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Season Premiere July 24 at 9/8c

The official site for "Project Runway" Season 13 offers video, designer portfolios, Rate the Runway photos, blogs and more.

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Mila Hermanovski Blog

15
FRI

Down Under Blunders

Posted By kim_messina 4:17am GMT

This week, there is a new twist on the team thing: the judges get to decide how the teams are divided, and select players for each one (Hello, producer intervention?). There are eight designers remaining, so they were split into two teams of four. Seems no matter how those judges attempted to rationalize their decisions, I wasnʼt quite buying it. Naturally, Michelle and Patricia end up on the same team, as do Richard and Layana.

First thing in the morning, in lieu of coffee and croissants, the designers are taken on a field trip to meet the ALL MALE Aussie "reveal" group, Thunder From Down Under. They are given a show by these guys, followed by the challenge delivered by Tim: create three cohesive, tear-away looks for these burly male dancers! Whaaaat?! Can we go back to bed now?

I donʼt know about you, but this challenge has very little, in my opinion, that is relevant to being a talented fashion designer. I like that the Bunim/Murray execs wanted to do a menswear challenge, but this isnʼt REALLY menswear. These are male dancer costumes. This is a joke. No wonder everyone failed at it. I canʼt imagine any of the designers were too thrilled about this challenge. And when youʼre in the competition, the thing you most fear is to be eliminated for a challenge which has nothing to do with fashion design. Seriously...this challenge is a big blunder in so many ways...what a waste of an episode!

But back to the workroom. Even the teams were a bit boring in the ways they worked together. I did think Richard was getting the loser edit because he was so sure that he could nail this (Perhaps because he could really relate to male stripper costumes?), but then his ideas were not well received by his teammates. Richard dear, thatʼs because your ideas are not "edgy"—they are in bad taste!

Again I question Layanaʼs ability to stand on her own as a designer. What happens a lot with young designers is they (a) donʼt know who they are yet and havenʼt had time to hone their point of view, and (b) they are often not well-practiced/skilled enough (in sewing and construction, the more one practices, the better oneʼs skills become). The latter is what we see an example of in this episode (Weʼve seen the former in previous ones), as Layana somehow thinks itʼs OK to approach the opposing team for construction advice.

Honestly there is not a whole lot to judge. No one did well. It was painful to watch. Even Heidi said that she wanted to eliminate everyone and end the show right then and there. Well, perhaps she should have thought about that before approving the challenge, because HOW can a designer truly show his/her talent in a challenge like this??

Team Slick and Hip was the worse of the two teams. Abominable. There was no design and the construction was godawful. How does Richard not know what a collar stand is?!?? The shirt he made looked like something a 3rd grader would make. The only redeeming thing about any of the clothes is that the tearaway element functioned. However it was not enough to make up for all the blunders, and Amanda was eliminated for her outfit which could barely stay on the guy. Something had gone very wrong in the workroom with the pant she was making, and by the time she figured out it was too small, it was too late.

Team Shades of Grey was safe. Daniel made a smock, Patricia made a crafty woven shirt that was never seen and Michelle made an outfit which, while odd and had fit issues, was at least outside the box and creative. Hers really stood out, for better or for worse. However there was NO WINNER selected in this challenge! I canʼt recall when this has ever happened on "Project Runway," but how fortunate for the Aussies; at least they donʼt have to wear any of those designs!

SIGH.

08
FRI

Prom Duckie

Posted By laurareineke 4:25am GMT

It's the unconventional challenge! Wait, didn't we already have one? OK, it's a sponsored product placement challenge! The designers are introduced to Fred the duck as their hint. All I could think of was Aflac (now thatʼs some good advertising and marketing). No, it's DUCK Tape. At one point, someone decided it would be clever to brand duct tape as Duck Tape, just to confuse the masses. What did you do with duct tape in college? In art school in the late '80s we'd patch our combat boots or even our vintage men's wing-tip shoes (worn with cut-offs or a babydoll dress and black ripped tights) in the old-school silver variety. My boyfriend's niece made him a duct tape wallet and messenger bag. Throughout the years, duct tape has been used in very fun and innovative ways.

