Through the last 10 seasons of "Project Runway," Iʼve aways wondered how the producers came up with new unconventional challenges, and when they would run out of ideas. Perhaps that time has come. I can just hear it now: the producers brainstorming, pre-network-presentation: "What the heck are we going to do for the unconventional challenge this time? Everything has been done! Wait...what if we COMBINE two of the challenges? Letʼs make them use flowers AND hardware in the same garment! Heidi can use her new tagline, 'I like hard and soft!'" And itʼs a double whammy.
I wonder what that workroom smelled like with all those overly-fake-scented Glade candles burning. Come on, someone be honest. You canʼt tell me that 30-something deodorizing candles burning in that room was not olfactory hell. Oh yeah...you canʼt say air anything negative about a sponsor! I was waiting for the challenge to have some sort of twist that would make it more relevant to Glade candles...but I guess they were trying to make it a floral connection.
The designers are sketching this time. In some previous unconventional challenges, we did not sketch but rather just went to the source of materials (in my case, the hardware store...which by the way was the very same one they use in this episode). While I guess sketching can be good to do beforehand to have some sort of plan, I also feel like it can be a waste of timethat sketching AFTER the shopping trip is more useful because you have no idea what you may find in the store and that can have a significant impact on your design. Iʼm betting many designers had to modify or change their designs after they returned from shopping.
The teams have been shaken up to even them out a bit. Michelle is now on Team KIR and Stanley and Layana are on Dream Team. Dream Team comes up with the concept of "Dior New Look" and a color palette; Team KIR has no common theme or direction to keep their looks cohesive (not good). As a result, the looks they are creating look like they are made by "crazy people," says Michelle. Did anyone notice Josephʼs crazy sketch?! Just to be clear, Team KIR: "RuPaul meets 'Gilliganʼs Island'" is NOT a good theme. Michelle, by the way, wins the prize for the best sound bytes this episode!
During the workroom critiques, Michelle comes up with a theme for the team, so that they can try to justify their "insane asylum" looks to the judges: "decades." Whatʼs funny is it kind of made sense when each designer announced his/her era on the runway. Tim advises Joseph, "You donʼt want it to look like itʼs consuming her," referring to an overly-embellished outfit. Actually, Tim, he does want that! What came to my mind, ironically enough, was look #40 in Christian Sirianoʼs Spring 2011 collection, which looked like a massive red tulle creature eating the model as she walked down the runway. Poor Amanda is having a Titanic experience, sinking as she tries to tread water and all her team mates try to keep her afloat.
Sidebar: can we talk about Heidiʼs runway-day dress? Hello, giant diamond/triangle at crotch?! What are she and her stylist smoking that allowed then to overlook this? It also made me reflect upon when I was criticized by Nina for a chevron dress Iʼd made for a challenge to design Heidiʼs cover look for Marie Claire. Nina was obsessed with the fact that the chevrons were pointing at the crotch...yet Heidi didnʼt seem to mind.... (p.s., Kors had a black and white chevron swimsuit that season with...you guessed it...arrows to the crotch).
Welcome the odd pairing of judges: the legendary performer Bette Midler, and the newly legendary blogger Leandra Medine (aka Man Repeller). Some trivia for you here: my good friend Lou who is a costume designer for shows such as "Glee" and "American Horror Story" (we worked together on "Nip/Tuck") told me she used to tour with Bette, and how she would always insist upon having fresh flowers DAILY. So Iʼm sure she enjoyed being a guest for this challenge!
Team KIR has a more avant-garde collection, albeit less cohesive. Most looks spoke for themselves, and were quirky in their own ways. The judges deemed that this was the less successful team, and I agree. The lowest scoring looks were Joseph and Amanda....but can we talk about Danielʼs RuPaul-meets-Creature From the Black Lagoon creation? This was one of the worst in my opinion, with the dripping bits and the overexaggerated, drag queen-esque panniers. Was it worse than the moss dress? Perhaps not. Was it worse than Josephʼs? I think so. It was nice to see Joseph take a different path and I thought his use of color and composition were interesting, not to mention the evidence of the mix of organic and hardware materials. Not a top-scorer by any means, but certainly more unique and less of an eyesore than Danielʼs. I felt bad for Amanda, though, who was totally thrown under the bus by all her teammates. I know they are ASKED to declare the weakest player, but the whole thing was uncomfortable and you could tell Amanda was a bit taken aback. Of course she was spared, so that there will potentially be drama between her and her teammates going forward. If I were her, Iʼd feel pretty crappy right about now, and possibly wish Iʼd been put out of my misery to avoid all that tension and the feeling that all her teammates think she should have been eliminated. Just icky.
Dream Teamʼs looks were pretty spectacular. From Tuʼs "sleeveless jacket" to Stanleyʼs leaf lady, not a single one was bad. It was very cohesive in both silhouettes and color palette, and even fabrication, as they all looked well made. My favorite look was Samanthaʼs, as she really married the "hard and soft" the best, and the dress looks current and fashionable. I love the cutout bodice. Layanaʼs dress was indeed magical, but looked made of predominantly organic materials, so not *quite* as successful as Samanthaʼs in fulfilling the challenge.
Itʼs the ubiquitous Heidi challenge. It seems Heidi always has (yet another) product sheʼs launching, and this time itʼs her latest perfume, "Surprise." It must be hard being Heidi, in constant need of new things to wear to all the events associated with all these launches. Enter the "Project Runway" designers!
The designers enter the workroom and find giant pink gift boxes with black ribbons...my immediate thought was, "WOW, itʼs the Agent Provocateur lingerie challenge!" (Rhat is their exact packaging/gift box, and probably one of HKʼs favorite brands). Then when I saw little bowls of various scent ingredients, I knew I was on a different path. Tim gives the designers the exact same spiel he gave us on Season 7 when we had our Heidi Challenge: "Youʼve got a VERY important client with VERY strong opinions..." And soon it is revealed that the task is to design looks for Heidi to wear in a commercial/print ad and to the press event for the new fragrance, using the colors on the perfume bottle/packaging: black, pink and gold.
