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Mila Hermanovski Blog

Home Stretch

By kim_messina Fri., Apr. 19, 2013 ,4:57 am EDT

The top four designers are told they have $10K to make 12 looks for their final collections, and that they shall return to New York for another judging to determine who will then compete at New York Fashion Week to become the winner of Season 11 of ("Project Runway Teams," remember?). If those designers are feeling at all as I did that day, it is an immense sense of relief and accomplishment, as the utter exhaustion sets in and it all feels quite surreal. As I was "released" and given my cell phone back, and permitted to take a walk by myself in New York to kill time before my flight, it was a strange feeling of vulnerability and displacement...even though Iʼd lived in and subsequently visited New York before. The whole thing felt like a dream. What just happened?

Now for the home visits!

Timʼs first destination is Taos Pueblo, NM, to see Patricia and experience her environment, which is incredibly culturally rich. The food her family cooked looked amazing, and what a beautiful setting, right down to her studio (really impressive)! Timʼs time in Patriciaʼs native land gave him an epiphany about who she is and where much of her aesthetic comes from7#151;itʼs hard not to! She tells Tim her inspiration is simply, "trees," which seems a bit general.

Next he visits Michelle in Portland, where she reveals she had been in the wine industry for years had decided one day to start making clothes. Her collection is inspired by the "Lone Wolf," a descriptive which interestingly she had used to refer to her emotional state earlier in the season. I have to say I can relate to that sentiment. I often felt lonely during the intense experience that is "Project Runway." It sounds odd to say that, unless youʼve been through it, because ironically youʼre surrounded by others constantly. There is no privacy except when youʼre in the bathroom. Contestants are either chaperoned or with roommates at all times. It wasnʼt until I was the last woman standing that I was even fully alone for more than a few minutes. And even then, the competition was almost over at that point.

In Austin, Tim calls on Daniel, sporting a new Labradoodle (or as Tim says, "Chia Pet") hairdo, and does not reveal where he lives...why? He sets everything up in his friendʼs house. He is using a lot of black—and stingray—in his collection, which has multiple inspirations that do not necessarily relate to one another. Daniel shows Tim his mood board and explains that he was influenced by his trip to Berlin, the Cosmos, and...Salvador Dali. Then a light bulb went off in my head. Dali...moustache! Everyone Google images of Dali now. Do it. Daniel is SO channeling him, from the hair to the moustache to the facial expressions.

Here in La L aLand, Tim checks in on Stanley, who is working out of a glamorous space right on Hollywood Boulevard, merely blocks away from the Walk of Fame, very appropriate for his luxurious "Old Hollywood" collection. He says itʼs 1960s meets Renaissance Spain. Nice mid-century dinette set, Stanley!

As predicted, when the designers return to New York and the 1407 Broadway building as their satellite workroom, they are instructed to select the three looks which best exemplify their collections and (ideally) will leave the judges salivating to see more, so that they will go through to NYFW.The producers just couldnʼt leave it alone, so they invited the last four designers back to help. Apparently Stanley needs the most help of all, with some looks barely sewn, so he gets Richard, the least helpful! Layana helps Patricia, and then gossips about her to the others—are we surprised? Michelle and Amanda (with a very fetching ombré hair color, I might add) are reunited, and Samantha gets to help Daniel add four inches to one of his small-fitting pieces. (Which would mean that garment was what...a double-0?)

Stanley selected three looks which, while very luxurious and well-crafted, were quite stodgy. They strike me as *too* vintage, as if one were to go into a costume house or high-end vintage store and copy period pieces exactly, only changing the textiles. However even the textiles looked vintage, though it is impressive that all the beading was done by hand. Nina was somewhat drawn to his collection because of the luxury element, but the proportions were all wrong, and the looks lack any sort of forward design or allure/sex appeal. Itʼs not to say they need to be sexy, but they could use an injection of modernity. The gold dress, in particular, made the model appear to be twice her size, and was too heavy-handed. Stanley said he loves American sportswear, yet the sportswear element was completely absent.

Patricia, kooky Patricia. She is a talented and creative textile artisan, but she does not understand how to put a collection together. Granted, we have not seen the whole thing, but the three looks she showed were not cohesive. One material (horsehair) is not enough to hold a collection together. The cape trimmed with horsehair was clearly the star, but I donʼt see how the "Dr. Seuss" blue dress with sea-anemone headpiece would be in the same collection or worn by the same woman. And the third look, while graphic and ethnic, was not special enough. I got a real Chicoʼs vibe from that one. However, Heidi has a soft spot for Patricia because she is so different, and designs things we havenʼt seen before (for better or for worse). Heidi: "You could win this thing!" Really?

Daniel seemed very confident in the workroom, and reluctant to take any advice from Tim. He showed three all-black looks, which anyone whoʼs watched the show knows is extremely risky and almost never outshines another collection. I was waiting for Nina to go off on him, and of course she did (I got a similar lecture from her because I hardly used any color in my final collection, either). But Nina is right: if youʼre going to use ALL black, the shapes need to be fantastic, graphic, striking. Texture is key as well. He used stingray, but like Patricia, thought it was enough of a common element to tie everything together. His looks were simply not forward or interesting enough. This was no surprise to me, though, as Iʼve thought in general Danielʼs design tends to be dated. What *was* surprising, though, is the fact that he used all black, after seeing his past designs and how much he loves bright color. In the end, Daniel does not advance; Iʼve said it before: the judges almost always favor the designer with MORE ideas (even if they are questionable ones) to the one with not enough.

Michelle is the only designer, in my opinion, who fully executed and understands how to translate a concept. Not only were her three "Lone Wolf" looks thoughtful and rich with layers and texture, they made me want to see more. They were diverse in material and style, yet still very cohesive. The sweater was fantastic, and I love that she collaborated with "LOL Cats" Joe and utilized his knit expertise! I also really like the delicate, sheer "underpinning" layers, contrasted with hardware, leather, knit, and neoprene. Overall the looks were bordering on too busy for me personally, but then again, the runway is about fantasy to some degree, and editing is always a possibility. The compass was too gimmicky and even though I like the tousled hair, it was just a tad TOO messy. The makeup could have benefitted from a neutral shadow and deep berry or brown lip to emulate a modern huntress. Iʼm looking forward to seeing the entire collection next week.