Chaotic and wonderful. Two words to describe last night’s rollercoaster of an episode. One minute I wanted to throw something at the TV and the next, I was crying with tears of joy. Let’s begin with the "how timely" factor. As you may know, lately there has been some rampant homophobia and anti-gay legislation that has been passed by the Russian Government (Sandro’s homeland coincidentally enough). Mark that with the contrast of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down DOMA and require the Federal Government to recognize same-sex marriage. This episode aired at a fitting time indeed and a coup for "Project Runway" injecting itself into current events. Now, let me get to the recap before the Supreme Court changes its mind…
The episode began with a POW! Tattooed Helen and Anger Management Issues Sandro were arguing and shouting; Sandro subsequently storms out of Parsons, punches a cameraman (or the camera to be more precise)...and scene. Cut to 36 hours earlier: the designers awake at their Refinery Hotel, get ready and head to Parsons to await their next challenge. In the workroom, they are greeted by hundreds of colorful bow ties. The minute the designers see all the bow ties, there is an, "Oh no, Are we doing menswear?" gasp. But, alas, their frowns transition into smiles as they quickly learn that it is not. Tim Gunin a bow tieof course, introduces "Modern Family" actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Jesse is the co-creator and designer of Tie the Knot, a tie company created to support marriage equality.
Bradon vs. Sandro: The Two Story Arcs
The challenge is to design a look using at least one bow tie in a non-traditional way. After Mood shopping, the designers head back to the workroom. Two separate stories begin to form within this episode. The first centering on Bradon and his partner Josh; we learn that they have been together for 18 yearslonger than many straight marriages, thank you very much! How "un-traditional" indeed. The second storyline is focused on Sandro. As the intro tease shows us, something will go down, but first we need to learn about the beginning and middle, since we already learned the end. As the episode moves on, Sandro is venting to his fellow designers (and Tim Gunn) about how annoyed he is at the judges’ critiques telling him how his designs are a bit "too much." He lives in Sandro World where more is more and is not realizing that while many of his designs might work in Moscow Fashion Week, they will not pass the grade in New York City. He also confides in Tim his disdain for judge&3151;and very established and successful fashion designerZac Posen. "Top Gunn" Tim advises Sandro to just be himself (Oh Dear!).
Over-The-Top Sandro = Not Finalist Material for "PR"
Two observations on Sandro: First, I can (kind of) understand Sandro’s frustration on the judges’ comments to him. But at the same time it’s painfully obvious what they are saying is true; his designs are too over-the-top and need some serious editing. In Sandro’s delusional mind, he thinks the fact that he was picked for the show is enough of a trophy to say that he is a "Fashion Design Diva" and qualified enough to be the next "Project Runway" winner. However, here is the harsh truth: he was probably chosen more for his "Diva Drama Queen" character and less for his fashion design aesthetic. We all know his type of cray cray/over-the-top pseudo Lacroix-meets-Galliano design taste does not make you a Top Three contender on the show, nor worthy of a New York Fashion Week Runway Show.
Make It Down the "Project Runway" Aisle
Let’s just cut to the day of the Sandro Meltdown, I mean, the runway show. Jesse Tyler Ferguson is the Guest Judge ready to see which designer "tied the 'Project Runway' Fashion knot." I LOVED Dom’s dress, Kate’s outfit and of course, Bradon’s design. Kate has come a long way from her "I-just-came-out-of-design school" ingénue aesthetic of last season. Something occurred between then and now to actually make her a possible Top 3 contender this season. Dom’s sexy fitted striped dress was exquisitely made; the mitering of the stripes and pattern work, along with the superb sewing made her design a frontrunner. The use of ties as a neck accent and detail was, as the judges cooed "a celebration." But clearly Bradon’s was the best. The tie top could have gone a bit predictable and very "happy-hands-at-home," but it was EXQUISITE. It is not easy to fit a top made completely of straps: he had to make every strap extra-long and then, custom adjust it on the model, plus that fabulous faggotting technique. Tim and I were very impressed with Bradon during the LA casting when he showed us the same exceptional, labor intensive technique on one of his garments. How apropos that he got to use this faggotting technique during the "Marriage Equality Challenge." It’s like a Fashion Middle Finger to anyone who has ever used that derogatory word toward usThe Gays. And for that, I give him an "Atta Girl Bradon"!
To put the icing on top of the marriage equality cake, after winning the challenge, Bradon proposed to his partner Josh right then and there to the judges and Timas well as all of America! Both my partner and I were doing the hyperventilating type of crying, for sure. It was a truly beautiful moment. Note to the producers: use this episode for next year's Emmy Awards consideration nomination…just sayin’.
This is NOT "Project Runway": The Student Edition
And now for the bottom: Helen was very lucky, as Heidi noted, that she had immunity and could not be eliminated. Her design was one of the worst, by far. Sue’s black tank dress with "dripping ties" was, as Jesse Tyler Ferguson pointed out, a "failure." Karen’s bad fitting "Depends" pants were a D-, if I were to grade her for a patternmaking class. And then there was Sandro. His pink "Russian Marie Antoinette" design with bow tie suspender-like straps was dated and two seconds shy of 80s tacky. Sandro, however, wasn’t even in the bottom, yet he went ahead and confronted the judges wanting some direction on what design path to take since he sensed (once again) that the judges weren’t loving him. Zac Posen tells him to focus on his taste (Hello!). Sandro’s response of, "I’m a student…I’m learning," is what set Posen off and rightly so. Posen, without missing a beat, put him in his place and shut him up by replying, "This is not 'Project Runway': The Student Edition!" Ouch!
Back in the holding room, Sandro is exploding and screaming at Helen and this is where we come full circle to the beginning of the episode. After ranting and raving, he finally storms out of Parsons and onto 7th Ave and punches the camera. We soon find out from Heidi that it was an Auf for Sandro after he left the building. Therefore, no other designer will be eliminated this week. So with that we say, "God riddance," to Sandro and I say to him: please go ahead and take your angry, misogynistic attitude and no-taste dresses with you and don’t look back. Let’s just hope that the drama, drama, drama has not only left the building but the entire season as well. Let’s return to what "Project Runway" is really about: the fab fashion!
Last week on "Project Runway," Kate won with her Vivienne Westwood-looking gown, which best showcased the million-dollar jewels; Helen couldn't make bust cups and cried; Sue couldn't thread a bobbin; Sandro continued being a Diva 2.0; and unicorn-loving Timothy went dumpster diving for fabric at Mood. Oh, and Kahindo was out for a dress deemed too "on sale." After revisiting last week's episode, I now have to question the judges' decision since there were so many others that were more "off-the-rack" looking, and certainly worse in terms of construction (hello extended-bust Karen!). With that all in the pot, let's discuss this week's "light and frothy" challenge that turned out to be nothing but drama, drama, drama.
Klum Wake-Up Call
For some reason, Heidi wakes the designers up at 5:30 a.m. in their Refinery Hotel rooms. A) I can't believe they got Miss Heidi up that early for this scene, and B) What sense did it make since we subsequently found out that she wasn't even part of the challenge announcement, which occurred hours later? Moving on. After their early-morning wake-up call, the designers head over to the Coney Island Boardwalk, where they are greeted by Tim Gunn and Dave Smetter, VP of Marketing Communications for Yoplait Frozen Yogurt.
Not-So-Sweet Yoplait Teams
The designers have to give out Yoplait Frozen Yogurt samples to passersby, collect descriptive words from the yogurt-tasters describing their tasting experience, and then choose three of those descriptive words to inspire their runway creations. Designers will be paired up in teams of two. Welcome to the FIRST team challenge. Poor Miss Kate, who just got off an entire season of team challenges, is not too happy. Tim draws names from the dreaded Button Bag (which is, as we all know, pre-"scripted"). Alexander is with Justin; Jeremy with Ken; Bradon and Karen; Dom and Alexandria; Kate with Helen (as you recall, Helen called her the b-word in the first episode, so naturally they're partnered together); Sandro and Sue; and yes, the "Milwaukee Twosome," Miranda and Timothy.