By the way, can we please rename these teams? I donʼt think they could be any worse. I doubt if the designers realized those names would be permanent for the entire season.
Itʼs always interesting to see how certain designers do with "red carpet"-type challenges. It can be an intimidating thing, especially when designing for ze Kluminator. She does, after all, have strong opinions, and will tell you sheʼs quite picky. I think Joseph, left to his own devices, would have probably designed some cat-themed hand-hooked or patchwork creation and made it into a gown. He says he aspires to see his design on the worst-dressed list. With a schizophrenic portfolio such as his, I think his dreams could come true. Thank goodness Amanda is there to reel him in.
In the workroom, Cindy asks advice from her peers: "Which is better: the pink taffeta or the iridescent pink shantung?" Uh, have you got anything less suited for an 80s prom dress, Cindy? Layana, who has immunity, is a total Nervous Nelly, getting hung up on minute details, such as the right shade of pink fabric, which by the way has already been purchased. Kate is right: there is no time for that. For better or for worse, in a one-day challenge, there is barely time to even step back and look at your design objectively. And even if you can, should you decide something is not working, there is seldom a) time to rework it and b) material with which to rework it. Decisions need to be made quickly and one needs to be constantly moving forward. Benjamin is struggling and reveals his personal "skeletons" in an interview. While this is touching, Benjamin, itʼs a bit early to be breaking down! Itʼs only the third episode (they have likely been in New York only ONE WEEK), and I wonder how he will do as the season continues. Losing oneʼs confidence in this fierce competition and stressful setting can be your worst enemy.
Keeping It Real is clearly the winning team. Layana and Kateʼs winning look blew everyone elseʼs out of the water. Not only was the design chock-full of details, but it was so very Heidi. It fulfilled the challenge perfectly. In addition, it was well-executed and the fit was spot-on. Danielʼs gown was wildly overpraised though. To me it looked like a tarty Kardashian gown out of cheap jersey, in a rather unflattering, dead color. Not worthy of second place in my opinion, but then again better than some others. Patriciaʼs dress, while I appreciate her ambitious fabrication and unique design, was incomplete; she needed another day (or half-day, as it seems she works very quickly) to add more leather squares to cover up the remainder of what looks like a nude slip or lining. It simply looks like she ran out of time and/or fabric, and part of the challenge on "Project Runway" is managing oneʼs time and materials. This again, is the problem with the "team" format this season: the judges have to select three top looks from the team the winning look is on. What if there is a look better than the second and third place looks on the other team? And how about that cha-cha-chicken look of Richardʼs? The judges did make some criticism of it, but he basically gets through unscathed.
Dream Team loses again, with several uninspiring looks, and several catastrophes. As predicted, Cindy creates an 80s-looking "mall" dress, extremely underdesigned and uninspiring. After having lowest-scoring looks every challenge, she is eliminated. Benjamin barely scoots by with his "shipwrecked" blunder. I have no words. Clearly his personal struggles got in the way of his confidence and productivity and it shows. The model is lucky the bust of the dress didnʼt fall down! Matthewʼs dress was just in bad tastedid he think Heidi was going to a Playboy event? Two designers who made their models busts look tragic...donʼt they know by now that Heidi is boobie-obsessed?!
The designers are informed, to most of their dismay, that they will stay on the same teams. Some are pleased and some are not (for obvious reasons, the last winning team, "Keeping It Real" [worst team name ever], seems at peace with this).
Itʼs another field trip challenge, and this time the destination is SPiN, a new ping pong social club. Odd, right? I mean I guess itʼs not so different from a billiards club or bowling alley, but do that many people love ping pong? Anyway, another oddity is that Susan Sarandon owns SPiN. [Sidebar: why call it SPiN? All I can think of is a spinning studio. Is there really not a name more suited to ping pong? Also, the SPiN logo is such a knockoff of the Equinox logo! Did anyone else get that?] The designers are briefed on the challenge: to create three types of uniforms for the staff of the club. They are then "put to work" doing various tasks of servers and ball boys so they can get a sense of what itʼs like to work there. The winning uniform will be produced and worn in the club-and Susan herself is judging.
I was wondering when there would be a uniform challenge! While this does seem to be an appropriate team challenge, I feel for the designers as the work is being distributed/delegated. There are more designers than there are looks required to be made, so not everyone has the opportunity to be equally creative. This again raises my skepticism for the whole team format. If a great designer is forced to take a "back seat" (i.e., been delegated to make a "companion piece"), how is his/her voice going to be heard? One can only do so much battling for the creative helm until he/she is deemed a controlling bitch. Likewise, a weaker designer may take on more responsibility and potentially create something which brings the team down. It just seems like it will be difficult to ultimately find the BEST designer through this format.
In the workroom, some of the pitfalls of working in a team can definitely be seen. James "I got this in the bag" is making a violet trapeze top for a man. He also seems resistant to communicate and be a team player. Benjamin is micromanaging Cindy...but he has a promising epiphany to pair a tank top with a kilt for a male staffer. Layana is apparently being tutored by Daniel. Joseph wants to use polka dots, which I thought was kind of genius, but then I saw his Krazy Kats sweatshirts he makes and am seriously reconsidering my early opinions of him!
Dream Team had some strong, innovative, edgy, urban looks. I loved Michelleʼs very "New York" dress, which could fit a variety of women and looks comfortable and cute. I think it could have benefitted from being a different color though; perhaps something more bold and sporty. Jamesʼ colorblocked tank and long shorts look was urban and modern; however, it was not appropriate for a servermore for a ball boy. Benjamin and Cindyʼs jacket look was sad and too conservative. A jacket is not appropriate for an active sport-centric club, and the shorts were ill fitting and a horrible length (Cindy, your days are numbered). Benjamin and Matthew really took a risk by thinking outside the box; unfortunately, it did not pay off. The judges deemed it inappropriate and Susan said the guys who work for her would never wear it. I feel conflicted about this look because, while I think it is infinitely more interesting than some off the looks on the other team, I understand how it may not be appropriate for a ping pong club. It could be a great uniform for a different, more edgy setting though, like a club on the lower east side. Samantha and Tuʼs look was way too dressy, and revealing in the front, but the giant circle cutout in the back was interesting.
