Season Premiere July 24 at 9/8c
Mila Hermanovski Blog
Category: "episode 9"
We all saw it coming: the BELK challenge. It did, however, take me by surprise just as much as it did the designers when they were brought to a lovely southern style brunch at Juliette restaurant. They all knew too well that when Heidi announced they had "the morning off," it meant something was up. There is no such thing as "time off" in ProjectRunwayLand! As they brunched away, the designers were wondering the entire time what their fate would be (not exactly relaxing, but hey, they probably had some yummy food for a change). When Tim emerges, they knew their down time had come to an end.
I must admit I bristled a bit when I heard the details of the challenge: to design a look for the Belk customer, a "modern, Southern woman," "vibrant and expressive," "put together, with feminine details." While I think Tim very well described a southern woman, this is not my target customer, so I could relate to the designers who struggled with wrapping their heads around this, like Helen and Alexandria. I personally hated it when "Project Runway" challenges were so specific, because it would prevent the designer from being whom he/she is completely and therefore doing his/her best work while in the competition. I donʼt necessarily think that the talent and success of a designer is measured by how well she/he adapts to such challenges or "designs for a client" if what the client wants is completely opposite from the designerʼs style. In reality, a client is likely going to hire a designer whose signature style she relates to.
Nevertheless, Belk is a sponsor and this season seems to be all about sponsors! John Thomas, a judge on this weekʼs panel and bigwig at Belk (and doppelganger in pink for Jeremy!), tells the designers that the winning look will be manufactured and sold at Belk (and again, not a penny of profits shall be given to the designer). Does this mean the winner of "Project Runway" Season 12 will be someone who can design for Belk, a.k.a. the modern, Southern woman?
KEN's deep purple gown was too plain, too safe, and lacked any sort of point of view; weʼve all seen it before. Last week his design was equally boring, so I was sure he would be eliminated this challenge, especially after his montage of "finest moments" and Skype to Mom. He was safe, but at least the judges are starting to catch on to his attitude problem. His cockiness was on fire again in this challenge, and I couldnʼt help but get a little enjoyment out of seeing him fail after being so certain he was nailing it (and so certain others were making bad choices), being from the South and all.
HELEN knew this challenge was not in her wheelhouse, so she made something which no one would ever guess came from her (an example of what I mentioned earlier, and a waste of a design for her...but at least she made it through safely). The yellow and white daisy gown was not very modern, but I could see a southern belle appreciating it. How annoying was it that she was pissed off she wasnʼt in the top, though? Honey, just be appreciative. Someone is greedy after her last win!
Thank goodness JUSTIN took Timʼs advice and abstained from using black with coral. Indeed, it would have been too "Halloween." His little dress was fine, but nothing groundbreaking and a tad sloppy considering it was so simple. I could definitely see a southern woman buying it, though, so Justin survives another challenge, post-Tim Gunn Save.
ALEXANDER is one of three designers who used plaid, even though Ken thinks the southern woman would never wear it. His dress was well-fit as usual, and that particular plaid was lively and happy which is perfect for the southern market. I am not a fan of the layered pointy kerchief hems though.
ALEXANDRIA was understandably completely thrown by the parameters of the challenge, but she kept her game face for her competitors. I can relate the most to her style, so I know what she was going through. I do think she could have selected a more vibrant textile. The dress wasnʼt bad at all, but it could have been much better suited for the challenge had it perhaps been a vibrant red or ultramarine blue, or more of a statement print. Iʼm sure she was extremely relieved to be safe.
BRADON wins the challenge by using plaid as well, which Ken is clearly livid about. I was not a fan of his very "Brooks Brothers" Madras fabric choice, but he utilized it in an interesting way, with all the panels, seaming, and shirt-style bodice. The mullet hem is a bit tired, but was dramatic for the runway; it will be interesting to see how the design team at Belk modify it.
JEREMY's try as he may, still cannot design anything modern or youthful. This is very problematic for what the judges are looking for (design that is forward, or even somewhat current), and even more problematic that he doesnʼt see this (he has made it very clear every time that he doesnʼt agree with the judges). Everything about the outfit was mature and lacking any distinct point of view, from the print selection to the bland jacket to the cut of the dress.