There is no Mood shopping. Instead the designers are to play games at the Luna Park amusement park; the prizes they win will be their materials for the challenge. So not only is this a team challenge, but only three episodes into the season it's their second unconventional challenge. Naturally, the producers (I assume) somehow got a hold of a big overstuffed unicorn and planted it just so Timothy could win it, bless his gentle unicorn-loving heart. And he does. Back at Parsons, all the designers are gutting their stuffed toy winnings, tearing plastic aliens and cutting through sombreros. Tim Gunn tells the designers they can create anything they want, which is pretty wide-ranging. One could go "Drag Queen on a Gay Pride Float" or "couture Fashion Week" in a hot Parsons minute. I guess that's the point.
Interestingly enough, in what one would think is a FUN challenge, there is lots of NON-FUN. Exhibit A: Team Sandro and Sue. Sandro is bossing Sue around, disrespectfully saying misogynistic statements as well as yelling at her during the design and work process, barking orders like he is General Patton-ovsky. Eventually Sue realizes that she shouldn't even try and deal with him in a level-headed manner, giving in and becoming his assistant and doing as she is told. He actually says, "When woman listens to a man, it's so cool." Um, is this 1961?!
Exhibit B: Meanwhile, Team Timothy and Miranda are doing their best remake of "War of the Roses." These two have sort of a history (is the Milwaukee design world that small?), and they are acting like a divorced couple that's been forced to get back together. Predictably, it isn't working out. First off, I've dismissed Timothy as a bit of an attention- and camera-loving looneytoon, with his unsustainable sustainable talk and curious love of unicorns. But this episode has enlightened me in thinking that he is just young, with a very fragile inner soul that needs to be handled with great care, like an abandoned dog at a rescue shelter. This is all too obvious when he exits the workroom--with his trusty stuffed unicorn--to read an endearing note his model gave him.
Mean Girl Miranda
In the workroom and sewing room, Miranda belittles Timothy the entire time, saying he's "no good...he sucks...he's a nightmare." All the while, poor Timothy is standing ten feet away listening to it all. While most of the other designers are nervously laughing, I as a viewer was feeling pretty bad for him. As kooky as he is, you get the sense Miranda didn't need to go there, and not so publicly. The day of the runway show, Miranda has an I-should-not-be-so-mean-to-Timothy epiphany and apologizes to him. Did it take her a good night's rest to realize her "Mean Girls" actions wouldn't look so good on TV when the show aired?
The Runway Good
Guest judge Kelly Osbourne is there to survey the Luna Park frocks. I LOVE both Alexandria and Dom's and Kate and Helen's designs. Alexandria and Dom's look is made of stuffed frogs, monsters, and ice cream cones. Immediately, when the model steps onto the runway, it makes me smile. It's very Agatha Ruiz de la Prada (Spanish designer) with elements of Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. Alexandria works with little kids in her "Camp Couture" so I am sure she had a lot of influence on the final super-fun look of this design. Kate and Helen's strapless structured creation is made of red sombreros, kites and a stuffed monkey. I agreed with Nina Garcia when she said that it was "a high-fashion moment." It looks like it came straight off of a Jean Paul Gaultier Couture runway. Kate graciously bestows the "Who out of the two should win" title to Helen, which I'm sure made Helen feel doubly worse for calling Kate a you-know-what on the first day.
Ratchet Plastic and Sinking Titanic Dress
According to the judges, the worst designs are Alexander and Justin's, as well as (naturally) Miranda and Timothy's. Well, I have to disagree: I think that General Sandro Patton-ovsky and Sue's creation should have been in the bottom instead of Miranda and Timothy's. Sandro/Sue's design is much more of a mess. It's just SO plastic. Did you see Nina's face when Sandro and Sue's look came out? That design is one hot ratchet mess. But somehow, they are safe. Alexander and Justin's design does deserve to be on the bottom. It looks like a mermaid costume created for a high school play. I expected better, especially from Alexander, who does Broadway costumes and drag. He should have won this one. Now, onto the War of the Milwaukee Twosome. Heidi feels it's boring (it is) and the rest of the judges compare it to a "deflated pool toy." When he's asked about their creation, Timothy goes on some bizarro story about the Titanic needing life boats. It's finally his time to take his stuffed Unicorn, model's note, and tools and go back to Sustainable Unicorn Land.
Did you feel bad for Timothy and how Miranda treated him? Are you still glad to see him go? Did you feel it was inappropriate for Sandro to be bullying Sue and are you sick of his diva antics? Would love to read your thoughts. Until then, stay tuned, as there looks to be even more Drama Drama Drama next week!
Allow me to get something off my semi-hairy chest: it's only the second week of Season 12 and I'm already ANNOYED by some of the designers and my patience is wearing VERY thin on several others. First off, I am SO OVER Timothy and his sustainable shenanigans. Freddie Mercury-lookalike Sandro, and his diva-like drama is making all REAL divas look bad. And then there's tattooed Helen: her crying and, "I've never made bust cups!" but somehow admits to having interned with various bridal design companies is confusing at best. And to cap it off, we've got dreadlock-haired Sue and her, "Can someone thread a bobbin for me?" nonsense. Unless these people prove themselves to be something other than drama-loving nincompoops, it's auf time for them in my eyes. With that off my chest, allow me to discuss this second diamond-loving episode.
Armored cars pull up at Parsons and big-and-bulky security guards frame the runway stage inside as the designers await what will be the next challenge. Out comes Heidiwith the dreaded Button Bagfollowed by the models accessorized in $30 million worth of jewels provided by the Diamond District. Side bar question: is this an area of Manhattan that somehow I missed going to? I know Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen, the Upper East Side, Soho, Meat Packing, but the Diamond District? Note to self: must check it out on my next NYC trip!
SOOO Over Diamonds and Money
Heidi announces that for their second challenge, the designers must create a look "glamorous enough" to walk the runway with the jewels the models are wearing. It's not really a "red carpet" challenge but more of "design a look worthy of being accessorized with these multimillion dollar jewels on a runway stage." The button bag is there so the designers chose their modelsand jewelswith last week's winner, Bradon, going first. The only highlight of this is how EVERYONE is beyond-excited to be designing for these glorious jewels, except un-sustainable Sustainable Timothy. Naturally, he is not amused by the whole working-with-diamonds challenge; Timothy says that he is not inspired by diamonds or money, for that matter. Wait 'til he has to figure out a way of paying rent.
Mood Dumpster Diving
After getting back to their workrooms, Tim announces to the designers that this is a one-day challenge and they have some sketching time before they head to their first Mood trip of the seasonwith their GoBank debit card. They have $4,000 for the entire season but a "suggested budget" of $300 for this one challenge. At Mood, Timothy continues his "I want more airtime," I mean, sustainable shtick, and goes through the Mood garbage bins for fabric remnants.
Back at the workroom, Tim does his walk-through. He likes Kate's design even though I kind of agree with one of the other designers who says it's very Vivienne Westwood. Tim tells Tattooed Helen that she's being a bit ambitious in regards to what she's trying to do (an omen to the runway); he feels Timothy's design is looking like "one hot mess" (It is!) and helps Kahindo come to terms on her bad choice of fabric.