Keeping It Real, the winning team, was, for the most part, lacking in creativity for me. Only one outfit stood out as superior and that was the one designed by Joseph and Richard. The use of the slogan as a print was fantastic, as well as the play on positive/negative. It was bold, sporty, and appropriate for the challenge. The harness to hold the ball net is clever. Overall it has a good balance of creativity/ sport influence/ wearability. I do not understand at all why the win was awarded to Layana (who was tutored!). The outfit in general looked amateur and sloppy, from the lopsided racerback to the length of the vest, which was too short; it really bugged me that you could see so much of the white t-shirt popping from under it. And Iʼm sorry but since when is a SKORT innovative?! Please, Nina. How can you pretend you and Susan are so blown away by that? Ever watch tennis? I also recall skorts being a big deal for girls in the 90s (Come on, ladies...I know you remember that). The other outfits fell into either the "odd" (Kate and Patriciaʼs leggings look) or the "basic/boring" category (the fit and flare dress).
It takes balls for James to make a comment during deliberation like, "We should have communicated better," says the guy who secluded himself in his corner and did his own thing. It takes balls to present a kilt as an option, but I applaud those designers for thinking outside the box. After all, how many times have designers been criticized for being too boring and not having a point of view? While that outfit was a bit TOO "left field" to be a uniform for this client, I think in general, it is good to be memorable. It also takes balls to award the win to a SKORT (definitely one of the Project Runway all-time lows for me).
Itʼs Season 11. Or...Season 11 disguised as an offshoot of" Project Runway": "Project Runway TEAMS." Say what? In case it wasnʼt clear in the [awkward!] intro with Heidi and Tim (how many times was the word "TEAMS" iterated?), there are no individual challenges, because everyone will always work in TEAMS. Thatʼs right, TEAMS. But there is only one winner. Confused?
Iʼm not really sure why it couldnʼt just be a new season of "Project Runway," to find a talented designer. Lets call a spade a spade. I must say, Iʼm skeptical. Was this whole "Team" concept created in the hopes of increasing the DRAMA because very few designers enjoy working in teams (especially with total strangers, in a competition)? If I was one of those designers selected to be in the cast, Iʼd be pissed when I found out upon arrival! The designers for both Seasons 10 and 11 were pulled from the same casting sessions which took place last spring. This leaves me curious to know: how did they determine who would be cast on a particular season? Were the designers for PR Teams the "B" team, and therefore more lackluster? I have to say, for the first 45 minutes, few were standing out.
The inaugural challenge is a bit contradictory and confusing right off the bat: "Make something that shows us who you are as a designer, but utilize the influence of your teammates." So...design something that is signature "you" but change it if a teammate tells you to? Head- scratcher. The designers are told they should be inspired by New York, and are divided into two teams; each team goes to a different viewpoint for NYC inspiration.
Itʼs always difficult to cover everyone (critiques or otherwise) in the workroom in the beginning, when there are so many designers (and only an hour to edit everything into). You can be sure that the ones who get the least amount of coverage will be safe (I speak from experience, using mine as an example); the designers who get the most airtime will be top or bottom. It became painfully clear that Emily, seriously in the weeds, would not survive, unless she could pull a 180 (know to happen!). What would have been highly controversial is if Cindy had been eliminated in lieu of Emily, who asked her to just make a skirt" for her (seriously?!). At what point do you draw the line and decide NOT to help your teammate? This is the paradox.
In any event, Emily, according to Nina, was the first designer to send something down the runway in such a severely unfinished state (Even after her teammate made her a skirt). Well, at least sheʼs memorable! We always used to joke (um...and PANIC) in the workroom about "What if we donʼt finish..."? Poor thing....she was a deer in headlights. It made me recall my first challenge when I felt similarly: I actually had a design and execution "block" and mini panic attack (which of course I would not dare let anyone detect, especially not the producers and cameras)! At that time in my life, I had not been sewing or patterning regularly (rather Iʼd been working more in TV and film as a costumer), so my skills were super rusty. Couple that with having camera operators following my every move, and I was a wreck. I pushed through it and just hoped Iʼd be safe (I was, and hardly got any airtime...LOL). Another thing we all used to say as we sat in those chairs and watched our looks walk down the runway...."How did we just do that?!?" Somehow, we always managed to put clothes on the models. Well, maybe with the exception of Emilio in the hardware store challenge. *Wink*
I admit, I judged a little when I first saw "Moustache" (a.k.a. Daniel). Itʼs hard not to! I thought his work would be a little cheesy and dated, based on his "character" look and demeanor. However, he "made it work" and made a very impressive outfit that looks expensive and well-executed. That was a well-deserved win. I also really liked Richardʼs jersey colorblocked dress. It felt urban, very New York, and very on-trend. And good for Patricia! Her innovative print and textile really worked (and smart of her to use a simple silhouette to balance it). There were some nay-sayers, but from the minute I saw her working on her print, I thought it had a lot of potential.
Instead of critiquing each designer to start, Iʼm just going to leave it with the highs and lows. That said, in the end, the designers who have piqued my interest are:
-Tu: For obvious reasons....you know I am a sucker for graphic minimalism and thinking outside the box. His look was great.
-Kate: I like her feisty-ness. And for only 23, I think she has some pretty decent skills. Her look was well done and had attention to detail.
-Joseph: Always nice to see something different, and he has a fine art background which could enable him to view fashion in a more unique way. However, the jury is still out on whether his skills are strong enough for him to have longevity. He should do well with the "unconventional" challenge. Bonus points for attending my Alma Mater and stating Grace Jones as a style icon.
