When I saw the teaser that Jesse Tyler Ferguson would be the guest judge this week, my initial reaction was, "What the heck does he know about fashion?” I do often find it annoying when there is a guest judge who is more celebrity and less fashion designer. While Jesse is not a fashion designer, he and his fiancé have a line of bow ties called Tie The Knot, a trendy menʼs accessory right now, which uses proceeds to support marriage equality, so I can respect not only the whimsical theme but also the cause. I was fully expecting the winning design to be part of a campaign, or at least auctioned to benefit marriage equality!
The challenge sounds fairly straightforward, but sometimes designers tend to either be too literal, or to obscure. In this case, the tie really needed to be represented. It symbolizes not only the literal product itself, but also the marriage equality message. Since Jesse is essentially sponsoring the challenge and will be a judge, I donʼt understand how some designers paid so little attention to it. Itʼs kind of a big "duh" that youʼll get more points for using more ties. There were a surprising number of designs that fell short in that respect.
DOM: Admittedly, Iʼm a sucker for stripes, so I thought this graphic dress was fantastic. It was really well thought out in its use of directional panels, and also carefully picking out all the striped ties in various colors. When she announced her initial concept and mentioned "origami" I knew right away I would like the outcome. The only thing I was a little disappointed in was the silhouette; I wish she had pushed it a bit more with proportion or shape. But it was a happy dress for a happy cause, very cleverly done.
JEREMY: I was worried when he said he would be inspired by his Gran who just passed; his work already has a tendency to go matronly or slightly marmy, and while I feel compassionate towards the fact that he is grieving, he did not do himself any favors with that inspiration. There is a time and place for that and he needed to stay on course. But believe me, it is much easier said than done; in the pressure cooker of "Project Runway" there is simply no room for anything other than staying focused on the competition, for that in itself is so draining. Not only was the outfit extremely mature (it aged his model) and not fashionable, but he did not represent the tie. The color combination was not great and the trousers were even less so.
BRADON: This guy was so smart to use only the ties for his woven bustier top. Another smart move was to make that top the star piece and use the haberdashery tweed fabric which so well complemented the ties as the suiting. The overall look was clever, fresh, youthful, and very suitable for the challenge. He kept saying he hadnʼt made the jacket yet; does that mean he finished it in 2 hours?? In a touching "TV Gold" moment, after being awarded the win, Bradon then proposed to his boyfriend of 18 years, right on the runway! Heidi tells Josh he needs to say yes! Cut to: Los Angeles, six months from now: Heidi and Nina are bridesmaids, Top Gunn is the best man, Jesse presides over the union, and Zac is the ring bearer, petal sprinkler! And Bradon and Josh can be married at last!
KEN: The dress was "fine," but not only lacked a signature but also the key element. Using the ties as trim only was way too subtle.
MIRANDA: Channeling Seth Aaron a bit, her houndstooth look is another one which did not utilize the bow tie enough. There were so many problems with this outfit, and more than ever showed her lack of experience and skill. The jacket was particularly ill-fitting, way too tight in the sleeve and looking like it is going to fall off the shoulders. Can she do anything other than a pencil skirt (the easiest garment to fabricate)? Also the shiny green crop top really ruined it.
HELEN: She was realllly lucky she had immunity, because her gown was very poorly executed. It was difficult to even see the design elements because the look was so sloppy. As many others, her use of the ties seemed to be an afterthought.
ALEXANDER: All I could think was "gay pride clown collar." While Alexander used a lot of ties, the way he placed them, the fact that he used a plain black ground, and the fact that they were rainbow bright colors made me think I was looking at a retail display mannequin in the bow tie department of Macyʼs.
SANDRO: As usual, this frothy pink asymmetric look was overdone and of questionable taste. Sandroʼs behavior, however, trumped all, as he was eliminated from the show based on his tantrum in which he was verbally aggressive towards the other designers and then ripped off his mic (could be $5k right there) and stormed out of the building onto 7th Avenue. Good riddance! This action, however, saved all the other designers who were on the chopping block. I canʼt help but wonder what Sandroʼs pre-casting psycho-evaluation looked like!
SUE: Spent over $400 and then only came up with a black jersey foundation dress and simply tied some of the same patterned ties together to make what she describes as an "exoskeleton"and a sad one at that. I get her concept, but it needed to be pushed a lot further to be avant garde; it was merely crafty boho-eclectic.
JUSTIN: Just "safe." Yet again (I feel redundant!), not enough use of the ties and not a great representation. That said, it was a perfectly nice dress with some seaming interest.
KATE: Her wildly overpraised design was just ok for me. It was nice to see separates, but again I felt that her interpretation wasnʼt as clever as Kate (and the judges) thought it was.
KAREN: This navy-and-white pattern mix look was oddly secretarial and the trousers were illfitting. Mary Tyler Moore would have loved it though.
ALEXANDRIA: While still a subtle use of the tie, this modern, cool look felt very "now" and makes me look forward to see what she does in future challenges.
The good news is that the first episode was not this season's sole "unconventional" challenge. This is the REAL deal. There are only so many things they can think of, I suppose; however, as Tim was delivering the details of the challenge, this one seemed particularly wackadoo. Frozen Yoplait? Coney Island? Carnival toys? Teams? I dunno...seems kinda destined for disaster....and it was! I mean how many decent things are there to really make something fabulous and chic out of within the realm of Coney Island prizes? Apparently, the majority of them are either blue vinyl or green vinyl. The designers' GoBanks are docked $100 as an allowance to play all the games. Translation: Luna Park required $1400 as a stipend.
