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To Each His Own

By laurareineke Fri., Oct. 11, 2013 ,1:30 pm EDT

It's that time again! The designers have $9000 and 6 weeks to make a 10-look spring/summer collection. There is a twist this time, however: one look must be made out of unconventional materials. While this twist makes for good television, and everyone likes to see unconventional-materials challenges on "Project Runway," I feel it makes the collections more TV and less NYFW. For those of you who look at all the runway shows, when was the last time you saw an established designer's collection include a "wearable art" look? I know many of you may not agree, but I'm just seeing it from a designer's perspective, as a PR alum who is trying to create her brand and business and be taken seriously as a designer, not as a "reality show designer." In my opinion, the key to succeeding with this look will be creating one that works seamlessly into the collection and doesn't stand out as so obviously made of unconventional materials.

Bradon and Dom have secured finalist spots. Justin, Alexandria, and Helen are all creating collections as well, and will show 3 looks to the judges to determine who gets the final spot (though the judges ended up having 4 finalists).

Bradon's collection is inspired by the first sign of spring after a long winter, specifically flowers, when he was living on the East Coast. We donʼt see too much of his or Dom's collections in New York, only the works-in-progress during the home visits. Bradon used a couple of prints and seems to be doing a lot of dresses.

Dom took her "Blade Runner" inspiration (one of my top 5 favorite films of all time!) and designed her own prints. Do we expect anything less from her? The "retro-futurism" collection ought to be interesting. I wonder how much pattern mixing she will do, and what her silhouettes will be. The prints are quite bold, so her silhouettes should probably be more simple.

I've always thought Justin has had great ideas but weak execution. He is clearly a very creative guy. His inspiration, sound waves, made a very compelling statement. I love the futuristic quality the looks had (I DIE for those 3D-printed accessories!), yet there was also a softness to the actual clothing, making it feel approachable and real. I also love the sound wave digital print he used in targeted areas. His test tube gown was magnificent, and does indeed feel like a "wearable art" piece, but stunning nonetheless. It must have taken forever to tie on all those tubes! Should be interesting to see the gown in the context of the entire collection. While he knocked the socks off the judges by showing the gown as one of his three looks (the goal when trying to secure that finalist spot), hopefully the rest of the collection does not disappoint. I still see some execution issues, but the ideas are so good. If there is one designer who really made me curious to see more, it's him. I was skeptical of his work in the past, but I think when he has his own environment to work in, and more time, the outcome is much better. The judges out him through of course.

Alexandria, who was harshly criticized by El Nina for using no color (boy, did I have flashbacks!!), created a collection which she calls "Neo-Nomadic Punk." I donʼt know that I see the punk element there, but I do see the nomadic. It's ironic that Nina always criticizes for lack of color because a) she hardly wears it, and b) her job requires her to look at every single fashion collection that walks a runway, and there are MANY successful designers who donʼt use a lot of color. Alexandria is of the Helmut Lang/Rick Owens variety, two very successful brands that do not use much color. I immediately knew Heidi would respond favorably to the three looks, as they are very contemporary and "now." The looks may not have been show-stoppers, but they were very well executed and full of interesting details. I do wish there had been a bit more variation in the three looks she selected though. Nonetheless, Alexandria went through as the 4th finalist, which it seems Heidi had a big hand in.

Are you wondering as I am why Helen wasn't eliminated last episode? Alexandria nailed it when she said Helen just comes across as young and student-like in the way that she always speaks so highly of her own work. I was curious to see if she would produce better work outside of the "bubble." Her inspiration was clairvoyance and so she somewhat literally designed a print from a photograph of her boyfriend's eye. At first I thought it was kind of cool but the more I looked at it, the more I did not care for it, certainly not paired with the clear red. I actually like the choice of the bright orange-red, but that color along with some of the design details she chose (the geometric "tails" Tim hated, the cape) are extremely referential to one of Givenchy's recent collections. It's not just the color but the combination of all the elements she chose. It was an amazing collection, but she took a LOT of those elements. I am surprised Nina did not call her on it (then again she only saw three looks). The trouble is, for such streamlined designs, the execution must be flawless and it was hardly that. Helen was eliminated and I'll bet she is cringing while watching the episode at the way she was edited. Perhaps it will be a dose of humility for her.

Can we talk about the "additional look" for TIDE?! Just when I thought the sponsors were done rearing their heads! So in the same collection, there is meant to be an UNCONVENTIONAL look and a WASH-AND-WEAR look? Oy. Discuss!

1, 2, 3, 4

By laurareineke Fri., Oct. 11, 2013 ,4:50 am EDT

Season 12 is almost over. Almost. We're down to the top 5 designers out of sixteen. Two have confirmed sports at Lincoln Center NY Fashion Week -- Bradon and Dom -- and the other three have to "fight it out" for the coveted third spot. So pre-finale episode, here we come!