-Moustache: So far I like what I see...he will no doubt be a strong player given his maturity and experience.
When we left off last week, all four designers had been asked to submit three looks from their collections, which would be judged and which would determine the three designers who would actually show at Fashion Week. Except...a very anti-climactic Finale Part 1 ended with no one being eliminated. I'm not quite sure why this decision was made, but it certainly waters things down. In my opinion, Christopher should have been eliminated. Part of the challenge is indeed figuring out which three looks will “wow” the judges and pique their interest enough to want to see the entire collection, and he failed at this. I think he chose the three looks that were the least interesting (or, as I call them, “filler” looks).
Now that Christopher has made it through, all we hear from him is attitude and lack of focus. He almost seems to have given up, yet he is completely sassy, making fun of Nina's critique of him and coming across very ungrateful. Christopher, this is not very becoming. He doesn't understand how “nothing fits” (whose fault is that?), doesn't understand why he received the critique he did, and makes fun of his fellow designers' work. Mind you, some constructive criticism is fine, but let's lose the attitude! I found it all to be quite off-putting.
Fabio, Melissa and Dmitry, on the other hand, handle the judges' critiques thoughtfully, and do whatever they can to work on the elements that they were told have room for improvement. Fabio is trying to make his collection a bit more “luxe,” Melissa is adding color (“blood orange” leather, to be exact, which Chris thought sounded pretentious or something; for the record, I would also describe that shade of red as “blood orange”—so there!), and Dmitry is trying to improve his styling by attempting to make his Ivana Trump looks more youthful and hip. To help the designers out, they are given one last shopping trip to Mood. I believe this is the first time this has happened. You know....all this would be unnecessary if they had just had more time to make the collections. After Season 7 (mine), the time to build a collection has diminished significantly. I feel the work suffers because of it.
CHRISTOPHER: So Christopher wasn't given a whole lot of advice in terms of changing his collection; he had selected three rather boring looks (nice, but boring), so the judges were fixated on that for the most part. In the end, I thought his collection was quite nice in person (I saw the finale show live). In fact, knowing he was a bit of a “judges' pet,” I thought he stood a good chance at winning at the time when I saw it live. The collection was sharp and fit well, and his styling was good. But there was nothing that really made it a WOW. The gown at the end seemed gratuitous and not cohesive, even though we've seen him use that technique before. It just didn't fit this collection. He thought he'd nailed it, but also came across as a little kid throwing a tantrum because not everything was going his way. Christopher has a bright future as a designer, but needs to mature a bit more.
MELISSA: Melissa definitely listened to the judges and made major improvements. She drastically improved her models' hair and makeup, for one thing. The white leather jacket also was drastically improved by removing the oversized pirate cuffs and showing it zipped. Her choice to add the blood orange leather dress was very smart and added some zing. However, the collection overall lacked “wow.” Some of the proportions were off and looked pedestrian. Nina stated what I was already thinking, that while a lot of women would likely wear her designs, there is nothing “fresh” and innovative about them. They look derivative of Rick Owens and Helmut Lang; she could have more of a signature. All that said, Melissa's collection looks like it could be rolled right into Barneys New York or a hip-girl boutique in any major city. I personally love her modern style and know she has a great future.
DMITRY: It's funny, I see Dmitry's hand in every look in his collection, but somehow there is a slight lack of cohesiveness. I personally feel there was too much going on; it desperately needed editing. Yet there were looks that have been seen before. However, his collection had more “wow” than others. I don't know that I would select any of those pieces for myself, but I see how there is a market for some of them. It felt very European to me, and expensive in the fabrication, except for the last gown, which looked cheap. The ballroom dancer in Dmitry was evidenced in that gown and also the jacket with fringed sleeves. I still don't get why the judges were so cuckoo over that. All I could think of was the first time I'd seen a male Latin-ballroom costume when I worked on “Dancing With the Stars”! While I loved the silver leaf in the hair (contrary to Tim), I was not a fan of the monobrow happening makeup-wise. The judges selected Dmitry as the Season 10 winner, likely trumping Fabio for his “showmanship,” consistency and well-made collection. Dmitry is a great designer and a great guy, and I wish him the best. Congratulations, Dmitry!
FABIO: As others have said, and as the consensus seemed to be in the tent that day, Fabio's collection was a breath of fresh air. There is something about Fabio that has had me rooting for him from early on, even though his designs were lackluster earlier in the competition. He really stepped it up, and in the finale listened to the judges' advice and made his arty, thoughtful collection a bit more luxe. It delivered a message and a story, unlike the others. It was rounded, innovative and downright mesmerizing when seen in person. I love his color palette. I am not a pastel girl, and it made me want to wear pastels! While his looks are less commercial and not for everyone, there is no doubt that this is the most cohesive and innovative collection. Not every successful fashion designer appeals to everyone; the great thing about fashion is that it IS subjective. It would have been nice to see the producers and judges reward the designer with the most creativity and not the one who is most commercially appealing. However, I understand why, in ProjectRunwayLand, Dmitry was awarded the win and not Fabio. It was wonderful to see Fabio evolve as a designer while on the show, and he is a lovely person. I would think this experience will only inspire him to push forward with his career as a fashion designer. Good luck, Fabio!
I definitely feel for these designers, only having a very fast five weeks to produce their collections. We had a lot more time, and sometimes even another week can make a difference. Iʼm not sure why, but Timʼs home visits seemed less than eventful. There were some surprises, such as Christopher going with a rather dark inspiration (and collection), Fabio breaking free creatively with a light collection that (at last) seems more “Fabio,” and well...Dmitryʼs leather fringe.
I recall when Tim came to my loft for the home visit. It was a chilly, rainy day and I had slept (maybe) two hours the night before. How can you sleep knowing TIM GUNN is coming to your house?!? Not to mention, itʼs the big critique. At this point, the designers need to have as much done as possible, not only for Tim but also because after he leaves, there is not much time left until the collections are snatched up by a messenger, all at the same time at each designerʼs studio, and whisked away to "Project Runway" Land, waiting for you when you arrive.