"Project Runway" Is Not A Time To Learn Bobbin Threading
This montageand the pre-runway oneenlightens the viewer (ME!) on how some of these designers maybe shouldn't be there. First off: what is it with contestants who go on "Project Runway" not knowing their stuff. I just do not get it. Exhibit A: Kahindo. She's never worked with silk charmeuse (PS: one of the most difficult fabrics to sew) and yet she goes ahead and picks that. WHY? And then, there's Dreadlock Sue. Last week, she admitted that she never used an industrial-type sewing machine and this week, we find out that she can't even thread a bobbin. Who. Are. You? The designers have about a month between their last audition/interview and the time they arrive on-set. Tim even tells them to "use that time thoughtfully." Wouldn't you figure out how to use a sewing machine in that time period?!? Oh and then there's Helen, who is all stressed out because she's never made bust cups before. But somehow she's interned and worked at bridal design firms. I just don't understand what surreal world these people are living in. One comes to "Project Runway" NOT to learn but do what you know what to do. You can "step outside your comfort zone" design-wise, but this is not the time to learn how to thread a bobbin or make bust cups! Oh, and I'm not even going to start on Sandro and how he can't turn on a steamer and yells for a "manager" to help him do it. File under: Bless His Heart.
Million Dollar Runway
Let's just get to the runway. Heidi, Nina, Zac, and yes, Tim are there (He's sitting in on every runway show to see if a designer who is on the bottom needs his "save"). "The Carrie Diaries" and "Gossip Girl" Costume Designer Eric Daman is the guest judge. In my dreams, I would've wished Dame Shirley Bassey to be the guest judge but oh well. The top designs are Kate, Dom and Sandro. There were some designs from the "safe" designers that I thought should have been up there as well: Ken's emerald green strapless peplum gown was great, for example. But I have seen it before so I understand how the judges may have thought the same. Sandro's peek-a-boo lace with solid fabric two-piece ensemble is chic and yes, two minutes from being trashy. But he (somehow) held back enough for the judges. Dom's printed look was "fresh" but, along with Heidi, I did have a problem with that headband. Her dress was looking a bit like something the mistress of an Eastern European weapons dealer would have worn at a Cannes yacht party. Kate won for her draped taffeta gown with well-constructed bustier. Her creation was well done and highlighted the multimillion dollar jewels, but it still seemed so Vivienne Westwood.
The Bottom were Timothy, Kahindo and Helen. Let's start with Miss Helen. She stopped the runway show as she cried when her design came out. Subsequently, she vented to the judges (and Tim) about how she was embarrassed of her construction (she should be) and how she wants to learn how to do couture. PS: why do you have to learn on "Project Runway's" dime? Just sayin'. Like I said before, this is NOT the time to learn. Timothy did a "racer-front" gown that did not highlight his models beautiful necklace. The dress was okay and a bit of a 1920/1930s throwback but it wasn't right for this particular challenge. I want Miss Timothy auf'ed but let's agree: he did better than Kahindo. So, yes, it was Kahindo who ended up being eliminated. Her design was deemed "off-the-rack" and as Zac Posen said, it looked like a dress on sale. Her creation lacked any new creative design quality and certainly, did not have a "runway punch." Therefore, it was her time to go. So let me ask these questions:
Do you think that Timothy should have gone instead? And what do you think Sandro's diva, "Can you turn the steamer on for me," behavior says about him? And Sue not knowing how to A) use an industrial machine and B) not knowing how to thread a bobbinis this acceptable? Let me know in your comments below. PLEASE! I can't wait to read what you guys think! Until then, there's always next week!
"Project Runway" is BAAACK: last night was the premiere of Season 12 of "Project Runway" and there's been some shake-ups. It took almost 10 years (Season 1 debuted in 2004!) and 11 seasons later for "Project Runway" to stir up its own classic format. As the saying goes, "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it," but obviously someone thought it was time for some fixin'and some new additions. So before I get to the new cast and my "Nick Two Cents" on this premiere episode, let's discuss:
• First "Project Runway" designer/contestant to be hearing impaired/deaf.
• The runway got a "Hollywood set" makeoverstage lights and video screen.
• New retail partner: Belksa department store chain with over 300 locations, primarily in the South.
• Instead of weekly challenge money, the designers will get a GoBank Debit Card and will manage their spending for the entire season.
• Anonymous runway showjudges don’t know who’s designs are coming down the runway.
• Tim offers opinions to judges and sits with the judges during runway.
• Tim brings up the top and bottom designs so judges can view them up close and personal.
• Tim Gunn gets to save a designer; only one for the entire season.
• And a prize package estimated at half a million dollars!
I am intrigued by a couple of these new additions, such as the judges not knowing whose designs are coming down the runway and the up close-and-personal look into the garments. (God forbid they did that during my seasonseveral of my hot-glue-and-safety pin-loving cast mates would have been IN TROUBLE!).
Cast of Characters
I had the pleasure of judging the Los Angeles Castings/Auditionsalong with Tim Gunnand was happy to see two of the designers we chose make the final cut: Alexandria von Bromssen (the Aristocratic-sounding Euro from San Mateo) and Bradon McDonald (the former Mark Morris dancer who just graduated from FIDM, my alma mater). Besides these two, there's a bevy of "characters": (among others) a high heel-wearing sustainable fabric-burning unicorn lover; a swarthy mustachioed Russian with a Diva attitude; a costume maker who's made costumes for many Broadway shows including "The Lion King" (my guess is he does drag FOR SURE!); a blond-haired girl who wanted to be a "rockstar"; a posh-sounding Brit with a husband and two gorgeous little kids; a former Army officer; and a tattooed girl with lots of self-confidence.
Color and DRAMA
It is worth noting that there seemed to be more diversity than in any of the previous seasonsin terms of not just one designer of color but several. One thing that is not new is the DRAMA. I hear from a lot of the show's fans in my travels and events and they tell me that they dislike the DRAMA but love the creative process. Well, fans, too bad for you because if the preview of the season is any indication, this season will be DRAMA with a capital "D." So strap on your harness and parachute and get ready for a bumpy fashion free fall. Speaking of parachutes...
On this first episode of "Project Runway," the 15 designers meet Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum at Wallkill Airpark in Wallkill, NY. As soon as you ask yourself, "But wait, aren't there usually 16 designers on the show?", a small plane flies in for a landing and out comes Kate Pankoke, Season 11 designer who the "Project Runway" fans voted to come back for a second chance. Following Kate's arrival, it was time to look up at the sky. It's a bird? No. It's a plane? Yes. Are those 16 skydivers in colorful parachutes? Si. Soon after the skydivers landed safely (Thank goodness), Tim and Heidi reveal the first challenge: Use parachutes to make an outfit. It's the Unconventional Material Challenge. The designers then make a run to grab which parachutes they will be creating their outfits with. Little Kate becomes Wallkill Roadkill when the designers literally run over her (Poor thang!). The designers then head to Manhattan and their Parsons workroom. Tim meets them there to tell them about their new GoBank Debit Card, the new HP tablet, as well as actual challenge rules: their creations must be mostly of the parachute fabric yet they are able to use some black and white ripstop nylon as their secondary fabric.
The following day, Tim walks in to check on their designs. Sandro (mustachioed Russian Diva) is making a swimsuit (Ummm, OK) and blonde "wanted to be a Rockstar" Angela is doing a too-short trench coat. Sue Waller (a frizzy blonde-haired designer who lived in France and loves using leather) is having sewing issues...as in she says she has never used "this type of sewing machine" (the industrial kind EVERYONE USES!). Part of me wants to slap her upside the head, but I hold back. Tim likes what Alexandria is working on, as well as deems Bradon's (the former dancer) creation very "James Bond-ish." He chastises Miranda (the former Army officer) for not following the rules and using too much of the "supplemental fabric."
