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Calling All Stylists!

By laurareineke Fri., Oct. 12, 2012 ,4:39 am EDT

Well kids, we're heading to the end of Season 10 of "Project Runway" and I learned several things from this penultimate "Finale Part 1" episode. For one, most of these kids (save Melissa) do not have a place to call home or their own place to work. Secondly, I learned that a stylist is a very important job and someone ALL these designers needed. I also think that this pre-finale episode is in serious need of a reboot. Wondering what I mean about that? Keep reading...

Don't Be Safe
Last week we saw the end of Sonjia, with her table-napkin-meets-bad-figure-skating-costume design. As I argued in my last recap, there was nothing avant-garde about her design, nor the designs of most of the other four. (Note to producers: Maybe it's time to re-name that particular challenge). I also discussed my annoyance at seeing very safe looks from all these designers. I think I am echoing what Tim, Nina, Heidi and Michael feel EVERY episode. It goes without saying that I think "safe" just doesn't cut it, especially at this stage. Need I remind you? DO NOT BORE NINA. So now we are down to the top four.

Congrats! You're The Top Four
Our dear Heidi congratulates the designers for making it this far and tells them that they will each be given $9,000 and five weeks to create a mini-collection for Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Week. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that NOT everyone is guaranteed a spot in Fashion Week. Or so she says. As an avid viewer/fan/former contestant/perpetual recapper of the show, I've heard this song from Heidi before. Can anyone say "Season 9"? But oh well, we'll stick to the script, Miss Heidi.

Massapequa X-ray
Four weeks later and Tim Gunn is off to visit the designers. No trips to Trinidad and Tobago (Anya) or Hawaii (Andy South) this time around. So, my friends, no chance of seeing Mr. Gunn in flip-flops, dealing with slimy fishy whiskers, eating plantains or holding Mai Tais. For his first stop, Tim is off to Massapequa, NY to see Christopher Palu. "Golden Boy" Christopher is at his mom and dad's home working on his collection. He tells Tim that he made a print from an X-ray his mother got from a doctor's visit. This could have gone macabre, but it didn't and Tim likes it. Tim also comments on a leather-and-bleach mistake, which he assures Christopher is a "good mistake" and should be done again.

Fabio Manhattan Pastel Palace
Back in Manhattan, Papa Tim visits Fabio in a fabulous apartment that a friend is lending him to work on his collection. By the looks of the apartment, Fabio must be good friends with the Ambassador of Brazil, because it's very luxe — and very expansive — by NY standards. Even Tim remarks on how nice it is. Friends-in-High-Places Fabio shows Tim three pieces from his collection, which he's titled "Cosmic Tribalism.” One look is the "Priestess" and the others are the "people within the tribe." Leave it to Fabio to have a strong concept. I give him FIVE "Nick Points" for that. Tim is captivated by the pastel draped designs. It's avant-garde but, at the same time, very sellable; Alexander Wang meets Rio. But as soon as Tim says "J'adore," he's a bit mystified by some of the individual pieces: A certain pant, a bra and a stacked clunky shoe. There is potential for a "wow" factor, Tim says, but he's underwhelmed by some of the styling choices. Styling. We Have a Problem.

Geometric Belarus and Melissa's SF Artsy Collection
Next up, it's Dmitry. Once again, this designer is NOT living/working in his own place. Dmitry is in another very nice home, but it’s in New Jersey and looks as if it would require a job with Goldman Sachs to even afford. I need to meet Dmitry and Fabio's friends. Seriously. Dmitry is working on his NY Fashion Week Collection based on "Organic Architecture." The looks he shows Tim are very geometric. On the rack, the garments look very clean, modern, and cohesive. Finally, Tim travels to San Francisco to check on Melissa. She's using special textiles, including "cracked" leather. The designs are very her; artsy and edgy. Tim is responding positively to the collection. Of note: Melissa's studio/home is not someone else's. She has a home!

Free Muffins!
Five weeks have passed and time is up. The four designers meet up at the very sleek YOTEL. I've stayed there numerous times and LOVED it (their complimentary coffee and muffins are divine!). They then go to their new workroom offices at the 1407 Broadway building. After setting up their collections and surveying each others' designs, Tim comes in to check on them. In general, he's worried about all the collections. Not a good omen.

Chunky Bangs!
After seeming to have only a VERY short time to fit their clothing on the models, the designers return to Parsons and present their three best looks to Heidi, Nina and Michael. Fabio's "Cosmic Tribalism" gets a positive nod from the judges. Kors thinks it's very cool and sweet. He does suggest to Fabio to rethink the chunky bang wigs (too distracting). He says there are styling issues. Yeah, perhaps. Can we call Rachel Zoe? Like ASAP. But overall, the judges LIKEY. Dmitry's three-piece collection looks polished and expensive according to Nina Garcia. But there's an overall feeling that it is over-styled. It is interesting how overworked it looked on the runway compared to when he showed Tim each piece individually. Purity and simplicity should shine, or so the judges suggest. A strong hint that Dmitry also needs a stylist. That's two for two.

Hoochie Shorts for Fashion Week?
Christopher shows his three looks and it's all a bit underwhelming and not high fashion. Hoochie shorts. Leather bustier. Nothing earth-shattering, and nothing worthy of showing at NY Fashion Week. Supposedly he had fit issues and therefore the three pieces he showed were the only things that actually worked on any models. Um, okay. And then there is Melissa. Her designs are (not-surprisingly) Goth — all she showed was black and white, and who could get past those awful wigs? Now it's official: These kids REALLY need a stylist. Somehow, all four got it wrong. Who will be OUT? Well, kiddies…[drum roll]…NO ONE.

Do They Need a Stylist or a New Collection?
While it is clear that all these designers need a visit from Rachel Zoe, my frustration lies more in the fact that it is more the actual clothing that needs help than the styling. Do I think some amazing styling could elevate all these collections? Yes. But I feel that because the judges are forced to critique the designers a day or two prior to the actual show, they encrypt their comments and are compelled to talk about styling because they know the designers have NO time to change their collections. Changing a shoe or discarding a wig is easier than making FIVE new looks in one day.

"Project Runway" Reboot
Basically, we have all figured out by now that this episode has been structured to have a pay-off at the end. But now the judges must critique the collections in a format that is designed to make almost any collection look bad. Do I think that all the designers should have picked stronger pieces to show the judges? Yes. But it seems that they were given such minimal time with the models that they had to just "make it work." What seems to happen is that the judges are forced to choose between several bad collections and they end up eliminating no one. I think it might be time to re-think the structure of this episode and do a "Project Runway" reboot!