Wowsa. That's all I can say. This was an eye-opening episode for sure, for several reasons, not the least being the fact that there were hot, semi-naked MENSESSS showing their six-pack abs. But even with all that distraction, there was nothing to hide just how BAAAD those clothes were. The outfits they ALL made were a mess. Plain and simple. But as they say, "The show must go on," so let’s get started.
First, let's get all the important nitty-gritty parts of the challenge out of the way. This week, the designerswho were coupled in teams of two as of last weekwere put into two teams of four, per the judges' requests. Patricia, Daniel, Michelle and Stanley were part of Team Shades of Grey and Richard, Layana, Samantha and Amanda titled themselves Team Slick and Hip. They were given their challenge: to create looks for the famous Thunder From Down Under male performers/strippers. They were given $750 to create three looks per team (that's $250 per look!) and one day to do it. So there you go. This should be fun right? Not.
Season 11 Faux-Kumbaya
First, let’s talk about how mean some of these designers are getting in their confessionals. I found this very interesting. Why? When I went to NYC to attend the "Project Runway" Season 11 Finale Runway Show at NY Fashion Week last month and consequently, attended a "Project Runway" reunion party where they were all there, all the Season 11 designers were very, "I LOVE EVERYONE!" When I asked them, they all individually said to merepeatedlyhow much they all got along and because of the teams aspect of the seasonthey were all "lifelong friends." But here's the thing: last monthwhen this reunion party occurredwe were only on the third episode, and NONE of them had seen all this behind-the-scenes dissing. I would LOVE to talk to them now and see how they feel about all the supposed Season 11 Kumbaya.
Moving on...I noticed right away that these season's designers were making mistakes. I guess it's the teacher in me, but it was obvious just how off track they were. First off, they all took each of the dancers/performers measurements and they were SUPERhuman. I noticed the male forms used to drape in the workroom were size 38/40. These men were NOT that size. But that's OK. If you are a trained designer, you know what to do: get the measurements and then pad your form to get it the size of your client. They did not do that, especially when it came to the jacket and pant making (Hello Layana and Amanda!). Speaking of Layana, the minute I saw her semi-finished jacket on the forwithout sleeveseven I knew that it would not fi. Those armholes were WAY too inset from where they should beit's amateur hour at 1407 Broadway. And yes, soon on the runway, it would all reveal itself. Literally!
Let's discuss the Runway Day. Along with the usual suspects of Heidi, Nina and Zac, the guest judge was actress/singer Emmy Rossum. Now, the first thing that came to mind was, "Where's Fabio?" or at least actor Channing Tatum from "Magic Mike." But that's neither here nor there. Ialong with Heidiwas very excited to see these hunka-hunka men in their fabulous looks. Even with the craziness in the workroom, I was hopeful that the dancers might be able to hide the flaws. The designs came out and both Team Slick and Hip and Team Shades of Grey did bad. Really Bad. When I saw the looks come down the runway I murmured to myself, "Ummm, NO ONE should win!” Well, I think Heidi heard me because...for the first time in "Project Runway's" eleven seasons, there wasn't an actual winning designer and look.
Out of the two teams, the judges had to pick a good one by default, and that dishonor went to: Team Shades of Grey (Patricia, Daniel, Michelle and Stanley). They were not as bad as the other team, but still pretty bad. Daniel's trench coat was boring and very boxy. The pants, overall, were also bad: too long and too loose. Michelle's plaid cropped vest was the only thing that seemed anything close to "creative" but even then, it looked like something from an "International Male" catalog circa 1994, and Patricia's "arts-and-craft" basket weave shirt got lost in the bad-mix. No one was good and therefore the judges made the right decision of not choosing a top winner from this top team. They all crawled back with their not-so-much-of-a-"Project Runway"-Diva-tail between their legs.
Not Slick, Not Hip.
Team Slick and Hip (Richard, Amanda, Samantha, Layana) were deemed the worst of the two. The shirts were too long (Richard), a tie was too short and a jacket was way too feminine (even more than the suit I made for Daniel Vosovic in Season 2, thank you very much!) On the subject of the shirts, I agree with judge Zac Posen: you are taught in fashion school to make a dress shirtcollars, plackets, cuffs, band...it's Fashion School 101. Even if it is a women's shirt, it basically means you can also make a proper men's shirt as well. So...the excuse of, "I just can't do menswear," I am not buying. Amandabless her untrained heartmade some pants that were ripping right in front of the judges. As my drag queen friends would say: TRAGIQUE. When they were each asked who was the weakest link, I wanted to SCREAM and say, "All y'al!” But as it turns out, it was Amanda's time to say bye bye and I am more than happy to bid adieu to this whole mess of a menswear challenge. It had the makings of something fun and exciting, but these designers #failed.
Ducks. Yes, Ducks. Miss Heidi walked out with a DUCK. Last week we had "Mature Ladies" and this week: ducks. When La Klum walked out with a duck this week, I instantly thought "I didn't know Aflac was one of the sponsors of this season and how are they going to make stylish uniforms for Insurance Salesmen?!" I am sure that most of the designers thought the same thing. But, alas, I was wrong...
Unconventional Part Deux
After the "Heidi and Duck Show," the remaining Season 11 designers headed to their 1407 Broadway Workroom, arriving to tables piled high with "pyramids" of Duct Tape. In case it isn't 100% obvious at this point, the challenge for this week--as described by Tim Gunn and Bill Kahl, Executive VP of Marketing at ShurTech Brandswas to create a garment made out of Duct Tape. But not just any ol' garment: a Prom Dress, darlings. In case you're counting, this is the SECOND Unconventional Challenge this season. I am not sure if there has ever been a season with TWO Unconventional Challenges, but it's smart of the producers to do this, since the fans LOVE this stuff.
Tim tells the designers that the judges want to see "fresh and innovative thinking" in terms of their Prom-a-Licious designs. He also says that they will have one day to do it and that they will later meet with high school students who will vote on their designs, which will count for 20% of the final "Who's In" and "Who's Out" decision. The designers are paired up in 5 teams of two: Stanley/Layana; Kate/Tu; Michelle/Amanda; Richard/Daniel and Patricia/Samantha. There's no Mood shopping; just duct tape and muslin.
Teams Duct Prom
Back in the "Duct Workroom," Mustachioed Daniel is paired with Richard and thinking of Beyoncé for their lookusing only gold tape. While Tim makes his requisite visit, those two boys add that there's also a "Mexican Mariachi" inspiration to their dress. Ay Dios Mio! Of the other teams, Layana is not happy that Team Daniel/Richard got all the gold tape and vents to her teammate Stanley who secretly wants to backslap her. Tim likes what they're making and is "not concerned." Samantha is not on the same duct tape-wavelength as her teammate Patricia, but then again, I wouldn't be either: let's just say Patricia has a design aesthetic that is unique to her. When Tim surveys what they're up to, he notices that they are on two different "design pages." He wonders why they're not collaborating and suggests that their design might look like a "Bride of the Tin Woodman." Ouch. In the Kate/Tu team, Kate is the boss and Tu is her assistant. They're making a gown for the prom and Kate is too focused on making the tape look like actual fabric (is that a bad thing?). Tim thinks their end result may be too "flat and lackluster." We'll see.