And then there's Timothy, Mr. Sustainable Fabric Earthy Granola Crunchy Milwaukee boy. Bless his heart. He's so deep in his sustainable mantra, that it becomes almost UNSUSTAINABLE to continue to listen to him. Seriously. And then he completely (without realizing) nullifies all the sustainability talk when he burns man-made nylon polyester parachute fabric (and thereby releasing toxic fumes in the air) in order to achieve a special treatment to his creation. File under: Oh these kids. He has also been training his model to do a performance art walk down the runway. His model is probably all of 19 years-old and has A) NEVER seen or attended a performance art piece, B) never taken jazz or modern dance classes and C) has no clue of what poor Timothy is talking about. It comes as no surprise when on runway day, she doesn't do ANY of what Timothy told her to do.
Day of the first Season 12 runway show and the designers are busy in their makeup and hair consultations. Mr. Sustainable Burning Man Timothy, tells the L'Oreal makeup and hair experts that NO makeup or hair products should be used on his modelas well as NOTHING that is plugged in, causing all the hair and makeup team to use their inside voice and say, "This guy is CRAY-CRAY." I respect his "I am the Queen of Milwaukee Sustainability" shtick but still...I'm beginning to think Timothy is doing all this for more air time (PS: it's working). On the runway, we get to see the "new" set73151;with stage lights and video screen. Heidi, Nina Garcia, as well as designer Zac Posen are back. Actress Kate Bosworth is the celebrity guest judge. It is then announced that Tim will sit with the judges as opposed to what he has done for the last 11 seasons (sit off to the side away from the cameras). He's not judging but seeing if this is the time to save a designer. In addition, Heidi announces the "anonymous runway" factor.
When the designs come down the runway, I instantly know which are my faves: I love Jeremy's (Brit boy) parachute pants. I also think little Kate did well with her canary yellow dress. I was shocked that some of my favorites ended up in the middle and safe. But, oh well, better safe than in the "uh oh" pile. I was surprised by Sue's (the leather-loving designer) directional creation. It was one of my Top (as well as the judges). Her look was so gallery-owner fashionista. I gave her extra points for getting the front length perfectly right. Speaking of judges, this was the time when Tim brought out the Top and Bottom designs and the judges got up close-and-personal with the creations (Oh dear!). I read somewhere that Tim Gunn said that Zac was "surprised at how badly made the designs were." Well, dear Zac, I'd like to see what you can do in eight hours. Just sayin' Part Deux. Moving on...it came as no surprise (to me at least) that the eventual winner of this first challenge was the beautiful creation of former dancer Bradon. It was exactly what one does with parachute fabric. It glided, it had gorgeous movement, drama and runway sensibility. Oh, and his model was GORGEOUS; so "Vintage YSL Muse." Congrats Bradon!
Not Enough Parachute, Un-Sustainable Styling, V-JAY-JAY Spotting and Too Short Poncho
Now on to the bottom. Oh Timothy. You and your high heels (Were those glittery heels sustainable?!). You leave your model barefoot with no makeup and hair and with burnt yellow nylon parachute fabric. And then there's Sandro "Mustachioed Russia Diva." Remember his so-called swimsuit he was making? Well, it turned into much more than that. He showed the model's CHA CHA, in other words: her V-JAY-JAYin the outfit he created. It was unforgiveable. Zac called it a "slutty cat toy." Heidi deemed it "a disaster." Yet, somehow, he was safe. Also on the bottom were Miranda, the former Army officer (because she didn't utilize enough of the actual parachute fabric), as well as blonde-haired "rockstar" Angela. She made a hooded ponchoand nothing else. It was too short and it was missing something (a bottom perhaps?). As a result, she was the first designer out. And no, Mr. Gunn did not save her. One challenge done and lots more to go. Who will be the next "Project Runway" winner? Stay tuned kids, we've got a whole season ahead of us and clearly much more DRAMA to come!
My guess was right. If you read my recap for last week's pre-finale episode, I surmised that "Only One Can Win...And I Have a Good Guess!" It was pretty obvious, especially after the judges' pre-finale show critiques that designer Michelle Lesniak Franklin's collection was the ubiquitous favorite and standout. So, it came as no surprise that she got the final crown. What was a surprise is what happened to Stanley Hudson. Those wonky hems, uneven center back seams and four unfinished dresses? And then, there's "kooky" Patricia and her lack of cohesion. It's the finale and I have plenty to say, so let's get to my final recap for this season...
Top Three Fixings
When the episode begins, we're down to the top 3. In last week's critiques, Michelle was suggested to ditch some of the tricky purses/bags and glam up her models' hair and makeup. Easy enough. Patricia was told she somehow needed to bring cohesion because from those three looks she showed, there was little. Stanley was told his looks lacked a "sex" factor, were too dowdy and not outstanding creatively. He had the hardest job because how do you fix all that? And in a few days. As we find out, he couldn't.
Tim walks into the workroom with a final surprise: $500 and a final trip to Mood to buy whatever they need to either switch up a look, improve on what they have, or in Stanley's case, create an entire new collection (wishful thinking!). Post-Mood, they are back in the workroom to finish their collections, along with the help of their "sewing assistants." (Poor thangs, those kids are still working!)
Bleeding Heart, Stubborn Stanley and Kooky Patricia
Tim does a final check-in. He loves most of Michelle's collection deeming it "extremely innovative." However, he doesn't like her "bleeding heart" sweater. I LOVE IT! I believe it was made by fellow Season 11 designer Joseph Aaron Segal (The bespectacled cat sweater-loving one). Stanley tells Tim that he took the judges advice and is altering A LOT. However, in Mr. Gunn's eyes, it all still looks like "vintage Sshop" dresses. Even though Stanley says he's taking the advice and criticism, there's something about his demeanor that tells me the opposite and "Stubborn Stanley" kicks in. My intuition is that he's been like this for a long time and that's not changing overnightor on a reality show. Finally, Patricia is all over the place, missing scarves and losing fabrics. One glance at her workroom behavior and environment and I'm not surprised why her collection lacks cohesion.
Bye Helpers...Now Here's a Gift Certificate to Red Lobster!
Day before the runway show and it's finally time to say goodbye to their sewing helpers. Hopefully, they are finally getting a free dinner and drinks at a fancy restaurant c/o the producers. Tim then brings in family members of the final three designers for some quality time. He also announces that Michael Kors is BACK!, as the final Guest Judge. Michelle is ready, packed and done. Patricia is still a mess and Stanley, he somehow has FOUR garments not made. Seriously. How. Did. He. Get. To. This. Moment?
Runway Day: I Was There
Runway day and Stanley is in panic mode. His dressers (who's main job is to steam and dress the models) are actually sewing hems, armholes and sleeves on his four unfinished dresses. Those Parsons kids must have been like, "Are You Kidding Me?" Finally, it's Show Time. I had the pleasure of attending this Finale show at Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Week. I sat with Season One winner Jay McCarroll and Season 2 All Stars finalist Uli Herzner. In front of us were Season 10 designers Christopher Palu, Melissa Fleis and Fabio Costa. Needless to say, we had a BLAST: someone should have been recording or filming our "Peanut Gallery" commentary (Note to Lifetime Execs: next season on Lifetime"The Project Runway Finale Commentary Show"). Wait, come to think of it, I'm glad we actually WEREN'T being recorded! Now, speaking of commentary...
Stanley: Grace Kelly Lite Meets Betty White
My first impression of Stanley's collection was "Grace Kelly Lite." It looked elegant and very Ladies-Who-Lunch. This is the good part. Now, for the not-so-good: Sitting from my seat, I noticed EVERYTHING. There were wonky uneven hems, rippling seams and loose thread hanging from various garments. The biggest shocker was that ivory with gold beaded bell-sleeved shift dress. It was one of my favorite looks (and the judges as well) but when the model turned around, the center back zipper was about one inch higher on one side. It was a HUGE miss. I could see jaws drop all around in the audience. Who sends such a mistake down a NY Fashion Week runway, people asked. I couldn't believe it either. In my last recap, I said that (at least from the three "preview looks") the garments seemed dated and destined for Barbara Walters' closet. That final maroon beaded top with full skirt was the nail in the fashion coffin. It was like a dress First lady Laura Bush would have worn for an Inaugural Ball...in 2001. I almost fell off my couch when Michael Kors said that she looked like "Betty White on 'Dancing With The Stars'" (God, I missed him!). Stanley was out.
