Speaking of parachutes...

Parachutin' Kids
On this first episode of "Project Runway," the 15 designers meet Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum at Wallkill Airpark in Wallkill, NY. As soon as you ask yourself, "But wait, aren't there usually 16 designers on the show?", a small plane flies in for a landing and out comes Kate Pankoke, Season 11 designer who the "Project Runway" fans voted to come back for a second chance. Following Kate's arrival, it was time to look up at the sky. It's a bird? No. It's a plane? Yes. Are those 16 skydivers in colorful parachutes? Si. Soon after the skydivers landed safely (Thank goodness), Tim and Heidi reveal the first challenge: Use parachutes to make an outfit. It's the Unconventional Material Challenge. The designers then make a run to grab which parachutes they will be creating their outfits with. Little Kate becomes Wallkill Roadkill when the designers literally run over her (Poor thang!). The designers then head to Manhattan and their Parsons workroom. Tim meets them there to tell them about their new GoBank Debit Card, the new HP tablet, as well as actual challenge rules: their creations must be mostly of the parachute fabric yet they are able to use some black and white ripstop nylon as their secondary fabric.

Tim Time
The following day, Tim walks in to check on their designs. Sandro (mustachioed Russian Diva) is making a swimsuit (Ummm, OK) and blonde "wanted to be a Rockstar" Angela is doing a too-short trench coat. Sue Waller (a frizzy blonde-haired designer who lived in France and loves using leather) is having sewing in she says she has never used "this type of sewing machine" (the industrial kind EVERYONE USES!). Part of me wants to slap her upside the head, but I hold back. Tim likes what Alexandria is working on, as well as deems Bradon's (the former dancer) creation very "James Bond-ish." He chastises Miranda (the former Army officer) for not following the rules and using too much of the "supplemental fabric."

Toxic Sustainability
And then there's Timothy, Mr. Sustainable Fabric Earthy Granola Crunchy Milwaukee boy. Bless his heart. He's so deep in his sustainable mantra, that it becomes almost UNSUSTAINABLE to continue to listen to him. Seriously. And then he completely (without realizing) nullifies all the sustainability talk when he burns man-made nylon polyester parachute fabric (and thereby releasing toxic fumes in the air) in order to achieve a special treatment to his creation. File under: Oh these kids. He has also been training his model to do a performance art walk down the runway. His model is probably all of 19 years-old and has A) NEVER seen or attended a performance art piece, B) never taken jazz or modern dance classes and C) has no clue of what poor Timothy is talking about. It comes as no surprise when on runway day, she doesn't do ANY of what Timothy told her to do.

Nouveau Runway
Day of the first Season 12 runway show and the designers are busy in their makeup and hair consultations. Mr. Sustainable Burning Man Timothy, tells the L'Oreal makeup and hair experts that NO makeup or hair products should be used on his model—as well as NOTHING that is plugged in, causing all the hair and makeup team to use their inside voice and say, "This guy is CRAY-CRAY." I respect his "I am the Queen of Milwaukee Sustainability" shtick but still...I'm beginning to think Timothy is doing all this for more air time (PS: it's working). On the runway, we get to see the "new" set73151;with stage lights and video screen. Heidi, Nina Garcia, as well as designer Zac Posen are back. Actress Kate Bosworth is the celebrity guest judge. It is then announced that Tim will sit with the judges as opposed to what he has done for the last 11 seasons (sit off to the side away from the cameras). He's not judging but seeing if this is the time to save a designer. In addition, Heidi announces the "anonymous runway" factor.

Billowy Top
When the designs come down the runway, I instantly know which are my faves: I love Jeremy's (Brit boy) parachute pants. I also think little Kate did well with her canary yellow dress. I was shocked that some of my favorites ended up in the middle and safe. But, oh well, better safe than in the "uh oh" pile. I was surprised by Sue's (the leather-loving designer) directional creation. It was one of my Top (as well as the judges). Her look was so gallery-owner fashionista. I gave her extra points for getting the front length perfectly right. Speaking of judges, this was the time when Tim brought out the Top and Bottom designs and the judges got up close-and-personal with the creations (Oh dear!). I read somewhere that Tim Gunn said that Zac was "surprised at how badly made the designs were." Well, dear Zac, I'd like to see what you can do in eight hours. Just sayin' Part Deux. Moving came as no surprise (to me at least) that the eventual winner of this first challenge was the beautiful creation of former dancer Bradon. It was exactly what one does with parachute fabric. It glided, it had gorgeous movement, drama and runway sensibility. Oh, and his model was GORGEOUS; so "Vintage YSL Muse." Congrats Bradon!

