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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!
This tenth season of "Project Runway" can pretty much be defined by one word: safe. Most of the designers have "played it safe" when it comes to their designs and creations. They've been harmless in terms of their "characters" as well; there's been some bitching and hate-talking during their confessionals but the season is so safe that we don't even have a "villain" making the Final Four which for almost every season, has seemed to be de rigueur. It could also be argued that a couple of the contestants played it so safe, they just got up and left the show altogether because they just didn't want to "Go For It!" So, it comes as no surprise that for this last Avant-Garde Challenge, the designers played it safe. And in my feeling, it was a let down. Let's recap...Tim, Is That Your New Home?
Five designers left and this is the challenge that decides who gets to go to NY Fashion Week. If you REALLY follow the show and its designers, we know now that the last eight designers actually showed at Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Week last month when in "TV Time" there were still eight on the show (five were "decoys" and the other 3, actual finalists). But let's just stick to the "script" shall we? Sexy "Spartan Supermodel" Heidi walks in to tell the designers that she is sending them "far, far away" where Tim and a guest will be waiting. I'm thinking, "Yeaay! They get to board a plane and fly to Florence, Italy!" Nope. Not so much. After crossing a bridge and driving for over an hour, they arrive at Oheka Castle, a historic mansion in the Gold Coast of Long Island. This estate was the home of financier and philanthropist Otto Kahn and in fact, the second largest private home in the entire US. Waiting for the designers is Tim Gunn (who looks perfectly at home outside this castle, I might add) and Billy B. Consulting Makeup Artist for L'Oreal Paris.Electric Avant-Garde
Billy is there to introduce the new L'Oreal Paris makeup line called "Electric Fantasie" based on four "muses/color themes": Enchanting Queen, Seductive Temptress, Wise Mystic and Artsy Muse. Tim announces that this is the "L'Oreal Makeup Challenge" and the designers will have to create an avant-garde Look inspired by this new L'Oreal Paris makeup line. Tim then takes out the dreaded "Button Bag" and each designer is given a muse save for Golden Boy Christopher who gets to choose one himself.Enchanting, Wise, Seductive and Artsy
Christopher and Fabio are doing "Enchanted Queen," Sonjia gets "Seductive Temptress," Dmitry gets "Wise Mystic" and Melissa's is appropriately, "Artsy Muse." Tim then explains that avant-garde means something new/experimental and tells them that they will have two days and a whopping $400 for fabric/notions. After sketching time at the castle, it's a long drive back to Manhattan, Mood shopping, and finally back to Parsons. Tim walks in to do some early "How are you doing?" Day One check-ins as well as to tell the five designers that they need to be incredibly ambitious and they have to "knock the (judges) socks off!" High aspirations indeed, especially from this group.It's Seductive Temptress NOT Figure Skating Queen
Day Two and the designers have their requisite L'Oreal Paris Makeup Consultations with Billy B. and then it's back to work on their so-called avant-garde creations. Tim visits and surveys if there's anything "new" or "experimental" in any of their designs. Fabio was working on a coat that the day before, Tim judged as "looking borderline costume." Today, Fabio had an epiphany and decides to turn the coat upside down and voila: avant-garde or so he thinks. Tim likes it. Tim is worried for Melissa and her time management. He then warns Sonjia that her green moiré with nude illusion creation might be looking too much like a student project. I'm thinking that it looks too much like a Figure Skating Costume gone wrong so did Michael Kors, we later find out. We Fashion Gays think alike.Avant-Garde More!
Christopher is doing a black exaggerated hip gown. Tim says it's very 1890s in its silhouette. But does that make it avant-garde? Tim is doubtful. So am I. Same goes for Dmitry. He is doing a very tailored Mugler 90s-like jacket that in Dmitry's eyes, is VERY avant-garde. But Tim rightly questions him saying, "It may be avant-garde for you...but is it avant-garde for the judges?"What. Is. Avant-Garde?
It's Runway Day and the guest judge is actress Zoe Saldana, who also co-founded MyFDB.com, as fashion's answer to IMDB. Now, remember the Challenge was to create an avant-garde look. When I think avant-garde Fashion, I think of Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, or British designer Gareth Pugh; I think of that incredible Viktor and Rolf nesting doll collection...you get the picture. So, how did these five "Project Runway" designers do? In essence, they all played it SAFE there was little avant-garde in any of the creations. A common thread with actual avant-garde designs is a very strong concept, a story behind it. None of these kids had that and missed the mark. The "Makeup Muses" could have provided them with a "spring board," but none of the designers really used it to the fullest extent. Heck, even Melissa said she was "designing for herself." Not enough darling.Nancy Kerrigan at a Banquet
In my eyes, of all the five creations, Fabio's was the most avant-garde. But, his "Enchanted Queen" got mixed reviews from the judges. Everyone agreed that the jacket was fantastic but the rest was a bit of a hodge-podge. It was almost like "forced" avant-garde. But at least, there was some avant-garde. Sonjia's green "Seductive Temptress" was exactly what Kors said: "A costume Nancy Kerrigan would wear to skate through a Banquet Hall." To add insult to injury, Zaldana then likened the green folded pieces to a table napkin and not to be out done, Kors added that it looked like a banquet blew up all over her! Oy vey.Black Swan, Singer Sergeant Muse or Enchanted Queen?