Patricia: Horsehair Princesses vs. Tarot Card Reader from Venice Beach
I remember when I saw Patricia's collection, a smile came over me when the models sauntered down the runway in those "kooky hats" of colored horsehair. I also admired the overt nod to her Native American heritage. My favorites were the blue dress with silver oversized paillettes and the suede chambray top and leather shorts. But for the rest of the collection, Patricia went into (as Michael Kors correctly said) "art teacher on an acid trip" mode. When all 12 looks are put together, it seemed like the wardrobe of a 50-something tarot card reader who lives in Venice Beach. Patricia made it this far with her originality, strong cultural conviction and yes, that "it" emotional factor that can make a viewer want to root for her.
She-Wolf Queen Michelle
Finally, there's Michelle. Her lone female wolf-inspired collection was my favorite. It was innovative, directional, had very interesting and consistent shapes and was perfectly constructed. Done and done. I loved it so much that in fact, both Uli and I gave Michelle's collection a standing ovation. Yes, kids, we actually STOOD UP and clapped. I loved all the looks, especially the stiff a-line dresses (the first exit was outstanding!), the pops of color (LOVE that canary yellow!) and that "Bleeding Heart Sweater." It was DIVINE! After the show, everyone within a one-foot radius kept saying "that Bleeding Heart sweater! LOVE!" Kudos to Joseph Aaron Segal for that creation. Not only were the clothes fab but Michelle thought about the entire package. The models' bushy eyebrows and "glam ,ess" hair were on point. I "got" this girl. It was the right combination of concept, creativity and execution all rolled into a perfect collection. It was obvious that this was the winner for sure. No contest. And a well deserved win for Michelle. After all those rough team challenges and always ending up on the bottom...how sweet it is to be the lone she-wolf standing. Congratulations darling. I'm standing up for you in my little ol' design studio right now.
When looking back at past seasons of "Project Runway"and particularly the pre-finale episodeit wasn’t always obvious who the winner might be. Whether it was the editing or the amount of talent, there was always a sense of "I wonder who it will be?" Not this time. At the end of this episode, it was pretty obvious that this was Michelle’s year to win. The other designers didn't even come close, in my eyes, to what she presented. So how did this penultimate episode play out and will my prediction be right? Time to discuss…
Michelle, Stanley, Patricia and Daniel are in the top four. The episode begins with Heidi and Tim congratulatingand reminding them7#151;that "only one can win." Heidi announces that she’s giving them each $10,000 to create a 12-look collection for Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Week (That’s about $833 per outfit!). Oddly, she then tells the designers that they need to use Fall colors, make sure to forecast Fall Trends, and think outerwear. It reminded me of when I give a "How to Make a Collection" assignment to my fashion students; it’s understandable that I have to tell my students this, but why say it to these designers. Shouldn’t this be obvious if you are showing during Fall Fashion Week? But I digress...it's time for the designers to head home and create their collections.
Four months later and Tim begins his home visits. First, he’s in Taos Pueblo, NM, to visit Patricia. After a nice lunch with her family, he surveys her pieces. Patricia’s inspiration is "trees." She’s done a lot of fabric manipulation to the textiles she’s using, giving her collection a definite "Patricia" stamp. Tim is intrigued but worried it might look too "arts-and-crafty."
Portlandia Hunger Games
Tim is now in Portland, OR, to visit Michelle. Her inspiration is wolves, and particularly a female hunting "lone wolf," which she says is a perfect metaphor to how she felt during the entire filming of the season. She’s making breastplates as well as a great hunting coat (She listened to Heidi and her "make some outerwear" directive!). It looks very “Hunger Games," the Ready-to-Wear Collection. And just from the small sampling of garments she is offering up to Tim, I can tell it is going to be a great collection.
Salvador Daniel Cosmo Girl
Next up, Tim is in Austin Texas to visit Daniel. First off, I’m surprised Daniel wasn’t crying 30 seconds after Tim showed up. Instead, it was his sister who began tearing up (It must be in the blood!). After the Kleenex box was put down, Daniel showed his collection, inspired by Salvador Dali, Surrealism, the Nebulae around the planets, Berlin and architecture. Tim seems to like most of it until…he sees the "Grandma Robe." In not so many words, he tells Daniel to get rid of it because well, "it stinks." Si.
Finally, Tim goes to Los Angeles to see what Stanley has been working on. His inspiration: the 60s and Renaissance Spain. It looks luxe, elegant, "Oscar de la Renta Ladies Who Lunch" and very Barbara Walters. There’s nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that I can just hear the judges saying that it doesn’t look new or directional. When he said it was 60s-inspired, did he mean he was inspired by a 60-year-old heiress who lives in the Upper East Side?
Cast-Off Kids: We're Not Done With You Yet
It is four weeks later and the designers are back in NYC. After the designers settle into their penthouse suite at an undisclosed hotel, they head off to their workroom to unzip the garment bags that hold their collections. Tim welcomes the designers with the news that they will have to show three of their favorite looks to the judges, who will decide which three designers will continue on to Fashion Week. To keep up the "Team" theme (Aren't we over this by now!?), they get sewing helpers: Richard, Amanda, Samantha and Layana. Highlights (or low-lights) include Layana bad-mouthing the designer she's helping (Patricia) and Stanley not even close to being done. Somehow six months wasn’t long enough for him to almost-finish a collection.
Finally it’s Runway Day. Heidi, Zac and Nina are ready to give one designer the auf. Patricia is first. I am not a fan of her first ensemble, a hippy-dippy dress and scarf appropriate for a mom taking her teenagers to Coachella. The shoes, styling, earrings are dated and not stylish at all. However, Patricia redeems herself (in my eyes) with her second and third looks. I liked the horsehair trimmed cape (Sorry, Nina) and the blue sequined dress with the unique dyed horsehair headdress. But (It’s a BIG but), the three ensembles were not necessarily cohesive. Nevertheless, I’m kind rooting for her. After watching this entire season, I feel emotionally attached to her story, her kookiness and especially her strong conviction to her unusual vision.
Daniel is next and it’s all black. First impression: where’s the COLOR? Where was all the red, crème and "celestial blue" we saw back in his Austin home visit? The judges slammed him for showing three all black looks. Heidi also said that she was underwhelmed. It was a snooze fest of looks. He sent out two semi-fashionable girls (Marina worked that runway walk OVERTIME!), and one stodgy "sweater girl" that held a purse as if she was the 86 year-old Queen of England.
The positive: the clothes were beautiful and very rich in their fabrications, but as I predicted, the judges said the styles were not sexy and lacked modernity. s nooze fest part deux. And then there's his stubbornness and excuses: I almost spit out my red wine when Stanley commented that his gold dress wasn’t looking right because of the models body. Really Stanley? I think the problem was more about THE DRESS and less about the model.
Michelle’s "Hunger Games"-Lone Wolf Girls were modern, fresh, new and cohesive. Zac correctly said that she "created a Universe"; the three looks seemed as if they came from one girl's closet (unlike Patricia or Daniel). If there was any criticism, I would agree with Nina and Heidi in that she may want to lose all the bags&3151;or at least a couple of them; it's a little too accessorized and tricky. But otherwise, Michelle's is the best of the four. Even the judges critiques couldn't disguise that.