Not Enough Parachute, Un-Sustainable Styling, V-JAY-JAY Spotting and Too Short Poncho
Now on to the bottom. Oh Timothy. You and your high heels (Were those glittery heels sustainable?!). You leave your model barefoot with no makeup and hair and with burnt yellow nylon parachute fabric. And then there's Sandro "Mustachioed Russia Diva." Remember his so-called swimsuit he was making? Well, it turned into much more than that. He showed the model's CHA CHA, in other words: her V-JAY-JAY—in the outfit he created. It was unforgiveable. Zac called it a "slutty cat toy." Heidi deemed it "a disaster." Yet, somehow, he was safe. Also on the bottom were Miranda, the former Army officer (because she didn't utilize enough of the actual parachute fabric), as well as blonde-haired "rockstar" Angela. She made a hooded poncho—and nothing else. It was too short and it was missing something (a bottom perhaps?). As a result, she was the first designer out. And no, Mr. Gunn did not save her. One challenge done and lots more to go. Who will be the next "Project Runway" winner? Stay tuned kids, we've got a whole season ahead of us and clearly much more DRAMA to come!

Designers' Choice: Season 12, Episode 1

By kim_messina Fri., Jul. 19, 2013 ,4:03 am EDT

Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think were the Top and Bottom looks each week!

TOP Bradon "I liked cording detail in front."
BOTTOM Timothy "Execution wasn't up to par."

TOP Dom "Cute jacket."
BOTTOM Sandro "Too vulgar."

TOP Jeremy "Amazing pants—inspired by challenge."
BOTTOM Helen "Not enough of the parachute was used."

TOP Sue "Love the texture."

This is "Project Runway"...Teams?

By kim_messina Fri., Jan. 25, 2013 ,4:53 am EST

Itʼs Season 11. Or...Season 11 disguised as an offshoot of" Project Runway": "Project Runway TEAMS." Say what? In case it wasnʼt clear in the [awkward!] intro with Heidi and Tim (how many times was the word "TEAMS" iterated?), there are no individual challenges, because everyone will always work in TEAMS. Thatʼs right, TEAMS. But there is only one winner. Confused?

Iʼm not really sure why it couldnʼt just be a new season of "Project Runway," to find a talented designer. Lets call a spade a spade. I must say, Iʼm skeptical. Was this whole "Team" concept created in the hopes of increasing the DRAMA because very few designers enjoy working in teams (especially with total strangers, in a competition)? If I was one of those designers selected to be in the cast, Iʼd be pissed when I found out upon arrival! The designers for both Seasons 10 and 11 were pulled from the same casting sessions which took place last spring. This leaves me curious to know: how did they determine who would be cast on a particular season? Were the designers for PR Teams the "B" team, and therefore more lackluster? I have to say, for the first 45 minutes, few were standing out.

The inaugural challenge is a bit contradictory and confusing right off the bat: "Make something that shows us who you are as a designer, but utilize the influence of your teammates." something that is signature "you" but change it if a teammate tells you to? Head- scratcher. The designers are told they should be inspired by New York, and are divided into two teams; each team goes to a different viewpoint for NYC inspiration.

Itʼs always difficult to cover everyone (critiques or otherwise) in the workroom in the beginning, when there are so many designers (and only an hour to edit everything into). You can be sure that the ones who get the least amount of coverage will be safe (I speak from experience, using mine as an example); the designers who get the most airtime will be top or bottom. It became painfully clear that Emily, seriously in the weeds, would not survive, unless she could pull a 180 (know to happen!). What would have been highly controversial is if Cindy had been eliminated in lieu of Emily, who asked her to just make a skirt" for her (seriously?!). At what point do you draw the line and decide NOT to help your teammate? This is the paradox.

In any event, Emily, according to Nina, was the first designer to send something down the runway in such a severely unfinished state (Even after her teammate made her a skirt). Well, at least sheʼs memorable! We always used to joke (um...and PANIC) in the workroom about "What if we donʼt finish..."? Poor thing....she was a deer in headlights. It made me recall my first challenge when I felt similarly: I actually had a design and execution "block" and mini panic attack (which of course I would not dare let anyone detect, especially not the producers and cameras)! At that time in my life, I had not been sewing or patterning regularly (rather Iʼd been working more in TV and film as a costumer), so my skills were super rusty. Couple that with having camera operators following my every move, and I was a wreck. I pushed through it and just hoped Iʼd be safe (I was, and hardly got any airtime...LOL). Another thing we all used to say as we sat in those chairs and watched our looks walk down the runway...."How did we just do that?!?" Somehow, we always managed to put clothes on the models. Well, maybe with the exception of Emilio in the hardware store challenge. *Wink*

