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Four Left at Fashion Week

Posted By laurareineke 4:46am GMT

We have come to the final episode. It is week 14, and if we look at some interesting facts about the number 14 we see that a) it is the number of Stations of the Cross, and b) it is the number of pieces Osiris' body was torn into by his brother Set. Both are emotions I'm sure our designers felt during this episode (only slightly dramatic here).

Never before have there been four designers left at Fashion Week finals, Heidi informs us. While this is true, to me it rings hollow. I believe these four could have been pared down, but nevertheless, we have four at the finals.

Oh, yeah wait, wasn't there something about Tide? Yep, the infamous final challenge. We are reminded that the Tide customer is fashion-conscious, but one who wants ready-to-wear clothes -- literally, wash it and it's ready to wear. Each designer gets $250 and one last visit to Swatch, I mean Mood, and a day to do it in. I remember when we had our final challenge, we had help from the most recently excused contestants. No such luck for these four.

Tim visits the final collections. Bradon is first, and where did he go? Because in his place is Jeremy's collection. Old and not very fashionable (Talbots anyone?). I don't see how the judges can give him the win. Strong all season, he lost his mojo. He has a hill to climb if he is going to finish higher than fourth. Dom produces what she has all season, similar silhouettes, some prints. It's overall a good professional collection, not very ambitious, not very adventurous, but very bog-standard. Justin is also a bit safe, but what he does have is variety. That, in this era of 10-piece collections made in 6 weeks, may be enough to give him the win. Boy, talk about a save. Alexandria may have a collection that is too simple, maybe too monotonous says Tim. Too many T-shirt style tops says Tim, Nina hates them. Alexandria starts to tailspin. But, she does have backup, plenty of backup (30 pieces?) to pick and choose from.

Here is where I miss some of the features from my season. I liked the footage of the three of us picking models. It was an introduction to the real world of fashion and organizing fashion shows. As Jay McCarroll famously pointed out, "Don't just give me money, show me how to run my own line." While they may still do these things—and I do not know if they do or don't—I missed seeing it. I miss some of the "behind the curtain" scenes. "Project Runway" has a tenuous grasp on the real world of fashion, but I do miss some the more mundane, real-world aspects we used to see.

As the designers fret through the last stages they become a little emotional. These are people with imagination, so what this all means to them is great. We see them at the before-dawn walk to the runway. The emotion of being at Fashion Week, and the last minute problems that crop up—models with broken ankles, models spilling coffee on clothes—it's a madhouse. Bradon freaks, but the show must go on.

Runway time, with Kerry Washington (I love her! She was a guest judge on our season) is guest judge this time as well. Justin is first up. He presents a collection that is varied. Shorts, dresses, gowns, pants, he seems more ambitious than maybe other designers, but the limit of color makes the collection slightly boring. A woman will only put up with so much white in her wardrobe. His unconventional materials dress steals the show. Strong, yet very consistent, it's a solid placing for Justin.

Dom is next. While I loved the prints, I actually thought there should have been more of them. Those are truly her standout pieces. I love her chic, simplistic dresses but thought the collection was a bit all over the place. Is she an evening wear designer, resort, or RTW?

Alexandria comes out with an exuberant show of simple, yet exciting looks. Well done. Not all the looks were my favorite (the first look really made no sense to me) but she is clear who she is as a designer and produces excellent separates which is what today's woman wears.

Bradon comes last. And it has the first Tide challenge look. Oh, yeah, there's that look. Otherwise it was a hum-drum showing of easy pieces, some too simple to be thrown into a 10-piece collection. As Nina would point out it was unfocused.

To me it was a race between Justin, and Alexandria, both the controversial, and most likely unpopular choices. Ultimately Dom takes the prize. She is a talented designer who has an excellent eye for print but I still am let wondering what typeíof designer she is.


Lucky 13

Posted By laurareineke 4:05am GMT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rewards and Redos

Posted By kim_messina 4:53am GMT

It is week 12 and because of the shock double elimination last week, we are down to the final five designers. A field trip is announced and it is to the Sweetbriar Butterfly House. The designers are to take inspiration from the butterflies and create an avant-garde look.

Avant-garde can be so pigeonholed, mostly it is seen as crazy gowns, but it actually "refers to a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm of the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm." Working at McQueen I quickly realized that this just doesn’t mean a "crazy big dress," but something unique, new and has meaning behind it.

A trip to Mood and Swatch, the designers go for broke. Bradon has wisely saved money and goes big, as does Alexandria and Helen. The designers buy every last item they can think of to cover the challenge and who can blame them. I wish we had those magical cards that never seem to run out of money!

Back at the workroom the designers start working. Bradon seems to have a solid strategy of attack. Justin calmly sets up and has a plan. Dom likewise seems calm and focused. Alexandria too has an idea. All seem to be calm, and working diligently. Dom has taken inspiration from the fact that butterflies crossbreed, so she's mixing prints. Tim is all thumbs up. Helen, well, as Tim critiques her look, Helen does as Helen has done in the past: she has a melt down. As she cries, weeps and stamps her feet because she wasn't given a gold star. Tim tries to get her to focus. God, help me. I can't help it. I was a bit younger than Helen when I was on my season, but I find her level of immaturity just annoying. I've said it before, I do not think "Project Runway "should be a "finishing school" for designers. I also think designers that are looking to be on the show should look at it with a sober eye. There are times when the lack of sleep, nerves and the relentless pressure, breaks you down. But, come on, not before you've even started a outfit! Add to that her "throw all the toys out of the pram" fit, it just seems like she should not be there yet.

Alexandria has produced a rather goth looking dress. While edgy, it may be a little light on the avant-garde aspect. Bradon is working on a simple piece on the front, with a explosion on the back. He also has attachments to add to the look. Tim at first is not a fan, but as the attachments are added he becomes a believer. He looks to be in very good shape to head to the final. Justin has a two-piece that looks less avant-garde to me, but looks beautiful. I am excited to see where this goes.

The next day the designers walk into workroom. In front of them are all the losing looks. In the well-named "Make It Work Challenge" they are to pick a losing garment redo it and have it walk the runway with their avant-garde look. Dom picks Jeremy's losing design, Alexandria goes with Miranda's, Bradon chooses with Sue's, Helen's choice is Kate's (which seems to be a little insulting to their friendship if you ask me), and Justin bravely selects his own losing gown.