KATE selected a very vibrant print. I thought she might win just based on that when I saw it in Mood; she was a runner up. While it might not be my idea of a fabulous print, I think many women in this target market would love it. The dress in the end was cute. I really like the way she utilized the solid raspberry to break it up a bit. However, the waist was not sitting in the right place on the model, so it made her look big.
DOM's teal green and periwinkle gown was forgettable, again; it lands her in the bottom 3. Nothing about it was modern or fashionable, and the colors donʼt work well together. The flutter cap sleeve looks dated.
But WAIT! For some reason, this week, the judges feel compassionate. They cannot decide who should be eliminated and feel that none of the bottom three designers "really understood the challenge." They are all given one more hour, access to any fabrics laying around in the workroom, AND a teammate of their choosing, to rework their disasters. On the contrary, I think all three of them VERY MUCH understood the challenge, and all were quite confident in their designs! Ken and Dom, in particular, seemed to think they knew what southern women like to wear much more than their competitors. Iʼm still trying to figure out why the producers wanted this twist to happen.
The results were infinitely better. Ken chooses Kate to assist him, and clearly doesnʼt agree with the judgesʼ comments at all, so he is reluctant to change the dress much or make a new one. He whacks off too much of the length and slaps a sleeve onto one side, giving it more of a clubbing vibe than a southern day dress. Jeremy asks Alexander to help him make something more youthful; they scratch his entire first look and make a sundress from one of Alexandriaʼs discarded fabrics. It is certainly a 180 from his original, but isnʼt enough of a distinct or interesting design to keep him in the competition. He is chosen over Ken for elimination, unfortunately, because while both of them need to be gone, we have to endure Kenʼs personality for another episode! Dom, with the help of Helen, makes a fantastic asymmetric sundress out of the wonderful black and white printed silk she had originally chosen in Mood; I was disappointed that she did not use it the first time. The dress looks great from all angles, and though some of the draping looks rushed (because they had ONE HOUR), the overall effect is so strong that she ends up being Winner #2! Shocker!
What do you think? Is it unfair for the three bottom designers to get second chances and for one of them to then win because of it?
Thank goodness we are back to a "real" challenge about fashion. This week the designers are asked to each (er, in teams) create a ready-to-wear look which retails for $250 or less, inspired by Lord & Taylorʼs iconic rose logo. The winning designerʼs look will be produced and sold in Lord & Taylor stores and online. Naturally, the designers are all very excited about this as it is a great opportunity for exposure to the masses, and the look will also be featured in the window of the store. While this may be wonderful publicity, letʼs not forget the designer receives absolutely *zero* percent of the sales kind of a bummer, if you ask me. Richard is particularly mesmerized by this opportunity which "would take years to achieve"; oh honey, trust me: it will still take years for your line to to be sold in Lord & Taylor. The spiky cap+leopard pant+tank top look is not exactly helping.
The producers are liking this "judge-assembled" team method. They decide to use it again this week, and I just canʼt help but think they put designers together whom they think (or know!) will have friction. Conveniently, Layana and Richard end up on the same team again, after a dramatic runway ending last week in which Layana spoke her mind about Richard. Now, Iʼm not saying that voicing oneʼs opinions is a bad thing (Hello...I do it), but sometimes Layana doesnʼt know diplomacy and comes off sounding like sheʼs infinitely more talented and smart than everyone else. The combination of that with Richardʼs ego is no bueno. I could feel the tension all the way on this side of the TV. The fact that Richard refused to look at Layana while sketching as a team was so immature. That said, keep in mind that the whole runway duel *just* happened yesterday in "Project Runway" land...so those wounds are fresh.
More prickly team drama ensues! Stanley clearly doesnʼt take Patricia seriously as a designer and does not respect her unique creative process. He is bossing her around and itʼs not cool. However it slays me how Patricia knows whatʼs going on and is patronizing him to an extent. Itʼs interesting to me that as he criticizes her crafty and sometimes overworked design process, he seems to be creating something which is rather devoid of any design!