$9,000, Six Weeks and One Unconventional Look
Emmy Award-winning "Project Runway" co-hosts Tim and Heidi come onto the runway to congratulate the remaining designers and announce that they are giving each of them $9,000 to create a 10-look collection ($900 per look) and that the designers have six weeks to do it. In addition, one of the looks must be created out of unconventional materials, e.g. NOTHING that even looks like real fabric. Got it? Good. Now, byeeee! One month later, time for the Tim Trips:

Philadelphia and Dom: Dom's inspiration is the movie "Blade Runner,î and she calls her collection "RetroFuturism.î She has created her own prints which look fabulous! Everything looks fine and dandy until we find out she's only done three and a half looks (out of TEN!) and she's only got 2 weeks to go. Something tells me, however, that she'll be okay.

Los Angeles and Bradon: Tim goes BAREFOOT on a Southern California beach! Still, the jacket remains. Moving on...Bradon explains that his inspiration deals with flowers and the melting of snow right as spring is about to begin. Tim is instantly wowed. I'm actually a bit worried. From the quick glances, the collection has hints of Valentino, but Valentino from 1994. In a later direct-to-camera, Helen comments that she thinks Bradon's collection looks "old lady." Here's a shocker: for the first time this entire season, I agree with her!

San Mateo and Alexandria: It's only nine days until Fashion Week (thatís what the Chyron says) and Alexandria has made 30 pieces! Wow, she's a busy bee! Her inspiration is "Neo Nomadic Punk" and everything looks very her. I'm just a little worried at the lack of "punch" in the color scheme of her collection; it all looks bland. Alexandria then takes Tim to her Camp Couture, where little kids sew and create things. They've all made these "ugly dolls" inspired by Season 12 contestants: There's the Sandro Doll (where's the broken camera?), Unicorn Doll, Sue Waller Doll with dreadlocks and yes, even a Tim Gunn one. Alexandria better put those little kids to work--and FAST--to make a ton more because I can see those selling like CRAY-CRAY! Camp Couture just turned into Camp Sweatshop!

Union City and Helen: Somehow, it's still NINE DAYS to Fashion Week (that's what the Chyron says!) and Tim went from San Francisco to New Jersey in one day and it was still daytime. Helen tells Tim that her inspiration was clairvoyance. She's made a print out of her boyfriend's eye. There's a lot of color, especially red. I like that but...I'm just not sure about the shapes. If you're going to do Cristobal Balenciaga cocoon capes, those things better look IMPECCABLE. These do not. Helen does admit that she has never done a collection before and that this is her first. Not even at F.I.T.? Nothing? I think to myself "Wow, doing a ìProject Runwayî finale collection might not be a good place to start." Too late now.

Raleigh and Justin: EVERYTHING looks great! He's inspired by sound waves and is creating these original 3-D printing pieces. I am so intrigued that I just want to see more. For his Unconventional Challenge look, he is using test tubes. Test tubes! I can't wait! Let's hope his questionable construction will not be his Achillesí heel.

Back in NY
One week later and all the designers are back in NY. They're in their Parsons Workroom for the awkward first-look in front of their competitors. This is an unusual group for "Project Runway" since most (not all) of the time, there's always a villain, someone EVERYONE hates who makes it to the end. But here, nope, nothing. During the unveiling of the garment bags, they're all "That looks cute!" and "Oh, look what you did!" But when they're alone -- direct-to-camera -- they all diss each other. Typical.

But first...there's another twist
Tim walks in with Raquel Rozas, Tide Brand Manager, to announce that Tide is partnering with the CFDA to push their designers to create designs in washable fabrics. Therefore, the finalists who will make it to Fashion Week (Bradon, Dom and ?) will also have to create one additional look using washable fabrics for a look that "pops." Unfortunately, it seems that this challenge was sidelined and I have a sneaking suspicion that it was due to Tim's accident...

Subway Tim
Tim returns for his critique and he's all gashed up! "What happened?" everyone asks. (An extra-long time must have transpired since he last told them that he'd be back). Poor Tim fell down the stairs in the subway, slashed his lip, nose and forehead and consequently had to go to the emergency room. You know THE LAST place he wanted to be was back filming in the workroom to critique the designers. But he's a trooper! After his check-in, as he is saying goodbye, he chokes up and gets emotional. Part of me thinks it's less about the designers and more that he's just happy the day is OVER. Time for a stiff martini!

The Runway
Judges Heidi, Zac and Nina are there to determine who makes it in. I've got my Judge's Note Cards and here's what I wrote:

Alexandria -- I like her three looks. These girls look edgy and modern; very NY-meets-Berlin fashion editor. I LOVE the pant pocket detail. The clothes don't necessarily have a "runway punch," as Nina noted, but they're great for the showroom, and a super hip boutique in the Marais. I would have liked more variation in the pant looks, however.