Dom seems to really be in the zone since her unexpected redemption win. Jeremy's jacket now has a high collar coupled with his skirts print on the sleeves. A very nice take. Alexandria creates a modern punk look. While dated, Alexandria does have the flair to make it seem fresh. Helen tears into Kate's frock. Then, for the first time in "Project Runway" history, Alexandria starts to break down. The ice queen has cracked. I understand—you are so mentally and physically exhausted at this point. It was difficult. A lack of sleep, no personal time, all those around you, in the end, are there to beat you. From the support of her coworkers and kids they rally her emotions. She pulls together and moves on.

On the Runway:
Dom's avant-garde is first up. Well done. This is my favorite work from her. Alexandria is up next. I am a fan of the dress and the black is definitely a unique way to interpret a butterfly. Helen, same basic outfit she has sent down the runway this entire season. Oh, it's in orange. I see no avant-garde influence here, it's just a dress with a technique that has been seen before. Justin has again a more sewing intensive look than avant-garde, but it surely more adventurous than the previous. Bradon sends down the only truly avant-garde piece, although I think would have been successful with a little less of the tubes.

The redos are next. In the same running. Dom sends out a great interpretation of Jeremy's construct and it walks first. Modern, improving on Jeremy's aged look. Job well-done, but I personally liked the jacket more when it was all red with the sleeves used to enhance the collar and then make the skirt colorful. The black skirt was a little of a let down. Alexandria creates a fun, punk look. For the most part, she pulls it off. I don’t love the vest, but think the pants are AMAZING. I disagree with the judges comments about being "costumey" when they told Miranda she should have pushed it further to punk. Helen, honestly I don't know what to say. I felt her avant-garde look was not close to the directive, and I saw nothing of Kate's design. The top was a repeat from a day or so ago (last week) and the skirt was a darker color. Justin does correct his sin and the redo is a far sight better. Finally, Bradon recreates Sue's debacle with a patch of Sue's work and a new home. Far improved.

Justin, safe. I think he is talented, but he has not really pushed himself and today might be too little too late. Good to know that Nina likes your models nail color (plug)... Helen is praised for her rework by Zac, but is also shot down by Zac for her avant-garde look. It's that kind of day. Alexandria is up next. Again it is all over the place in terms of how it is seen. Heidi likes the avant-garde look, but not the redo. Nina sees the opposite. Bradon, flowers all around. Finally, Dom. She is praised for both outfits.

Surprise, Bradon for the win. Dom moving on to fashion week. Justin, Helen and Alexandria are to compete for the final slot. Honestly, I see only one who deserves to go home: Helen. I see a pretender to the crown. No. Justin, Helen and Alexandria that will fight for the final slot.

Did you agree with the top two? Or, that all three were rewarded?


The Eleventh Hour

Posted By kim_messina 4:48am GMT

The eleventh hour, literally and figuratively. Time is running out. This week it is the HP Challenge, and the seven remaining contestants get to create their own patterns and prints. I love this challenge—it has so much inspiration and designing a print has become a signature for my line. I have for the past few seasons been designing my own prints. Inspired by ghosts, pictures of the galaxy and this season from an inspirational trip to India that my sister and I took last summer.

But first the waters must be muddied. The designers pick young entrepreneurs to meet and be inspired by before they come up with their personal prints. Out of the bunch I am most familiar with Kiva, but they all seem equally inspiring.

Alexander is feeling burnt out, as the last few days have been rough. It is that time of the show when you do start to drag. You wake up exhausted and people are turning on each other. (Also, those personal asides are done at about 2 am.) It's stressful and if you're still in the game and have not had straight trips to the bottom each week, you do start to think about Fashion Week. Of course in the last few seasons, the majority of contestants get to show at Fashion Week. I feel this is unfortunate, in my season, it was what you fought for. I had never really seen the show before. (I was a college student, with no cable TV, or I was in the UK.) All I knew was the Top Three were the only ones that got to go. Every challenge was a "push" time. Nonetheless, the designers are formulating their ideas on the design.

I really look forward to what these designers put together. Kate, inspired by her young app-making entrepreneur, is using binary code to form her pattern. Interesting idea, I'm fascinated to see how that will work. Justin incorporates sign language for "I love you" in his print after his beauty queen inspiration. Alexandria's print is based on whitewashed bricks. Bradon's BMX rider has inspired a muted print with a dash of blue.Helen, who had an artist tag a big picture of Helen, is questioning herself...again. Her print of stars is interesting, but not seeing the correlation to her inspiration.

Dom's inspiration was the aforementioned Kiva owner—she sees a world connected. The winner! Wait did I get ahead of myself? Spoiler alert? No, it is just easy to see that her print and her design is in a different league from the others.

Bradon is trying to put together some kind of look using his print as a skirt. Tim is befuddled. Kate, well, Tim looks concerned. Kate seems a little oblivious to her own designs flaws and just trudges ahead. This late in the game,but that's normal. Once in the "PR" pressure cooker, you tend to just modify, rather than wholesale change. You also tend to believe in your own sense of design. She wanted to return to making a dress after making so many separates.

Justin, he made my favorite print—muted, spacial with layers. He unfortunately has paired it to a gown. Crash... I felt he had the print to challenge Dom, but not with this design. A cute dress and he would be in the top.

Helen, after a totally meaningless inspiration, is hopelessly lost. Instead of her usual workroom stroll, commenting and giving critiques to the other designers, she's asking for ideas. I just do not understand this business of waiting around until Tim comes in to tell you what to do. Not that hasn't happened before. Every season Tim has his favorites and has righted many a listing ship. Of course you could say he has sunk a few as well…

Alexandria has an A line skirt, a blouse, and possibly a vest. What she doesn't have is a clear and concise plan. Alexander, oh, boy. Inspired by chocolate, it has a huge cross on the front. It looks like a hot cross bun badly baked. He. Is. In. Trouble.

As Tim leaves he tells the designers to quit over thinking the exercise and simplify. Wise advice. Bradon, now sees his path and the print will be a bomber jacket, mated with a black dress. Helen is making a crop top and long skirt. Whaaaaaatt? (Think Chris Griffin from "Family Guy.") Didn't Miranda get aufed for just such an offense a wee bit ago? Kate's outfit is ill-fitting, but possibly because so many garments in the workroom are as well. She is not panicking.

