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Mila Hermanovski Blog


Season 13, Episode 13: Imperium Romanum

Posted By laurareineke 4:57am GMT

Why does it feel like less of a stiff competition in this finale? Perhaps it’s the four finalists with no face-off. Or maybe it’s three days in ROME for inspiration (not too shabby). That said, this is the first finale in which the designers are instructed to make a collection inspired by something specific. My guess is this is all part of the Best Western deal the producers made, seeing as they are promoting their International roster of accommodations. I haven't been to Italy but I’d imagine there is inspiration at every turn. The only thing is, I don’t know that I’d want to have any parameters placed on what to be inspired by for my final collection of "Project Runway." Oh well. A trip to Rome would certainly make up for it! Thanks, Best Western. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Piazza Navona they go, with Tim Gunn as their guide and Tumi luggage in hand.

While lunching with Tim in Rome, the designers discuss the logistics of how they will complete their collections back home. Kini, for example, says he works out of his garage; Sean, on the other hand, has no studio whatsoever as he has only been in the U.S. for 6 months (after having arrived with one suitcase). What I want to know is, how does he have a green card already? If I recall correctly one must be a U.S. citizen to participate on a reality TV competition. But please, someone in the know, correct me if I am wrong. Anyway, the designers have only five short weeks and $9000 to create their collections. So, next stop: the high end, overpriced Italian fabric store, where the designers have only half an hour to splurge and potentially make impulsive buys with their precious budget, as one is prone to do when one is in a foreign land. It’s not surprising that the two ladies end up buying out of emotion and the men opt to think through their plans more methodically before buying fabric.

When I was a finalist, I hadn’t been a practicing fashion designer for quite some time, so I had no studio. Though I had started a career in fashion in New York after college, my livelihood for the ten years prior to competing on "Project Runway" was costuming TV shows and films. I had my grandmother’s portable Elna sewing machine and that was it. We had about eight weeks instead of the five the current crop of finalists are given, and because the whole experience of auditioning and competing (and being a finalist) on "Project Runway" reignited my passion to sew and to be a designer, and I decided at that time that I was going to finally pursue my dreams, I used part of my budget to invest in machines. I asked the producers what the rules were with regard to buying machines. They informed me that technically anything purchased with the “collection allowance” belongs to the production (including the collection), so if I was to purchase a machine, it could be taken away. I found a fantastic pre-owned Juki single needle machine on Craigslist for $350, and a practically new overlock machine on which I spent my own $500, and they are still the primary workhorses of my studio five years later. Fortunately, they never did take the machine. (Those industrial machines weigh about 130 lbs. And what would they do with it?)

After their whirlwind trip to Rome (and even bigger whirlwind of five weeks in the "Project Runway" bubble, which pretty much sucks the life out of you), the designers return to their homes to start their whirlwind collections. Let me tell you, after getting home, one needs a minimum of one week to recover so it’s not really a five week deadline but rather more like four! Cut to: Tim’s visits. In Hawaii, visiting Kini, Tim learns some Luau moves which he is going to incorporate into his morning exercise routine. In Detroit, there is a very distracting “Sew CUTE” on the wall in Charketa’s studio, which speaks volumes. On to Nashville, where Amanda admits that perhaps she needs to “grow up” with her collection, focus, and edit more. Last but not least, Sean, who is living in Williamsburg (of course; how did he know to relocate there, which is the most happening area of Brooklyn, and also the most expensive?), must have leased out or borrowed a small temp space to build his collection. He has beautifully laid out his thoughtful, albeit disjointed, collection.

When time is up, the designers are reunited in New York. After their hair and makeup consults, they are told that they must present a three-look preview to the judges so they can receive some feedback to make their collections the best they can be. Does anyone else feel that at this point, they really should have added some heat by eliminating someone? Perhaps the cliffhanger we are left on will have some sort of dramatic twist in the final episode. Come on, someone could have easily been “weeded out” at this stage.

Of the four collections, I was most impressed with Sean’s. It was the most upscale and fashion-forward, although like the judges, I don’t want to see more fringe. I have to hand it to him, though; not only did the three looks make me want to see more from him, but his use of fringe was fresh and innovative. I particularly loved the red “tassel” accent on the back of the white look; however, all the looks resonated with me. Apparently from his reaction to the judges’ critique, he has used fringe in most of the looks, which will be a real bummer and kind of a cop out. It’s never a good idea to rely on one gimmick or material so heavily. I also want to add what an impression Sean made on me (and Tim evidently) via his thoughtful theme (betrayal of Caesar) and thorough presentation. He is a real artist and “cerebral” designer in my opinion.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about Amanda’s work. The custom Fair Isle knit she did was rather pedestrian. She would be smart to apply for a design position at Free People -- she would be a perfect for that brand. She wanted to make a “clean” collection, so she stated after Tim’s critique, because she admittedly gets carried away with piling on the details and materials, but I don’t think that is in her designer DNA. That said, it takes a special eye to combine patterns, prints, and multiple design elements successfully without creating an eyesore, and she clearly has a propensity for this style. I’m not so sure she has that magic touch. It just seems like when she describes what her intention is with regard to her work, there is often a disconnect between her idea and what she actualizes.

Ditto, sort of, when it comes to Char. The “sew cute” on her studio wall just made me think “home sewer” (which is fine, but not when one is in the finale of "Project Runway"). Char is showing versatility, but I’ve seen it all before. She keeps referring to showing the judges who she “really is” as a designer, and I am not seeing a distinct point of view. The looks are giving me JLo about ten years ago, and they don’t seem cohesive. It was touching when she asked Tim why he used his Tim Gunn Save on her, but frankly the whole thing seemed canned, especially his response.

Speaking of canned, Kini had a surprising critique which seemed exceptionally harsh from Heidi. I’m not saying I don’t agree with the judges’ points, but as Kini has been a judges’ (and fan) favorite, I feel much of this is a set-up so that viewers will think he is in danger (as will he himself), so that he can come back and make the necessary changes to justify his taking the win. His looks were supposedly all made of denim and his theme was "Park Avenue princess goes to Rome." In theory I actually like this irony, but the results were three rather uptight outfits which are in no way modern or fashion-forward. The trench was bizarre and unflattering as it gave the model football-player shoulders. Heidi basically told him he needs to completely rework the looks, so the cliffhanger we are left with is, "I have no fabric and no time!” Oh, whatever will Kini do? Is there a convenient surprise trip to Mood in store for the golden boy?!


Season 13, Episode 12: Five for the Drive

Posted By laurareineke 4:54am GMT

And just like that, it’s down to the top five. Right off the bat, I’m curious: Are these the top five you imagined? For the last challenge which determines who goes to Fashion Week, Lexus says to design a “street chic” look inspired by New York City. The designers will be chauffeured around in luxury to gather inspiration with their cameras, and then will have two days for the challenge. TWO DAYS. I smell a twist.

Indeed, after the designers return from Mood, they enter the workroom to find five losing looks by previously eliminated designers. Tim then enters the workroom with the dreaded velvet bag. He “draws names randomly” and each designer chooses one of the losing looks which they must transform into their own designs as their second “twist” challenge. Subsequently, the designers are given helpers: the designers who made the losing looks. Imagine the producers’ delight when Char selected Korina’s! Korina is sent over to stand next to Char, and realizes what she is being asked to do. Still seething and bitter, shaking her head, she starts crying, demands to be released, and storms out. Two things: (a) what a brat, and (b) I can’t believe they let her leave. We all sign a massive contract when we agree to be on the show. You basically sign away a lot of rights so that the production can’t be sued for anything (e.g. for “defaming” you). It also pretty much says you have to do what you are told in accord with the show. The majority of PR alums know what it feels like to be eliminated, and it’s awful, especially close to the end. You are not just put on a plane and sent home, nor are you allowed to spend a day in NYC; you must get up the next day and get on that passenger van, see all the contestants still in the competition, and go to Parsons. Yep, salt in the wound. The entire process of the show is NOT easy, but she needed to buck up and deal. It’s only been one day since she got eliminated (think about that; wounds are fresh). I wonder if at that time she even felt any embarrassment or remorse about her behavior whatsoever. My guess is NOT. My guess is she still feels like she deserves to be there more than anyone else. Personally I think she is a stronger designer than Char, but that by no means exonerates her from her narcissistic and unsportsmanlike behavior. At this point in the game (meaning the previous episode), one misstep can be death, and Korina had a misstep.

Shockingly, Tim and the producers allow Korina to leave, and bring in Alexander to replace her. Sean is the last to be chosen and thus inherits Sandhya’s teletubby outfit. Samantha and Mitchell are back as well, which ought to confirm to anyone who still believes that when a designer is eliminated and goes "home," that they do not in fact go home. They all stay there, sequestered in the hotel. They travel with those who are still in the competition to throw off any potential spies who may leak to the press. Well, at least they got some more camera time.