Helen -- Uh oh. Where's all the amazing construction and creative designs that she did all season long? There's always one designer in these final stages who is really good the entire season, then goes home and somehow, fails. The capes she made were clunky and restrictive (Nina was right in calling one a straightjacket). I know what she was going for, but it didn't work. As Zac said, it takes YEARS to master architectural shapes like those. You can't do that at 25. You can try but it ain't going to be right. I also didn't like the print: It was drab and uninspired. Oh, and the center back zipper closure of the printed cape-dress was wonky and rippling. And what do capes have to do with clairvoyance? Just sayin'.

Justin -- One word: Bravo! All three looks he showed were fab! I loved the cut-out vest and pants, the painted flared dress was great, and the "test tube" gown, wow! His 3-D prints/accessories were unique and strong statement pieces. I loved that he showed a variety with a pants look, a dress and a gown. And it all worked. This is how you do it kids! And I am with Nina: I liked the hair. So there!

Final Four
Justin was by far the one to keep, so he's in! Alexandria and Helen are left. Will they both be out or is Heidi tricking us? Yep, she is. It's Top 4 not 3, darlings. (For ìProject Runwayî historians, this is only the 4th time in 12 Seasons that there has been a final 4). Alexandria snuck in and "caped crusader" Helen is out. So it's Bradon, Dom, Justin and Alexandria. Who do you guys think will win? And was it okay to let Alexandria in and have a Top 4? Was this really necessary? And will she use a COLOR that "pops" for her Washable Tide Look? Please Alexandria, I hope you do.

Hell-en on Earth

By laurareineke Fri., Oct. 11, 2013 ,4:35 am EDT

Heidi had some lonely lips last week having not had the opportunity to give any of the designers a kiss goodbye, but you could tell she must have been in a charitable mood since she gave the designers an extra challenge last minute to recreate one of the past losing designs. It was a first on "Project Runway" and one of my favorite challenges thus far! You must agree, far too often we sit at home screaming and cursing at our TVs like crazy people at a loony bin about the garments we love and the ones that we cringe over as they come down the runway. I liked the idea of the designers having the opportunity to resurrect a losing garment into a winning garment. It was a great way to see how they could all manage to take an existing design's foundation and give it their own signature spin. I think it was important seeing how the integrity of each piece had to resonate to the judges but it was entirely up to the remaining five designers to really transform it into something new and beautiful.

This industry and profession orbit transformation and it was important to see which designers had the ability to have their voice be heard loud and clear. Dom and Braden secured two spots for New York Fashion Week while the remaining three still have the opportunity to create collections but upon returning to NYC will have to battle for one or more remaining spots. Helen said, "This has been the motivation to blow the judges out of the water, and prove to them, given a bit more time, I can secure a spot at Fashion Week!" While Justin never thought he "would make it this far because it is such a talented group of people" he is "very excited to continue." And Alexandria is numb, saying, "This doesnít feel real, none of it feels real." I'm glad she was talking about the competition and not Dolly Parton; we all know THOSE arenít real, however perhaps they are too good to be true, just like Alexandria's opportunity. She has a lot to be thankful for from Heidi who is always on her side, even when the other judges are not confident in her.

With $9,000 and six weeks, each of the designers has to put together a 10-look collection with one of their looks being created from unconventional materials! What a fabulous little twist this season, I love the idea of having to work in abstract materials and breathe life into them for a show. For each designer the sky is really the limit. We have heard all season: "If I only had a little more time, the sewing and tailoring would be better, the fabrics would be more thoughtful, and the design would be able to have more direction behind it." Well now is the time to shine bright like a diamond and donít hold back!

After a farewell from Heidi, we arrive in Philadelphia to see how Dom has been spending her past four weeks. Dom informs us that one of her favorite movies is "Blade Runner," which has inspired her collection from a "retro futurism" perspective. With her proof fabric having just arrived, Dom only has 3 looks in the process and I am simply blown away! That is not even a look a week! Tim advises her to put all of the fabrics into knit and she said that she didn't think of it herself since she is planning to work in angular lines colliding with curved lines. With her family by her side and her mother as a large fashion influence in her life, Dom learned at a very young age the developmental skills of working hard for what you want in life, while following her dream.

Meanwhile over in LA-LA land, Braden is trying not to think about the fact that he has already been chosen to show at New York Fashion Week because the idea is "Petrifying!" It takes years for wood to petrify, so a mere 4 weeks of designing should be the most exciting time in a young designer's life! With the first words out of Tim's mouth being "Wow, wow, wow," I would hope that was able to give Braden the encouragement to not live in this moment in fear, but rather flourish like the beauty of his inspiration. Working in glassy, snowy, cool metallic colors that clash with nature, ice, and sex that give off the idea of animalistic instincts, Braden is "relieved to have made it to this landmark moment of the competition." He also realizes that he needs to work as he's "never worked before, or it's not gonna happen!"