Short & Slutty
Time to head to a secret NYC high school gym and have privileged NYC high school students judge the creations on how "prom proper" they are. The models saunter down and by the looks of it, all is pretty good. Some of the designers comment about how high school kids these days want "short & slutty" for their proms. PS: When haven't they? The kids interact with the designers and take an up-close look at the creations and cast their votes. Michelle and Amanda feel like the girls with no dates, as no one seems interested in their dress. It looks like Michelle and Amanda are on a fast track to the bottom once again. With that, it's time for everyone to go to bed and get ready for the Runway Day...
Slutty and Puffy
Runway Day and the special guest judge is bubblegum pink haired-fashion designer Chris Benz. I have met Chris several times and he has always been kind, articulate and very intelligent. He was all that and more, during the judging. Immediately, Heidi announces that the top vote getter amongst the prom Kids was Team Patricia/Samantha. At first this seemed like a surprise, but then I realized not so much; the high-low style was very short in the front, so we got the "slutty" out of the way and the students seemed to respond to it's uniqueness. The judges voted and they also liked Patricia and Samantha's look. Heidi loved it and Nina thought it was very "Katy Perry." I liked the ombre duct tape manipulation but the "Jiffy Pop"-looking silhouette was too cartoon-y for me.
Bad Luck Michelle No More...
The next best were Stanley/Layana and Michelle/Amanda. I think Stanley/Layana did a good job. I loved the bubblegum pink waist bow tie but I think it should have been shorter; not hoochie-short, but shorter. The dress looked a bit heavy to me. Michelle and Amanda's was the best. It was a great silhouette with movement and a sense of fun; perfect for the prom Fashionista. I would have removed the jutting point of the bustier and created a one-shoulder strap, but besides that, good job ladies. Michelle gets chosen as the winner of the Challenge and finally "Bad Luck" Michelle has broken her curse.
Steak Restaurant Leftover Gold Aluminum Prom Dress
And now, let's discuss the Beyonce-meets-Mariachi-inspired prom dress courtesy of Daniel and Richard. It was way too obvious from the minute I saw those tacky gold "ruffles" that this would end up on the bottom. Besides the fact that this brought back way too many memories of my mid-80s prom date ensemble, it looked like something you wrap your leftovers in from a steak restaurant. It's one thing to be purposely tacky a la Jeremy Scott but I'm not so sure if they were going for that. Then there was Team Kate/Tu: I actually liked this gown. I agreed with Zac Posen that a long gown is not a bad thing when it comes to proms, especially ones that suggest a serious Red Carpet vibe; and this one did. I get that Tu let Kate be the boss and he was just her "intern", but does that merit an "Auf"? On the "which is the worst" dilemma, I would have given that to Richard or Daniel. Period. But as we know, that's not how it works in "Project Runway Land". The judges look at the whole season and not the challenge at the moment. So with that, it was "Bye-Bye" to Tu... AND Kate! In a season where you might expect double eliminations, it was still a bit of a surprise on this challenge. There have been far worse designs over the season that deserved the "Auf" (I'm talking to you Amanda!), but as everyone predicted with this season of teams, some designers are getting saved based on their partnerships. And let's admit it, the producer's needed to have an even number of designers for next week.
And speaking of next week: Male Strippers. Oh dear....I can't wait!
When you combine Joan Rivers with the thrill of designing for "Mature Women" and then throw in my Fantasy "kooky" aunt from Boca…Boy you've really got my attention! Yes kids, this week on Season 11 "Project Runway: Teams Edition" (if it still could be called that) the designers were faced with the challenge of creating ensembles for "Ladies of a Certain Indeterminate Age." Let's Recap...
Who Do You Not Want To Work With? Because That's Who You'll Be Working With
Last week, Matthew was out and Richard was in. Michelle continued to be the "Bad Luck Charm” of the seasonas well as the funniest and most "on point" commentator, and platinum-haired Aussie Benjamin is confident about getting such high praise from the judges in regards to his strapless-and-sexy Miranda Lambert gown. Cue the "He's going to be on the BOTTOM this week" thoughts in your head (or at least mine!). Heidi greets the remaining designers with the dreaded button bag and since last week Michelle was left without a partner, it's time to put her somewhere. Earlier, while at the Atlas Apartments, she comments about how she does NOT want to be paired up with Patricia. Well huney, I think you might want to think twice about using your loud voice around the producers because VOILA! Guess whose name Heidi draws from her button bag? Yep! Patricia. Coincidence? Not so mucheeey. This isn't my first time at this Reality Show Rodeo.
Heidi then tells the designers that "Fashion is timeless" and with that, sends them off. They all meet at the Midtown Loft Dance Hall where there are several "mature ladies" in a dance class. Tim walks in and announces that the Challenge this week is to create a fashionable look for a mature client. The camera then pans to the designers as Richard flashes THE FAKEST smile EVAH. Mr. Gunn tells the designers who their clients are and soon afterward, it's time to consult and Mood shopwith $200 per look. TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS EACH!? I flashback to the days when that would have been the budget for the Couture Challenge!
Not Following the "Teams" Point of All This
I am still unsure as to where the "teams" aspect of this whole thing comes into play since it seems that each designer is doing their own "thang". I'm thinking "are the mature ladies Lesbian partners?" Nope. This challenge was more about each designer going off and creating whatever they wanted and just praying the other person doesn’t mess up.
Poncho Patricia and "Get-It-Together" Amanda
Since the designers had only one day to do this challenge, the workroom was Stress Central. Tim walks in for a visit and surveys what they have been up to. He loves Michelle's look and is questionable of Patricia's poncho. I'm questionable of that poncho too. For goodness sakes, it is a mess and reminds me of a "Before" photo for a Jennie Craig ad. What is she thinking? When I see Michelle's on-point smack-talk confessionals, I almost want to give her a "Hey Gurl!" high-five. Moving on. Amanda is struggling and I have to admit that I can't understand why. IT'S A DRESS!! Amanda is a woman (the last time I checked) and her go-to line is that she designs for "real women", yet she is having issues. Stop the whining, put your nose to the pattern table and make a friggin' dress lady!
We Love You Joan!