AMANDA was inspired by graffiti. When she first announced that she would be making “an amazing maxi dress," I thought it had better be amazing. Come on, this is the challenge that decides who shows a collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week and she wants to make a maxi dress?! Well, it was a spectacular maxi dress indeed. This is the first look of Amanda’s that I’ve loved. I have questioned her choice of colors in the past and this time I thought it was great. She chose her buddy Fade’s look for the redo. On the one hand, the graphic element he used in this look can go very urban and “street." On the other hand, it is so specific, making it limited in how it can be used. Case in point: Amanda made a "Tron"-tastic outfit which would be great for a futuristic waitress costume. As a fashionable look? Not so much. The outfit may have been more successful had it been a dress rather than a cop top and mini.

EMILY scores low again for her two looks. She was determined to make her signature hoodie which Zac thought looked “homeless." What was more troubling to me was the coordinating outfit underneath. The top/tunic was interesting but not with matching pants, which emulates pajamas. A better choice would have been a skinny leather or stretch denim pant, which would look much more “street style." She admitted during the challenge that she was neglecting the second look, and I figured it was foreshadowing a disappointing result. The dress was lackluster and had no signature, certainly not hers. Perhaps she was just tired? I can’t understand how she could think the one outfit was enough to advance her to Fashion Week, and how she could be so laissez faire about the redux look. She needed to give this everything she had, and she just didn’t. Thus, she was auf'd.

SEAN’s inspiration was a man he saw on the street in all-white cotton (Indian?) dress, a tunic and pant. When he selected that greenish colored fabric in Mood, all I could think of was scrubs. As Tim said, the outfit he was putting together looked very uniform-like and dead somehow. Good thing he reworked it into what Nina called “the best outfit she’s ever seen on Project Runway." The collared shirt and skirt ensemble was minimalist perfection, with emphasis on silhouette and detail. Some people won’t get it (but that is what fashion is all about), but to me it looked like it could have come right off a Calvin Klein, Japanese or European designer runway. It was unique in the best way, and looked very high fashion and modern. What is so bizarre however is that the second look made from Sandhya’s pink romper looks like it could not possibly have come from the same designer. The redux outfit looks like some pink western costume. He really needs to chill on the fringe. Dude, just because you won that gown challenge and Heidi wore your Cookie Monster dress doesn’t mean fringe is the magic answer to everything. That romper was by far the worst outfit to work with, but he should have gone the modern/minimalist route with it as well. Pink + fringe = fail.

CHAR says she showed her true colors as a designer, and if that is her best, I am not impressed. I have never been a fan of the “petal” thing and am definitely not a fan of the black/white/orchid color palette, which looks cheap. I was also confused by Char’s selection of inspiration. A window display to inspire you to design street fashion? Sorry, but that’s weak. The redux dress seemed to be an afterthought as it was with Emily, and also Char lacks strong construction skills so she struggled to bring her idea to fruition. The result was forgettable, and honestly I could barely see what was going on though my screen. Okay, I’m going to say it: Char is now a story. The story of the Tim Gunn Save. The story of the mediocre designer with the heart of gold and the great attitude vs. the egomaniacal mean girl designer who is more seasoned and has a strong aesthetic. Frankly from the work Char has produced on the show, there is not much that excites me about seeing an entire collection from her.

KINI is a master technician. He has produced some creative pieces as well, but the work in this challenge harks back to my very early impression, which was that he lacks a distinct point of view. He has done some very good work, don’t get me wrong; I’m just not blown away sometimes. The NYC-inspired look felt very off-the-rack, as Tim mentioned in his critique. As a reaction to Tim’s comments, Kini added details (bow on the top, ruffles on the skirt, volume on the trench) to each piece, but all those details collectively were too busy and didn’t have the cool factor which one associates with street fashion. It looked like an outfit on a mannequin. The red gown was indeed sublime, but mainly because it fit so well; I did like the little lapel on one side. I still think Kini could win the whole competition because the judges love him, but only if he steps it up in the creativity department.

So the Top Four are Amanda, Chark, Sean, and Kini. I’ve always thought it would come down to the two guys and I am holding to that. After seeing Korina’s decoy collection, I reiterate what I said earlier, that she is a stronger designer than Char. You can see her distinct POV which is very important to having an identity, which is what it takes to be a brand and have a successful line. Of course, I am just as put off by her behavior as anyone else, but I’ve said I try to separate the work from the personality when I critique. I am looking forward to seeing Sean’s final collection as he has always been a forerunner to me (I did not look at the full collections when they were presented at Fashion Week, nor was I at the show this time; I wanted to be surprised).


Season 13, Episode 11: Runway Wars

Posted By laurareineke 4:41am GMT

Hmm, a spin on “Storage Wars." At first I thought this was cute but then I put myself in the designers’ shoes: not so cute. I did like the whole bidding thing, but YIKES, I can’t imagine the pressure of trying to figure out if you’re making the right decision bidding on a locker that could have nothing but crap on the inside. The hardest challenges are the ones that have more grey area in terms of the actual challenge and direction. For example, let’s be honest here: This challenge is very much like an “unconventional” challenge, except it’s “not an unconventional challenge." But isn’t it?! Then they must make a third look from Mood materials! There is no direction and there are no guidelines for the challenge except to create cohesive looks in teams of two. It reminded me of when we had the Broadway Challenge during "All Stars." What was edited to be in the episode did not relay just how unclear the challenge was to us: “make an outfit that this very specific Broadway character would wear: something that could be adapted as the costume…. but NOT a costume; it should look like a chic, fashionable outfit.” For me this was very difficult because I was preoccupied with not making a costume, but then as I began designing the look, I thought, “this IS supposed to be a costume”! In the end, you never know what the judges have been told in terms of the brief. For that particular challenge, the judges weren’t even necessarily considering the character. They were just judging the overall look.

I’d also be pretty annoyed if I were in the top six and in a team challenge AGAIN. No designer likes team challenges. Of course, yes, I know this is done to increase the drama and stress for the designer. Even if everything is happy happy and the two designers are getting along, it still creates more “stuff” to occupy your brain space and more to stress about whether your teammate is going to pull weight. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: A designer can better show their talents and POV when solo!

This was another two-day challenge, and rightfully so. It takes time to strip the upholstery off those couches! Of course, they could have made it a one-day challenge but knew there would be a third look thrown in there so they were anticipating. I’m not quite sure I get the whole reason behind doing a third look from Mood except simply to have a twist and more work to do.

It’s critique time, and Tim compares Emily’s vest to Spongebob Squarepants. He’s not wrong about that. Aside from that, Emily and Korina’s looks are definitely taking on the “storage locker” theme because there seems to be a lot going on and a lot of “vintage textile” mixing. Tim tells them they are “not dull and don’t look like a joke." Yay! That’s one of those backhanded negatives, if you didn’t catch it. But Korina can do no wrong and she is owning it. Amanda and Kini are trying to make something out of Amanda’s new god, the Psychedelic Yeti who was beckoning her from the back of the storage locker. When they tell Tim of their plan, he’s scared. I’m scared. Perhaps Amanda was influencing Kini to pile on the stuff: fake fur, Psychedelic Yeti, table cloth which resembles garbage bag, and more. From their current state, to me this appears to be a train destined to derail.

Amanda and Kini pulled a 180 by editing big time. I’m thinking this must have been mostly Kini’s doing as Amanda can get a little wackadoo; being the sewing wizard he is, he just cranked out some great pieces, quickly. The soccer ball dress was spectacular. I was sure it would end up looking like...a soccer ball dress. But the way he artfully and thoughtfully placed the black bits and made the dress predominantly white was key. The black zipper also added a nice touch. AND it fit well. The other star piece which I did not like on top of the soccer dress was the fake fur bomber; the yellow-cream and the optic white were a miss. Nina felt the same way so she put the jacket over Amanda’s pink ensemble which made so much more sense; again, without the jacket, this outfit fell a bit flat. It was super impressive that Kini stripped the fur from an ottoman and then quilted it! I was also scared of both the Yeti painting and the garbage-bag-looking-tablecloth, in terms of how they would be used. Well the two teammates did they best they could with what they had. The star of that ensemble was the Yeti top (okay, kudos Amanda, but then again it’s just a little trapeze silhouette), and I’d be a bit harsher on the ball gown skirt but I know they didn’t have any fabric. Overall the collection was youthful, fun, and the most innovative, and they had a GREAT story to sell it: the “American pop star in Tokyo."

Sean and Char, on the other hand, made three looks which were very safe. Sure, they were cohesive, but perhaps a bit TOO cohesive; these could have been three looks plucked out of a 40-look collection, meaning they did not tell enough of a story and there needed to be a bit more variety there for only three looks. They had TWO lockers to work with and yet everything was blue and black and utilized very similar fabrications. Obviously the star piece was Sean’s moving blanket coat. This piece struck a great balance of simplicity and detail. The elements in the back, with the floating piece structured by using a lampshade, were key, otherwise the coat may have been too simple. I quite liked the evening gown with lampshade hem (at least there was some wow factor), but agree with the judges that no matter how good the design, the model needs to be able to walk (Been there! Made that mistake! Will never make it again!). The racerback bodice with blue back was a really nice touch and fit well except for the lampshade. Char’s look fell very flat, which is why she ended up in the bottom two. I must say, she is fortunate to have had Sean as her partner.