For this challenge, the designers have a myriad of newfangled, novelty colored and printed DUCK tapes to choose from to create a prom dress as a team, in ONE day (not the 24-hour kind of day, but more the 8-hour variety). That afternoon, they will be judged by high school students first, before the regular judging panel; the student vote supposedly accounts for 20% of the final scores.

The producers are ready to shake things up a bit, so the teams are shuffled by drawing names and those who are called are able to select a partner. It's about time! Stanley is over Richard, so he chooses "someone who can teach him something," the younger Layana, whom I actually thought was about 22 but in fact is 28 and acts like 19. While I don't know that Layana is going to teach him anything, Stanley could not have made a better move than dumping Richard. Kate picks Tu, so she can have the upper hand. Michelle chooses Amanda, and they become BFFs. A rejected Richard goes with Daniel, and that only leaves Samantha with Patricia. Samantha is "buggin'" over this, but I can tell she is trying really hard not to dis Patricia in her interviews, but rather emphasize that the two of them have such different points of view. At least she's trying to be diplomatic!

Layana, honey, Richard isn't jealous of you. He's just got a bruised ego. So he takes all the gold tape so no one else can use it. Bitter and spiteful, or just competitive? Either way, it was kind of an asshole move. And speaking of tape choices, Michelle and Amanda are each gravitating towards different printed tapes, both of which would be pretty yucko for a prom dress: Camouflage and tie-dye. Thank goodness they agree to disagree and work it out to come up with a new idea, to make their own giant houndstooth print (infinitely better). I found myself wondering: Do they plant those ugly prints, just to see if the designers will go for them? Probably just the sponsor wanting all their product out there...but still, it made me think. Patricia and Samantha seem to be working together rather sheepishly. Seems there is some tension and both ladies are aware of it. Samantha makes TWO bodices since they can't seem to merge their designs. Certainly there could be a more efficient way of using her time/working, but then again, if she has time to make two bodices, go girl! I recall when I was paired with Jay ("by chance") in a team challenge and it was so awkward. It sucks when there is tension and whether or not you are able to rise above it, it's still there, and you find yourself envious of those who are working synergistically.

Lone Wolf and Amanda are an example of a team that had that synergy. They were having a grand old time together and that energy helped produce a WOW moment of a design. The dress was unique, bold, fun and cool. Most high school girls want something fun for the prom. This dress is definitely for a certain girl. Not everyone could pull it off, but it was fab. I love that they created their own pattern, well engineered by Michelle. I could have done without the side cutouts, but other than that it was a great shape. And Michelle has a coup at last!

Layana and Stanley receive high scores. Stanley is on a roll. He is pretty much guaranteed a place in the finals at this point, methinks. It's always good to get some wins under your belt early in the competition because it makes the judges notice you, and if you do slip up, they are less likely to give you the axe. The dress these two produced a super cute, well constructed design. It appeals to that "Glee" girl: Youthful, flirty, fun. While I like the touch of pink, I did think the bow was a bit much. Perhaps it could have been scaled down a bit. The crinoline was marvelous. Nice job!

Moustache and Richard, low scorers, produced a mess of a dress which was '80s in a bad way. Funny enough it truly reminded me of a dress I wore to a prom back then. The underlying silhouette of the dress was the most simple cut (the princess foundation), yet was not fitting well. The sweetheart bodice and the ruffles, all in gold, made it look cheap and dated. And all that faux-lattice on the sides simply got lost. But thank god they didn't touch that leopard print tape that was on their table! Guess that move of hoarding all the gold tape didnʼt work out so well for you, did it Richard?

Kate and Tu also flopped. While the dress at least fit well and was well-constructed, the color was dull and drab and too mature for a high school girl. I don't necessarily agree with Nina that all girls want short dresses. I think Kate is right that most girls seldom (if ever) have an opportunity to wear long gowns, so some of them want to use the prom as an opportunity to do it to the nines. That said, the dress is not the most forward. I was an editor at Your Prom magazine once and the dresses I saw and that we featured really ran the gamut. And in a "shocking elimination," BOTH Kate and Tu get the axe! Personally I think it would have been more interesting and appropriate if Tu and Richard had been eliminated. The two low scoring designs each had issues, and at least this gown fit well.