Only One Can Win
Stanley and Danielthe "Snooze Boys" understandably were in the bottom while Patricia made it through and Michelle was an obvious shoo-in for the win. Daniel eventually got the boot for underwhelming and disappointing the judges and serving up "sloppy seconds," according to Heidi. Stanley got very lucky, because luxe-loving Nina is his biggest cheerleader. Coming in to this finale episode, it's pretty obvious who might win the entire thing. Patricia and Stanley better step it up...and fast! Only one can win, and by all estimations, the Hunger Games Wolf Girl has this one all wrapped up.
Europe. Haggling for prices. Lots of crying. Rapid sightseeing. Cramped economy class seats on a 10-hour trans-Atlantic flight. Sounds like the last trip I took with my family. But, nope, this was "Project Runway" Episode 12. Of course, there was also THE FASHION. Let's get started…
No Europe For You
"You’re ALL Going to EUROPE! Except You Michelle…You’ve Been a Bad, Bad Girl." Yep, that's the gist of how Heidi, along with Tim, opened this week's episode as the designers were called to the runway room. At the end of last week, we were left with the dreaded "To Be Continued." No designer got the auf from Heidi but Michelle was told that this was her "do or die" moment and she would be given "one last chance." This "do or die" moment turned out to be more of a punishment and was just plain old mean. Seriously. Especially when they added the free trips to the cast-off "helpers."
Layana, Daniel, Patricia and Stanley got the news that they would be traveling to a different European city and Michelle would not. Daniel cried (of course) hysterically and Michelle looked as if she wanted to slap someone (I would too!). Heidi then announces that the challenge for this very important weekthat decides who gets to go to Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Weekwas to create a look inspired by an international fashion capital and in addition would have to be a "high end runway" creation. They all got a WHOPPING $1,000 for fabrics. Heidi also tells them that they are not going alone; they will be taking a sewing assistant (a cast-off designer). Layana is going to Barcelona with Samantha; Patricia goes to Paris with Kate; Daniel to Berlin with Amanda; Stanley heads off to London with Richard and punished Michelle gets to stay in NYCwith little Tu.
Besides the obvious thoughts running through my head about how we only got to travel to NEW JERSEY to a figure skating rink on my season of "Project Runway," I couldn’t help but think, "Why are they taking these sewing assistants with them? Are they sewing in Europe?" As soon as I used my loud voice asking this, I realized that A) it’s nice to have company, but more importantly B) the producers of the show need them to be interacting with someone…preferably someone who speaks English.
Gaudi vs. Graffiti
Moving on… The European kids go on their trips and are taking it all in: Stanley is inspired by the architecture of Westminster Abbey and Big Ben; Daniel is emotional and crying (of course!) after seeing the Brandenburg Gate and Berlin Wall; Layana is mesmerized by Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia; and Patricia is saying, "Oui!" to the incredible Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe as well as Parisian wall graffiti. And Michelle? Well, she gets to take a $49 double decker bus tour of New York City. Wow...they REALLY wanted to punish that poor girl! Soon, after all the designers grabbed some French wine, Tapas, Shepherd's Pie and Bratwurst, it’s time to take that transatlantic flight back home.
OMG! Europe was SO Much Fun!
The following day, Michelle is reunited with the Euro Jetsetters in the 1407 Broadway workroom. They all walk in laughing, and super excited to be discussing their FAB-u-LOUS European trips. Michelle, naturally, looks as if she wants to pummel someone with her tool box. Day 2 rolls around and they are all busy creating their designs as Tim walks in for his requisite check-in. He seems to be okay with everyone except for Patricia and Layana. Guess who coincidentally ends up on the bottom on Runway Day?
East Village Fashionista, Bond Girl and a Berlin Diva
Speaking of Runway Day, sitting in as the guest judge is the very dashing (That jacket on him was like BUTTER!), singer/songwriter John Legend. The designs come out. The great: "Do or Die" Michelle's high-low gray wool cashmere strapless dress with a hand-distressed "ombre"-like hem, paired with a quilted patent leather bib was very high-end runway. She completely redeems herself to the judges and breathes a huge sigh of relief. Stanley's monastic all black look composed of a halter gown with matching caplet was STUNNING. I loved the luxurious leather paillette lining and the styling, makeup and hair on the model were superb. She looked like a Bond Girl. Crying Daniel's look was a ten as well. He finally got it right, in terms of doing young, directional and modern. His model looked like Heidi's EVIL Berlin-born Twin! I was a bit scared when he was making those "boots," thinking it might go drag-a-licious, but nope, they were perfect for his Berlin Diva. All three designers got the "Yes!" to proceed to Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Week.
Patricia and Layana were on the bottom. Patricia's Paris graffiti-inspired top and black pants ensemble wasn't bad in my eyes. I get Patricia's aesthetic (and Heidi seems to be her biggest cheerleader!). Is Patricia two minutes away from looking like an arts and crafts disaster? Yes, but it is always so unusual and unique. She has an incredibly strong point of view and you always know that it is her design. Zac Posen said her look was "Trash Couture" and that it came off looking lumpy and dumpy and he was right. But in the end, Patricia was given the "oui" because she takes risks and doesn't go for the banal. And, because Heidi LOVES her.
La Pobre Señora
Layana made a black and white lace coat with a light pink ruffled blouse, all inspired by Barcelona's architecture and tiles. The coat looked mumsy and the protruding ruffled sleeves seemed very 90s Versace. I get the Spanish Flamenco reference but that has nothing to do with that region of the country, unfortunately. Standing next to Layana, the judges noted that her model looked like an older Spanish woman wearing a house coat (Ay Caramba!) and correctly told Layana that the outfit she was wearing looked more creative and younger. Layana's look wasn't "high-end" runway, unless it was Mature Señora Fashion Week. Adios to Layana. No Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Week for her. (Well, actually, she did show as a "decoy" so don't feel too bad for her.) Next week....the infamous Tim home visits and the finale runway show...I can't wait!
Last week's HP Challenge episode garnered a win for Stanley and sent Richard packing to join the rest of the eliminated designers in a secret undisclosed location. This week, the episode begins right after the elimination as Tim and Heidi announce to the remaining five designers that it’s time for each of them to "work on your own." There will be NO MORE TEAMS! After the screams of joy dissipate, Heidi reminds them, however, that it is still "Project Runway: Teams Edition" and that tomorrow they will be getting "helpers" and sewing assistants for their next challenge. Oh, what fun. Not.
No, No, No
The following day, Tim takes the designers to the Hearst Building, home of Marie Claire Magazine, where Nina Garcia is waiting for them to announce their new challenge: to create a fashion-forward editorial look for actress Jordana Brewster. The winning look will be featured in the May 2013 edition of Marie Claire. Nina then sets the "Nina Rules": NO red carpet, NO gowns, NO t-shirt and pants, it must be EDITORIAL plus be bold in color, shape and silhouette. Before saying Adios, Nina reminds the designers of two very important Nina-isms: Do Not Disappoint or Embarrass Miss Nina. Got it. Bueno.
After Mood shopping, they all head to the workroom where Tim introduces them to their "sewing assistants": the last five eliminated designers Amanda, Kate, Richard, Samantha and Tu (PS: How lucky were all those early eliminated designers?!). Stanley (who won the last challenge) gets first pick on his helper and chooses Tu. Although he says that he chose Tu because he is an excellent sewer, I think the true reason is that he knew that he could easily boss him around.
So Over The Button Bag
Tim then brings out the dreaded button bag to "decide" who the next ones to choose are. Michelle picks Amanda, Daniel is with Samantha, Layana gets Kate and Patricia is last (of course) and she gets her nemesis of last week, Richard. Now, can we please stop this charade that the names are chosen at random? It’s been eleven seasons and unless you are THE MOST NAÏVE VIEWER in TV history, you know that the names have been pre-chosen.