Korina and Emily had low scores overall for their flea-market-boho looks. I’m not a fan of boho and overly ethnic fashions in general, but can respect if that is someone’s aesthetic. I have seen it done well (see Dries Van Noten Spring 2015 collection: Fashion-gasp-worthy!), and this was not. When it is not done well, it can look discombobulated and dated, which this collection did. There needed to be some serious editing here. Emily’s look had way too many elements from the red tights to the mix of textiles and fur to the crafty belt. The eye can’t rest on anything. Korina’s look wasn’t nearly as “polished” as she thought it was. In fact it did not fit that well and needed some editing. I love me a cape, but this cape wasn’t elegant and chic. Once she took the cape off, the green vinyl top didn’t fit well and then it was just a green top with a red skirt, and don’t we all have a hard time with green and red together if it’s not the holidays? I hated the hat but thought it worked with the sweater outfit, which was probably the least offensive one of all of them. I didn’t dislike this as much as the judges did; I still like me a skinny leather pant and I think that is what made this outfit a little more contemporary. But perhaps in person that sweater knit was worse than it appeared on my screen.

NOW, for the real war. Good job, editors, for making Korina look like this season’s villain, and a pretty awful person. At first throughout the episode, I was wondering how much was being manipulated through editing. I thought maybe they asked her all the right questions in the confessional to “lead” her, to make her sound super opinionated (which, clearly, she is). I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, given the way I felt I was edited during my season. It is one thing to voice your opinion (when prompted) about someone else’s work; this is a critique process and not personal. It is a whole other level when you can’t stop saying how great a designer you are, how much more you deserve to be there, and then antagonize another designer. You can think this all you want but it takes a special breed of narcissist to say what she said out loud. I have to say I enjoyed watching Korina crash and burn during the face-off between her and Char, and I love how Emily spoke up about the negative energy that Korina created. Is Korina a better overall designer? Maybe, but that is also subjective. Does she have more background in fashion design? Probably so. Still, there was no need to be as nasty as she was. Hopefully she will look back on this when it airs and think about her behavior. She was definitely given a slice a humble pie.


Season 13, Episode 10: Makeup and Musings

Posted By laurareineke 4:33am GMT

Ah, memories. I remember during "Project Runway All Stars" when we had the “Clothes Off Your Back” challenge and had to approach strangers in the park to ask them if we could basically take their clothes from them and cut them up. This was almost harder in a way than asking someone if they want a makeover. Then again, money talks and we were offering them cash. Either way, for some designers, approaching strangers comes easy, and for others, not so much. I dreaded that challenge because I tend to be more shy when it comes to situations like that. The rejection, too, can start to become frustrating. Many people run away from cameras, are on their way to work or an appointment, or simply don’t want an invasion of privacy and personal space.

This time, the designers must find someone to make over, including making them an outfit. It was a good way to combine the makeup sponsor challenge that happens each season with the token “real person” challenge. I am sure many of the designers looked for women who were closer to model-size, and how about Sean who found a potential candidate but didn’t want to use her because she was too short?! Let’s face it, you can’t be overly picky here. When there are seven designers running through the park who must find victims in a short amount of time, they cannot be overly selective. When you don’t find someone after several queries, at a certain point you have to just accept whoever agrees to do it!

They have two days for this challenge...but not so fast. Don’t forget, they have just spent all morning trying to find someone in the park, then have to sketch, and then must go to Mood and shop. By the time they get back to the workroom, it will be afternoon. Just so you understand that even when they say its a two-day challenge, it isn’t even a full two days; sometimes they have to make it two days purely for logistic purposes (e.g., location). For example, the amount of time the park scene took to shoot was purely based on how long it took the designers to find their “muses," which could either happen quickly or take longer than expected. Typically if it is a one-day challenge, the designers need to have at least 11 hours in the workroom. On occasion on "All Stars" we had 9-10! And then of course we had that challenge in which we had the runway on the same day. Ugh, I would not be sad if I never had to do that again.

Kini is having creative block in this episode. I’ve talked about this a lot in previous blogs. It sucks when that happens. He seems to work it out though by harkening back to his audition roots via choosing denim. When in doubt and when having a creative block, my advice is definitely to pull something out of your sleeve that is comfortable or familiar. To some viewers, this may sound like the easy way out, but you have no idea what it’s like to come up with new ideas every other day, while being sleep deprived, stressed, eating poorly, and having cameras following your every move all day long.

In the workroom, Tim gives what could be the harshest critique in the history of "Project Runway" to Alexander. I am not sure why he had such a vehement reaction to his design. Sure, it was kooky and artsy, but I’ve certainly seen worse come out of some very established design houses. I thought the mix of dots with check was great; the design in general made a strong statement and felt like what he was going for. It was risky but I don’t think it was in poor taste. I was not a fan of the amoeba shapes but that could have been an easy fix. In his revised sketch he had a more simple, geometric panel of the dots and I was disappointed he did not go through with it. Perhaps it was his muse’s reaction to the dots. This combination of patterns and textures could have been straight out of a Marni collection.

Did anyone else have to google Asha Leo, one of the guest judges? I guess it's because I don’t watch "Access Hollywood." But hey, I learned that she attended the same college in the UK as Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, and Matthew Williamson. At least we have a judge who had a fashion-centric major, hooray!

Emily made a slightly odd (if not great-fitting) and memorable look this week. It really suited her muse, one of the main points of this challenge. She earned high scores, but the judges were left polarized on the pleated ruffles on the bodice. I felt this feature was what made the dress unique and dramatic. The model seemed to love it; she was beaming. It was even more perfect for her when she said she’d wear it to an art opening, which it would be perfect for. I think I would have preferred a different skirt with all that detail up top; the asymmetric flamenco could have been turned down a notch by simply making it a circle skirt, and it would still have the same overall effect.

Amanda...not sure where to begin on this one. The length and proportions were janky and not flattering; I felt like I was going to see cheek as she walked! The striped dress and leather vest felt like two different girls. Where is she going in this outfit? As Zac said, it looked like an “outlet mall” outfit. I kept thinking the dress was so poorly executed that it looked like a sophomore fashion student’s work. On a positive note, the muse looked great. Her hair and makeup were super pretty.

Alexander was so close to making a cute and appropriate outfit for his model. Unfortunately, Tim scared him away from his original vision, and his client had an aversion to the dots. At that point he had a rather stripped-down design, but I think it was still very suitable for his muse/the challenge. The problem is, his look was rather simple but not executed well enough. He added volume to the circle skirt but didn't true up the hemline so it ended up looking wavy. The crop top was gaping and needed to be closer fitting to the body. The waistband of the skirt which was seen front and center was not fitting well and gaping too. Poor Alexander. I think if it had been up to me I may have eliminated Amanda before him though.

Char did not make over her client. She made her “under." She did not do this gorgeous woman any justice (except to show off her great legs, and in a flattering color). First off, you all know how I feel about peplums. Well this was an EXTREME peplum disaster; it made her look thick. Second, who wears this and to where does she wear it? It was odd and age-inappropriate. She might have been able to save this somewhat if she had made it a dress (and lowered the peplum or did away with it), but the shorts were just strange and did not fit that week anyway. Tim let her have 10 extra minutes to fix the zipper, but maybe it would not have busted if the shorts fit better or she had secured the zipper. I mean, accidents happen. I think the only reason she was granted those 10 extra minutes is because her model was a regular person and not a model paid to walk the runway in anything she is asked to wear.

Kini ends up on top again. He had a model who was probably the most curvy of all of them and he made an incredibly flattering look for her. This look was all about proportion and fit, and he nailed both. Was it the most innovative? Hardly, but it felt like something she would wear, and very “real." I feel he could have used a more interesting fabric (print, perhaps?) for the dress because it was a bit blah. I also very much disliked the boho jewelry, and thought that it was overstyled in that way.

Sean, the only one safe this episode, is clearly fringe-obsessed now. This design was safe, and that is where it landed him. It fit pretty well but there was no “wow” factor and not a whole lot of design. That said, I’m sure his client would happily wear that gown to her next black tie affair.

Korina wins for another moto jacket. I like the mix of boucle tweed with leather, but the shoulders fit weird. It was nice that there was an entire dress underneath that could stand on its own. Like Heidi, I was thrown by the ankle boots, which made it feel '80s, and not in a good way. I wasn’t blown away, yet at the same time it’s very commendable that she turned out a dress AND jacket.


