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Mila Hermanovski Blog


It's All About the Shoes

Posted By kim_messina 4:38am GMT

For this seasonʼs Marie Claire challenge, the designers take a field trip to the styling closet full of shoes, where Anne Fulenwider, the new editor-in-chief (who replaced Joanna Coles), makes her television debut. I must say she is no Joanna. When I first heard that she was leaving MC to go to Cosmopolitan, I thought it must be because Nina wanted her job! But sadly Nina wasnʼt promoted, and they brought in Anne, who was previously at Brides magazine and Vanity Fair. Is it me, or would Nina not have been a more appropriate choice than a Bridal editor? But what do I know about the editorial hierarchy...?

I digress...back to the SHOES. The designers are told to select a pair of shoes from the massive array in the closet....oh wait, *psych*! They can only choose from a select area within the closet, a choice of about 10-12 pair, it seems. The shoes are to serve as the source of inspiration, and basically the challenge is to design an outfit FOR the shoes. But why didnʼt they have to use shoes from the Belk wall (kidding!)? In lieu of the old velvet bag to decide the order in which the designers get to select their shoes, Tim gives them a fashion quiz! I love this twist as it does sort of separate the dedicated fashion designer from (well, the NOT so dedicated). You really do need to know at least some important moments in fashion history and fashion popular culture to be a respectable designer, in my book. It is important to not only know the significance of fashion movements in history, but also be aware of that which is happening in contemporary fashion and pop culture. Miranda fails and gets to choose last.

Iʼve noticed recently that the show covers a lot more of the workroom processes, which I think a lot of viewers have wanted to focus on more so than "life outside the workroom." I for one am not sad that we donʼt see designers applying mascara, straightening their hair, brushing their teeth, and being prompted to discuss the most recent elimination from their beds. A little is OK, but Iʼd much rather see what is at the crux of the competition: the pitfalls of trying to make an outfit in a day. One of such pitfalls was Bradenʼs struggle. He had committed to his materials and had this technique in mind, but got so hung up on it that he lost any sense of modern style. After his critique with Tim, he had a partial "do over," but was pretty much stuck with what he had in terms of fabric.

KEN, who harped on how unforgivable it was that many "educated" designers didnʼt know their fashion history, selected a high-heeled, strappy, laced black sandal, and to compliment it, designed a top-scoring peplum dress out of what I believe is a black Carolina Herrera reptile cloqué (I swear someone in front of me at Mood today just bought some!). I honestly thought this dress was overpraised, but maybe itʼs because I think peplums need to go away—and this peplum was larger than life (and a bit sloppy)! I did like the sporty styling in the bodice, but couldnʼt get completely behind the dress. However, I do think it complemented the shoe very well; the outfit was believable.

ALEXANDER chose a nude patent Louboutin pump with red stripe up the back, and decided (along with Miranda) he must make red Tartan plaid pants. Unless you are Vivienne Westwood, itʼs very difficult to make red Tartan look cool and not "Talbots." I was concerned that he would have fit issues, but in the end his trousers fit well and it was key that they have an exaggerated fit (in his case, skinny) to be successful. The top he paired with them, while interesting, did not in my opinion complement the pants; there was a disconnect. The top looked like it belonged to a dressier ensemble. He was safe.

MIRANDA, on the other hand, having chosen red Tartan as well, had the last pick of shoes, which appeared to be the last pair available...but from the editing I couldnʼt tell. Nevertheless, she "knew she wanted" one of the ugliest pairs of shoes in the closet the moment she saw them (what does that say?). She then made one of the ugliest outfits to complement those shoes, so hey, I guess she was fulfilling the challenge! Nina was right when she said it looked like Christmas. When I saw the first shot of the shoes and bottom of the pants come out from the scrim, all I could think was "holiday grandma," given the combination of red Tartan with red patent flats, and the fit/hem. A super wide leg would have been soooo much better than this dated, mumsy fit. And why on earth would it not register to Miranda that she should avoid making virtually the same odd cropped tank top she had made before, after she was so supremely criticized for it? And white leather with red Tartan? Yikes. The poor styling choice to "Winehouse" her model didnʼt help at all either! I knew Mirandaʼs days were numbered, and this was just another in a series of uninspiring designs throughout the competition...so itʼs an Auf to her.