Samantha and Patricia ended up with the most popular dress by the students! After all that tension they cranked out a really fun design. I have to admit when I first saw it developing I feared it would look like a Hanukkah dress because of the colors! But it was a cool, futuristic, unique design. Is it the most suitable for the prom? Probably not. But kudos to them for creating something outside the box and creative!

01
FRI

When Fashion Generations Collide

Posted By kim_messina 4:35am GMT

Itʼs the "real people" challenge. I love these because they really show the designersʼ true skills of problem solving and ability to think "outside the dressform," meaning adapt to real bodies and not just mannequins and models. I love the twist this time: designing for seniors! Tim welcomes the designers to Midtown Loft Dance Hall, where we see a slew of spry senior ladies dancing up a storm. The designer teams of two (and one team of three) have been "randomly assigned" (another thing I never believed, just like the button bag) their new clients. Tim instructs the designers to each make a look that not only pleases the client but also showcases their own point of view; "No cohesion is necessary," so, again, how is this a team challenge? I mean I get it, the team mates are supposed to support one another...but honestly no one has time for that! You barely have time to get your own look done. Timʼs words of advice: "good fashion is ageless and timeless."

There is only one team of three: "Lone Wolf" Michelle, having lost her team mate Matt last week, is teamed up with Patricia and Layana....poor thing. Apparently Michelle has been placed with her most loathed and dreaded team mate (Patricia). No coincidence there. If I were her, Iʼd be dreading hearing Layanaʼs whiny complaints and unwarranted opinions! The other teams remain the same. They all seem to be fine with it, but I wonder how they really feel....? Amidst a group of designers, where there are always egos, Iʼm sure someone else in there is less than thrilled with his/her partner.

We soon discover that indeed Benjamin is less than thrilled with his partner Amanda, who is having a bit of a design meltdown due to choosing the wrong fabric in Mood for her design. Oy vey, Iʼve been there...not a good feeling. You feel incredibly helpless and blocked, because time is so precious and once youʼve sketched your design (in 15 minutes or so), selected your fabric (30 minutes), and are back in the workroom, itʼs GO time. Itʼs hard, once you think youʼve got it sorted out, to go back to the HP tablet and start over. However....this is problem solving, and itʼs imperative on "Project Runway" and in "real life." Only thing is on "Project Runway" youʼve got this pressure to perform QUICKLY. And sometimes you simply get blocked. This is when the ubiquitous expression which has been made famous by our own Tim Gunn is so appropriate: MAKE IT WORK.

I could have sworn that either Patricia or Michelle was getting a total loser edit. We have Michelle talking about how awful Patricia is, and that everything she does sucks. Then we have Patricia struggling in the workroom and decides to start over with her look. You know, either Michelleʼs ranting is going to bite her in the bum, or Patricia is going to go down, simply because Michelle is feeling like every team she ends up on is cursed and ends up in the bottom. However, as we will see, this is not the case....

In the judging panel this week, Zac is absent, which I have to say doesnʼt make me all that sad. In his place is Rachel Roy, who has been a guest judge several times. While she is not all that interesting, Iʼve always felt her critiques are fair and honest. The two guest judges are none other than the hilarious Joan Rivers and her daughter Melissa, whom I thought had some really astute things to say actually! I do love me a little Joan Rivers. If nothing else she is just fascinating to look at, you know, in that Cat Woman kind of way!

Lone Wolf, Layana, and Patricia were the safe team. I could have seen this going either way to be honest. The judges and producers could have put any spin they wanted on it, because I felt like Michelle did a good job in the end. Sure, it wasnʼt ground-breaking, and in my opinion, did not have any signature of Michelle in the design....however it the print was really fun, and the dress was super complimentary to the client. Patricia "made it work" (unlike Amanda), by scrapping the mu-mu she had going on and making a jacket which had a lovely collar but unfortunately looked rather unharmonious in its colors and raggedy in finishing. I could not understand what Heidi was praising Layana for. I think this was all producer fluff to escalate the drama and tension between the three ladies, by making it seem that Patricia bogged them down. To me her design looked ill-fitting and frankly I did not care for that print. When I saw her client, I thought she had a fabulous, dramatic look with her platinum hair and that she could pull off a livelier or bolder look. Besides that, I still donʼt know who Layana is as a designer.

