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Collaborate, Communicate, Eliminate

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

It’s a new year, a new "Project Runway" season—and a new judge to boot! We’re onto Season 11 if you can believe it, and immediately, the familiar faces of Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn pop up on the screen to announce that this is going to be a "different" type of season, one with a "little twist": TEAMS! Every challenge for this new season is a Team Challenge, they declare. Klum and Gunn say that this will be a chance for the designers to work together, collaborate and communicate (yeah right!). Oh, and they forget to say CAUSE FABULOUS REALITY TV DRAMA. I have two words for it all: Oh Dear! Also, Thank GOODNESS I didn’t wait until Season 11 to be on the show. Amen.

Casting Gold
The new batch of designers has no idea of this "little twist" as they make their way to Manhattan and Parsons. We are introduced to our Season 11 cast of characters, which includes everything from a cute Latina (Layana Aguilar), African-Americans, Whites, a Native American (Patricia Michaels), a funeral home director (Cindy Marlatt), the gays (naturally), straight boys (?), foreigners (Australian Benjamin Mach), a mustachioed guy who can somehow afford a $4,350 "Bird of Paradise"-printed Givenchy Men’s Spring/Summer 2012 jacket (Daniel Esquivel), a girl who looks like everyone’s fun hairstylist (Michelle Lesniak Franklin), a guy whose last name is Hallmarq-yes, like the Birthday Card—but with a Q!—and a cute girl straight out of the HBO series "Girls" (Emily Pollard). This last girl instantly declares that she’s going to win it all and all the other designers should begin packing and go home. My sixth sense tells me she'll be regretting every word she said.

I Remember…
I had the pleasure of being one of the casting judges last year for Season 10, but little did I know that we were also choosing the designers who might also make it to Season 11 (slaying two birds with one casting stone, as it were). I remember seeing Benjamin (Australian), Cindy (funeral director), as well as several of the others and saying "yes or maybe" to them all. I was happy to see that they actually made it on the show, even if it was a season later.

Oh HAILLLL No!
After all 16 designers are assembled, Heidi and Tim enter the room to much hootin', hollerin' and OMG's; it was very "America’s Next Top Model" when the models meet Tyra. Their faces quickly turned from wide happy smiles to "Oh HAILLL No!" when the Fab Duo tells the cast that this season is "Project Runway Teams!" Before they could run out the door and catch the next AirTrain to JFK, Heidi separated them into two teams and informs them of their first challenge: to create a garment that shows who they are as designers within a "team" setting. Their inspiration: New York City. The teams separate and go on their merry way. Team "Keeping It Real" gets to see NYC "from afar" (on a boat trip) and "Dream Team" gets to view the Manhattan skyline "from above" (from The Atlas Apartments rooftop).

Why Aren’t They at Parsons?
After their champagne and canapé-filled day trips, both teams meet up at their new workrooms at 1407 Broadway. Side note: I wonder if they were filming Season 10 at the same time as this season and therefore the Season 11 designers weren’t able to be at the "regular" "Project Runway" workroom at Parsons. Moving on...Tim Gunn enters and tells the designers that they will again use the fabulous HP Tablets, Brother Sewing Room as well as have access to the Lord & Taylor Wall and L’Oreal Paris Makeup Room. After caucusing, sketching and collaborating, they all head to Mood where they have $1,200 (which averages out to $150 per designer) to buy fabric and trims.

Analyze Me Not
Back in the workroom, they begin their draping, pattern making and fabric cutting. "Native American Patricia" is hand painting fabric to mimic the NY window cityscape she witnessed on her boat ride; "Funeral Home Cindy" is mixing prints and "Mustache Daniel" is schooling many in his team, showing them proper draping/cutting techniques. Tim walks in for his critiques. Here’s where it gets interesting. Not only does Tim give his "two cents," but so do their corresponding team members. To be frank, as someone who has been designing for over 20 years, owns a decade-old design company, I’m not sure if I would’ve had the patience to have been appraised by a "young-ums" who just got out of design school and barely began post-school work. Most of the designers seemed OK with it—for now. But I venture to guess, their claws will come out and, as Heidi and some of the judges later suspect, things might get sketchy and ugly between designers during these "critiquing times."

Ban The Glue Gun
Day of the runway and the designers are putting their final touches on their creations, except for "HBO’s 'Girls' Emily." She barely has anything done. She proclaims that the only thing on her mind is "to finish something." Ya Think? She ends up gluing most of her mess of a top (Can we PLEASE BAN the hot glue gun once and for all?!) and "Funeral Home Cindy" even makes a skirt for her since otherwise, her model would have been walking bottom-less down the runway.

The Part of Michael Kors Will Be Played By…
Finally it’s show time. Heidi walks in, announcing a change in the "Project Runway" Judging Program: Michael Kors is "Out" (for now) and designer Zac Posen is "In." Running a billion dollar Fashion Empire can be daunting so Kors probably wanted some "Project Runway"-free time, on some fabulous island. Nina Garcia is there (Gracias a Dios—I thought my Colombian Diva would have been with Kors on a Seychelles Holiday too!). Guest judge is Christian Siriano, Season 4 Winner. The designs come down the runway with Team Keeping It Real first, followed by Dream Team. According to Heidi, there would be one winning team—with the winning designer—and one losing team with the worst design.