Downtrodden and Helpless
Naturally, Patricia is feeling downtrodden and helpless with the thought of working with Richard, again. I would be too. But this added stress is pushing her to her breaking point. Throughout her time in the workroom, she is mentally, physically and creatively spent. It’s easy to say, "GURL! Snap out of it!" but in that surreal bubble that is "Project Runway" and all the level of stress that comes with that, I can understand sinking deeper and deeper into a black hole of creative suffocation.
And Richard ain’t helping. Patricia asks him to French seam a dress she's making so then she can work on other things and lo and behold, Richard doesn’t know how to do a French seam. She therefore has to waste valuable time teaching him which is so embarrassing, for Richard. What so-called designer coming onto "Project Runway" does not know how to French seam?! No excuse. Seriously, these last two episodes have been the worst public relations moments for Richard Hallmarq. Not only did he make a fug-a-licious look last week and was annoying to work with, now, all of America (and the rest of the world) knows he can’t sew a basic French seam. File under: bless his heart.
Besides the Patricia and Richard drama, we’ve also got Stanley and Tu. Little Tu is doing as much as he can but every other second Bossy Stanley thinks he is the Joan Crawford of the Fashion Design World and Tu is his own little Christina. Stanley is yelling orders and treating Tu like he was a sweatshop worker in a Third World country; Tu can’t talk, sleep, or take a coffee break. But as we soon find out, it was all for good and being a tyrant in the workroom ends up being a positive for Stanley.
It’s Runway Day and besides the news that Zac Posen is back from my fantasy Amalfi Coast vacation, Nina and Heidi are there, as well as actress Jordana Brewster who will be wearing whatever fabulous ensemble the winning designer made for her for the Marie Claire editorial. Here are my "Nick Two Cents" on the designs: First off, I thought Stanley’s creation was odd. The culottes looked like they were muslin and not some expensive fabric. The shape was interesting but at the same time, looked dated and not so directional. The leather jacket was well-done (Go Team Tu!), but the coloring of the brown with the off-white pants was off. Ah well, what do I know: the judges LOVED it! Nina couldn’t stop talking about how amazing it was, so he won. Layana’s was very referential to me. Zac (my new best friend!) correctly pointed out that it was very Paco Rabanne. I did appreciate how she tried to mimic the architecture of the Hearst Building on her leather and chain top although, I did not like the skirt silhouette; it didn’t make sense with the rest of the look. But once again, the judges liked it, all of it. (I need to make an appointment with my optometrist, soon!)
The Bottom…Kind Of
Daniel’s lemon yellow shorts and exaggerated shouldered jacket looked like a cross between bunny ears and a costume from "Star Trek," as the judges correctly pointed out. I was not a fan. I thought his outfit was contrived and too gimmicky. But somehow, he got praise and excused, for at least "going there." Michelle’s look was comprised of two "Nina No-No’s": a t-shirt and pants. I actually liked this and thought it was a very chic-looking t-shirt and pants, but it was a t-shirt and pants nonetheless. When Nina reminded Michelle of this plus the fact that it was a rather "pedestrian" look with little "fantasy" editorial appeal, I understood more why she was going to be in the bottom. Speaking of bad, Patricia’s was a Pocahontas mess. It looked like student work; the construction was wonky and the fit was not flattering. You could see all the pain and hardship she went through in the past 24 hours all in that one dress. So who goes home?
Do or Die…in Europe?
I could tell halfway through Heidi’s recap of the designers and their looks during the deliberation that NO ONE was going home; she was excusing each and every one of them and finding a positive. So, it came as no surprise to me that no one was aufed. Michelle was the last woman standing and as Heidi tells her that she’s in, she adds that this is a "do or die" moment and that she’s being given one more chance. What does that mean Heidi? Please explain? Well, there’s no explanation just a "to be continued." Next week’s preview shows that the designers are all going to Europe (so jealous!) and wait, why is there no Michelle? Uh Oh...
Art and Fashion. Some people argue that Fashion is Art; and others, tend to believe the opposite. This week’s "HP and Avant-Garde" episode was about the combination of both highlighting the artsy, inspirational and creative elements of making fashion.
Sold Out Michelle
In case you didn’t get the "Michelle Is Back memo, our dear Season 11 voice of reason designer Michelle Lesniak Franklin won last week’s Lord & Taylor Challenge, with the prize being that her dress would be manufactured and sold at Lord & Taylor. According to the web, her dress SOLD OUT by 8:45 am the morning following last week’s episode (I wonder if she got any profits from that!?). I’m excited that Michelle is no longer "Bad Luck Michelle" but "I Might Win This Entire Show" Michelle. Her positive design karma continued onto this week’s episode as well. Speaking of, let’s get to it…
Why Are You Not Smiling???
The remaining six designers are very tired and visibly stressed. I know exactly how they feel. Been there. Done that. When Heidi Klum opens the episode with her traditional, "Hellooo," and follows with a, "Why are you not smiling?" I wanted to shout at the TV and say to her, "Because they all hate each other, have had three hours of sleep and…THEY. ARE. OVER. IT!"
After Heidi’s niceties, the designers meet Tim Gunn at the Guggenheim Museum where he is to announce their next challenge. But before that, the producers, I mean judges, would like to "re-work" the teams. The designers are paired up in boy-girl fashion: Stanley with Michelle; Patricia and Richard, and Layana with Daniel. Once that’s done, Gunn tells the designers that this is the HP Intel Challenge: to create a piece of wearable art which should be "over the top, grand, big!" and along with that look, they should design a companion ready-to-wear piece. They are to use the HP Touchsmart Desktop to execute a textile design. The winning designer will get a whopping $10,000 cash prize plus their very own HP Envy X2.
Oil and Water…and Jersey
After going through the halls of the Guggenheim to get inspired, they head back to the 1407 Workroom to design their prints. Layana and Daniel are doing a geometric midcentury-looking print, Michelle and Stanley go for a macabre face of a woman and Richard and Patricia create graphic exaggerated triangles. Once the draping, patternmaking and cutting commence, there are some polarizing team dynamics: Good (Stanley and Michelle), Confusing (Layana and Daniel) and Hopeless (Patricia and Richard). Patricia (the artsy one) is in her zone with this challenge; she’s known for creating her own textiles so this is right up her (design) alley. Richard, however, is lost. They’re mixing like oil and water. I almost DIED early in this episode when Michelle calls out Richard and how he shouldn’t be on the show still, saying that if he were to show at NY Fashion Week, he would show 12 uncreative jersey looks down the runway. Here’s a Newsflash: HE DID SHOW at Fashion Week (he was one of five decoy designers during the Finale Show) and…he showed 12 (almost all) jersey looks. So, once again, Michelle: you were right!
The following day (one assumes), the prints the teams design miraculously come back finished, printed and in fabric. All the designers are very happy with how their prints turned out. Tim visits and he is positive about Team Michelle and Stanley but worried about the others. Patricia and Richard are still a mess together; while Patricia is excitedly diving head first into her avant-garde creation, Richard has wasted a day making a bracelet. Layana is having issues with her creation. She’s using almost all the printed fabric on her design and finally after some verbal pushin’ and shovin’, she begrudges Daniel about a 1/2 yard for his design. Princess Layana then breaks down as Tim says that her design just "isn’t working." One of the highlights of this episode, is when Tim schools Layana and tells her that this challenge is meant to be out of her comfort zone. You can tell she’s someone who has always gotten her way (possibly through her pretty looks) and is uncomfortable that well, this time, nothing is going her way. As they say in the South: bless her heart.
Daniel Gets His Groove Back and Layana UGHH!!
