Season 13, Episode 13: Imperium Romanum
Why does it feel like less of a stiff competition in this finale? Perhaps it’s the four finalists with no face-off. Or maybe it’s three days in ROME for inspiration (not too shabby). That said, this is the first finale in which the designers are instructed to make a collection inspired by something specific. My guess is this is all part of the Best Western deal the producers made, seeing as they are promoting their International roster of accommodations. I haven't been to Italy but I’d imagine there is inspiration at every turn. The only thing is, I don’t know that I’d want to have any parameters placed on what to be inspired by for my final collection of "Project Runway." Oh well. A trip to Rome would certainly make up for it! Thanks, Best Western. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Piazza Navona they go, with Tim Gunn as their guide and Tumi luggage in hand.
While lunching with Tim in Rome, the designers discuss the logistics of how they will complete their collections back home. Kini, for example, says he works out of his garage; Sean, on the other hand, has no studio whatsoever as he has only been in the U.S. for 6 months (after having arrived with one suitcase). What I want to know is, how does he have a green card already? If I recall correctly one must be a U.S. citizen to participate on a reality TV competition. But please, someone in the know, correct me if I am wrong. Anyway, the designers have only five short weeks and $9000 to create their collections. So, next stop: the high end, overpriced Italian fabric store, where the designers have only half an hour to splurge and potentially make impulsive buys with their precious budget, as one is prone to do when one is in a foreign land. It’s not surprising that the two ladies end up buying out of emotion and the men opt to think through their plans more methodically before buying fabric.
When I was a finalist, I hadn’t been a practicing fashion designer for quite some time, so I had no studio. Though I had started a career in fashion in New York after college, my livelihood for the ten years prior to competing on "Project Runway" was costuming TV shows and films. I had my grandmother’s portable Elna sewing machine and that was it. We had about eight weeks instead of the five the current crop of finalists are given, and because the whole experience of auditioning and competing (and being a finalist) on "Project Runway" reignited my passion to sew and to be a designer, and I decided at that time that I was going to finally pursue my dreams, I used part of my budget to invest in machines. I asked the producers what the rules were with regard to buying machines. They informed me that technically anything purchased with the “collection allowance” belongs to the production (including the collection), so if I was to purchase a machine, it could be taken away. I found a fantastic pre-owned Juki single needle machine on Craigslist for $350, and a practically new overlock machine on which I spent my own $500, and they are still the primary workhorses of my studio five years later. Fortunately, they never did take the machine. (Those industrial machines weigh about 130 lbs. And what would they do with it?)
After their whirlwind trip to Rome (and even bigger whirlwind of five weeks in the "Project Runway" bubble, which pretty much sucks the life out of you), the designers return to their homes to start their whirlwind collections. Let me tell you, after getting home, one needs a minimum of one week to recover so it’s not really a five week deadline but rather more like four! Cut to: Tim’s visits. In Hawaii, visiting Kini, Tim learns some Luau moves which he is going to incorporate into his morning exercise routine. In Detroit, there is a very distracting “Sew CUTE” on the wall in Charketa’s studio, which speaks volumes. On to Nashville, where Amanda admits that perhaps she needs to “grow up” with her collection, focus, and edit more. Last but not least, Sean, who is living in Williamsburg (of course; how did he know to relocate there, which is the most happening area of Brooklyn, and also the most expensive?), must have leased out or borrowed a small temp space to build his collection. He has beautifully laid out his thoughtful, albeit disjointed, collection.
When time is up, the designers are reunited in New York. After their hair and makeup consults, they are told that they must present a three-look preview to the judges so they can receive some feedback to make their collections the best they can be. Does anyone else feel that at this point, they really should have added some heat by eliminating someone? Perhaps the cliffhanger we are left on will have some sort of dramatic twist in the final episode. Come on, someone could have easily been “weeded out” at this stage.