Christopher's black gown was more "Black Swan" and less "Enchanted Queen." It was a very pretty gown and the model (with her alabaster skin) looked as if she had stepped out of a John Singer Sargent painting. But there was nothing avant-garde about it and the "hairy forearm" feathered gloves didn't help. Dmitry's "Wise Mystic" suit was made impeccably. That boy can cut and sew a garment. While it was made to perfection, I question how avant-garde it was. And finally, Melissa's "Arsty Muse" scored points for using color, which is a departure from her usual all-black aesthetic. She did marvelous work with leather and the print on the skirt looked "artsy" with hints of a Jackson Pollack painting, but again, was this avant-garde? No. Most of the judges loved her creation except for Heidi. She didn't know which was uglier, Melissa's or Fabio's. How do you say "Oh Dear" in German?My Judges' Beef
I want to take some time to discuss some of the judges comments here, mainly my dear beautiful Heidi. During the judging, Miss Heidi kept saying, "Oh I would wear that...I wouldn't wear that..." and "I can see that on a red carpet," and so on. Newsflash: THAT'S NOT THE POINT OF AN AVANT-GARDE DESIGN. It's NOT for the Red Carpet. It's NOT something for Heidi Klum to wear. It's for a Vogue Italia shoot that makes fashion bloggers D.I.E. and shake with Couture excitement. It's not supposed to be wearable, unless you're Daphne Guinness. It really works my last nerve when I hear these comments from the judges, especially when it involves an Avant-Garde Challenge. Avant-garde is meant to push the boundaries and as Tim stated create something new and experimental. In many cases it SHOULD make you feel uncomfortable.Hits Parade
Before we find out who's In or Out, Heidi asks, "Why do you deserve to go to Fashion Week?" and, "Which two other designers should go with you?"In the past this is where the claws have come out but here, we got nothing. No drama, no back-stabbing talk, just safe answers. Subsequently, during the final deliberation, the judges go through a "Hits Parade" from each designer during the entire season which was really nice to see and noteworthy, especially since I stated in my blog here last week that I had a feeling the judges weren't looking at individual challenges at hand and rather, taking in the entire season's body of work. They proved me right this week.A Safe Final Four?
In the end, Dmitry won for his perfect yet not-so avant-garde look and Sonjia was out. Her creation was not avant-garde, it was just figure skating and tablecloth koo-koo. So now, we're onto to Fashion Week and the Top Four. Who. Will. Be. America's. Next. Greatest. Fashion Designer? Whoever it is, I hope they DO NOT play it SAFE. A Fashion Gay can only wish.
Last night's "Project Runway" was one of those episodes that left me saying "Wh-Wh-What?", mainly because a designer stayed, even though in my eyes they did the worst job. In addition, I think it was one of the first times a designer was NOT eliminated for doing Safe and Boring. The episode left me quite dumbfounded, trying to justify in my mind the outcome. All I could think is that the judges looked at the designers' overall work as opposed to the actual design for THIS challenge at hand. And they always say they do not do that but it's obvious they do. There's more that irked me and yes, things that I LOVED so, allow me to give my "Nick Two Cents" for this week.Oh Baby!
There are only six designers left on this season and therefore they are feeling the pressure as they get closer to the grand prize. This week, they all go to a Babies"R"Us store, where Heidi and Tim are waiting. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to guess what this challenge will be. Heidi has a new line of affordable baby clothing, "Truly Scrumptious", that sells exclusively at Babies"R"Us. The challenge this week is to create a look for this line that will then, be manufactured and sold at "Babies 'R' Us". Heidi tells the designers that there will be 2 winning looks one boy and one girl and they only have one day to do it.Why Do I Care What The Mommies Like to Wear?
The designers' tepid yet pretending-to-be-excited reactions are priceless. Before they can run out and say "I'm Outta Here!", the dreaded velvet bag comes out and each designer is "assigned" their baby models and respective moms. Each designer confers with the moms as to what their needs and style ideas are for their toddlers. The mom's are also describing their own styles, which makes me wonder, "Why do I care what YOU like to wear..." unless (cue the dramatic music in my brain) there might be a TWIST later and they have to design for the mommies too (not my first time at the "'Project Runway' Rodeo"). The only thing that's memorable from this consultation is when Nanci (Christopher's baby momma) says "Dior uses a lot of tulle" in talking about the children's clothes. In case y'all are not aware, a "Baby Dior" tulle dress for a BABY goes for $3,680. I instantly think "Oh no, this one's a DIVA!" Later we find out, she was.Faux Babies...Why?