Speaking of working like you've never worked before...we head to San Mateo, California to enter Alexandria's "in the works" 30-piece collection which is described as edgy, strong, and modern. It's all about this "neo-nomadic punkî which is understated yet detail-oriented. Now you mean to tell me Alexandria, between making dolls at Camp Couture you have been able made a piece a day while getting sleep? Not that I donít believe you, however, it seems like you think raw, undone clothing appeals to everyone, and it doesn't. Far too many times this season you have used this technique and frankly if it were not for the support of Heidi, you would not be with us today. Not knowing how to finish garments properly and playing it off as though it's what you intended is a crutch that will get old in time for most people but is something I am completely OVER! Why not just come out and say you donít know what you are doing on a sewing machine and give Tiny Tim back his property?

Mentioning handicaps, we head over to Union City, new Jersey to get an update from Helen who at first "felt really discouraged by not being in the top three." However it gave her "more motivation to kill it with this collection!" With an inspiration of clairvoyance encompassing "knowing the unknown" Tim asks how something so abstract can be made concrete through clothing. The reply of course is quite vague but it surrounds taking the concept of vision somewhere? Even I am lost, as I can imagine you are! It's one thing to take a picture of your boyfriend's eyeball and incorporate it into a print, but what the hell does it stand for? It's a design direction that has some extreme hiccups, and something Helen really needs to work out before she stands on the runway and tries to sell herself and her collection to the judges. She of course is confident enough that "it 100% will WOW the judges because it's bold and has in-your-face aggressive colors."

From a vague design direction to one of the strongest, we land in Raleigh, North Carolina to see Justin, who has been the designer I have been patiently waiting to see. Being taught deafness is not a disability, rather an opportunity to thrive with the best of the best, Justin is ìhumble and thankful to be in the competition still" but is eager to win. The inspiration for the collection is in some ways a retrospective of his life, from being entirely deaf, to the transition of being able to hear, to the resolution of learning to live with it. It's a strong narrative and one that opens itself to an amazing collection if interpreted correctly. Having been inspired by sound waves Justin is using a fabulous 3D printing machine for his accessories as well as delivering us a fierce unconventional piece using test tubes! My only question is, did he already own the 3D printing machine or did he buy it with the $9000, because I can imagine that it is not a cheap product! Knowing he still has to fight for a spot Justin informs us that he is nervous to have to compete against Helen and Alexandria since they are both strong designers. With that said he knows he has "a very strong collection and a strong concept."

The workroom has a fragrance of anticipation and secretiveness as each designer's collection is revealed. Alexandria hopes the amount of work she has done might be "slightly intimidating to my competitors," and she has some choice words for Helen's "student collection" while Helen thinks nothing in Alexandria's collection is "new or chic" as well as in Braden's "old-lady" collection. Big words from a girl that used an eyeball as a print! Perhaps it's ironic that Helen was inspired by vision, because she need to open her eyes and look around the room and soak in the fact that weather she believes in someone else's work or not, there are some insanely fabulous things happening in the other designers' collections besides working off the idea of capes. Dom is glad Tim used his save on Justin because Justin is "a secret weapon because you don't expect the beautiful things that turn out from his work." Justin equally agrees that Dom's use of print "is utterly amazing!î What will the judges think?

I have to say Justin didn't have a thing to worry about going into this final runway show to secure a spot at New York Fashion Week, but I did know that it would come down to the bickering duo of Helen and Alexandria. I must agree that even with the flaws of finishing work, Alexandria was really strong with her styling and it of course helps that she has Heidi's love and unconditional support! Helen however looked as though she was about to take those cutting shears out of her neck and throw them at Heidi! With the most wins in the competition up until this point, Helen just wasn't able to wow the judges with her sampling of work. Perhaps they couldnít "see" it clearly? Every pun intended! What do you think and whose collections are you most excited to see?

Season 12, Episode 13: Someone's Gotta Go

By laurareineke Fri., Oct. 11, 2013 ,4:15 am EDT

5 designers. $9000 each. Six weeks. Two last-minute challenges (an unconventional-materials look and a Tide-sponsored washable look). Four spots at New York Fashion Week. Let's do this.

This is a busy episode for Tim Gunn, who spends the first part of the 1.5 hour telecast jetting around the country to visit our designers and the second half with a bruised and battered face from an awful-sounding fall down a flight of subway steps. A moment of respectful silence for Tim, please. He's maybe one of the most selfless humans in all of reality television.

Dom - Tim heads first to Philadelphia to meet with Dom. Her print-heavy collection (which she's working on when she's not hosting at a local restaurant) was created under the influence of "Blade Runner" -- lots of greens and purples based off watercolor-and-ink pieces Dom created. The designs earn praise from Tim, though he's concerned at how behind she is in actually executing her looks. He helps her decide to use knits instead of silks and jaunts away.