Day of runway and Zac Posen is not there. Six episodes in and he's really become the new Michael Kors; showing up whenever he feels like it. The beautiful, talented and very successful Rachel Roy is there instead. In addition, the "Special Guest Judge" is the one-and-only Joan Rivers. PS: There is a GOD! Design for a Mature Client + Joan Rivers = Genius. Her daughterand Executive Producer of E!'s "Fashion Police"Melissa Rivers, is there, only because one figures, Joan needs a travel partner in First Class. The designs come out and here are my "Nick Two Cents":
Jumpsuit Polished vs. Fun Fab
I love Michelle's flower print dress with crystal beaded waist. In my opinion it was one of the best and most finished dresses on the runway. Patricia changed her "mumsie" poncho into a blue-and-gold wrap/shawl that looked elegant that still brought her threesome team down. She survived another week and we are guaranteed for more Michelle behind-the-scenes Patricia Hate Talk. My favorites on the runway were Samantha's chartreuse and animal print dress as well as Stanley's navy jumpsuit with matching bolero. Now, both of these designers had an "upper hand" since their clients were closer to a model's size than the other ladies. This isn't fair. When you look at these types of challenges in Project Runway history, it almost always seems to benefit the designers whose "real models" were of smaller sizes. But they both still designed solid garments. I agreed with Fab Joan (and disagreed with the judges) in that I thought Samantha's dress was really good and perfect for her client. Stanley's look was polished and chic but his client was having crotch issues and yes, those cropped pants were TOO cropped. Based on the color, fit and "young spirit"#151;I would have given Miss Samantha the prize. But it was Stanley who got the win.
Now, onto the Bottom: Team Kate and Tu and Team Benjamin and Amanda. No one, in their right mind watching this episode was surprised to see Tu or Amanda there. Tu's moss green dress was badly constructed and looked like a uniform for an airline I NEVER want to fly with. Now, let's discuss Amanda: the ENTIRE episode dealt with her and her whining and struggles. Her printed dress was a MESS. The sleeves, the unintentionally asymmetrical hem, the covered-up mistake in the center back...WOW, there was nothing right about this dress.
Grand Dame Auf
But Benjamin? I couldn't understand why he was thereuntil the judges went more in depth about his design during their deliberation. At first, I liked the dress he created; heck, even his client liked it. It looked very Oscar de la Renta…on a budget. But then I realized, "Oh, it looks Very Oscar de la Renta On a Budget!" Ooops. The sleeve cap was too tight, the skirt too poufy and the color too predictable for an "older lady." I guess if I were to choose which one of the two dresses was more innovative, it would be Amanda&3151;as bad as her construction was. So with that we say goodbye to the Aussie. He can at least sleep well knowing he made his ADORABLE client happy. And wasn’t that the main point anyway?!
"A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock N Roll"…that’s the name of this episode, but it easily could also have been titled "A Little Messy, A Little 80s, Little Self-Confidence and LOTS of Miranda Lambert’s Boobies"! When we last left our designers, Tim Gunn had made an announcement as he waved adieu to bespectacled cat sweater-lovin' Joe, saying that there was still "some business to be taken care of." I fantasized that maybe there would be a revolt of angry cats outside of Parsons, or better yet, someone had cheated and put extra fertilizer spray on their flower creations. Alas, none of that…
No More Teams!
As the designers gather at the foot of the runway stage, Tim and Heidi come out with the dreaded button bag. They announce that there will be no more teams (cue the SCREAMS of delight!). Instead, each designer will be paired up. Samantha chooses Daniel; Richard goes with Stanley; Patricia picks Layana; Matthew is with Michelle; Kate goes for Tu and finally Amanda and Benjamin are left as the last couple standing. With that, it’s back to the Atlas apartments to get some sleep.
Line Dancin' & Tequila Shots (NOT!)
The following day, the coupled designers make their way to Johnny Utah’s Bar, a Country & Western establishment. Tim is waiting and again, in my fantasy episode, he’s there to teach the designers how to line dance and down tequila shots. But no, he's there to announce their next challenge: to design for country music star Miranda Lambert. Each two-designer team must design 2 looksa performance look and a red carpet ensemble. With that, they’re off to Mood with a whopping $400 per team ($200 each) to gather supplies for their looks. PS: I am now officially really envious of all the money they are getting as compared to what we got back when the show had NO MONEY!
Now, speaking of money, some of the designers didn’t even NEED all that money. Benjamin comes in way under budget when he goes to check out at Mood. Then there's "Team Richard and Stanley" who again, had money left over and (wisely as it turns out) decide to buy "Thank You Mood" t-shirts. Back in the workroom, after several hours of designing, Tim finally returns from his Boot-Scootin'-Boogie Line Dancing Class at Johnny Utah’s (my fantasy bonus episode), to make his visit. One designer from each pairing takes the "Performance" look while the other takes the "Red Carpet" and all of them discuss with Tim what they are creating.
Gaga for Tu
There's lots of leather, denim, some lace and curiously enough, a "Fringe Virus" attacking the workroom. Amanda, who lucky enough lives in Nashville, is hand-cutting jersey fringe for her "performance" look and Richard is also making a fringed "Tina Turner"-looking creation. Of note, little Tu is getting a lot of airtime this week with his cute Thai-accented comments as well as his Lady Gaga-inspired creation. Mr. Gunn is NOT having any of it. Here's a little DISH: Tim is not a fan of people-especially young upstart designers-using Lady Gaga as their muse. You should see his face when we are at the castings and we hear designer after designer, exclaiming in adulation, "Lady Gaga" when Tim asks who or what inspires them: he takes off his glasses and gets hot under his Brooks Brothers collar! Tim wisely advises Tu to tone it down and make it a bit less "Gaga."
A Pleated Skirt???
Day of the Runway Show and some of the designers are having issues: Richard has no lining for his fringed creation. In a perfect Make it Work moment, he remembers his Mood t-shirt, cuts it up and sews a tube-dress lining. And then there's Matthew. He's partnered up with Michelle and he's in way over his head; he's got about an hour before the runway show and doesn't have a bottom to his look. Really?!? I am sure that he is a sweet, sweet person, however...When you come on "Project Runway," you should arrive with your "ammunition", i.e. knowledge of quick draping, pattern making and sewing skills. In a simple challenge like this, he should have been able to go on "Design Auto Pilot" and pull out something creative from his bag of tricks. But stalling, going through the I-can't-believe-it's-Runway-Day-and-I-don't-have-a-bottom is amateur hour. At the last minute, he went for the "I'll make a pleated skirt" and well, as you know, the end result wasn't so creative-or good.
Thank You Mood
Heidi, Nina, Zac and Miranda Lambert, are present to judge. Miranda is va-va voom in a very cleavage-revealing black ensemble. All I could focus on were her "sisters." She wasn't lying when she said she embraces her curves! On the runway one of the best coupled teams were Amanda and Benjamin. Amanda's performance look was fun and very performance-appropriate, while Benjamin's red carpet strapless gown was slithery and sexy. I wasn't a fan of the one-breast sequin fringe; it was distracting and trust me, it would get a no-no from red carpet commentators. Nevertheless, the judges ADORED it. Richard and Stanley's looks were my favorite. I actually thought Stanley's red carpet plunging neckline gown was a definite YES!, even with the full gathered skirt section. But it was Richard who got the win for his fringed dress-with lining. Thank You Mood!
