Reunion Special Thursday at 8/7c
Mila Hermanovski Blog
Category: "episode 1"
Hey everyone! Welcome back to another season of "Project Runway." I don’t know about you, but the thing I look forward to the most in the first episode —- more so than the designs, to be honest —- is the cast and trying to get a quick read on everyone. Let’s face it, it’s difficult so early on to have favorites when there are 15 designers to cover in less than an hour of airtime. Who will be the villain? The snarky one? The know-it-all? The one trying to reinvent herself as a fashion designer? Who’s playing to camera the most? Who’s going to win it all, and who’s going to just safely skate by for the majority of the competition?
Whenever I watch the first episode and/or casting episode of a new season of "Project Runway," it takes me right back to my experience of being cast on the show. I did not seek out the opportunity to be on "Project Runway," but rather was approached by someone I knew who was besties with the casting director. They were trying to find more people by referral/word-of-mouth at the time, rather than relying solely on open calls. It was a very “Why not?” moment for me, as I was in between gigs and sort of rethinking my career path, having started in fashion but veering into costuming for TV and film. I was missing designing and thinking I needed to get back into fashion somehow. After submitting my application, getting called back to present to the panel (including Tim Gunn), and going through to the next levels, I was informed I was “top 25." I was told by the casting director at that point to remember that "casting is a puzzle" and that I should not take it personally if I don’t make it on the show because they really did like me. When you think about what that means, and watch the show season after season, you get it. There is a method to any casting. The casting director and producers must have a diverse range of ages, personalities, race, gender, “character," and design style. From the perspective of the designer, the show is "a design competition that could change your life," but to the people behind the show, it is “entertainment." I waited day after day for “the call” to tell me of my fate. I was very laissez-faire in my attitude about it, thinking it could be a fun experience, but that I’d be okay I didn’t end up being in the cast. But then the phone rang and I was told I was an “alternate," and I was so disappointed! I guess I wanted it more than I thought. At that point I’d given up on the thought of being on the show. Five days later, the phone rang again with *THAT* mystery caller ID. “You’re on the show, Mila! Pack your bags because you need to be on a plane to New York this Friday!” I’ll never know what happened to the person I replaced. Maybe she failed her drug test...or maybe she just got stagefright!
So, this season there would appear to be a pretty good cross-section of types. Didn’t we all know that Mitchell who wears short-shorts would be cast based on his snark factor and unapologetic personal style (representing Ft. Lauderdale!)? How predictable was the selection of the final designer? Between purple-haired Carrie and a rather boring Emmanuel, it’s a no-brainer. Carrie is one of my early favorites, but maybe because I’ve got a soft spot for goths. Representing some ethnic flavor is Sandhya, apparently a novelty to the judges because it’s “different." Everyone else (including me) is dumbfounded by that. There are also a few accents to add to the spice, such as Sean from New Zealand. Did anyone else wonder how it is that he just moved to New York 4 months ago and is already on a hit American TV show?
The first challenge on "Project Runway" is usually a pretty basic one to get everyone warmed up. There is also usually little or no fabric selection, and no shopping at Mood. I would die if I was given some of the fabrics in those trunks. I know there needs to be some sort of spin on the challenge but yikes -- most of those fabrics look like they came form the clearance section at Jo-Ann.
Julie Bowen is the first guest judge and boy, is she a firecracker. She is a fan, and actually has some great things to say! Apparently Michael Kors has had enough of being a judge, which actually makes me sad because I’m not a fan of Zac Posen. He can deliver the sass, but will never come close to delivering the “Kors-isms” that we all know and love. Thank God Nina isn’t going anywhere.
I wasn’t going to do a critique of all the looks, but here are some brief impressions of some:
Sandhya - Sloppy and weird, hot mess. I can’t believe the judges awarded her the win. That was clearly Heidi getting her way. “I haven’t seen it before!”...yes, Heidi, because it’s BAD.
Char - Fresh, pretty, sexy, just the right amount of skin, good balance. Shoulda won, hands down.
Angela - Some good ideas there, but trying too hard. Weird proportions. She was extremely ambitious to try pants for the first challenge.
Carrie – Not what I expected from her, but then again it made sense. She made the best of a fabric she may not have chosen. Well-fitting, albeit a bit referential to McQueen.
Sean - Great color-blocking (Mila-approved!). Nice length and color combination, and great graphic design.
Mitchell – Is it me, or do the legs of the shorts look like they are two different lengths? It doesn’t get more basic than this. Florida mall clothes, from the clearance rack.
Kini - Oh wait, it does get more basic than Mitchell’s. This dress has no design whatsoever. All I thought was “McCall’s pattern." The only interest is the print, which wasn’t his choice anyway.
Samantha – She admittedly did something “safe," which is actually a good move in the early stages of the competition. It was chic but nothing ground-breaking, and that’s fine for now.
Amanda – Sorry, but I thought the pants were weird. The execution of the textile was good and they fit well, but the cut in general was off for me. However, glad to see her back of the three “runway redemption” designers.
What did we learn? NO SHORTS.
Fans and readers, can we talk about RED ROBIN as the prize sponsor?! This is a huge headscratcher. Not to be a snob but what exactly is fashionable or appealing about designing uniforms for the servers? There is always so much emphasis on Project Runway to be fashion forward and “amp it up” for the runway. Discuss.
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.
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.
Well it’s the 10th anniversary of "Project Runway" and they are certainly going big! It doesn’t get much bigger than Times Square. I can only imagine how the designers felt when they found out their very first runway show would be in one of the most famous, most visited places on earth! It’s already nerve-wracking as a fresh-faced contestant to have to go before the judges and present your designs, without an audience of thousands of screaming fans!
As we are introduced to the designers, we have our typical "Project Runway" cast of "characters," from the wackadoo foreign guy and the bitchy queen to the strong-and-silent type and the California girl. One thing that strikes me though is the diversity of the designers’ points-of-view. I am already intrigued by a few of them (as Melissa said post-Tim Gunn critique, "Intriguing is good.").
The designers were asked to bring a look from home which best encapsulates their aesthetic. The first challenge is then to create a second look which complements the original one, in one day with a $100 Mood budget. This shouldn’t be too difficult, right? After all, it’s just creating another design from what would be the designer’s collection. To me, any designer who is worth their salt should be able to execute the bottom line then is about talent and taste. Oh, and then there’s that pesky little thing called time."Sixteen Candles" and Long-Lost Twins
In the workroom, Buffi won’t stop talking (and her outfit won’t stop screaming). Gunnar and Christopher (separated at birth?) are the producers’ dream as they are having a perpetual bitchfest about each other. Kooan is giving me flashbacks to Ping (and I’m waiting for a one-liner a la "Sixteen Candles"). Raul is not thinking about women’s undergarments (We had a big conversation with Joanna Coles when I was on "All Stars" about how male designers generally forget about them). Many designers are already impressed and intimidated by Ven. Beatrice is struggling sewing a t-shirt (Really?).
It’s runway time! But can we just talk about the new and improved prize package? Hello: LEXUS (Yes, please)! And the opportunity to sell at Lord & Taylor is definitely a step up from Bluefly or Piperlime. The designers show both looks so the judges can see how they relate and have a better sense of each person’s point of view. There are two guest judges, who could not be more different: actress Lauren Graham and queen of NYC clubwear (and “Sex and the City” costume designer) Patricia Field. Read my rundown and some thoughts on the designers after the jump.