When the designers arrive at their new temporary workroom, they are told that there are actually only three spots for fashion week, and that they will need to select three looks to whet the judgesʼ appetites for more, and that they will then determine which THREE designers will move forward. Oh yes, Iʼve been there (Only I had to go head-to-head with Jay to vie for the last spot), and after the nerves and the sleep deprivation, itʼs intense! Well, Iʼm just going to cut to the chase and get to my assessments of the designersʼ showings.Dmitry
I never thought Iʼd say that Dmitry needed editing. But boy did he. The three looks, while they borderline on not being cohesive except for color story, somehow look like they would be worn by the same woman. I get a very "rich Russian lady shops Rodeo Drive" vibe from his collection. He definitely designs for a more mature and sophisticated customer. The first dress, while very cool, architectural and graphic, could have been made more youthful by shortening the hemline. The second look is all over the place. The trousers are very cool and reflect the futuristic lines of the white dress; however the top is completely the wrong vibe for them. Those trousers deserve to have all the attention, but the pouf sleeves/black bra/crystal embellishments makes it difficult to look at the outfit. The eye canʼt rest in one place as it is not balanced. The third look is a WTF. All I could think of is the Latin ballroom dancing tops with fringed arms. I was shocked that Kors didnʼt have some snarky comment about it. And again, the top underneath, with the black bra, was just a bit too much with the pattern and fringe of the jacket. I think a slim pant would complement it better than a skirt, but I get that Dmitry was probably trying to show diversity in the looks. Dmitry is a master at execution, and it is evident he worked hard, but these three looks make me question his taste a bit.Christopher
Christopherʼs lack of experience contributed to what I am interpreting as a bit of a "block" which he had when it came to thoughtfully selecting his three looks. Tim showed concern about that, and rightfully so. He seemed to freeze when he needed to pre-select the looks which he thought would best encapsulate his collection and leave the judges wanting more. The result was three random looks which just happen to fit the models the best; these looks fell flat. First of all, WHY would you select black shorts for two out of three looks? Iʼm already bored. While none of the looks were offensive, and they were all well-fit, there was no "wow" piece. The bleach technique on the leather and the fact that he designed his own print are definitely points in his favor, and the textiles all work well together. All the looks are sellable and cool, but they look more like they are part of a trunk show than a runway show. I like the x-ray print but am surprised to see it coming from Christopher. I almost think he was trying to channel a darker, edgier designer, but this is not how I thought of him before; perhaps this is his youth and lack or developing his own point of view as a designer. The first thing I thought when he announced his x-ray concept, though, was Michael Drummondʼs (Season 8) decoy collection, entirely based on x-rays, and really beautiful by the way, for those who havenʼt seen it. All I could think when I saw them was that they look like "filler" looks in a runway show, in between the "statement" looks. As Nina said, "Where are the clothes?" That said, I think there are looks in his final collection that will be more impressive, and as a whole it is pretty cohesive.Fabio
The collection is called "Cosmic Tribalism" and I recall when I saw it in New York that he really encapsulated his concept; it looks simultaneously futuristic and ethnic/bohemian, which is not easy. I think the collection is one of the strongest ones both creatively and cohesively, and was a total surprise and a breath of fresh air amidst his competitorsʻ darker collections. It makes me love pastels also not an easy feat! My main problem is that some of the construction and execution looks amateur, which does a disservice to his looks. For example, I adore the first look with the long draped vest, which feels luxe, but those trousers needed to be perfect to be so front-and-center (paired with a bra top), and they had major problems with the waistband/fly execution. The second look is a more tailored contrast to the first look (while still being cohesive), but the vest could have been about an inch longer and the waistband better made; the skirtʼs uneven hemline was probably intentional, but Fabio needed to make it more extreme because it looks like a mistake. The third look is fabulous. His painted silk is gorgeous and the necklace compliments it well. The jewelry overall is just wonderful, and punctuates his concept perfectly. I still canʼt decide if I love the frankenstein shoes or hate them! In any event, his three looks did what they needed to do: pique the judgesʼ curiosity to see more.Melissa
Melissa has always been an early favorite of mine personally, because I like her dark yet modern aesthetic. But she seems to have made a lot of the same silhouettes and shapes throughout the season. And while there is something (a lot actually) to be said for consistency (the judges LOVE a consist point of view, and it is the mark of a seasoned designer), there need to be surprises sometimes. Michael Kors gave me some of the best advice ever, that I will never forget, during one of my critiques: "To be a successful designer, you constantly have to walk that line of the expected and the unexpected." Unfortunately, Melissaʼs collection only shows us the expected. The first look was a pair of perforated white leather shorts, which are great. But the top opens too high up, and I find it distractingly screaming "look at my abs." A little less of the stomach would have been nice. In general though, this look seems like a "filler" look and lacks impact. The second look is surely what Melissa thought would "wow" the judges, and while the jacket is great, Iʼve seen it before, not only from her but in stores. This silhouette was started by Rick Owens and then knocked off by Helmut Lang and has now trickled down to diffusion brands. Itʼs still a perfectly nice jacket (Though Iʼd have preferred to see a sleek sleeve instead of those big clunky cuffs), and the graphic elements are different. Itʼs just not enough of a surprise. The drop-crotch pants feel heavy with the jacket for spring. It could have been more interesting to pair it with a dress or maybe even a pair of shorts, for more runway impact. The third look, the leather dress, is a great dress but again I thought of it as both a "filler" look, and something we have seen from Melissa before. The hair, as Kors said, is dreadful; Iʼll be interested to see how she changes that for her final show. What didnʼt Melissa and Christopher understand about showing the judges the best of their looks? There seemed to be some sort of disconnect there. They only have one chance to wow the judges to move forward. It is more apparent than ever that the judges have picked Christopher as an early favorite; in my opinion, if they are selecting the three finalists based on each designersʼ three looks, Christopher failed to pique enough interest to go forward. The fact that all four designers went through to fashion week is disappointing and a cop out. Come on, whereʼs the dramatic elimination? Whatʼs the point of the three-looks?