Of the four collections, I was most impressed with Sean’s. It was the most upscale and fashion-forward, although like the judges, I don’t want to see more fringe. I have to hand it to him, though; not only did the three looks make me want to see more from him, but his use of fringe was fresh and innovative. I particularly loved the red “tassel” accent on the back of the white look; however, all the looks resonated with me. Apparently from his reaction to the judges’ critique, he has used fringe in most of the looks, which will be a real bummer and kind of a cop out. It’s never a good idea to rely on one gimmick or material so heavily. I also want to add what an impression Sean made on me (and Tim evidently) via his thoughtful theme (betrayal of Caesar) and thorough presentation. He is a real artist and “cerebral” designer in my opinion.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about Amanda’s work. The custom Fair Isle knit she did was rather pedestrian. She would be smart to apply for a design position at Free People -- she would be a perfect for that brand. She wanted to make a “clean” collection, so she stated after Tim’s critique, because she admittedly gets carried away with piling on the details and materials, but I don’t think that is in her designer DNA. That said, it takes a special eye to combine patterns, prints, and multiple design elements successfully without creating an eyesore, and she clearly has a propensity for this style. I’m not so sure she has that magic touch. It just seems like when she describes what her intention is with regard to her work, there is often a disconnect between her idea and what she actualizes.
Ditto, sort of, when it comes to Char. The “sew cute” on her studio wall just made me think “home sewer” (which is fine, but not when one is in the finale of "Project Runway"). Char is showing versatility, but I’ve seen it all before. She keeps referring to showing the judges who she “really is” as a designer, and I am not seeing a distinct point of view. The looks are giving me JLo about ten years ago, and they don’t seem cohesive. It was touching when she asked Tim why he used his Tim Gunn Save on her, but frankly the whole thing seemed canned, especially his response.
Speaking of canned, Kini had a surprising critique which seemed exceptionally harsh from Heidi. I’m not saying I don’t agree with the judges’ points, but as Kini has been a judges’ (and fan) favorite, I feel much of this is a set-up so that viewers will think he is in danger (as will he himself), so that he can come back and make the necessary changes to justify his taking the win. His looks were supposedly all made of denim and his theme was "Park Avenue princess goes to Rome." In theory I actually like this irony, but the results were three rather uptight outfits which are in no way modern or fashion-forward. The trench was bizarre and unflattering as it gave the model football-player shoulders. Heidi basically told him he needs to completely rework the looks, so the cliffhanger we are left with is, "I have no fabric and no time!” Oh, whatever will Kini do? Is there a convenient surprise trip to Mood in store for the golden boy?!
Season 13, Episode 13: Arrivederci Roma, Hello NYC
This week, “Project Runway” goes international as the designers go to Rome, Italy as inspiration for their New York Fashion Week collections (P.S.: So jealous!). This week's episode begins with Heidi and Tim congratulating the top four designers for making it this far and also announcing that they are getting $9000 and five weeks to make a ten-look collection. In case you are doing the math, this means two looks per week and about $900 a look. Which breaks down to a LOT of money and NO time.
Heidi and Tim then welcome Dorothy Dowling, Senior VP of Marketing for Best Western, onto the runway stage to announce that she has an "extraordinary surprise" for the designers. The surprise? The designers will get to fly to Rome -- with mentor Tim joining them. And they have to leave that same day! They will get to tour the city for their collections' inspiration.
Ten-plus hours later, the designers arrive and get to greet Tim at the Best Western Premier Hotel Rome. Tim greets them then because I am sure he flew First Class and the four designers, alas, did not. After checking in, Tim takes the designers on a “Rome’s Greatest Hits” tour for the next two days. It's like a "Rick Steve's Italy Tour" but with a much better dressed tour guide. Tim shows them the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. They also get to visit St. Peter’s Basilica and Valli Tessuti Alta Moda fabric store. At Valli, the designers have a chance to buy fabrics to use for their collections. Only Char and Amanda purchase anything.