On the runway Bradon is first up with a bomber jacket and a LBD. The dress is cool—easy made from a tube material, no sewing seams even needed—and the jacket is well done but overall was not a super creative look. Justin, who I think has talent has a nice print, a beautifully seamed top but a poorly executed bottom. Ugh. Kate's look has some interest, but is overdone. And where's the print? Alexander's look is bad, poorly done. He's a goner.

Again this is an easy win for Dom. She followed the assignment and made a modern dress. I fail to see any challengers. Alexandria's look is edgy, but it does not look complete to me. The skirt is great, but the top seams a bit of a mess. Helen, to me, this is bad. Her print looks average and while the dress is beautifully seamed, the overall design is not inspiring. Better made than Miranda's previously condemned outfits, it has as much interest. I can't help think that Helen is still a pretender in this competition even with her wins.

Alexandria is deemed safe. So does that mean Dom wins and everyone else is in the bottom? Because I saw no real contenders for the top on this exercise. But, no Dom, Bradon and Helen are in the top!? The bottom are Justin, Alexander and Kate.

Dom is the winner! Alexander is out. I have to agree. His was really bad. Then it was down to Justin and Kate. Justin is deemed safe and Kate is out? The past few episodes someone has brought up a double elimination. Did a PA let it slip that there was to be a double out coming in a future show? It sure seemed that it was expected. And it was a shock. Kate seemed to be a favorite, but it does seem the past few years that they have built a designer up, only to unexpectedly auf them. I think we'll see Kate on a future "PR All Stars."

Did you agree Dom's was an easy win? And what about Kate's fall?


Drama Queen Ken Strikes Again...But For the Last Time!

Posted By kim_messina 4:21am GMT

Week 10 and it had to happen: a Superfan challenge. Now it's been done before, usually under the title of, the "Real Woman challenge." My season we had divorcees that had changed their lives and brought their wedding dress that we had to rework. For Season 12 it's a lot easier—the designers get to design for their fan and go to Mood to buy fabric.

Eight fans, eight designers, and Ken has his first "oh, shit" moment of this week. He's never designed for a real woman before. I never understand why a designer would say this. It’s admitting your not a professional, never selling a design and only displaying it on models. 

Tim pulls out the velvet bag and matches the fan to the designer. It's a two-day challenge. This week's product placement is L'Oreal Paris, and they are giving the Superfans a complete makeover.

We're off to Mood! Swatch is real! Many of the designers include their fan in the search for fabric, Helen grabs her fan Jamie and romps off. Alexandria, in her stern, austere way, also has her fan join in picking the right fabric. Bradon does not, leaving his fan at the top of the stairs.

Back at Parsons, Justin asks for his fan's autograph to use as inspiration. A truly decent gesture, he plans to incorporate it in the design. So far Ken's making a shift dress, but is freaking out about the color. Bradon's making a black leather two-piece hard-ass NYC outfit. Dom, a sexy (?) date dress. Alexandria is creating a jacket, skirt dress for her art degree fan. (Can she contain herself and not get too conceptual?) Alexander and Ken are lagging a bit and are stressing out. I fear this will have consequences.

And it does. As the designers drag their carcasses back to their apartments tired and beat Alexander, and Bradon are told to pack up and move in with Ken and Justin since Jeremy is gone. Ken, who's been homeless, gets real territorial, as any good passive aggressive, borderline crazy, self important, egocentric, bully would be. Setting up a ironing board in the entrance hallway, he blocks the two from coming in. All the while his face is covered in cold cream. He looks for all the world like the "Phantom of the Opera." Alexander takes matters in his own hand, along with the Rowenta iron and pushes it aside (Strong iron, those Rowentas). We finally see what Ken has so intently been ironing: cut off jean shorts. ::Faceplant.::

Ken duly freaks out. Ken in his Phantom of the Opera cold cream mask goes postal. It is a sight to see, and the camera crew must of been doubling over in fits of laughter. Justin sits on his bed, staring at the wall and wonders, "Again, why did I sign up for this?" Megan, a PA, tries to calm a raging drama queen with, "Breathe with me, Erik. I mean Ken." There is no calming Ken down. Swear words flow. (I wonder what his mother, and spiritual adviser will think). He stamps his feet. He's serious.  

Bradon and Alexander beat a hasty retreat and leave Justin with the seething Ken. Next morning, Tim time! For Ken only. The answer will be Ken to have his own room. During the kumbaya meeting, he ironically states, "I don't want to sit here as if I'm the bully." Please go home Ken. "PR" is hard enough. You live closely with people that you barely know, common decency, respect for other human beings, and some sort of self-awareness have to be essential characteristics. I believe Ken should have been sent home, there and then. Instead they coddle him, as I'm sure he's been coddled all his life. No one is doing Ken any favors here. 

Bradon is concerned and a bit shaken. Helen of course goes off with all her concerns. Alexandria sounds the voice of reason (in that Swedish deadpan) and says to just move on.

After some workroom shots, it's Tim time—for real this time. Justin actually listened to his client. She's Mormon and has a number of requirements, modesty, being a big one. Justin can not be described as a risque designer. He comes up with a truly meaningful and notable dress. Nice job. Alexander is in bad shape. Alexandria's look is mature, not modern. What happened? In all fairness, she had a difficult challenge. Her client, though young, was looking for an interview suit. Granted it's bad, real bad, but it's level of sin is no greater than the majority for this was a shoddily executed challenge. Kate has a put together a edgier pant/top outfit. Well done. Bradon, what happened to the hip, edgy NYC woman? Ken, a big nothing. Dom has a print, which as Tim points, out swallows her client. Helen, well something is working here. Opportunities were missed. This wasn't a "make a fashion-forward dress out of a mini-wedding dress." It was "listen to your customer" and design something from scratch. 

