Deceptively simple challenges are my favorite part of "Project Runway," and I got the mother of all deceptively simple challenges this week, in every sense of the phrase.
Marge Simpson herself, matriarch of arguably the most influential TV family of all time on Fox's "The Simpsons," pops up on a TV screen to introduce the challenge to our remaining designers. The gang has to create a dress for Marge to wear on a special dinner date with Homer. The only real rule? No green -- she's worn enough green to last multiple animated lifetimes. Because it wouldn't be a "Simpsons" challenge without a sassy dig, she reminds the designers to take advantage of the accessories on the "Whoever's Sponsoring the Wall Now wall." High-five, Marge.
This task can be boiled down into one directive -- "Design a dress for Marge Simpson" -- but there's a lot at play. The design has to work on a real human model but it must also work with Marge's yellow skin and blue hair. It's gotta be fashion-forward while remaining appropriate for a middle-aged woman on a dinner date. It has to have runway appeal but it also has to translate into 2D animation. See? Deceptively simple. I love it.
Interestingly (or maybe not), the men seem to have the biggest issue in the workroom this week. While Korto, Irina, and Elena quickly settle into a groove with their designs, Seth Aaron, Jeffrey, and Christopher struggle to conceptualize an appropriate garment for a middle-aged woman to wear at a romantic anniversary celebration. Zanna has to talk Seth Aaron down from using polka dots, which sends him on a downward spiral in which he drapes FIVE potential gowns, all of them boring. Viktor, meanwhile, is creating a look that screams "safe" from the beginning: Acceptable and well made but definitely not worthy of a win. He's still stinging from landing in the bottom last week, I think.
Actress Abigail Breslin and alice + olivia founder and designer Stacey Bendet are our guest judges. Onward:
Irina - A royal purple strapless fitted cocktail dress with tea-length chiffon paneling draped from the bustline. Early in the episode Jeffrey calls it a "giant purple nightie" but it walks elegantly down the runway. Stacey thinks it's the most creative, Alyssa compliments the color choice, and the panel is impressed by the different silhouette. Irina wins her first challenge of the season, yay!
Elena - A red gown with a plunging back paired with a quilted black blazer. The dress is beautiful and red is a smart color choice for a character with yellow skin, but the jacket looks oddly bulky, and all of it is, again, so similar to things Elena has already created for this competition. The more the judges over-praise Elena's fine but unexciting work the more I reflexively dislike everything she makes.
Korto - A black one-shoulder dress accented by sheer panels at the shoulders. The fabric has an attractive muted shimmer to it. Everyone likes this dress, especially the sheer panel at the shoulder and the hemline, but it's not exciting enough (and not Marge-enough) to warrant a win. Korto's safe.
Christopher - A floral print strapless belted cocktail dress that Christopher compares to a '50s housewife ensemble but Alyssa compares to a sarong. No one likes the belt and Isaac nitpicks the bubbling at the waist. Stacey's a fan of the print. Christopher's safe.
Seth Aaron - A (yawn-worthy) billowy belted magenta gown. Seth Aaron talks a big game about it but none of the judges are buying it. Their adjectives include "boring" and "lazy" and "rushed." Isaac doesn't like when Seth Aaron insinuates that midwestern housewives deserve boring clothes. "That's the dress of fear, to me," he says of Seth Aaron's gown, arguing that a character like Marge could rise to any fashion occasion.
Jeffrey - A shimmery purple gown with wide pink lapels at the v-neck and a slit up the side, paired with a pearl necklace. Stacey thinks the dress has a "Boardwalk Empire" vibe but something about the pearls and the pastel tone reminds me of both "The Flintstones" and mermaids, for some reason. Jeffrey's choice of shoe is also deeply misguided. "You can't tell me that smart man doesn't know better," Alyssa smirks about the design. After weeks of inconsistency, the judges and Jeffrey have reached an impasse. Jeffrey's out.
Jeffrey and Seth Aaron share a tearful farewell, and that's the end of the road for our third-season champ. I've been disappointed by Jeffrey's output this season so it's sort of a relief to finally see him go.