Also, I've been wondering for a long time why "Project Runway" doesn't have individual challenge prizes, like "Top Chef" does for example. All it would take would be a company/product (like Yoplait!) to sponsor the challenge, get free advertising, and then up the ante of the challenge by awarding the winner a cash prize. Come on, we starving fashion designers would be over the moon for even $1000. When I heard the Yoplait representative speaking, and then the fact that the designers had to hand out samples of the new frozen yogurt product to promote it, and moreover ask the tasters for "descriptives" which are then meant to serve as inspiration for their designs, not only did I wonder if I was watching "Top Chef" for a minute, but also thought surely there would be a prize for such product placement. Alas, not even a year's supply of yogurt. I hope there was some at craft service at least!
Interesting team pairings, producers. Shocker that Timothy and Miranda are paired together. And Sandro and Sue: you couldn't choose two people with more polarized personalities and work styles. But then Helen and Kate seem like a match made in heaven since both their fortés are gowns. It's no surprise that there's plenty of drama in the workroom. I don't even know where to begin with Timothy and Miranda. Both of them seem a bit...unstable...and though I'm sure I'd want to beat the crap out of Timothy as well, there was no excuse for Miranda's immature smack talk and despicable mean-girl behavior. And then when she realized she was being such an a-hole and tearfully apologized to Timothy, whom she had driven to evacuate the workroom clutching his giant stuffed unicorn, she wanted to HUG IT OUT. Timothy's expression was priceless. And so was his sitting in a dark corner in the stairwell with Unicorn, reading the pep-talk letter from his model, which gave him the strength to carry on. Reality TV gold there. I did laugh out loud, even in my current stressed-out and sleep-deprived state, so thanks for that.
The runway was generally an explosion of icky vinyl and half-assed kitsch. There was a very clear winning design, and the rest were pretty much losers.
Bradon + Karen: While I appreciate the "out of the box" thinking here, the tumor-like appendages are gross, and this overall looks too costumey and not avant-garde. It does, however, fit well. And for those positives, the pair are safe.
Dom + Alexandria: As the judges said, this look makes anyone smile, which is great. But I think the only reason it was in the top is because there were so many bad entries, none of which were worthy of much praise. Why else would there only be TWO top teams? They made an adorable piece that someone (albeit only a Tokyo-Pop girl, a 12 year-old, or a raver) would actually wear, and virtually no one else did. And why didn't Heidi comment this week that it seemed to lack a bottom half?
Sandro + Sue: There is one of these looks in every unconventional challenge. It's just a boring silhouette with no signature. The skirt fabrication and hem makes it look sloppy and droopy. And the material itself isn't helping: Who wants to wear something that looks like it was made of blue vinyl shower curtains? The judges decided they were safe, though, which is good for Sue since she merely served as Sandro's slave.
Helen + Kate: Hands-down the only attractive entry this week. They were smart to choose the red straw hats, which were a really nice color. I'm sure the judges thought what I did when they saw it: "Thank God it isnʼt vinyl!" Aside from that factor, which made it stand out that much more, this chic little dress was well constructed, fashionable, and a clever use of materials. I could see it worn by any number of starlets to an event.
Alexander + Justin: Looks like a goth girl had to dress as a sea creature for Halloween. This needed a major editing eye. It was loads better after the jacket was taken off, but even then it was just okay, and those hip appendages had to go. Then they just couldn't stop themselves and had to add pink shoes and matching pink eye shadow. Wackadoo at its finest.
Jeremy + Ken: More blue vinyl, but at least they made separates. Only thing is, the separates were completely disjointed from each other. It's almost as if someone colorblind got dressed. Who would really wear blue vinyl pants anyway?
Miranda + Timothy: Even Miranda couldn't explain who would wear this and where. Who wears vinyl to the beach? It reminded me of those costumes that come in a clear plastic bag. The colors don't work together, and the vest looks like a shredded afterthought. And with that it is the inevitable auf for Timothy. At least he got to take his unicorn mascot with him.
Quote of the week: "I'm gonna need f**kin' therapy after this!" - Miranda. You already need therapy, but we all did after "Project Runway!" Welcome to the club.
This is a pretty straight-up, classic "Project Runway" challenge: design and construct and evening gown in one day. The spin here is to showcase the fine jewel ensembles on loan from the New York Diamond District. Easy, right? It takes me right back to Season 7 when Heidi asked us to design a red carpet look for her in a day. It was much later in the season and we were all just so exhausted. Not to mention I so rarely if ever make gowns; it was not something in my wheelhouse, so I felt handicapped compared to some of the other designers who were more versed in eveningwear. That said, we were a tad more "practiced" in the art of making clothes in a daynot that you ever really get comfortable with it. Itʼs just that in the beginning, for me at least, it was very difficult to get a grip on how to utilize shortcuts and manage time. With every challenge, I feel I got a little better at that, learning both from my mistakes, and othersʼ. In fact even now in my life I occasionally feel like Iʼve been given a "Project Runway" challenge (Recently a stylist friend asked me to make a custom, futuristic white catsuit for his client, Ciara...OVERNIGHT), and inevitably I partially credit the experience I had on the show with my ability to turn such assignments around fast.
This is where we see Kate having an advantage. She has been through a season of "Project Runway" before, and has her "legs," if you will. In addition, she is a gown designer, so she has an added advantage. I give her major props, though, for creating her Vivienne Westwood inspired winning look, which to me, a sportswear designer, is super impressive just based on the fact alone that she was able to handle ALL_THAT_FABRIC in such a short amount of time. I was also amazed that ALL_THAT_FABRIC was less than $300! I must say however that I agree with Alexanderʼs comment about the look being extremely derivative of Westwood. I was shocked that this was not brought up in the critique, especially by Nina; but for all we know, it was mentioned but did not make it to the edit. You all do realize that you only see about 40 percent of the critiques, right? Itʼs amazing how much longer we are standing up on that runway, sweating under the lights, feet swelling.
