Mila Hermanovski Blog
Category: "Episode 13"
It's that time again! The designers have $9000 and 6 weeks to make a 10-look spring/summer collection. There is a twist this time, however: one look must be made out of unconventional materials. While this twist makes for good television, and everyone likes to see unconventional-materials challenges on "Project Runway," I feel it makes the collections more TV and less NYFW. For those of you who look at all the runway shows, when was the last time you saw an established designer's collection include a "wearable art" look? I know many of you may not agree, but I'm just seeing it from a designer's perspective, as a PR alum who is trying to create her brand and business and be taken seriously as a designer, not as a "reality show designer." In my opinion, the key to succeeding with this look will be creating one that works seamlessly into the collection and doesn't stand out as so obviously made of unconventional materials.
Bradon and Dom have secured finalist spots. Justin, Alexandria, and Helen are all creating collections as well, and will show 3 looks to the judges to determine who gets the final spot (though the judges ended up having 4 finalists).
Bradon's collection is inspired by the first sign of spring after a long winter, specifically flowers, when he was living on the East Coast. We donʼt see too much of his or Dom's collections in New York, only the works-in-progress during the home visits. Bradon used a couple of prints and seems to be doing a lot of dresses.
Dom took her "Blade Runner" inspiration (one of my top 5 favorite films of all time!) and designed her own prints. Do we expect anything less from her? The "retro-futurism" collection ought to be interesting. I wonder how much pattern mixing she will do, and what her silhouettes will be. The prints are quite bold, so her silhouettes should probably be more simple.
I've always thought Justin has had great ideas but weak execution. He is clearly a very creative guy. His inspiration, sound waves, made a very compelling statement. I love the futuristic quality the looks had (I DIE for those 3D-printed accessories!), yet there was also a softness to the actual clothing, making it feel approachable and real. I also love the sound wave digital print he used in targeted areas. His test tube gown was magnificent, and does indeed feel like a "wearable art" piece, but stunning nonetheless. It must have taken forever to tie on all those tubes! Should be interesting to see the gown in the context of the entire collection. While he knocked the socks off the judges by showing the gown as one of his three looks (the goal when trying to secure that finalist spot), hopefully the rest of the collection does not disappoint. I still see some execution issues, but the ideas are so good. If there is one designer who really made me curious to see more, it's him. I was skeptical of his work in the past, but I think when he has his own environment to work in, and more time, the outcome is much better. The judges out him through of course.
Alexandria, who was harshly criticized by El Nina for using no color (boy, did I have flashbacks!!), created a collection which she calls "Neo-Nomadic Punk." I donʼt know that I see the punk element there, but I do see the nomadic. It's ironic that Nina always criticizes for lack of color because a) she hardly wears it, and b) her job requires her to look at every single fashion collection that walks a runway, and there are MANY successful designers who donʼt use a lot of color. Alexandria is of the Helmut Lang/Rick Owens variety, two very successful brands that do not use much color. I immediately knew Heidi would respond favorably to the three looks, as they are very contemporary and "now." The looks may not have been show-stoppers, but they were very well executed and full of interesting details. I do wish there had been a bit more variation in the three looks she selected though. Nonetheless, Alexandria went through as the 4th finalist, which it seems Heidi had a big hand in.
Are you wondering as I am why Helen wasn't eliminated last episode? Alexandria nailed it when she said Helen just comes across as young and student-like in the way that she always speaks so highly of her own work. I was curious to see if she would produce better work outside of the "bubble." Her inspiration was clairvoyance and so she somewhat literally designed a print from a photograph of her boyfriend's eye. At first I thought it was kind of cool but the more I looked at it, the more I did not care for it, certainly not paired with the clear red. I actually like the choice of the bright orange-red, but that color along with some of the design details she chose (the geometric "tails" Tim hated, the cape) are extremely referential to one of Givenchy's recent collections. It's not just the color but the combination of all the elements she chose. It was an amazing collection, but she took a LOT of those elements. I am surprised Nina did not call her on it (then again she only saw three looks). The trouble is, for such streamlined designs, the execution must be flawless and it was hardly that. Helen was eliminated and I'll bet she is cringing while watching the episode at the way she was edited. Perhaps it will be a dose of humility for her.
Can we talk about the "additional look" for TIDE?! Just when I thought the sponsors were done rearing their heads! So in the same collection, there is meant to be an UNCONVENTIONAL look and a WASH-AND-WEAR look? Oy. Discuss!
The top four designers are told they have $10K to make 12 looks for their final collections, and that they shall return to New York for another judging to determine who will then compete at New York Fashion Week to become the winner of Season 11 of ("Project Runway Teams," remember?). If those designers are feeling at all as I did that day, it is an immense sense of relief and accomplishment, as the utter exhaustion sets in and it all feels quite surreal. As I was "released" and given my cell phone back, and permitted to take a walk by myself in New York to kill time before my flight, it was a strange feeling of vulnerability and displacement...even though Iʼd lived in and subsequently visited New York before. The whole thing felt like a dream. What just happened?
Now for the home visits!
Timʼs first destination is Taos Pueblo, NM, to see Patricia and experience her environment, which is incredibly culturally rich. The food her family cooked looked amazing, and what a beautiful setting, right down to her studio (really impressive)! Timʼs time in Patriciaʼs native land gave him an epiphany about who she is and where much of her aesthetic comes from7#151;itʼs hard not to! She tells Tim her inspiration is simply, "trees," which seems a bit general.