DOM was second-to-last to pick shoes, but she actually got a pair that were so bad they were good, if that makes sense: colorblocked creepers! At least it was something she could have fun with, and I thought she had a lot of potential since it seems she can do the urban/street/sport thing better than some of the others. However, the choice to make a quilted dress was a poor one. And she tried to select the exact same colors in the shoes, which made the whole outfit a bit too matchy. That didnʼt bother me as much, though, as the silhouette and some of the odd design lines. The dress needed to either be a super fitted/stretch construction, or a cute little boxy/mod shift. Trying to fit her quilted look only made the model look big and begs the question, "Who would wear that?" Dom slipped through though, and is on to the next round.

JUSTIN is safe for his design, and has redeemed himself (at least for now) from his disaster last week, with this all-black edgy look for his multi-colored, printed pumps. This was a surprise coming from him, but maybe itʼs just because Iʼm not sure what his POV is as a designer. I am normally not a fan of poufy anything, especially not hips...but the pant look succeeded because of a successful balance and proportion: super fitted bustier, leather shrug to add strength to the shoulders, and tapered leg.

ALEXANDRIA having won the last challenge, was able to choose her shoes first. She selected the badass thigh-high gladiator sandals (This totally would have been my choice). I think generally Alexandria has been under the radar, and have always thought she is the designer this season who understands what is modern and contemporary in fashion and what the downtown girl wants to wear. Itʼs not for everyone, but I respond to what she designs. The little black dress she made was a perfect balance of simple lines with interesting details. It has an ease to it which complements the shoes which are in-your-face hard. I love that she added a bit of lace as well. In my opinion this is the only look (with Helen a close second) which really looks straight off the runway or like you would see an off-duty model wearing walking through New York. However, Zac called it "pedestrian" (HUH??) and Anne criticized that Alexandria relied only on the shoes (isnʼt the challenge about the shoes?). The styling was perfection as well—from the fab hair and dewy makeup to the bold arm cuff and simple clutch. She was the winner in my book, and I think in Ninaʼs as well, who said it looks just like something she would see in the pagers of Marie Claire.

KAREN created another predictable, safe look which was very matchy to her chartreuse/grey sandals. The jacket was terribly ill-fitting; it was super boxy (not in a good way) and kept falling off the modelʼs shoulders when she walked, a sign of a poor armhole/sleeve/shoulder construction. When the look is that simple, the fit and construction need to be spot-on; hers was not.

BRADEN's choice of champagne colored, embellished flats could have inspired him to do much more than this awful, matronly swing dancer look which landed him in the bottom two. I was sure heʼd be eliminated (the phone call to his fiancé, I thought, surely was the kiss of death), but then again earlier in the competition he was a judgeʼs favorite. I had always been skeptical, as he is more of a costume designer and while he has produced some great work, I feel the last challenge and now this one have shown that sometimes he does not have a grip of what is fashionable. The styling did not do any favors.

KATE was on the right track with designing a black split palazzo pant and white shirt for her surrealist red sandals. When I saw the shoes...and then the pants...I thought, "She could be in the top 3 for this"...but when the camera panned up there was a disastrous top happening. It way too tight and appeared to be lopsided, which may or may not have been intentional. Either way, it failed. If she wanted to push the artsy/surrealist concept, it needed to be pushed further, a la Margiela. Instead the shirt appeared very poorly constructed. However there were worse blunders (and at least she got the bottom half right), so Kate slipped through.

JEREMY whose ego we are seeing rear its ugly head more and more in every episode, selected a pair of "Pretty Woman"-esque over-the-knee black suede boots with gold chain trim. I recoiled a bit when I saw those, and thought right away it could be a runaway train. Still, there was a part of me that thought maybe he would do something more tasteful to balance those boots, since he has good construction skills and if anything airs on the more conservative side with his design POV. Well I guess not! He really did feel inspired to design a look which felt like Shakira-meets-Dionne Warwick circa 1999. The fabrication he was so proud of looked sloppy and cheap. There are some major taste issues here, and an even bigger concern that he was so defensive about the critique (“the judges donʼt know what theyʼre talking about”).

HELEN. takes the win this time, which was surprising to me. I liked her very referential Alexander Wang for Balenciaga/ Margiela look a lot, but it was really all about the cape. I am a fan of minimalism, and it was executed very well. BUT...it is so rare that a designer wins for a look which is all black and minimalist. The biggest problem I had with her winning, however, is that the look did not complement or seem inspired by the boots. Thatʼs not to say it wasnʼt styled fine, or that they donʼt work at all as a look, but to me it lost the point of the challenge, and in my opinion Alexandriaʼs made a stronger statement and fulfilled the challenge better.