Here I do think the camera people found truth. We see the emotion of these first time models, the nerves, the fear, the emotion. Those of us on the show know, and belittle so many aspects of the show, we forget its impact on some people. The models all look great and while I love the hair color I was unsure why so many got such a super short cut. Some of the styles didn’t seem very modern. Justin, again compromised by modesty and religion, produced something appropriate and touching. Her signature was sown on the dress. Top three. Bradon, I feel this is such a bad design. There was so much promise, yet Bradon come up with so little result. I'd put him in the bottom three, just on principal.


Alexander came up with a poorly constructed outfit. Now poorly constructed is no crime on "PR," if your design is interesting, but he loses on all accounts. Dom, >a href="http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-runway/season-12/rate-the-runway/episode-10#id=4">a print that overwhelms her client, coupled with a bad jacket. Badly done. Bottom. The dress was definition of sale rack. Kate does a nice number that really bolsters her client's mood. Top three. Ken, superfluous at this point, produces a terribly basic, plain, nothing. Alexandria makes a conservative skirt paired with an interesting jacket. Surprisingly mediocre. Helen, a hit with me. A simple creation, yet bold. It encapsulated her Superfan coming out of her shell. Top marks.

So Justin, Bradon and Helen are the top three. The bottom, well two of them deserved to be there, not Alexandria, but Bradon. Truth be told, Alexandria at least had some interest. Why was she in the bottom, while Bradon, was a top choice? Nevertheless, Alexandria stood with Ken, deservedly so, and Alexander. It's game on.

Helen wins. Out, well it has to be, and finally is, Ken. When has someone with so little, gone so far? Oh, okay, a lot on "Project Runway," but in truth, he should have been gone weeks ago.

Was this Helen's first deserved win? Was Ken the worst?


A Challenge Misunderstood

Posted By kim_messina 4:38am GMT

Dressed to the nines...I mean week 9 of Season 12! It's when the competition really starts to heat up! This week the designers are lined up in front of Heidi and told they have the morning off. Immediately everyone thinks a games afoot. But then again this group has been glamping, had obstacle course games, so why not a morning off? They walk into a nice NYC eatery and find themselves with a pleasant brunch. As they talk, I notice Helen (placed at the head of the table) taking center court. Her confidence has grown leaps and bounds. Is she headed for a fall?

Tim enters the room and gives them their marching orders. They are to design an outfit for the Belk woman, whom according to Tim, is the modern, Southern woman. Cricket chirp, cricket chirp. What a vague instruction.

Since Tim said "modern," I'm thinking Scarlett O'Hara is out. Hopefully the designers aren't feeling limited to Jessica Simpson in "Dukes of Hazard." Who is plotting fashion-forward Daisy Dukes? Sorority girls come to my mind. There are no Belk catalogs, no visions of 'the modern. Southern woman." it just reminds me of the joke: Why do adults ask kids what they want to do when they grow up? Because they're looking for ideas.

So vague a challenge will lead to problems, me thinks. Most of the designers being Damn Yankees are lost. Ken, from the South, is not—he knows this woman, he lives with this woman, he sees them every day. Justin, also a Southerner, is too polite to be so gauche.

To the workroom.Ken is looking to a maxi dress. Alexander states, hysterically, that he has never dressed as a Southern woman, but sees pants, and a jacket. Dom channels her mother's family from New Orleans. It's a print skirt for her. Bradon sees a day dress, with a sexy neck line. Jeremy is looking to a jacket, but is concerned about heading into mumsy land. Kate is looking for a colorful outfit. Helen, something yellow.

Mood! Swatch! I have to say I loved Swatch stretched out, front and center, as Tim gave them the budget, and start time. As the designers run hither and yon, Bradon looks like the kid that lost in a game of musical chairs as time runs out.

Back to the work room, and Tim time! Alexander has switched up and now is doing a "plaid" cocktail dress. Bradon is designing a chic "plaid" print dress. By the way boys, it's not plaid—it's madras. Justin is doing a two-piece coral and black outfit. I like that he always pushes himself) Kate has a large print and seems to be in a good place. Ken is working with a purple and is again looking at a maxi dress. Jeremy's jacket is well received by Tim, but as we know that holds no sway with the judges. Helen has a yellow dress that she plans to have some flower motif over top. It sounds very "Brady Bunch" to me. Dom ditches the print and is doing a basic dress in aqua and sea foam. Ruh-Roh

Alexandria. Is. In. Trouble. Her's is a plaid, but that's not her problem. She is lost, she has the plaid print, but she walked away from it and has some odd mixture of plain white with plaid swatches. Tim reins her in. I kinda love her exchange with Tim:
Tim: Do you want a hug?
Alexandria: No, I need prayers. I need immunity.

Now, my mothers part Swedish. I've visited there and they tend to be to the point. Gotta love the honesty.

Ken: Purple dress. Looks like a night gown. Ken is in major trouble.
Helen: Along yellow dress with flower applique. Ill proportioned—it would be stronger knee length or above.
Justin: Coral-colored dress. Simple, chic, nice. Safe.
Alexander: Overdone cocktail dress in a madras print. I think safe.
Alexandria: Modern, but fairly conservative dress. Not her best work.
Bradon: A beautiful dress. The bottom looks a little over-worked, but it's a nice piece. Top Three most likely.
Dom: A two-tone dress done in 1970s schoolhouse colors of sea foam and aqua. Too basic and not modern. Bottom three.
Jeremy's jacket is teamed up with a simple, but eye searing print. It screams dowager. 
Kate has a simple bright print. Safe, but it's Kate. Top three!

Overall a poor showing coming from a poor guidelines. The Top Three are: Bradon, Kate, and Alexander (Top Three again because of everyone else being so lost). The bottom are Jeremy, Dom and Ken.


Finally, the group gets some kind instruction, it's to be a country club dress. I get it now.

Bradon is the winner! The early favorite comes in from the wilderness! Dress to be sold online and Belk stores—money never to be seen. 

And out? It has to be Ken, as bad (and mumsy) as Jeremy's was, and as lifeless as Dom's, Ken's Southern nightgown has to go. As much as Heidi tried to get him to implode ("Are the extra security guards in place?"), Ken just fumed. So he's a bully to everybody, but the judges.

And here's what drives me crazy: Jeremy is criticized for his "too simple" dress. Yeah, but a couple of challenges ago Helen won for her equally simple dress. Folks, short of Alexandria, Bradon and maybe Justin, no one is doing anything but simple dresses.