Richard and Stanley are high scorers again. This was another case where I think one designer outshines the other, but since they are a "team," the judges praise both looks, even if one is far inferior or even just "meh." Stanley produced a tres chic navy pantsuit which was fabulous on his client. Yes, the crotch has major issues, but the back view was flawless and the look in general was elegant, expensive looking, and fashionable rather than marmy. Richard, on the other hand, produced a sack which required a fraction of the work that Richardʼs look did. I hated the mint green and black combo; it brought me to a KMart place, like when Iʼve had to shop for a housedress for a plus sized character. What was that odd "mini drawstring" in the front? I found it distracting. The fabric looked cheap somehow, like a poly or acrylic jersey...perhaps it was just the color I could not get beyond. But the judges wildly praised it for some reason.

Tu and Kate received low scores, due to Tuʼs mess of a dress. Why he would choose wool (and not even wool jersey) is beyond me. The color was the only thing going for that dress. You can tell it was a wreck with fit, and as seen in the workroom, the belt (which was not great styling anyway) was the only thing holding it together. We saw how Tu really struggled with anything outside of a model figure; in my opinion, he should have been in the bottom two with Amanda. Clearly his client was disappointed as well. Kate, on the other hand, produced an incredibly chic and flirty ensemble for her client. If this was an individual challenge, she should have been a top scorer, far and away better than Richard. The print was so lovely and the look was very appropriate for her client. One of my favorites!

Samantha and Moustache received high scores. Neither of their looks were thrilling to me. Itʼs funny, Samantha embraced her clients spunkiness, and the dress fit well. However, out of context, one would question the taste level here. I hated the "Gaga Lite" shoulders and yellow satin with leopard combo. But OF COURSE "animal print" Joan liked it!! Moustache fulfilled his clientʼs request for an elegant black suit, and itʼs good that he put his own details and twist into it, because otherwise it would have looked like any old black suit off a department store rack. It did fit well though. Again, had this been an individual challenge, I could see both these looks being safe.

Amanda and Benjamin are low scorers, which we all saw coming. I am shocked that Amanda was saved. She did not "make it work" in the least...there are so many better ways she could have resolved this dress. The print was fantastic, so it was sad to see the outcome. Where to begin....? It was just a complete mess. Benjamin chose a great color, and made his client happy, but the dress did look like it was suffocating her, and was very marmy, like what you expect to see a little old lady wearing to a wedding. A different fabric selection could have helped, as satin is oneʼs worst enemy for TV, not to mention for hiding construction flaws, which there were. Nevertheless, it was a tough call as to whom should have been eliminated. What do you think?

22
FRI

Two-Step to the Top

Posted By kim_messina 4:12am GMT

The end of the last episode was a cliffhanger. Never are the designers called back to the runway after the end of a challengeʼs judging and "auf." They are lead to the set and take their seats runwayside, and from behind the scrim emerge Tim and Heidi, carrying the ominous "velvet bag." This can only mean a twist. Drum roll please...the designers will regroup into teams of two. Whomever is called will get to select his/her partner. By the way, I have never actually seen those buttons up close (or well enough to see a name), and Iʼve never met any other designer who has: things that make you go "hmm."

Next, itʼs a field trip to Johnny Utahʼs, some country bar, the setting for the next challenge. The designers find out they are to make two looks per team for Miranda Lambert: one for performing, and one for red carpet. I like how Tim explains that the two looks can be a team effort, and "the way the work is divided is up to each team." Oh come on, the designers are totally thrilled that they finally may have the opportunity to design and make a garment 100%! Sure enough, that is the way it played out and it almost ended up being an individual challenge, except that the pairs are still being judged together when it comes to high and low scores. The lines sure seemed blurred though.