Bradon - In Los Angeles, Bradon introduces Tim to his spring-inspired collection, on which he seems to be making decent progress. I admit to being a little perplexed at the mishmash of muted florals and metallic silky neutrals that seem to dominate Bradon's looks, but Tim is pacified. And then he's literally Pacif-ied when Bradon and his fiance Josh and their dog Eddie take Tim to the Pacific ocean! Ugh, that was an awful pun attempt. I apologize. Let's move on.

Alexandria - In San Mateo, Tim meets up with Alexandria. Her "neo-nordic" collection is based on her mantra of edgy, strong, and modern. She has boatloads of pieces (thirty, I think?) to show Tim, all of it muted but very detailed, with lots of separates for mixing and matching. She takes Tim to her super cool kids' sewing camp, Camp Couture, where he gets to see the hilariously on-point series of ugly dolls the kids made to resemble this season's "Project Runway" designers. (Timothy's is called Unicorn Doll, of course. Sue's has dreadlocks! They're fabulous.)

Alexandria's three looks are met with squeals of glee from Heidi (no surprise whatsoever on that front) for being accessible and cool. "I want to have all of this," she says. Zac calls the looks "luxe" and compliments the professional detailing as well as the individualism of Alexandria's three models. Nina is less impressed. "When you put a show for New York Fashion Week, these clothes are going to look like anything. Do you have the goods to present something wow?" And on closer look, Zac smartly observes that all the elements Alexandria has used are just a shorthand of what's cool at the moment.

Helen - Our tatted diva is camped out at her home in Union City, New Jersey, where Tim gets a sneak peek at her collection, which is based off the concept of clairvoyance and a blown-up photo of her boyfriend's eye. She's working with red, greys, and black, and focuses intensely on the cocoon cape concept that got her so far this season. "Where's the excitement?" Tim asks, and frankly that's a question that viewers have been asking of Helen for ages; her work is solid and wearable but seen in succession it's clear that Helen is a bit of a one-trick pony.

The looks she sends down the runway almost offend the judges. Nina and Zac slag on the "tortured" quality of her sleeveless print dress. "Spooky" and "contrived" are tossed out, too. The trio express surprise at the lack of easiness to these clothes, that the design seems forced, and poor Helen gets tongue-tied trying to explain herself. It's her worst crit yet. The consensus: Helen might be a little too young and a little too inexperienced to show a full collection.

Justin - Tim's off to Raleigh, North Carolina. Justin shows him the 3D printing machine that he's using to create accessories for his collection, which are meant to help illustrate his theme of sound waves. His collection combines greys and whites with hand-painted details and the aforementioned accessories.

Justin shows the judges a gown (his unconventional look), a shorter dress, and a pantsuit, which is wise: The judges appreciate the variety of silhouettes. Heidi and Zac frown at the wigs used on the models, and Zac also notes that some of the details need to be cleaned up, but along with Nina they seem very impressed by the cohesiveness and modernity of his looks.

Justin is tapped to move on. With the choice between Alexandria and Helen, the judges decide to allow Alexandria's more polished and interesting work through to Fashion Week. That means that after churning out competitive work all season, Helen is finally auf'd.

What say you? Are you surprised to see Helen miss the mark? Of our final four -- Alexandria, Bradon, Dom, and Justin -- who do you think will stand out the most at NYFW? Let me know in the comments before we head into our final episode!

Want a refresher on the season's winning looks? We've got a gallery ready for you right here.

Designers' Choice: Season 12, Episode 13

By laurareineke Fri., Oct. 11, 2013 ,4:05 am EDT

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

TOP Justin "3D: Very very cool. It is the future."
BOTTOM Helen "Looks appear stiff."

TOP Justin "Unconventional look is amazing."
BOTTOM Alexandria "Looks are too similar to each other."

TOP Helen "Most wearable."
BOTTOM Alexandria "No look stands out."

TOP Alexandria "Diverse."
BOTTOM Justin "Basic."

TOP Helen "Love the colors. She deserves it."
BOTTOM Alexandria "Wonderful designer, lacks respect."

Lucky 13

By laurareineke Fri., Oct. 11, 2013 ,4:05 am EDT

Lucky 13. It has come to the thirteenth week of Season 12, and five designers are still eligible for the win. Dom and Bradon are in. As last week's top two, they are in the catbird seats. Helen, Alexandria, and Justin are still to fight for the remaining slot at Fashion Week. Each is given $9000 to spend and six weeks to create, along with a never-before-seen twist: One look must be made of unconventional materials. Alexandria starts to break down at Tim's send off. At this stage the designers are just worn out, add to that the further pressure for Helen, Alexandria, and Justin to come up with a collection to go on to the next round.

On to what I know is for many their favorite episode: The Tim home visits!

First up is Dom. She meets Tim at the Philadelphia restaurant where she works. Her lovely mother, brother, and boyfriend have lunch, and then she and Tim head off to see her work space. It reminds me somewhat of the space I had in Dayton. Large, open, windows, industrial. She's doing prints inspired by the movie Blade Runner. Her unconventional material look is made out of door braces. While Tim likes her direction, she only has 3 1/2 of her 10 looks done. She's in bad shape. I would certainly hate to think that she waited for Tim to come in and give her direction.