Season 13, Episode 9: All American Girl

Posted By laurareineke 4:18am GMT

Whenever there is a childrenswear challenge, there are certain issues the designers always seem to face. Is the outfit age appropriate? Is it youthful enough (and not simply a woman’s outfit scaled down for a girl)? Does it make sense in a day in the life of a child? It is interesting to see how each designer handles this and what they think a child should wear. I loved this spin on a childrenswear challenge, and though we are all sick of sponsor-based episodes, this one made sense. I honestly had never set foot in an American Girl store, but have seen girls walking around with the dolls. The fact that they each come with a story is really sweet, and provides a great source of inspiration for the designers. It is always better to design something when you have specific inspiration, because it allows you to visualize and have a point of reference. Each of the dolls had a character who had a background and also a specific time period.

As predicted, some of the designers have a “disconnect” with kids and right away struggle with “What does an 8-12 year old girl wear?” Korina expressed this disconnect many times, even as far as to say she doesn’t know the difference between a 5-year-old and a 15-year-old. Really? We were all kids at one time, and she is not that old! Sean seems to latch on to the period aspect of the challenge a lot more than others. Sandhya is getting a bit esoteric with her story about a girl whose father works on a ship, and so that is all the girl wants to do. Tim seems a bit nonplussed as he comes through the workroom; frankly nothing seemed to catch my eye either. He advises both Sean and Char against using fringe from their vests; Sean heeds Tim’s advice but Char does not. You never know when you will end up doing the right thing by going with your gut or listening to Tim. It’s that inevitable fork in the "Project Runway" road.

I was surprised at Tim’s comments of Sandhya’s work in general, though I agree with him; it seems many of the designers share those sentiments. This must have been what set her off that night in the apartments. She broke down in tears and expressed to her roommate Emily that she gets no respect from anyone and that all she wants is compassion. She professes to have a thick skin, but this behavior would not indicate that. Of course everyone is entitled to break down once in a while, and I’ve mentioned in a couple of blogs now how intense the whole competition is in general and how it can have this effect on people.

We welcome yet another celebrity to the judging panel, Elizabeth Moss. I happen to be a fan of hers, BUT it is still kind of annoying that every episode there is a different actor as a judge and no additional fashion designer, don’t you think?

Korina made a pretty cute dress with tiered flaps, but I don’t understand how it relates to the girl’s story. Also it verged on crafty and costumey. Sure it was original, and I liked how graphic it was, but I don’t know that I would have put this design in the top three.

Sean struggled from the start with this challenge, and I’d had a feeling he wouldn’t relate to childrenswear. The outfit ended up looking sad, drab, and too “vintage," like something my mom sewed for me in the '70s. He had expressed that he was excited about the 1970s period, yet this look doesn’t reflect it at all. The (incorrect) peace sign appliqué was contrived. He was certainly regretting listening to Tim’s advice to remove the fringe from the vest, but it is doubtful that he would have been safe even with that addition.

Amanda kookiness worked in her favor in this challenge. I thought her mix of prints worked well together. The look itself was nothing extraordinary, but lively and whimsical and definitely believable that a girl aged 8-12 would wear it.

Alexander also combined prints well, and childrenswear is so much about print. He said he was happy to be safe, and this outfit was just that. Perfectly cute and believable and I could see it in stores, but there was very little design there.

Char trusted her gut and it paid off. I honestly didn't know what to expect with the fringe, but she made it work without looking too costumey. The way she shaped it in back was great. What really made the outfit modern and fun was the mix of suede fringe with the print she selected. Great job.

Sandhya's jumpsuit, on the other hand, was a fail. There was absolutely nothing fresh and contemporary about it, and it certainly wasn’t appropriate for a girl aged 8-12. Even for a 1-year-old it looked dated. She was quite defiant to the judges, which is not very flattering to her after last week’s statement she made about her work. Even though I think this was the worst look this week, I am surprised to see her eliminated over Emily because the judges seemed to be be smitten with her in previous challenges; she must have really put them off by her attitude this time.

Kini had a story which really worked for him and which he translated wonderfully. At first I was concerned (as was Tim) that the outfit would look too “mature," like a woman’s which was simply shrunken down for a girl. However Kini pulled it off, and of course his story totally helped. If he hadn't had that story, it may not have been as successful. I loved the mix of plaids and the dress was fantastic. It is hard to believe he made other pieces on top of this dress with great little details AND a coat! Kini is on a roll, for sure.

Emily sort of screwed herself when she told everyone she has a line of kids’ clothes. I was cheering for her but then realized that was going to work against her (that old producer set up). I didn’t think this was nearly as bad as Sandhya’s, but it did have issues. The color palette was odd for a girl that age. The sweater wasn’t bad, but I did not understand the grey taffeta skirt and colored tulle. Perhaps if she had used a purple fabric for the skirt she may have had a higher score. She said her daughter likes to play dress-up, but I think it was a fatal mistake making an outfit with that in mind.


Season 13, Episode 8: Creative Blocks

Posted By laurareineke 4:03am GMT

The avant-garde challenge is always telling as it shows who has the ability think outside the box. That said, this is challenge #8 and it’s about this time in the competition that one can experience a major creative block. Think about it: in "Project Runway" Land, the designers are given a new challenge pretty much every other day. As a viewer it’s easy to forget this since you watch it weekly. But the whole season, except the finale, is shot in only five weeks. This means an average of two to three challenges per week. There are occasional days in between challenges, more so in the beginning, when the designers don’t go to the workroom but must do confessionals or promotional shoots. While this is not a day off, we would generally be at the production’s disposal for two to four hours (or half a day for a promo shoot). There are virtually no days off, not even Sunday or the Fourth of July. There are no leisurely activities. No shopping, no movies, no TV. We are mic’d from 7 a.m. til midnight. We are being followed around by cameras most of the time. We can’t listen to music or read magazines or books. So, it’s a rather taxing schedule, and emotionally draining as well. For a creative person in particular, there is little source of inspiration. It starts to wear on you and can absolutely lead to creative blocks; creativity doesn’t have a “switch." It happened to me on more than one occasion! Everyone has a different process as a designer; often designers need more time and/or the right environment to nurture their creative souls.

Fade was clearly going through what I’ve described. It was hard for me to watch as he was getting such a a “loser” edit. It was painful to hear him say in the beginning of the challenge that he does a lot of avant-garde designs and that he thought this challenge was in his wheelhouse, only to then hear how “stumped” and “stuck” he was and that he felt “empty," hence producing such a weak and forgettable design. Then again, he did truly stand behind his work as being cutting edge. Poor Fade.

On a positive note, this was one of the most interesting and innovative challenges the producers have come up with yet -— kudos to them. I very much enjoyed the “rainway” twist to this challenge (Thank you, Samsung: This was likely a spendy production for reality TV), and finally the designers were given more than one day to produce something which is meant to “look good from every angle” and be “cutting edge” and “forward." The two clear forerunners of the season, Kini and Sean, clearly had their creative channels open, and derived great inspiration from the rain aspect. Amanda was inspired as well, though her fantasy about Cleopatra watching the Nile flooding was a bit convoluted. Sandhya was off on her own planet as well, on which she is apparently watching episodes of "Romper Room" and "H.R. Puff-n-Stuff" in technicolor HD on the new Samsung curved monitors.

Char - Went the catsuit route. Nothing verges on too costume-y more quickly than a vinyl catsuit, especially when you pile on a giant asymmetric growth/mass of more vinyl. The pillboxish hat on that particular model was giving me a little Grace Jones, but that was about the only redeeming thing about this look. There were worse entries though, according to the judges, so Char landed back in the safehouse.

Sandhya's concoction looks like a life-size doll that a 5-year-old wrapped as a present to bring to her friend’s birthday party. She is becoming very reliant in each challenge on her hand-crafted embellishments, and often does not know when to stop “decorating." While it is necessary to push the envelope in a challenge like this, she does not know when to edit. This look desperately needed editing; like half of the metallic pinwheels needed to go away. Even with that, the clown-like candy-colored striped fabric was hardly cutting-edge or forward. Nevertheless, one cannot argue that she is creative, and the judges really love that she stands out with her own unique POV, so she was a top scorer.

Emily also took a costume-y path. However, somehow this outfit did not offend me as much as Char’s did. I liked her choice of metallic pewter fabric, but unfortunately she only used it on the legs. The dress reminded me of Mugler in the '80s, which is not necessarily a bad thing but can easily look dated and contrived, especially with the Mad Max shoulders and McQueen latex skullcap/ponytail combo. She probably thought she was being innovative but it all felt a bit stale and contrived.

Alexander - At first I wasn’t sure about the purple-hued flowers he used to embellish the vinyl, but with the rain and the lighting the look really came alive and was sort of ethereal walking down the rainway. I did not expect Alexander to use purple flowers; it was refreshing after several designers used so much black. (And I love black! But the set was very dark. I doubt that they knew this when they started designing.)

Fade seemed to know this was his auf. Unfortunately his look lacked the drama and “wow” factor needed for this challenge. I imagined this was a dress that a rave groupie or techno music enthusiast would make at home to attend an event or festival, or something out of a music video. I don’t understand the gimmicky play button and it didn’t even appear to be made that well.