Thank You Zac Posen
And now for the not-so-good. Team Daniel and Samantha were in the bottom, along with Matthew and Michelle. First up, Daniel: his design was tragic and tacky. He was so proud of the leather "soutache"-like detail he created, yet it looked like a crumpled-up Hefty bag. Nina called it, "Bad, bad, bad." Ayyy dios mio! Zac Posen, interestingly enough, called him on his inclination for being referential. Thank God somebody (other than me) said it. In the first challenge I said his winning design looked very similar to what Raf Simons did for his first Dior Haute Couture collection. Then last week's design reminded me of Giambattista Valli Fall/Winter 2012 Haute Couture.
Bad Luck Michelle and Sad Matthew
But in the judges eyes, the worst of all were Matthew and Michelle. Poor Michelle, she is like the Season 11 bad luck charm. Not sure why. I love her personality and I actually think she's pretty great as a designer. But somehow, she's always on the losing team. I actually liked her design this week. Yes, that necklace was a bit much but the rest was directional and well-made. The problem is that it was a design that reflected Michelle's cool aesthetic but had nothing to do with Miranda Lambert. But I do think they were a little too hard on her. I'm glad Michelle stood up for her design and her love of Rock of Ages and AC/DC. Her coupled partner, however, did not stand up for his (lack of) design. Matthew's creation of a strapless pointed hem bustier and basic pleated skirt had zero performance appeal and no sparkle that someone in the "nose bleed" section could see. They looked like separates a teenager could have bought on sale at Forever 21. You could tell that he knew it was bad, and it reflected in his ability to barely stand up for himself on the runway. With that, he got the boot-scoot. Next week, we go from country and western fringe to...elderly Couture? Yikes!
Dear Future "Project Runway" Contestants
It is imperative that you watch previous seasonsyes ALL THE WAY BACK to the beginningbefore you even think about going on "Project Runway." If so, one particular designer this season would not have made the mistake she did on this week’s challenge-which incidentally, almost caused her to get the big ol' Auf. It seems to be chic to say that you’ve never EVER watched previous seasons of the show before. How do I know this? Because I hear it ALL the time from contestants as well as EVERY year during the castings. But, as everybody knows "Project Runway" is a competition that requires the knowledge of its history, as well as the obvious skills to do well in it. You would do yourself a disservice by ignoring the former. And if Amanda had done her "Project Runway" history homework, she might have remembered that my dear fellow Season 2 contestant, Andrae Gonzalo, was eliminated for making a dress out of (drum roll) GREEN MOSS, the same plant she chose. And so it goes…
Flowers Are Back
Fans and viewers of "Project Runway" LOVE the Unconventional Challenge. It’s one of the most popular challenges. But for me it was torture. For my Season 2 Unconventional Challenge, we had to make dresses out of flowers. I stood for about five hours in the workroom just spraying water on them because I had NO IDEA what I was going to do. I also kept thinking, "How does this prove to the judges that a designer is worthy of showing at NY Fashion Week?" In my opinion, it doesn’t. It took nine seasons to bring the flowers back and this time it was with a twist. The results were surprisingly whimsical as well as stylishly sublime. For this season of designers there were few mental road blocks and it ended up being one of the best runway shows in PR history.
Smells Like Another Sponsor Tie-In
Team Keeping It Real and Dream Team gather at their workroom to find Tim overlooking many fragranced candles. Another fragranced-themed challenge, I thought? As if reading my mind, Gunn quickly explains that these were Glade 2-in-1 candles and they were there because this was the Glade 2-in-1 Unconventional Challenge. First, he says that the teams will make something using flowers, but that’s not all. Heidi walks in to announce the "2" of the 2-in-1: they will also be using hardware. Each team is to create a cohesive line of 6 looks which will have to include both hard (hardware) and soft (flowers) elements.
Almost Even Teams
Coming off last week’s "Heidi Klum Challenge," Team Keeping It Real is still celebrating its winning streak and Dream Team is feeling defeated, and then there’s the issue of team number inequality. Tim’s gonna fix that: he tells the five-member Dream Team that they can choose two designers from the other team. They chose a boy and a girl (how gender diplomatic!), Stanley and Layana. Then, Tim tells Team Keeping It Real that they are to chose a designer from Dream Team. They pick Michelle which does not make her happy.
Bigger Budget Envy
Both teams head to a hardware store and then to the flower mart to get their supplies with a whopping budget of $2,500. Side note: have the budgets for these designers gotten bigger and bigger as the seasons have progressed? I had $100 to make my "Flower Power" dress in Season 2 and these kids got approximately $400 EACH!
A Gay Disaster Bunker
After buying all the leaves, calla lilies, chicken wire, buckets, blinds and hot glue needed to make a Gay Bunker To Protect Yourself from a Nuclear Disaster…the teams are back in the workroom for two days of creating. Team Keeping It Real is soon realizing they have no cohesion with their designs and when Tim Gunn makes his visit on Day 2, he tells them so. Keeping It Real’s Michelle uses her loud voice once again and decides their theme should be "Decades of Fashion." Amanda is making a dress out of green moss and it’s falling apart and not looking cute. Her teammates help by offering advice. On Dream Team, Stanley takes the lead and suggests they create looks based on Dior. They’re looking pretty good. Could this be their time to finally win a challenge?
Woo Hoo It’s Bette Midler!
Day of the runway show and Bette Midler is welcomed as the Next Coming of Christ (I would have been excited too!). A fashion blogger is there as well as judges Heidi, Nina and Zac. Both teams did exceptional work and both received "job well done" nods from all the judges (With all that money they had, they should’ve!). Of the two teams, however, Dream Team was the best for the first time this season and for that: congrats!
Dream Team: My Two Cents
Matthew created a nicely done halter dress using mops for the top and yellow moss for the skirt section. Benjamin hand-loomed his own fabric using strings and made a one-shoulder asymmetrical top and did a flared skirt of flowers. Stanley created a very sophisticated dress using white roses and green leaves. His was one of my favorites. Tu’s was another of my favorites. He used rope and calla lilies, making a vest, an original necklace and a wonderful skirt. The judges sort of skipped over him and how great his ensemble was. Not sure why. Layana made a caged dress out of hydrangeas, wire and string. Hers could have easily been on a Paris Couture runway. Very new Dior meets Valentino. It was finished and flawlessly elegant. But it was Samantha who got the win with her contact paper, mesh and green leaves dress. The leaves were "trapped" within a wire mesh pencil and peplum’ed skirt and the judges agreed that it looked fragile, delicate yet so fashion week ready. But I still would have voted for Layana as the Winner.
Team Keeping It Real: My Two Cents
Team Keeping It Real received the "Almost Winning Team" title this week, coming in second. Daniel’s metal mesh net, PVC pipe, lamb’s ear flower dress was UBER chic and reminiscent of recent Giambattista Valli Haute Couture, especially with that full front peplum. Once again, it was referential, but still fab. I also loved the model’s hair. That hairstyle should get a special award from L’Oreal Paris. Richard and Michelle made a caged Gaultier-like dress using blinds, leaves and flowers. I loved how the flowers and leaves hid in between the blinds. Patricia made a that was verging on a stylish Miss Papua New Guinea. Kate’s was a well executed tea-length gown of calla lilies and carnations. It looked expensive and appropriate for Le Crillon Debutante Ball. Good job kids!
