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It’s the dreaded “everyday woman” challenge. I cringe every season when this one comes up. It’s always a difficult one for the designers. Designing under the time constraints of “PR” are hard enough; now let’s pile on the demands of a client, a less-than-perfect figure to camouflage, and the emotional baggage of a person who isn’t paid to keep her opinions to herself. And no matter how hard a designer works to make a fabulous dress for his larger client, the thinnest girl in a just-average dress will win. That being said, my sympathy is limited. At some point in every designer’s career, they are going to have to learn to deal with clients real women wearing real sizes. The world isn’t full of six-foot tall girls with 35-inch hips.
My real sympathy lies with the women. Their traumatic experience usually begins with the playground pick. Just like the best athletes, the thin women get chosen first, as the heavy ones stand there in an ever-thinning crowd. Everyone knows exactly what is going down Heidi, the designers, the producers, the women but no one acknowledges how wrong the whole thing is. These poor women didn’t sign up for this. Every season when this challenge comes around, I cringe.
Thankfully, there were some improvements to this year’s version of the challenge. The usual painful playground pick was modified. Because men were standing up on the runway being chosen and their wives or girlfriends came sight unseen, the thin-to-fat picking order was avoided. Maybe the hottest guys were chosen first, but I didn’t see anything offensive. The men certainly didn’t seem uncomfortable; they were just too excited to be standing within five feet of Heidi.
Another great improvement was the relatively homogeneous group of women. Some were a bit older than others, but no one looked bigger than a size 6, or 8 at the most; they were all attractive and stylish, and everyone seemed equally comfortable with their bodies. No one stood out as being painfully self-conscious. All in all, the designers couldn’t have hoped for a lovelier group of women to work with. The only designer who had any trouble with his client at all was Olivier, and that was his fault, not hers. His fear of breasts, and panic at the thought of having to veer away from his color palette or jacket-with-skinny-pant silhouette, are what gave him problems, not his client.
I’m not sure how much the addition of the men added to the design process, but it was cute to see them interact with the designers on behalf of their other half, and I guess the producers couldn’t just ask them to leave after the runway pick. It was interesting to see which ones seemed involved and which ones just wanted to talk about boobs. My favorite was Anthony Ryan’s guy, who wisely used this opportunity to make things right in the universe and replace a lost dress. Anthony kindly complied, and the results were less than stellar, but his client was thrilled. Bert’s client was also clearly happy with her dress. She was practically glowing, and her pure joy surely kept him safe on the runway. Viktor’s guy was all over it. The similarities between Victor’s outfit and the one his client arrived in were uncanny. That couple would win “The Newlywed Game.”
Despite the improvements to the humiliation factor, the thinnest girl still wins in a just-OK dress. Joshua’s dress for his client won not because it was a great dress, but because it wasn’t tacky. Just as Laura pointed out, it was a circle skirt with a bodice. No different than Bert’s dress, really; it could be found in any department store. I found the lace trim to be inexpensive-looking, but overall it was fine, and it was definitely the least tacky of Joshua’s entries this season. That dress in any other season would have won only if it were made of seaweed and licorice during the unconventional challenge. I have a feeling a lot of Anya fans are going to be angry about this outcome.
It was time for Bryce to go. Even he knew it. The boy has produced nothing good all season. His client was happy, but she was an adorable girl and there was no reason he couldn’t have made her look great. He vows to go back home and sketch until he comes up with a great collection, but I’m not sure there is enough paper in the world.
Notable Quotables: (things my commenters said last week that made me spit coffee on my keyboard)
“I am so tired of watching that tacky DayGlo narcissist ...”
“If his designs were as arch as his eyebrows ...”
“... Please stop having these ‘I may not know fashion but I know what I like’ actresses as judges.”
I will be on Derek and Romaine of Sirius XM Satellite Radio OutQ 108 on Friday, September 16 at 7 pm EST talking about this season of “Project Runway.” You are welcome to call in and participate by calling 866-305-6887. A free online trial of Sirius is available at www.siriusxm.com
Coming this fall to Lifetime, it's "Project Joshua"! Joshua struggles personally and professionally to make his dream of becoming a fashion designer come true! Watch as he develops a pattern of behaving badly toward others, and then insincerely apologizing! Be amazed as he simultaneously plays the bully and the victim! Talks tough and then cries! Curses and then admonishes others for cursing! And most astounding of all, watch as this designer uses the death of his mother to explain away all of his antics! It's tasteless fashion! It's blatant insecurity! It's "Project Joshua"! Viewer discretion is advised.