The designers head back to Parsons where Ms. Klum left them dossiers, fabric, notions and trims from her "Truly Scrumptious" collection so their creations can coordinate with the rest of her line. There are also toddler body forms and a "special surprise": Lifelike Crying Baby Dolls. Yeah, the kind those "16 and Pregnant" girls use. They cry, cry and cry; when they need to be fed, rocked or diaper changed. Is this really necessary, I wonder? The explanation from Poppa Tim was that they are there so the designers know "what goes into creating baby clothes." I don't even think he believed what he said. It seemed like a forced edition to the episode that didn't really need it. This became more evident as WAY too much time was wasted showing the stressed out designers trying to care for their "babies" as opposed to actually creating their designs. More importantly, as a viewer, all that faux baby crying really got on MY last nerve.Mommy Wear?
After much Rock-a-Bye-Baby-at-Parsons time, Tim and Heidi check in on the designers. They give good constructive critiques to the likes of Dmitry (His red hooded jumpsuit seems disjointed, they say) and Melissa (Her printed leggings and basic vest lacks a "fun factor"). Heidi then announces "The Twist": they have to also design and create a companion look for the mommies (PS: I told you so!). There is good news, however. They are given an extra day to do it and the judges will really be judging on the baby couture and not really the mom's ensemble. After Mood shopping and a sleepless night tending to their faux-bies, I think even the novelty of having these crying dolls got on the producer's nerves as Tim walks in to whisk them away to "Day Care," only to never be seen, and more importantly, heard from again.Under No Circumstances
The designers continue working on the mom and baby creations and have fittings. Melissa doesn't have anything for the mom and is having fit issues, actually having trouble putting a dress on her baby (That's never good). Christopher has to deal with yes, that Diva mommy, Nanci. She hates her child's dress saying that "under no circumstances" would her daughter ever wear that. How do I say this politely? Nanci, SHUT UP and let the designer do his job. Thank you. She also dismisses the dress Christopher made for her out of a beautiful Oscar de la Renta flower print fabric, calling it a "1970s tablecloth." Wow, she's going to come off real good (NOT!). The following day, she quickly apologized to Christopher for her grating remarks, possibly realizing my previous sentence. Bless her heart.Hey Jude!
Runway Day and guest judge, actress and new mom Hilary Duff is on hand to check out the Cradle Catwalk. Remember that there will be two winners one boy look and then a girl look. The best boy looks are Fabio's practical blue onesie finished with a baby baseball cap. I thought that Dmitry's red hooded jumper was whimsical but possibly too "costumey" (judges agreed). Sonjia's outfit for her cutie patootie Jude was PERFECT. His grey and blue lapelled knit "suit" was polished, modern and as Heidi said, "sharp." Hers was the clear winner, helped by the fact that Jude, her baby model, was ADORABLE. A big ol' ham, as they say.Sunday Brunch Princess
In terms of the best for the baby girl look, it was Christopher's white appliqué dress that was the clear winner. Christopher's "Special Occasion" dress would guarantee cries of "Oooh She Looks So Precious" at any brunch, church or birthday party from all the jealous moms. It was a MAJAH slap in the face for Diva Mom Nanci (who HATED the little dress) and so I could totally see Christopher privately grinning just a little bit more.Worst Didn't Go Home...
And now to the bottom. Elena's baby look was all over the place. Yes, it was too much. The jacket was interesting but then she tried to throw in everything AND the proverbial kitchen sink. But at least there was something to talk about. Whereas Melissa's who struggled up until the end of this challenge was ba-ba-boring. To me, without question, Melissa's was the worst. It had no design appeal and fit badly (Baby Diaper Britney Moment!). The jacket was OK, but take out the back detail and what do you have, an unexciting black jacket. And the moms? What the heck was happening with the crotch of those wrinkled pants? She looked homeless and sad. So...Elena goes home. Wh-Wh-What?Judging the Judges
I'm sure it is tough for the judges to have to eliminate designers based on the challenge (especially such a silly challenge as this) while still keeping the end result in mind...who the actual winner will be. But the more surprising and exciting result would be if they actually eliminated the worst designer based on the challenge. What a novel idea!!