Let me tell you, if I had been one of the designers there is NO WAY I would have walked out of that store without buying fabrics. I don’t understand why Sean or Kini didn’t; even if you had not figured out what your collection would be, at least get a yard of something to inspire you. To cap off the Rome trip, Tim meets with the designers one-on-one. In the meeting with Char, she asks him point-blank why he saved her. It seems interesting to me that last season, Tim used his save on a designer who also made it to the finals (Justin). If anyone is counting, it's 2 for 2. This could be pure luck. But some “Project Runway” conspiracy theorists out there might suggest it’s more the producers making sure Tim comes off looking good. Either way, if history tells us, a designer on next season’s show who gets saved by Tim has a rather high probability of ending up in the finals. #JustSaying
Bye Roma. Hello America. Three weeks later and the designers are back on home turf. Tim visits the designers. First stop is Kapolei, Hawaii and Kini. I’m expecting Kini to have made five collections by now but surprisingly, he isn’t even done. His theme is “Park Avenue Princess Going to Rome," making luxe looks out of his prized denim. It looks good to me and Tim. Before leaving back to the mainland, Tim is treated to a festive Luau and, more importantly, gets a mini hula lesson and gets Lei’d.
Next stop: Detroit, and Char. Char says that she was inspired by the small portions of Italian dishes and espresso she witnessed in Rome. I had to wonder: with all the incredible monuments, architecture and art, that’s what she took away? In terms of her collection, it looks A MESS. Tim rightly pointed out a dress that looked as if was “attacked by a bunch of birds” but to me, the rest of the stuff wasn’t any better. The clothes look a bit tacky-licious.
Ten days until Fashion Week and Tim is in Nashville visiting Amanda. Her inspiration is the Art Deco details she noticed throughout Rome. There’s A LOT going on in what she’s doing including custom prints, custom jewelry, and handmade trim. Tim tells her to “rake out all the extra stuff." Good advice. On a side note, it was interesting getting a peak of her calendar (behind Tim, on the wall) which showed the date when Tim was going to be there (August 14th) and August 26th being the day the collection was due. The actual NYFW show occurred on September 5th so were the designers required to ship everything almost 2 weeks in advance? Back in the day (the early seasons) the finalists just traveled to NYC with their finale collections on the plane!
One week before Fashion Week and Tim is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, visiting Sean. It seems that after returning from Rome, he somehow found the funds to set up a work studio with all the necessary materials/tools. His inspiration is one of the most thought-out and interesting ones: Caesar’s “Et tu Brute?” betrayal. Tim noted that it looked as if there were two collections, one with fringe and satin, and one with striped separates. Tim pushed Sean toward the fringe (uh oh!) and in fact told him to push it even further (more fringe?!). Other than that, Tim LOOOOOVED it. (Naturally. It's Sean, Tim's favorite). I actually liked the striped designs.
I noticed on Sean’s wall (yes, I don't miss A THANG!) fitting photos of his collection on models. I recognized one of his models from the show, Alisar Ailabouni, who also happened to be Germany’s Next Top Model 2010 (crowned by Heidi Klum!). I presume that somehow Sean got in touch with her once he began working on his collection, and asked her if she could be his fit model. It makes total sense and I think it was very smart of him. Is it within the competition’s rules? I think so. If the designer can use a fit model --and they lived in the NYC area -- why not use a model that is ACTUALLY ON THE SHOW?! Five points for Tim's favorite.
The designers are finally back in NYC and set up at the New York Palace Hotel Penthouse Suite. This is quite the upgrade from sleeping next to the kitchen at the Gotham Apartments. Post Champagne-popping celebrations, they are in the workroom unveiling their collections to their fellow competitors. Tim is back from all his trips (I want his Frequent Flyer points!) and tells the designers that the judges have asked to see three looks as a preview of their collections. Char is surprised by this news. Char: have you watched "Project Runway" before?