Overall this episode was fairly straightforward, but not without drama in the workroom and some tears on the runway. Havenʼt we all been wondering how long it would take for Sandro to get in someoneʼs face about something? But what an emotional roller coaster he was on, in just 24 hours! First he gets on Ken about using his machine (which admittedly is annoying, but also inevitable when there are still so many designers in the running), and then he has a total meltdown because the steamer isnʼt working...complete with tears! And then he is in the top three! Then we have Helen, who feels she must constantly remind us that she is an amazing gown designer, totally tank and have what Iʼd consider one of the top 5 meltdowns in the history of "Project Runway," right on the runway. Usually people donʼt cry when they see their looks walk. Squirm, shudder, yes...but not completely lose it. Thereʼs no CRYING IN FASHION! And from such a tough chick, no less! As Tim said, it was a misstep; everyone has them. But maybe that gave her a little serving of humble pie; if thereʼs one thing being on the show does, itʼs that. She is a perfect example of what I am talking about with not having her "legs" yet in terms of time management. It is truly one of the hardest elements of being on the show. You have to make something amazing and "glamorous" in just a day. How?
On the runway, there is quite a bit of “meh”. I do wish this challenge had come along later, or had been two days, when the looks perhaps could have been executed better. Or is it simply a case of a lack of talent?
DOM: I donʼt agree at all with the over-praise of this green and white design. The print is charming, but the execution ended up looking sloppy to me. The waist was crooked and wonky and sitting too high on the model, so the fit was unflattering. She likely ended up in the top because it was refreshing to see something livelier than many of the basic black looks which other designers made.
JUSTIN: Completely safe black gown devoid of any signature. However it was well executed and I loved his styling; the modelʼs hair and makeup made her look like she stepped out of aFlemish painting.
KEN: The color was not a WOW at all. Perhaps in person it was more interesting but to me it was a rather dull green. The gown is something weʼve seen before from any number of pedestrian eveningwear lines.
KAHINDO: Like others, I thought the print was interesting; what she did with it, however, was not. She tried to save it by taking Timʼs advice of layering the darker organza over it, but it was not enough to save her boring design. The one detail which was supposed to be the focal point of the dress, the odd circle opening on the back, was poorly executed as well. She admittedly had not worked with charmeuse before, and sadly did not use the fabric in an appropriate and complimentary way. So it was AUF for her.
ALEXANDRIA: A well done bias-cut dress. Thatʼs about it. Again, lacked any signature.
MIRANDA: Clearly she is obsessed with this midriff-baring silhouette. Is she going to use it every time? I think her days are numbered, because her lack of skill is becoming more and more evident. The neckline is godawful and looks like a beginning home sewer.
ALEXANDER: The look walked very dramatically down the runway, which is always a good thing; but he really needed to turn down the volume on those sleeves, which were way too goth-70s. He was saved by the flowing, sheer skirt which balanced the sleeve misstep.
TIMOTHY: Just weird and amateur. But did we expect anything less? I love how he tried to justify using remnants and some velvet that "used to belong to someone else" (who supposedly was Zac)! I have news for you: virtually EVERYTHING in Mood used to belong to someone else! They take unwanted fabric off the hands of designers! So when you are shopping in Mood, you will often see "Marc Jacobs," "Vera Wang," etc on the tags, indicating where it came from. His days are numbered, too. In fact he really should have been eliminated this round.
KAREN: Spent $160 and it looks it. If Mirandaʼs looks home-sewn, this looks like a high school student sewed it in home-ec. The bodice is ill-fitting and unflattering, particularly in the gaping bust/armpit area, the design is (again, like many others) super-basic, and there is nothing glamorous about it.
JEREMY: Pretty colors of tulle at the bottom. While again there was nothing ground-breaking about this, it was well executed and elegant and tasteful. It looked expensive, which is more than I can say for Domʼs or Sandroʼs dress, so I may have put him in the top three over one of those two.
SANDRO: Dated and borderline vulgar. Dolce & Gabbana for H&M. It had some interesting points, but needed editing. I canʼt understand why this was in the top though; perhaps it was because there were so many weak entries...and because the Kluminator loved it.
HELEN: Why would she try bust cups for the first time while competing on "Project Runway"? She set herself up for failure, but was spared. She had some good ideas, but simply was too ambitious and unable to manage her time. She made an emotional plea to the judges to save her because she is so passionate about being a designer, and wants to practice couture. But her breakdown runway-side which caused Tim to run to her aide makes me think she is a bit unstable!
SUE: OK, so if Mirandaʼs schtick is the fitted midriff-look, Sueʼs is the hand-pintuck. Her look was OK...but I sure hope we donʼt see those tucks in every single challenge. Iʼm not even going to go off on the fact that she canʼt thread a sewing machine.
BRADON: Chic, elegant, modern. A good entry and impressive that he made an inexpensive furnishing fabric look rich. It was nice to see something metallic as well.
Food for thought: who else is happy about another change this season: the absence of filming in the apartments? I noticed it in the first episode, and was hoping it would continue throughout the season. I love that this episode opened with the armored truck and cut right to the challenge! Itʼs great to see more workroom and less gratuitous "getting ready in the morning."