Dior Couture Redux
It was pretty obvious who had the best: Mustache Daniel, Native American Patricia, and painted tunic was sleek and gallery owner-esque and Richard created a very "NYC girl" gray and black asymmetrical jersey number that screamed Heidi K. while walking with her kids through the East Village. Daniel’s was the most finished and chic, by far. He created a black exaggerated peplum jacket with cropped skinny trousers that looked very Paris. In fact Zac Posen hinted at it. I won’t hint here, I’ll call it out: it was VERY Raf Simons for Dior Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2012. I’m surprised Nina didn’t say how referential it was. But…it was still superb, well made and therefore got a rightly-deserved win.

Dream Team-The Good and the Not-So-Muchey
The Dream Team therefore was the worst. It was kind of sad since a couple of my favorite looks of the entire night (as well as Heidi's) came from designers on that team including Benjamin’s airy chiffon dress (modern and beautiful) and Tu Suthiwhat Nakchat’s two-piece outfit (so directional and very Thierry Mugler/Claude Montana—for 2013). James, Cindy and Emily brought the entire team down with their tacky-licious and uninspired creations. Posen called James' skirt and top "pedestrian" (Ouch!). She looked like a girl going out for a Jr. Assistant job…in 1998. Cindy’s printed dress with a checkered waistband was more Mom on a Carnival Cruise to Aruba than NYC (their supposed inspiration).

Go Pack Your Bags Emily
But it was Emily—and that mess of a top—that was the obvious worst. She glued half of it and didn't even sew a closure. Oh, yes, and Cindy made her skirt. This was a situation when someone made it onto "Project Runway" that just wasn't ready. From the editing, it almost seemed as if they would keep Emily as the judges were making excuses for her. I was prepared to throw something at the TV, if in fact they decided to keep her. But alas, they did not. With all the "built in" drama being directed at the designers for this 11th season, they will have to heed Heidi’s words and communicate, collaborate in order not to be eliminated. Good luck designers!

Give 'Em the Old Razzle Bedazzle

By kim_messina Fri., Oct. 26, 2012 ,5:31 am EDT

They're baaaaaack! Armed with a sharp pair of scissors, 13 of "Project Runway's" best and notorious designers (Um...Wendy freaking Pepper!) are ready for runway redemption. So gear up and get ready, boys are girls—it's going to be one crazy season!

There's nothing more I love than a second chance and as the designers sat in front of the runway to meet new host Carolyn Murphy, they all had their game faces on. In it to win it. Go big or go home. All or nothing. The whole enchilada. However you look at it, they were there to kick some ass and win the biggest prize in "Project Runway" history—a spread in "Marie Claire" magazine, the position as a contributing editor at the title for one year, an all-expense paid trip to Fashion Weeks around the world, a HP Intel technology suite for one year, a complete Brothers sewing studio and $150,000 in cash. Oh, and she also told them there will be no immunity. NBD...not!

So just when the designers thought that no immunity was the only curveball being thrown at them this time around, they were then slapped in the face by judge Joanna Coles when she told them that the first challenge would be a group challenge. Cue eye rolling, whining and various forms of, "I didn't sign up for this." Suck it up, All Stars. Don't act like this is your first rodeo.

Once the teams were selected, they had to pick an "attitude" to base their collection on. After much deliberation (or domination by the Laura Kathleens of the world), the two teams settled on "confident" and "bold." No real surprise there..."modest" and "conservative" don't really scream winning looks.

On to Mood. Did anyone else get a kick out of the "Thank You Mood" t-shirts that were in the background of the designers' premiere fabric shopping trip? Lesson learned: Tim Gunn is everywhere, so you better make it work.

Back in the workroom, I was surprised how the designers really kept to themselves for the most part. In previous seasons any time there was a group challenge , the designers went into panic mode and badgered each other for every misplaced button, uneven hem or poor color choice. Maybe experience played in their favor because I thought the designers were oddly calm.

Of course that didn't stop them from getting catty—lit is a competition after all. My personal highlight was when Andrae asked Laura Kathleen to check on his model and she said in the confessional, "I'll step in and fix shit when my shit is done." No wonder she's on Team Bold. Love her candidness.

On the runway, I thought it was very clear which team was the winner. Let me break it down:

Team Bold (Emilio, Peach, Andrae, Suede, Laura Kathleen, Joshua): Laura Kathleen and Emilio had the strongest looks in the collection, no question. The rest of the looks were completely lackluster to me. Andrae's look was just plain 'ol confusing, Peach's dress looked cheap and out of style, Suede's dress looked like something a teenager would wear to a school dance and I feared for Joshua's model that she was going to have a nip slip mid-runway.

Team Confident (Ivy, Althea, Casanova, Anthony Ryan, Wendy, Kayne, Uli) Hands down the stronger collection. I love the incorporation of lace in many of the looks and I thought it exuded confidence. The only look that was questionable was Kayne's—it was very Halloween-chic to me.

Like the judges, I thought it was a toss up between who should be the winner and who should be the loser. Personally I would have picked Ivy to win over Anthony Ryan because I thought the construction of her jacket was impeccable. But Anthony Ryan's win was well-deserved. It really could have went either way. Same for the loser. Both Peach and Andrae had looks that were not very "All Star." I like Peach, so I was sad to see her go. I was excited though (selfishly) that Andrae was saved so I could hear more of his insane vocabulary. (Well that and the fact I hope one of the designers recreates "Where's Andrae?!" from Season 2 in a future episode.)

