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Diamonds, Divas and Dumpster Diving

Posted By kim_messina 4:59am GMT

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.

Diamond District?
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 Heidi—with the dreaded Button Bag—followed 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 models—and jewels—with 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 season—with 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.

Workroom Walk-Thru
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 montage—and the pre-runway one—enlightens 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.

Charmeuse Bye
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 bobbin—is 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!


Runway Freefall

Posted By kim_messina 4:10am GMT

"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:

The New
• First "Project Runway" designer/contestant to be hearing impaired/deaf.
• The runway got a "Hollywood set" makeover—stage lights and video screen.
• New retail partner: Belks—a 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 show—judges 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 season—several 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/Auditions—along with Tim Gunn—and 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 seasons—in 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...

Parachutin' Kids
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.

Tim Time
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."

Toxic Sustainability
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.

Nouveau Runway
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 model—as 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.

Billowy Top
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-JAY—in 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 poncho—and 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!


The Lone Wolf Goes For Her Kill

Posted By kim_messina 4:49am GMT

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.

$500 Surprise
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 overnight—or 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.


Only One Can Win…And I Have a Good Guess!

Posted By kim_messina 4:17am GMT

When looking back at past seasons of "Project Runway"—and particularly the pre-finale episode—it 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…

Fall Schoolin'
Michelle, Stanley, Patricia and Daniel are in the top four. The episode begins with Heidi and Tim congratulating—and 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.

Taos Momma
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.

Madame Walters
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 Daniel—the "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.


Your Fashion Passport Has Expired

Posted By kim_messina 4:04am GMT

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."

Travel Dates
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 week—that decides who gets to go to Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Week—was 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 NYC—with little Tu.

Side Bar
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.

Le Bottom
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!


Do Not Disappoint Nina!

Posted By kim_messina 4:03am GMT

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.

Free Labor
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.

Sewing 101
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.

Bossy Lady
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.

The Top
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...


HP Objets d’art

Posted By kim_messina 4:11am GMT

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!"

Guggenheim Fab
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!

Crying Princess
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 worst—Team 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 problem—it 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!


Everything's Coming Up Roses

Posted By kim_messina 4:05am GMT

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.

Another Switch-a-Roo
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, Richard—CEO 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 Collection—perfect 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 & Taylor—including the Fifth Avenue Flagship so...see ya there Miss Michelle!

Junior Samantha
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.


Not Enough Thunder and Too Much Down Under

Posted By kim_messina 4:37am GMT

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.

The Nitty-Gritty
First, let's get all the important nitty-gritty parts of the challenge out of the way. This week, the designers—who were coupled in teams of two as of last week—were 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 me—repeatedly—how much they all got along and because of the teams aspect of the season—they were all "lifelong friends." But here's the thing: last monthwhen this reunion party occurred—we 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.

The Workroom
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 for—without sleeves—even I knew that it would not fi. Those armholes were WAY too inset from where they should be—it's amateur hour at 1407 Broadway. And yes, soon on the runway, it would all reveal itself. Literally!

The Runway
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. I—along with Heidi—was 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.

Bad Top
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 shirt—collars, 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. Amanda—bless her untrained heart—made 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.


If It Walks Like a Duck...

Posted By kim_messina 4:50am GMT

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 Brands—was 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 look—using 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!