In the artist-and-designer's words, Elisa Jimenez was back on our TV “for a good time, not a long time.” During a busy week (in between photo shoots, fashion, meditation and a triptych oil painting) Elisa chatted with the PRAS Blog to fill us with warm fuzzies (try not to feel at peace after speaking with her, I dare you!) and tell fans more about her experience on the show, the cheeky surprise in her unconventional challenge outfit and who she’s rootin’ for in the end.
Lisa: We, the viewers, didn’t get to see what you made your unconventional challenge outfit out of, can you let us know what went into your creation?
Elisa: I wanted to make a high end resort outfit based on “Fancy,” the influence for this look and a character who I transformed into a little rock opera fashion performance experience for the show. The shorts were made out of a paper gift bag. I was very tongue-in-cheek about the fact that it was a gift bag and it was right around her, you know… I thought that was very funny! And then the flower and the whole idea that she’s back from the garden continued the vision of pleasure fulfillment. I used clear duct tape to hold it all together.
The bathing suit was made out of a very, very, very large pair of knickers! The waistband became the halter. I tucked it in the back so it made an X-shape that held at the breasts really nicely. It basically was like a thong one-piece bathing suit. And then the drawing and the painting were a combination of Sharpies and Caran d’Ache, a water-based crayon. The wings were made out of a very lightweight tablecloth.
I’m basically making that whole outfit for Spring (along with the shorts) but out of fabric, but I’m making the wings a little bit more of a capelet that can be turned into a skirt. In theory, if you were at the beach, you could take the capelet, put it around your waist and go to dinner and still have the writing at the bottom.
I thought the wings were fabric!
I know! That’s the magic part. I really wanted the whole thing to register as if it was fabric, because for me, that was part of the trick and the pleasure. I chose to use the duct tape so that it looked like that shiny, iridescent vinyl or spandex. I was consciously playing with another layer as a medium, which was television.
Part of the challenge was to be inspired by your original design. What was the link between the two designs in your eyes?
The original look actually came from a gallery exhibition where I did thematic elements from stories and Fancy was one of them. The first dress you saw is a lightweight plastic Lycra fiber, which is not a sustainable fabric but because I work one-of-a-kind, I do try to be very conscious of not wasting materials, she has the wings within the outfit. That dress’s story is about Fancy going to the garden and being embraced by the flowers all welcoming her back. The connections between the two outfits were the wing-like elements and white where the color is the added extra detail on the garment. I also wanted to take the story and infuse it into the second with the images. [Both dresses had a] light and airy quality with a pop of color.
So who is Fancy? And what was the story on your garment that you were trying to explain to the judges?
Fancy is actually a character my mother created in a painting when I was about 3 or 4 in the 70s. Well the story was a little PG, not 13… (laughs) but it is the last insertion of Fancy in the story of Fancy, which was featured at an exhibition in London called Art’s Seduction by Fashion Since 1970, curated by Chris Townsend. It was not only an installation, not only a performance, not only spontaneous couture, but I also had a full-on compilation of all of the Fancy episodes displayed in video. At this juncture, Fancy has gone to the center of the universe and found out that the Tree of Life is actually within her she’s complete. The next part of the story is, after she’s been in the universe for awhile, she goes back to the Garden of Unconditional Love and Fulfillment and the flowers are very happy she’s back so they all start welcoming her in a very salacious way; “We miss you, we love you!” and the petals are lapping her legs and thighs.
What you saw on television was actually a continuation of a conversation I was having with all of the judges. They kept asking me, “why did you choose to do this?” “Why did you choose to do that?” When I think about things, when I’m creating things, I do have elaborate and very sure intentions but I also agree, you shouldn’t have to explain everything. It was more that [the judges] kept asking, so I kept elaborating.
Let’s go back to the workroom, where I thought you held yourself very well with Joanna Coles… who asked you if you were going to spit on her.
The very first statement out of Joanna Coles’s mouth to me was that statement: “Are you going to spit on me?” All I could think in that moment when I was trying to grapple in all of my upbringing to find the most polite, intelligent and kind retort for her comment was, “I wonder if she knows anything about me before ‘Project Runway’ Season 4?” because if she did, she would have known about my history as, you know Vogue introduced me as one of the heralders of the avant garde, I was represented by Holly Solomon all those years and I’ve been this “insider-outsider-in the industry” seeing things and doing things by proximity, not by ego.