Korina, who had immunity, fell short as well with her silver cage-like thing which was worn over a nondescript black dress. It felt anemic, as if she ran out of time or did not think through her idea enough. Seems she realized after her critique with Tim that her grand plan of designing a dress with wings was going to be too literal and costume-like, so she hit a wall and could not come up with a plan B. She kept the same hair and makeup vision though, which I happened to like; the only thing is, the overall did not reflect her original concept.

Amanda...more weirdness. I hate to use the word “costume-y” AGAIN in this blog but I must! From the moment she stated her inspiration and obsession with Cleopatra, I was dubious. Then, when I saw the colors she picked out, I was scared. Finally when she really DID make giant eyes all over the dress, it made me cringe! How was this bizarre Burning Man dress safe?

Kini used the umbrella as his inspiration and made a fabulous silhouette with a tight-fitting, wet latex-y top to balance a cartridge-pleated skirt which was referencing the umbrella. The styling was spot on, with only the model’s red lips peeking out from her shadowed face. She looked mysterious, like a femme fatale lurking on a dark rainy night in Berlin. I was concerned about his use of so much black, but the textural shifts and silhouette made it work. I do wish he had made a larger hat that was a different shape, as his original sketch indicated. The judges awarded him a win second to Sean.

Seam took a huge risk with his genius idea to use the rain as an element to create a metamorphosis. The result brought drama and fantasy to the “rainway." I honestly can’t recall such a thoughtful and imaginative idea in many if all seasons of "Project Runway." My only issue, however, is with the actual design of the dress. I wish it hadn’t been such a basic “frock” and that it had a more compelling silhouette or maybe even more seams in an unusual pattern to highlight the dye. Perhaps a higher neck, sleeves, or even a cape? Well, just a thought. Just something else. But his risk certainly did earn him the reward.

In general as I am watching "Project Runway," I try to separate any personal feelings I may have about a contestant from his/her design work, since I’ve been on the show and have seen the manipulation of editing first-hand. It is not always easy. I find it curious that many viewers have commented both on my blog and in other forums that they dislike Sean because he is “cocky." I don’t feel this coming across. However, I have actually felt that way about Sandhya in the past, and this week her comments post-runway in the lounge during deliberation really put me off. I can only imagine how the other designers felt at that moment. Without any consideration of others who had just been on the chopping block, she so matter-of-factly stood up on her soapbox and proclaimed that she doesn’t want to ever be compared to another designer and that she feels her work stands on its own. This was as a response to others referring to the judges’ multiple references to Alexander McQueen in this particular critique. It’s fine to think that about yourself, and good to be confident about your work, but arrogant and insensitive to say it to your peers, even if they are competitors, at that moment. What do you think?


Season 13, Episode 7: Cruel Jewels

Posted By laurareineke 4:06am GMT

Well, I'm glad I was not on this season of "Project Runway" because I'd be getting pretty frustrated right about now that out of 7 challenges, this is the third (in a row!) that is "gown" or "occasion" oriented. Gowns might have mass and crowd appeal because they are dramatic and glamorous, but when you think about the great and established fashion houses, few of them are gown-centric. What percentage of women actually have a need for a gown anyway? Aside from mass-market gowns (i.e. from a department store) one would wear to prom or a similar one-off occasion, most gowns are either made to order for the very wealthy (a small percentage of the world's population), or loaned to celebrities for marketing/PR purposes. You do the math. Personally, I don’t relate to gowns as much as I do ready-to-wear and sportswear. I would have been really bummed about another red-carpet gown challenge at this point because it would not be allowing me to really show my strengths as a designer.

My personal preferences aside, I do think it is an interesting challenge to design an "extravagant evening wear look" based on jewelry. However, why such boring jewelry? There was only one piece out of the Chopard selection that made a significant design statement. Everything was really just about some beautiful stones. Swiss-based Chopard is rather conservative and classical when it comes to fine jewelry. It is a company whose slogan is "a tradition of excellence," and was founded by a watchmaker family. That "artistic director" could stand to turn things up a notch, no? I love that the designers were taken to the Met to be inspired by Charles James, though, whose designs pretty much set the bar for extravagant gowns. Right, so basically the challenge is to make a Charles James gown in one day. *Sigh*…that is just cruel.

Sidebar: did anyone else notice how often the word "gala" was mentioned by several designers, yet it wasn't used by Tim to describe the challenge? I heard it again when Heidi came out to introduce the runway show. This sort of thing happened from time to time, "behind the scenes." What I mean is, there were times when the descriptives were a little different between what we as designers heard and what you as viewers saw on air. Yes, it was confusing for us too. Just food for thought.

There are definitely some designers this season who are likely as frustrated as I'd be at this point. Samantha says her forté is street wear, and she has never even been to a wedding, let alone a gala (go figure). Korina just wants to do her southwest-themed ready-to-wear (is she this season's Gretchen, without the bitchiness?). And then there's Amanda, who doesn’t really have a POV but just rolls with it each time. Kini, on the other hand, our resident 8-hour dress wizard, thinks he’s going to be in the top on this one, "guaranteed" (another "Project Runway" no- no: gloating on camera, or predicting you’ve got it in the bag; this is producer gold and they LOVE a good set up for failure).

Didn’t we all feel bad for Char last episode? Sure, her outfit was pretty abysmal, but everyone has missteps, and I feel she was pushed by her teammate Sandhya to use an eyesore of a color which honestly is difficult to make anything attractive out of. While I haven't been blown away by Char’s designs, she is certainly not one of the worst designers. Apparently Tim concurs and has major guilt for his biting comment to Char at the end of the last episode ("Oh Char, if it were several challenges from now, I’d have saved you," which had to have made her feel even worse, thanks!). So Tim pulls out the TG Save and uses it in an unprecedented way, ladies and gentlemen! Char is brought back from the ashes, from being sequestered to her own room at the Refinery Hotel, where she had one night to herself. Now it will be back to having roommates and her phone locked up in a safe. But now she has another chance to win!

Korina was completely inspired and excited by the printed velvet she found in Mood in the upholstery department. I always find great inspiration from fabric; sometimes finding the right one completely dictates the design. This was the case here. She hit a home run with this look, and the judges concurred. It really stood out from all her competitors', and had her voice in the design. I am happy for her as I know how she was struggling with the thought of doing evening wear again. Even the black charmeuse gown underneath was perfect and simple (which it needed to be to ground the coat, and show off the Chopard statement piece), and even stood on its own with a lovely draped back. Pretty impressive that she knocked out that gown in an hour or so the morning of the runway! At first when I saw the look evolving in the workroom, I wasn’t convinced it would complement the necklace, but it really did in the end. The hair and makeup styling was spot on, and Korina made a dramatic and memorable statement. Well done!

Fade was safe this week, and so was his design. I really want to love his work more, but something about it just keeps making me go, "meh." This design was a bit too simple and conservative. The draping in the derriere was not doing him any favors.

Char is back in the game….the "safe" game, that is. After being traumatized by blinding citrus yellow, she selected a clean off white which shows the colored jewels well. The hair and makeup are fresh and pretty. However, I’m not a fan of a "pooping train" on a dress, and the length in the front was way too short. There just isn’t a lot of design happening here in my opinion, especially if you take away the train. But hey, good for her that she's safe....again.

Emily is also safe with her red dress. I love the shade of red she selected, and the neckline shows the pearl necklace well. I also like the idea of the back "cowl" drape she created, but it doesn’t work with the weird pouf peplum thing, which itself looks a bit sloppy. The length is too short as well, so the overall look of the dress seems like a droopy red poppy.

Samantha gave it her best shot, considering she designs urban sportswear, which is about as far away from the world of ball gowns as it gets. She made a fine dress with no point of view and no signature; as Nina said, it was a gown for the "intern," not for a socialite who would be wearing Chopard jewels. But it wasn’t a train wreck. She could have been safe had she given a bit more thought to the neckline, though, as it is screaming for a necklace when she selected the watch and ring combo; the main focus of the challenge was to showcase the jewelry. Sadly at this point in the game, a "vanilla" design isn’t enough to be safe. Frankly I thought Kini’s design was more of a train wreck but (a) he has already proven himself to the judges as a designer and (b) he showed the jewels off.

Sandhya selected the rubies of course, and a really great print. It’s always risky to use a print for a gala dress, and the fact that she designed a cocktail length dress was a mistake because it was not “evening” enough, or really appropriate for a gala. That said, it looked expensive and fit well, complemented the jewelry, and was styled perfectly. The close up on the hand with black or dark dark red (hard to tell on my screen) nail color was gorge.

Sean NAILED it in my opinion. The gown fit perfectly and was the right balance of sophisticated, sexy, and luxe, with just the right amount of detail to not be "boring." The dress needed to be somewhat simple and clean to ground all the sapphire and diamond glitz (he chose a set of earrings, statement necklace, AND ring…a lotta look). I love the velvet accents and low back. For me honestly it was a toss up between his and Korina's looks. They were so different, and both showed the jewels off. However Korina took more of a risk and her look was so unique, which is what makes the judges tick.