Judges Heidi, Nina and Zac are ready to check out the designs. In terms of the Finale Collection Preview, I think that Sean's was the strongest. Sean's three-piece preview showed his fringed ensembles including two really good ones: the "Le Smoking" tuxedo jumpsuit worn by his aforementioned "Look Book Photo" model, Alisar, and the white draped satin dress with orange fringe. The judges all gave him praise with Nina giving the only hint of "Does every look have fringe?" Amanda is next on my top list. I liked her patterned maxi dress with custom necklace and I agreed with the judges that the jewelry needs to be MORE MORE, MORE!
Then there was Char and Kini. Char's looks lacked cohesion. While I loved the black and white striped exaggerated bomber jacket, the other two looks were not cute. With Kini, I agreed with Heidi in that his three girls looked very "Doyenne"; the makeup, hair and accessories were very aging and dated. I also thought that the pleated trench coat was over-designed and should be left out. It will be hard for Char or Kini to remove their emotional attachments from these pieces but I hope they do. And let's hope that there will be a Mood shopping trip in store for them to help make things better.
As of now, it's Sean and Amanda as the top two. Will Char be able to re-style her looks and will Kini be able to work magic in just 24 hours? We'll soon find out in next week's big FINALE!
Season 13, Episode 13: Finale, Part 1
So! Much! Happened! This week! First, Tim and Heidi tell our final four -- Char, Kini, Sean, and Amanda -- that they will each have $9000 and five weeks to complete a ten-look collection to be shown at New York Fashion Week. But first, the fun part: They'll be treated to a trip to Rome, Italy, to find inspiration for their collections.
The quartet pack up and head out that same day, along with their mentor and now tour guide Tim, who gives them an informative walking tour of the city. In an interview, Sean admits that he never thought Char would make it to Fashion Week, and that he thinks she should buy a lottery ticket after finishing the show because "she's had a lot of good luck." Harsh! But as Tim reminds us, Char never won a challenge this season, and she was eliminated once already. She's got a lot to prove.
Tim checks in with each of the designers, then takes them to Valli, a high-end fabric store. They're not obligated to buy fabric there and Sean and Kini choose not to, feeling antsy about committing too much money to fabric before they've settled on ideas for their collection. Amanda goes for it, though, and Tim strong-arms Char into picking something as well.
Back to the States we go, and after a letting the designers marinade in their terror for a while, Tim jets off to visit them individually. Kini's in Hawaii putting together a "Park Avenue Princess in Rome" collection. Lots of denim, lots of shapes, and Tim seems happy with things so far. In Detroit, Tim is concerned with the costume-y quality of much of Char's collection. He thinks she needs to find cohesion. "If I had my way I'd stay here as your coach right up through Fashion Week," Tim admits. Char might have a lot to prove, but so does Tim, who chose to keep her in the competition over any other eliminated designer.
Amanda's in Nashville throwing a whole lot of elements into her collection, including jewelry she designed herself. Tim cautions her against trying too hard: "Rake out all that extra stuff." Meanwhile, Sean is set up in Williamsburg, where he explains to Tim his inspiration of Caesar's betrayal in ancient Rome. He stresses that he's restraining himself from over-using fringe though he also gets defensive about it: "Nina's not the dictator of fashion! She can't tell me what to do!" True, but she IS one of the people who gets to decide if you win this whole thing or not. Tim's confident in the direction Sean is headed.
Finally, we're back in NYC and just a few days out from Fashion Week. The final four reunite and get their first looks at each other's collections in the workroom. Sean thinks Amanda is his biggest competition. Kini doesn't see Char's point of view as a designer in her work. They do hair and makeup consultations, then get a bombshell from Tim: The judges want to see three looks as a preview of the designers' final collections. They look at him, agape, but Tim reminds them that this is actually the nicest possible thing that could happen to them at this point in the competition. No "Create another look!" challenge, no last-minute curveballs, just free time in front of the judges for feedback.