The Flower and Hardware Bombs: Mumsie Joe and Moss Shift Amanda
There were two underwhelming designs in Dream Team, however, which brought them down: "Cat Sweater" for his design. It was mumsie with wrong proportions and an unflattering style. He should have gone over-the-top volume (as judge Zac Posen suggested) or at least balanced the fullness up top with slimness at the bottom. It was one of the worst…in an otherwise good bunch. Now, onto Amanda: her green moss with cotter pins shift dress was also at the bottom (See: Andrae Season 2). After so much struggling in the workroom, her final dress wasn’t half bad. Her team, however really threw her under the "Project Runway" bus when Heidi asked them who they thought should be eliminated. Interesting that in this Team situation, they all agreed. It was a very "Survivor" reality show mentality. But in the end, it was Joe’s time to go. And I agreed completely with that decision.
As the episode is ending, Tim walks in and announces to the teams that "it’s not over" and Heidi had some news…I wonder what this could be? An extra green moss challenge? Andrae Gonzalo from Season 2 was outside waiting to de-moss-ify all the designs? Heidi was being attacked by kittens revolting against her decision to Auf Joe? What could it be? Stay tuned… Until then, make sure to rent all the previous seasons of the show and do your "Project Runway" history homework, kids!
This episode should have been sponsored by Kleenex and Klonopin. Seriously. Every other contestant on both the Dream Team and Team Keeping It Real was either crying or freaking out to the camera describing the need for validation or a gold star for "making it." Only three challenges in (about a week in real-time filming) and yep, it’s Stress Nation up in "Project Runway" Land. Why are these kids so stressed? Because it’s a "Heidi Klum Challenge" of course!
Four Time's a Charm
For the fourth time in 11 seasons, it’s "Heidi Time"...again! In Season 7, the designers had to create a red carpet look for Miss Klum; Season 8 was when the contestants had to create designs for Heidi’s New Balance active wear line; last season (10) had the designers creating outfits for Heidi’s Babies"R"Us line of children's wear.
Smells Like a Gorgeous German Model
As the designers stand in front of pink boxes wrapped in black ribbon and spice-and-fruit baskets, Tim announces that, it's time for another Heidi Klum Challenge. She is launching a new fragrance, entitled "Surprise" and needs outfits to wear for the launch campaign. The challenge for each team is to create six looks for her and she will pick two winning outfits-one for the commercial and one for the launch press event.
Heidi specifies that they should follow the colors of the packaging (pink, black and gold) and the designs should mix femininity with something "hard." It should look good from all angles and be sexy NOT slutty. Sounds easy enough (Well, at least for me). Give me an actress, singer and I know what styles from my collection would work best for them. In terms of Heidi, I’ve been lucky enough to have had her wear not one but two of my designsin an appearance on the Conan O’Brien show and on Season 7 "Project Runway" while she was preggersso it was interesting to see what these designers were going to come up with.
Let the Kitten Sweaters Go
Consulting, sketching, Mood shopping and divvying up of duties follow. As it’s become the norm now, some designers take entire outfits individually and some work in twos. I was a bit frightened for Team Keeping It Real's Amanda and Joe since her design aesthetic is more structured while his consists of sweaters with kittens. When questioned on his design direction and warned that it may end up on "What Not To Wear," he said he’d be proud of that. I almost wanted to slap his glasses off his face and yell, "Well darling, THIS IS NOT THAT Challenge!" Luckily, he came to his senses and realized that this was the time to let go of his "Kitten Sweater Designer Ego."
Brazilian Doubts, Matthew Boring and Aussie Crashing
Layana and her partner Kate seem to be going back and forth on the direction and color scheme of their design. Layana decides to use her quiet voice loudly and emotionally admits her discomfort with their design in front of Tim Gunn. Matthew, who told Tim back at Mood that he’s not a "dressmaker" (Umm, time to be one huney!), is also stressed because he sees his fetish-inspired design as boring. Patricia is coming to terms that her original, but time consuming, leather design might make her have an unfinished dress when it's runway time. Aussie Ben is having emotional and design breakdowns, or as Momma Cindy said, "Crashing and burning." He tearfully admits to camera that he had just ended an abusive relationship and was emotionally drained. Here's some too late advice Benny darlin': this may not have been the best time to do an UBER-stressful COMPETITIVE REALITY SHOW!
Team Keeping It Real: Red Carpet Fab, Vegas Girls...and Pooping Ruffles
Many Kleenexesand anti-anxiety pill-popping laterit's runway show time. Guest judge actress Kristin Davis is ready to help decide what Heidi will wear for her "Surprise" commercial and press launch. Team Keeping It Real was up first. Daniel's nude jersey gown is a stunner, very red carpet-ready and well-done. There were some wonky-looking front and back mini-pleats I didn’t understand, but overall: Heidi fab. Patricia's was very flapper girl Prada-on-a-budget and I could see Heidi wearing it. She is known to do "kooky." Amanda and Joe’s black lattice-work dress was OK, but had no "PR launch" appeal whatsoever. Good for a cute girl going out to a Vegas nightclub. Richard's pooping ruffle dress was a HOT MESS. What was he thinking? Stanley’s was over-accessorized and looked like something Carol Burnett might have worn in the 80s. Those two were the bad (design) apples in an otherwise good team.
Dream Team: Hot gowns, Bunny Dominatrix and Iridescent 1992 Shantung
Dream Team was next. Michelle's short tunic dress with studded detail was cute enough for a New Year’s Eve house party, but not for a Heidi Klum fragrance ad campaign. Come on designers, do you understand the challenge? Tu did a directional black gown with a gold exposed back zipper; now that’s better. Samantha's black and illusion gown with a structured shoulder was HOT and very Stephane Rolland-esque. I likey. Matthew's too-short leather mini dress was bad Hoochie Dominatrix Playboy Bunny. Again, do you know who your client is? Cindy did an iridescent shantung (looked like taffeta to me, which doesn't make it any better) dress with a keyhole front neckline. The dress was average at best, but there was certainly nothing fashion forward about it. Oh, and then there was that fabric. Iridescent shantung. Those two words scream 1992. Finally, there was "I Need a Klonopin Benjamin." His mess of a gown was inexcusable. It seems his gown broke down around the same time he did. Benjamin is better than that. I just know it.
Three For Three
Team Keeping It Real got the highest votes and won. For the third time in a row. Pink-hatin' Layana and her team mate Kate won for their gown, with Kate getting the top individual prize. Daniel won the press event prize for his nude jersey and black leather trimmed "Bond Girl" gown. He, of course, got all emotional with a "I've worked so hard, and deserve this" validation interview. While it was heartfelt, it almost seemed slightly angry and bitter as well. Maybe it was just me...