Itʼs the final challenge. At last, something which can potentially be compelling and creative. We went from baby clothes (!) to avant-garde. Heidi too, changed back from her "mom-appropriate" outfit to the usual too-short-and-too-tight number, and this time itʼs particularly...questionable. Someone is single (and turning 40 next year) and letting it all hang out!
The designers arrive at the "far, far away" place on Long Island, a stunning estate called Oheka Castle, built as the country home of financier and philanthropist Otto Khan, inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgeraldʼs "The Great Gatsby," and presently a historic hotel. Tim and Billy B, a consulting artist for LʼOreal, deliver the challenge to them: design an avant-garde look inspired by one of the LʼOreal limited edition "Electric Fantasie" makeup palettes, and the surroundings of the estate. They have 2 days and $400.
Tim announces back at the the workroom that the judges want to see two months of work in two daysʼ time. Huh?
Everyone is looking very tired, I must say (except maybe not 24 year old Christopher?). I remember how it was. I also remember being rather tapped out creatively, yet simultaneously energized by the last push to make it to the finals, and relieved that there were so few designers left and I was still in. I also felt quite isolated (not a bad thing necessarily), being the only female left in a group of males who were kind of "clique-ish." We had the circus as our inspiration, which frankly I wasnʼt that into. I was thinking how much Iʼd have preferred a challenge like this with the main inspiration as a color palette, leaving the designers less specific creative parameters and the ability to perhaps showcase their POV better.Melissa
Iʼll bet a lot of you think Iʼd love this itʼs modern and graphic and color-blocked. While I like the outfit, I donʼt think itʼs avant-garde enough. Melissa is very creative and has an edgy style, and I expected more from her. I thought her imagination could have run wilder and she even admitted that she got caught up and blocked by the color palette she was assigned (randomly? I think not...see my "random thoughts" below). Nevertheless, sheʼs always been a favorite of the judges, and I do think sheʼs a good designer. She is through to the finals.Fabio
Thank god Fabio had his "epiphany" to turn the jacket upside down. The wonderful thing about that is that, in itself, is what producing an avant-garde design is about: thinking outside the box and looking at shapes differently. I do wish that the outfit underneath was more modern and less "goth" a more streamline look would have been better. Picture a McQueen-like catsuit or skin tight skirt to exaggerate the shape of the jacket and make more of a scale juxtaposition and statement. Iʼm thrilled that Fabio makes it through, though Iʼm looking forward to his final collection.Dmitry
Dmitry never ceases to impress me with his attention to detail and immaculate construction. Itʼs channeling Thierry Mugler a bit. I love the sleeve shape but agree with Tim that it was not really enough to consider the look "avant garde." It was a fantastic look, yes, but he needed to push it further. Iʼm a fan of Dmitry in general and think that not only does he make great clothes that a lot of women would want to wear (and look fabulous in), but also think his wit and mellow personality are very charming. Glad he made it to the finals my money was on him from early on.Sonjia
Sonjia has had some great moments, and some tacky moments (wait til you see her decoy collection). This look falls into the latter. While she has had some highs, she hasnʼt really shown a distinct POV as a designer. This dress has several issues, the primary one being taste. I cringed when I saw her selecting that green Moiré. Her LʼOreal muse is the "seductive temptress" and there is nothing very seductive about kelly green. Iʼm not sure what she would have done with the gold that went missing, but Iʼd have rather seen it than green! The illusion mesh she chose is too featured (not an illusion in the end, but rather distracting) and gives the dress a dancing or skating costume vibe.Christopher
Avant-garde doesnʼt mean costumey. Christopher went a bit overboard with the details it looks schizophrenic. I actually donʼt think the feathers on the arms are as fugly as Kors said, but I am visualizing them with a simpler dramatic dress (perhaps without the feathers on the gown itself). The sweetheart neckline which is not at all modern is ill-fitting as well. The corset feature on the back of the dress is a lot more interesting and appealing. The makeup and hair are very edgy and cool, which saves it from being kind of a train wreck. And so Christopher is a finalist. Shocker!
Random thoughts for the week:
-What did actually happen to Sonjiaʼs gold fabric? When we select fabric at Mood, we pay for it, the Mood cashier bags it, and then the producers take all our bags away from us and bring them to Parsons, where they are given back to us. Just sayinʼ...
-Whatʼs really on those buttons that Tim and Heidi pull out of the velvet bag? We designers never get close enough to them to actually see if there are names. Just sayinʼ...
-Although it was harrowing at the time I went through it, I found myself yearning this season for more suspense, like a tiebreaker for the third finalist spot. Whatʼs with four? There was no explanation as to why they decided to have four finalists (whereas in the past at least Heidi would say they couldnʼt decide).
-Swatch got a LOT of airtime this week! Maybe he fired his publicist and got a new one.
Ladies and Gentlemen, itʼs your Top Six. Iʼd expect a much more serious challenge at this point than designing a baby outfit. OH! Itʼs for Heidiʼs new line for Babies"R"Us....*that* explains it! It sure would suck to get eliminated for this one. The designers meet with the conservatively- dressed (but Twiggy-eyed) Heidi at Babies"R"Us and are told they must use the fabrics provided to them (bummer) in order to be cohesive with the rest of the collection, that there will be two winners, and that the winning designs will be sold as part of Heidiʼs "Truly Scrumptious" collection.
Upon returning to the workroom, the designers discover that they each have a "surprise" from Heidi: one of those "training" babies that they must care for. REALLY? Elena said it best: that the surprise would be a f-ed up one. This is not remotely amusing, to the viewer and certainly not to the designer. I canʼt think of much worse than a fake crying baby distracting you while trying to focus and work and complete a challenge in a day. And really, whatʼs the point? It was just a big gimmick. Iʼd rather see the designers at work and struggling with the challenge itself. I mean, what would have happened if someone had just left their fake baby in a pile of fabric under their work table? Would he/she have been eliminated?