But, no the Bottom Three get a redemption. ("The first time in the history of…") It just reeks of doing anything to keep Ken in the game. ("Mr. Weinstein, is the liability insurance all paid up?") So, the Bottom Three are given an hour to redo their garments, because they didn't understand the challenge. Let me tell you no one did.

Each designer gets to have an aid. Dom picks Helen, Jeremy picks Alexander and Ken picks Kate. (Oh God, couldn't it please be Helen!) Ken is the only one that sticks somewhat to his original design and it's no better. Shorter, with some overwrought shoulder treatment. He's a goner. Jeremy comes up with his first-ever modern looking dress. Equally simple, but with a lousy print.

Dom comes up with a winner. Nice print with some interesting detail (And in in an hour!). It's probably her best to date. Dom, redemption! She too will get her dress sold online, and in Belk stores. Ken and Jeremy are left. Ken's safe (Yes Heidi, insurance check cleared) and Jeremy heads home. (At Fashion Week one designer of this group didn't show. Did someone go postal?)

What do you think? The right winner? Did the right person go home?


Ready, Set, Design

Posted By kim_messina 4:09am GMT

This week starts off at some ridiculous hour with Tim Gunn dressed in some ridiculous umpire outfit. I can't think of another season where Tim has been in so many costumes! (I am crossing my fingers that we have a Renaissance fair challenge this season, or maybe NASCAR...) But, first the designers must compete on a obstacle course in teams of two.

We learn that besides not liking the outdoors and countless other things, Ken does not like or do physical activities. Also, did anyone else notice that all the girls paired their shorts over the leggings? I haven’t seen that since junior high! I believe they were given both as a choice of the leggings or the shorts- but to wear BOTH?! I thought this was supposed to be a group of FASHIONABLE people.

It will not be a team challenge, but the victorious duo will win an extra hour of workroom time. Now, to me this is fun. Not only do I love to workout, but I am also currently designing a workout line that is launching this October, Turn It On Fitness. I almost wish I could ask a designer to tap me in for this challenge!

Dom, the only one who stats that they are athletic, and Justin come up with the win!

Back to the workout, I mean the workroom... Now, workout wear is a huge industry and it ain't easy; there's a lot of thought that goes into materials, and effective use of space. The stretch fabric can also be difficult to sew and fit as well as the large importance in the functionality of the garment. This could be interesting...

Tim comes in, explains the challenge and why there's samples of Heidi's line on the mannequins. (It's for the designers to "reference"). The camera pans to Helen just as a light bulb goes on over her head. She tip-toes out to ask Tim a question. When she re-enters beside the dirty looks from her fellow designers, Ken calls her out for being "shady." So begins this week's installment of the Helen/Ken name calling bitchfest.

Which brings to mind that every drama packed, head exploding, screaming match this season has had two players involved; Helen and Ken. Helen is worried that Ken may be violent. She forgets Ken doesn't do physical activities, he just yells real loud. Tim is called in to council the Drama Queen, and he's allowed to talk to his....what? Mentor? Oh. Wow. I get a little annoyed when he states that you "don’t know what people are going through." Of course he is referencing himself, but I want to suggest that it goes both ways! Maybe that should remind you to not blow up at other people.

Kate's doing a motocross inspired outfit with a jacket. Ken, a motorcycle jacket, with matching tights. Karen an architectural inspired work with fitted pant. Tim comes in with Heidi in tow. Kate gets an "atta boy." The pullover? A wow piece. Do I need to say Top Three? Helen, calm now, shows a 3 piece simplistic outfit. She's called out on her basic garment. She decides to focus on sharpening up the too basic jacket. Justin, some straps. Karen, big problems here. She's come up with some lime green outfit that Heidi calls alien-looking. Panic, redo, this time with more elegance. Dom wants to show some skin. Alexander color blocks tights and top. Jeremy is sunburned. Ken, sees a long top and Heidi see's a scuba suit. Hitting another rough patch. To this day I'm sure that he wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat screaming, "Redesign." For Bradon it's all about optical illusions. Alexandria, who evidently has competed in 50 some marathons, is walking a fine line between form/function with drop crotch tights. Helen, ever the critic, scolds her for repeating herself. This slightly annoys me because at least she is doing something different then the rest of the room.

Overall, I am disappointed by the lack of creativity in the room. No one thought of yoga pants? A running skirt? Maybe just some FLATTERING color blocking?

Alexander is praised in the workroom for his lack of seams. And again this week, he's happy and confident of his output. It is impressive patterning. Karen's model throws out some hints. Karen has gone down the rabbit hole. It happens, and it's magnified on "PR." You start to be so narrowly focused, no matter where you turn someone is telling you something is wrong. Karen, unfortunately, doesn't have the confidence to push ahead with some refinements and make the best out of the situation. That's "Project Runway," and that is how you progress. Karen is in trouble.

Guest judge is Micheal Kors. I have a feeling he is going to be a little disappointed in the designs. Kate goes first; great pullover, nice looking and while not ground-breaking, in this group it's a definite top 3. Bradon, simple top and pant, abet with lime green striping. Applaud the difficulty level but over all not a standout look. Alexandria’s drop crotch is next. Not a favorite of mine. Will the judges be kind?

Helen produces a beautiful jacket with an cut similar to Alexandria's dress from last week. The model looks good in it and she was smart to stick to black (I love how the judges always say no black, but it is consistently the winner). Dom sends out a . I see this look in the top 3. Justin's outfit is simple and he didn’t take Heidi’s advice about not making the neckline so high on the sports bra. It's not a bad look, but I think he had the beginnings of something more interesting in the workroom. Ken sends down Walmart wear and blames his model for the blandness. Jeremy shakes things up by using purple fabric, in place of black. This looks like a bottom 3 look to me but not because of the color, more the fit. Karen comes up with an outfit that has a nice easy feel to it, but the fashion is huge missing element here. Alexander's looks a little wonky to me. We'll see where he ends up.

The top are: Kate, Alexander and Helen. The bottom are Alexandria, Ken and Karen. Kate, flaunts her MX pants. Does that hide the fact they look like run of the mill tights with a stripe? Motocross, I know. My dad raced it. I know the gear I saw nothing in this design to point to a motocross reference. Nice pullover though. Overall a good look. Alexander gets a top spot, but only because there was no one better—the judges made that perfectly clear. Helen, simple top, pant, but the judges love the jacket.

