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Episode 6: Snoozefest

Posted By CaitlinBergmann 5:00am GMT

Zoe Glassner on episode six of

We’re winding down now, folks. Tonight’s episode marks number six for the “Project Runway” season, and it reduces the cast to the top 10. With it looking like we’re about to lose two heads next week, get ready for things to get interesting. But wait … that’s next week. This week, the breakout star of “Project Runway” was Zoe Glassner, editor from Marie Claire, for reworking the term “snorefest” so that I imagine it has the potential to be this season’s adoptable catchphrase du jour. Remember how WAY too many of you minced around after Season 4, labeling various fashion indignities “hot tranny messes”? Well, “snoozefest” could be the new “hot tranny mess.” So, avanti!

Oh lemmings, the herd has left for the coast. But seriously, I think this episode was the equivalent of that moment in a horror film where someone starts a conversation about which color to paint the den, right before the walls are splattered with the blood of a severed jugular. But there’s no gore this week — in fact, Horror, as a movie genre, was conspicuously absent, even though the designers got face time with Collier Strong, and a trip to the outside of a soundstage. Curious.

Strangely devoid of that signature “Project Runway” twist, this was a pretty straightforward challenge: Go make a movie costume for an invented female character, from one of the movie genres that we’ve identified on these cards. In the end, the designer who creates the outfit that looks the most hastily constructed goes home.

Christopher Straub's sleeveless designs on season six of

I really wanted the other shoe to drop on this challenge. I kept waiting for Faye Dunaway to come into the workroom brandishing a wire hanger, or for Meryl Streep to stop by and school them on the origins of “Cerulean Blue.” But there was no other shoe. In fact, there were many things that just didn’t quite add up on this episode. How did Althea escape the chopping block this week? Her Film Noir sportswear ensemble with the bell sleeves had hardly any Lauren Bacall, 1946, and way too much Bebe, Fall ’97. Irina, how do you hear “Film Noir” and think “poly-organza hooded cape!”? And then there’s sweet Christopher Straub, miraculously scoring again, maintaining the longest streak of sleeveless garments in “Project Runway” history. (See designs from episode three and six for evidence.) And this for a Victorian ensemble??!!!

By the way, for the record, I’d like to go down as the first to identify this David’s Bridal “static electricity” tucking technique as fashion’s H1N1 virus for this time period. I swear, in 10 years, we will look back at those wedding pictures and think Why did we ever think that was attractive?. But I digress. If we focus on all of these red herrings, we’re bound to miss the true culprit lurking in the shadows. Wait. I know — let’s split up and look for the killer!

If I pull back and look at the bigger picture, there is a subtle pattern forming that is quite telling when it comes to this episode, and it has to do with sportswear. Yes, classic American sportswear is again the “Keyser Söze” of “Project Runway.” I’ve said it before: What makes American fashion great is our approach to sportswear. There is nothing that we can do about dress design — the French have been doing it for hundreds of years longer than we have — but Americans invented sportswear. We still have the best knack for staying comfortable but looking pulled together, and full of complex, sophisticated textures. None of that is possible in a single garment. It has to be done with layers. It is this simple truth that stands as evidence of our influence upon global fashion, and it’s also what will most likely determine the winner of “Project Runway.”

Knowing this, it all starts to come into focus, doesn’t it? Hmmm. Althea: Underwhelming costume, but she created an outfit with three layered sportswear pieces. Epperson: In the top two, and maybe “robbed,” because his layered, tough-town, homestead woman truly evoked the Western era and told a story. But look closely — it was all done with layers. Even Chris Straub, I suspect, escaped the guillotine this week because he presented a layered ensemble. All the Action-Adventure outfits? Sportswear. Most chilling this week, in terms of sportswear, are the bottom three. C’est dommage, ça, because Louise, Ra’mon and particularly Gordana presented some rather impressive dressmaking skills this week. If you look back on Ra’mon’s offerings in the competition, you’ll see that when in distress, he makes a dress. And I believe this is the real reason that he went home.

Essentially, the judges have seen what he has to say as a designer, and it’s not sportswear. Nicolas Putvinski on episode six of As we get closer to Bryant Park, and closer to nominating a new voice in American design, don’t be surprised if it’s a sportswear designer. To experience any sort of success, the winner of “Project Runway” needs to start a line that isn’t solely aimed at the three confirmed events that American women require gowns for (Prom, Wedding and Coffin). Every successful American designer has found a way to get women to buy their clothes for something other than these three occasions.

That being said, look out, Nicolas Putvinski! It’s clear that you have been given immunity this week so that you can sit back and rattle off bitchilicious sound bites for those confessionals. Right now, sir, you’re walking down a dark hallway, and if you don’t turn around quick and make a jacket or some layered ensemble, you are going to come face to face with a guy holding a chainsaw and wearing a hockey mask. Wake up! Soylent Green is American sportswear! And, in this game, if you “snoozefest,” you lose fast.


Episode 5: You Lie!

Posted By CaitlinBergmann 10:47am GMT

Johnny Sakalis crying on episode five of project runway

I have been amused by the flurry of news stories surrounding Joe Wilson's outburst in Congress in the past week, and I was reminded of them when I saw this week's episode of "Project Runway." Contrary to popular belief, the hardest part of participating on a reality television show is not the loss of privacy, but rather the adherence to the truth that is demanded of you when all of your behavior is documented on video. It's Truth 2.0, essentially.