The teams seem to be getting along for the most part. But what was everyoneʼs obsession with NAVY? In Mood it seems many designers were selecting Navy, an odd choice for Miranda. Her look is the quintessential "little country and a little rock 'n' roll," neither of which one associates navy blue with (except denim). The trickiest thing in this challenge is to not go tacky or cheap; there is a fine line between fun and fug in this sort of genre of clothing.

Highlights of the workroom:
-Daniel uses "soutache" effect, which required definition because no one has used it for 20+ years. Boy does he love his soutache idea.
-Kate is trying to think outside the box by making a red pleather leather mermaid dress reminiscent of Elvira.
-Richard thinks nothing of the fact that his mesh dress has no lining. Itʼs looking very Hollywood Boulevard (where all the stripper shops are, for those of you who donʼt know).
-Tu leaves Tim speechless, as he doesnʼt seem to know the difference between Miranda and Gaga.
-Patricia is at home with this challenge as she employs a Native American fringe technique that she and her family use when making their own performance costumes.
-Layana is complaining about everything again.
-Matt is struggling big time with confidence and self-esteem. Oh dear...this is a runaway train if I ever saw one. There is just no room for any of that on "Project Runway," as it is hard enough to get through without thinking you already suck.

Thank goodness we donʼt have those team names anymore! The runway was a much more individual show this week.

Amanda and Benjamin are high scorers, which was a bit of a boggle to me. I thought Amanda did a fine job. The dress looked comfortable and like it would be flattering to Mirandaʼs curvy figure, and it was great that she thought about the necessity for a bra. Benjaminʼs navy gown, however, while well-constructed, was ruined with one dripping jet-beaded boob. Seriously, Nina? You liked that?? I was waiting for her to hate on that asymmetric drip. And it just didnʼt seem right for Miranda. Only a man could design that...

Tu and Kate were safe. Kateʼs gown looked cheap and tacky, which can happen easily with all red gowns. It looks as though Tu took Timʼs and possibly his teammateʼs advice and toned the "Gaga" down, but unfortunately it was kind of a nothing dress. The color was bland for stage, and the style was neither here nor there.

Samantha and Daniel had low scores. I was excited about Samanthaʼs idea in the workroom. Who doesnʼt love a little moto-jacket styling, and the movement of the skirt in the sketch looked interesting and potentially a good contrast to the "hard" leather vest. Sadly the execution was weak, and the look was sad. Daniel ended up making a garish top covered in that soutache of his. But the look overall was dated. And how could he do that to that silk skirt?! Fringing with a fork? The modelʼs bad styling didnʼt help.

Michelle and Matthew were in the bottom as well. I understand why Matthew was a low score, but I really felt Michelle designed a fun outfit that was outside of the box, and did not deserve to be in the bottom. I may be in the minority with this, but I thought it was one of the cooler, hipper looks out there, and fits the country-meets-rock challenge. The judging was way too hard on her. Regarding Zacʼs comment about it being too casual for the red carpet, I will say that there are MANY types of red carpet events, ranging from a film premiere to Grammys. The music industry has a lot less rules. Good for her for defending herself! Auf, Matt.

Patricia and Layana are safe. Patriciaʼs fringe was super impressive and had great movement, but I was not crazy about the dress and fabric underneath. Layanaʼs gown was unoffensive, but certainly not suited for Mirandaʼs big personality.

Richard and Stanley are high scorers, and Richard "made it work" by cutting up a couple of Mood t-shirts to use as lining (why didnʼt he think of lining while fabric shopping though?). The dress did a total 180 from Hollywood Blvd to Beverly Hills! It is a great dress for stage, and the length and lining saved it from being trashy. He used enough fringe and chain to make it look substantial as well. Stanleyʼs gown was cool, but had some fit issues and as the judges pointed out, had too much volume in the skirt. I like the hammered metallic waist cincher. Apparently, though, none of the red carpet looks were good enough to be selected as winners.

15
FRI

Flowers and Fasteners

Posted By kim_messina 4:14am GMT

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 time—that 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.

08
FRI

No Surprise

Posted By kim_messina 4:52am GMT

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 taste—did 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?!

01
FRI

That Takes Balls

Posted By kim_messina 4:41am GMT

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 server—more 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).

25
FRI

This is "Project Runway"...Teams?