There havenʼt been any major twists yet this season, so thereʼs no time like the present! This one was a redux of the challenge we had on my season: to make a companion look for the mom. Although WHY wouldnʼt they be judged as much on the adult look? I realize the crux of the challenge is to make a look for Heidiʼs Babies"R"Us collection, but ultimately the winning designer will be making a womenswear collection, and they are all womenswear designers, so there should be equal judgement made on those looks (which they have an entire additional day to make, mind you). Not to mention, a good designer should be able to create two cohesive looks that look like they were designed by the same designer (think Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, etc...).Fabio
A cute, retro look. I donʼt quite get why there would be a giant pocket on the babyʼs back though. Would have rather seen it modernized with another cargo pocket or something. But the momʼs look was a bit flat. The print is pretty but I felt like again, I would have liked to see a bit more edge from Fabio.Melissa
Melissa got caught up in what many designers who are inexperienced in childrenswear do: designing a "mini" version of an adult outfit. Usually this is unsuccessful. The vest was OK...the only thing it had going for it was the cookie-monster-ish face on the back. But it was not strong enough to make up for the white dress underneath, which was too structured for a little toddler and not at all practical; also, metal zippers shouldnʼt be used on a babyʼs clothes. She mismanaged her time and because of that, her "mom" look really suffered. And linen is never a very good choice for the runway it looked sloppy.Dmitry
Looks like an odd union suit or pajamas. It is indeed a bit superhero-like, but not really full-on superhero, so it was just...odd. The fit was too tight and the hood had a weird shape. I kept thinking maybe this it looked like something a little Russian boy would wear! The momʼs dress was very nice (what I saw of it! they all went so fast), but that comes as no surprise.Sonjia
The perfect cross between a suit and sweats, this look is spot on. Itʼs hard to make a little toddler look stylish sometimes (They are just little dumplings still!), and she managed to do so yet still design a practical outfit which can be machine washed and is comfortable for him. I love the contrasting lapels, pockets and waistband. My only criticism is the tank could have had a wee bit higher cut neckline. The momʼs outfit is totally complimentary to the babyʼs, and believable that she would have selected that outfit for him.Christopher
Wow, two weeks in a row winning. The two looks are very complimentary to each other, but were not the mom or girlʼs styles (Though Iʼm not sure that matters). The adult print was happy and fun, but as cute as the childʼs dress was, itʼs something I feel Iʼve seen before, and itʼs a special occasion dress (A wear-it-once and then it doesnʼt fit any more dress). The little white vest is adorable, but doesnʼt go well with the party dress underneath.Elena
Clearly Elena was distracted by her crying baby. This babyʼs outfit is very disjointed. Like a 2-year-old dressed herself in the dark. The jacket is way too busy (and would be costly to produce). She needed to remove about three elements, and rework the color palette. The momʼs outfit was cool, but she doesnʼt look like she would pick out that outfit for her little girl. Not to mention they donʼt look like they came from the same designer.
Random thoughts for the week:
-Is it me or does "Truly Scrumptious" sound like a new version of a frozen dietary confection like "Tasti-D-Lite"?
-Sonjia now officially has a "signature" look: the headwrap/turban. I wonder if this was a midway-through-Project Runway style epiphany? She wears it well!
-Dmitry is now the author of my favorite one-liners of the season: "Heʼs a one-way monkey" and "Itʼs just like youʼre making an outfit for a cat." Who knew the quiet guy would be such a comedian?
-I canʼt wait to see Fabio as a Dad (too cute).
Even though I make a living partially as a costume designer, Iʼm not always a fan of costume challenges on "Project Runway," because I feel the competition is about awarding the best FASHION designer. However, this is a great challenge. The designers are kickinʼ it with the Rockettes, and challenged to design a uniform for 36 ladies with great gams to wear on stage. The Rockettes are so iconic to New York and what designer wouldnʼt want to see their designs on stage at Radio City?
Now that the number of designers has been whittled down, there seems to be more camaraderie. There is everything from money to labor being volunteered to help a designer in peril! I canʼt say we had much of that on my season. And I admit I was one of those competitors whoʼs "not here to make friends" (I had to stay very focused when I was there), but Iʼve found that after the hazing that is "Project Runway," there is a bond between those who have been through it. No matter what anyone hears about the experience, nothing compares to living through it. Itʼs truly one of the hardest things Iʼve ever done in my life!
My very first thoughts while I was watching the beginning of this episode (before I saw any designs) were:
-Dmitry should NAIL this
-Elena will not!
-Heidi as a Rockette freaks me out (and the dress sure was an icky shade of green)
And then later: WTF is with a second shopping trip to Mood?? I sense producers trying to save someone ... but who?