Next he visits Michelle in Portland, where she reveals she had been in the wine industry for years had decided one day to start making clothes. Her collection is inspired by the "Lone Wolf," a descriptive which interestingly she had used to refer to her emotional state earlier in the season. I have to say I can relate to that sentiment. I often felt lonely during the intense experience that is "Project Runway." It sounds odd to say that, unless youʼve been through it, because ironically youʼre surrounded by others constantly. There is no privacy except when youʼre in the bathroom. Contestants are either chaperoned or with roommates at all times. It wasnʼt until I was the last woman standing that I was even fully alone for more than a few minutes. And even then, the competition was almost over at that point.
In Austin, Tim calls on Daniel, sporting a new Labradoodle (or as Tim says, "Chia Pet") hairdo, and does not reveal where he lives...why? He sets everything up in his friendʼs house. He is using a lot of blackand stingrayin his collection, which has multiple inspirations that do not necessarily relate to one another. Daniel shows Tim his mood board and explains that he was influenced by his trip to Berlin, the Cosmos, and...Salvador Dali. Then a light bulb went off in my head. Dali...moustache! Everyone Google images of Dali now. Do it. Daniel is SO channeling him, from the hair to the moustache to the facial expressions.
Here in La L aLand, Tim checks in on Stanley, who is working out of a glamorous space right on Hollywood Boulevard, merely blocks away from the Walk of Fame, very appropriate for his luxurious "Old Hollywood" collection. He says itʼs 1960s meets Renaissance Spain. Nice mid-century dinette set, Stanley!
As predicted, when the designers return to New York and the 1407 Broadway building as their satellite workroom, they are instructed to select the three looks which best exemplify their collections and (ideally) will leave the judges salivating to see more, so that they will go through to NYFW.The producers just couldnʼt leave it alone, so they invited the last four designers back to help. Apparently Stanley needs the most help of all, with some looks barely sewn, so he gets Richard, the least helpful! Layana helps Patricia, and then gossips about her to the othersare we surprised? Michelle and Amanda (with a very fetching ombré hair color, I might add) are reunited, and Samantha gets to help Daniel add four inches to one of his small-fitting pieces. (Which would mean that garment was what...a double-0?)
Stanley selected three looks which, while very luxurious and well-crafted, were quite stodgy. They strike me as *too* vintage, as if one were to go into a costume house or high-end vintage store and copy period pieces exactly, only changing the textiles. However even the textiles looked vintage, though it is impressive that all the beading was done by hand. Nina was somewhat drawn to his collection because of the luxury element, but the proportions were all wrong, and the looks lack any sort of forward design or allure/sex appeal. Itʼs not to say they need to be sexy, but they could use an injection of modernity. The gold dress, in particular, made the model appear to be twice her size, and was too heavy-handed. Stanley said he loves American sportswear, yet the sportswear element was completely absent.
Patricia, kooky Patricia. She is a talented and creative textile artisan, but she does not understand how to put a collection together. Granted, we have not seen the whole thing, but the three looks she showed were not cohesive. One material (horsehair) is not enough to hold a collection together. The cape trimmed with horsehair was clearly the star, but I donʼt see how the "Dr. Seuss" blue dress with sea-anemone headpiece would be in the same collection or worn by the same woman. And the third look, while graphic and ethnic, was not special enough. I got a real Chicoʼs vibe from that one. However, Heidi has a soft spot for Patricia because she is so different, and designs things we havenʼt seen before (for better or for worse). Heidi: "You could win this thing!" Really?
Daniel seemed very confident in the workroom, and reluctant to take any advice from Tim. He showed three all-black looks, which anyone whoʼs watched the show knows is extremely risky and almost never outshines another collection. I was waiting for Nina to go off on him, and of course she did (I got a similar lecture from her because I hardly used any color in my final collection, either). But Nina is right: if youʼre going to use ALL black, the shapes need to be fantastic, graphic, striking. Texture is key as well. He used stingray, but like Patricia, thought it was enough of a common element to tie everything together. His looks were simply not forward or interesting enough. This was no surprise to me, though, as Iʼve thought in general Danielʼs design tends to be dated. What *was* surprising, though, is the fact that he used all black, after seeing his past designs and how much he loves bright color. In the end, Daniel does not advance; Iʼve said it before: the judges almost always favor the designer with MORE ideas (even if they are questionable ones) to the one with not enough.
Michelle is the only designer, in my opinion, who fully executed and understands how to translate a concept. Not only were her three "Lone Wolf" looks thoughtful and rich with layers and texture, they made me want to see more. They were diverse in material and style, yet still very cohesive. The sweater was fantastic, and I love that she collaborated with "LOL Cats" Joe and utilized his knit expertise! I also really like the delicate, sheer "underpinning" layers, contrasted with hardware, leather, knit, and neoprene. Overall the looks were bordering on too busy for me personally, but then again, the runway is about fantasy to some degree, and editing is always a possibility. The compass was too gimmicky and even though I like the tousled hair, it was just a tad TOO messy. The makeup could have benefitted from a neutral shadow and deep berry or brown lip to emulate a modern huntress. Iʼm looking forward to seeing the entire collection next week.
I 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?