Posted By kim_messina 4:53am GMT

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.

19
FRI

A Wow Moment Without the “Wow” (Part 2)

Posted By Tracy_Goldenberg 12:00pm GMT

When we left off last week, all four designers had been asked to submit three looks from their collections, which would be judged and which would determine the three designers who would actually show at Fashion Week. Except...a very anti-climactic Finale Part 1 ended with no one being eliminated. I'm not quite sure why this decision was made, but it certainly waters things down. In my opinion, Christopher should have been eliminated. Part of the challenge is indeed figuring out which three looks will “wow” the judges and pique their interest enough to want to see the entire collection, and he failed at this. I think he chose the three looks that were the least interesting (or, as I call them, “filler” looks).

Now that Christopher has made it through, all we hear from him is attitude and lack of focus. He almost seems to have given up, yet he is completely sassy, making fun of Nina's critique of him and coming across very ungrateful. Christopher, this is not very becoming. He doesn't understand how “nothing fits” (whose fault is that?), doesn't understand why he received the critique he did, and makes fun of his fellow designers' work. Mind you, some constructive criticism is fine, but let's lose the attitude! I found it all to be quite off-putting.

Fabio, Melissa and Dmitry, on the other hand, handle the judges' critiques thoughtfully, and do whatever they can to work on the elements that they were told have room for improvement. Fabio is trying to make his collection a bit more “luxe,” Melissa is adding color (“blood orange” leather, to be exact, which Chris thought sounded pretentious or something; for the record, I would also describe that shade of red as “blood orange”—so there!), and Dmitry is trying to improve his styling by attempting to make his Ivana Trump looks more youthful and hip. To help the designers out, they are given one last shopping trip to Mood. I believe this is the first time this has happened. You know....all this would be unnecessary if they had just had more time to make the collections. After Season 7 (mine), the time to build a collection has diminished significantly. I feel the work suffers because of it.

CHRISTOPHER: So Christopher wasn't given a whole lot of advice in terms of changing his collection; he had selected three rather boring looks (nice, but boring), so the judges were fixated on that for the most part. In the end, I thought his collection was quite nice in person (I saw the finale show live). In fact, knowing he was a bit of a “judges' pet,” I thought he stood a good chance at winning at the time when I saw it live. The collection was sharp and fit well, and his styling was good. But there was nothing that really made it a WOW. The gown at the end seemed gratuitous and not cohesive, even though we've seen him use that technique before. It just didn't fit this collection. He thought he'd nailed it, but also came across as a little kid throwing a tantrum because not everything was going his way. Christopher has a bright future as a designer, but needs to mature a bit more.

MELISSA: Melissa definitely listened to the judges and made major improvements. She drastically improved her models' hair and makeup, for one thing. The white leather jacket also was drastically improved by removing the oversized pirate cuffs and showing it zipped. Her choice to add the blood orange leather dress was very smart and added some zing. However, the collection overall lacked “wow.” Some of the proportions were off and looked pedestrian. Nina stated what I was already thinking, that while a lot of women would likely wear her designs, there is nothing “fresh” and innovative about them. They look derivative of Rick Owens and Helmut Lang; she could have more of a signature. All that said, Melissa's collection looks like it could be rolled right into Barneys New York or a hip-girl boutique in any major city. I personally love her modern style and know she has a great future.

DMITRY: It's funny, I see Dmitry's hand in every look in his collection, but somehow there is a slight lack of cohesiveness. I personally feel there was too much going on; it desperately needed editing. Yet there were looks that have been seen before. However, his collection had more “wow” than others. I don't know that I would select any of those pieces for myself, but I see how there is a market for some of them. It felt very European to me, and expensive in the fabrication, except for the last gown, which looked cheap. The ballroom dancer in Dmitry was evidenced in that gown and also the jacket with fringed sleeves. I still don't get why the judges were so cuckoo over that. All I could think of was the first time I'd seen a male Latin-ballroom costume when I worked on “Dancing With the Stars”! While I loved the silver leaf in the hair (contrary to Tim), I was not a fan of the monobrow happening makeup-wise. The judges selected Dmitry as the Season 10 winner, likely trumping Fabio for his “showmanship,” consistency and well-made collection. Dmitry is a great designer and a great guy, and I wish him the best. Congratulations, Dmitry!