Your turn: What were your highlight and lowlights of the first episode? Who is your favorite All Star?

A Times Square Anniversary Party!

By kim_messina Fri., Jul. 20, 2012 ,3:57 pm EDT

Eight Years, Ten Seasons

Happy 10th Anniversary "Project Runway"! As a member of the "Runway Club" (it's like the Mickey Mouse Club, but more fashionable), it's not surprising that the show has survived this long. Back in 2005, when I did Season 2, I knew that I was going to be part of something that was iconic in TV History. The show premiered almost 8 years ago and well, as we now know, it has become the "Grand-Daddy" of all Fashion Reality Competition Shows. In fact, last week, while on a trip to Mykonos, Greece, I was switching channels and stumbled on Greek TV and guess what was on my hotel TV? Season 6 of "Project Runway"! In Greece! Say no more. 2012 marks the Tenth Season of the show and last night's premiere was a doozy so let's get to the Recap'ing shall we.

Center of the Universe Fashion Bang

It is quickly revealed that the first challenge and runway show is taking place in the HEART of NYC, "Center of the Universe": Times Square, for the first time EVAH! Models are under a tent squeezing into their clothes; designers are putting the last minute touches on their garments and the Stars of the show — Heidi, Tim, Nina and Michael — are greeting the crowd with a Champagne toast. Cut to the previous day...

The Who, What and Where Are You From

Since Season 3, I have had the privilege to judge the castings and this past Spring, I took part in the LA Castings for Season 10. I, obviously, had no idea who would make the Final 16, so it was with great delight to see several of the designers I saw during those castings, actually make it onto the show. This included Elena (Miss Futuristic Thierry Mugler-meets-Claude Montana-meets Lady Gaga), the lovely Beatrice "jersey knit" and blonde-haired Melissa, who loves black and edgy.

JapaFro, Dumpster Diving and Christian Siriano 2.0

Besides these three ladies, we quickly get to scope out the rest of this season's talent and characters. Speaking of characters, between Buffi the "Roller Girl" with her sequined hot pants and Kooan "JapaFro"/Harajuku Boy hair and style antics, it's a tough one as to who is the most kooky (Team Kooan is my choice!). There's also earthy-crunchy-hipster Fabio, the first ever "Freegan" (He searches dumpsters for food — say WHAT!?), dark and serious Dmitry from Belarus who used to do Ballroom Dancing (Love that!) and the requisite bitchy Twinky Gays — cutie Christopher, Christian Siriano 2.0 Gunnar and Raul "Pointy Hair McBitchy." Other designer highlights include the grandma of the bunch, 58 year old Andrea who has a BA, an MA and MFA, in everything but the sun, Lantie, who likes Snakeskin bibs and Ven, Mr. Couture.

Now That's a Well-Made Suit Mr. Gunn

Their first challenge involved bringing one look from home that best exemplifies their design aesthetic. But then Tim Gunn — after the requisite "Welcome to Parsons," and "How do you like my custom-made windowpane plaid suit, tie and hankie ensemble," tells them that they must create a second companion look in one day and with a $100 budget. It's "Make It Work" time! He then officially tells them that the fashion show will take place in Times Square. After screams of "OMG! I will be a STAR!" they all get to drawing, Mood-shopping and Parsons work time.

Beatrice Sewing Fail

During the workroom, there is evidence of who is doing well (Ven, hello!) and who might not. In the "Might Not" column, Beatrice admits that designing is her forte but sewing ... not so mucheey. Time for a "Nick Side Bar": Beatrice grew up in a family who owned fashion manufacturing businesses for TWENTY years! At the LA castings, we thought this would be an asset. It would seem that she ate, slept and breathed sewing machines and sergers. She gets on "Project Runway" and can barely sew a knit v-neck collar. What gives?! What was she doing the entire time at her parents businesses?! Brushing her pretty long hair?! I digress. Let's just get to the runway show and the Top and Bottom.

Crochet Pooping From a Dress and Draped Flower Couture

We're in Times Square, thousands of fans, tourists and photographers everywhere, all trying to get a glimpse of the fashion madness. In the middle of it all are the judges: Heidi, Nina, Michael, actress Lauren Graham and the first-ever "Project Runway" guest judge, Patricia Field, of "Sex And the City" styling fame. Here's the rundown: there are some crafty student projects for sure. Lantie, what were you thinking with the crochet-pooping-from-a-dress look? And Andrea BA MA MFA Katz — her second hooped-skirted look was from a Cirque du Soleil show that never made it to Vegas. Good ones for me, included Ven's elegant Angel Sanchez-meets-Giambattista Valli ensembles, as well as cutie Christopher's bias-cut paneled backless and fishtail gown. These last two were the top, naturally. I would have picked Ven, only for the fact that BOTH of his looks were sublime whereas Christopher only really had ONE strong winner (His LBD's fit was awkward at best and the zipper buckling was wonky). But alas, Christopher won. And congrats for that first challenge win. Now to the bottom.