I can't think of a more annoying character from "Project Runway" to be the focus of an episode, much less an entire season. This week, right out of the gate he irritates me by declaring how angry he is that his burning bush didn't win the last challenge. His exact quote was "The fact that I came in second in the avant-garde challenge is still pissing the shit out of me." In a season where every week's winner is merely the least crappy garment on the runway, just hanging in there should be your goal. Trust me, in any previous season, a faux-bois neoprene circle skirt in flames, complete with smoke netting headdress, would have been in the bottom.
Joshua seamlessly segues into trying to appoint himself leader of a team challenge with no leaders, continuing his irksome behavior. He then gives good reason for a Tacky Hall of Fame nomination by suggesting that the team's inspiration be the Village People. I can already hear Michael Kors with that one "It looks like a bunch of drunk transvestites threw up on the Village People!" I'm not sure, but I think he may have also failed Gay 101 by not knowing what costumes the Village People wear. I'll have to consult my gays.
Keeping in character, Joshua attacks Bert for of all things using a "swear word." He feels that people who use "swear words" are unintelligent. Note his exact quote above. I didn't go back through any previous episodes, but I bet I could find more than a few additional examples. Joshua, frustrated by Bert's existence, threatens to forfeit the whole thing. I am hopeful, but alas, his buddy Laura talks him down. Damn, so close. For a moment there I thought we could just get back to bad fashion.
Next Joshua treats us to his 27th insincere apology of the season. No one is buying it, but Bert graciously accepts it anyway. Joshua claims this ugly person is not who he is, but this is who we keep seeing.
The climax of "Project Joshua" comes when he has an emotional breakdown during a call to his father. On our normal show the climax might happen on the runway, but not this season. Joshua misses his mother. He wasn't able to travel home as often as he would have liked. Pursuing his dream in New York prevented him from being with his mom when she died. I believe his emotions are real. I believe he regrets not spending more time with his mother. I believe he is in pain. I do not believe any of this is an excuse for his bad behavior.
Joshua's emotional catharsis is helpful, and the team pulls together for a moment, but not soon enough to save the fashion. Not surprisingly, Team Joshua's Nuts is in the bottom. Good Joshua disappears, and Evil Joshua rears his ugly head again as he explains to Becky that she doesn't deserve to be there because, unlike him, she doesn't have a clear vision. We are to assume that tacky circle skirts are now visionary. Kimberly, Bert and Laura are safe. In the smackdown of the season, Joshua is standing there on the runway with Becky, waiting to see who gets aufed. Becky is sent to the workroom to turn off the light switch (that doesn't exist) underneath the table.
You might think I would be disappointed with the outcome and scream "producer interference," but jacket for jacket, I admit that Joshua's jacket was more interesting than Becky's. I am actually more confounded as to why Anya won for Team Chaos. Her dress wasn't as good as Olivier's jacket or Viktor's gown. The inspiration idea was Anthony's. Why didn't they get the win? Tune in next week, same time, same place, to "Project Joshua" and find out.
A Note to Commenters: I do read your comments! Every single one! Just like you, I am a fan of the show and I love to read your opinions, even when you disagree with me. I am constantly amazed by how funny your comments are, and by the great observations you make that I totally missed.
Those of you who hate the drama and watch "Project Runway" for the fashion got your wish this week. There was absolutely no drama. The designers seemed so intent on being nice to each other that they went out of their way to compliment contestants they have spent the last four episodes smack-talking. Viktor likes Bert's outfit? Joshua thinks Becky's design is nice? It's a "Project Runway" parallel universe.
In lieu of any athletic races, playground dodgeball-team-picking drama, rule breaking or general badmouthing to speak of, I am going to go straight to the runway.
First on the runway was Kimberly's Phoenix rising from the ashes or angry parrot. Either way, the outfit was successful. The asymmetry didn't look forced and seemed to flow from the feather embellishment, which looked well integrated not tacked on. The styling was sleek and minimal and was the perfect backdrop for the feathered pleather.
Next up was Becky. I liked the painting much more than the garment it inspired. For some reason she chose to use just one of the colors zooming through the painting's solar system, and I think the scattered idea would have benefited from more color. The embellishments, which looked totally tacked on, went from over-constructed cubes to under-constructed squares of fabric to holes. Unlike on Kimberly's garment, Becky's asymmetrical hem just kind of hung there and didn't seem to have a resolution or stem from the design idea. Conceptually, Becky and Kimberly's entries were very similar, with Kimberly's being the clear front-runner.
