I love the avant-garde and super artsy challenges because ideally they really separate the creative from the mediocre. Letʼs face it, to be a successful designer, you need to be able to push the boundaries sometimes. Often we see the judges deliberating between two designersʼ elimination, and one has no innovation while the other has questionable taste and/or the inability to edit or too many ideas. Nine times out of ten the designer who has too many ideas is spared because usually someone with no creativity never really becomes more creative; however someone who cannot edit can sometimes be reigned in.
Woohoo! Itʼs about freaking time there was a cash prize on "Project Runway"! Thank you, HP and Intel! Now why wasnʼt this on my season? We see it all the time on "certain other reality competition shows" (sensitive subject): in many challenges, there is a cash prize from a sponsor. All it would take is more work on the producersʼ or executivesʼ part to make that happen. Sponsors would pay more money and have the brand featured on the show; itʼs that simple. Instead, even in cases where the designerʼs look is for a specific retailer (or uniform for a restaurant, etc), that poor designer sees none of the profit, and only receives "exposure." Contrary to what one would think, this really doesnʼt do a whole lot for them in the longrun. And since no one gets paid to be on "Project Runway," a cash prize is kinda nice.
The challenge is for each team of two to create an innovative "wearable art" look, and a companion ready-to-wear look, incorporating their original print created with the new HP Envy tablet. The designers are in one of the most inspiring places they could be, the fabulous Guggenheim museum. Wait...they only have a HALF HOUR to seek inspiration and sketch? Is that even enough time to walk up the ramp? So sad. So the designers run around snapping photos of things that interest them, and as usual, everything is rushed so they are then whisked back to the workroom to design the textile, where they find a Romper-Room-like array of crafty items like bubble wrap, popsicle sticks and the ubiquitous glue guns. They will be allowed a trip to Mood, thank god, to supplement the craft items and the printed fabric.
When we had our HP print challenge, we had about an hour to create it, not much when you consider the learning curve for some who are not so computer-graphics-savvy, or donʼt use PCs. Think about all the elements: the main graphic, the repeat, the colors. Not a lot of time, so itʼs no wonder the prints arenʼt great. Iʼm a wee bit scared by Michelleʼs disturbing face print. Not a fan of the color, and the face is just fug. You know Stanley likely gave her full license on this one since Iʼm willing to bet he falls under the category of "not computer graphics savvy," since back when we studied fashion design, we didnʼt learn that. I love that Michelle has a contemporary outlook but sometimes I really see the "Keep Portland Weird" in her (famous bumper sticker you see up there...and it speaks volumes). This is one of those times. Overall, though, it seems Michelle and Stanley are getting on famously as a team.
Patricia and Richard. Oh dear. I feel so bad for Patricia because she is a true artisan, who probably feels excited and right at home in this challenge, and she has been teamed with someone who has zero creativity. At first youʼd think that it could be good, right? She takes the reigns and makes the super over-the-top piece, while he makes the watered-down, ready-to- wear piece inspired by hers. Well, Richard was a deer in headlights at the museum, finding nothing inspiring in a building full of inspiration. Oh dear. I lovelovelove Patriciaʼs bold, painterly, large scale print. Richard is simply paralyzed again by Patriciaʼs creation, not knowing what to do partially because she canʼt articulate what she is making...and partially because he canʼt use jersey! So, he spends the entire first day making a bracelet. And the quote of the week goes to Patricia: "You scared of my piece? GOOD! If I instill fear in you, at least you FELT something!" Suddenly I really love Patricia. Watch out for that bus, though, Patricia.
Layana and Daniel...another rough team. Layana is being her narcissistic self again and making the challenge all about her. She belittles Daniel and tries to control everything: "Iʼm going to make sure he makes something sexy..." While he does need some youthful spirit, he does not need to be patronized and bossed around. She then has a meltdown due to creative block. This is definitely the time (towards the end of the competition) when those blocks creep in. Clearly, she reallllly wants that prize, and is her own enemy right now. But everyone is so sleep-deprived and stressed out at this point that itʼs all starting to take its toll. Reality TV gold (Thereʼs a reason we are under such stressful conditions)! Apparently, though, Layana thinks she is all alone, since Daniel (in her eyes) is worthless. She cries it out and starts over.
Michelle and Stanley have high scores. Michelle designed the wearable art look which was a waistcoat with a fantastic hand painted train, painted bubble wrap petticoat (which Stanley executed), and Dr. Seuss (Keep Portland Weird) headpiece. The overall effect of this look was very artsy and avant-garde, so it succeeded there. I happen to like the fact that it had little of the scary face print, but perhaps that detracted from her score? Stanley designed a tiered tent dress out of the majority of the scary face fabric. Anyone out there whoʼd really buy and wear that? Just curious. I sure wouldnʼt. Iʼm dumbfounded that Stanley won for this. One thing Iʼve realized from my experience on the show (and the perspective it has given me): judging can be spun any which way. Tim always used to tell us that too. It must be the earbud judging again. I couldnʼt help but imagine the judgesʼ spin if it had gone the other way:
Nina: "That print is just SO depressing."
Heidi: "I would never wear that. It looks like a maternity dress. But even if I were pregnant again, it would scare my baby."
Rachel: "Trapeze dresses are so KMart."
Daniel and Layana are basically safe. However let it go on the record that little Miss MeMeMe got bitten in the ass. What a brat! What do you MEAN you feel BETRAYED? Daniel stuck up for himself just as you would have if the tables were turned. In the end Layana produced a hot mess of a dress that may be suited for Helena Bonham Carter....it was cray cray. The print she designed looked like it was from the home furnishings department of Jo-Ann, and was completely wrong for the period-looking gown she designed. Then she haphazardly threw a bunch of tulle over it, and has meltdown #2 backstage. Daniel designed an acceptable ensemble of a well-executed black cocktail jacket with a bubble skirt out of the pillow print. I cannot understand how the judges so wildly praised this look, even though the jacket was well made. It simply looked odd together as an outfit, mainly because the skirt cheapened it.
Patricia and Richard have low scores, which is again due to one extremely weak designer bringing down a strong look. Patriciaʼs unique design was truly avant-garde and reminded me of a high fashion European runway look. I thought the veil was a great addition, but wish it had been executed a bit better, perhaps out of stiffer fabric. But that is just splitting hairs. It was highly conceptual and as looked as if the model was wearing a hand-painted gown. Itʼs such a drag that Richardʼs sad, inexpensive looking creation brought them so far down. He clearly lacks creativity, which is essential for a successful designer. The skirt was very unflattering, and the added belt cheapened it further. I honestly thought Patricia could win for this look. Her textile design was far superior to Michelle and Danielʼs, but unfortunately itʼs still a "team" challenge.