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Project Breakdown

By kim_messina Fri., Aug. 31, 2012 ,4:49 am EDT

Months ago, I received a phone call from the producers of "Project Runway." They said that for the 10th Anniversary season of the show they wanted to do a special "Project Runway" Capsule Collection featuring one designer from each season. Those dresses would then be sold at Lord & Taylor, the exclusive retail sponsor for "Project Runway." I was asked to be the Season 2 designer. Jay McCarroll, Uli Herzner, Chris March, Korto Momolu, Gordana Gehlhausen, Seth Aaron Anderson, Mondo Guerra and Bert Keeter were all the illustrious designers to represent their seasons.

No More Ven ... Drama

One question remained, however: who would be the Season 10 Designer to be featured in this exclusive "Project Runway" for Lord & Taylor Capsule Collection? And that's where last night's episode began. As the episode starts, there is — surprisingly — no mention or residue left over from last week's "Ven Storm." Obviously, it is hard for the producers to know just how strongly the audience will react to something and thus edit accordingly. But it was strange for me, and I’m assuming for many viewers also, to just move on and not remember that Ven had basically dropped a bomb on Season 10! But as they say, the show — or season — must go on!

Fifth Avenue Dressing

For this week's challenge, the designers are told to meet Tim at the Fifth Avenue Flagship of Lord & Taylor. He is there, along with Bonnie Brooks, president of Lord & Taylor and nine fabulous mannequins in the dresses that we — the "Project Runway" alum — designed. The designers are told that this is the Lord & Taylor Challenge: to design a dress for the store. Bonnie then describes the Lord & Taylor woman as being sophisticated, stylish, having good taste and loves fashion, of course. My kind of woman! The winning design would go into production, and sell for about $200-$300 at their flagship and LordandTaylor.com site and be prominently featured in one of their windows. All the designs would be manufactured by JS Collection/JS Group, a company that specializes in cocktail and "After Five."

I Have My Chiffonie Membership Card

My design (in the top row of mannequins) was a "Grecian Goddess"-inspired halter cocktail dres that had draping in front and back and was in cobalt blue chiffon with sequin detailing. Yes, kids, I'm an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Chiffonies. This was MY FIRST time seeing my dress — as well as the other "Project Runway" alumni dresses — since I submitted my sketches months ago, so I was quite excited.

Another Sheath Dress?

The Season 10 designers used our dresses as a springboard in order to create their looks. Christopher decides to do a gown since there were only two in the mannequin tableaux. The rest seem to all be designing sheath dresses. I wondered to myself "the last thing our 'Project Runway' Capsule Collection needs is ANOTHER sheath dress" since there were already FOUR great ones. Maybe they were somehow subliminally inspired by all those mannequins in sheath dresses. After sketching they all headed back to Parsons, where a makeshift fabric room with fabrics provided by the JS Collection/JS Group manufacturer awaited them.

Project Breakdown

Soon, the Parsons workroom becomes Stress Central, especially for the ladies. During his visit, Tim Gunn has to play "Psychiatrist Tim" to both Sonjia and Elena as they both are battling with their designs, warning Sonjia that she'll have a psychotic breakdown if she tries to channel the judge’s thoughts. Elena begins crying and having a minor breakdown of her own as she tells Tim that she feels restricted, saying that she "designs upscale" and that "this isn't the way I design..." I almost wanted to slap her upside her head with a yardstick! This season's running theme seems to be "Project Breakdown" and I, for one, am so OVER the whole "I'm stressed out" soliloquy from these designers. It's like a broken record and EVERY week they keep playing it, over and over again. It stresses ME out.

The Little Black Dress Challenge?

Now, as it has become the norm here, let me get something else off my chest: why all the use of black dresses? I love a black dress, but SEVEN of them? I thought I was at someone's funeral. Gunnar is using black lace and paillettes, Alicia is doing a drop-waist Chanel-inspired shift dress — in black mostly, Fabio, Ven, Melissa, Elena, Sonjia ... yep, all using black, or close to it. I didn't realize that this was the Little Black Dress Challenge. And when it wasn't black, it was gunmetal gray (Dmitry) or nude/blush with, you guessed it, BLACK! I'm a COLOR "Queen" (no comments please!), so it's natural for me to go for the NOT BLACK. I guess it's just me.

Another Breakdown?

On runway day, most of the girls are running around like it's a Louboutin 75% off shoe sale. It's a mess. Melissa started a new dress the night before and was not even close to being done as Tim gave the two hour makeup and hair warning. Sonjia is making Tim's prediction of a psychotic breakdown come true as she begins crying when her model can't put her peplum'ed design on. And to make things worse, she doesn't have time to finish her hem. Tim gives her a final nugget of "Fake it on the Runway" advice. That should be the tagline for "Project Runway." Amen Sister Tim.

Asymmetry, Non-Sheaths and a Gown Queen

It's runway show time and Bonnie Brooks of Lord & Taylor is there as the guest judge, joining Heidi, Michael and Nina. The results: Dmitry, Ven and Sonjia are safe and after that pre-runway breakdown, Sonjia was relieved beyond words. I was surprised Dmitry was not at the top because I thought his was one of the better sheath dresses. The Top were Fabio, Christopher, Melissa and Miss "I-Don't-Design-For-Cheap" Elena. I was really shocked Melissa ended up on top. Her brocade dress was too tight on the model, and between the stiff front and the too-asymmetrical hem, it was way too directional for any department store customer. I liked Elena's harness full-skirted dress. At least it wasn't another sheath dress. Thank you Elena. And I also liked Fabio's design. It looked sellable and wearable for many women of varying sizes. In the end, it was Christopher's blush/nude raw chiffon and black gown that won. It was elegant and looked very "Valentino by Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri" to me. Do we want to see him do something other than his strips of raw chiffon? Yes. He was warned by Heidi but congrats to Cutie Christopher. I can't wait to meet you next week as we "unveil" our designs.

One Day You're In, and the Next...

Now to the bottom: Gunnar and Alicia had the lowest scores. I was not surprised by Alicia being there. Her dress to me was the most disappointing. The silhouette was unflattering and that collar looked Fashion School Student wonky at best. She doesn't like doing feminine but still, she could have done a masculine tailored sheath dress. Oh, never mind! I was surprised, however, by Gunnar being there. His dress was one of my favorites. It was cute, sassy and so-Lord & Taylor cocktail hour. But Bonnie did not like the lace and Nina said it was boring and unmemorable. Now, you know one of the "Project Runway" edicts: NEVER EVER bore Nina. Alicia was safe. Cue the "Oooohhhh, Gunnar is out!?" sighs. Not so fast kiddies, Heidi then turns to him and tells him that he's "In." So ... no one is out this week. Her explanation being that since there were no real train wrecks (I beg to differ) and therefore no reason to boot any of the designers out. I've now been working in "TV Land" long enough to feel a bit quizzical over that excuse. But oh well, one day you're "In" and the next, you are also "In"... at least this week.