The First One Out

Kooky Kooan created two cartoony looks that I was sure costume designer/stylist Patricia Field would love, but even she wasn't in on the joke. Kors rightly called one of his looks "teletubby"-like. True. His designs were very Agatha Ruiz de la Prada (Look her up kids — she's from Spain), but they need a bit of refinement. Less cartoon, more couture. Lantie and Beatrice were also at the bottom (No surprise there). This was a tough one and I probably would have bet money on Lantie being out — only for her mud-colored tulle, snakeskin bib and pooping crochet concoctions. But ... it was pretty Beatrice who was the first one Auf'ed. Her two looks were uninspired and sad as La Klum pointed out. What a bummer to be the first one out for sure. When she came for the LA Castings, I warned her that she would have to do something more than knits and that might be her Achilles Heel. I never would have guessed that her downfall would be because A) she sewed poorly and B) her clothes would be deemed sad looking. She was so nice and cute too. Oh well, one down, fourteen more to go until we have a Season 10 winner! Oh, and did I mention how excited I am that "Project Runway" is BAAACK?! Oh yeah, I just did!

Lord Have Mercy!

By kim_messina Fri., Jul. 20, 2012 ,4:44 am EDT

Well, it looks as if we are in for an extremely talented and drama filled Season 10! There is a wide range of "characters" from the soft spoken and apparently 90s styling fan Sonjia to yes, the self-obsessed and questionably talented Gunnar, with whom I was thankfully spared being with on Season 9! Lord have mercy!

Fabio, Melissa, Kooan, Alicia, Christopher and maybe Ven are where the major talent is in this cast! Fabio is minimal, fluid and innovative. Melissa (My money is on her) has a clear modern point of style, architectural, young and well thought-out design! Kooan — or as I will be calling him "HELLO KOOAN" — I feel is a mountain of creativity that if he gets a chance to develop it, it will be something to watch! Alicia's direction is similar to Melissa's, but with more of a downtown street vibe. Christopher has an interesting personality, is skilled at what he does and is a bit more uptown. I think he potential if he keeps his cool. Lastly, Ven. His talent in the workroom does not necessarily mean good design. Add that to his high opinion of himself and there may be trouble ahead. Team challenges anyone?

The remaining designers, some much better than others, will need to impress the judges with a strong point of view to remain in the competition for long! I have my eye on the ones that can do just that!

Joan Collins Meets 80s MTV
The first challenge is to design in one day a look that will, combined with a garment they brought with them, show the judges what they are made of in style, energy and creativity! The back drop for this runway is Times Square, basically the crossroads of the world!

First out is Ven's perfectly executed white pant suit with a beautifully executed rose bustier in shocking pink satin organza. A bit too Joan Collins/"Dynasty" if you ask. He pairs it with a fresh and young sleeveless cocktail dress that echoes the rose bustier. Nice! Second is Beatrice's jersey taupe dress with Aztec-inspired poncho. Her new look is as basic as you get — slim skirt in taupe with a rust colored tee! Okay? Third is Lantie's floral appliquéd, snakeskin bibbed, strapless, high-necked whaddya call it, followed by a tea colored tulle snake bibbed, belted dress, which I think is the better of the two in design, but not in execution!

Andrea's up next. I'm not sure about her vision. The first look is okay, basically a sundress in wide vertical black and white awning stripes, The second left me confused, What woman, young or old, wants to wear a balloon … with wide horizontal stripes to add to the girth? Then a huge bow in the back? Well, why the heck not!

Christopher's gown that was made before the show was young, elegant and romantic. The working of the fabric in diagonal gradating ruffles totally worked! I was just a bit disappointed in his LBD. It was very nice, but the first design was a much stronger look! I loved both of Alicia's looks. They totally worked together. Her cropped legged jumper with hoodie was I feel one of the most interesting jumpers I have seen … and I have seen a lot … last season! Her second look was very strong with great proportions, detail and color! Elena's constructed black coat I liked. The negative/positive black and white dress? Sorry, more negative than positive. I've seen the same idea before with much better results!

Sonjia showed a great tobacco brown leather jacket. The rest didn't add up to much. It was okay, but not great! And Sonjia, please loose the chunky gold button earrings! You're beautiful and don't need them! Melissa showed two strong looks! Her first was a sharp perfectly proportioned black leather jacket worn over a ox blood jersey maxi dress. Her black asymmetrical neckline and hem dress was a home run — beautifully accessorized and styled!

Raul had tailored and well-executed looks. His last look, the little ivory lace dress, was cute, but I'm not sure it worked with his first somber man tailored look! Fabio showed his direction with his little asymmetrical LBD and his tonal ensemble. Both were nice, but maybe just a bit too low-key for a show in Times Square!

Hello Kooan showed two pretty amazing creations. I loved his crazy jumper in kindergarden color if only for it's creativity and exuberance! His second look was way toned down, but still vibrant and fresh!

Nathan showed two very cohesive, fluid and colorful designs! Good execution and styling! If Gunnar was as accomplished at designing as he is at whining, he'd be a winner! Both his looks were just okay — not bad, but nothing to warrant a second glance!

I was surprised with Dmitry's two looks. The black beaded gown with sheer corset was just the right amount of bling and sex! His one shoulder, midriff-bearing fitted dress the same — it was very nice! Buffi … hmm … her two looks were cohesive but too reminiscent of 80s MTV video get-ups! It's 2012!

Judging … Okay?

This is the part I find confusing at times on "PR." The judges will all swoon over a designer's look, compliment it to no end … and then turn around and give the win to a designer that didn't quite get the same praise? That's how the first episode of Season 10 ends with the win going to Christopher! Melissa received nothing but praise and compliments from all four judges! Heidi would wear them, Nina loved them as did Michael and the guest judge Lauren Graham. Christopher had strong praise from the judges on his first look done prior to "PR," but they had trouble with his LBD being just a little too basic! What gives?!

