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Laura Bennett Blog
Category: "episode 5"
The dreaded group challenge. "Project Runway" contestants hate them. It is true that having to reach some kind of consensus amongst a group can slow things down, but if everyone just remains calm and acts reasonably, it is totally doable. The truth is in the real world a designer NEVER works alone. There is always someone putting in their two cents, or dollars, and their wants and needs need to be addressed.
Any buyer from Bergdorf to QVC is going to have input into the product they are ultimately going to offer to their customers. They become responsible for what does or doesn’t sell and tend not to be passive about what they accept. Designers go to them with samples or sketches and the design process really just begins. You may not love the changes they are proposing or think they are the most qualified people to be modifying your designs, but they place the orders and authorize the checks so you better damn well listen.
On a smaller scale, private clients are no better. In fact, I think they are more difficult and require an even higher degree of design flexibility. They may say they trust you to design them the perfect garment, but round about the first fitting their quirks about color, fabric care, design details and body issues will come into play and the idea you started out with may take a total 180. (Beware of brides, they are notoriously the worst.)
Are these designers all planning to start off at the top? Most designers, if they are lucky enough to get a job past the reception desk, start off as part of a design staff. This is a collaborative team that works out the details of a given concept then presents it to someone higher up on the design chain for approval. And like I said, even that higher up then goes on to bow to the desires of the buyer. So get over the "I work alone" crap and do your job.
As far as group challenges go on "PR," this one was not that risky. Each designer had the opportunity to make their own complete outfit, and render themselves safe or at risk to be sent home. All each group really needed to do was coordinate fabrics and make sure there was an even distribution of pants, dresses skirts and tops. Team 6 took somewhat of a risk by mixing up the garments, but the judges just held them accountable for the individual pieces instead of the whole look.
It was odd that Team 6 was chosen as the winning team, then a member of that winning team was sent home, but thank God it happened because Raul needed to go. He was the most "I work alone" of all the designers and it bit him in the ass. Speaking of ass, what was with the stiff lobster bib ruffle thing he tried to pass off as work wear? And that other top? It was a badly crafted throw away, the kind of garment a "PR" designer would throw together as a fill in to put under a jacket to walk the runway. Every other designer on the team was able to put together two real pieces, albeit strangely shouldered fabrigami ones, but fully executed garments with a real idea, not just some badly cut, ill fitting, and poorly constructed tank top. Goodbye Raul. Again. (Did someone just call him Eddie Munster? Hilarious.)
Congrats to Melissa, Ven and Dmitry for bringing it. Their garments looked great on the runway, but even more fantastic in the photos. On notice: Elena, Nathan and Gunnar, especially Gunnar because if the judges had followed precedent and sent home a designer from the losing team, you would certainly have been aufed. Heidi gets offended when the girls aren’t properly displayed.
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.