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Laura Bennett Blog
Category: "episode recaps"
As I was watching the runway portion of this episode, I was thinking, "I don't even want to hear about anyone but Viktor winning this episode." He had it in the bag. Everything was right: the inspiration, the execution and the elusive modernization.
Viktor's inspiration was clearly from the work of Yves Saint Laurent, who in the late sixties marked a revolution in fashion that introduced the androgynous fashions of the seventies. First in 1966 when he showed the tuxedo for women, Le Smoking, then in 1968 with his African-inspired Safari Collection. No other single designer had more influence on the next 10 years in fashion, and Viktor wisely went right to the source. (Bert's reference to Studio 54 was a close second.)
Viktor's execution was, simply stated, impressive. I have a knack for putting a garment together, but even I would have trouble pulling off the construction of a jacket like that in such a short time frame. I loved the authentic safari details of the vented back and pockets. These are time-consuming fine points that were pulled off flawlessly. The fit and cut of both the jacket and the pants were skillful.
Not only were Viktor's references and construction enough to earn him the win, but also the most difficult element of all, the modernization, was spot-on. Emulating the past is easy; taking it to the present requires creativity. From the rough edges on the hem and lapel to the updated color palette (even YSL did his safari jackets in the traditional khaki), nothing about this outfit felt retro. The snakeskin separates were the icing on the cake. They were fresh and modern; I loved the detail of adding the black sleeve to the T-shirt. These small decisions make the difference between "clothes" and "fashion."
True, Viktor may have offended some viewers when he didn't want to help Anya with fabric donations because "this is a competition," but unlike some contestants, who create drama and then don't deliver (can you say J O S H U A?), the delivery of Viktor's garments absolved him of all sins in my mind, an example of good fashion overcoming drama. As I've said before, on "Project Runway" the drama is tolerable when we get our fabulous fashion.
Of course, none of the judges picked up the red phone to the Laura Hotline to get my opinion, and without me they decided to give the win to Anya, apparently impressed by her $11.50 pants and yet another print jumpsuit, which were both too full to be flattering on anyone but a model. Maybe all the Piperlime shoppers are models. Whatever.
Trust me when I tell you that the Anya-over-Viktor win isn't the thing that pissed me off the most about this episode. In what universe really, IN WHAT UNIVERSE were Joshua's optical-illusion ass-widening plaid pants and built-in lobster-bib blouse better than Anthony Ryan's maxi dress? A maxi dress that looked damn similar to Anya's winning maxi dress. Of all the designers ever to be on "PR," only Mondo has successfully been able to pull off pants in such a bold plaid, and you, my friend, are no Mondo. How did Anthony Ryan get sent home when Joshua showed what was nothing more than a clown costume?
This season the judges have been guilty numerous times of making runway decisions based on a designer's entire body of work instead of the garment in front of them at the moment, and this was clearly a glaring example of the practice a practice that is against the premise of "Project Runway." How many times have we heard Heidi utter the now iconic phrase, "In Fashion, one day you're in, and the next day you're out." I understand the tendency to let a talented kid slide for one mistake. When my son, generally a hardworking student, brought home a science quiz with a less than stellar grade, I let it slide and saw it as a bump in the road, but if this is the way "Project Runway" is going to work, Heidi's catch phrase has got to change.
In Fashion, one day you're in, and the next day you're out unless we like you.
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.