Michelle and Moustache are very different designers; we already know this. Michelle is much more in tune with what is contemporary and thinks outside the box; Moustacheʼs designs are for a more mature clientele and tend to be rather dated. Things donʼt start off well when they go to Mood and Moustache selects the perfect 80s neon highlighter pink fabric, in an attempt to wow the judges with some unexpected color. Michelle hates pink but he doesnʼt care. And then...reality TV GOLD starts to unfold! After Timʼs critique in which the consensus was that Moustacheʼs "Joan Collins" jacket was...well, for a Joan Collins-type customer, he has a total meltdown because he was so in love with his design. There is a bizarre cyclone going on in his head and Michelle is trying not to get sucked in. He states in an interview, teary-eyed, that Michelle is taking away the happiness again, which he lost a couple of episodes ago. Well, Daniel, being in the pressure cooker that is "Project Runway" can have that effect. Donʼt blame Michelle!
The judging panel this week has Rachel Roy sitting in again for Zac, and the president of Lord & Taylor, Bonnie Brooks, as guest judge. Here we go...
Patricia and Stanley produced a really nice pair of looks that could be from the same collection. Go figure! In a seemingly sudden twist, Stanley said he was actually *learning* from Patricia, and was appreciating what she was making! I thought her look had great mass appeal, looked expensive (yet could be made at the $250 price point), and was on-target with the Lord & Taylor customer who is a bit conservative yet trying to draw customers of many ages. Also, I could see the rose inspiration very clearly, in both the fabrication and color palette. Stanleyʼs dress was magnificently clean and simple yet modern and forward. The fit was what was different about it. I must say I thought he was going to make a boring shift dress but it ended up an expensive looking, sophisticated design. My only criticism is the length, which I would have preferred a couple inches shorter. In the end, however, these two were safe.
Richard, Samantha and Layana were clearly the losing team. Richard designed a very simple jersey dress, which resembled the olive and black jersey dress heʼd made earlier, but oddly enough I was also reminded of the coral and black (again, jersey dress) heʼd made for the senior challenge. The hot pink and black combination not only looks cheaper than his competitorsʼ looks, but really does not have enough design to it. Iʼm sure it would sell, but perhaps better in H&M or Forever21, not Lord & Taylor. Bonnie made a good point: who wears that and where to? Samantha, on the other hand, had TOO MUCH going on in her design, and it was poorly executed. It also looked cheap, but at least there were more ideas there. She needed to edit though, and when she first mentioned the heart cutout, I cringed...not only because it was overkill, but also because I knew it was too ambitious to be fabricated well in such a short amount of time. Her color blocking was infinitely more creative than Richardʼs to start, but sadly she felt it wasnʼt enough so she had to add ruffles and a giant cutout. When Layana chose her fabric at Mood, I thought it channeled the Lord & Taylor rose really well. But it ended up looking marmy even though she thought she was making it look youthful by adding black leather, which was way too heavy in my opinion. The redeeming elements of her design were, ironically, the leather parts. It fit well, but needed to be executed in different colors. What if she had used pale petal pink chiffon with beige leather? It would have felt more youthful, ballerina-esque, and feminine yet still channeled a rose. I donʼt agree with Samanthaʼs elimination. I think she has a lot more creativity than Richard, and would have liked to see her stick around a bit longer.
Moustache and Michelle are the winning team have the winning design. Michelleʼs dress was wonderfully chic. I love the color and the simple yet interesting design. However...I do take issue with this win. To be fair, the challenge called for the designs to pay homage to the Lord & Taylor iconic rose. Iʼm all for a designerʼs own interpretation, but donʼt see a rose in the least bit in her design. Spring, green buds...yes. But I feel Patricia and Stanleyʼs designs better represented the rose. Is Michelleʼs design better? Maybe...Iʼd wear it before the others. But does it really fulfill the challenge? And how about the fact that a silk and leather dress could never hit the $250-and-under price point? As we see later when Michelle admires her design in the window of Lord & Taylor, the leather appeared to have been eliminated. Daniel just could not escape the mature and dated design voices in his head, and thus made a very boring, very poorly executed dress in a very bold color.
A season of "Project Runway" would not be complete without the HP Print Design Challenge. My season (7), was the inaugural season of this challenge (and possibly HP sponsorship). Prints are indeed a conundrum they seem simple in theory, but they are not. They are incredibly personal, and if a designer is not used to working with them, they can really be a curveball. Add the technical learning curve (using new HP equipment that Iʼm willing to bet none of the designers already know how to use) to that creative curveball, and suddenly designing a print in an hour is daunting!