So in that moment, I had to really hold it together and realize, she only has read the rhetoric post-Season 4 so she doesn’t quite understand that it’s not spitting on someone, it’s a tongue-to-fingertip blessing mark specifically on chakra points, places on the fabric to create a shape. It’s intentional and it’s small. It took a lot for me, but I know who Joanna Coles is so I had more empathy and kindness towards her because I thought, wow, this is not going to look so good. You’ve approached my other colleagues talking to them about their designs and yet the first thing you say to me is almost a jab, like we’re at the high school lunch table. Let’s try to bring the conversation back to what we’re talking about. Which is why my retort was, “Understand what it is” and “People pay me, they come to me specifically because I’m not the person who’s only thinking about quotas and trends. You come to me for what I do well and what I do well is synthesizing a combination of my own spirit, with the desire of who’s come to me to have me make them couture or pick up that readymade piece that already has its own history.” My clients can be attracted to a particular fabric or a particular scent, because I infuse all of my fabrics with oils and scented things. I’ll tell them, “Okay this dress is about change. So what’s going on in your life that’s about change?” It’s a much more holistic approach to dressing.
What you didn’t see, was the next thing I said: “I could give you a who’s who of who pays me, but I wasn’t raised to be hubristic.” Her response was, “Take a moment and be hubristic.” So I rattled off about 30 people who people care about and six things that people do Moet Chandon and Gen Art’s and innovations I’ve been on the curve of purely because people saw the work and it resonated, not because I had a PR company.
View pictures from Elisa Jimenez's Portfolio:
I think it would surprise people to know that you’ve worked on many seemingly “mainstream” things, like "High School Musical" for example. That always comes up when you Google you so I have to ask for an explanation!
One of the collaborators I’ve worked with over the years is a costume designer named Caroline Marx who is exceptionally talented. If she thinks my skills would be apropos for a certain project, she hires me. “High School Musical” was one of those projects. She even ended up getting nominated for a costume award specifically for “High School Musical 3” and I did all of the work for one particular character, Kelsi. Every single look Kelsi has in the movie has an element of Elisa Jimenez and Hunger World in it, including the dance sequence where I got a vintage Versace and I hacked it up.
I almost became this running joke during “All Stars.” During every one of my interviews they’d be like, “So when you saw…” and I’d say, “I’ve never seen the show.” When “All Stars” was being filmed and I first walked in and met my colleagues, my disclaimer was, “You must know I’ve never watched the show, so I have no idea who you are as a designer or a character.”
The first real episode that I watched was this last one, the “Project Runway All Stars” that I was on. And I have to say that I was incredibly impressed with the reality of the show and the slice-and-dice of how it was put together because I realize that we’re all paint. We’re all paint on another creator’s canvas and I really liked it and thought it was wonderful. There is nothing more beautiful than watching my work come to life. That’s like watching your child take its first step, so to see it on national television is amazing! (laughs)
Who do you think is going to win?
I think Austin should win. It has nothing to do with talent. First and foremost, we don’t get on “Project Runway” unless you’re talented. Whether it’s “All Stars” or the regular one. “Project Runway” has been a part of the mainstream going on ten seasons. It’s not the subversion it was the first two seasons where all of a sudden the red velvet rope is ripped away from Bryant Park and some unknown from Iowa gets shoved into an industry that he or she has dreamed about since they were five years old. It’s now a phenomenon. There are people who try to get on the show specifically who want to be on a television show.
I think that Austin should win because in the arc of a show, Austin was from the very first season aside from the fact that he’s impeccably talented, besides the fact that every designer is talented – it’s what will empower the phenomena of Project Runway and what will validate it as a continued phenomena.
My mom sent me [an article], where there was “An Elisa” of a season between 4 and “All Stars.” My mom sent it to me and said, “Project Runway” turned you into a noun. That’s truly powerful! To be in contemporary myth-making pop culture. I think Austin should win because in the pop culture realm it would elevate who needs to be the skilled designer. It’s not just the person who looks good on TV, it’s the person who actually has the history behind them.
The full episode of the "Project Runway All Stars" premiere is available now online! Watch it here and view more videos from last night's episode, including designer video blogs, extended judging and workroom videos.
As a bonus, enjoy the many expressions of Austin Scarlett from the first episode, and imagine what wonders next week's shall bring!
Laura Bennett has the "Project Runway" credentials us common "PR" fangirls/boys can only dream of. We all fell in love with her and her classic fashions when the designer was a finalist on Season 3. Since then, she has written two books, been the go-to gal for the wittiest, tell-it-like-it-is-est "Project Runway" episode recaps on myLifetime.com and she even showed off her incredible DIY skills on the "Project Accessory" Blog. All while raising her "too many children." Laura for Superwoman and/or President, anyone?
For "Project Runway All Stars," Laura Bennett is back and blogging on LifetimeMoms, where she'll be recapping the episodes each week. Read Laura's first LifetimeMoms blog post to find out why she's not on "All Stars," what she thinks of the new judges and who her picks for in/out are!