Fabulous! Another impeccable look from him. I love that this is a modern and graphic interpretation for the Rockettes. It does everything it needs to do (i.e. functionality) with the fringe and short skirt (which is the perfect length for them), yet also makes a statement and looks sophisticated. Dmitry shows his technical prowess in dancewear with impressive use of nude mesh. In addition, he styled his model perfectly love the hair.Melissa
Iʼm not surprised Melissa struggled with this one, and yet Melissa has been surprising me lately. The most bizarre thing, though, is that she received one of the higher scores. The dress is odd. It looks like an 80s cigarette girl, and the graphic layout of her black blocks is unsuccessful. I wonder if 36 ladies all in a row wearing that design would create a new pattern? If she had not embellished her design with black sequins (from her second trip to Mood), her score likely would have been lower.Ven
Mr. Origami Roseʼs creation is way underdesigned. I couldnʼt help chuckle to myself, though, when he said he thought the fabric was really "loud" and glitzy...because this fabric, while it is sparkly, is actually quite subtle and Ven was not imagining how it would look from the balcony. This dress was definitely more cocktail than costume. It has no impact.Elena
Oh Elena! We are seeing your inner Ukrainian figure skater come out! How bizarre is this coming from a badass architectural minimalist designer? I do think the cutouts have some impact, but the colors are (as Elena said) too "high school band" or really bad figure skater. And she just couldnʼt stop bedazzling! Perhaps it was like therapy to her?Christopher
Hands down, a well-deserved win. This dress is absolutely perfect for this challenge. Itʼs chic, innovative and clever. It will look amazing when all 36 dancers wear it ... like a continuous Manhattan skyline! I really love the way he punctuated the buildings, and the scattered "stars" he used on the nude mesh. You could tell all the other designers knew when they saw his dress that it was a slam dunk.Sonjia
She got lost in this challenge as well. Her design ended up looking too much like a cocktail dress, and feathers are simply not practical for a dance costume. It lacks impact and is not dynamic. It also most definitely would not be successful repeated times 36.Fabio
The only one who was "safe." I really liked what I was seeing in the workroom, but somehow it fell a bit short on the runway. I like the silver zigzag, but it looks heavy and armor- like, which is opposite from the way a Rockette looks and dances. The additional trim doesnʼt add to the design at all, and the fabric he used for the top of the bodice is too opaque.
A season of "Project Runway" would not be complete without the HP Print Design Challenge. My season (7), was the inaugural season of this challenge (and possibly HP sponsorship). Prints are indeed a conundrum they seem simple in theory, but they are not. They are incredibly personal, and if a designer is not used to working with them, they can really be a curveball. Add the technical learning curve (using new HP equipment that Iʼm willing to bet none of the designers already know how to use) to that creative curveball, and suddenly designing a print in an hour is daunting!
Who more appropriate to host and judge this challenge than Mondo, who made history designing a print that not only won the challenge in Season 8, but was also a catalyst for revealing his emotionally charged HIV-positive status on national television! Now how are those designers supposed to top that?! Mondo and Tim deliver the requirements of the challenge: to create a print (and look) inspired by oneʼs cultural heritage. Mondo reiterates how personal the print should be. Something tells me the producers asked Mondo for ideas on this one. Again, no pressure or anything! And then Mondo introduces the new print and bag design he did for HP *bam* they probably just sold 10k of them!
I could tell the designers had the exact same reaction we did back on Season 7: at first, it sounds like the coolest thing ever. Following the team challenge, it could not be more opposite, given that it is so very individual. To make matters even more personal, each designer is reunited with a loved one. Let me just tell you that at this point, not only is everyone exhausted, but they are getting used to being removed from all regular communication with loved ones (aside from *maybe* a call lasting several minutes, once a week). So basically itʼs a sobfest when they see their loved ones. You become so focused and (as Sonjia mentioned) a visit from a loved one, while wonderful, can also cause your focus to weaken. We had no visits from anyone familiar in our lives on my season, and extremely limited phone communication. I recall the day when I was released to go home, and got my phone back from being locked up for 5 weeks, and called my boyfriend and mom from the airport and completely lost it. Itʼs just such an intense journey!
In the workroom, clearly some designers are struggling, whether from their distracting family visits, or simply due to not being familiar with print design. Some pulled it off in the end, and some did not.Sonjia
I like the graphic nature and colors of the print &3151; I get an American-Indian Totem from it. Itʼs a bold statement, and *almost* too large a scale for a trouser. But they are fabulous and fit really well. The black top was simple (as it should be to balance the large scale print), yet had just enough detail to not be another long-sleeved jersey top. Love the back drape. No wonder Mondo loved this look-- he made a very similar wide leg pant out of his graphic print!Elena
The print looks scratchy and chaotic, and Iʼm not a fan of the color combination. The jacket still resembles like a smock; she didnʼt really get too far from the scrub-like vibe she had going on in the workroom.Christopher
Christopher is one who was admittedly insecure about print going into the challenge, and it shows. The print was weak, and then he layered a black sheer fabric over it but it did not work with his construction. The result was a dress that looks messy and not innovative. The sweetheart neckline is dated and the draping is something weʼve seen a thousand times before.Ven
What a train wreck! And flowers again? I get that the hibiscus is relevant to his culture, but the rendering of the hibiscus was juvenile and way too simple, yet ironically he turned a very simple print into a very busy, very over-designed dress. For some reason he felt he had to use the same old exploding rose trick on the skirt (on top of all the other details), even though heʼd been warned by the judges that he was becoming a one-way monkey.Fabio
The outfit is chic, and the print is cool (based on the reproductive system and genitals!). But he didnʼt use enough of it, especially after covering it up with black sheer fabric. I like the vest design.Melissa
Melissa used red and white, the colors of her heritage, the Polish flag. Red and white could have been translated a lot edgier though the print and the dress design looked like a totally different designer had made it. The styling fell flat as well. The judges praise her for stepping outside her comfort zone, but it looks nothing like Melissaʼs signature looks weʼve seen so far. However, it is a dress that likely a lot of women would buy. Just goes to show you: you never know how the judges can/will spin things.Gunnar
Not only is the print sophomoric and sad, but the jacket looks like something seen on the clearance rack at Ross Dress for Less or a home-sewn project from a store-bought pattern. With the exception of only a couple of challenges, I feel I am consistently at a loss for words for Gunnarʼs designs, because they are devoid of any sort of signature. Heʼs only 22, and needs to find his voice as a designer. I guess heʼs not going to get those new boots and a boob job for his Mom anytime soon. (What is up with that?! how about investing that money in your business? Priorities, dear...)Dmitry
At last, a well-deserved win for Dmitry. He challenged himself by making separates and proving his diversity, while still maintaining a consistent point of view (the way to the judgesʼ points). Moreover, his print is great and the jacket is fantastic. His use of sheer strips to create a 360 view of the print was genius. And the geometric lines in the jacket were wonderfully complementary to the lines in the print. Iʼd wear that jacket too, Dmitry!
My "Project Runway" designer personal style observation of the week: Sonjia is trying to resurrect the stirrup pant!