Do you agree that it was Jeffrey's time to head out? Were you as impressed with Irina's silhouette as the judges were? Do you find Elena's work as repetitive as I do? Let me know in the comments.
Big props to Joshua for providing this week's quote of the episode and now subsequent title of this blog! Way to go, girlfriend!
The episode started out with the designers walking the tracks at the High Line in NYC. (Fun Fact: The High Line is where "Project Runway" celebrated its 10 year anniversary back in September. If you're ever in NYC, you must check it outthe view is awesome, especially at sunset!) Host Carolyn Murphy told the designers that for this challenge they'd be going green to create a red carpet look using fabric from AirDye fabrics, which are made using virtually no water or power. Easier said than done, right?
I thought the designers passing around the ring of fabric samples was a nice change from the chaos that is known as Mood. However, I was completely befuddled by the fabric that Althea chose. I do realize that she was the last designer to pick, so her options were limited. But, she said that she would have rather chosen a "bolder color choice" and there was definitely a bold blue/purple fabric hanging on that ring that she could have picked instead. I feel like she sealed her fate in that moment. To me, that pink and blue chiffon looked so lackluster that even the nicest and most stylish red carpet gown couldn't bring it to life.
I was also loving Ivy's reason for picking her gold fabric. "The reason why I chose the sun as the inspiration for my design is because I feel like a woman should feel like a star at a red carpet event." Thanks, Captain Obvious. I die.
Workroom Shocker: Uli stocked up on feathers, trim and embellishments! ::insert sarcasm::
I was freaking out for Ivy as the day progressed. The models came in for the fitting and she was still working on her patterns! Just like she said, I was really scared that like in Season 8, this red carpet challenge would be the one that would give her the boot. Her sketch was gorgeous, but by the end of the day, I was just really hoping that she'd be able to walk something down the runway.
On runway day, it was like Emilio went from hero to zero. He started off this challenge with such a clear vision of what he wanted and got rave reviews for Joanna Coles during her visit. What happened?! His looks are always so polished and in those few hours that the designers have to finalize everything, Emilio's entire gown went down the drain. It could have been a top contender!
dvf. Dvf. DVF. D. V. F. Diane von Furstenberg was the guest judge! (I should have worn my wrap dress today in honor of this episode!) Talk about pressure! If I was one of the designers, I would hang on every word of her criticism and recite her critique every night before I went to bed as an affirmation. Between Diane and Karl Lagerfeld in episode 2, I think it's safe to to say the designers can now ascend to happy fashion heaven.
I am really happy that Laura Kathleen won this challenge. It obviously meant a lot to her and she was so focused in the workroom. This was the first challenge where she didn't seem to have any doubts about her design and stuck to her guns. And I also like that it wasn't a "typical" red carpet look. I can't wait to see Carolyn rock it. (But can someone help me figure out what DVF was saying to LK about the pajama palazzo?! I didn't catch a word of it, but I also can listen to her speak for days and not care. She's preaching the fashion bible as far as I'm concerned.)
I also really loved Anthony Ryan's dress. He honestly does no wrong. He just gets it. Every. Single. Time. Gorgeous.
I predicted Althea's departure the second she picked that fabric. The design didn't help. There was way too much going on with the exposed shoulders, draping, etc…
Do you agree with me? Did Laura Kathleen have this week's strongest look?
PS: Also, a huge congrats to Georgina Chapman, who recently announced that she's expecting her second child with husband Harvey Weinstein. Check out her teeny (and fashionable!) bump:
Non-Runway Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Get a true-blue "Project Runway" fan to tell you their favorite and/or the most talented designers in the show's history, and Rami Kashou is sure to make the cut. I lovingly devoted significant blog space to my adoration and appreciation for Rami's glorious muscles, but as a serious "PR" fan myself, I'm also a legitimate lover and follower of his work. The kind he does with fashion and fabrics.
