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How Do I Torture Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

Posted By CaitlinBergmann 5:01am GMT

1. I torture thee with $20,000.
We never had cash prizes for individual challenges back in my day, so I can't say for sure, but I would venture to bet that the added incentive of instant money would add some stress to an already stressful, exhausting competition. At this point in the game Lincoln Center, $100,000, and an HP technology suite are still far enough off to feel a bit intangible, while cash on the table is a whole different story. Joshua was definitely tortured, and seemed to feel that the prize was based on financial need.

2. I torture thee by placing the designers in pairs.
In this episode's first appearance of the dreaded button bag, Tim announces that the designers will be placed in pairs and randomly draws buttons to form the teams. For these designers, this defines torture. This season has had more team challenges than any I can remember, and the inability for said teams to work together harmoniously has been the source of much distasteful drama. This late in the competition, the thought of being eliminated due to a bad team dynamic is a frustrating and frightening prospect.

3. I torture thee by assigning your teammate.
Not only is participating in another team challenge a major source of stress, but the fact that the designers were not able to choose their teammate just adds insult to injury. In most challenges designers get to choose who they work with. It's true that the all-powerful button determines the order that they get to choose, and some get stuck with the last Bert standing, but there is some degree of hope that your destiny is not completely in the hands of fate. When it comes to the button bag, all hope is lost.

4. I torture thee by pairing Joshua with Bert.
Teaming Joshua together with Bert is nothing short of sending the both of them to Dante's special place in hell. Bad button karma or producer intervention? We viewers will never know. What we do know is that when Tim announced the two names together, it was like hearing fingernails on a chalkboard.

5. I torture thee by assigning inspiration.
The damn button bag makes yet another appearance (by now it must have a cringe-inducing Pavlovian effect on the designers) and the designer pairs are in turn paired with a bird. Designing a garment based on a non-fashion inspiration is not always easy. Normally on "Project Runway," designers get to choose their own inspiration by driving around in a golf cart or traversing the city with a camera. You see something that grabs you and ideas for a translation start flowing. But having an inspiration assigned is doubly difficult, because you didn't choose the starting point and those ideas just may not start flowing. Bert has the clearest problem with his assigned avian, clearly an inspiration he would not have gravitated toward on his own.

6. I torture thee by pitting you against each other.
Oh. Did you think you were working together? No, actually you will be competing against each other. Happy with your partner? Sorry. He/she has just become your worst enemy. Even if the two of you have the best garments on the runway, one of you will be in the bottom and at risk of being sent home.

Six mind freaks and we are just in the first two minutes of the episode. But wait, more twists to come.

7. I torture thee by doubling your workload.
Tim enters the workroom (the designers must be wary of the sight of him by now) and announces to the designers that they now are responsible for a second look. Imagine having a certain amount of time to do a designated amount of work. You plan and budget your time accordingly. Suddenly you find out that you are expected to do double the amount of work in the same allotted amount of time. You may be forced to scale back on an ambitious design, or scrap it altogether in order to have time to make two.

8. I torture thee by making you choose which design to scrap.
Tim enters the workroom again to make a special announcement. I'm not sure why the designers don't start hurling scissors at him. I suspect that the only reason they don't is because they think he couldn't possibly be there to deliver yet another twist. They are wrong. With just two hours to go until the runway, he informs the designers that they will only be showing one look, and they now have to decide which to finish and which to scrap. At first thought this may seem like a gift, but it's not. The original designs were potentially compromised to make time for a second one. Which one should they choose? Like children, all designs have positive and negative features. Just because you like one better than the other, it doesn't mean the judges will. It's a difficult decision to make when you are already at the end of your rope.

I get the feeling that the producers worked extra hard to jack around the designers in this episode. A twist here and there is expected, but this amount struck me as just plain mean.

In one case their plan backfired. Every twist seemed to work in Joshua's favor. He was released from working on a team with Bert, he definitely did his best look all season when he was forced to make the orange dress, and God help him, being able to scrap the green and yellow craft project was a gift.

I am going to go completely out on a limb here and say that I think Joshua deserved the win. I was not impressed with Anya's black structured dress. "Not what you usually do" is not good enough for me. The dress appeared puckered and not well made, I hated the bird-beak shoulders, and it was merely a bad version of the dress Viktor made in the Nina Garcia challenge.