FABIO: As others have said, and as the consensus seemed to be in the tent that day, Fabio's collection was a breath of fresh air. There is something about Fabio that has had me rooting for him from early on, even though his designs were lackluster earlier in the competition. He really stepped it up, and in the finale listened to the judges' advice and made his arty, thoughtful collection a bit more luxe. It delivered a message and a story, unlike the others. It was rounded, innovative and downright mesmerizing when seen in person. I love his color palette. I am not a pastel girl, and it made me want to wear pastels! While his looks are less commercial and not for everyone, there is no doubt that this is the most cohesive and innovative collection. Not every successful fashion designer appeals to everyone; the great thing about fashion is that it IS subjective. It would have been nice to see the producers and judges reward the designer with the most creativity and not the one who is most commercially appealing. However, I understand why, in ProjectRunwayLand, Dmitry was awarded the win and not Fabio. It was wonderful to see Fabio evolve as a designer while on the show, and he is a lovely person. I would think this experience will only inspire him to push forward with his career as a fashion designer. Good luck, Fabio!

12
FRI

A Wow Moment Without the "Wow"

Posted By kim_messina 4:33am GMT

I definitely feel for these designers, only having a very fast five weeks to produce their collections. We had a lot more time, and sometimes even another week can make a difference. Iʼm not sure why, but Timʼs home visits seemed less than eventful. There were some surprises, such as Christopher going with a rather dark inspiration (and collection), Fabio breaking free creatively with a light collection that (at last) seems more “Fabio,” and well...Dmitryʼs leather fringe.

I recall when Tim came to my loft for the home visit. It was a chilly, rainy day and I had slept (maybe) two hours the night before. How can you sleep knowing TIM GUNN is coming to your house?!? Not to mention, itʼs the big critique. At this point, the designers need to have as much done as possible, not only for Tim but also because after he leaves, there is not much time left until the collections are snatched up by a messenger, all at the same time at each designerʼs studio, and whisked away to "Project Runway" Land, waiting for you when you arrive.

When the designers arrive at their new temporary workroom, they are told that there are actually only three spots for fashion week, and that they will need to select three looks to whet the judgesʼ appetites for more, and that they will then determine which THREE designers will move forward. Oh yes, Iʼve been there (Only I had to go head-to-head with Jay to vie for the last spot), and after the nerves and the sleep deprivation, itʼs intense! Well, Iʼm just going to cut to the chase and get to my assessments of the designersʼ showings.

Dmitry

I never thought Iʼd say that Dmitry needed editing. But boy did he. The three looks, while they borderline on not being cohesive except for color story, somehow look like they would be worn by the same woman. I get a very "rich Russian lady shops Rodeo Drive" vibe from his collection. He definitely designs for a more mature and sophisticated customer. The first dress, while very cool, architectural and graphic, could have been made more youthful by shortening the hemline. The second look is all over the place. The trousers are very cool and reflect the futuristic lines of the white dress; however the top is completely the wrong vibe for them. Those trousers deserve to have all the attention, but the pouf sleeves/black bra/crystal embellishments makes it difficult to look at the outfit. The eye canʼt rest in one place as it is not balanced. The third look is a WTF. All I could think of is the Latin ballroom dancing tops with fringed arms. I was shocked that Kors didnʼt have some snarky comment about it. And again, the top underneath, with the black bra, was just a bit too much with the pattern and fringe of the jacket. I think a slim pant would complement it better than a skirt, but I get that Dmitry was probably trying to show diversity in the looks. Dmitry is a master at execution, and it is evident he worked hard, but these three looks make me question his taste a bit.