I admit, I judged a little when I first saw "Moustache" (a.k.a. Daniel). Itʼs hard not to! I thought his work would be a little cheesy and dated, based on his "character" look and demeanor. However, he "made it work" and made a very impressive outfit that looks expensive and well-executed. That was a well-deserved win. I also really liked Richardʼs jersey colorblocked dress. It felt urban, very New York, and very on-trend. And good for Patricia! Her innovative print and textile really worked (and smart of her to use a simple silhouette to balance it). There were some nay-sayers, but from the minute I saw her working on her print, I thought it had a lot of potential.

Instead of critiquing each designer to start, Iʼm just going to leave it with the highs and lows. That said, in the end, the designers who have piqued my interest are:
-Tu: For obvious know I am a sucker for graphic minimalism and thinking outside the box. His look was great.
-Kate: I like her feisty-ness. And for only 23, I think she has some pretty decent skills. Her look was well done and had attention to detail.
-Joseph: Always nice to see something different, and he has a fine art background which could enable him to view fashion in a more unique way. However, the jury is still out on whether his skills are strong enough for him to have longevity. He should do well with the "unconventional" challenge. Bonus points for attending my Alma Mater and stating Grace Jones as a style icon.
-Moustache: So far I like what I see...he will no doubt be a strong player given his maturity and experience.

A Very Good Place to Start

By laurareineke Fri., Jan. 25, 2013 ,4:50 am EST

We're back with a new season of "Project Runway," and almost immediately the show reminds me of one of the things I like the most about it: Its commitment to casting diversity. The Season 11 group is comprised of a wide range of body types, ages, education levels and races, and that's a pleasure to see on a long-running reality show. Whether or not this diversity will be reflected as the race winnows down remains to be seen, but this is a good foot on which to start the season.

Episode 1 is a flurry of introductions, but some people stand out right away. Daniel has a fabulous mustache, Benjamin is Australian, Cindy is a funeral director and Patricia is the first Native American to appear on the show. [You can check out the full roster of designers here. Go ahead, I'll wait.]

The group assembles for the first time, and Heidi fills them in on the season's big twist: they'll be working in teams. At this point I have to pause my screener because I'm laughing so hard at the designers' reactions. They've still got smiles plastered on their faces but you can see the terror and annoyance in their eyes. It's admittedly a bummer of a twist for any designer who entered the competition expecting to work solo, but hey, we're eleven seasons in. I don't hate the idea of shaking things up a bit. Fashion is way more a team sport than this show usually acknowledges, and as Nina notes later in the episode, forcing the designers to interact with and depend on each other's garments will hopefully raise the bar for quality all around.

On to the challenge! The designers must create a garment that shows their personalities—built with input from the rest of the designers on their teams—inspired by a view of New York City. Team Keeping It Real (hold on while I pause my screener to laugh at that terrible name) takes a boat out on the Hudson, where the designers size each other up. Dream Team (again, terrible) does the same from the roof of Atlas.

There are more changes afoot. 1) To adapt to the team challenge format, Tim's critiques are now a kind of art-school-ish group critique session, which I'm anticipating will lead to a fair bit of drama. 2) The adorable/talented/fabulous Zac Posen has stepped in to fill Michael Kors' spot. 3) Since the judges are paying attention to the work of the group as well as the work of the individual, we're treated to a second group-walk down the runway after seeing each look. This hews a little more closely to industry standard for collection presentations.

Team Keeping It Real - Top Three
Daniel - A striking silk wool crepe suit, and probably the most NYC-feeling garment of the episode. I particularly loved the cut of the pant. The judges gave this look the crown and I totally agree that it was an exciting standout for the season's first runway show.
Richard - Zac Posen liked the use of asymmetry, and all the judges commented on the sporty elegance of the dress.
Patricia - I was nervous when Patricia first started to work on her fabric, but the end result, with the incorporation of the cobalt blue detailing and cut-outs, was very strong and totally wearable. She's the designer I most excited to follow as the season goes on.

Dream Team - Bottom Three
James - Yawn. Posen described it as "pedestrian," and that really sums it up: no one would protest this dress, and I've actually seen a number of people on my morning commute rocking the same basic ensemble, but there's nothing of substance or interest in it.
Cindy - A ho-hum but acceptable silhouette that's totally ruined by a mind-blowingly bizarre combination of prints.
Emily - Hot mess! Just a hot mess. A mishmash of silly pieces and poorly chosen fabrics, without even the benefit of smart construction to save it. I want to defend Emily (She's my age&3151;us eager early-twentysomethings have to stick together), but she was way over her head here and got the boot because of it.