Hang in there, "PR" fans! I was in L.A. filming the After Show and I heard from several sources that the fashions in the upcoming "Project Runway All Stars" are fantastic! God knows we could all use a fashion boost right now.


Which Do You Want First?

Posted By Antonia L. 11:20am GMT

The Good News: The Challenge, the Music and the Band Members
I really liked this challenge. I thought it was original, but not in a cheesy for-the-first-time-in-“Project-Runway”-history kind of way. I also thought it was appropriate. Designers, usually working together with stylists, often help create and convey the image of the client they are working with.

 The team aspect of this challenge made sense and incurred none of the usual drama. It wasn't really a team challenge; it only required enough cooperation for each team to assign musicians to designers, but it was necessary. They could not have four outfits for one band member and none for another.

The band was great. They seemed to go along with the entire design process willingly and without the tiniest hint of divadom. I even liked their music. I could see them developing into an Allman Brothers kind of band, with their down-home, beer-drinking Southern rock. Most of all, they couldn't have been kinder or more tolerant about wearing bad, bad clothes.

The Bad News: The Designs
 Here we go again. I am running out of ways to say these designers are less than impressive. Week after week I sound like a broken record. I get that menswear is not most of these designers' usual thing, but come on, costume design isn't their usual thing either, and they seemed to carry that off quite well.

Across the board the '70s hippie-rock thing was taken literally. No nuance, subtlety or modernization of the theme, with the possible exception of Joshua's tacky exposed crotch zipper, a design move right up there with bubble hems — both recent trends that are overdue to be ushered out.

Even Viktor's faux-leather jacket and jeans, clearly the best outfit on the runway, featured no updated elements. Braided fringe and distressed jeans? Color me not surprised. Don't get me wrong — he totally deserved the win, but again only because it was acceptable work on a runway filled with crap, and fringed crap at that. I never heard a single one of the musicians utter the word “fringe.” How did we end up with so much? This is actually the third week in a row Viktor deserved to win

And speaking of crap, Laura's tie-dye technique made her musician look like he had been shot by a concertgoer gone postal because the beer line was too long. I can't even believe it was in the top.

 I liked Bert's pants, but again, they were completely retro, nothing modern about them at all, and the draped sweater he made to go with them was too feminine. I did like the tie-dye effect on the back, but something similar on the front might have made more sense. Just an idea.

Fan favorite Anya's Hiawatha tunic was hideous. It wasn't even fit for a high school performance of “Hair”; it was suited for a grade school performance. She gets a pass because it is the first all-out hideous thing she has sent out all season. Even worse was Kimberly's version of the tunic. Girlfriend is lucky the judges don't make decisions based on the outfit in front of them this season, but take the designer's entire body of work into account, because though I wasn't crazy about Olivier's foray into print and his WTF choice of toile, Kimberly's buttoned bowling shirt was hideous. It looked like a rejected Dunkin Donuts uniform.

At this point in the competition I am ready to declare that Viktor is my choice for the win, but he still needs to clarify his point of view. Skill and taste can get you far, but without a clear point of view, anyone can sneak up on you and snag the win.

Notable Quotables (because sometimes my commenters say it better than I)

“Who the heck is Malin Akerman…?”

“I'm sure [Laura] will have a long and happy career designing for the Real Housewives of Atlanta.”


You've Come a Long Way, Baby

Posted By Antonia L. 5:34pm GMT

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


"Project Joshua"

Posted By CaitlinBergmann 5:01am GMT

Josh M in the HP fabric challengeComing 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.

Olivier's tailored jacket from the HP fabric challengeThe 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.


A "Project Runway" First!

Posted By CaitlinBergmann 12:41am GMT

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

Olivier’s penchant for neutrals and Anya’s love of color met in a bad, bad place. The fabric was just ugly. It lacked the sophistication of Oliver’s somber palette and the vibrancy of Anya’s color.

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.

Kimberly and Becky’s entry was a USO costume. I half-expected “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to start playing. The design was inspired by a collar bone tattoo. I am too distraught to even comment further.

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.