Amanda chose a bracelet with heart shaped rubies because her last name is Valentine. OK. Then she decided to make a spandex catsuit and organza overcoat. Is it me, or…how does that relate in the least bit to the bracelet with hearts? Disconnect aside, talking strictly about the look, while I love a good catsuit and hers was cool and I liked the strap detail, I found this to be completely inappropriate for the Met Gala or anything of the caliber of a Chopard-wearing woman. MTV Awards, maybe. I don’t always agree with Zac but I couldn't agree more this time when he said the look would end up on the worst-dressed list. The only reason perhaps she ended up with higher scores than some others is for the risk-taking element and I will say the hair and makeup styling helped sell the outfit. Still, what about the finishing on the "robe"? This fabric is a nightmare to work with and needs to look perfect and it didn’t. I also felt the coat was anemic and needed more volume. The whole look appeared kind of haphazard and odd but I guess that’s no surprise from Amanda.

Alexander also had a disconnect from the jewelry he selected. The neckline was fighting with the bold necklace. The overly textured gunmetal fabric made quite a statement, and he took a risk, but it did not relate at all to the jewelry. It's like he just did what he wanted to do and didn’t consider the necklace enough. Also it would not have taken long to adjust that neckline accordingly so it would better show it off. He could have folded it over and tacked it in place backstage right before the runway and the texture would have hidden it. In his defense, it seems like the designers did not have access to the jewelry at all during the workroom process because we saw the "gloved hands" come in (likely a rep from Chopard) and place the jewelry on the models at the last minute. So he probably had no point of reference to use for that neckline until 5 minutes before his model walked.

Inside scoop: when Tim calls out, "designers and models, it’s time to go down to the runway," there is about an hour between that moment and the time they actually walk the runway. During that time, models and designers are sequestered. Usually we eat some lunch and wait for production to light the runway and cameras to set up. Then, we are given only 3-5 minutes of "last looks" backstage in which to tweak. If your fabric wrinkles easily and the model has been sitting during that hour, or she mistakenly spills something on the dress (which doesn’t happen often), you’re kind of screwed. But at least it’s enough time to quickly tack or fluff something. We are not allowed to use double-stick tape but we are allowed to hand sew.


Season 13, Episode 6: Four Funerals and a Wedding

Posted By laurareineke 4:55am GMT

When I first heard Tim begin to announce this challenge, I thought, “They had better give the designers more than ONE day to make a wedding look!” Of course they didn’t. Perhaps the producers think it’s *easier* to work in teams of two?? Hardly. And when you ask someone to make a gown, let alone a wedding gown, in one day (and a $400 budget), it’s NOT going to be very pretty. Case in point: the winning team. Not to cut to the chase (I will revisit this later), but the clear winners of this challenge made a couple of outfits which frankly seem more a bit more reasonable to complete in one day, and don’t necessarily read as wedding looks. Seems the “trick” in this challenge is to leverage the fact that there are no boundaries or rules, that it just has to be “believable” and the designers can sell it. The fact that Tim used the words, “alternative wedding DRESS” could (and did) throw some people off as they got caught up in the word “dress”, i.e., gown.

While I like the concept of having to design a ceremony look with a companion reception look, I would have preferred (as I’m sure many of the designers would have, too) that they had two days to come up with both looks on their own. Why not go Old School and deliver the challenge for the wedding look, and then pull a good ol' “twist” and tell the designers at the end of the day that they must create a second look for the reception? This would showcase the individual designer so much more and still be just as challenging. It feels like the team aspect was gratuitous and just designed to create more stress, hence more drama. And hey producers, I see right through you with that velvet bag! The episode opens with the “drama” between Amanda, Korina, and Char. Amanda is shocked and hurt (yet somehow still comes across as flippant) that Korina would just tell her to her face that she seems insincere and phony; apparently Char concurs. And then -— shocker -— the two of them end up together as a team. Come on! I want to see names on buttons and I want to see them NOW!

That said, it appears Amanda and Korina took the high road and worked fine together. So there, producers: no drama! That’s not to say they produced very good work, but at least there weren’t any catfights. Still, I felt for them. A similar thing happened to me during my season when I was “stuck” with Jay; it was obvious that we were set up that way, and everyone knew we really weren’t fans of one another. It was tense the whole time, and neither one of us wanted to communicate with each other. We just kind of kept our heads down and did our own thing, and the only real thread of cohesion in our looks was a pop of red. Hmmm, I see a similarity between us and these two.

I knew Char was going to get the auf from the get-go. When she described the fabrics she would be using -- “lace, leather, and chiffon” -- it made my head hurt to imagine them ALL in the same garment, ALL in vibrant citrus! My suspicions about Char’s fate were validated that much more when she was asked in confessional, “How would winning 'Project Runway' change your life?” Historically, the kiss of death in the show via editing is either when the designer answers that question, or if they get to Skype with their loved one on camera. When I did "All Stars" there had been a video phone call scheduled between me and my fiancé right before I was eliminated. It never happened, but still. There is a pattern!

Last week I was wondering where all the style icon judges are for "Project Runway." Well, at least I got what I asked for in Dita Von Teese. Who doesn’t love to watch her? And I quite enjoyed listening to her, too, hearing her opinions on the designs; I thought for the most part she was spot on. I am not sure why there was a need for an additional judge, especially a blogger, but I’m not going to lie, I also got a kick out of listening to Chiara Ferragni’s Italian inflections. They were simultaneously endearing and annoying. I know she’s a big deal (over 200,000 Twitter followers), but is she really as important as Dita? Oh well. Maybe I should send her a pair of leggings. :)

Kini and Sean - The clear winners. The judges almost always reward designers for (a) thinking outside the box, and (b) making separates. I know from experience when I won a challenge for designing an alternative tuxedo when everyone else made gowns. When I saw Sean’s look, I literally said out loud, “I would wear that!” something I rarely say while watching "Project Runway." Kini’s dress was as usual very well executed and fit. I just don’t believe that the two looks would be work by the same woman. I do, however, believe that these two women make a GREAT couple, and it sounds like the guys had that in their minds the whole time. At any rate, they sold it to the judges, but it wasn’t a very hard sell because the looks were so well done. As much as I like Sean and his aesthetic, I think it’s a little messed up that Kini was not awarded the win because he actually made the blouse (AFTER he finished his dress), which was the show-stopping piece in Sean’s outfit. Even if Sean did design the blouse, it’s a shame the judges did not know this (COME ON TIM, isn’t that YOUR job?) because it seems that little piece of information is all it would have taken to tip the scales. Hopefully Kini will win soon, because he deserves it. I am calling these two in the top four.

Alexander and Samantha - I was actually hopeful when I saw the beautiful lace these two selected. I thought the oxblood color was unique and rich and could actually see it appealing to many clients. What they should have thought out a bit more was how to better differentiate the two dresses, because as Tim said, in the workroom they looked virtually the same. His feedback, no doubt, made them panic a bit and likely was the catalyst for Alexander to cover up all that beautiful lace with cumbersome ivory appliqués; he completely ruined the gown by doing so and made it extremely top-heavy. He should have stayed on track with the initial design (perhaps a few of those appliqués placed in a thoughtful way would have been interesting), and Samantha should have then used more solid fabric in her design or...something. There were other problems with her design, such as the unflattering armscye which shows that part of a woman’s armpit that is attractive on .06% of women in the world. The results of these two gave me “Real Housewives of New Jersey” for BOTH. In other words, of very questionable taste. But hey, at least they were cohesive!

Korina and Amanda - Miraculously this pair was safe; they were lucky there were more catastrophic designs from other designers. Korina’s outfit suffered from being “too simple” again. I am beginning to wonder who she is as a designer. It was a bit more apparent in earlier challenges, drawing more upon her Native American roots, as she said, but I haven't seen that, or any signature at all, for several challenges now. I can empathize with her due to there being essentially two “occasion” challenges in a row which could be throwing her, for she is more of a ready-to-wear designer like me. But she needs to step up her game. Amanda...I don’t have a lot of words. To me this dress was just odd (again) and not special enough. And what was UP with the STYLING?! If she had been in the bottom Nina would have had a field day with that. Here is a mod 1960s quirky black and white dress and she throws on an armful of gypsy-like gold bangles and rings. The black and white color palette was the only element tying these two designs together.

Emily and Fade - I felt these two looks weren’t abominable on their own, but they were not cohesive in the least. The two looks would not be worn by the same woman. Fade’s dress was very nice and I do appreciate his textile creations; however he focused so much on the textile that the silhouette ended up being very basic. Understandably, one must balance the two, but I’d like to see him do more like his design last week. As for Emily’s look, I LOVED her choice of textiles and thought the unexpected combination of the lace with the graphic cut-out felt was really intriguing and actually worked. However, she took the goth a little too far. I hated the bell sleeve and hood, and agree with Dita that it was contrived. Heck, I could have even lived with the hood as a veil alternative had she made a sleeker top, either sleeveless or with fitted sleeve with her full skirt a la Geoffrey Beene. Even better, how about no hood but a cowl instead, and then long skinny sleeves with thumb holes or an elastic loop so they stay long on the hand? Oh Emily, I had such high hopes for this.