I'll speak for all of us (especially after reading the comments here, on Twitter and Facebook) and say that it was beyond shocking to see Rami go last week. Many of us pegged him as someone who would make it to the finals. But just because his time on "All Stars" came to a premature end, definitely doesn't mean Rami's reign as an All Star shared a similar fate. Find out what the gorgeous, multitalented king of draping is up to in his honest exit interview:
Rami: Who am I talking to?
Lisa: I'm Lisa Raphael, I do the "Project Runway All Stars" Blog on myLifetime.com... so I’m the one who Photoshops all those photos of you in your tank top.
Rami: (laughs) Now I know where all that came from!
You’re welcome! Well, I hope you appreciate it and don't think I'm crazy over here.
Rami: Not at all, you’re marketing my arms for me, what can I say?
Yes, I would like a commission. Are you getting arm and muscle endorsements now?
Well, I booked an Effen Vodka campaign, which was amazing. They wanted to cast me after the episode when you saw me in the first tank top, I guess. A few days later I got a call from them and they said, "we like your look, we like your aesthetic, we like your designs, we want you to be in one of our ad campaigns." And now it’s coming out in April! So maybe you had something to do with it, who knows?
Perhaps! You can send me a bottle of vodka, that works for me. So it’s going to be your person, it’s not like you’re designing something for it?
It’s myself as a designer, and it’s literally a whole studio that was set up with a sewing machine and everything and my designs, and it’s basically me being myself as a designer, so … I saw some of the pictures, they look really cool.
Wow, congratulations! Is that something you ever thought about doing, like modeling or featuring yourself as a person rather than your designs being center stage?
I mean, I don’t think of myself as a model necessarily, definitely not, but when it comes down to merging that with my work, I think it’s great. I never thought of it, but if opportunities like this come to me, I’m very open to them. It’s great to merge with cool brands and cool aesthetics. Effen Vodka is all about creativity and fashionable people, it’s a growing brand. It’s flattering and it’s exciting, and it’s a great way to infuse your work in different areas of the creative field.
Can't wait to see them and sip some cocktails! Now I have to ask: What is your actual workout routine? You go to Crunch in NYC, right?
I go to Crunch in New York when I’m there. In L.A., I go to Gold's Gym. I go five times a week, and it’s an hour and a half of exercise, not big on cardio, more on lifting. And then of course lots of vitamins and protein and all that stuff.
How did it feel being — I don’t know if you saw that little video mashup that we have on the site — how does it feel to be labeled as the eye candy of "Project Runway All Stars"?
It’s very flattering. I mean of course, who wouldn’t want that kind of compliment? The video’s funny, especially the background music and the slow-mo, but it was great, it was like a nice little parting gift.
Well, let’s talk about another parting gift, which was, your designs featured at the Super Bowl.
I know, that was amazing, it was an amazing experience. The stylist was — this happened before "All Stars" aired — Madonna’s stylist was doing the entire performance and she was looking for Grecian costumes and she just wasn't happy with what she was seeing, and somehow she remembered my name when it came to draping and she instantly said, "Rami has to do it!" So she called me and she said, “Honestly, I know it’s very last-minute and we’re out of time but I can’t picture anyone else doing it, I would love for you to do it,” and of course I said yes, even though I was worried about time because there really wasn’t much time for approving the first sample, for re-doing it, till Madonna approved it and Madonna looked at the sketches, etc.
It was definitely an interesting experience to taste a little piece of Madonna’s world and how to operate under that amount of pressure. [The whole process] was two weeks. The first few days were sketching, and then the next week it was sending the sample to New York, then having it approved, and then her putting in her comments and what she wanted changed and us having to go in with new materials and redo the sample and send it in again. In the end, we had three days to finish those six gowns — and those chiffon gowns, they were 32 pieces each. You can’t just cut chiffon on a surface, you have to put the tissue paper underneath and cut it very gently so literally in like, 15 hours, everything had to be cut so it could go to the sewers. Everybody was freaking out as far as time, and then in three days we had six chiffon gowns with gold corsets finished, which I don’t know how we did it. It was worth it, of course.