On the runway, Heidi makes sure to reiterate that no one is getting eliminated, that this is just for feedback, and I have to question why. Do we really need all four of these people in the final showdown? Now's not exactly a fair time to get rid of someone, but the field is feeling a little crowded. Oh well. Here we go:
"It's all very clean, and I want it to feel luxurious," Sean says of his collection, explaining how it follows the storyline of Caesar's betrayal. The judges are in love with it. Zac calls it "exciting" and he and Nina both praise his work with separates. Nina does admit that she's worried about him overdoing the fringe. "How much is there?" she asks Sean. "....Enough," he answers slyly. Nina reiterates that they want to see range from him, not just one trend, but otherwise there's nothing but love for his looks.
Char says she's going for a youthful, fresh vibe with her looks but Heidi immediately notes a lack of cohesion: the three models all look like different women at totally different events. Nina straight-up tells Char to ditch her one-shoulder dress with partial transparency because she hates it. The judges say they want to see more of Char's bright attitude and eccentricity in her clothes.
Amanda tells the judges about finding inspiration in Rome's heavy old buildings covered in bright graphics posters and graffiti. They're immediately struck by the jewelry and tell her to put more into the final collection; Nina thinks the jewelry makes all her clothes look more expensive, and we all know how much Nina loves expensive-looking things. Nina also gives the same commentary to Amanda that she gave to Sean when she advises her to step back a bit from the bohemian style Amanda has so strongly identified with in the past. Nina wants the designers to grow! Amanda says she knows that means she needs to cut out one of her maxi dresses.
Kini sounds very nervous as he presents his looks to the judges, and with good reason, it turns out. "I think you're much better than this," Heidi says right off the bat. Oof. She thinks that despite great construction -- a Kini trademark -- it's all too serious and too dated. Nina tells him to get rid of his coat, which Zac agrees is too '90s. They also go in on his styling choices. They go in on everything, really. Too much eye shadow, not enough sex appeal, too "lady," not enough separates. Too much to do, too little time? Zac thinks Kini can step it up and put out something great. All the judges seem very confident in Kini, actually, which is bizarre given how much work they've just asked him to do in less than one day.
Kini's a mess in the designers' lounge afterward, silent and shaking. The other three have their own stuff to worry about but they seem palpably relieved to have gotten off better with the judges than Kini did. And that's how we leave it this week. What say you? Did Kini deserve that much negative feedback? Do you think his three looks were worse than Char's? Did you love Sean's as much as the judges did? And based on these capsules, whose final collection are you most excited to see? Let me know in the comments, and tune in next week when Heidi names the Season 13 winner!
Season 13, Episode 13: Finishing School
This season they are definitely keeping us on our feet! This episode begins with yet another surprise. The designers are flying to Rome! What an awesome place to go for inspiration. The designers are told that they have to use Rome as inspiration for their collection, destroying any preconceived ideas our designers had. It certainly is a fair trade to get a free international trip, and to one of the great cities. I have been there a few times, and loved it even more every single time I've gone. Unfortunately none of my trips were paid for by "Project Runway."
Nothing too exciting happens in Rome. You learn some interesting stories from Tim, and the designers see a lot of different parts of the city. They even get to go to a really expensive, glamorous fabric store. I am very surprised that only a couple of designers pick just a few yards of fabric at the store. The quality of fabric is very rich looking, and the designers have a lot of money! Fabrics like this are impossible to find in the United States. I actually bought fabric in Italy for my senior collection for DAAP for that very reason, and I was on a student's budget. I personally would've been willing to spend at least a fourth of my budget on these gorgeous fabrics. I can't help but agree with Tim when he suggested -- more like forced -- Char pick her fabric, stating that sometimes you need a certain fabric to help you really lock into an idea for your collection. When the designers return to the U.S. I believe they only have four or five weeks to actually complete the collection, so they're not given much time. As rough as that seems, actually I think it can actually be a great idea. During longer periods you can start to wander, lose concentration, rethink ideas. Therefore it's sometimes hard to keep going. You get more of a relaxed mindset, and it's hard to pick it back up.