Sandhya and Char - As I mentioned earlier, I knew it would be Char’s auf. There was also foreshadowing when she mentioned how Sandhya was very insistent on using this extremely bright acid yellow. There needed to be a LOT of editing here. You can’t use a color like that and then embellishment, multiple textiles, AND volume. Poor Char lost her way big time and produced a look which was sloppy and irregular on top of all the aforementioned elements. The draping was really bad; it looked like she’d been caught in a cyclone on the way to the party. Sandhya’s gown was also poorly draped, and she again relied to heavily on the textile fabrication she spent hours making. It backfired on her because not only was the texture too much, but she was left with no time to properly execute the gown.


Season 13, Episode 5: Fringe Is The New Black

Posted By laurareineke 4:42am GMT

DRUM ROLL -- I mean, eye roll. We all KNOW Heidi and Tim are the “stars” of the show, but come on, Heidi exiting from the car in a trench coat being snapped by staged paparazzi in front of Parsons was all a bit silly and gratuitous. But then again, this IS the gratuitous “red carpet dress for Heidi” challenge. At least this time there was an actual event to which she promised she would wear the winning design: The Creative Arts Emmys.

The “red carpet” challenges always separate those who are comfortable with gowns from those who are, well, less than seasoned. I ought to know; I was terrified when we had ours, when the season was more than halfway over. We were all fried, I was “blocked” creatively —- big time -— and gowns were not in my wheelhouse, nor does designing them come naturally to me. I consider myself a ready-to-wear designer, not a formalwear/gown designer. If you haven’t made gowns before, it can be very intimidating. There are certain fabrics associated with gowns which should be avoided, or must be handled very carefully and/or skillfully, and if one is not familiar with how to work with such fabrics, a one-day challenge on "Project Runway" is NOT the time to experiment. However, when you are in the thick of it and only have a half hour to brainstorm your design, a half hour to shop for fabrics, $250 to spend on materials, and one day to finish, all to the tune of “GO GO GO," you have a tendency to lose sight of common sense! And of course that is when Reality TV Gold happens.

We see early on who is struggling and who is not. Big Bad Heidi comes into the workroom with Tim to weigh in on the works-in-progress. Let me tell you, it is very weird having her in the workroom. Not only is it incredibly intimidating, but awkward because you’re not exactly sure when she is playing up the drama for the camera and when she is being sincere. Also Heidi is a pro at the ol’ poker face. Only about half the designers received critiques they were content with. Heidi leaves and many of them are scrambling.

Some time goes by, and then...wait, what is HK doing back in the workroom? A twist? Well, sort of. She tells the designers she is worried. She is concerned that many of them do not have good designs unfolding. So, as only Heidi Klum (a.k.a. an Executive Producer) can do, she gives the designers the option of returning to Mood with $100 more to rework their designs. She does, after all, have to WEAR the design, but my first thought was “Come ON!” This seemed so unfair to me, for (as Emily said) the designer should have to make their fabric selections work, and fabric selection is all part of a challenge, so they should be critiqued accordingly! Then I realized that the $100 and second trip to Mood is the poison apple: If you go to Mood, you lose that more precious time in the workroom and even more time rethinking your design. A trick question, perhaps? As much as we all wanted to see an underdog emerge victorious, it didn’t happen. News flash: It’s hard enough to make an evening/cocktail dress in one day, let alone five hours. Honestly, what do you expect?

Lindsey Vonn, olympic gold medalist in alpine skiing, is the guest judge this week. Oh, and she is Tiger Woods’ girlfriend. That is all. I guess Marina Sharapova declined. Can you tell I’m underwhelmed? Where are all the style icons as judges on this show?

Char: Aaaaannnnnnd ditto from last week, *again*. It’s a perfectly nice dress in a nice color, and not offensive. But haven’t we seen this before a gazillion times over?

Emily: Emily strikes me as one of the designers who really doesn’t “do” gowns, but she is an experienced enough designer that she could make something work. I liked the asymmetric lapel feature, but the final design was a bit snoozeville. Heidi lit up when she saw it because it was short and tight —- TOO short and tight. But really, it was more appropriate for a nightclub than for the Emmys.

Mitchell: He said it himself, this was the “Hot Mess Express." My first reaction was not to the design but to the particular shade of shiny red that he chose; it looked cheap and pageant-y. On top of that, the design was lackluster, poorly made, and too short. The styling even further cheapened it (nude patent Minnie Mouse-stripper pumps). He may have been able to compensate slightly for the short length had he selected a non-platform, lower heeled shoe. Who knows if his first “drag queen she-devil bodice” design would have saved him from elimination?

Korina: Another designer admittedly out of her element, I knew Korina was doomed when she mentioned “green cotton ponte and snakeskin” in the same sentence. But then she made another fatal move by choosing green again when she had a second chance to go to Mood, after Heidi compared her first train wreck of a dress to a particular green German uniform. I did feel her pain, because as she said she was just trying to make a dress in 5 hours. Sometimes, you’re just blocked, and she surely was. If she loves green, though, I just don’t understand why she didn’t go with something that would pop more, like emerald or even chartreuse; she clearly likes to use color, so why was she so stuck on such a dull shade? It is kind of hard to believe she was spared, but then again at least the length of her gown was somewhat correct compared to Mitchell, albeit with a jagged cut hem. She is also infinitely more interesting a designer than him.

Fade: Something about his designs are just okay for me, but I appreciate a more European style that shows in his work. I loved Fade’s choice of fabric and print here, and the back had great movement when the model walked. But from the front it was just OK. That said, it was more interesting than some of his competitors’, and I certainly would have scored his higher than Amanda’s for taste level alone.

Alexander: This LBD was cool and downtown-edgy, but nothing extraordinary. I could actually see HK wearing this dress to a club or other event, if the length in back was corrected and we weren’t seeing cheek.

Samantha: Again, not blown away by her design. When I saw it on the mannequin I thought the back of the bodice was really cool; I only wish she had done something as modern and interesting with the skirt portion of the dress. They seem disjointed to me, and the skirt detracts from the main design feature which is the back bodice. I think Samantha has some good ideas but somehow they aren’t quite memorable enough.

Kristine: Another one bites the dust. A big fail from a designer who was out of her element. She knew the dress was bad, but I agree with her that she should have stuck with her original design which was much more unique, at least from the sketch. At least she may have been spared for being creative. The silver grey color she had originally selected was not a good choice for a red carpet, and apparently too thin, but all she had to do was choose a different fabric when she went back to Mood and keep the same design. I could see the base color being black, or even nude, with the pop of red. Too bad.

Kini: Kini has his mojo on. Clearly dresses are his forté. It is rare to see someone who works so fast, is so spot-on with fit, and is also creative. The gown was simple and elegant, but it was the fit that made it. I thought his use of matte and shine was really nice and the style lines were very flattering. The deep back was perfect and it was very smart of him to choose a double jersey to emphasize the body-hugging design and great fit. The gown looked expensive and professional. I would have tied him with Sean, as the judges likely did.

Sean: First: Google the Jil Sander Spring/Summer 2009 collection. It was clear that Sean had a strong vision of what he wanted to do. He takes the win for a fun and elegant fringe creation in a most fabulous color. The ombré “haircut” he gave it totally made it; without it, it would not have been as special. I would definitely question how many women could actually pull this dress off, but if anyone can, it’s ze Kluminator! Amanda, take note: THIS is how you use fringe. I guess Heidi is having a fringe moment as she seems to be awarding fringe use lately. Is this going to start a major fashion trend? I have to say I wasn’t as crazy for the dress when I saw it in the photographs from the Creative Emmys. It kind of gave me a Muppet vibe. Still, it looked like HK was having fun in it.

Amanda: Is it me, or is she getting some preferential “runway redemption” treatment again? I thought this look could have been in the bottom. Again, it looked too “crafty,” and not in a good way. The trims did not work together and I had a flashback to Francesca’s, the sponsor for “Under the Gunn”; if this was a challenge to design a gown to sell in their stores, I’d definitely put it in the top three. But this is a challenge for Heidi and I really can’t picture her in this gown. I felt like the judges’ critiques of her design were lukewarm, and less than thrilled. So why is she a top scorer? OK, so the back is nice, but 75% of the time photos are taken from the front. What’s going on here!? Like I said, I would have given Fade or even Sandhya a higher score.