We all know the First Rule of "Project Runway": Never Bore Nina. And add to that rule that Krazee will always outlast boring on "Project Runway." With that in mind, on last week’s HP Print Challenge, Gunnar went home just for that doing something that was boring design-wise. And even though his bullying story was admirable, passionate and endearing, his print was macabre and un-exciting and the end result of his supposedly equestrian-inspired design was more Chico’s than chic. A lot of you weren’t too happy about this elimination. People wanted Ven to go mainly because they just don’t like him (that Ven/Terri debacle will live on for eternity!) and yes, partially, for doing that "origami flower" one more time. However, I feel the judges were correct in their decision last week. Ven’s dress was just a little more creative than Gunnar’s so ... it was Gunnar’s time to go. But guess whose time is now?High Kick Ball Change
The remaining designers wake up and are all told to meet at Radio City Music Hall. Upon walking inside, Tim Gunn is on stage with a bevy of bedazzled women: The Radio City Rockettes! Gee, I wonder what the kids will be designing this week? As The Rockettes begin their iconic high-kicking dance moves, the curtains part open, and they are joined by none other than Miss Heidi Klum. After one or two Heidi High Kicks, she announces (to no one’s surprise) that the challenge this week is to design a new costume for The Rockettes. Linda Haberman, Director and Choreographer for the Radio City Rockettes, joins Heidi and Tim in explaining to the designers what is expected of them: it must be versatile enough to wear all year long; spectacular up close as well as far away glamorous and elegant, contemporary and must have a modern aesthetic. The winning costume will also be worn by The Rockettes at a future performance. This reminds me so much of my "Design a Costume for Olympic Figure Skater Sasha Cohen" Challenge back in my season so I am privately smiling. Good times.My Time With The Rockettes
The Season 10 kids get some time after The Rockettes sashay off, to inspect various actual Rockettes costumes. Last December, I got the chance to introduce The Rockettes during a special visit they made to LA to promote their "Christmas Spectacular." I got to see and inspect some of their costumes up close and personal. They are AMAZING all the hidden hooks-and-eyes, all the understructures and boning. I even found out that one of the most iconic costumes from the "Christmas Spectacular," the Wooden Soldier, was designed by Vincente Minnelli yes, Liza’s father and Judy Garland’s ex husband. I know first hand how intricate these costumes can be.Dinner vs. Work ... I'll Take Work
Now, the minute this challenge was announced, all I could think of was, "Dmitry has this one hands down!" He was a professional ballroom dancer for over ten years so if anyone knows dance costumes and sequins, it’s him. After their Radio City visit, the designers are off to Mood and then, to the Parsons workroom. Tim enters and tells the designers that they will be leaving early because they are getting a nice dinner out. Now, let me tell you, in my season, they did this to us a couple of times. While it was nice to have a "break," it wasn’t really a break because, PS: they were still FILMING so we are still "working"! And to be honest, I would have rather been back in the workroom creating my design. But this seasons designers seemed to have enjoyed themselves, had some wine … and more wine …a nd got to let down their guards and compliment each other, and apologize for being back-stabbing bitch**. Oh, the power of Vino.Baton Twirler Tacky
The following day, it’s back to work. Tim makes his visit. To begin with, Tim thinks Sonjia looks "disabled" as she struggles to even create anything. She tells Christopher, also, that she doesn't sketch. He wisely responds, "Well, you better start!” Amen sister. Melissa has 18 pattern pieces to cut (it’s not a fully-lined COAT huney!) and is visibly strained and may need more crystal trim. Elena’s is looking like a HOT Band Uniform MESS. All she needs is a baton.Christopher: Skyline Diamante Fab
Christopher, Dmitry and Ven get positive critiques from Mr. Gunn. The very minute I saw Christopher was doing a New York Skyline in crystals on his costume, I was, "Done and Done." This boy has won this challenge (sorry Dmitry). It was so obvious that Christopher was winning and everyone else was failing that Tim (or the producers?) decide that maybe another Mood trip plus an extra $100 was needed (Secretly, for everyone else). Fabio, Ven and Dmitry decide to opt out of this second Mood trip so Elena, Sonjia, Christopher (He needed more crystals to create a starry NYC night skyline) and Melissa took off to Mood on their own.Debra Messing's Biggest Fan
Next day is Runway Day and actress Debra Messing was the guest judge. Christopher is beaming. Yeah, he is gay. A very excited gay (So cute I would've done the same). The Rockettes designs come out and well, it's pretty obvious that Debra Messing's biggest fan is the winner. But we still have to go through the motions. The Top are Christopher (quelle suprise), Dmitry and Melissa. Melissa's design looks like an updated "Cigarette Girl" and she gets props for that. But, the unintentional "No. 1" beaded appliqué gets some negative critiques from the judges. Nina calls it a "miss." Dmitry's was edgy, exciting and impeccably made. But, I just thought it was a little too sexy for The Rockettes. I've been to a Rockettes show and yep, there are children, little children. If this was the Euro version, maybe, but not for America. Christopher's gorgeous NY Skyline costume wins. As Michael Kors says, "It was a Bob Mackie moment"! It was celebratory and yes, magnificent. The BEST design on Project Runway Season 10 thus far.Cheerleader Krazee vs Boring, Guess Who Is Out?
It was down to Elena's royal blue sequined Cheerleader Goes To Vegas Tacky Mess and Ven's tame and proper (and yawn-inducing) halter costume. Kors deemed Ven’s a "glamorous Mother of the Bride who cut off her dress." That's never good. The entire design bored Nina, Michael, Heidi and Debra. You know what that means ... he was outta there. It seems ironic that the one time he did not do his origami pleated flower he was in trouble. But like I said in the beginning, you design something boring and you are guaranteed a ticket home. So, those of you who wanted Ven out last week, you got your wish only a week later. No more Origami pleated roses and no more Ven. I still believe that Ven Budhu was one of the most talented designers on this season more than some of the ones who are still remaining (Even Tim hinted at this as he was saying his "Goodbye" to him). Unfortunately, Ven's ego, his Origami pleated rose and his size dysmorphia issues got to him. Good luck huney.