What do you think Laura would have made in last night's challenge? What designers from former seasons would you like to see on "All Stars"?
I half expect Season 8 designer Mondo Guerra to show up for "All Stars" with Jessica Simpson and Heidi Klum wearing polka dot gowns and carrying his luggage (which probably contains mostly jorts, spectacles and single drop earrings). Alas, he struts onto the show alone, soon to be swept into the arms of his seasonmate, that Lil' Designer Who Kinda Could, Michael Costello. Even the gritty streets of NYC, littered with graffiti and 5-speed bikes, are no match for the adorable reunion, and "Project Runway All Stars" has officially begun!
There are no words, only poetry when my eyes first spot Mr. Austin Scarlett, so I'll let a haiku do what mere words cannot:
Spring in trousered step
Blonde coif reflects summer sun
Loafers without socks.
While the designers tell us how much they want to win this time around, Rami shows up for his "Runway" redux faced with the impossible task of making us see he's gotten hotter since Season 4. He succeeds, with chest and arm muscles that can only be described as derivative of Zac Efron in "The Lucky One." My love letter extends to include Mila's fierce red lip, Kenley's super cute shorts, and Anthony and Jerell's everything.
We get so used to this family of familiar faces, and then it's time to meet the new host and judges. Supermodel Angela Lindvall (who's cool and fun and seems like the type of friend who responds "Duh! Where/when? I'm THERE." When you mass-text "Brunch?" to your friends on a Sunday morn) greets the designers and shares the following exciting/terrifying news:
First, there is NO immunity.
Second, the winner will take home: the chance to sell their collection in select Neiman Marcus stores and on NeimanMarcus.com, a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine, a one-year position as guest editor of the mag, Brother sewing equipment, $100,000 in technology and office supplies from HP and Intel, and $100,000 cash. (Jerell, still want that sash and tiara?)
Third, Angela will be joined on the judging panel by Isaac Mizrahi and Marchesa designer/co-founder Georgina Chapman. I agree with April and Anthony — they know and we know what the "Project Runway" judges love/hate/think of the 13 designers standing before us. If coming back for Round 2 is going to be a truly fair fight, the playing field has to be level, and that means all-new judges.
We get a glimpse at what the designers have been up to since their seasons when they each show a piece in the series' first runway (check out more pictures of past work here!). I love Mila's look and would wear it in a heartbeat. Mondo's outfit is predictable, but I would totally fight with Prince William's fun cousins over that kooky headpiece. There are few words for Anthony's kelly green cocktail dress and jewel-encrusted safety pin, besides "fab," "u" and "lous."
Kenley and April are two of my favorite "shoulda won"'s, and I'm disappointed by their dresses. Hopefully April's new purple 'do will encourage her to show us more color this season. I want her to stick around and know that black bodysuits and dresses won't do the trick.
For the first challenge, the designers get to live out my (and apparently, a super-psyched Kara's) dreams with a 99-CENT-STORE SHOPPING SPREE! Yup, this is the unconventional challenge, and possibly the best one in the history of "Project Runway."
Michael, who has already pointed out that Rami, a.k.a. DrapeMaster Flex Arms-R-Strong, is his biggest competition, notices that he and April both chose mops for their materials. Once in the workroom, Jerell advises Michael to have a "woman-to-woman" chat with her about their designs, but Michael is probably too afraid of April, so Mondo hides him under a mop head.
A less understandable fear is the designers' apparent uneasiness with Elisa and her "crazy" behavior — she's sitting under her table, guys, so, like, loose cannon, right? I give Elisa lots of props for setting the record straight with our new workroom mentor, Marie Claire EIC Joanna Coles. She was all classy with her "My clients pay me for my spit mark blessing," but if I was Elisa, I would have started finger-snapping and been like, "I worked on a little indie film called 'High School Musical,' Jo. Heard of it? Ever sipped soup out of a 'High School Musical'–branded thermos? Does Marie Claire have thermoses? Didn't THINK so."
I know everyone's going to be lamenting the absence of the "Make It Work" Man, but I think Joanna is the perfect person for the job this season. The All Stars need her fashion-industry insight to ultimately help them take their careers and businesses to the next level. And if my sound reasoning doesn't sway you, at least let Joanna's red blazer try.
Now, let's take it to the runway. Since YOU get the chance to be the judge and vote for who you think should win each challenge, I'll also enjoy the opportunity!
Re-examining the middle, I think Kenley's bathmat-dress-and-loofah-headpiece combo was more Top 3 than Jerell's scarf dress, and wish Anthony's purple number with the clever gold safety pin accents had gotten a little love. We don't get to see the Michael vs. April showdown, which is OK because their dresses end up being different and both are pretty great.