Next Tim's off to LA, and Bradon's collection. His inspiration is spring time, being from up state NY he recalls flowers blooming while snow still blanketed the ground. For him it's the clash of nature. He has 4 looks left to do, he seems in fine fettle. But then the unconventional materials outfit comes out. Made of clothes line and painters plastic, Tim thinks it's heavy looking, and a drag on Bradon's mostly light, airy pieces. Well truth be told, Bradon is in good shape. Then it's a walk on the beach with his fiance and their very cute dog.

While in Cali, Tim heads off to San Mateo to check in with Alexandria. She has focused on "edgy, strong, and modern," which is somewhat of a mantra for her. The title is "Neo Nomadic Punk." As she leads Tim into her work space, she states "here's where the magic happens" -- anyone else cringe and think of an episode of MTV's "Cribs"? Alexandria has produced 30 pieces, and for her unconventional material she has chosen phone books. Now it could be me, but was Tim's reaction to the kids at Camp Couture helping Alexandria on the garment edited? In the rules you are allowed some help, but not much (recall Jeffery Sebelia). Off to Camp Couture, and Tim marvels at the dolls the children have made representing the contestants on the show, and I do have to say the Sandro doll, Susan doll, Timothy doll (funny how even Alexandria couldn't remember his name), and the Miranda doll were just as Tim said, "Spot on." Alexandria is ready.

It's off to Union City, New Jersey, and Helen. Tim looks at Helen's progress and is concerned. While she is moving along, what she has are simple dresses and capes that look very, very similar to what Helen has made this whole season. (I have been saying all along that Helen strikes me as an impostor in a designer's shoes and this is not helping my confidence.) Tim questions the excitement factor, especially when you send looks down the runway that seem exactly like the looks you made in one day months before. Some shower mats are stacked and ready for the unconventional challenge dress. I say it is foreshadowing a poor final crit. But then of course the judges could have a completely different script from Tim. Then there is a nice lunch at Helen's parents house with her family and boyfriend, and they get to talk about Helen's favorite subject, Helen.

Finally it's down the East Coast to beautiful Raleigh, North Carolina, and Justin. Sound waves are his inspiration. Tim visits Justin's workplace and marvels at the machine that will make Justin's prints (it's a print season, even Helen is doing them) being made at State. Justin has some work to do, but things are moving along nicely, and overall he's in a good place. Justin's unconventional material? Test tubes, gotta love the 'outside the box' thought process there, I'm interested to see his collection. Lunch with his delightful family. Interesting to know that Justin started in architecture, and his sister will wear only the occasional garment from Justin.

Back in NYC, and it's the stink-eye as designers start to look around the room at the others as they unpack their creations.

Wait, what? A Tide challenge? It's all a bit surreal here as the workroom is given its traditional "final" challenge. But only for the chosen. First, heads must roll -- one of the three contenders to the finals must be axed. One must go. Why not two? I mean it's not like the forth place gets to be a decoy. 70% of the contestants get to be decoys. Is it because they want to have another week to get rid of someone?

One thing the designers do have is time. They certainly have time to walk around to critique each others looks.

Oh, well, runway time for those on the chopping block. Each of the three on the bubble have picked three outfits to give the judges an idea of their collection. A rather beat up Tim Gunn has his final check-in. Alexandria is seen by everyone as having three pieces too similar. Tim essentially gives her the green light to do as she pleases. Tim likes Justin's looks, but worries about Justin's construction. Helen is quick to point out Justin's lack of construction skills, which I find highly annoying.

Tim sees Helen next, and she is blasted by the same critique she got in NJ: poor sewing, poor choices of which garments to show. It's a bad crit. Helen again shows her immaturity by not defending the time she put into her work rather than the work itself. Let me tell you, you can spend a lot of time digging a ditch, and in the end it is still a ditch. She whines and pleads, but no rewards. Helen has just proved the old "Peter Principal" theory by reaching the level of her own incompetence. She is outclassed by all those around her. That 6 weeks she wanted to "blow the judges out of the water" just pointed out her deficiency as a true designer. Again, I believe, she came to this show too soon.

It comes down to last minute before the runway showdown, and it's interesting to see Dom help Helen finish up, Bradon help Justin with a few final stitches, and Alexandria organizing her looks alone.

Runway shoot out:
First up is Alexandria. Her first look is not a wow moment for me, the top is not very exciting, but it's honest. She seemed to pick not the most stunning, but the most representative of her work. You understand her when she says those three represent a nonchalant downtown vibe. I like her look, it is all about the detail, a very subtle style. I like it, but will it stand up to Helen, and even Justin's more boisterous looks?

Helen is next. she sends down three similar looks that I find ill-fitting, way too simple, and poorly constructed. If it looks this awkward on the small screen, my Lord, what does it look like in person? It lacks imagination, fit, maturity. I do feel somewhat for her. But, hey they built the monster.