Who more appropriate to host and judge this challenge than Mondo, who made history designing a print that not only won the challenge in Season 8, but was also a catalyst for revealing his emotionally charged HIV-positive status on national television! Now how are those designers supposed to top that?! Mondo and Tim deliver the requirements of the challenge: to create a print (and look) inspired by oneʼs cultural heritage. Mondo reiterates how personal the print should be. Something tells me the producers asked Mondo for ideas on this one. Again, no pressure or anything! And then Mondo introduces the new print and bag design he did for HP *bam* they probably just sold 10k of them!
I could tell the designers had the exact same reaction we did back on Season 7: at first, it sounds like the coolest thing ever. Following the team challenge, it could not be more opposite, given that it is so very individual. To make matters even more personal, each designer is reunited with a loved one. Let me just tell you that at this point, not only is everyone exhausted, but they are getting used to being removed from all regular communication with loved ones (aside from *maybe* a call lasting several minutes, once a week). So basically itʼs a sobfest when they see their loved ones. You become so focused and (as Sonjia mentioned) a visit from a loved one, while wonderful, can also cause your focus to weaken. We had no visits from anyone familiar in our lives on my season, and extremely limited phone communication. I recall the day when I was released to go home, and got my phone back from being locked up for 5 weeks, and called my boyfriend and mom from the airport and completely lost it. Itʼs just such an intense journey!
In the workroom, clearly some designers are struggling, whether from their distracting family visits, or simply due to not being familiar with print design. Some pulled it off in the end, and some did not.Sonjia
I like the graphic nature and colors of the print &3151; I get an American-Indian Totem from it. Itʼs a bold statement, and *almost* too large a scale for a trouser. But they are fabulous and fit really well. The black top was simple (as it should be to balance the large scale print), yet had just enough detail to not be another long-sleeved jersey top. Love the back drape. No wonder Mondo loved this look-- he made a very similar wide leg pant out of his graphic print!Elena
The print looks scratchy and chaotic, and Iʼm not a fan of the color combination. The jacket still resembles like a smock; she didnʼt really get too far from the scrub-like vibe she had going on in the workroom.Christopher
Christopher is one who was admittedly insecure about print going into the challenge, and it shows. The print was weak, and then he layered a black sheer fabric over it but it did not work with his construction. The result was a dress that looks messy and not innovative. The sweetheart neckline is dated and the draping is something weʼve seen a thousand times before.Ven
What a train wreck! And flowers again? I get that the hibiscus is relevant to his culture, but the rendering of the hibiscus was juvenile and way too simple, yet ironically he turned a very simple print into a very busy, very over-designed dress. For some reason he felt he had to use the same old exploding rose trick on the skirt (on top of all the other details), even though heʼd been warned by the judges that he was becoming a one-way monkey.Fabio
The outfit is chic, and the print is cool (based on the reproductive system and genitals!). But he didnʼt use enough of it, especially after covering it up with black sheer fabric. I like the vest design.Melissa
Melissa used red and white, the colors of her heritage, the Polish flag. Red and white could have been translated a lot edgier though the print and the dress design looked like a totally different designer had made it. The styling fell flat as well. The judges praise her for stepping outside her comfort zone, but it looks nothing like Melissaʼs signature looks weʼve seen so far. However, it is a dress that likely a lot of women would buy. Just goes to show you: you never know how the judges can/will spin things.Gunnar
Not only is the print sophomoric and sad, but the jacket looks like something seen on the clearance rack at Ross Dress for Less or a home-sewn project from a store-bought pattern. With the exception of only a couple of challenges, I feel I am consistently at a loss for words for Gunnarʼs designs, because they are devoid of any sort of signature. Heʼs only 22, and needs to find his voice as a designer. I guess heʼs not going to get those new boots and a boob job for his Mom anytime soon. (What is up with that?! how about investing that money in your business? Priorities, dear...)Dmitry
At last, a well-deserved win for Dmitry. He challenged himself by making separates and proving his diversity, while still maintaining a consistent point of view (the way to the judgesʼ points). Moreover, his print is great and the jacket is fantastic. His use of sheer strips to create a 360 view of the print was genius. And the geometric lines in the jacket were wonderfully complementary to the lines in the print. Iʼd wear that jacket too, Dmitry!
My "Project Runway" designer personal style observation of the week: Sonjia is trying to resurrect the stirrup pant!