It's the halfway mark of Season 10 of "Project Runway." We began with 16 designers and now, we're down to 8. Last week's Team Challenge was "The Boris and Natasha Show" as I called it in my last blog recap. It was all about Dmitry and Elena and their bickering and hate-talking which dominated the entire episode. The fashions were mostly a yawn except for Sonjia's winning Armani Prive-esque jacket and Christopher's asymmetrical camel coat, so of course, the episode concentrated on the bitchy drama. What should the next challenge bring? Well, let's find out...Pay Your Bills. .. Before Getting Mommie a Boob Job
As the episode begins, there's a little confessional scene from Gunnar saying that he wishes he'll win so he can buy himself a pair of boots and his mom, a boob job. OK huney, that's cute for TV and will guarantee you get some camera time (Gunnar, you just made the producers and editors have an editorial orgasm!), but it's not so cute in real life. Here's some advice: those two things might not be your top priorities when someone hands you a $100,000. Maybe paying your college loans, bills, setting up a design studio ... those might be your priorities. Oh these kids, they slay me ... AGAIN!Addicted to Heidi
Heidi in a very mini, strapless black dress (a la Robert Palmer Girl) l; walks in, warning the remaining designers that they all need to step it up and "wow" her. Umm, HELLO! Amen Sister. This is not the first time she's said this to this group. I wonder why? I’ve been saying throughout this season that the fashions have been rather unmemorable. It looks as if the theme is "Make it Safe". But when it comes to "characters," Season 10 has it in spades. Which is better? Well, talk amongst yourselves on that one because I would rather discuss this week's challenge and fashions.HP Haute
Tim Gunn is in the Parsons Workroom with Season 8 Finalist and All Stars Season 1 Winner Mondo Guerra. They are there to introduce the HP Print Challenge (Yeayyy, one of my favorites!): Create a textile design and a modern runway look inspired by your cultural heritage. In case you've not been following "Project Runway," Mondo Guerra made a memorable impact during his season and on this same "HP Textile Design Challenge" (which he won) when he designed a gorgeous print and made a pair of impeccably tailored pants AND came out to the judges, fellow designers and millions of Americans as being HIV+. He had wise advice for the Season 10 kids when he told them not to be too literal or so calculated and to "let go."La Familia
Right before saying Adieu, Tim said that the designers would soon be receiving dossiers important to the challenge via "special delivery." They soon got to work on their HP Touchsmart Desktops designing their respective prints. Then, the Parsons Workroom doors blew open and in came various loved ones mommies (Christopher, Elena, Gunnar, Melissa, Sonjia), a partner (Fabio), a best friend (Dmitry) and a sister (Ven) who brought in these dossiers of childhood photos and family videos. Naturally the workroom became an "Oprah Winfrey Show"-like tear-fest! It was a very endearing moment for "Project Runway."The Vagina Print Monologues
Now, back to their print designs: Dmirty was inspired by traditional ornament and created a red/black print, Ven did a flower (quelle surprise!) print a pink hibiscus which he said was very important in his East Indian culture. Gunnar designed a print which had "wretched looking hands reaching out for a bird" inspired by his childhood bullying, Melissa made a "family tree" print in red and white;,Elena went colorful with her design, Christopher did lady bugs; Sonjia injected her African-American heritage into her print,and Fabio, well, he went all anatomical and designed a print inspired by (wait for it), the male and female genitalia. Ummm, you do know that young kids watch this show?Maxi Pad Ven 2.0
After a day of print designing, tearful moments, Mood shopping and a family dinner back at the Atlas Apartments, the designers get back to Parsons to find their newly-minted and printed designs on fabric. Soon, it's time for the "Tim Critique." Christopher is struggling A LOT with his print and designs. Both he and Fabio put black organza on top of their prints (to diffuse their boldness) and Tim doesn't even comment on the similarities. Ven is doing a fan-pleated detail with his print which reminds Monsieur Gunn of an "homage to a menstrual cycle" and Maxi pads (Say WHAT Mr. Tim?) He's right. It does. Subsequently, Ven quickly changes his "Maxi pad" detail and goes into "Ven Auto Pilot," making a pleated skirt using his pleated rose technique which incidentally the judges have seen again and again. You just know that they will rip him a new rose for that one!Winners ... What Do They Know?
Day of the runway show and Mondo Guerra is there as the Guest Judge, along with Season 9 Winner Anya Ayoung-Chee. It's always nice to see "Project Runway" winners/alumn as judges since they know what the designers go through (I was privileged enough to have been asked to be a guest judge back on Season 6). But, you can always sense a feeling (from the current seasons' designers) of "What do you know? You're Just a Former Contestant/Winner." You could tell that from this episode's judging, for sure. There was much eye rolling and snickering. Moving on ... How were the designs? Mostly quite fab!Print Challenge Winner?
Elena and Fabio were safe. I was surprised by Fabio not being one of the top vote-getters. His design was one of my favorites. It was so Tilda Swinton. The styling and hair were ON POINT. The design was very NOW. The print? Well, it was lost in the mix but overall, he did an outstanding design job. The top for the judges were Melissa, Sonjia and Dmitry. They all did a great job. Melissa's dress was bright, colorful, and polished. It was nice to see something that wasn't Ann Demeulemeester black. It was a print challenge after all, and in those terms, she should have won. Sonjia did a pair of great fitting pants a la Mondo and I especially LOVED the black jersey cowl-back top. But it was Dmitry who got the win. I was a bit confused, however. I agree that his jacket was, as Nina Garcia said, "phenomenal," but this wasn't a Jacket Challenge. It was a print challenge. What did I miss?If It's Another Flower I Will Scream!