Random observations on Tim Gunn this week:
-Tim totally threw Jeremy under the bus to the judges! For that alone, I thought Jeremy could have been eliminated. Clearly Jeremy is not a TG fave.
-Tim told Miranda after she had been eliminated that he "responded well to her look." Whaaaa?
-Tim used his ubiquitous expression, "The most talented group in the history of the show," to describe this crop of designers. Donʼt you know he says that each and every season? Tim, the BS meters are going off...


Don't Glamp My Style

Posted By kim_messina 4:19am GMT

Glamping. Glamorous camping. For fashionistas who wouldnʼt typically be caught dead in the woods. But letʼs call a spade a spade. The designers didnʼt really go glamping...they went on a retreat for the day, sponsored by Resource Natural Spring Water. How nice for them to be able to escape the city and get some inspiration from nature, but the indisious thing about this is that it is still a competition and there are always cameras and producers directing them and following them around. Can they really decompress, feel inspired and have fun? Itʼs not always how it looks. I know I would have pulled an Alexandria, and cherished the opportunity to go off and be "alone" for a few minutes, a rare thing while in the competition! Viewers probably donʼt realize that the only time a designer is truly able to have privacy or be alone is in the bathroom; you are either being filmed, chaperoned or with roommates.

Tim is too cute in a camo-print blazer: his nod to the outdoors. He instructs the designers they are to create a high-end, editorial look inspired by nature and/or their activities (you know, like ziplining...how inspirational!). Sometimes the challenges which are very open to interpretation are the most difficult to execute in a short amount of time. Typically it takes more than a few hours (or even a day) to develop and execute a truly inspired design, not only through the initial brainstorming/sketch process but also in the workroom, for the design often evolves and can even change drastically as it is being executed. There are many factors which can affect it: fabric selection/availability, the ability to construct and actualize the sketch and unexpected sewing issues are just a few. The designers have a suggested budget of $300 for this challenge.

In the workroom, there are quite a number of interesting techniques and POVs developing. I was curious as to why Justin bought glue guns at Mood; then in the workroom I see this beautiful "lace" he is creating with the glue, and thought it was brilliant, albeit a bit ironic as the glue is so very synthetic. Braden is using the sewing machine to create an embroidery of sorts, which appears almost like hand-scribbled colored pencils. Jeremy is hand-painting a love letter onto silk. Alexandria is making separates, and while she seems confident about her drop-crotch pants (which apparently no one else likes), this entire episode so far she seems sad and defeated after being in the bottom last time.

HELEN's nude gown, inspired by a dying moth, is safe. The bodice looks completely forgotten and bare, as if she ran out of time. It needed to be covered in the same treatment as the skirt (which, incidentally...can she do anything else? Iʼm getting tired of seeing this raw-edge thing that she does over and over). Even a different color top would have been more interesting.

BRADON's gown looks like a maternity dress. Itʼs not flattering at all to the model, and the colors are more Maypole than nature-inspired. I was really hoping he would have made it more about the treated fabric he made. If he wasnʼt such a judgesʼ darling, he may have been in the bottom for this; it just looks very student-y to me.

MIRANDA finally stepped out of her box a bit. While there is still nothing earth-shattering about her embellished gown, it fit well and had some interest to it, which is more than one can say about her designs up til now. Nevertheless it was safe and I wonder how much longer she will "just be getting by."

KEN was worried that his day dress was "too simple." Not only was it too simple, it was top-heavy and slightly conservative. For most women at any age, the decolleté and collarbone are some of their most favorable features; hardly any woman wants to cover them completely, or add bulk. It was a very odd choice to add all those layers of heavy wool at the chest. He could have paneled/blocked the different colorways of the print and it could have been a much more interesting and successful look. The styling was awful as well. And so Ken was in the bottom, which must have made Alexandria pleased, and Ken humbled (if thatʼs possible). As much as the dress was a blunder, I would not be shocked to know that the producers put him in the bottom instead of Braden, for example, just to continue the storyline of tension between him and Alexandria.