Olivier has a very clear aesthetic and a strong point of view. In order to please the judges or meet the criteria of the challenge, he tried to expand his horizons and got really lost. The painting he was working from was vibrant and colorful, and I'm not sure how he would have interpreted its use of color into his palette, but the result was dismal. It was as if he thought that a lack of structure equaled vibrant color, and the result was not nearly as successful as the painting.
I liked the overall silhouette of Joshua's burning/dying tree, and I definitely think he improved on the rather dismal inspiration painting. The proportions were perfection. I wasn't as crazy as the judges were for his hand-painted neoprene tree bark fabric or the cutesy carved initials. I found them both to be too literal and too crafty, and would have preferred he found a fabric to convey the tree bark vibe. I think Joshua has serious taste issues, but he does seem to be able to walk the line between interesting and tacky just enough to keep himself out of trouble with the judges.
This outfit was my least favorite. His sketch was so much better than his final garment. The pants needed to be soft to work, not that I am ever going to admit that MC Hammer pants "work." The embellishment was a nightmare, completely tacked-on and just ugly. The colors were ugly, the fabrics were ugly, and even the construction of the pieces with the contrasting serged edges was just ugly. He wasn't able to achieve the proportions of his sketch and instead came up with some strange maternity jumpsuit covered in puffy pillows. Oh Bert, you have let us down.
Viktor seems to be a bit all over the place. I don't question that he has taste, it's just that after six episodes I don't know where he's coming from. His dress this week was fine, but haven't we seen it before? Like, many times? And what does this flowing woven ruched number have to do with the strictly tailored top and skirt he made for Nina (which, by the way, I have also seen before)? At the moment, what we have in Viktor are sewing and interpretive skills, not a clear design voice. He needs to pick a direction and stick with it.
The judges were crazy about Laura's floral interpretation in organza, but I wasn't buying it. How many seasons ago was Christian Siriano on? Or Leanne Marshall? How can that loose wavy ruffle technique still be considered avant-garde when it's been around "Project Runway" for five seasons? Heidi fell hook, line and sinker for the "hard and soft exposed structure" bit, but again, it was nothing new to me. Laura's color choice has been unsophisticated from the very first challenge, and this dress in this fabric and color, cut short, belongs in a mall.
I have yet to see anything Bryce does that doesn't belong firmly in the middle or in the flat-out bottom. I think he was on to a good idea with the straight jacket to convey the haunted feeling in his inspiration painting, but his execution had none of the tortured qualities. The color seemed a choice out of left field, and I will never get my head around why he chose to make the bottom of a flamenco dress. Boy needs to head to the workroom and pack his things.
It didn't really matter what Josh C sent down the runway, he was going to be sent home. It's the unwritten rule of "Project Runway": He who gets eliminated and then returns is eliminated at the very next aufing. I did like the way he had the hairstylist do his model's hair.
Anthony's dress was my favorite of the episode, but it wasn't without its problems. The concept was simple and elegant always the most successful kind. I had a bit of a problem with the execution. I felt the applied "brushstrokes" looked like felt pieces cut out for a Halloween costume. They didn't have the handmade, high-end feel that they could have. I understand that in two days you can't do a week's worth of hand work, and based on the concept and color choice alone, I agree that he deserved the win.
Last out on the runway was Anya. I did like her outfit. I found the skirt volume to be interesting, and her choice of varied fabrics all worked well together. The use of the feather trim was a bit expected, but overall I think she did a great job constructing a garment that is trickier to make than it looks, and it was a great interpretation of the painting.
I have always been realistic about "Project Runway." When fans tell me, "I hate all the drama, I just watch it for the fashion," I remind them that as great as "Project Runway" is, the show is not really about finding the next great fashion designer. If it were, there would be a lot of new famous and successful designers out there, and I doubt that even three of the previous eight season winners are still in the business. The goal of the producers is to create great television, and the show works because season after season it is a mix of interesting characters interacting with each other and managing to remain creative despite a lack of time, materials, money, sleep and whatever else the producers can think of to throw at them. The fighting, backbiting, jealousy and smack-talking are all normal reactions to the stressful environment of the designers, and it's tolerable, as long as we get our fashion. Take the fashion away and we might as well be watching "Temptation Island."
With very few exceptions, I find the fashions of this season to be very, in the words of the Great Orange One, underwhelming, so it's the bickering and drama that stand out. Perhaps great design is there, and when a few more of the less talented contestants get eliminated I will be able to focus on the good work but not this week. This week's episode featured drab greige fabrics in bunched, shredded and wrinkled pedestrian gym-to-grocery-store designs. Viktor and Kimberly's entries were exceptions. I found them to be polished and professional-looking, perhaps because of the well-made jackets. I also liked Bert's asymmetrical top or I think I did. Anything would have looked good next to this week's craptastic work of Anthony Ryan and Laura. Again, what's bad is so bad that I have trouble focusing on what's good.