It appears the producers might have been listening to the fans. Or perhaps they just realized that they needed to change things up in "Project Runway" Land after 11 seasons, because they certainly have!
Straight away I noticed that the format and opening are different: Edgier, more interesting editing and not as much the old predictable format. I like it. The prize package is the largest to date: $150k to start, and a gaggle of additional prizes like a Lexus and a trip to Maldeves. The runway show is "anonymous" (hmmmm), to hopefully eliminate any question of favoritism (because we know some judges become a little attached to certain designers). And this is huge: not only does Tim make an appearance and weigh in during part of the judging process, but THE JUDGES CAN SEE THE CLOTHES UP CLOSE (EEEEEEK)! Sometimes people ask me if they ever inspect the garments or see them up close. No way, thank goodness...until now! I am a big believer of good finishing, inside and out. When I was on Season 7, I learned quickly that I had to use shortcuts to save time, because the garment only has to look good on the outside. It just has to make it down the runway. The judges are never close enough to the garments to know you that didn' line it or that your seams are all ugly on the interior. What a fright some of our pieces looked on the inside! I wonder how many people who purchased them online after the show were shocked at that.
I also love the fact that the first challenge was slightly "unconventional" (materials-wise), although I hope that is not the sole "unconventional challenge" because we need to see the designers whip out their glue guns and pliers. What a way to throw off the deer-in-headlights newbie designers in the inaugural challenge by taking them to an airfield and making them wonder what lies ahead. Will they be designing flight suits? Jumping out of planes? No, just fighting over the parachutes left behind by the skydivers.
It's certainly an eclectic mix of people this season as well. Is it me, or are there an unusually large number of the cast who currently have or formerly had another profession (i.e., dancer, model, soldier/mechanic, musician, house-husband/full-time dad, part-time babysitter)? And then we have the array of personalities, with no shortage of egos. I guess I miss the days when there were more "real" fashion designers in the cast. Yet another twist: Kate Pankoke, a contestant from Season 11, is competing again. She was chosen by fans (among three designers) to return for "runway redemption." Not a favorite of mine, I have to say. She is already showing her smugness by making a look she calls her "little princess" and thinking she will win every challenge (yet doesn't feel she has an advantage in any way). Let me tell you, there is absolutely an advantage psychologically to having been through the experience already. No one could ever fully comprehend what itʼs like to compete on "Project Runway" unless he/she has been through it. There are not enough words (besides, weʼve been forbidden to talk about it to some extent)!
If I were on Season 12 I'd definitely want to slap Timothy in the workroom. His holier-than-thou approach is quite off-putting. It's great to have a sustainable business model, but just because it's sustainable doesnʼt mean it can't be beautiful; in fact you have to work even harder to make it beautiful and fashionable. Stella McCartney is a great example of doing this successfully. Can anyone imagine Timothy as the winner of "Project Runway"? Ironically, his theatrics and lack of "finishing" (i.e. no makeup, no use of electricity, even in hair styling) come across as gimmicks. Does this mean he will never use an iron for the entire season? And I'll bet you anything those glittery heels he wears are made in China out of super-industrial non-biodegradable material. I love how Zac called him on his mega-toxic technique of using a flame on synthetic material. That poor model of his had to feel like the ugly duckling. I'm glad she decided not to fully execute his silly, overly-affected choreography on the runway.
Speaking of runway, there are too many looks to critique so early on. But I do agree with Braden's win, with a very close second in Sue's look. It was so clever of Bradon to use the cords, and the color he chose was airy and sky-like. Sue's use of color was fantastic, as was her asymmetry and strategically placed ruching. Not bad for someone who can't use a sewing machine! Both of them were smart to use the fabric in a complementary way, rather than overworking it or torturing it the way some designers did. I could not understand what the hype was about for Miranda's dress, which was not interesting enough to warrant her being in the top. Then the judges look more closely and find out the black fabric was not the parachute material so suddenly she's in the bottom two? Hmmm. Seems suspect to me. Angela's colorforms smock looks like a child's sleeveless rain slicker. It is a tough call to say who should have been eliminated, though, because Sandro's taste level is clearly questionable, and his poor model didn't really want the world to see her lady bits. It is awful to send your model down the runway like that.
More changes this season include having to manage one's budget for the ENTIRE season. While this is interesting, what happens if someone blows through their money and makes it to top 5 and has none left? Sudden death? Making an outfit out of muslin and styrofoam coffee cups from the lounge? I wonder if Tim will give them any "suggested" budgets for each challenge. It would be a bummer for a designer to think they would need to scrimp every time, only to be eliminated early on and feel like they should have spent more at Mood. The show also has a new sponsor for the accessory wall/prize package: Belk. Honestly I had to look up Belk on Wikipedia. I had no idea what it was. And when I looked at the website I wasn't impressed. When I thought it couldnʼt get worse than Piperlime, it just did. Nothing against Belk as a company or store, but I'd think in a competition in which contestants are predominantly criticized for either not being fashion-forward enough, or having poor styling, there could be a more fashion-forward sponsor. Belk appears to be a very mainstream store. You can imagine how thrilled we were on my season of All-Stars to have Neiman Marcus accessories to use to elevate our looks. But I have to tell you, no matter whom the sponsor is, there will always be something you need to style the look that is not on that wall. And often times the styling is criticized when either there was nothing appropriate to choose from, or another designer is using that ONE pair of shoes that would have been perfect for your look.
This should be an interesting season; it looks like there are a LOT of locations! The jury is still out on my early favorites. I'll let you know next time.
Congratulations, Michelle! It was no contest.