Shipwrecked and Iridescent Adieu
The worst were Benjamin (quelle surprise!) with a dress that Nina deemed as "probably the worst construction" in "Project Runway" history. Didn't she say that about Emily's dress two challenges ago? Boy, this season's worst must be really bad. Nina also added that she thought Benjamin's model looked shipwrecked. Ouch. But it was Cindy who went home for her iridescent shantung non-creative dress. I am not sure what happened here. Maybe the judgesand especially Heidithought that while Ben's design was crude and tragic, it wasn't dated. Cindy's was finished, but it might have been about a decade behind in its styling and fabrication-choice. Now, the only question I have is will we actually see Kate and Daniel's Dresses on Heidi? Stay tuned.
Dream Team vs. Team Keeping It Real: this is the premise of Season 11 "Project Runway." Sixteen designers split up into two teams and every challenge this season is promised to be a Team Challenge-with one winner and one loser. Team Keeping It Real had the highest scores last week with "Mustache Daniel" coming out on top and Dream Team at the bottom losing sewing-deficient "Hot Glue-Loving Emily." Nina described her outfit as the worst made garment in "Project Runway" history. PS: I wonder if Emily is adding that accomplishment to her bio or Wiki page?
Now that the "Team Twist" novelty has worn off and the "Oh No, Not Teams!" shrieks have subsided, reality is setting in. One of the designers who was at the bottom last week"Funeral Director Cindy"feels like her team may see her as the weakest link, even though you could tell she doesn’t quite understand why. PS: did she see what she created? It always strikes me as both naïve and unrealistic when I hear some of these designers and their self-assessment of where they think they are on the "Project Runway" contestant totem pole within a season.
Ball Happy Heidi
Back at Parsons, Heidi greets the teams, congratulating them for "making it." All I want a say is, "GURL, they’ve only had ONE CHALLENGE; simmer down on the effusive words; let them get through FIVE more without beating each other up and then we’ll talk." Heidi tells them they are to meet Tim at 23rd and Park Avenue.
Ping Pong Couture
The designers arrive at SPiN NYC, a Ping Pong Social Club owned by actress Susan Sarandon. A) I had no idea there was such a thing; I am so LATE on what's HOT in the NYC night scene. B) I had no idea Susan Sarandon loved ping pong. Tim gives them their Challenge: to create five uniforms for the clubthree female server outfits and one for a "ball boy"the boy who gathers the ping pong balls from the floor. That may not be quite how my friends would define the term "ball boy" in my inner circle, thank you very much, but I digress. The uniforms must be fashionable and exude the fun and upbeat environment of the club. Finally, they must utilize the tagline "Balls Are My Business" somewhere in the garments. How cheeky.
Working Girls and Ball Boys
The teams are then put to work as servers and "ball boys." At first I thought, "This is a little humiliating," but then realized what a great idea it was that the designers could get a feel of working at the club to help in their design process. After picking up all the broken beer bottles7#151;and ballsfrom the floor, Dream Team and Team Keeping It Real assemble separately to decide who is doing what.
Platinum Micro Manager
In both teams, some of the designers (Daniel and Layana, Richard and Joe, Kate and Patricia) couple together while others do a complete look on their own (James, Stanley). They're off to Mood and then, to their 507 Broadway workrooms. Benjaminof Dream Teamtakes a team leader role, much to Cindy's chagrin. Their drama continues in the workroom as Cindy feels like she’s being micro-managed by the platinum-blond Aussie. My guess is that he’s worried she’ll make another printed "Going to Aruba on a Carnival Cruise" look like last week. Team Keeping It Real's Daniel is schooling his young partner Layana in making a shorts/skirt/apron combo while Patricia is having "I'm just making leggins’ and nothing else" issues. A screen printer is brought in to aid the designers in the "Balls Are My Business" logo making, which is a nice addition.
Kilts, Wack-a-Doodle and Emily 2.0
Tim visits and besides having to clock Patricia for sensing too much self-ego within the team, he thinks Team Keeping it Real is in good shape. However, it’s the Dream Team he’s worried about. Matthew is making jeans and Tim asks why. Michelle uses her "loud voice" and brings up the subject of a kilt, which Tim thinks is "quite interesting." Stop it Tim, use YOUR quiet voice! He also thinks Samantha’s jacket and Tu’s dress don't belong together and deems Benjamin and Cindy's creations "wack-a-doodle." In addition, Jameswho is "Emily 2.0"is obviously in over his head. It's only the second challenge and we can ALL tell this boy's construction, as well as his design skills are lacking. Tim calls the shirt he is making, a "construction disaster." Tim thinks the entire team is in trouble. They sure look it.
It's a Runway Spin-Off
Day of the SPiN NYC runway show and guess who is the special guest judge? Yep, Miss Susan Sarandon, looking quite good in a printed wrap dress (DVF, I presume?). Both teams show their SPiN NYC uniforms and the results are in: the winning team is Team Keeping It Real (again!) and Dream Team is at the bottom. Not a surprise. Even the editors of the show couldn't hide what would eventually happen during the runway show day.
It's a SKORT Susan
Let's discuss the Good: Stanley's sweatshirt top and drop-crotch pants for his "ball boy" looked great. There was style and functionality. Joe and Richard made a super-tight t-shirt with logo-printed pants and (the piece de resistance), a harness to hold the ping-pong ball picker-upper. So cool. But it was Daniel and Layana's vest, long sleeve top and skort (a skirt/shorts combo) that won the judges and especially the SPiN NYC CEO, Susan Sarandon. Sarandon somehow has been living under a "fashion rock" and didn't know what a skort was. Bless her heart. In the end, Layana got the top individual winfor that skort...that Daniel actually helped her make. PS: Layana, I hope you sent Daniel a BIG expensive bouquet of flowers.
Yes, Dream Team wasn't a dreamyet again. Two for two. To start, the Kilt Boy was cool and appropriate if SPiN NYC opened a club in Hell's Kitchen or South of Folsom in San Francisco; but for this location, not so much. Those straight "ball boys" would not be having any of that kilt and the placement of the "Balls Are Our Business." Next, I figured Micro Manager Benjamin and his horrid shorts look, would be at the bottom. But somehow, Aussie Benjamin walked away unscathed; it was Cindy, once again in the bottom two. Joining Matthew and Cindy was James and his tank top and board shorts atrocity. James' look was better suited for a beach bar in Cabo and as Heidi correctly said, no one wants a server bringing them their drinksor tapaswith their armpits showing, in Manhattan at 11:30 pm. Ultimatelyand without surprise, it was James who got the "Auf." As I said, I knew James was in over his head, and the judges told him so. But on a good note: maybe Señor Frog’s will call James to design their uniforms in Cabo. That should be fun.
It’s a new year, a new "Project Runway" seasonand a new judge to boot! We’re onto Season 11 if you can believe it, and immediately, the familiar faces of Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn pop up on the screen to announce that this is going to be a "different" type of season, one with a "little twist": TEAMS! Every challenge for this new season is a Team Challenge, they declare. Klum and Gunn say that this will be a chance for the designers to work together, collaborate and communicate (yeah right!). Oh, and they forget to say CAUSE FABULOUS REALITY TV DRAMA. I have two words for it all: Oh Dear! Also, Thank GOODNESS I didn’t wait until Season 11 to be on the show. Amen.