I know y'all have a lot of feelings regarding the team challenge format, so chime in with your comments below. Should Cindy or James have gone home instead of Emily? Whose first look impressed you the most? And who are you planning to keep an eye on as the season moves forward?

This Will Be Interesting

By kim_messina Fri., Jan. 25, 2013 ,4:27 am EST

"You're only as strong as your weakest link,” Tim Gunn says as he and Heidi Klum reveal that Season 11 of "Project Runwa"y is going to be a team competition. Even though there is no I in team, only one will come out as the winner of "Project Runway." Let’s see if "team work really makes the dream work." This should be interesting…

Does working in teams mean there will be less drama between designers? I'll miss the old "Project Runway," but I'm so excited to see how designers work and grow with the input of a team this season.

The designers were split up into two teams with their first challenge to create a piece using inspiration from NYC. One team gets to view NYC from far, the other team gets to view NYC from above.The team from afar has decided to name their team Keeping It Real. Let’s see if the team will still be “keeping it real” as the season progresses. On this team there is:
-Stanley Hudson: a costumer. You know what that means, he must love drama.
-Kate Pankoke: a bridal designer with a "Type A" personality. She says if she had her own way she would clone herself. Yikes! I’m not sure if we would be ready for that.
-Richard Hallmarq: claims that his hometown of Sacramento is the "other fashion capital." I hope he wasn’t being serious with that one, otherwise I’d have to strongly reevaluate him being in the fashion industry.
-Patricia Michaels aka "Water Lily": she'll kill me if she uses too many Aztec prints due to her Native American descent.That print is beyond overdone. But that being said, I have to say I'm kind of obsessed with this lady ! I love her already.
-Amanda Valentine: every TV show has to have a Blonde Barbie...
-Layana Aguilar: Brazilian Bombshell. Let's see if her designs can look as exotic as she is.
-Joseph Aaron Segal: the quiet slightly geeky boy of the team. I want to see him show his personality more.
-Daniel Esquivel: the bullied 9th grade drop out describes his aesthetic as simple, elegant glamor. When I look at him I just don't see that I see a more rugged style with all that scruff on his face.

The team with the view from above has decided to call themselves the "Dream Team." Will they be able to live up to the name Dream Team that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen's 1992 Olympic Team was nicknamed? Only time will tell.
-Matthew Arthur: he's from New Orleans. He must be a party animal. He describes his style as the "3 am girl."
-Samantha Black: she just screams "swag" to me.
-Tu Suthiwat Nakchat: quiet, but he seems talented and who knows he could be the silent assassin of the show.
-James Martinez: he looks to me like a salesman, but maybe he does have good construction skills like he claims.
-Emily Pollard: the young designer from VA with a very big ego about herself. Let's see her ego matches her skills.
-Benjamin Mach: the sweet Aussie with the bleach blonde hair…adorable.
-Cindy Marlatt: she's definitely one of the more interesting of the bunch. The nice older lady happens to own a funeral home with her husband. How can someone so happy have such a depressing job? Let's just pray her designs don't show any signs of death. In a strange way she kind of reminds me of my lovely friend Season 8 and All Star Peach Carr.
-Michelle Lesniak Franklin calls herself "fedorable" and "geek chic." Sounds like another hipster from Oregon.

As the teams split up and go to their workrooms to start creating team Keeping It Real gets a lot accomplished with the input of the team while the Dream Team worked more solo. On team Keeping It Real, Daniel stepped it up as a leader and helped his team members. A few people thought Patricia's design looked very crafty. Overall they did great as a team and had really god dynamics.The Dream Team on the other had didn't necessarily work as a team. They gave opinions but didn't really help each other. Emily struggled really badly when she didn't get anything done and Cindy was nice enough to help her.

Then the moment we've all been waiting for the first runway show of the season! With judges, Heidi Klum, Zac Posen, Nina Garcia and Christian Siriano. So fabulous.

All of team Keeping it Real's looks looked good, but the Dream Team's were either a runway dream or runway disaster. After judges discuss they decide the team that wins this challenge is Keeping it Real. The top 3 highest scores were Daniel, Richard and Patricia. The losing team was the Dream Team and the bottom 3 were James, Emily and Cindy. The judges thought that Emily's look was one of the most unfinished they've ever seen and Heidi said, "It looked like her 8 year old daughter made it." In the end unfortunately Emily was sent home.