Iʼm not saying the other two designers had nothing to offer, but they really had no chance; it was a case of one designer who sabotaged himself, and another who frankly doesnʼt quite have the fashion designer "toolbox" required. I think by now I have a good idea (after having lived through two seasons of Runway as a designer) of how much of what we see is real and how much is editing. This finale didnʼt need much creative editing because of this.
Stanley seemed to have disappointed everyone by showing clothes that were not fashion-forward or modern; he likely disappointed himself the most, though, by not completing more work before his collection was taken from him and sent to New York (more than four looks, apparently). The way it works is all the finalists must stop all work simultaneously; the production company sends a courier to each oneʼs house at roughly the same time on a particular day, approximately a week before they head to New York, to be reunited with their collections at the 1407 Broadway workroom. This is so that the time allowed to work is the same for all.
I reflect on what is was like to make my collection, and I could not imagine leaving it in such an incomplete state. Iʼd much rather pull as many all-nighters as required at HOME to in order to make it as complete as possible before NYC, because you never know what sorts of tricks they have up their sleeves! What was Stanley thinking? Also, he claims that he paid Russian women for 800 hours of work to do the beading on his designs. Wait a minute, how much were those women making hourly?? If he paid them $10/hour (hard to find anyone in the US, let alone Los Angeles, to work for that rate doing a specialty skill), then he spent $8K out of $10K on beadwork?! So what did he do during that time? Iʼm confused why so much was incomplete. Backstage, if Iʼd been in his shoes, I surely would have had either a total meltdown or full on heart attack. Why put yourself through that?
From a critique point of view, Stanleyʼs collection, which he stated as "Urban Opulence" was not at all urban, but could be described as luxurious because of the materials and embellishment used. He mentioned it was for a "working woman" who also lives the Park Avenue life. There was absolutely nothing in that collection that a woman would wear to work! This collection speaks to the well-kept lady-who-lunches on Park Avenue, who is likely over 45 (and circa 1958). It was cohesive in that respect: he knows who he wants his customer to be.
Patricia, on the other hand, has much of her work completed, but as evident in her home visit and in the runway show, she is not enough of a "fashion designer" as she is an artisan and textile designer. Her collection was not cohesive, as predicted. There were times when it channeled Chicoʼs, like if Chicoʼs had a "luxe" range. If you take away the interesting textiles, there is not a whole lot left. Patricia seems like a lovely person, but her disorganization in the workroom does oddly reflect the lack of "organization" in the collection.
In general, I am not a huge fan of the horsehair headpieces, but I think itʼs because the collection as a whole needed to be more avant-garde to be able to really justify them. If the entire collection had truly been pushed creatively and made a strong statement, I could see perhaps even more of the headpieces. For example, the plaid shirt with black pant seemed too sporty and out of place to be in the same collection as the turquoise mica paillette dress and the breezy painted silks. Some of those silk pieces remind me of Donna Karan from the 90s (not a bad thing), but then I donʼt think they relate to the turquoise dress OR the graphic black and white looks like the feather dress and the horsehair cape. The first look, which was pink, also seemed odd (There was nothing else tying in that color). Again, though, I appreciate Patriciaʼs craft, and the way she incorporates her heritage into everything she does, and that clearly pulls at the judgesʼ heartstrings as well. But thereʼs no way she could have won "Project Runway." QUOTE OF THE SEASON: "The art teacherʼs on an acid trip." Oh, how I missed Michael!
As I said before, Michelle is the only designer who showed a cohesive, modern collection that felt fresh. I could see all the work she had done, and I could see her concept in virtually every look. The styling was still a bit too "tricky" (as Nina said) at times, even though Michelle said she was simplifying, and some of the volume could have been more balanced. One of my favorite looks was the yellow/nude/black dress. I also like the opening look but would have preferred that the sleeves had been short and sculpted like the bodice, or long and skinny, since the dress itself had so much volume. I have to say I agree with Heidiʼs desire for perhaps a couple of looks to be more "hip-friendly," for while they look dramatic on the runway, there is only a tiny percentage of women who can actually wear them, and they were dangerously close to making the models look big. One of the highlights of the collection was the use of knitwear. It was so clever for Michelle to hire Joe to make her sweaters. I saw his signature in them, especially in the fabulous bleeding heart sweater. In fact, when I had seen photos of the collections after they had walked at Lincoln Center in February, this one threw me because I identified the sweaters with Joeʼs work, yet the collection overall felt more sophisticated than that which he would design as a whole. Two other looks which I felt could have benefitted from some tweaking were the yellow peplum top which Michelle had added, and the red felt gown. I agree with Michael that she didnʼt need a gown and that it would have been more successful as a dress, but my biggest peeve was the neckline on both. I kept wanting to close that giant gap down the front; it was too wide. But overall, Michelleʼs collection blew the other two out of the water. So congrats to the FOURTH Portland designer to win "Project Runway"!
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 blackand stingrayin 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 othersare 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.
So...another cliffhanger ending leaves us on the edge of our seats wondering what sort of "do or die moment" Michelle has been given, since she was about to be eliminated (over Patricia!). So the designers are assembled in the lounge backstage, in awkward silence, waiting for Tim to come in and tell them what the hell is going on (and what they are supposed to do next). The waiting game: you sit back there, wait for Grim Reaper Tim to come in and tell the eliminated designer to "clean up his/her workspace," and then you usually have a quick catered dinner break (which Iʼve affectionately called "nursing home food" because is usually all the same color), change clothes (so it looks like the next day to the viewer) and go down to the runway to get your next clue from Heidi. If youʼve been eliminated, well, the road ends before you can have your last monochromatic meal.