Making the designers run for team leadership positions didn't help. Whose idea was that, anyway? "Project Runway" is a design competition, not a physical competition. Did anyone really think the four youngest males were not going to win? And the paramedic scene with poor Olivier was just embarrassing truly a low moment in "PR" history.
I don't want to be completely negative. There were some redeeming personality moments in this episode. Cecelia stepped aside because she felt she was taking an opportunity away from a more passionate designer, and Heidi handled the situation well. Viktor and Olivier were given the opportunity to bring back an eliminated designer; they chose Josh C. because they felt he would appreciate the opportunity to learn more, and not for some calculating competitive reason like they didn't see him as a personal threat. Josh M., sincere or not, apologized to Becky for the way he treated her, and jumped in to take responsibility for the design of her garment when it looked like she was in trouble on the runway. And lastly, Anya and Becky didn't bitch when Josh M. won because of a garment he neither designed nor sewed.
It isn't much, but it does give me hope for the human race, and it's enough to keep me watching the rest of the season.
Yeah! For the first time in the history of "Project Runway," the designers are going to design a garment for Nina Garcia. For the first time in "Project Runway" history, the garment needs to transition from a day at the office to a nighttime industry event. For the first time in "Project Runway" history, the winning garment will be featured in an ad on New York City taxicabs and in an editorial in Marie Claire magazine. Despite all the "first time in histories," this season is feeling really stale to me.
Nina starts out by giving the designers a list of her likes and dislikes. She likes tailored clothes. She doesn't like volume, muted colors, bright colors, pattern, short, long, tight, loose, flashy, boring or "Dynasty." After 30 minutes of sketching, each designer has an individual consultation with Nina to present their ideas and get valuable feedback. Nina did appear open to some of their ideas, but she asked for Plan B so many times I started to think the whole episode was a commercial for the morning-after pill.
The designers head off to Mood, where Anya chooses mustard yellow, Cecilia chooses what she thinks is purple, and Becky and Anthony choose the same fabric. Fabricgate is a non-happening. Yes, Mood is a big store with a lot of fabric to choose from, but they do display some rolls of fabric standing in the aisles, and these are much easier to see. It is perfectly possible that two designers grab the same fabric, especially if it screams "Nina Garcia" the way their fabric did. No drama here, citizens; go back to your lives.
It's off to Parsons, where the designers get to work. Any amount of encouragement or hope Nina gave the designers during their individual consultations was snatched away from them in an instant when she came to the workroom. She slammed the fabric choices, the silhouettes, and the general idea of just about every designer in the room.
"Do you like this fabric?"
"What if I did this?"
"Is this better?"
"What if I change that?"
"I could try it this way."
The designers now fall into two camps: those who can come up with Plan B and respond to Nina's critique, and those who at this point in the competition don't have the energy or the wherewithal or the dye to do anything about it.
For the first time in "Project Runway" history (there it is again), Tim comes to the sewing room to remind the designers that they have two hours left to send their models to the L'Oreal makeup room and the Garnier hair salon. For the first time in "Project Runway" history, he forgets to tell them to use the Piperlime accessory wall thoughtfully!
Anya and Julie are running out of time, so Laura and Cecilia (respectively) decide to help them finish their garments. Despite Viktor's horror, Assistancegate is also a non-happening. It is not against the rules for one designer to help another. Whether you see it or not, it happens all the time.
Joshua makes a dress with a built-in apron all it is missing is big patch pockets. Bryce doesn't like the hem on his dress, but it is by far his best entry to date, and for the first time this season he actually earns himself a place in the middle. Bert makes a little black dress nothing wrong with it, but nothing right either. Olivier surprises no one with a neutral color-block jacket and cropped pant. Becky and Anthony are both safe because neither of them made use of the fabulous fabric they shared. Laura narrowly escapes the bottom with a Christmas number that is mysteriously unwrapping itself.