The new batch of designers has no idea of this "little twist" as they make their way to Manhattan and Parsons. We are introduced to our Season 11 cast of characters, which includes everything from a cute Latina (Layana Aguilar), African-Americans, Whites, a Native American (Patricia Michaels), a funeral home director (Cindy Marlatt), the gays (naturally), straight boys (?), foreigners (Australian Benjamin Mach), a mustachioed guy who can somehow afford a $4,350 "Bird of Paradise"-printed Givenchy Men’s Spring/Summer 2012 jacket (Daniel Esquivel), a girl who looks like everyone’s fun hairstylist (Michelle Lesniak Franklin), a guy whose last name is Hallmarq-yes, like the Birthday Cardbut with a Q!and a cute girl straight out of the HBO series "Girls" (Emily Pollard). This last girl instantly declares that she’s going to win it all and all the other designers should begin packing and go home. My sixth sense tells me she'll be regretting every word she said.
I had the pleasure of being one of the casting judges last year for Season 10, but little did I know that we were also choosing the designers who might also make it to Season 11 (slaying two birds with one casting stone, as it were). I remember seeing Benjamin (Australian), Cindy (funeral director), as well as several of the others and saying "yes or maybe" to them all. I was happy to see that they actually made it on the show, even if it was a season later.
Oh HAILLLL No!
After all 16 designers are assembled, Heidi and Tim enter the room to much hootin', hollerin' and OMG's; it was very "America’s Next Top Model" when the models meet Tyra. Their faces quickly turned from wide happy smiles to "Oh HAILLL No!" when the Fab Duo tells the cast that this season is "Project Runway Teams!" Before they could run out the door and catch the next AirTrain to JFK, Heidi separated them into two teams and informs them of their first challenge: to create a garment that shows who they are as designers within a "team" setting. Their inspiration: New York City. The teams separate and go on their merry way. Team "Keeping It Real" gets to see NYC "from afar" (on a boat trip) and "Dream Team" gets to view the Manhattan skyline "from above" (from The Atlas Apartments rooftop).
Why Aren’t They at Parsons?
After their champagne and canapé-filled day trips, both teams meet up at their new workrooms at 1407 Broadway. Side note: I wonder if they were filming Season 10 at the same time as this season and therefore the Season 11 designers weren’t able to be at the "regular" "Project Runway" workroom at Parsons. Moving on...Tim Gunn enters and tells the designers that they will again use the fabulous HP Tablets, Brother Sewing Room as well as have access to the Lord & Taylor Wall and L’Oreal Paris Makeup Room. After caucusing, sketching and collaborating, they all head to Mood where they have $1,200 (which averages out to $150 per designer) to buy fabric and trims.
Analyze Me Not
Back in the workroom, they begin their draping, pattern making and fabric cutting. "Native American Patricia" is hand painting fabric to mimic the NY window cityscape she witnessed on her boat ride; "Funeral Home Cindy" is mixing prints and "Mustache Daniel" is schooling many in his team, showing them proper draping/cutting techniques. Tim walks in for his critiques. Here’s where it gets interesting. Not only does Tim give his "two cents," but so do their corresponding team members. To be frank, as someone who has been designing for over 20 years, owns a decade-old design company, I’m not sure if I would’ve had the patience to have been appraised by a "young-ums" who just got out of design school and barely began post-school work. Most of the designers seemed OK with itfor now. But I venture to guess, their claws will come out and, as Heidi and some of the judges later suspect, things might get sketchy and ugly between designers during these "critiquing times."
Ban The Glue Gun
Day of the runway and the designers are putting their final touches on their creations, except for "HBO’s 'Girls' Emily." She barely has anything done. She proclaims that the only thing on her mind is "to finish something." Ya Think? She ends up gluing most of her mess of a top (Can we PLEASE BAN the hot glue gun once and for all?!) and "Funeral Home Cindy" even makes a skirt for her since otherwise, her model would have been walking bottom-less down the runway.
The Part of Michael Kors Will Be Played By…
Finally it’s show time. Heidi walks in, announcing a change in the "Project Runway" Judging Program: Michael Kors is "Out" (for now) and designer Zac Posen is "In." Running a billion dollar Fashion Empire can be daunting so Kors probably wanted some "Project Runway"-free time, on some fabulous island. Nina Garcia is there (Gracias a DiosI thought my Colombian Diva would have been with Kors on a Seychelles Holiday too!). Guest judge is Christian Siriano, Season 4 Winner. The designs come down the runway with Team Keeping It Real first, followed by Dream Team. According to Heidi, there would be one winning teamwith the winning designerand one losing team with the worst design.
Dior Couture Redux
It was pretty obvious who had the best: Mustache Daniel, Native American Patricia, and painted tunic was sleek and gallery owner-esque and Richard created a very "NYC girl" gray and black asymmetrical jersey number that screamed Heidi K. while walking with her kids through the East Village. Daniel’s was the most finished and chic, by far. He created a black exaggerated peplum jacket with cropped skinny trousers that looked very Paris. In fact Zac Posen hinted at it. I won’t hint here, I’ll call it out: it was VERY Raf Simons for Dior Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2012. I’m surprised Nina didn’t say how referential it was. But…it was still superb, well made and therefore got a rightly-deserved win.
Dream Team-The Good and the Not-So-Muchey
The Dream Team therefore was the worst. It was kind of sad since a couple of my favorite looks of the entire night (as well as Heidi's) came from designers on that team including Benjamin’s airy chiffon dress (modern and beautiful) and Tu Suthiwhat Nakchat’s two-piece outfit (so directional and very Thierry Mugler/Claude Montanafor 2013). James, Cindy and Emily brought the entire team down with their tacky-licious and uninspired creations. Posen called James' skirt and top "pedestrian" (Ouch!). She looked like a girl going out for a Jr. Assistant job…in 1998. Cindy’s printed dress with a checkered waistband was more Mom on a Carnival Cruise to Aruba than NYC (their supposed inspiration).
Go Pack Your Bags Emily
But it was Emilyand that mess of a topthat was the obvious worst. She glued half of it and didn't even sew a closure. Oh, yes, and Cindy made her skirt. This was a situation when someone made it onto "Project Runway" that just wasn't ready. From the editing, it almost seemed as if they would keep Emily as the judges were making excuses for her. I was prepared to throw something at the TV, if in fact they decided to keep her. But alas, they did not. With all the "built in" drama being directed at the designers for this 11th season, they will have to heed Heidi’s words and communicate, collaborate in order not to be eliminated. Good luck designers!
Le FINALE. Yes, kids, last night was the Finale of “Project Runway.” Four designers showed on the biggest fashion stage—Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. All season long, the judges, Tim (and I) have made a plea for the designers to “WOW US.” So did they succeed on the most important stage? Well, before I answer that, I have lots of other things to say, so if you will indulge me...
When we last left our four designers—Christopher, Dmitry, Fabio and Melissa—they had gone home (or to somebody else’s home) to create their collections. Five weeks passed, and they returned to NYC and showed three looks to Heidi, Michael and Nina. It was hinted that one designer may be eliminated, but our esteemed judges could not make up their minds, and so all four designers stayed to show at NY Fashion Week.