Now, to the bottom: Christopher, Gunnar and Ven. Christopher's dress was too safe for the judges and he didn't "wow" anyone. And as Heidi said in the beginning of this episode, it's time to WOW! Ven sent out a perfectly made one-shoulder design very Carolina Herrera meets Oscar de la Renta. But yes, it was yet ANOTHER Ven Flower Pleated Design. Heidi, visibly upset and frustrated at the fact that he was doing the "same old/same old" asked for Tim Gunn to come in to see if he had warned Ven to NOT do that EVER again. Tim told the judges how Ven had made something reminiscent of Maxi pads when he visited him but he had not really seen his new "Ven-on-Pleated-Rose-Auto-Pilot-Mode" design. Ven didn't get the "Auf" this time but he did get a warning from Heidi: "If we see this flower thing one more time it’s …. over!" Emphasized by a very "off with his head" whistle from Miss Klum! Atta girl!No Boob Job For Mommie
Therefore, it was Gunnar's missy-looking design and print that got the boot. The judges were correct in that the details were bad, the proportions were bad, the styling was dated and so was the fashion. It looked like something from a Talbot's Catalogue from 1992. And the arms grabbing a bird print was not exciting or great enough to make a shopper want to wear it. It was actually macabre and depressing-looking. In the end Gunnar did make up with his Gay Arch Nemesis Christopher and although he might not have won, he did redeem himself as being a decent guy. Now we just have to see if Ven can pull out some thrones next week from those tired pleated roses!
Last week, there were NINE designers, and this week ... there are STILL Nine Designers. If you have been keeping score, NO ONE was out in last week's DRAMA-filled "Lord & Taylor Challenge" episode. The designers were asked to create a dress for the iconic department store and the winner was Christopher, who made a blush/nude and black gown which won praise from all the judges. On the bottom vote wise were Alicia and Gunnar, yet Miss Heidi K. said that because there were no real "train-wrecks" and, according to her, they all did a good job, EVERYONE stayed. We all realize it was because of the two designers who quit early in the season, but let’s just all play along, shall we?!Auf This and Auf That
In the beginning of the episode, the winner, Christopher, was riding high on his winning horse and declared that someone should have gone home. Gunnar was his target, and we all know, it wasn’t because of his design, but mainly because he is Christopher’s Gay Arch Nemesis! I also agree that someone should have been eliminated but I felt that it should have been Alicia. I feel that the sooner the show can rid itself of the not-so-talented designers, the quicker the TRUE designers can really make this a competition. I know it sounds mean and heartless but I'd rather see a bunch of FAB competing against other FAB. But I digress...Team Kumbaya: NOT
Now, with this good news that NO ONE was out, one would hope that there would be a communal Kumbaya atmosphere prevailing through the walls of Parsons and less melodramatic fits of negativity. Well, kids, not so fast ... After getting their "Hellooo!" from Heidi, they're off to meet Tim. He's in the Parsons Workroom, which has turned into Michael's Arts & Crafts depot with a bunch of glitter, glue, and paint. Gunn tells the designers that as of now, they have NO BUDGET to shop at Mood so ... they must create merchandise to sell on the streets of Manhattan to raise the money for their as-yet-to-be-mentioned challenge. That's the first bad news, here comes the second: this will be a Team Challenge and they will have to sell in teams of 3. The teams are named: Team 1 is Christopher, Sonjia and Gunnar; Team 2 is Dmitry, Elena and Alicia and Team 3 is Ven, Melissa and Fabio.Arts & Crafts Parsons
The designers get to work on their Art Doodle projects, making t-shirts, necklaces, etc. Team 1's stuff is looking cute croquis, fashion illustrations and well-sketched faces on T-shirts. On the other end, however, Team 2's creations are looking like something a First Grader made after drinking too much "Honey Boo Boo Go Go Juice." Soon, time's up and they take their merchandise and go try and sell their "whickety wack" to the unsuspecting hipster Meatpacking/Chelsea/East Village public. After much haggling and pleading to people that "You Really Need A 90s, shredded, Puffy-Painted T-shirt,” the teams return to Parsons to let Tim know how much money they made: Team 1 made $648; Team 2 $500; and Team 3, a whopping $800.48. So now, the teams have their Mood shopping money, but what about the actual challenge? Mr. Gunn??Next on Ukrainian and Belarus TV ... The Elena and Dmitry Show
Tim finally announces that each team must create 2 cohesive looks for Fall. They go to Mood, spend their "Sell It Girl!" money, and then return to Parsons to work, or as Elena likes to call it: My Time to Bitch. Elena (Team 2) is doing her usual "Negative Ninny" shtick, mainly focused on her Eastern European Nemesis, Dmitry. These two are SO Boris and Natasha it's actually quite amusing. Back when I did the "Road To Runway Casting Special," I KNEW that it was going to be a War of the Eastern European Divas. At one point, Elena tries to make fun of his accent, which makes no sense since, NEWSFLASH: SHE HAS (almost) THE SAME ACCENT!Don't Mess With Dmitry
Dmitry doesn't just sit there and take Elena's nastiness; he's throwing it back at her word for word. Note to Elena: don't mess with a former competitive ballroom dancer. But her hate-talk isn't just limited to her own team as she also drops "Negative Nuggets" on Christopher's "ugly ass Snuggie" camel coat. Poor Alicia who's quickly looking like Dmitry and Elena's "Bullwinkle" is getting caught in the middle of these two SUPER A-type personalities. Pobrecita, as my grandma would say.The Exquisite Roll of The Sleeve...