Ken he is likely going home, if not this week then soon. Alexandria, Heidi give's it high marks. But, to the rest of the panel, the outfit becomes a joke. Micheal Kors celebrates his return with a scathing review, including punch lines like, "Pleasure me pockets," while the look is reviled, Heidi likes it.

Tim Gunn save! Wait, it has already been used. But, Gunn wisely points out that Heidi had given Alexandria a big thumbs up on her design. Shrewdly Alexandria has been saved. So, it's Karen thrown to the wolves. The win is between Helen, and Kate. Helen wins! Nina orders! Congrats! As Bradon fades, Kate meanders on and Alexandria goes her own way. Three wins for Helen? A part of me feels like she has the judges fooled.

And it's goodbye to Karen. Now she had an annoying laugh, sloppy sewing skills and facial expressions that looked straight out of a "SNL" episode, but her designs are modern and saleable. Save for Alexandria, Karen probably is the most contemporary designer of any of the contestants. That is something "Project Runway "rarely supports. "PR," and many of its fans, tend to reward referential.


And On The Seventh Episode...

Posted By kim_messina 4:57am GMT

The number 7 has a number of symbolic meanings. In the Bible, Earth was created in 7 days, there are the 7 seals, there's "the lucky number 7." But on the other hand (I found this on a numerology site), the number 7 can be "aloof, distant, sarcastic, socially awkward, melancholic, cowardly and, when they're at their worst, back-stabbers." Why, that's the entire cast of Season 12 of "Project Runway"! (Actually of any season of "Project Runway"!)

On the seventh episode, Tim sayeth, "There shall be shoes," and lo upon the designers were given the Marie Claire shoe wall.

The challenge was pretty straight-forward: design a look around a pair of shoes. But first the designers must answer a fashion history question. Ken immediately starts a whiny rant about being a self-taught designer up against educated fashion geniuses. Up first is Alexandria with a bye, she chooses a pair of high bondage shoes.Ken beats the feared gang with a correct answer about the soles of Louis Vuitton shoes then precedes to lambast the educated fashion elite competition. He goes, ironically, for short version of Alexandria's pick. Jeremy gets a question about Christian Dior right (Any worry there?) and he hugs his thigh-high boots with the glee of a young English boy with his favorite secret. Karen gets the Parsons question right and picks a shoe that matches her cardigan. Helen twerks to a correct answer about Jessica Simpson. Her choice? A smart mini boot with studded toe. (Seriously, are these questions: are they about fashion or ones knowledge of the contents of US Weekly?) Kate picks a Daliesque shoe in bright red.

At this point, Miranda's talking head complains the questions are not centered around wallpaper, or field stripping of an M-16 in the field. Head in hands, I wonder where in the world does the world of television "searching for the next great designer" intersect with someone who has so little invested in fashion knowledge, interest or desire to learn? For God's sake, Ken at least has that.Bradon guesses right and picks a sleek gold embellished flat. Finally, Miranda and Dom square off. A question is thrown out about the LBD. I think my dad knows the answer to this. But like an "SNL" episode, Miranda and Dom wring their sweating hands and stare at the ceiling. Dom breaks the draw with a correct answer about a movie. She takes a risk (really?) with a pair of brightly-colored creepers. Miranda picks some red slippers from the scraps. By this time I've got my head in my hands, quietly sobbing...

In the workroom we learn that Jeremy has in mind a dowagers dogging costume, and Helen is focusing on the toe and has come up with an LBD with a black capelet. Ken envisions a dress much like the last challenge, this time at two-piece only in black. Alex sees a war over tartan trews with Miranda. For Kate, it's a pants and a top. Bradon gets all tricky with a technique tortured dress.

Tim visits the designers. Alexandria is on a good path with her combination of hard(shoes) soft(dress). She looms larger each week as a finalist. Justin is up next. his statement shoe has inspired a three-piece (ambitious!) garment. Ken is shot down and regroups. Brandon is given the matronly crit, and reboots his design (within reason). Tim talks to Kate, "How's the accommodations? Like the water, just have a drawing... pants...okay, sure...top? Of course." Huh? Has anyone skated by so much in the history of "Project Runway"?

Dom has the idea that she'll design the same dress that she's done in each challenge only in colors to match her shoe. I think she's been skating by as well. Karen has a pair of fluorescent shoes matched to a fluorescent skirt. Good luck with that. Helen lets the shoes be the star and comes up with a simple black dress. To me, a nondescript creation. But, it has a capelet...

Now every year has one designer that tries to imitate one of the judges. In my season Christopher's imitation of Michael Kors was actually quite good, and funny. Not so much this season...it's Dom that tries with a Nina imitation, and it's just bad.

Favorite Bradon has a brief interlude with his soon to be husband. Traditionally this is the kiss of death, this I doubt though. He's a keeper.

Tim calls the designers to the runway. Have there ever been so many slackers still working so close to the bell in the history of "Project Runway"? This week's guest judge is Kaley Cuoco from "The Big Bang Theory." Ken throws down black separates. A cute look—I call safe. Alexander has traded drag queen fashion, for daring fashions for the middle aged. Miranda puts down a similar look and while I think the top is not flattering and doesn’t fit with the pants, I do think the pants are a little more creative then Alexander’s version.

Dom trumpets her stepping out of the box with her design, and while I do admire the quilting, I think she really needs to produce a different silhouette. Justin produces separates that I think looks high-fashion and sleek. I like this look. My only thought is that the tribal inspired print is a little more fun then this powerful look. Alexandria, again, makes a fashion-forward outfit. In the top I'd say. Karen puts out a modern-chic look. A definite top for me—I want that jacket! Bradon's homage to the elderly is next, oh boy...

Kate looks to be safe I believe entirely on her high level of construction (The blouse was complex). But those pants were a bad memory from the 90s. Jeremy produces a chic chiffon sweater that I love, but the look comes together dated with the black mini skirt and knee high boots. Helen says she really put it out there with her high-end look of a simple black dress. The cape is extremely chic, but not as innovated as some of the other looks.