Tim arrives and (shocker!) explains that NO ONE is going home. All five designers go to the runway and Heidi and Tim explain that for the next challenge, each designer and a newly assigned
"sewing assistant" eliminated contestant (!) will be going to a different European city as inspiration for the "luxe look" they are to design...except Michelle, who will have to stay in New York and escape packing, jetlag, overly expensive fabrics and excessive sleep deprivation. Poor thing, she doesnʼt get to be rushed through Paris, half awake.
Talk about getting a second chance: Patricia must be incredibly relieved to have Kate helping her instead of Richard. She also gets one of the most inspirational cities: Paris...and she gravitates towards graffiti, of all things. I understand *why* Patricia, in particular, is so drawn to it, but there is graffiti everywhere in the US, and it is a bit shocking that it trumps all the other amazing and inspiring sights in Paris. Meanwhile, Richard is assigned to Stanley, and the two of them jet off to London. Stanley is intrigued by Big Ben of all things, but romanticizes it with his own sort of back story and wants to channel his inner goth. Daniel is sent to Berlin (jealous!) with Amanda, who is determined to inspire him to inject a more youthful point of view into his design this time. After visiting the Berlin Wall (where he had "never felt happier in his life") and the modern Berlin Hotel, his holy grail ends up being the hypergraphic Bürohaus, a super cool white, futuristic structure, which is not what I would have expected he would gravitate towards. Over in passionate Barcelona, Layana finds inspiration everywhere she looks, in the architecture, tile and patterns, with Samantha as her sidekick.
Last, but not least, and also getting a second chance, Michelle, who is feeling worn down, lonely and defeated, rides around Manhattan with Tu atop a sightseeing bus, and sees New York from a new, yet very real, perspective. I feel for Michelle, because when you think youʼve really done a great job, and youʼve made it that far, itʼs a real punch in the gut to be on the chopping block. Of course we viewers can see how problematic it is that she completely ignored (or perhaps didnʼt fully understand) one of Ninaʼs important rules in the last challenge, but the bottom line is her design was far better and more fashion forward than at least two of her peersʼ...and the judges knew it. Still, Michelle is in the eye of the cyclone and she canʼt see straight and itʼs taken a beating on her.
What is it with everyone wanting to use leather? I like it! The designers in Europe each have their own challenges with limited fabric selections and/or exchange rates. Fortunately, they have a substantial ($1K) budget; nevertheless, there is no place like Mood. Michelle gets to go to town with cashmere and exotic leather with her budget. Whoʼs got the disadvantage here? I know he had his heart set on leather, but it does seem tragic that Moustache went all the way to Berlin and bought white vinyl. Meanwhile, Patricia is like a kid in a candy store and canʼt seem to focus so she buys a little of everything.
Who knew John Legend would be such a thoughtful judge? Who knew there would only be one designer eliminated? Who knew Michelle would pull through? Oh come on, we all saw that coming.
Layana tortured that beautiful lace. I thought she had great promise with her textile selection when I saw it in the fabric store...and then she just overworked it and it became this weird retro coat ensemble, devoid of any sex appeal or passion, which one naturally would equate with both lace AND Barcelona. The sleeves on the blouse further ruined the look, both in color (peach with black?) and style (Austin Powers meets Stevie Nicks). Layana didnʼt see that there was any problem, however, and for that, she gets sent to clean up her workspace.
Michelle wonderfully captured New York in this gritty yet luxe ensemble. This is my favorite look this week, so brava to her for rising from the ashes with her inspiration of soot. It so perfectly reflects manhattan: the contrast of gritty and dirty with sleek luxury (Even seen in the styling, which could be a socialite whoʼs gone on a bender). The lines of the dress are modern and expensive, yet the hard edge of the breastplate and strapping exemplify the tough exterior we all need to get through daily existence in the city. I only wish the wonderful hand painted ombre "soot" had shown up better.
Stanley created a dramatic, gothic look which was well-executed. I love the simplicity of this and I am always a sucker for a cape of any scale. The modest front reveals a sexy back which is a great balance. His styling is spot on and the veil is a nice touch, adding to the mystery and "darkness." I like subtlety, but I do wish he had used those wonderful leather paillettes in a more visible place, like inside the capelet, or lining the skirt as a cutaway from the front rather than the back, which seems like a throwaway. Nonetheless, this was a fine entry from Stanley and hands-down he is the first to be chosen to proceed into the finals and make a collection for NYFW.
Moustache surprises everyone this week with a modern black and white look which has a slightly softer hand than he has shown in the past (thank God). Iʼm not a fan of the jacket, which may have worked better in leather as he originally wanted, and also on TV it doesnʼt show much of the seaming detail he speaks of; however as Zac pointed out, I really could see a German woman (like Heidi!) wearing this complete ensemble. I was scared when I saw the beginnings of stripper-boots in the making in the workroom, but actually they really pull together the look, and so does the asymmetric draped skirt. Hope Daniel sent Amanda some flowers for that one!
Patricia seems to have nine lives. The decoupage-looking structured jacket she made was cool in theory, and I respect her technique in making the textile. However, the pant which accompanied it felt clumsy, heavy, and like an afterthought. Itʼs a shame she didnʼt make a dress out if this textile. Overall it seems that while she is a great artisan, she does not quite have a grasp on pulling together looks as a fashion designer. Iʼm surprised she was not eliminated alongside Layana....but the Kluminator wants to see more. (And there has to be sudden death in the next episode, right?)