No Wigs Allowed
As we begin this Finale episode, there are quick recaps of what the judges told each of the designers that their collections needed. Fabio’s garments lacked sophistication and required polish; Dmitry’s needed to look younger; Christopher’s leather items were praised, but the judges wanted more “wow”; and Melissa’s clothes were deemed “limited.” In addition, we can’t forget all the questionable styling issues from last week, including those wigs (Fabio, Melissa), HOOCHIE leather shorts (Melissa, Christopher) and Dmitry’s dowdy girls. They now had two days to somehow correct their styling mishaps and improve on what they already had.
If I had produced what would be next in the episode, I would have begun with Tim walking into the workroom and announcing to the four designers that he recruited a Hollywood A-List stylist to come in and guide these kids through the 101’s of Runway Show Styling, followed by a shopping excursion to Lord & Taylor with an unlimited budget for accessories. A second scenario would have involved Tim dragging out some of the auf’ed cast members (like they’ve done in the past—with their downtrodden attitudes) to help the finalists in their last 48 hours.
Mood Shopping Gift Card
In reality, Tim eventually does walk in—not to introduce a stylist or say that Kooky Kooan will be everyone’s intern for the next two days, but, among other things, to give the designers an extra $300 to shop at Mood. This is a not-so-subtle way of telling the designers that their collections need help. At Mood, Fabio looks for more luxe fabrics to add sophistication, Christopher is panicked searching for the right fabric, Dmitry finds some interesting silk, and Melissa eyes a red leather hide to add a pop of color to her otherwise all black-and-white collection. Christopher’s early season bitchy side make a reappearance when he makes a quip about Melissa describing her RED leather fabrication as “blood orange.” The claws are coming back out.
Missing Model Castings and THAT White No-Slit Dress
It’s model fitting time. But wait, what happened to the actual model castings? In past seasons of the show, extensive time was spent on showing the model castings, which was kind of interesting to see. This season we got nothing. During the fittings, Christopher was being a “Negative Nancy,” complaining about everything, and a model is having problems walking in Melissa’s white dress. Melissa blamed it on the shoes, but even a four-year-old could tell that THE DRESS NEEDED A SLIT. Hello. The following day—and only 24 hours before the finale show—Christopher is still in a petulant mood, and Melissa is stressed trying to finish her new creations. On the flip side, Fabio and Dmitry are cool as cucumbers, sitting back having tea and lighting scented candles. Tim makes a “bonne chance” champagne toast, and soon it’s time for the Finale runway show.
Live vs. TV
As was the case with my fellow bloggers here, I attended this finale fashion show back in September (I sat next to Season 1 Winner Jay McCarroll and Season 2 Winner Chloe Dao!!). I’ve been lucky enough to get invited to every “Project Runway” Finale show since my season, and I’ve attended many of them. I have seen my share of Finale shows, some great (Rami Kashou, Christian Siriano, Chloe Dao, Leanne Marshall) and some not so much (can we PLEASE go back to just allowing the top three or four finalists to show during Fashion Week?). It’s always interesting to see these Finale runway shows LIVE and then later on TV. TV is usually better. Many times when I sat there watching the runway show live, I noticed EVERYTHING—thread hanging, bad side-boob fit issues, wonky zippers. I’ve walked out with a “That was a MESS!” feeling. Months later, I watch it on TV and the same collection looks FAB-u-LOUS! OK, so let’s get to the clothes and the judging...and my two cents.
Christopher: See You on “Project Runway All Stars” Season 3
First up, I must mention the guest celebrity judge, Miss Jennifer Hudson. Unlike some of the collections, she looked good LIVE and on TV last night! Now, let’s discuss Christopher. His collection was based on a theme of “Constructed and Deconstructed.” Kors loved his first exit. I did not. From my seat, that slit was dangerously HOOCHIE. I liked some of his leather jackets but wondered why there was so much leather, especially for a Spring/Summer collection. I liked his final gown and all the raw-edged “Christopher-isms,” but also wondered where that gown came from. He didn’t need it. As Kors correctly said, not every collection—especially one based in sportswear—needs a Finale gown. He was OUT. I’m sure we will see him next season on “Project Runway All Stars Season 3.” Guaranteed.
Melissa: Blood Orange Love and Where’s The Slit?
Melissa titled her collection “A New Exploration of Death to Life.” There was lots of black—yes, it’s Melissa. And again I wondered, is this Spring/Summer 2013? I loved her blood-orange leather dress, and it definitely stood out like a (good) sore thumb. There were two things that were problematic, however: the leather “swimsuit” (live on the Lincoln Center runway stage, I could see panties, and they were creme) and the white dress. When I walked out of the Finale runway show, I think I overheard about 100 whispers of “Why didn’t she put a SLIT in that dress?” Not kidding. It was painful to watch that model saunter down that long runway for what felt like TEN minutes with only about 24 inches of sweep at the hem. If I’d had scissors, I would have run onto the runway and helped a model girlfriend out!
Fabio: Layered Wow
I asked for someone—anyone—to “wow us,” and Fabio did. He wowed me—and everyone seated within a 30-foot radius around me. He was the only one of these four who did that. First off, the fact that he was basically the only designer who showed pastels and a Spring/Summer color palette was a breath of fresh air. His collection was not heavy-handed but was subtly elegant and modern. The level of sophistication was evident—and the judges agreed. I LOVED his askew-draped side-cowl dresses and those necklaces! And as Klum correctly stated, I even left the show craving a layered easy-breezy “Fabio look,” on me! If I was a judge, I probably would have given him my highest marks, especially right after viewing the runway show. So, I was not surprised that he was one of the Top Two. His collection was complete, from beginning to end.
Dmitry: “Uptown Girl” Meets “Dancing With the Stars”?
But it was Dmitry who got the final crown. Why? I can only assume that the judges admired his elegant-yet-edgy polished looks over Fabio’s drape-y, relaxed, layered Downtown Girl. Nina and Michael especially LOVE a NYC vibe, which involves a lot of black and a sophisticated silhouette. Dmitry showed that. I agree with the judges that Dmitry’s collection was polished and perfectly made, but I felt that it just wasn’t cohesive. And it was (once again) too Fall/Winter. No color. Too much leather. Dmitry’s fringed jacket and “houndstooth”-like cocktail dress was great, but I remember when that final gown came out; I think I murmured “Dancing With the Stars.” It made no sense (just like Christopher’s gown), especially with the rest of his sleek, uptown, fashion-editorial-girl looks. It was as if he had to somehow revert back to his ballroom-dancing days. That, to me, was his only misstep. But obviously, the judges—and people who matter—didn’t think so. Which means Dmitry is the new winner of “Project Runway.” One of my favorite things was when Michael Kors described him at the end as being a “gentleman.” Thank goodness that counts in this day and age of reality TV. A gentleman won. How do you say “Yayyy!” in Belarusian?
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.
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!
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.
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!