And to say that Hello Kooan was not to be taken seriously, really? Who is that male CFDA winning designer that showed up at the Met Gala recently wearing a sheer black lace dress with rhinestone buckled black patent leather Pilgrim shoes?

The first designer to be "aufed," Beatrice, showed poise and composure on her elimination! It was a close call and Lantie needs to step it up or else it's "Auf Wiedersehen" for sure!

No Pressure! It's Only Times Square!

By kim_messina Fri., Jul. 20, 2012 ,4:41 am EDT

Well it’s the 10th anniversary of "Project Runway" and they are certainly going big! It doesn’t get much bigger than Times Square. I can only imagine how the designers felt when they found out their very first runway show would be in one of the most famous, most visited places on earth! It’s already nerve-wracking as a fresh-faced contestant to have to go before the judges and present your designs, without an audience of thousands of screaming fans!

As we are introduced to the designers, we have our typical "Project Runway" cast of "characters," from the wackadoo foreign guy and the bitchy queen to the strong-and-silent type and the California girl. One thing that strikes me though is the diversity of the designers’ points-of-view. I am already intrigued by a few of them (as Melissa said post-Tim Gunn critique, "Intriguing is good.").

The designers were asked to bring a look from home which best encapsulates their aesthetic. The first challenge is then to create a second look which complements the original one, in one day with a $100 Mood budget. This shouldn’t be too difficult, right? After all, it’s just creating another design from what would be the designer’s collection. To me, any designer who is worth their salt should be able to execute — the bottom line then is about talent and taste. Oh, and then there’s that pesky little thing called time.

"Sixteen Candles" and Long-Lost Twins

In the workroom, Buffi won’t stop talking (and her outfit won’t stop screaming). Gunnar and Christopher (separated at birth?) are the producers’ dream as they are having a perpetual bitchfest about each other. Kooan is giving me flashbacks to Ping (and I’m waiting for a one-liner a la "Sixteen Candles"). Raul is not thinking about women’s undergarments (We had a big conversation with Joanna Coles when I was on "All Stars" about how male designers generally forget about them). Many designers are already impressed and intimidated by Ven. Beatrice is struggling sewing a t-shirt (Really?).

It’s runway time! But can we just talk about the new and improved prize package? Hello: LEXUS (Yes, please)! And the opportunity to sell at Lord & Taylor is definitely a step up from Bluefly or Piperlime. The designers show both looks so the judges can see how they relate and have a better sense of each person’s point of view. There are two guest judges, who could not be more different: actress Lauren Graham and queen of NYC clubwear (and “Sex and the City” costume designer) Patricia Field. Read my rundown and some thoughts on the designers after the jump.

Sex, Scandals and Season 10

By kim_messina Fri., Jul. 20, 2012 ,4:21 am EDT

Full Disclosure: I've watched the first episode of Season 10 three times. Sure, I get paid to eat, sleep and breath "Project Runway" (Seriously — I double dog dare you to ask me to recite all the designers' names in alphabetical order, spell Dmitry, Gunnar and Elena's last names and then top it off by quizzing me on their ages and hometowns. Oh yes — and it's Son-gee and Koo-on. It's fine.). But it wasn't my boss who made me watch it over and over again — it was me.

I mean, the first episode took place in Times freaking Square! I walk through that joint every day and have never seen anything of that magnitude. (And this is coming from a girl who used to stand outside of TRL during the *NYSNC days.) I was completely in awe of the entire situation.

That being said, I can't even imagine how the designers must have felt. I think Raul put it best when he said, "This is better than sex." (Note: Next time you watch Episode 1, count the sex references. My personal fave? Kooan's quip, "I like making a lot of love." But more on Kooan later.) Plus, throw in a Gilmore Girl, the lady who made Carrie Bradshaw look fan-freaking-tastic for six years and you have the trifecta of everything this is good in the world … err, I mean the center of the universe.

So the designers … oh the new batch of designers. To say that there are some characters in the bunch would be the understatement of the century. No two designers are alike in aesthetic and personality. Though between you and me, I think Christopher and Gunnar butt heads because secretly they want to be best friends. I'm nominating them for this season's bromance. They both even agreed that Gunnar is a "moody little son of a bitch." See? Can you feel the love?

I'm personally keeping a close eye on "I love black and white" Melissa, Christopher (Obsessed with the dress he made at home!), Ven (Holy fabric skills, Batman!), Sonjia and Dmitry. I think Dmitry's quiet demeanor is going to be at his advantage during the season … and I also happen to think that he resembles Michael Sheen's character Aro, one of the Volturi vampires, in The Twilight Saga. Joking aside, those five seem to get the purpose of the competition and I don't feel like they'll get caught up in all the workroom drama.

And then there's Kooan. I could write a whole post on Mr. Kosuke. He's crazy, kookie, outrageous and sometimes doesn't make any sense. And why should he? His clothes clearly speak for themselves … loud and clear! I love him almost as much as I love Tim Gunn. Oh, idea! Remember "On the Road with Austin & Santino?" The next installment of the series should be "On the Road with Kooan & Tim." Between Tim's refinement and Kooan's eccentric personality, they'd easily become the next odd couple.

I know it's a competition, but I genuinely feel bad when a designer gets voted off. Beatrice seemed like such a nice girl. I was sad to see her go, but her lackluster jersey dress and "Ugly Betty"-like poncho made her an easy victim to be the first contestant "aufed." But Lantie, better step her game up! She got through by the skin of her teeth!