Itʼs the Top 5, ladies and gents. Funny how it sneaks up on you when youʼre a viewer, dontcha think? Well let me tell you: when youʼre IN the competition and make it to top five, it feels like youʼve been in one of those cyclone rides at the fair. At first, youʼve got all this adrenaline and excitement, just trying to keep it together...and it feels like it will never end...and then suddenly, you feel a little nauseated. And then...just like that, the ride is over. Many of you know this already, but for those who do not, the entire season of "Project Runway" up until the finalists go home to build their collections is shot in only five weeks. You do the math: it means NO DAYS OFF! So basically, every other day is a new challenge (with the exception of two-day challenges). Brutal, right?
This may shed some light on how Patricia was feeling in this episode. Honestly, from the beginning when the designers were told they would have some help, and then the ubiquitous velvet bag was brought out to determine which previously eliminated designers would help each current designer (shocker), I felt my stomach wrenching for Patricia. And then the entire episode was like watching the Titanic sink. I really felt for her because at this point in the competition, everyone is so tired and stressed out; the last thing you need is the kick in the gut of knowing youʼve got to work with someone you canʼt stand, who is going to bring you down. She couldnʼt do anything to save herself. The only thing that would have possibly helped her would have been if she had said, "Screw this, I donʼt want any help!" when she found out Richard was her assigned helper. She would have gone into survival mode and the adrenaline may have kicked in and maybe...just maybe...she would have produced something better, instead of trying to TEACH her "helper" techniques and thus wasting precious time.
The challenge for this episode is to create an editorial look for a Marie Claire spread featuring actress Jordana Brewster. Nina is at the helm this time (where it was previously Joanna Coles) on her home turf in the Hearst Building, and she delivers some strict parameters, such as "bold in color or print," "do NOT show me a t-shirt and pants" and "do NOT embarrass me or disappoint me"! No pressure there.
In the workroom, Layana is creating a royal blue leather chainmail bodice inspired by the architecture of the building. I have to give her props for thinking outside the box this time, at least, so far. She sees Kate as her new BFF because Kate is basically her sewing bitch. Patricia quickly discovers that Richard doesnʼt understand any of the (rather basic) sewing terminology she is using, and cannot be of any help to her. She desperately tries to teach him some technique, but I am sure that deep down she knows that ultimately he is completely out of his league. After all, he is being asked to sew French seams on silk organza, about as far as one can get from overlocking jersey. It is visible to me that poor Patricia is having a quiet, internal meltdown. Daniel is very proudly making a yellow winged shorts suit, again trapped in a time warp and is completely daft when it comes to what is contemporary and fashion-forward. Stanley is showing his OCD side big time. He bosses Tu around like a sweatshop worker, telling him he "doesnʼt like it" when anything is not done HIS way. On one hand, I respect a perfectionist; on the other hand, patience is a virtue. Michelle is...making a t-shirt and trousers. Amanda, her partner, is not helping her see objectively when she supports her in her time of self-doubt. Michelle has a moment when she asks herself, "Is this enough?" (and in the end, she thinks it is). I do wonder, though, if Michelle even heard Nina when she specifically stated, "Donʼt show me a t-shirt and a pair of pants," because if she had, youʼd think she would have told Amanda, and perhaps Amanda (having had more sleep at this point) could have steered Michelle differently.
Michelle was criticized for doing exactly what Nina asked the designers not to do. While her outfit was modern and wearable (and certainly progressive), it was not editorial enough. I do like her spin on color-blocking, with the hem detail, but Nina had a good point which was that the photograph could end up being cropped and in that case all the great elements of the design would be lost, and it would just look like a white t-shirt. Michelle was in the bottom two, and ultimately was eliminated...or was she? The episode ends with a cliffhanger, that the judges producers have given Michelle a "do or die" sort of second chance.
Daniel was also criticized for his bizarre outfit. I personally did not care for the shade of yellow he chose, or for the costume-like exaggerated winged shoulders. Whatʼs more is he does not seem to understand the judgesʼ criticisms at all. Who wears that?
Stanley wins the challenge. While I do not think his look is super editorial, it is very well constructed and the culottes are fantastic. His look is by far the most polished and expensive (and we all know how Nina likes expensive). I do feel the look would have been better had the leather jacket been severely cropped (or perhaps just sleeves?) so that the innovative shape of the trousers would be that much more pronounced and balanced. Also, I would have preferred that the jacket was a bolder shade such as red, cobalt, black, or metallic, for more contrast.
Patricia just tanked. The finishing on the dress was sloppy, the embellishment too crafty, and the shape was...too shapeless. While I completely sympathize with her, she should have been eliminated for this mess, if elimination was solely based on the design. However, the judges weighed her overall point of view and performance as a designer. Again, judging can be spun any which way. In some ways, I think Patricia may just be totally over it.
Layana was praised for her "hard-and-soft" look which in the end was too disjointed and unsuccessful in my opinion. What started off as really cool, edgy, sixties Paco Rabanne-esque leather chainmail was cheapened by a fluffy, prissy organza skirt. It would have been so much more modern and cool if it was entirely the same technique. If she did not have time for that, she should have made a sleeker skirt or even a pant to accompany the bodice. Funny how her clothing reflects her personality...
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.
Thank goodness we are back to a "real" challenge about fashion. This week the designers are asked to each (er, in teams) create a ready-to-wear look which retails for $250 or less, inspired by Lord & Taylorʼs iconic rose logo. The winning designerʼs look will be produced and sold in Lord & Taylor stores and online. Naturally, the designers are all very excited about this as it is a great opportunity for exposure to the masses, and the look will also be featured in the window of the store. While this may be wonderful publicity, letʼs not forget the designer receives absolutely *zero* percent of the sales kind of a bummer, if you ask me. Richard is particularly mesmerized by this opportunity which "would take years to achieve"; oh honey, trust me: it will still take years for your line to to be sold in Lord & Taylor. The spiky cap+leopard pant+tank top look is not exactly helping.