Top three are Alexandria, Ken and Helen. The Bottom are Jeremy, Miranda and Bradon. Helen wins for her choice of shoes. Miranda is out with her tribute to 70s sitcoms.

What do think? Right choices? Or are you like me just waiting for the wheat to be separated from the chaff?


Tim Gunn Saves the Episode

Posted By kim_messina 4:52am GMT

We are now Week 6, and nearing half way through Season 12 of "Project Runway" (!) and to celebrate that the designers are treated to Tim Gunn in camouflage, and a glamping trip! I have never had a glamping excursion, however my cousin, a fashion editor, went and had a great time. My cousin and I are also "Gheny Girls," growing up spending summers at a camp in WVa, which is decidedly not glamping.

I would like to hope the nature would be more inspiring to the designers then the luxury tents and meals, but there are a lot of divas in this group…cough, Ken. There has been a lot of tension in the workroom, with heated discussions, back stabbing, drama, etc... It seemed like this visit to the woods chilled the designers out, and as Jeremy noted, "Out of the workroom, we all get along well." It looked like fun, and I'm jealous, I would have loved the break during my season. Although YAW—I have to admit this group is not that entertaining when they are not evil. Where was the good conversation, humor and beginnings of close friendships?

In typical "Project Runway" fashion, the challenge was vague, the gist came down to this: take inspiration of the woods, and create a high end fashion look. The designers head off to Mood (and Swatch) with a "suggested" (I really think it would have been more exciting to just let the designer’s have the one lump sum for the entire season...) budget of $300!

Back to the workroom, things have definitely quieted down a bit. That is until Ken throws in a zinger aimed at Alexandria, who last week came up with the funniest description of appeasement EVHUH, "I was just trying to pet the kitty," in explaining her working, and trying not to be sucked in to the drama vortex that is Ken. There are some interesting variations to the theme, Bradon sees moss, Ken seems to go for deep greens and reds to conjure up the water, Karen imagines a safari, Alexander sees the trees, Alexandria goes for the new modern with denim, and long johns, and Jeremy is writing a letter. Screech...huh? I suppose letters from home could be seen as part of the camping experience.

Tim comes in for his look around and we are limited to viewing just a few of his critiques. Karen is just too simple, Kate points out, rightly, that judges reward pushing your design, usually. (More on that later) She better step up her game or start packing. Justin decides to use a glue gun he purchased at Mood. Now those of you who have watched a number of seasons of "PR" know of the glue gun (as does Austin Scarlett and Anthony Ryan), but Justin really is using it in a new way, he is making lace with it. Brilliant! The problem is Justin, the fashion teacher, is following his "Edit, edit, edit," mantra too closely (Way too closely to be competing on TV). I like Justin, his designs are clean, and unadorned. He is a minimalist, and I tend to follow that aesthetic as well. One of my biggest influences on design was my direct boss at McQueen, he always told me every element of the design had to have a purpose, never put in a stitch, or adornment that had no purpose.

I feel Tim's critiques actually hurt Justin here with the message to, "Ramp it up a bit." Bradon is making...child's costume? It happens, one gets lost sometimes, I don't really think he's really in danger. "One day you're in, the next you're out," only goes so far. Judges are loth to cut favored designers that have stumbled. However, this dress is screaming Bottom Three.

Miranda is mimicking Alexander, with a simple long gown, but with some origami petals attached to the train. Maybe all that Army training is kicking in, no freak outs and it is not a pencil skirt. She seems to be improving this week and she's become a contestant. Ken is having issues with his design. It's just too heavy looking, and very awkward on the top. It has all the makings of another bottom three entry from Ken.

Runway time! Helen, though proud of her garment, she was the first of many to declare themselves the winner, produced a big nothing, abet with a slit in the back. Brandon, Bottom Three. This dress hardly seemed constructed. I mean he could have used stitch witchery and the provided Rowenta Steamstation and had the dress hemmed in 5 minutes!

Miranda, you have to give credit where credit is due, and she did a nice job. An interesting gown. It looked stunning on the model. Congrats. Ken, it looked like something from a renaissance fair. Bottom three, definitely, start folding your clothes and getting your suitcase out. Alexandria, great job, it had a modern denim jacket and long john inspired pant. It was as close to the target as anyone else got—odern and fashion forward. I wonder how it will be seen by the judges. They always speak about "fashion forward," harp on it in fact, yet rarely do they reward it.

Alexander, another surefire winner, if you listen to Mr. Pope. Me? Not so much. In fact I'd place Miranda's piece above this one. I have to agree with Mr. Posen—it was a beautiful black gown, but if you are going to go so simplistic then there should be interesting seaming and the straight seam mid-thigh is very first year fashion school. (And unflattering! Luckily he has a stunning model!)

Justin, while I liked his original take more (more minimalistic), I thought it was safe. Dom, a bit disappointed I must say—simple, not really much to do with the challenge, and rather blah. Karen, I thought this was safe. If anything, her take on it as a safari piece was closer to the target than a lot of the favored designers. Plus Nina's criticism that her model's hair looked sloppy? Have you very seen a tent up close Nina? (Also, Karen got blasted for having such a simplistic piece, but Bradon’s and Dom’s were very similarly constructed, but not as well done).

Kate does a poof piece baby doll dress that looks like a bad Marchesa knockoff, in addition to making the model look 9 months pregnant. Again, what has this design have anything to do with the outdoors? Jeremy, a gown with a note. Ugh.

So, top three are: Alexandria (yeah!), Jeremy and Alexander.

Bottom were Karen, Ken and Justin. Ken rightly earned his spot, while I disagree with Karen, and most strongly disagree with Justin in this position. He stepped out his zone, innovated, and went for it. It wasn't perfect, but it had adventure and creativity. Those should be touchstones for this show and these judges. What, we now reward simple and bland? Innocuous trumps innovative?

The winner is Alexandria! Yes, a modern designer is finally recognized! The judges got it right this time. Out? Justin!? What? His offenses were so minor to others on that runway, if not some in the waiting room. I think the producers, having the choice of Kate, a loud, annoying (that laugh!) red head, and Ken, an explosive drama queen, win out over a quiet more talented man.