So I addressed sex and Season 10, and while there might not be any scandals quite just yet, this is my fair warning to you to keep tuning in because you DO NOT want to miss the drama that is going to unfold. Hint: Two of the designers leave in the middle of the night. (Yeah, yeah I know that's old news.) But which two designers leave will blow your mind!

Season 1, Episode 1 Song List

By kim_messina Tue., May. 1, 2012 ,11:38 am EDT

Dance Moms Miami Season 1 Episode 1 Dance Routines Victor’s sudden bout of sickness really put the pressure on the dancers to be fierce at the opening competition of the season. We've got all of the song information (plus select streams for some of the tunes!) for "Dance Moms: Miami" Season 1, Episode 1 below!


Elisa Jimenez's Interview

By LisaRaphael Thu., Jan. 12, 2012 ,5:31 pm EST

In the artist-and-designer's words, Elisa Jimenez was back on our TV “for a good time, not a long time.” During a busy week (in between photo shoots, fashion, meditation and a triptych oil painting) Elisa chatted with the PRAS Blog to fill us with warm fuzzies (try not to feel at peace after speaking with her, I dare you!) and tell fans more about her experience on the show, the cheeky surprise in her unconventional challenge outfit and who she’s rootin’ for in the end.

Elisa Jimenez Episode 1Lisa: We, the viewers, didn’t get to see what you made your unconventional challenge outfit out of, can you let us know what went into your creation?
Elisa:
I wanted to make a high end resort outfit based on “Fancy,” the influence for this look and a character who I transformed into a little rock opera fashion performance experience for the show. The shorts were made out of a paper gift bag. I was very tongue-in-cheek about the fact that it was a gift bag and it was right around her, you know… I thought that was very funny! And then the flower and the whole idea that she’s back from the garden continued the vision of pleasure fulfillment. I used clear duct tape to hold it all together.

The bathing suit was made out of a very, very, very large pair of knickers! The waistband became the halter. I tucked it in the back so it made an X-shape that held at the breasts really nicely. It basically was like a thong one-piece bathing suit. And then the drawing and the painting were a combination of Sharpies and Caran d’Ache, a water-based crayon. The wings were made out of a very lightweight tablecloth.

I’m basically making that whole outfit for Spring (along with the shorts) but out of fabric, but I’m making the wings a little bit more of a capelet that can be turned into a skirt. In theory, if you were at the beach, you could take the capelet, put it around your waist and go to dinner and still have the writing at the bottom.

I thought the wings were fabric!
I know! That’s the magic part. I really wanted the whole thing to register as if it was fabric, because for me, that was part of the trick and the pleasure. I chose to use the duct tape so that it looked like that shiny, iridescent vinyl or spandex. I was consciously playing with another layer as a medium, which was television.

Part of the challenge was to be inspired by your original design. What was the link between the two designs in your eyes?
The original look actually came from a gallery exhibition where I did thematic elements from stories and Fancy was one of them. The first dress you saw is a lightweight plastic Lycra fiber, which is not a sustainable fabric but because I work one-of-a-kind, I do try to be very conscious of not wasting materials, she has the wings within the outfit. That dress’s story is about Fancy going to the garden and being embraced by the flowers all welcoming her back. The connections between the two outfits were the wing-like elements and white where the color is the added extra detail on the garment. I also wanted to take the story and infuse it into the second with the images. [Both dresses had a] light and airy quality with a pop of color.

So who is Fancy? And what was the story on your garment that you were trying to explain to the judges?
Fancy is actually a character my mother created in a painting when I was about 3 or 4 in the 70s. Well the story was a little PG, not 13… (laughs) but it is the last insertion of Fancy in the story of Fancy, which was featured at an exhibition in London called Art’s Seduction by Fashion Since 1970, curated by Chris Townsend. It was not only an installation, not only a performance, not only spontaneous couture, but I also had a full-on compilation of all of the Fancy episodes displayed in video. At this juncture, Fancy has gone to the center of the universe and found out that the Tree of Life is actually within her — she’s complete. The next part of the story is, after she’s been in the universe for awhile, she goes back to the Garden of Unconditional Love and Fulfillment and the flowers are very happy she’s back so they all start welcoming her in a very salacious way; “We miss you, we love you!” and the petals are lapping her legs and thighs.

What you saw on television was actually a continuation of a conversation I was having with all of the judges. They kept asking me, “why did you choose to do this?” “Why did you choose to do that?” When I think about things, when I’m creating things, I do have elaborate and very sure intentions but I also agree, you shouldn’t have to explain everything. It was more that [the judges] kept asking, so I kept elaborating.

Let’s go back to the workroom, where I thought you held yourself very well with Joanna Coles… who asked you if you were going to spit on her.
The very first statement out of Joanna Coles’s mouth to me was that statement: “Are you going to spit on me?” All I could think in that moment — when I was trying to grapple in all of my upbringing to find the most polite, intelligent and kind retort for her comment was, “I wonder if she knows anything about me before ‘Project Runway’ Season 4?” because if she did, she would have known about my history as, you know Vogue introduced me as one of the heralders of the avant garde, I was represented by Holly Solomon all those years and I’ve been this “insider-outsider-in the industry” seeing things and doing things by proximity, not by ego.

