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Season 13 Premiere: Lucky Number 13
Back in the “covered wagon days” when I was a contestant on Season 2 of "Project Runway," neither I --nor Heidi, Tim, and company -- would have ever imagined the show would continue on for eleven more seasons. Yet here we are! All these years later with a new season, new designers and undoubtbly new drama. So let’s see who was lucky or unlucky during this premiere episode of "Project Runway" Season 13.
The episode begins with 18 designers arriving in NYC for one final audition where judges Nina Garcia, Zac Posen and Heidi Klum will get to whittle them down to 15. After the audition, Heidi waves auf wiedersehen to three of the 18 who will have to pack their bags and go home...or be sequestered into an undisclosed location until further notice.
As in any premiere episode of a reality competition show, we get a quick get-to-know-you glimpse of each of the contestants, featuring soundbites from all the designers and judges. The new cast of "characters" is revealed and solidifies very early on who each person is supposed to be: Char, a single mom from Detroit, is self-taught; mousy, quiet Angela from L.A. used to work at an investment bank; Jefferson is fresh from school and used to be a hip-hop dancer; Mitchell is from Ft. Lauderdale and dresses as if he’s going to a Fire Island Bar-B-Q as opposed to an audition interview with Nina, Heidi and Zac; Kini is the bleach-blond guy from Hawaii; Carrie’s designs are considered referential and very Rick Owens; Fade is the "kooky" German who probably wears fanny packs while vacationing; India-born Sandhya had an arranged marriage and has a "definite point of view" (read: she’s the "creative" one); and Hernan is the Latino designer with the questionable taste level according to Miss Nina. Oh, and every other designer seems to reside in Brooklyn (!!??). On a side note: For the last 11 seasons, besides recapping the show, I’ve also had the pleasure of judging the casting/auditions, and this season was no exception. I was happy to see several of the designers I saw (and liked) at the L.A. auditions -- including Kini, Carrie, and Angela -- make it through!
The following day, the 15 designers find out what their first challenge is, as well as the identity of the one final designer who will join them. Last season, this Runway Redemption designer arrived to much flourish disembarking from a plane. This season, not so much. Season 11 designer Amanda Valentine (the sister of a member of Maroon 5, we are reminded), just walks into the workroom like another day at the park. Now, onto the challenge. Since the Grand Prize for the Winning Designer (and the eight runners-up) is to show a spring collection at Fashion Week, this first challenge involves creating a spring look from the fabrics that are inside 16 individual black trunks (five different kinds of fabric in three-yard cuts). The challenge is to give the judges a glimpse of what their collections might look like. And they have one day to do it.
During the workroom time, we get a good view of where the season might take us in terms of the designers and who's who. Already we get hints that Korina (one of the Brooklynites) will be the token not-so-nice one (rhymes with witch); flip-flop boy Mitchell is her Best Gay and “Peanut Gallery” co-gossiper; and (almost) everyone thinks Sandhya’s point of view is tacky and she shouldn’t be there. It may be too soon for me to make this prediction but I have a feeling that in Sandhya we have a new Natalia (from "Under The Gunn") or Patricia Michaels (from Season 11). This classic archetype is praised for creativity but hated by her co-designers.
Before we get to the Runway, Heidi announces the Season 13 prize package worth over $300,000: $100,000 from Red Robin, the opportunity to design an accessory for the Red Robin servers (a fabulous fascinator hat and apron, perhaps?), a fashion spread in Marie Claire, Aldo shoes and accessories, Samsung home entertainment, Mary Kay beauty products, Brother sewing studio, and Best Western travel and hotel accommodations to “fashion capitals and other inspiring destinations." Oh yeah, and a Lexus (cough, cough). Moving on...
Judges Heidi, Nina and Zac as well as “Modern Family” actress Julie Bowen are on hand for the first runway show. And mentor Tim is back in his side role to possibly save a designer whom the judges vote out (he gets one "Tim Save" per season). The runway show can be summed up in one word: meh! While a couple did stand out for me, there were some definite clunkers and for the most part everything was a 5 out of 10. I did like Korina’s coral-colored halter jumpsuit. I thought it was chic, slightly edgy and very "Runway," but she didn’t even make the “best” cut (and she was NOT AMUSED, as we saw from her stink face). Carrie’s was also one of my favorites (she also didn’t make the judges’ top). Instead, Amanda, Char and Natalia -- oops, I mean Sandhya -- were the favorites. Amanda and Char’s designs were praised for their construction but it was Sandhya’s creative, albeit not-so-well-made design that won. If there’s a rule on “Project Runway”, it's that creative designs almost always trump the need for good construction. Personally, my favorite was Char's. Her mix of draped and tailored fabrics with the colors really was a strong spring look.
I agreed totally with the judges in regards to the designers on the bottom: Angela’s pants with peek-a-boo side slits and asymmetrical top were a disjointed mess. The pants in particular affected Nina and Tim deeply: Nina called the pants’ slits "sluts" and Tim wondered out loud if Angela’s pants came with "a gift certificate for a Brazilian." Ouch. And then there was Jefferson. Nina -- who’s ON FIRE with the zingers -- said very slowly and deliberately, “W.T.F.” to his top-and-shorts look and called them "a bib" and "big diapers." She was completely right. Jefferson was out, and mousy Angela was in. And (almost) everyone was in shock at Sandhya winning. Get ready kids, because this season looks like it’s going to be another emotional, catty, kooky catwalk ride!