Runway Day and Zac is still missing. (Someone should find out if he decided to stay in the Amalfi Coast for an "extended vacation" while the show was filming.) Rachel Roy is subbing once again on his behalf. Designer Tracy Reese (First Lady Michelle Obama is a big fan), is the guest judge. The designs come out and here are my "Nick Two Cents": Daniel's ready-to-wear look comprised of a black jacket with leather sleeves and 1/2 yard printed skirt with overlay was GREAT. It was young and directional. The pairing of these two had a positive effect on Daniel in that her eye on what’s cool definitely influenced him. But then, what happened to her? Layana's design was a MESS. The judges suggested that it looked as if she threw in "everything and the kitchen sink." It did. I love when the female judges asked her, "Would you wear it?" And you know the obvious answer is, "NO!" So then, why make it? This is always a point of contention with me when I teach my students in fashion design. Finally, I was very disappointed when both Daniel and Layana were in the holding room and Layana began going off, saying that Daniel’s creation was also HERS, and therefore she was angry she wasn’t getting props for it as well. Daniel’s face reflected what I was thinking: Who. The. He**. Does. She Think. She Is? One word: UGHH!!
Stanley: Shalom Harlow 2013
Michelle and Stanley’s looks were the obvious stars of the bunch. They looked cohesive, inspirational, editorial. The "woman shouting" print was edgy, bold and yes, dark in its intention. Michelle’s coat was stupendous and glorious and very well done, while Stanley’s exaggerated pleated baby doll dress was very Alexander McQueen. Rreminded me of the famous dress model Shalom Harlow wore where the robot spray painted her on the runway stage.) As a result, Stanley wins. Was it ready-to-wear? This could be argued. I would say it was "Ready-to-Wear Runway” for sure. for me.
Patricia, Yes. Richard, No.
And now, for the worstTeam Patricia and Richard. First off, I actually liked Patricia’s look, especially her presentation. I appreciated the avant-garde-like aspect of her design; it was conceptual, thought-provoking and I got it. And I was happy to see that Heidi did too. The rest of the judges did not get it, however. But that wasn’t the biggest problemit was Richard. His design of a printed top and askew pleated skirt was not cool nor ready-to-wear (Well, maybe in 1989). He wanted to stay away from doing his typical color-blocked jersey, but maybe he should have just gone ahead and done that. When the auf was about to be announced, poor Patricia began sobbing thinking she was out, but as we all knew, it was Richard’s time to go. Next week, the designers are finally on their own. No Teams…well, kind of: they’ll be getting help from some of the eliminated designers. Oh, and Zac Posen is back from the Amalfi Coast! Yeayyy!
I almost lost all hope for this season's designers after seeing the "outfits" they made for those sexy Thunder From Down Under Aussie hunka-hunks last week. But, we will try to put that episode in a "Project Runway" time capsule and send it to Mars and hope it is lost in space forever. It’s a fresh new challenge, fresh new designs and fresh new conflict and drama.
This week, the seven remaining designers head over to the Fifth Avenue Flagship of Lord & Taylor to meet Tim and a guest, to get their next challenge. Let me take a big guess what the next challenge might be? Could it be the "Lord & Taylor Challenge"? Before that is announced, Tim tells the designers that once again, the judges have "decided" to re-evaluate their team situation. And when Tim says the judges, he really means, the PRODUCERS have decided to change it up, thank you very much. Stanley is paired with Patricia (just so her kookiness can annoy someone else this time); Daniel is with Michelle (so she can turn his 50-something "Fantasy Muse" into a younger client); and naturally, RichardCEO of the "I Hate Layana fan club"has to work with, Layana. Poor Samantha is thrown in with that pairing, I’m assuming to help with the awkward pregnant pauses and actually have some dialogue for the producers to record.
A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose
Back to the challenge: Tim and Suzanne Timmins, Sr. Vice President and Fashion Director of Lord & Taylor, announce that these three teams must design ready-to-wear looks inspired by the iconic Lord & Taylor rose. The designers can create dresses, separates, or a combination of both for Spring 2013 and they must retail for under $250. Each designer will make their own looks. And the winner will have their look(s) manufactured and sold at Lord & Taylor and will be featured in their Fifth Avenue window. Again, I ask: why even keep this "Teams" shtick? Unless...oh yeah, we need the DRAMA. Speaking of...let's get to it, pronto!
First: Stanley and Patricia
These two had barely taken out the fabric and notions they purchased at Mood and Stanley "The Controller" was already bossing Patricia around; he's micro-managing her design and construction. Stanley keeps asking, "Why are you doing this? Why are you making that?"and he doesn't let up. Bless Patricia's heart, she just sits there wide-eyed (yet visibly perturbed). Personally, I would have shut that Stanley down, with ONE LOOK huney! Stanley finally chills when he sees that what Patricia is making looks kind of cute. Side note: he should be more worried about what he's making because that below-the-knee shift dress he's creating is not looking young, fresh or modern.
Second: Michelle and Daniel
Poor Michelle. First, she was the "Bad Luck Charm" in all the earlier challenges, now she's got to deal with "I-Have-Issues-and-I'm-Projecting" Daniel. Michelle makes a comment about his pink fabric being very pink (PS: J'adore that bubblegum pink color!). That gets him all a-flutter. Then, she says something about how they're designing for a girl who's around 21 years of age, and that sends him into a tizzy. Daniel: get a grip mija, it's not that serious. Even he acknowledges that the woman he designs for is "of a certain age." And now he's mad at Michelle for (sort of) reminding him of this and to "think young" (in not so many words). He's stressed and projecting his design insecurities. Oh, and yeah, Michelle is working on a cute chartreuse dress and possibly a vest. But that doesn't matter...well, yet.
And then there's Richard, Layana and Samantha
Last week, Richard was "thrown under the bus" by several of the designers including Layana and Amanda, when Heidi asked the "Who's the weak link?" (Can she stop asking this, please!) question during the final runway. Therefore, he was very sensitive coming into this and doubly sensitive that the judges put him with Layana and Samantha. The entire time, this week, Richard was barely looking at Layana or even acknowledging she existed. Their teammate Samantha was left as the Switzerland of the threesome; just trying to "make them all get along."
The Little Chartreuse Dress
Finally, it's Runway Day and Zac Posen is not there (again) but "Project Runway Hall of Fame" judge Rachel Roy (Love her!) is his replacement. The designs come out. Stanley's design looked like a shift dress from the Escada Resort Collectionperfect for a 56 year-old Palm Beach socialite. Patricia's top and Capri pant were good. The entire look was a bit "Princess Cruises Luxe" but good, nonetheless; they were safe. Daniel's bright pink sheath dress looked (wait for it) too old. The shape, length (sleeves and dress) and even the styling (What was with that Barbara Walters hair?!) did not look youthful. The construction was wonky as well. But he got a pass. Michelle's was the best, by far. She made a chartreuse silk dress with leather detail that was young, fresh, simple yet still directional and perfect for the Lord & Taylor girl. Congrats to Michelle and I'm especially excited because next month, I'll be launching my new dress line "NV Nick Verreos" which will also be carried at Lord & Taylorincluding the Fifth Avenue Flagship so...see ya there Miss Michelle!
On the bottom was "Team Richard, Layana and Samantha": Layana's floral print and leather floor-length dress got mixed reviews from the judges. I echoed their thoughts that the floral print was a bit "mumsy." Richard's color-blocked jersey creation was well executed but way too basic for the judges' eyes. Samantha's design was deemed too junior (I agree), especially with that heart cut-out. I almost thought that because Samantha's design had some creativity (the judges usually love that), she would be "In" and Richard would be "Adios." But I was wrong. It was "bye bye" to Samantha. At the very least, she came out smelling like a rose in terms of not getting involved with the Richard-Layana drama. Now, since the drama queens are all still there, I predict A LOT more DRAMA to come, but hopefully, there will also be some FAB fashion. After all, that is what this show is about...at least for me.