Justin sends down three nice pieces including his unconventional materials piece. A brave move as his looks are the most encompassing and ambitious of the three. He walks a skirt, a pants suit, and a gown. Well played sir.

Justin is the first to be criticized, more for his styling than his designs, a good sign. Alexandria, the IKEA of fashion, points to her hooks and stylized features. She's praised by Zak and Heidi, but Nina blasts her, surprising from her I thought. In the waiting room Alexandria pointed out Nina's harsh criticism with "Missed that one." Again, I love the Nordic understatement.

Helen is just shot down, while her "concept" of minimalism is praised (I agree) but her vision, and execution are heavily critiqued. While the time in front of the judges on TV is mere seconds, it can be hours, especially at this stage. She is left to stammering, monosyllabic utterances, "modern," "good," worked hard," and finally "rough." I'm thinking this is Helen's "deer in the headlights" look. Not good.

First to be saved is Justin. It is down to Alexandria and Helen. For me an easy choice. Alexandria has consistently produced more adventurous looks than either Justin or Helen. And Alexandria it is. Helen was just not ready. So with Justin, a controversial choice, and Alexandria, an equally controversial choice, we're off to the finals.

So did the judges make the right choice? Was Helen the weak link?

Sneak of the Week: Season 2 Finale

By kim_messina Wed., Jun. 12, 2013 ,4:33 pm EDT

In the two-hour episode titled, "What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am/Wild Nights are Calling," when Riley discovers the "client list" has been stolen, she’s puts herself in danger to get it back. Evan's investigation into Carlyle puts him one step closer to Riley's secret life.

"What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am/Wild Nights are Calling," airs Sunday, June 17 at 9/8c. Watch a sneak peek in which Judge Overton tells Riley to find out who is behind the threatening email he received:

View pictures from the episode:

What do you think Evan is talking about in this line from the episode?

Sneak of the Week: Season 2, Episode 13

By kim_messina Wed., Jun. 5, 2013 ,1:57 pm EDT

In the episode titled, "Whatever It Takes," Riley and the spa staff volunteer at a charity golf tournament supporting the troops. When Riley runs into her client Judge Overton aka Mr. Louboutin, she discovers he is spearheading a task force that could put her and the Rub in serious jeopardy. Meanwhile, with Kyle back home, Travis tricks him into hosting a sleepover. Dale and Lacey step in to help, thinking it will be good parenting practice now that they are considering adoption. When an alarm from the security system at the spa goes off, Derek and Riley go to check on things and find an unwelcome surprise.

"Whatever It Takes" airs Sunday, June 9 at 10/9c. Watch a sneak peek in which Judge Overton tells Riley to be careful and to not take any new clients:

View pictures from the episode:

What do you think Riley is referring to in this line from Episode 13? And who do you think she's talking to?

Sneak of the Week: Season 7, Episode 13

By kim_messina Wed., Jun. 5, 2013 ,1:44 pm EDT

In the episode, titled "All or Nothing," when Tim goes missing, Holly reaches out to the tribe and Tim's platoon for help. Denise catches Michael in a compromising position. Latasha and Quincy receive news about his military career. Gloria continues to be pulled between Hector and Patrick. Roland and Joan prepare to say goodbye to Fort Marshall.

"All or Nothing" airs Sunday, June 9 at 9/8c. Watch a sneak peek in which Michael and Kat share a moment:

View pictures from Season 7, Episode 13:

Home Stretch

By kim_messina Fri., Apr. 19, 2013 ,4:57 am EDT

The top four designers are told they have $10K to make 12 looks for their final collections, and that they shall return to New York for another judging to determine who will then compete at New York Fashion Week to become the winner of Season 11 of ("Project Runway Teams," remember?). If those designers are feeling at all as I did that day, it is an immense sense of relief and accomplishment, as the utter exhaustion sets in and it all feels quite surreal. As I was "released" and given my cell phone back, and permitted to take a walk by myself in New York to kill time before my flight, it was a strange feeling of vulnerability and displacement...even though Iʼd lived in and subsequently visited New York before. The whole thing felt like a dream. What just happened?

Now for the home visits!

Timʼs first destination is Taos Pueblo, NM, to see Patricia and experience her environment, which is incredibly culturally rich. The food her family cooked looked amazing, and what a beautiful setting, right down to her studio (really impressive)! Timʼs time in Patriciaʼs native land gave him an epiphany about who she is and where much of her aesthetic comes from7#151;itʼs hard not to! She tells Tim her inspiration is simply, "trees," which seems a bit general.