Anya makes it to the top with a brown jumpsuit that looks to me like a high school sewing-class project. It's backless, so it can't be worn to the office during the day, and it's the color of poo-poo, so it can't be worn by anyone fashionable at night. Nina is impressed by how she came up with a Plan B and saved herself from mustard-yellow hell. Let's give a shout-out to Joshua, who gave Anya the idea to dye the fabric. Viktor makes it to the top with a modern black top and skirt. Seen before, but modern. Kimberly successfully takes in all of Nina's critique and wins the challenge with a sparkling gold brocade asymmetrical top and navy blue pants (so I'm told they looked black on my screen). We are informed by the experts that this top is transformative and great things will happen when one wears this to work. It looks more evening than office to me, but I do admit it looks like Nina.
Danielle is in trouble because she made another chiffon church-lady blouse. This is the same church-lady blouse that got her in the top three last week, so go figure. Cecilia is in the bottom with a classic potato sack. We all now know that the expression "You are so pretty you could wear a potato sack and look good" is not true. The model looked awful, and I think Cecilia should have been the one to go home and so, incidentally, did she. Julie is sent home with an asymmetrical coatdress of muted grays and orange. I actually liked the garment. It may have looked much worse in person than it did on TV, but I think there was some impressive tailoring and interesting seaming. I'm sorry to see Julie go. I had picked her as one to watch.
So for the third week in a row, I agree with the judges' pick for the win, but totally have issues with their choice for the auf. Stay tuned: I got a hot tip that next week features some serious drama, for the first time in "Project Runway" history.
It’s the first time ever in the history of “Project Runway!” Not the outside runway show, but the fact the not one garment in the episode had a single redeeming quality! They all sucked: the top three, the bottom three and the one in the middle. Picking the winner and loser was only a matter of choosing the ones that sucked the least and the worst. Even the judges had more criticisms than complements for the winning garment.
And whose idea was it to have creepy, malformed people as models? Don’t the producers know the circus scares people? The models did their best and tried to add some drama for the designers, but those stilts made it impossible for them to move gracefully. Their jerking motions were so distracting. On a runway, a models walk can make or break an outfit—these outfits didn’t stand a chance. This was not fashion illustration come-to-life; it was creepy freak show people with awkward artificial limbs.
The Ones That Sucked the Most
It’s official: I have broken up with Bert. Bert was obnoxious to Viktor. He made no attempt to work as a team from the start. He kept saying it wasn’t his design, and wasn’t his direction but it didn’t matter, the design was doomed at Mood when they chose the fabric.
I also had a problem with the way Josh treated Julie. It looked to me like Julie was making a huge effort to be a team player. She came up with a concept, did most of the work, took direction well, and was completely open to Josh’s need for tacky embellishments. It pissed me off when he told Heidi that if they were to lose, Julie should be the one to go. Choosing that tacky black and white zigzag fabric alone is an offense punishable by auf wiedersehen.
Bryce is obsessed with grain. Actually a bodice cut off grain will have some give and could actually fit better. If he saw that she was having trouble with the construction he should have stopped making his tutu and helped her instead of gossiping about her lack of training and the importance of cutting on the grain. And grain or not, there was nothing about that outfit that Bryce contributed that was successful. Fallene was tired and her spirit was broken and Bryce’s fabric grain lecture pushed her over the edge. Personally, I think Bryce let Fallene down, not the other way around. I laughed when she said she felt like there was a black cloud over her—there was! It was Bryce’s huge tulle tutu! For the second week in a row, I think Bryce should have been sent home.
The One That Sucked In the Middle
The Ones That Sucked the Least
Cecilia and Danielle. WTF? The hair, the fabric, the color combination, the Mormon collar, the out-of-left-field jewels. I don’t get anything about it and I certainly don’t understand what Kim Kardashian got about it. In my season a talented designer named Allison was sent home because she sent a model down the runway with bad hair. This episode’s fashion was so bad that strange inflated hairdos have to be completely overlooked just to eek out a top three.
Anthony and Laura produced a “Mad Max” feather-shouldered, red flowing number. Fine, give them the win. It was the best of the worst. If only because it looked the least circus like and their model was the most successful mover on the runway. It was gracious of Anthony to recommend Laura for the win. He’ll have other chances. I will be surprised to see Laura in the winners circle again.
I have singled out garments and labeled them the worst outfit on “Project Runway” to date, but for the first time in the history of “Project Runway”, I declare this the worst runway show ever.
Let's get this straight right from the start: Anthony's dress was not constructed of birdseed. It was constructed of muslin, which is a textile not purchased at the pet store, and embellished with birdseed. I'm not saying the end result wasn't spectacular, I'm just saying his holier-than-thou attitude and him being all "I didn't go for leashes or fabric like everybody else" makes me want to slap him until he is rocking none.