Mondo's dress didn't do it for me. I loved the subtly striped bodice and the hat — which was somehow even better than the one he showed earlier — but that ruffled skirt made me cringe. I do like Mondo's clothing, but never as much as I love/luff/lurve his accessories.
Rami was the clear winner for making beautiful, fancy clothing out of bags I mostly see toting the belongings of homeless people here in NYC. If I was a fellow contestant, I'd be shaking in my boots right now. And if I was a homeless person with a serious stash of those plaid bags, I'd get Rami on the horn ASAP.
The Too Soon Crown goes to Elisa, who, sure, could maybe work on her pitch, but made a daring look that was somehow artsy, hippy and Ke$ha-y all at once. And fit her model perfectly. The only way Sweet P should have been allowed to stay for her terror-y cloth dress is if she had presented it to the judges magic-towel style and they watched it transform into a dress from a Mickey Mouse–shaped disc that fit in the palm of their hands.
Elisa leaves us with the grace and the kind words I hope everyone will remember her for (spit, schmit!), and I cross my fingers that we'll see her again as a blessing-giving helper bee later in the season.
I don't have enough time to process Elisa's departure, though, as the season's teaser trailer shows us a possible Austin Scarlett/Isaac Mizrahi smackdown and more tears than the aftermath of a "Bachelor" group date. Next Thursday can't come soon enough!!
Did you think the right designers were in and out this week? Did you vote for your favorite? There's still time!
We finally made it!! "Project Runway All Stars" premieres TONIGHT at 9 pm/8c on Lifetime! While you're watching (and voting for who you think should be the winner of tonight's challenge) live-tweet with "All Star" designers Austin Scarlett (@austinscarlett), Mondo Guerra (@lovemondotrasho) [West Coast only], Kara Janx (@karajanx) and judges Angela Lindvall (@angela_lindvall), Georgina Chapman (@marchesafashion) and Isaac Mizrahi (@isaacmizrahi), plus our "Runway" blogger pals Tom and Lorenzo (@tomandlorenzo) and the folks at Marie Claire (@marieclaire) .
We'll be live Tweeting from the official "Project Runway" account each week make sure to check back on the blog to see who'll be joining us. Click here for a complete list of the All Stars on Twitter!
Whose triumphant return are you most excited to see on tonight's "Project Runway All Stars" premiere?
Get ready... It's YOUR turn to play judge this time around! While watching each new episode, fans can sound off by voting for the "All Stars" designer who they think should win that week's challenge.
Whether you agreed with the judges or believe the wrong designer came out on top, we want to know! Visit this page to vote each week for your winning designer or you can sign into Twitter and use the corresponding designers' hashtag to tweet your support. Your vote will be counted once every 5 minutes on the site and on Twitter. Voting is open each week at 9 pm et and closes the following Thursday at 10 am et.
The fans' choice will be revealed LIVE during the following week's episode of "Project Runway All Stars," so tune in and keep voting weekly for YOUR voice to be heard.
Ring in the New Year with the "All Stars" team when mentor Joanna Coles acts as moderator in a discussion with the show's designers, judges and host at a special Paley Center event open to the public.
WHO: Designers Austin Scarlett, Kenley Collins, Kara Janx and Mondo Guerra, judges Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman, host Angela Lindvall and executive producer Rob Bagshaw
WHAT: Marie Claire EIC (and new workroom mentor) Joanna Coles leads the discussion that will take fans behind-the-scenes of "Project Runway All Stars."
WHEN: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm et
WHERE: The Paley Center for Media in New York
Tickets are on sale now for members and will be available for the general public Wednesday, January 4! Visit the Paley Center site for more information and to reserve your spot.
I couldn’t be more excited to welcome you all to the official “Project Runway All Stars” Blog! I think we can all agree “Project Runway” is one of those rare art forms that is more than just a television show — it’s an obsession, a pastime, the topic of many a heated blog/watercooler debate and a pleasure I don’t feel one ounce of guilt over.
I've loved all things "Project Runway" since the very first episode; my Tim and Heidi impressions are pitch perfect (super excited to get my Joanna Coles/Isaac Mizrahi's down), my officemate Caitlin (you may know her from the Project Runway Blog) and I break into "Daniel Franco, Where Did You Go?" at least once a week and I keep a diary of Austin Scarlett haikus by my computer/bedside table/on my phone.
As your PRAS (yes, friends, add that acronym to your lexicon for Tweet’s sake) blogger, I’ll be recapping each episode and keeping you up to date on all cast news. And maybe sharing an Austin Scarlett haiku. Or two!
Don't miss the premiere of "Project Runway All Stars" on Lifetime Thursday, January 5 at 9 pm/8c, and stay tuned to the blog for episode recaps each Friday and news in between.