The producers are liking this "judge-assembled" team method. They decide to use it again this week, and I just canʼt help but think they put designers together whom they think (or know!) will have friction. Conveniently, Layana and Richard end up on the same team again, after a dramatic runway ending last week in which Layana spoke her mind about Richard. Now, Iʼm not saying that voicing oneʼs opinions is a bad thing (Hello...I do it), but sometimes Layana doesnʼt know diplomacy and comes off sounding like sheʼs infinitely more talented and smart than everyone else. The combination of that with Richardʼs ego is no bueno. I could feel the tension all the way on this side of the TV. The fact that Richard refused to look at Layana while sketching as a team was so immature. That said, keep in mind that the whole runway duel *just* happened yesterday in "Project Runway" land...so those wounds are fresh.
More prickly team drama ensues! Stanley clearly doesnʼt take Patricia seriously as a designer and does not respect her unique creative process. He is bossing her around and itʼs not cool. However it slays me how Patricia knows whatʼs going on and is patronizing him to an extent. Itʼs interesting to me that as he criticizes her crafty and sometimes overworked design process, he seems to be creating something which is rather devoid of any design!
Michelle and Moustache are very different designers; we already know this. Michelle is much more in tune with what is contemporary and thinks outside the box; Moustacheʼs designs are for a more mature clientele and tend to be rather dated. Things donʼt start off well when they go to Mood and Moustache selects the perfect 80s neon highlighter pink fabric, in an attempt to wow the judges with some unexpected color. Michelle hates pink but he doesnʼt care. And then...reality TV GOLD starts to unfold! After Timʼs critique in which the consensus was that Moustacheʼs "Joan Collins" jacket was...well, for a Joan Collins-type customer, he has a total meltdown because he was so in love with his design. There is a bizarre cyclone going on in his head and Michelle is trying not to get sucked in. He states in an interview, teary-eyed, that Michelle is taking away the happiness again, which he lost a couple of episodes ago. Well, Daniel, being in the pressure cooker that is "Project Runway" can have that effect. Donʼt blame Michelle!
The judging panel this week has Rachel Roy sitting in again for Zac, and the president of Lord & Taylor, Bonnie Brooks, as guest judge. Here we go...
Patricia and Stanley produced a really nice pair of looks that could be from the same collection. Go figure! In a seemingly sudden twist, Stanley said he was actually *learning* from Patricia, and was appreciating what she was making! I thought her look had great mass appeal, looked expensive (yet could be made at the $250 price point), and was on-target with the Lord & Taylor customer who is a bit conservative yet trying to draw customers of many ages. Also, I could see the rose inspiration very clearly, in both the fabrication and color palette. Stanleyʼs dress was magnificently clean and simple yet modern and forward. The fit was what was different about it. I must say I thought he was going to make a boring shift dress but it ended up an expensive looking, sophisticated design. My only criticism is the length, which I would have preferred a couple inches shorter. In the end, however, these two were safe.
Richard, Samantha and Layana were clearly the losing team. Richard designed a very simple jersey dress, which resembled the olive and black jersey dress heʼd made earlier, but oddly enough I was also reminded of the coral and black (again, jersey dress) heʼd made for the senior challenge. The hot pink and black combination not only looks cheaper than his competitorsʼ looks, but really does not have enough design to it. Iʼm sure it would sell, but perhaps better in H&M or Forever21, not Lord & Taylor. Bonnie made a good point: who wears that and where to? Samantha, on the other hand, had TOO MUCH going on in her design, and it was poorly executed. It also looked cheap, but at least there were more ideas there. She needed to edit though, and when she first mentioned the heart cutout, I cringed...not only because it was overkill, but also because I knew it was too ambitious to be fabricated well in such a short amount of time. Her color blocking was infinitely more creative than Richardʼs to start, but sadly she felt it wasnʼt enough so she had to add ruffles and a giant cutout. When Layana chose her fabric at Mood, I thought it channeled the Lord & Taylor rose really well. But it ended up looking marmy even though she thought she was making it look youthful by adding black leather, which was way too heavy in my opinion. The redeeming elements of her design were, ironically, the leather parts. It fit well, but needed to be executed in different colors. What if she had used pale petal pink chiffon with beige leather? It would have felt more youthful, ballerina-esque, and feminine yet still channeled a rose. I donʼt agree with Samanthaʼs elimination. I think she has a lot more creativity than Richard, and would have liked to see her stick around a bit longer.
Moustache and Michelle are the winning team have the winning design. Michelleʼs dress was wonderfully chic. I love the color and the simple yet interesting design. However...I do take issue with this win. To be fair, the challenge called for the designs to pay homage to the Lord & Taylor iconic rose. Iʼm all for a designerʼs own interpretation, but donʼt see a rose in the least bit in her design. Spring, green buds...yes. But I feel Patricia and Stanleyʼs designs better represented the rose. Is Michelleʼs design better? Maybe...Iʼd wear it before the others. But does it really fulfill the challenge? And how about the fact that a silk and leather dress could never hit the $250-and-under price point? As we see later when Michelle admires her design in the window of Lord & Taylor, the leather appeared to have been eliminated. Daniel just could not escape the mature and dated design voices in his head, and thus made a very boring, very poorly executed dress in a very bold color.