Next he visits Michelle in Portland, where she reveals she had been in the wine industry for years had decided one day to start making clothes. Her collection is inspired by the "Lone Wolf," a descriptive which interestingly she had used to refer to her emotional state earlier in the season. I have to say I can relate to that sentiment. I often felt lonely during the intense experience that is "Project Runway." It sounds odd to say that, unless youʼve been through it, because ironically youʼre surrounded by others constantly. There is no privacy except when youʼre in the bathroom. Contestants are either chaperoned or with roommates at all times. It wasnʼt until I was the last woman standing that I was even fully alone for more than a few minutes. And even then, the competition was almost over at that point.

In Austin, Tim calls on Daniel, sporting a new Labradoodle (or as Tim says, "Chia Pet") hairdo, and does not reveal where he lives...why? He sets everything up in his friendʼs house. He is using a lot of black—and stingray—in his collection, which has multiple inspirations that do not necessarily relate to one another. Daniel shows Tim his mood board and explains that he was influenced by his trip to Berlin, the Cosmos, and...Salvador Dali. Then a light bulb went off in my head. Dali...moustache! Everyone Google images of Dali now. Do it. Daniel is SO channeling him, from the hair to the moustache to the facial expressions.

Here in La L aLand, Tim checks in on Stanley, who is working out of a glamorous space right on Hollywood Boulevard, merely blocks away from the Walk of Fame, very appropriate for his luxurious "Old Hollywood" collection. He says itʼs 1960s meets Renaissance Spain. Nice mid-century dinette set, Stanley!

As predicted, when the designers return to New York and the 1407 Broadway building as their satellite workroom, they are instructed to select the three looks which best exemplify their collections and (ideally) will leave the judges salivating to see more, so that they will go through to NYFW.The producers just couldnʼt leave it alone, so they invited the last four designers back to help. Apparently Stanley needs the most help of all, with some looks barely sewn, so he gets Richard, the least helpful! Layana helps Patricia, and then gossips about her to the others—are we surprised? Michelle and Amanda (with a very fetching ombré hair color, I might add) are reunited, and Samantha gets to help Daniel add four inches to one of his small-fitting pieces. (Which would mean that garment was what...a double-0?)

Stanley selected three looks which, while very luxurious and well-crafted, were quite stodgy. They strike me as *too* vintage, as if one were to go into a costume house or high-end vintage store and copy period pieces exactly, only changing the textiles. However even the textiles looked vintage, though it is impressive that all the beading was done by hand. Nina was somewhat drawn to his collection because of the luxury element, but the proportions were all wrong, and the looks lack any sort of forward design or allure/sex appeal. Itʼs not to say they need to be sexy, but they could use an injection of modernity. The gold dress, in particular, made the model appear to be twice her size, and was too heavy-handed. Stanley said he loves American sportswear, yet the sportswear element was completely absent.

Patricia, kooky Patricia. She is a talented and creative textile artisan, but she does not understand how to put a collection together. Granted, we have not seen the whole thing, but the three looks she showed were not cohesive. One material (horsehair) is not enough to hold a collection together. The cape trimmed with horsehair was clearly the star, but I donʼt see how the "Dr. Seuss" blue dress with sea-anemone headpiece would be in the same collection or worn by the same woman. And the third look, while graphic and ethnic, was not special enough. I got a real Chicoʼs vibe from that one. However, Heidi has a soft spot for Patricia because she is so different, and designs things we havenʼt seen before (for better or for worse). Heidi: "You could win this thing!" Really?

Daniel seemed very confident in the workroom, and reluctant to take any advice from Tim. He showed three all-black looks, which anyone whoʼs watched the show knows is extremely risky and almost never outshines another collection. I was waiting for Nina to go off on him, and of course she did (I got a similar lecture from her because I hardly used any color in my final collection, either). But Nina is right: if youʼre going to use ALL black, the shapes need to be fantastic, graphic, striking. Texture is key as well. He used stingray, but like Patricia, thought it was enough of a common element to tie everything together. His looks were simply not forward or interesting enough. This was no surprise to me, though, as Iʼve thought in general Danielʼs design tends to be dated. What *was* surprising, though, is the fact that he used all black, after seeing his past designs and how much he loves bright color. In the end, Daniel does not advance; Iʼve said it before: the judges almost always favor the designer with MORE ideas (even if they are questionable ones) to the one with not enough.

Michelle is the only designer, in my opinion, who fully executed and understands how to translate a concept. Not only were her three "Lone Wolf" looks thoughtful and rich with layers and texture, they made me want to see more. They were diverse in material and style, yet still very cohesive. The sweater was fantastic, and I love that she collaborated with "LOL Cats" Joe and utilized his knit expertise! I also really like the delicate, sheer "underpinning" layers, contrasted with hardware, leather, knit, and neoprene. Overall the looks were bordering on too busy for me personally, but then again, the runway is about fantasy to some degree, and editing is always a possibility. The compass was too gimmicky and even though I like the tousled hair, it was just a tad TOO messy. The makeup could have benefitted from a neutral shadow and deep berry or brown lip to emulate a modern huntress. Iʼm looking forward to seeing the entire collection next week.