Christopher

Christopherʼs lack of experience contributed to what I am interpreting as a bit of a "block" which he had when it came to thoughtfully selecting his three looks. Tim showed concern about that, and rightfully so. He seemed to freeze when he needed to pre-select the looks which he thought would best encapsulate his collection and leave the judges wanting more. The result was three random looks which just happen to fit the models the best; these looks fell flat. First of all, WHY would you select black shorts for two out of three looks? Iʼm already bored. While none of the looks were offensive, and they were all well-fit, there was no "wow" piece. The bleach technique on the leather and the fact that he designed his own print are definitely points in his favor, and the textiles all work well together. All the looks are sellable and cool, but they look more like they are part of a trunk show than a runway show. I like the x-ray print but am surprised to see it coming from Christopher. I almost think he was trying to channel a darker, edgier designer, but this is not how I thought of him before; perhaps this is his youth and lack or developing his own point of view as a designer. The first thing I thought when he announced his x-ray concept, though, was Michael Drummondʼs (Season 8) decoy collection, entirely based on x-rays, and really beautiful by the way, for those who havenʼt seen it. All I could think when I saw them was that they look like "filler" looks in a runway show, in between the "statement" looks. As Nina said, "Where are the clothes?" That said, I think there are looks in his final collection that will be more impressive, and as a whole it is pretty cohesive.

Fabio

The collection is called "Cosmic Tribalism" and I recall when I saw it in New York that he really encapsulated his concept; it looks simultaneously futuristic and ethnic/bohemian, which is not easy. I think the collection is one of the strongest ones both creatively and cohesively, and was a total surprise and a breath of fresh air amidst his competitorsʻ darker collections. It makes me love pastels — also not an easy feat! My main problem is that some of the construction and execution looks amateur, which does a disservice to his looks. For example, I adore the first look with the long draped vest, which feels luxe, but those trousers needed to be perfect to be so front-and-center (paired with a bra top), and they had major problems with the waistband/fly execution. The second look is a more tailored contrast to the first look (while still being cohesive), but the vest could have been about an inch longer and the waistband better made; the skirtʼs uneven hemline was probably intentional, but Fabio needed to make it more extreme because it looks like a mistake. The third look is fabulous. His painted silk is gorgeous and the necklace compliments it well. The jewelry overall is just wonderful, and punctuates his concept perfectly. I still canʼt decide if I love the frankenstein shoes or hate them! In any event, his three looks did what they needed to do: pique the judgesʼ curiosity to see more.

Melissa

Melissa has always been an early favorite of mine personally, because I like her dark yet modern aesthetic. But she seems to have made a lot of the same silhouettes and shapes throughout the season. And while there is something (a lot actually) to be said for consistency (the judges LOVE a consist point of view, and it is the mark of a seasoned designer), there need to be surprises sometimes. Michael Kors gave me some of the best advice ever, that I will never forget, during one of my critiques: "To be a successful designer, you constantly have to walk that line of the expected and the unexpected." Unfortunately, Melissaʼs collection only shows us the expected. The first look was a pair of perforated white leather shorts, which are great. But the top opens too high up, and I find it distractingly screaming "look at my abs." A little less of the stomach would have been nice. In general though, this look seems like a "filler" look and lacks impact. The second look is surely what Melissa thought would "wow" the judges, and while the jacket is great, Iʼve seen it before, not only from her but in stores. This silhouette was started by Rick Owens and then knocked off by Helmut Lang and has now trickled down to diffusion brands. Itʼs still a perfectly nice jacket (Though Iʼd have preferred to see a sleek sleeve instead of those big clunky cuffs), and the graphic elements are different. Itʼs just not enough of a surprise. The drop-crotch pants feel heavy with the jacket for spring. It could have been more interesting to pair it with a dress or maybe even a pair of shorts, for more runway impact. The third look, the leather dress, is a great dress but again I thought of it as both a "filler" look, and something we have seen from Melissa before. The hair, as Kors said, is dreadful; Iʼll be interested to see how she changes that for her final show. What didnʼt Melissa and Christopher understand about showing the judges the best of their looks? There seemed to be some sort of disconnect there. They only have one chance to wow the judges to move forward. It is more apparent than ever that the judges have picked Christopher as an early favorite; in my opinion, if they are selecting the three finalists based on each designersʼ three looks, Christopher failed to pique enough interest to go forward. The fact that all four designers went through to fashion week is disappointing and a cop out. Come on, whereʼs the dramatic elimination? Whatʼs the point of the three-looks?