And in the end, I had no idea they were going to be the first six that walked out who led Madonna and the gladiators! When I saw that, I was like “Oh my God, that is even bigger than I thought,” so it’s one of those moments where you’re like, I have to pinch myself, this is so amazing, I love what I do and it just makes everything worth it. It’s one of those moments where you’re like, I’m on the right track! So that was really cool.
How does the high-stress world of Madonna compare to "All Stars"? It sounds like kind of a similar thing, where you had a limited amount of time.
It’s similar and it’s probably even more intense in other ways. It’s just the way things work. You saw it, it was a huge performance. The main thing about her, honestly, is that she has to see and approve every single thing on everyone. Even down to the sketches. But just the fact that she saw my sketches, and I got her notes through the stylist, was pretty crazy.
Are you going to frame those?
Yeah, I think I should. I have lots of them because I kept re-doing them until she was happy.
Wow, so she’s a tougher judge than Angela and Isaac and Georgina?
We, the fans, all really felt you were going to make it to the very end for "All Stars." Did you also feel that you left too soon?
Absolutely, definitely I felt like I was just getting started, I was like, oh wow, okay. But yeah, I mean of course I wanted to show more of my work and felt like there wasn’t much encouragement from the judges during that challenge. I felt it from Georgina for sure. But it seemed like the others were adamant about me being out. I’m like, okay, let’s do this.
Oh, that’s so sad. If you could’ve gone back and chosen who you faced off against, would you have picked another designer?
I don’t think, oh, if I faced off so-and-so, it would have made a difference. I don’t think it honestly had anything to do with that. I’m not delusional, my top could have been a little bit better but in all honesty, let’s face it, my design was not about the top. Only the neck of the top was showing. Ironically enough, Isaac insisted on seeing the blouse and suddenly my design became about the blouse, when, in all fairness, let’s be honest, some other designers in other challenges, when they were suffering, they helped them out. So I found that really interesting, but you know what, in the end, it’s a game show and you take it with a grain of salt and move on. I am grateful for the exposure, I don’t think it’s about, oh my design was so horrible and I went home, I think there are a lot of different elements that play a part of it and that’s fine.
Well, you definitely seemed to rebound really well! It sounds like you came out of it with some surprise friendships too. I talked to Anthony and he said you two have become really close during the show.
Yes, and Kara and Jerell. Those were some pretty good outcomes.
Did you expect going into "All Stars" that you would make these sort of lasting friendships?
You never know what to expect and those sort of strong bonds you have with people, you don’t expect them to happen during a competition reality show because it’s such an intense process. But I think Anthony and Jerell and Kara, it just somehow happened. I don’t know who came up with it, whether it was Kara or Anthony, they decided to create a group called the Kardashians and suddenly I was Kim, and Kara was Kourtney and Anthony was Khloe and that just became the inside joke. (laughs) There were fun moments!
Wait, why are you Kim Kardashian?
I don’t know, that’s what they decided. I didn’t insist on being Kim.
So continuing to look ahead for you, you have so much going on — you have Madonna, you have the vodka campaign coming up ... What else is on your horizon?
I am launching a Bebe Bridal collection! I hope and aim for it to grow and become a huge project. I’ve been working on that collection for the past three to four months. That’s launching March 8, and for me to have an official bridal collection — it’s going to be Rami Kashou for Bebe with bridesmaids dresses — that’s probably one of the biggest endorsements that I’ve gotten and I’m very excited for that. And I think the part of having my line of greeting cards at Papyrus shows that my creativity can hopefully extend to different avenues and not simply clothes. I think that just proves that my brand has potential to become one day a lifestyle brand, so that’s my aim. Obviously Effen Vodka came after ["All Stars"], so I’m hoping exposure will give me opportunities like that. I think when people see it, they decide whether they want to work with you or not, so I hope my passion and my professionalism in what I do and the way I speak about my brand and maybe my design aesthetic will get me new opportunities like that, because that’s the one thing I think will be good from "All Stars," the exposure.
Still not enough Rami "exposure" for you? Watch his video exit interview here and view his portfolio of work from this season and past collections!
Super Bowl Photo: Getty Images