The Unconventional challenge is always my favorite challenge of the season. I love it when a designer's DNA shows through so clearly despite the use of wacky materials. These challenges push the designers out of their comfort zone and tend to separate the wheat from the chaff. The successful results tend to be some of the best work all season and certainly the most memorable (Austin's Season 1 Corn Husk dress, a "Project Runway" icon), and the unsuccessful ones are bad beyond comprehension. Either way, it makes great television.
Upon entering the pet store, Tim gave the designers the advice that the judges don't respond well to fabric. "You don't want your look to be a reconstructed dog bed." (Cut to Bert asking for help reaching a dog bed, the best editing moment of the episode.) I don't think this advice is exactly accurate. What the judges don't like is when you use a fabric with no manipulation. The perfect example was Bryce's straight-out-of-the-box wee-wee pads versus Viktor's dyed-and-manipulated-beyond-recognition wee-wee pads. But really, what they go for is a garment that doesn't look like it's made from crazy materials, whether the fabric came from a dog bed or not. Personally, I would much rather see a top made of dog bed fabric or a skirt made of reptile carrier fabric than a complete muslin garment hot-glued in aquarium decor.
We did learn a lot about the designers in this challenge. Bert was disappointing. I was thinking Mrs. Robinson but, Viktor described it as Shirley MacLaine playing the hooker, which was accurate too. It definitely had a sixties boudoir vibe in a really bad way. I am rooting for Bert after all, 102-year-olds have to stick together but if he is going to be this hit-or-miss, I will be forced to leave him for a younger man. Anya is turning out to be a one-note. Her entry was successful, but I need to see something other than a halter-top from her next week. Laura has questionable taste. Her cone skirt was assy, not classy. All those upper-class single-digit years in Neiman Marcus taught her nothing. I did like the texture of her do-over cardboard skirt, though. Julie is one to watch. She was passed by on the runway, but her manipulation of the dog food bags was impressive, and she seemed to understand how best to use the material she created. She does seem to be plagued by self-doubt, which doesn't suggest that she will fare well in the long run. Cecelia, Kimberly and Danielle, for the second week in a row, have sent out outfits that are mediocre at best. I don't see any of them sticking around for long.
The top two garments were fabulous. Both were modern and more than a little reminiscent of the late, great Alexander McQueen. In the Heidi vs. Nina showdown, I was with Nina and believed Olivier should take the win, but I had issues with Anthony's attitude this week. Heidi wanted to give the win to Anthony. In a Heidi/Nina knockout and we have seen these before (last season Heidi wanted Mondo to win, but Nina held out to give it to Gretchen) Heidi always eventually gives in to Nina.
While I agree with the judges' top two garments and the dilemma that ensued, I disagreed with some of their other choices to be left standing on the runway. Standoff. I don't think Joshua's aquarium gravel garment deserved to be in the top. While his skirt was palatable, there was nothing tasteful about that top. It came right out of a Cyndi Lauper '80s video with no modern update. I also hate his overwrought shoes. I would have instead chosen Viktor's fitted ruched dress. I may be an autumn on the Color Me Beautiful wheel, but I didn't think Fallene's garment was so horrible. The silhouette was simple, but that was hardly the biggest crime on the runway; the top two silhouettes were simple too. I didn't find the color to be so offensive and I certainly didn't associate it with candy-corn teeth.
To me the worst offenders were Bryce and Josh C., and in my mind Bryce was the loser with his grade-school craft project. But alas, he stays. On to the next challenge.
The season starts out with a sort of designer speed dating where we get a quick meet-and-greet of 20 potential contestants. Heidi (looking better than ever), Tim, Michael and Nina have to decide which 16 of the 20 designers present will make it to the workroom.
There are too many designers to learn too much about them, but here are a few highlights:
Serena cancelled her chic destination wedding in Iceland to be here. Anya, a former Miss Universe contestant from Trinidad or Tobago, can or can't sew, and may or may not have sewn the clothing on her rack. Rafael, an Indian version of Ringo Starr, is convinced Nina wants to have sex with him, as evidenced by her "talking sex eyes."
Olivier doesn't have to show any of his clothes; he can stay because he is cute and Heidi likes his accent (confession: I said the same thing when I met him during his audition). Gunnar Deatherage has to go home, not because his fashion is bad, but because his name is too violent for the show to get a PG rating. Anthony is a testicular cancer survivor. Note to Anthony: When Heidi says she wants your knitted animal neckwear, hand it over. This is a competition. Giving your scarf to a judge/host/producer will get you much farther than "rocking one."