So in that moment, I had to really hold it together and realize, she only has read the rhetoric post-Season 4 so she doesn’t quite understand that it’s not spitting on someone, it’s a tongue-to-fingertip blessing mark specifically on chakra points, places on the fabric to create a shape. It’s intentional and it’s small. It took a lot for me, but I know who Joanna Coles is so I had more empathy and kindness towards her because I thought, wow, this is not going to look so good. You’ve approached my other colleagues talking to them about their designs and yet the first thing you say to me is almost a jab, like we’re at the high school lunch table. Let’s try to bring the conversation back to what we’re talking about. Which is why my retort was, “Understand what it is” and “People pay me, they come to me specifically because I’m not the person who’s only thinking about quotas and trends. You come to me for what I do well and what I do well is synthesizing a combination of my own spirit, with the desire of who’s come to me to have me make them couture or pick up that readymade piece that already has its own history.” My clients can be attracted to a particular fabric or a particular scent, because I infuse all of my fabrics with oils and scented things. I’ll tell them, “Okay this dress is about change. So what’s going on in your life that’s about change?” It’s a much more holistic approach to dressing.

What you didn’t see, was the next thing I said: “I could give you a who’s who of who pays me, but I wasn’t raised to be hubristic.” Her response was, “Take a moment and be hubristic.” So I rattled off about 30 people who people care about and six things that people do — Moet Chandon and Gen Art’s — and innovations I’ve been on the curve of purely because people saw the work and it resonated, not because I had a PR company.

View pictures from Elisa Jimenez's Portfolio:

I think it would surprise people to know that you’ve worked on many seemingly “mainstream” things, like "High School Musical" for example. That always comes up when you Google you so I have to ask for an explanation!
One of the collaborators I’ve worked with over the years is a costume designer named Caroline Marx who is exceptionally talented. If she thinks my skills would be apropos for a certain project, she hires me. “High School Musical” was one of those projects. She even ended up getting nominated for a costume award specifically for “High School Musical 3” — and I did all of the work for one particular character, Kelsi. Every single look Kelsi has in the movie has an element of Elisa Jimenez and Hunger World in it, including the dance sequence where I got a vintage Versace and I hacked it up.

You didn’t watch your first season of "Project Runway," so what about this one?
I almost became this running joke during “All Stars.” During every one of my interviews they’d be like, “So when you saw…” and I’d say, “I’ve never seen the show.” When “All Stars” was being filmed and I first walked in and met my colleagues, my disclaimer was, “You must know I’ve never watched the show, so I have no idea who you are as a designer or a character.”

The first real episode that I watched was this last one, the “Project Runway All Stars” that I was on. And I have to say that I was incredibly impressed with the reality of the show and the slice-and-dice of how it was put together because I realize that we’re all paint. We’re all paint on another creator’s canvas and I really liked it and thought it was wonderful. There is nothing more beautiful than watching my work come to life. That’s like watching your child take its first step, so to see it on national television is amazing! (laughs)

Who do you think is going to win?
I think Austin should win. It has nothing to do with talent. First and foremost, we don’t get on “Project Runway” unless you’re talented. Whether it’s “All Stars” or the regular one. “Project Runway” has been a part of the mainstream going on ten seasons. It’s not the subversion it was the first two seasons where all of a sudden the red velvet rope is ripped away from Bryant Park and some unknown from Iowa gets shoved into an industry that he or she has dreamed about since they were five years old. It’s now a phenomenon. There are people who try to get on the show specifically who want to be on a television show.

I think that Austin should win because in the arc of a show, Austin was from the very first season — aside from the fact that he’s impeccably talented, besides the fact that every designer is talented – it’s what will empower the phenomena of Project Runway and what will validate it as a continued phenomena.

My mom sent me [an article], where there was “An Elisa” of a season between 4 and “All Stars.” My mom sent it to me and said, “Project Runway” turned you into a noun. That’s truly powerful! To be in contemporary myth-making pop culture. I think Austin should win because in the pop culture realm it would elevate who needs to be the skilled designer. It’s not just the person who looks good on TV, it’s the person who actually has the history behind them.

The Many Faces of Austin Scarlett

By LisaRaphael Fri., Jan. 6, 2012 ,5:56 pm EST

The full episode of the "Project Runway All Stars" premiere is available now online! Watch it here and view more videos from last night's episode, including designer video blogs, extended judging and workroom videos.

As a bonus, enjoy the many expressions of Austin Scarlett from the first episode, and imagine what wonders next week's shall bring! Austin Scarlett Face All Stars Premiere

Happy Friday!

Episode 1 Recap

By LisaRaphael Thu., Jan. 5, 2012 ,7:43 pm EST

I half expect Season 8 designer Mondo Guerra to show up for "All Stars" with Jessica Simpson and Heidi Klum wearing polka dot gowns and carrying his luggage (which probably contains mostly jorts, spectacles and single drop earrings). Alas, he struts onto the show alone, soon to be swept into the arms of his seasonmate, that Lil' Designer Who Kinda Could, Michael Costello. Even the gritty streets of NYC, littered with graffiti and 5-speed bikes, are no match for the adorable reunion, and "Project Runway All Stars" has officially begun!

There are no words, only poetry when my eyes first spot Mr. Austin Scarlett, so I'll let a haiku do what mere words cannot:

Spring in trousered step
Blonde coif reflects summer sun
Loafers without socks.