The judges fell on their faces this time. It was an emotional farewell. I have to admit I was tearful as Tim, quite correctly I believe, gave his "Tim Gunn Save." It was an abominable decision and rightly corrected. I was surprised it came into play so early, but I do think the choice to save was correct. Justin and Alexandria have a story to tell. There's a few others, but many imposters. I hope Bunim/Murray Productions realize just that and let the professionals do their work.


Pathetic Passive-Aggression

Posted By laurareineke 4:43am GMT

It's week five of season 12 and the designers find themselves with another team challenge, and it's going to be an unconventional materials challenge to boot. What? Again? Really? I have to admit I am a little disappointed. I realize there is the constant complaint that "Runway" has just become a "make a pretty dress" contest. But to repeat a team challenge so soon (we're only five episodes in, folks), and a third visit to unconventional materials as well? I just question the logic. I don't think it gives designers an opportunity to show their talent, and I think it delays the departure of a lot of people that need to go home but will be saved by their team's work. Cough—Helen—cough.

Enough of the rant. The teams: Kate, Karen and Jeremy, the winning team! Oh, wait, it hasn't even started yet. Justin, Dom, and Helen make the second grouping. Alexander, Bradon, and Miranda are thrown together. And this week's dysfunctional team is Ken, Alexandria, and Sue. These teams were not picked at random. Anyone who has picked a bracket for the sweet 16 knows that you don't have the top teams play each other during the first rounds. The same logic is applied here. Kate, Karen, and Jeremy are two favorites (Kate, Jeremy), and a middling designer (Karen); there is no major weak link. This group has to be seen as a shoe-in. Justin, Dom, and Helen are bound to be safe, but Helen could wander into dress disaster. Alexander, Bradon, and Miranda -- now, Miranda is a weak link, no doubt, but the other two are calm heads. Ken, Alexandria, and Sue? This team has trouble written all over it. Ken and Alexandria have been taking pot shots at nearly every other designer, and Sue is the weakest link. Again I ask: What. Is. She. Doing. Here?

The designers are given their instructions: Visit two of three choices, a vintage wallpaper store, a specialty food store, or a combination home goods/party store. Come up with individual designs that look like they are part of one collection. One day challenge.

Kate, Karen, and Jeremy settle into a good rhythm. Justin, Dom, and Helen seem calm, and similarly are moving forward. Miranda is getting good guidance from her superiors. And Ken, Alexandria, and Sue are hitting the wall at the first store. Having experienced the dreaded team challenge in both my regular season and on "All Stars," my belief has always been there has to be a leader. I enjoy taking that role not because I long for power but because the team becomes a disaster if someone doesn't organize everyone's thoughts. Someone though has to channel everyone's energy, and focus on moving forward. I have been called bossy but have never been part of a team disaster. It is annoying to see all these teams fight when it is as simple as everyone expressing their ideas and focusing on a common thread.

A chastised Sandro makes a quiet and brief return to the workroom. Say what you will about him, but you have to respect that he was able to come forward and apologize.

Tim time! It's Ken, Alexandria, and Sue who get the full wrath of a rather irritated Tim Gunn. Quickly they turn on one another and cat fight during their critique. What a surprise, Sue is singled out for picking a conventional material, in a unconventional materials challenge. I have no sympathy for her, and I don't know if she has no more confidence in her ability, is just hoping to glide by, or is maybe hopelessly clueless. But I do know no one on her team tried to stop her. Each seems to be working by his or herself, with just enough interaction to get into fights. It's pathetic. Ken seems to move into some kind of diva "Don't look at me" craziness. Alexandria can't finish a sentence, let alone a thought. And Sue is just a belligerent fool. She can't make a pattern, she can't use a sewing machine, she is literally a liability to her teammates. (Kinda makes you reassess Sandro's reaction to her.) Tim asks her point blank if she's ever seen the show. What I want to know is how she got on the show. WHO DID THAT? WHY??

Runway show! Again, I just can't get excited. There are endless variations of a simple A-frame dress, some with wings, or belts, but all of them look similar. One day challenges will do that for you.

Alexander, Bradon and Miranda: A nice collection carried by one piece. Alexander created a look that was again too much, and again thought that he had "striking" look. Bradon seemed a good leader and helped a floundering Miranda get a decent result, a simple but well-constructed dress and beautiful pattern selections. Bradon was clearly the strongest of the group with a beautiful gown (although I would have eliminated the cross strap—it looked so dinky next to the skirt). He would have been the winner if his group had been a little stronger.

Justin, Dom, and Helen survive with their too-frugal collection. In a more talented group this would have been the bottom. Justin's look is polished but a little plain. Dom does a simple dress with sculpture at the shoulder, a little reminiscent of last week's look. Helen's dress looks like a design school project gone wrong. Again, in a stronger group she would be going home.

Sue, Ken and Alexandria and their complete disaster are next. Sue's look is horrible, but at least the cut out in the back is interesting. Ken's has some interesting pleating but overall falls short. I find Alexandria's top interesting. I know it was mentioned that the skirt looks good but I wasn't able to see the detail because it looked like a plain black skirt to me.

The team of Jeremy, Kate, and Karen showed some variety and had a gown. Besides, the team had Kate, one of the chosen ones this season. Jeremy has a nice dress, although I can't say I haven't seen it before. Karen's had a unique design that had good use of materials, and Kate had a strong look, although she played it safe with an all-black ensemble.

Surprise! Kate's group is the winner! Ken and the battling bickersons back-stabbed themselves into the bottom. And the knives come back out: Ken complains about Alexandria and Sue, and Alexandria complains about Ken and Sue. And Sue, so clueless, tells the judges she hand sews to perfection—this after it is revealed that her model left the workroom not dressed and helped sew Sue's disaster together in the bathroom. Oh, come on. You're not Coco Chanel. You're on what is essentially a game show. You've constantly been in the bottom, and you've been a passive-aggressive burden to your teammates in every team challenge.

Honestly, it just wasn't a fun episode. No one grabbed their unicorn, pulled up their socks, and declared they were ready to fight again. Ken wasn't cartoonish crazy, he was just a domineering jerk. Alexandria seems to have run out of steam. Once again I thought her top was clean and modern, but she just looked exhausted, and run down. And Sue just needed to go. She and her team just seemed so passive-aggressive and pathetic. It just seemed like an hour of rehashed drama, poor behavior, and very few "pretty dresses."