Day of the runway show and fashion designer Anna Sui is on hand as the Guest Judge. The designs from all 3 teams hit the runway and Christopher, Sonjia and Gunnar from Team 1 are the clear winners. They worked seamlessly together and it showed. The fact that Christopher and Gunnar could put aside their queeny antics for one team challenge and "make it work" shows maturity. They did a good job on their respective coat and dresses, but it was Sonjia's jacket that brought the most verbal applause. The judges used effusive language such as "exquisite," "expensive" and "sharp" to describe it. It's not easy to make a well-made tailored jacket in such a short amount of time. It's the details and fit that matter with a jacket and I especially LOVED the roll of the sleeves at the cap and the fit was sublime. The entire jacket was very Armani Prive. In the end, she received a well-deserved win.Sad Coat, Camel-toe Pants and a Dowdy Dirndl...
Team 3 (Ven, Melissa, Fabio) had the most money, but their designs looked cheap. While the judges praised Melissa’s cropped white jacket (it was very contemporary), they slammed the camel-toe pants she made. What was that bulge in the crotch? Women's pants should not have that. Fabio's sad coat also didn't get any love as well. And Ven? After he nixed his folded pleat skirt idea for a dowdy dirndl skirt, Nina, Michael and Heidi wondered where his "voice" was in any of this team. If there was EVER a moment where we needed one of those "Ven pleated-and-folded rose" details, it was NOW!Unharmonious Coffin Coat
But it was the most quarrelsome of the teams Team Boris and Natasha (and Alicia Bullwinkle) which ended up at the very bottom. Dmitry and Elena's squabbles caused unharmonious looks on the runway. Natasha I mean Elena felt that Dmitry took over the challenge, while Boris I mean Dmitry accused Elena of always making "coffins" (alluding to her very structured coats). The judges chastise them and their poor "sidekick" Alicia for not working as a team (true) and do not take prisoners when it comes to discussing Elena's coat. Even though Elena is a self-described Coat Queen, the judges said it looked angry, tortured and "like a coat sewn with her feet" (Ouch!). As it has become tradition now for these Season 10 designers, Elena blamed her ill-looking coat on "not having enough time."Alicia Bullwinkle: You're OUT!
And then, there was Alicia. Alicia's contribution to the team was a major yawn. Why didn't she create something cool and fun like her own little jumpsuit that she was wearing on the runway? Oh and take a guess what Alicia's complaint was? Yep: "I was having time issues." OMG! Cry me a Parsons Workroom River. Have these kids EVER watched this show? How many times can they keep using this excuse? (don't answer that!). Well, it might have taken an extra week, but finally Alicia was "Aufed" just as she should have been last week. Hopefully she was able to get a good night’s sleep in her sequestered hotel room and not have nightmares of Boris and Natasha screaming at each other all night long!
Months ago, I received a phone call from the producers of "Project Runway." They said that for the 10th Anniversary season of the show they wanted to do a special "Project Runway" Capsule Collection featuring one designer from each season. Those dresses would then be sold at Lord & Taylor, the exclusive retail sponsor for "Project Runway." I was asked to be the Season 2 designer. Jay McCarroll, Uli Herzner, Chris March, Korto Momolu, Gordana Gehlhausen, Seth Aaron Anderson, Mondo Guerra and Bert Keeter were all the illustrious designers to represent their seasons.No More Ven ... Drama
One question remained, however: who would be the Season 10 Designer to be featured in this exclusive "Project Runway" for Lord & Taylor Capsule Collection? And that's where last night's episode began. As the episode starts, there is surprisingly no mention or residue left over from last week's "Ven Storm." Obviously, it is hard for the producers to know just how strongly the audience will react to something and thus edit accordingly. But it was strange for me, and I’m assuming for many viewers also, to just move on and not remember that Ven had basically dropped a bomb on Season 10! But as they say, the show or season must go on!Fifth Avenue Dressing
For this week's challenge, the designers are told to meet Tim at the Fifth Avenue Flagship of Lord & Taylor. He is there, along with Bonnie Brooks, president of Lord & Taylor and nine fabulous mannequins in the dresses that we the "Project Runway" alum designed. The designers are told that this is the Lord & Taylor Challenge: to design a dress for the store. Bonnie then describes the Lord & Taylor woman as being sophisticated, stylish, having good taste and loves fashion, of course. My kind of woman! The winning design would go into production, and sell for about $200-$300 at their flagship and LordandTaylor.com site and be prominently featured in one of their windows. All the designs would be manufactured by JS Collection/JS Group, a company that specializes in cocktail and "After Five."I Have My Chiffonie Membership Card
My design (in the top row of mannequins) was a "Grecian Goddess"-inspired halter cocktail dres that had draping in front and back and was in cobalt blue chiffon with sequin detailing. Yes, kids, I'm an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Chiffonies. This was MY FIRST time seeing my dress as well as the other "Project Runway" alumni dresses since I submitted my sketches months ago, so I was quite excited.Another Sheath Dress?