On to the home visits. First stop for Tim is all the way to Hawaii to see Kini. I can't help but love Kini just a little bit more after seeing his family; the respect they have for him, and his working out of the garage. Plus, living in a place that definitely isn't exactly on the fashion map. He states it will be surprising, but he doesn't have the entire collection done. Tim seems to think that he is going in a great direction. I like what he is doing but I don't think that it is as far outside of the box as he needs to go.
Next up we have Char, who lives in Detroit. She is waiting for Tim on the riverfront with her grandfather and stepmother and stepbrother. I was sorry to hear that Char had been given up at two-month-old. I was so happy to see that she has a ton of love and support though. Unfortunately her collection is not as warm as her family. It's a bit all over the place, and as Tim said, I think it looks too costumey, and unfortunately for all of us, not in a super creative or interesting way. If you weren't already clearly aware of Tim's favoritism toward Char, you definitely are after he states that he wishes he could just stay there, and coach her with the collection until runway day. Hmmm. I wonder who he wants to win.
Off we go to Nashville and a visit to Amanda. I have to say I was a little bit disappointed with Amanda and what she had accomplished so far. I know she keeps talking about simplifying all the bells and whistles, but those are kind of things that have kept her in the game. She reminds me a little bit of Uli, where the designs are pretty simplistic but have a lot of style, and certainly have a distinct feel to them. I think it's great that she's going to do the jewelry. That said, I think she needs to do more with her designs and not really rely a lot on styling. We also get to meet Amanda's husband who seems sweet and supportive of her.
Last, but certainly not least, we go to Williamsburg to meet Sean. He has just recently moved from New Zealand, so no family or friends to reach out to him, but we see a really heartfelt Skype call with his parents, who, like the other designers' families, seem very supportive and happy for him. I really love Sean's design story, the inspiration from Caesar's death, and the evolution of the fabric throughout the collection. I can't help but think that Tim is steering him in the wrong direction when he says that there's too much going on, and that Sean really needs to move toward more fringe and the vibrant orange of the collection. Let's be honest, this season Tim's advice has not been one to take to heart. I can't help think that this could be Tim's biggest mistake yet. It breaks my heart when Sean says that he is going to scrap all that really cool cream and blue striped suiting. Those things make his collection look so modern and cool. To scrap that in favor of Tim's suggestion is, to me, a travesty.
Already, Fashion Week! Lo and behold we get another surprise. This time it's not to add a piece to the collection, like usual. This time it's so the judges can see a preview of the looks on the runway before showing at Fashion Week. It makes think that the judges lack confidence in the designers. Seriously, they have finalists that need to get a little bit of advice before they're actually on the big stage? We are not talking about how to present a collection here, we're talking about judges looking at the final collection before it walks! Is this where PR has come? More of a finishing school than real competition?
On the runway the judges do not hold back. They really tear into Kini, saying that his collection is just not styled properly. He's got four pieces but the woman just looks dated and very unfashionable. As much as I feel for Kini, I can't help but think that this is actually good advice. I certainly hope that he's able to update his collection for the runway show, because with his construction skills and classic designs, he definitely should be in the top three. Again, I feel they are just way too nice to Char. Her collection lacks cohesion and looks like it should be in a Macy's clearance rack, but they just seem to build her up. There is definitely something I feel like I'm missing here. I understand Tim, but for god's sake, why are the judges so behind her? They seem to like Amanda's collection just fine, and they like Sean's but worry about him doing the fringe. Uh, yeah. About that. Thanks Tim!
This episode definitely leaves us in bit of a cliffhanger, as we all know there is a lot of work to do in just 24 hours before Fashion Week. I'm actually looking forward to next week. I want to see how these designers are able to take the judges' suggestions and really push their collections the next level.
What do you guys think of the judges' feedback? And what do you think of the collections? Do you also think that Char is completely out of her league?
Season 1, Episode 13 Song List
To Each His Own
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
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...
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!
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!
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
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
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
Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think had the Top and Bottom looks each week!