Sandhya: Yes, I know I said I’d give her a higher score than Amanda, but it did make me mad that she pilfered money from the other designers who chose not to go to Mood so that she could buy more expensive fabric. Her gown was all about the fabric. I am sure some viewers (and competitors) feel differently, but it just seems the producers should have stepped in and stopped her from using others’ budgets. When you are competing on the show, you hear multiple times from producers that they want there to be a “fair playing field” for everyone, especially in terms of time. For example, many of us complain about having to be pulled to do confessionals in the middle of a workday, because the time is so very precious. But they make sure they keep each person out of the workroom for the same amount of time to keep it fair. Another example: We bring our sewing kits/tools/supplies with us on the show, but they are inspected and certain items removed and stored (if deemed advantageous) until one is no longer competing. Why shouldn’t the same rules apply when it comes to budget? I would not have given her my $100! I thought for sure Sandhya would end up in the top three, if nothing else so that the issue could be raised on the runway and she could be praised for making such an “expensive” looking gown!

Just a bit of epilogue here, since the subject is the Creative Emmys: This week, I am dedicating my blog to my dear friend Lou Eyrich, with whom I have had the honor to work in the past; I am very proud of her for receiving the Emmy for Best Costume Design for a Miniseries for her work on “American Horror Story." Not only is she extremely talented but she is one of the loveliest people I know. Plus it’s a bonus that (a) I love the show, and (b) she used some of my designs on it last season!


Season 13, Episode 4: Royale With Cheese

Posted By laurareineke 12:30pm GMT

OK, so for those of us who don’t really have a clue about the "Project Runway" Season 13 sponsor, this episode will enlighten us! You see, this is what they pay for. Apparently Red Robin is the “Home of the Gourmet Burger!” Tim says excitedly. The designers gather 'round to get the spiel from the Red Robin’s “President of Brand Transformation," a small man in a rather cheesy suit and tie. I can just see him now, planning his outfit: “I’m going to be on 'Project Runway,' so I need to be SUPER fashionable." A cacophony of men emerge in colorful, ill-fitting suits, some from the 1970s and some formal wear, which the designers find out will (along with a side of fries) serve as their inspiration AND their main fabric. They are to use as much of the suit fabric as possible to create a high-fashion look. The producers decide that Sandhya, the poor bullied girl who has no friends, will get her revenge by choosing a suit for each of her competitors. Of course the storyline of the rivalry between her and Hernan is amplified now, as he is convinced she selected the worst possible suit for him. Sabotage!

There certainly are some hideous suits there. I know now why they were all ill-fitting: because the producers tried to buy suits in larger sizes so the designers would have more fabric to work with. Honestly I don’t think Hernan got the worst suit; Sean did. Come on: Dijon-colored corduroy? What woman even wears corduroy anymore, and how the heck do you make it look high fashion?! Of course Sandhya chooses the most colorful one which is yellow and purple. Amanda is kvetching over her pink floral damask; Mitchell hates his denim leisure suit. I still don’t understand what any of this has to do with burgers.

The designers supplement their vintage polyesters with materials from Mood. I do think this is kind of a fun challenge, but I also think it sucks for the designers that in the first four episodes, they’ve been forced to use either materials which are not of their choosing, or “non-fabric” materials for all but one challenge. Tim visits the workroom and Amanda is going all krazy kwilt on us. I’m kind of scared of the crafty-patchwork direction. Kini, on the other hand, is apparently the speed sewer this season, and has already whipped up a very sharp-looking dress; Tim is impressed, but Alexander thinks his designs are bland and “understated." I’d hardly call that dress understated. Mitchell has taste issues again; it seems that in every challenge he only does slutty club dresses and talks crap about everyone else’s designs. Poor Sean is really struggling with his Dijon corduroy and attempts a deconstructed look by making a textile using the suit fabric and others which he bought at Mood, all in a similar palette; it’s not working and there doesn’t seem to be any hope of saving it. Hernan is also completely tanking. He blames Sandhya for giving him an awful suit, then becomes indignant about the whole thing and just wants to throw in the towel. We can see this train is headed to derailment as he cuts the dress and has no time to hem it. Ouch. There is nothing quite like the feeling on the morning of the runway when your heart is racing because you seem to have an impossible amount of work to do, and know you may not even finish. Then, when Tim gives his 10-minute warning, you have to think very quickly about what you can let go and what you can realistically do in such a short amount of time. Typically the judges are pretty unforgiving for a raw-edged hem.

Korina: Her red-and-black motorcycle jacket and skirt looks cheap. All I could think of was some JC Penney misses’ department ensemble which was supposed to be for the matronly customer who’s having a rebellious moment. It looked dated and the opposite of what a “high fashion” outfit should be.

Char: Ditto from last week. Everything she makes is starting to look the same to me. It’s fine, but there's nothing ground-breaking or particularly distinct about her POV.

Fade: Much better this week. His design had wonderful texture combinations and a great silhouette. It looked very Parisian.

Samantha: Not blown away, but it was an interesting LBD. I thought it would have been much more chic had the length been longer.

Hernan: What a disaster. Nina was being kind when she said the back looked perfect; certainly nothing about it looked perfect. Why oh why would he choose to add vinyl to the design? I’m all for a chevron, but not a gigantic “V” in the front of the skirt. There are just so many things wrong with this dress. Seems Sandhya’s voodoo worked and Hernan dug his own grave! Sadly, he seemed to know his auf was coming.

Alexander: I hate to say it after my reaction to last week’s judging, but I am glad he was spared because this design was really great. Not only did it look high fashion, but Alexander styled his model so well that she really looked like a little starlet on the red carpet or even at a Paris fashion week party. He did a great job and let’s hope we see more like this from him.

Mitchell: Where do I begin? Cheap, tacky, costumey, ill-fitting. Since when does vinyl equate with high fashion? I always wondered what the judges do when the low scores are tied between two or more designers, meaning they must decide who goes on the chopping block and who slides through to safety. Consult with the producers is my guess. I was imagining his score could have been just as low as Kristine’s perhaps, but because of the motorcycle jacket story line, and the fact that Mitchell talks crap about everyone, he slid through. Just a possible theory.

Sean: We all knew watching the episode that it would be very very difficult for Sean to make something good out of his “deconstructed” mustard creation. He was on the right track to break up the corduroy so it wasn’t distinguishable, but I think one fatal error (which he knew was a risk) was using the fraying/reverse side of the textile he created. I wouldn’t say the other side was “boring” -- he could have made a more interesting design, or a long dramatic gown which perhaps would have at least landed him into safety. He should have stuck with the entire outfit being made out of the same textile, rather than making an icky power mesh crop top. Come on, Sean, we know you can do better!

Kristine: Kristine got a suit made out of fabric that was also potentially difficult to work with: velour. When I saw her moto jacket in the workroom versus Korina’s, there was no question that hers looked better than Korina’s; however, Kristine spent so much time on the jacket that she was scrambling to make a pant for the outfit, and in doing so realized she did not have enough fabric, so she made a rushed, bad decision to add black organza to the pant legs in order to make them full length. I would have simply made them bermuda length or cropped pants if possible. She may have been able to get away with that and some cool styling. But those pants were very scary. The bad critique shook her up but at least she made it to the next round, because she has some great potential!

Amanda: Sorry, but I didn’t like the design unfolding in the workroom and I didn’t like it on the runway. To me it looked like some kooky thing you’d find in a thrift store that was hand-made by a hippie in a band. My first thought was Stevie Nicks, and then the model was totally doing the “Stevie twirls" during the deliberations! Tim called it when he said the fringe would be her saving grace. Sure, Amanda took polyester suit fabric and transformed it so you’d have never known its origin, but does that make it a winning design? Not in my book. I mean would you really think someone looked chic wearing that dress on the red carpet? Or would you be more impressed by Kini’s design? I stand firmly in betting that Amanda’s dress would make it onto US Weekly’s worst-dressed page. I’d like to know what Nina REALLY thinks about it.

Kini: Kini is making statements with his work. I am starting to see his POV as a designer, and that is what you want on "Project Runway." He did a fantastic job this week with the challenge. His look was strong, sexy, and had just enough detail. He was very clever to use neoprene as an accent, which added an edge and sculpted element. Now, you must admit that it is much easier to make grey pinstripes look chic as opposed to mustard corduroy or pink damask. But in the end it was a bit of “luck of the draw” (OR, whatever fate Sandhya has for you), with design and construction prowess. Undoubtedly Kini “made it work” and produced a very well-constructed, red-carpet-ready design which looked expensive. He was completely robbed of the win this week.

Sandhya: Another look from her which was undoubtedly original. However there were way too many elements going on and it needed editing. Even Tim seemed skeptical of her mustache stencil, which was too gimmicky. There is no denying there were some interesting elements to the look, and it was a creative and fun showing on the runway. For me though, personally, it went a bit too far, a la Jeremy Scott (whose designs I’m not a fan of), and ended up looking too much like student work.

Emily: Fantastic job again. Emily really understands what it is that trend-driven girls like to wear. This was a clever use of the plaid jacket. I love that she made cropped pants out of it as well. The look had great proportions and details and reminded me of Gwen Stefani’s “L.A.M.B.” line. If I had been a judge I’d have given this look a higher score than Amanda’s.

Now, who’s inspired to go try one of Red Robin’s 24 burgers? Do any of you know where I got the title of my blog this week? Something about a leisure suit and a cheeseburger made me think of this film...