The Season 10 designers used our dresses as a springboard in order to create their looks. Christopher decides to do a gown since there were only two in the mannequin tableaux. The rest seem to all be designing sheath dresses. I wondered to myself "the last thing our 'Project Runway' Capsule Collection needs is ANOTHER sheath dress" since there were already FOUR great ones. Maybe they were somehow subliminally inspired by all those mannequins in sheath dresses. After sketching they all headed back to Parsons, where a makeshift fabric room with fabrics provided by the JS Collection/JS Group manufacturer awaited them.Project Breakdown
Soon, the Parsons workroom becomes Stress Central, especially for the ladies. During his visit, Tim Gunn has to play "Psychiatrist Tim" to both Sonjia and Elena as they both are battling with their designs, warning Sonjia that she'll have a psychotic breakdown if she tries to channel the judge’s thoughts. Elena begins crying and having a minor breakdown of her own as she tells Tim that she feels restricted, saying that she "designs upscale" and that "this isn't the way I design..." I almost wanted to slap her upside her head with a yardstick! This season's running theme seems to be "Project Breakdown" and I, for one, am so OVER the whole "I'm stressed out" soliloquy from these designers. It's like a broken record and EVERY week they keep playing it, over and over again. It stresses ME out.The Little Black Dress Challenge?
Now, as it has become the norm here, let me get something else off my chest: why all the use of black dresses? I love a black dress, but SEVEN of them? I thought I was at someone's funeral. Gunnar is using black lace and paillettes, Alicia is doing a drop-waist Chanel-inspired shift dress in black mostly, Fabio, Ven, Melissa, Elena, Sonjia ... yep, all using black, or close to it. I didn't realize that this was the Little Black Dress Challenge. And when it wasn't black, it was gunmetal gray (Dmitry) or nude/blush with, you guessed it, BLACK! I'm a COLOR "Queen" (no comments please!), so it's natural for me to go for the NOT BLACK. I guess it's just me.Another Breakdown?
On runway day, most of the girls are running around like it's a Louboutin 75% off shoe sale. It's a mess. Melissa started a new dress the night before and was not even close to being done as Tim gave the two hour makeup and hair warning. Sonjia is making Tim's prediction of a psychotic breakdown come true as she begins crying when her model can't put her peplum'ed design on. And to make things worse, she doesn't have time to finish her hem. Tim gives her a final nugget of "Fake it on the Runway" advice. That should be the tagline for "Project Runway." Amen Sister Tim.Asymmetry, Non-Sheaths and a Gown Queen
It's runway show time and Bonnie Brooks of Lord & Taylor is there as the guest judge, joining Heidi, Michael and Nina. The results: Dmitry, Ven and Sonjia are safe and after that pre-runway breakdown, Sonjia was relieved beyond words. I was surprised Dmitry was not at the top because I thought his was one of the better sheath dresses. The Top were Fabio, Christopher, Melissa and Miss "I-Don't-Design-For-Cheap" Elena. I was really shocked Melissa ended up on top. Her brocade dress was too tight on the model, and between the stiff front and the too-asymmetrical hem, it was way too directional for any department store customer. I liked Elena's harness full-skirted dress. At least it wasn't another sheath dress. Thank you Elena. And I also liked Fabio's design. It looked sellable and wearable for many women of varying sizes. In the end, it was Christopher's blush/nude raw chiffon and black gown that won. It was elegant and looked very "Valentino by Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri" to me. Do we want to see him do something other than his strips of raw chiffon? Yes. He was warned by Heidi but congrats to Cutie Christopher. I can't wait to meet you next week as we "unveil" our designs.One Day You're In, and the Next...
Now to the bottom: Gunnar and Alicia had the lowest scores. I was not surprised by Alicia being there. Her dress to me was the most disappointing. The silhouette was unflattering and that collar looked Fashion School Student wonky at best. She doesn't like doing feminine but still, she could have done a masculine tailored sheath dress. Oh, never mind! I was surprised, however, by Gunnar being there. His dress was one of my favorites. It was cute, sassy and so-Lord & Taylor cocktail hour. But Bonnie did not like the lace and Nina said it was boring and unmemorable. Now, you know one of the "Project Runway" edicts: NEVER EVER bore Nina. Alicia was safe. Cue the "Oooohhhh, Gunnar is out!?" sighs. Not so fast kiddies, Heidi then turns to him and tells him that he's "In." So ... no one is out this week. Her explanation being that since there were no real train wrecks (I beg to differ) and therefore no reason to boot any of the designers out. I've now been working in "TV Land" long enough to feel a bit quizzical over that excuse. But oh well, one day you're "In" and the next, you are also "In"... at least this week.