ALEXANDRIA WINS for her edgy sportswear look which all her peers seemed to snub (at least it was edited that way). The judges love separates, and often reward designers for taking a risk in this way, when all the others are making gowns. I have seen it so many times, and won a challenge myself for doing that. I personally was happy to see this, as I think her look is the most fashion forward and editorial. I would have rather seen a different material used in the jacket, though—maybe leather or a heavier denim—something stiffer in the front. The chambray/soft denim fell short and looked a bit cheap in my opinion. I wasnʼt crazy about the hair and makeup styling, but I suppose one canʼt argue it was editorial, which no doubt Nina appreciated.

ALEXANDER finally managed to turn down the volume enough from his usual overdone style to achieve a top-scoring design, his navy and black painted gown with black leather "pool." I am not crazy about the actual painted design, but the fit is perfect and I like the strength and simplicity of the cut, and I really love the black leather at the bottom and trimming the armhole and neckline.

JUSTIN is eliminated for his unfortunate mess of a gown. Oh Justin, what happened? The glue gun lace was a great idea but the use of it and overall design was awful. The lace near looked to me like grey pubic hair. There was nothing fresh or modern about the cut of the gown and the sheer panels. Justin brings everyone to tears backstage, including Tim, who is so verklempt that he uses the "Tim Gunn Save" to give Justin another chance. While I think Justin is a sweet guy and has some potential, I donʼt see him winning the whole competition. What happened to the "Project Runway" mantra, "One day youʼre in and the next day youʼre out"? His design was worthy of being eliminated; Iʼm not convinced it was worthy of being saved.

DOM is safe as well...not inspired to say much about this look except that I like the print. The neck treatment was unnecessary and excessive. But then if you take that away, youʼve just got a rather straightforward silk print dress.

KAREN's dress is nowhere near editorial enough. The brown leather strapping is so very Kors circa-2005. The first thing I thought when I saw the dress was "clearance rack at Ross." And the styling was godawful, from the country-western singer hair to the odd ankle boots she paired with it. The gown had way too much volume, again looking maternity.

KATE was trying to have a Vera Wang moment with all the tulle, and while I like the concept in theory, she did not execute it well as it made the model look like a pregnant hunchback—no bueno. I do like the contrast of cutout patent leather with airy tulle, but it needed more construction finessing.

JEREMY. wooed his husband and the judges with his love-letter-painted silk gown. Thank goodness he 86ed the primary colors! Can you imagine? I winced when he mentioned that in the workroom. While it is impressive that he handled that bias silk well in a short amount of time, and the gown was well executed, I still take issue with Jeremyʼs rather matronly style and styling.


Placemats and Primadonnas

Posted By laurareineke 4:44am GMT

This may be the third unconventional challenge (out of five), but what a doozy! This has to be the mother of all unconventional challenges, with not one but *three* sources for materials! We've got Surprise!Surprise! (basically the 99-cent store), an antique wallpaper store, and Garden of Eden, a New York market. All sponsored by Lexus, who provides the winner of PR with a new car. So are the designers supposed to be inspired by Lexus as well? My head would be spinning! The designers have been pre-selected into teams of three, to create a "high-end, luxurious mini-collection." Each designer is responsible for one look, however the three looks need to be cohesive; some teams found this element more challenging than others.

We immediately see that the team consisting of Sue, Ken, and Alexandria is doomed; all the other designers see this as well. There is the concern that the three of them each have distinctly different styles, but no one could have imagined that it would go so far south. Well, I have to say, I saw this personality in Ken from early on. He didn't just get the "bitch edit," he IS a bitch! There is only so much editing can do. He is still responsible for his harsh words. He is nothing but sour and a poor team player this entire challenge. I do wish he had been eliminated just for his lousy attitude and overall nastiness. Some of his comments and looks were really revolting. Only problem? I do have a big issue with someone who is competing on "Project Runway" and can't use a sewing machine.

Oh Sue. You know, I watched a few of the audition videos/home visits and I was immediately intrigued by Sue's work. She is an artisan (there's one on every season) who does things "her way," and she actually makes really beautiful pieces. She definitely has the potential for a high-end, handmade, celebrity/rocker clientele. But "Project Runway" is not her platform. When Tim critiqued this team's work (in particular Sue's), he really ripped on them. I've never seen Tim give as harsh a critique as he did here. He asked Sue if she had ever seen "Runway" before, for if she had, why would she select curtains for an unconventional challenge? She said she had seen it, and knew what she was doing...but her Q&A on her myLifetime.com profile would indicate otherwise (Q: Favorite Project Runway designer? A: Not familiar enough to say). And while I think her work is special, her skills and applications are not diverse enough to compete on, let alone win, "Project Runway." And how is it that the executive producer of the show, Heidi Klum, is so shocked to know that a designer who doesn't use a sewing machine made the cut onto the show? I wouldn't be surprised if that alone was the deciding factor in the decision to eliminate her over Ken. Though it's still a toss-up. who would you have rather seen stay for another challenge: the bitchy queen or the sweet-yet-daft, artsy Brooklynite?

