Season Premiere July 24 at 9/8c
Mila Hermanovski Blog
Category: "season 11"
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.