Rami Kashou Zac Efron musclesWhile the designers tell us how much they want to win this time around, Rami shows up for his "Runway" redux faced with the impossible task of making us see he's gotten hotter since Season 4. He succeeds, with chest and arm muscles that can only be described as derivative of Zac Efron in "The Lucky One." My love letter extends to include Mila's fierce red lip, Kenley's super cute shorts, and Anthony and Jerell's everything.

We get so used to this family of familiar faces, and then it's time to meet the new host and judges. Supermodel Angela Lindvall (who's cool and fun and seems like the type of friend who responds "Duh! Where/when? I'm THERE." When you mass-text "Brunch?" to your friends on a Sunday morn) greets the designers and shares the following exciting/terrifying news:

First, there is NO immunity.

Second, the winner will take home: the chance to sell their collection in select Neiman Marcus stores and on NeimanMarcus.com, a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine, a one-year position as guest editor of the mag, Brother sewing equipment, $100,000 in technology and office supplies from HP and Intel, and $100,000 cash. (Jerell, still want that sash and tiara?)

Third, Angela will be joined on the judging panel by Isaac Mizrahi and Marchesa designer/co-founder Georgina Chapman. I agree with April and Anthony — they know and we know what the "Project Runway" judges love/hate/think of the 13 designers standing before us. If coming back for Round 2 is going to be a truly fair fight, the playing field has to be level, and that means all-new judges.

Mila and Anthony's designs We get a glimpse at what the designers have been up to since their seasons when they each show a piece in the series' first runway (check out more pictures of past work here!). I love Mila's look and would wear it in a heartbeat. Mondo's outfit is predictable, but I would totally fight with Prince William's fun cousins over that kooky headpiece. There are few words for Anthony's kelly green cocktail dress and jewel-encrusted safety pin, besides "fab," "u" and "lous."

Kenley and April are two of my favorite "shoulda won"'s, and I'm disappointed by their dresses. Hopefully April's new purple 'do will encourage her to show us more color this season. I want her to stick around and know that black bodysuits and dresses won't do the trick.

For the first challenge, the designers get to live out my (and apparently, a super-psyched Kara's) dreams with a 99-CENT-STORE SHOPPING SPREE! Yup, this is the unconventional challenge, and possibly the best one in the history of "Project Runway."

Michael, who has already pointed out that Rami, a.k.a. DrapeMaster Flex Arms-R-Strong, is his biggest competition, notices that he and April both chose mops for their materials. Once in the workroom, Jerell advises Michael to have a "woman-to-woman" chat with her about their designs, but Michael is probably too afraid of April, so Mondo hides him under a mop head.

A less understandable fear is the designers' apparent uneasiness with Elisa and her "crazy" behavior — she's sitting under her table, guys, so, like, loose cannon, right? I give Elisa lots of props for setting the record straight with our new workroom mentor, Marie Claire EIC Joanna Coles. She was all classy with her "My clients pay me for my spit mark blessing," but if I was Elisa, I would have started finger-snapping and been like, "I worked on a little indie film called 'High School Musical,' Jo. Heard of it? Ever sipped soup out of a 'High School Musical'–branded thermos? Does Marie Claire have thermoses? Didn't THINK so."

I know everyone's going to be lamenting the absence of the "Make It Work" Man, but I think Joanna is the perfect person for the job this season. The All Stars need her fashion-industry insight to ultimately help them take their careers and businesses to the next level. And if my sound reasoning doesn't sway you, at least let Joanna's red blazer try.

Now, let's take it to the runway. Since YOU get the chance to be the judge and vote for who you think should win each challenge, I'll also enjoy the opportunity!

Re-examining the middle, I think Kenley's bathmat-dress-and-loofah-headpiece combo was more Top 3 than Jerell's scarf dress, and wish Anthony's purple number with the clever gold safety pin accents had gotten a little love. We don't get to see the Michael vs. April showdown, which is OK because their dresses end up being different and both are pretty great.

Mondo's dress didn't do it for me. I loved the subtly striped bodice and the hat — which was somehow even better than the one he showed earlier — but that ruffled skirt made me cringe. I do like Mondo's clothing, but never as much as I love/luff/lurve his accessories.

Elisa Jimenez Episode 1Rami was the clear winner for making beautiful, fancy clothing out of bags I mostly see toting the belongings of homeless people here in NYC. If I was a fellow contestant, I'd be shaking in my boots right now. And if I was a homeless person with a serious stash of those plaid bags, I'd get Rami on the horn ASAP.

The Too Soon Crown goes to Elisa, who, sure, could maybe work on her pitch, but made a daring look that was somehow artsy, hippy and Ke$ha-y all at once. And fit her model perfectly. The only way Sweet P should have been allowed to stay for her terror-y cloth dress is if she had presented it to the judges magic-towel style and they watched it transform into a dress from a Mickey Mouse–shaped disc that fit in the palm of their hands.

Elisa leaves us with the grace and the kind words I hope everyone will remember her for (spit, schmit!), and I cross my fingers that we'll see her again as a blessing-giving helper bee later in the season.

I don't have enough time to process Elisa's departure, though, as the season's teaser trailer shows us a possible Austin Scarlett/Isaac Mizrahi smackdown and more tears than the aftermath of a "Bachelor" group date. Next Thursday can't come soon enough!!

Did you think the right designers were in and out this week? Did you vote for your favorite? There's still time!

Posted in: episode 1, recap