This week on episode five of "Project Runway," we saw poor Johnny Sakalis go down, and although his design skills paved the way for his descent (watch the "Project Runway" video extras — he has a crippling faith in the power of trims), it was his practice of manipulating reality that is no match for the challenges of the show.

When I was on Season 2 of "Project Runway," I quickly learned that "keeping something between you, me and the fencepost" doesn't actually work if there is a camera mounted on the fencepost at all times. So if you have something you want to say behind someone's back, you should just say it to their face, because they will find out about it eventually, since the whole thing is being filmed. It also means that if you've got something to say, it better be consistent or you'll get caught.

Evidently this is something that Johnny has learned, because he stays emphatically "on message" this week, trotting out his steam-iron stump speech and honing it until he gives the best version of it for the judges on the runway. Johnny Sakalis crying on episode five of project runwayAnd yet, even if his story is an honest representation of something that might have occurred in the workroom, it isn't exactly true.

Under the policies of Truth 2.0, honesty is no longer the best policy. You must also tell the truth. Using steam to shape a dress made out of paper is not a crazy idea; paper is a cellulosic fiber, so it should be respond to steaming, but also be vulnerable to it. However, regardless of the level of honesty Johnny's steaming story possesses, it is not the truth about why he discarded his first dress and rushed to design another in the last minute instead. (See photo.)

"Honestly," even if he suffered some horrible mishap in the workroom, the "Truth" is that Johnny's convictions for his designs crumble under the pressure of critique, and his subsequent design statements serve to accommodate what his sewing lacks in virtuosity. (Again, check out the "Project Runway" videos of his workroom conversations with Tim Gunn) With all of Johnny's outfits, except the one that he does with Irina, if you compare what he initially shows Tim with what he eventually sends down the runway, there is generally a stark difference between "before" and "after."

Instead of exploring how his initial design conviction might be augmented to address a question that Tim  raises, Johnny always opts to abandon that element entirely. In the pregnancy challenge (episode two), his dress has a small bolero (see image below) that he promptly discards after speaking with Tim. In the model challenge, he is excited about a trim that he also ends up abandoning when it fails to elicit affirmation from Tim. Finally, after Tim is underwhelmed with his newspaper dress, Johnny crumples up the whole thing and throws it in the trash.

Johnny Sakalis' original dress on episode two, the pregnancy challenge of Project Runway

And yet none of this is that terrible. People have doubts. They try one thing, and have to switch horses in midstream to avoid catastrophe. What is fascinating about "Project Runway" — and by extension, the digital age itself — is that duplicity is completely untolerated, and with cameras everywhere, and so many ways to check in, chat and update your status, it's now easier to spot the truth counterfeiters than it has ever been. When Tim comes backstage to send Johnny back to the workroom, there are no "goodbye hugs." There is no "we'll miss you"; it is stern negation and expulsion. As soon as Johnny leaves the room, Tim assures the group that, indeed, they were on to him all along, and that such falsehoods are "ridiculous."

Is it the end of Johnny Sakalis? I don't know, but do a GOOGLE SEARCH. The truth is out there.


The Answer To: "Where Is Andraé?"!

Posted By CaitlinBergmann 5:31pm GMT

Wow! So, it's "that time of year, when the world falls in love," and every song I hear seems to say, "Where's Andraé?" or, at least my Facebook Inbox does. Thanks to the clever antics of my fellow "Project Runway" designer Mr. Santino Rice, I've been deluged with this contemplation, annually, every time "Project Runway" begins to air. Although this will be the first time in a couple of seasons that I will have diligently watched the entire show (and apparently, I'm not alone), this year I am happy to write that I'll be traveling in print, alongside the rest of you on myLifetime.com.

Great Scott! How the world has changed since Season 5 of this show! Can you believe the cataclysm of world events that have befallen us since that adorable Leanne Marshall delicately gavotted to victory over a year ago? Huge bastions of American finance and auto manufacturing have imploded or otherwise been brought to their knees. We have skyrocketing unemployment numbers. There is also a new sheriff in the Whitehouse. But the big development for all you "Project Runway" fans is that we are finally getting to see this mysterious "lost" season of the show.

Indeed, what an incredible treat this is going to be! Many people thought that this season might never air. And even though we've already seen images of the finale collections online, that inner voyeur in all of us remains unsatisfied. It's as infuriating as that trip to Disneyland that Paris, Prince Michael I and Prince Michael II took in 2006 — we were allowed to see the clothes, but we just couldn't see their faces.

However, now we'll finally get the chance to piece all the juicy details together, and hurl stones at these people from the anonymous comfort of our Internet keyboards. How much fun it will be to finally see their foibles up close and personal, speculate on who is sleeping with whom, and denigrate the value of their work, despite the obstacles of harsh time constraints, sleep deprivation and foreign materials.

Or maybe not . . . this is Lifetime. Perhaps there is something good in all of us. Perhaps there is such a thing as the triumph of the human spirit. Perhaps, just maybe, there comes a day when every Connie Sellecca finally gets her John Tesh. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for that day,"and this song of mine, in three-quarter time, wishes you and yours the same thing too."