Tim was on fire in the critiques this week! Not only did he elevate Kate's design by pointing out that she was not using any interesting materials, but boy did he slap the losing team, including calling Ken on his poor attitude. What's up with Sandro coming back just to apologize? Seems oddly gratuitous. Ah well...at least he was not allowed back into the competition! And speaking of egos, who does this June Ambrose think she is that she can a), address the designers as "darlings" (doesn't she know that's Mizrahi's schtick?), and b), pull off those furry black ears on her head? Oy.

The only thing in my opinion that makes this team's work cohesive is the color palette, and maybe the giant poufs of light-colored material (on Bradon's skirt and Alexander's top). I am rather indifferent.
Alexander: A look that is pure "Dynasty"-meets-Cirque-du-Soleil-clown. Everything Alexander designs has a drag queen vibe to it: just too costumey.
Miranda: Such a basic silhouette, but at least it looks upscale. This look is the least cohesive simply because it is the cleanest, and the other two designers went very "grand," a completely different direction.
Bradon: Impressive that he achieved such a large confection of a gown in such a short time. For me it is too costumey, but I respect the ambition.

The team only spent $600 and it kind of looked it. What happened to their Art Deco/1920s concept? The only thing that reflected that was their wallpaper choice, quite a nice print. Helen's look was a wreck, with the lopsided, haphazard pouf skirt that screams "unconventional challenge."
Dom: Stalagtite-shoulder overdose! Not fresh or modern, and competely overdone; very Gaga-3 years-ago.
Justin: He hasn't made pants many times, and it showed! Pants are already challenging so why would you then attempt to make them when your material is wallpaper? This is a challenging material with which to make well-fitting pants even if you are an expert. The team was safe, however.

This mini-collection made me think of an amateur music video circa 1992. Or three best friends in high school attempting to make their own dresses for junior prom. It's an oddly cohesive (albeit awful) collection. It was kind of pathetic and sad because it was so evident in the quality of their work that they were all just miserable during this challenge, largely due to the Lilliputian bad seed Ken. His sour attitude and refusal to attempt to work together with Alexandria and Sue simply rotted the team. All three looks were just haphazard and Ken's look made his model look thick from the slapped-on duct tape waistband. Certainly hard to believe they spent $1400 on materials.

The winning team's collection was not the most cohesive, but it did look luxurious, elegant, and high-end, fulfilling the requirements of the challenge. All the looks used a really nice mix of materials, NOT JUST predominantly PLACEMATS like so many other teams did. I'm not sure to whom I'd have given the win, however.
Jeremy: oh wait! He used predominantly PLACEMATS! This is why I'm not so convinced he should have won. He sewed a bunch of pieces of cloth together. The glitter ombrÈ effect was very nice though, and the dress fit very well, except the bust, which Heidi was singing praises about -- usually it's the thing she criticizes the most. I was sure she wouldn't like the bust on this dress as it really didn't do the model any favors.
Karen: I very much liked her concept and use of mixed media in this modern dress. The drawbacks were the length and placement of a couple of the style lines, both of which made the model look wide. But overall this look was super modern, luxurious, and European, a surprise coming from Karen, who has not yet impressed me.
Kate: Another thoughtful use of different materials, which she must have added after her critique with Tim, because it would appear she missed the mark of the unconventional challenge based on that. Tim was concerned that she was only using PLACEMATS to make a little black dress. She should definitely be thanking Tim for that one!


Tie One On For Equality

Posted By kim_messina 4:16am GMT

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.


Aliens, Dolphins, and Unicorns, Oh My!

Posted By laurareineke 10:58am GMT

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.


Champagne Wishes and Couturier Dreams

Posted By kim_messina 4:38am GMT

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 day—not 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."


Diving Right In

Posted By laurareineke 4:48am GMT

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.


No Contest

Posted By kim_messina 4:19am GMT

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"!


Home Stretch

Posted By kim_messina 4:57am GMT

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

Now for the home visits!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I'll Take Manhattan

Posted By kim_messina 4:22am GMT

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?)