Things go rather smoothly in the workroom. There is plenty of fabric and notions and closures, so the challenge is not especially challenging. Drama is at a minimum, because the designers aren't bone-tired yet and still have stores of adrenaline to work from. Being in the honeymoon phase, everyone is getting along quite well, but according to next week's previews, we jump right ahead to the seven-year mark and things deteriorate quickly.
Anya, the beauty queen virgin, reminds us over and over again (and everyone else she speaks to) that this is her first time. She was saving herself for "Project Runway." Rafael is warned by Tim that his head wrap had better make it off his head and onto his garment or his bowl cut will be shown the door. ("Project Runway" historians, refer to the Hermès scarf incident, Season 2, Episode 2, "Clothes Off Your Back.") But despite this explicit warning and historical precedent for being sent home for this exact action, he is still too vain to reveal his unfinished high-maintenance hairdo.
I'm not sure what qualifies Christina Ricci to be a judge. Perhaps it is her unusually large forehead that gives her accelerated intellectual powers and superior knowledge of all things fashion. More likely it's just because she wears clothes. I do admit that with her help the judges generally get it right. The top three deserve to be there, and the bottom three definitely deserve to be there. With one exception. To borrow a quote from Tim, I don't want to sexualize everything, but am I the only one who noticed that the front of Anthony's skirt is sporting a large patch of pubic hair? It's a merkin.
Bert (straight out of Central Casting to play the role of distinguished older designer; think Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, Bob Mackie) takes the win with an adorable twist-wrap asymmetrical dress, of orange (gingham) and gray, which exactly matches Tim's outfit. I love Bert, and he is my pick to take the whole thing. No surprises here.
Rafael is sent home for a hot mess of ill-fitting sweatpants. The good news is that now that he has been eliminated, Nina is free to pursue her sexual conquest of him without breaking any "fairness in competition" laws.
Fans all over the country are swearing that this is it. This time, really, they are no longer going to watch “Project Runway.” I’ve heard this many times before (I read the comments section), but this time, people may really tune out. Never has such an unpopular contestant won the whole shebang.
I’m sure that Gretchen’s mom loves her. I’m sure she thinks Gretchen is the greatest thing to come along since penicillin or nicotine gum but I would be hard-pressed to find more than a few people who agree with that. Not only is the general consensus that Gretchen’s colorless global-hippie look is unappealing, but she doesn’t rate very highly in the personality department either. Her super-high opinion of herself, along with her habit of offering unsolicited advice, didn’t endear her to her fellow designers or the viewing audience. I think the term “Kvetchin’ Gretchen” was used quite freely on the Internet. (I looked up “kvetch” in the Yiddish dictionary, and it means “complainer.”)
Gretchen did well early on in the competition. I didn’t always agree with her wins (remember the plain black dress with the beady shoulder pads, and the jumpsuit with elastic at the ankles and the retractable neckline?), but the judges liked her aesthetic and especially her styling. We could rename this season “Project Stylist” for all the talk of styling victories and failures. But she lost her mojo and had nothing impressive to send out after challenge number four or five. Personally, she lost me after the party store challenge.
Mondo, who gained strength as the season drew to an end and endeared himself to the audience not only with his colorful creations, but with his personal struggles and short-shorts, was the clear winner for the season. In fact, he was so far ahead, in the viewers’ minds, that when I was doing a radio interview last week on the Derek and Romaine Show about the season in general, we didn’t even talk about who we thought would win. Instead we debated the entire time about whether or not we thought that Michael Costello was an idiot, or an idiot savant. (By the way, Michael called in and made it clear that he is an idiot by practically accusing his mother of emotional abuse during Tim’s visit on national TV and then wondering why she hadn’t called.)
Don’t get me wrong; I have enjoyed this season just more for the drama than the fashion. I’m not one of those who claim they only watch “Project Runway” for the creative process. And as much as I love Mondo, I did start to lose interest when it looked like a wrap four challenges ago. When I was watching the finale episode, with all its interview-segment tears and “this is my dream,” I was wondering what the hell I was going to write about. My particular flavor of wit tends to work best when there is a bit of controversy involved. For me, a model not showing up is not drama, it’s expected. There wasn’t even any significant product placement that I could make fun of. HILTON.
But then! This article was practically handed to me on a silver platter! It was a judging cage fight a showdown, with Heidi and an unrecognizable Jessica Simpson in one corner making sense, and Nina and Michael talking smack in the other. It’s like Nina woke up one day and took back everything she had said to Mondo all season or all designers of all seasons. “Gretchen has no color, and we want color; no, we mean color was yesterday.” “That’s so mumsy, and we want youthful; no, it’s too youthful. Youthful is yesterday.” “That’s clothing, not fashion. This show is about fashion. Who wears fashion? It should be commercial! Fashion is so yesterday.” Mondo = Seth Aaron = what was happening yesterday. (By the way, Nina, way to support your choice just six months ago of Seth Aaron as the next great fashion designer.)
Heidi and Jessica hold fast to their position in support of Mondo. Heidi punches Nina in the stomach while Jessica holds her down, but Michael Kors moves in to support Nina with an intellectual uppercut, and the two dumb blondes fall to the mat, taking all of America, with the exception of Gretchen’s mother, with them.
Gretchen’s win is not good for “Project Runway.” Who would travel to a mall to meet Gretchen? Which is exactly where Nina thinks she should be. Viewers in my season were hotly divided. There weren't ardent supporters for Team Uli, or Team Michael. The old gals and the gays were on Team Laura, and hated Jeffrey, but Team Jeffrey was a million strong and just as adamantly against Team Laura. Team Mondo is at full capacity. Team Gretchen is now accepting applications.
In previous seasons, we have seen two designers sent home to make a final collection knowing that they are still competing for a spot in the finals, but this season, all of the spaces are up for grabs, so the stress/torture level is at DEFCON 10. No one is feeling secure, and the joy that we usually see with Tim's home visits is lacking from this episode. We are not treated to Tim on a trampoline.
The first visit is to Andy in Hawaii. Someone must have given Tim a heads up regarding Andy's environs, because he packed his Wellies. When I hear "Hawaii," I think "pineapple-based drinks on the lanai," not "catfish farm." I was instantly reminded of Jay McCarroll and his small town in Pennsylvania. It's intriguing to find out that Andy's hard-edged, urban looks come from this rural setting.
It may not be much to look at from the outside, but Andy has carved himself out quite a studio space on the farm, and he and Tim get down to business. The problem is, there's no "there" there. Andy has nothing but a few fabrigami details on a dress form and some headgear. Tim can't be of much help.
By contrast, Michael C. is up to his usual modus operandi, making two garments for every one that he needs. He has two racks of clothes, looking a lot like his work from the season. Having more time to work is yielding more garments, not necessarily better garments. Tim advises him to edit.
Tim is off to Denver to meet with Mondo, who is melding "The Day of the Dead" with the circus, which for anybody else would give us dead clowns, but Mondo can do this and his collection looks fine. Very Mondo. Very expected.
Gretchen's hippy has gone global. To sum it up, no surprises.
The designers return to New York where they gather at the HILTON. The HILTON has provided them with a swanky suite. The HILTON has also offered all four designers a trip for two at the HILTON of their choice. HILTON.
They learn from Tim how this thing is going to go down. Each designer will show a mini-collection consisting of two existing outfits from their collection and one new one. Michael C. is planning to make another one of his effortless dresses. There seems to be a fine line between effortless and no effort. The dress looks fine, a one-shoulder draped number, but we have seen it before and before, and he is supposed to be bringing it. Tim leaves the workroom with a cryptic "Don't choke."
The runway show proceeds and it's pretty clear that Mondo has no competition. He is in and will be showing at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. (Much easier for me to say than "Lincoln Center.") Gretchen is in, with a huge warning from the judges. Apparently all that is missing are the Birkenstocks, and if she is going to put on a show, she needs to step up the styling. This is a fashion show, not a street fair, and the way she has her garments styled at the moment, they look exactly like the type of clothing you can buy when they close down a few blocks of Third Avenue and set up booths.
Andy and Michael are in trouble. Andy has made some bad choices for his mini collection. We have seen some great bathing suits on "Project Runway," but his is not one of them. To make matters worse, he has also chosen to show shiny shorts with his new green fabrigami. Fabric manipulation is so over, but the judges like his pleated lizard number, so he is in. From the very first episode, Andy was a favorite of mine, but I have to say he has steadily lost his mojo throughout this competition, so I wasn't surprised to see him in trouble.
Michael C. is out. I feel like we are all part of a cruel setup, like a bucket of pig blood is going to pour all over his head right there on the runway. He showed exactly the type of clothing he showed during the season which won him challenges. Granted, I always felt that his clothes were done before with a capital D, and his wins were usually a product of being the least offensive garment on the runway, but it almost seems cruel that he was able to go as far as he did in the competition. He was sideswiped. And it doesn't help that he doesn't seem to have the emotional maturity to handle the let down. It was painful to see him broken, hunched over, standing on the runway. I'm not saying he wasn't the right one to go, it's just that it feels dirty.