Hello, "Project Runway" kiddies: I am in the midst of finishing up my NIKOLAKI Spring 2011 Collection, which along with my design partner David Paul we will debut at tonight's fabulous 3rd Annual Style Week Orange County. But even all the alterations, fittings and last-minute craziness couldn't stop me from watching this week's "Project Runway"!
Get the Kleenex Out
Well, hope you had the box of Kleenex out, because this was a MAJAH tearjerker of an episode. Amongst all the usual "Project Runway" shenanigans: a new challenge, surprise guests and more Gretchen "Two Cents" critiques, we had a HUGE revelation from one of the contestants, my little darling Latin Urkel, Mondo Guerra. So shall we just get started?
There are seven designers left, and Heidi Klum lets them know that they will be "starting from scratch" for their next challenge. Ummm, OK. Can you tell me more? Nope. But Tim Gunn will. Back at the Parsons Workroom, the designers find that there are HP computers set up with childhood photos of themselves. Monsieur Gunn is there with Executive Director of HP Global Marketing, Traci Tracta (she's kind of fabulous!), who tells the contestants that for this challenge, they will be designing their own fabric to make their next Runway Creation: Yes, they have brought back the HP Design-Your-Own-Fabric Challenge, Tim reminds them. I am not a fan of the let's-rehash-old-challenges, but…I am fine with this one because really, it's kinda cool (did I just sound like a 15-year-old Justin Bieber fan?).
Mondo Comes Out
The contestants begin to work with their HP TouchSmart Technology Computers while viewing old photos, which brings back personal pain, struggles and inner issues. Nicole Bobek April talks about her parents' divorce, Gretchen is influenced by her Southwest upbringing, Christopher has San Francisco on his mind, and Mondo, well, he tells us about his difficult coming-out story and that he has been holding a secret for 10 years; he is HIV-positive. Say what? Yep. Oh dear, you just know what's coming after a few commercials (get that box o' Kleenex ready!).
Mommy and Boyfriend Heaven
Cut to Tim Gunn returning to the workroom, saying that he has some "special guests": The designers' MOMs! Gretchen was scared that her mom would not be able to show up since she said she was rather incapacitated and had no "means" to get to NYC. But of course, she was there. Also there was Michael Costello's son, who looked like a "Mini-Me" of him along with Mommy Costello. Cutie Christopher was the only one who was "Mom-less": His partner came in lieu of Mommy Christopher, who was not available for the "will-you-fly-from-SF-to-NY-Economy-Class-for-your-son-to-be-on-TV" request, I guess. Thanks, Lifetime, for keeping that man-on-man kiss. Well, of course, the tears of joy began flowing like a monsoon in Bangladesh. Tim tells the designers that he will suspend the workday so they can spend quality (TV) time with their loved ones.
Sorry to sound like such a jaded "Reality Show" been-there-done-that contestant, but ... of course they gave them the day off: The fabric company needed that time to produce the darn fabric that they just created the print for! One-day turnaround is REALLY CRAZY. Trust me. It is UNHEARD of! I wonder if they actually got to spend more than just an afternoon with their loved ones. If it was truly just an afternoon, I need to get the name and address of that printing company, ASAP!!!
Gretchen's Critique Corner Is BAAACK!
The following day (I think!), Tim makes his visit and surveys the designers: April tells Tim that her print is divorce-ridden, and he suggests to "step away from the emotions," and Andy South is in a "Memory Bubble," struggling to focus (uh-oh!). In addition to Tim, we also have Miss Gretchen and her "Critique Corner" telling us what else is wrong with everyone's creations. Gotta love her (not so much!).
Latin Urkel Wins Again!
It's Runway Day, and the GORGEOUS Rachel Roy is on hand. I just LOVE Rachel Roy. I host TONS of Macy's events and I just can't get enough of her line: She has that Contemporary market NAILED. On the good end of the runway show are April, Gretchen and Mondo. During the judging, Nina Garcia tries to push Mondo to ESSSPLAIN what the story behind his print was (I have a feeling she knew!). He finally "comes out" and admits to being HIV-positive to everyone, which leads to the designers (and myself) succumbing to a hyperventilating flow of tears. He wins (of course!) with his oh-so-flawless pants that mitering of the "positive" print, as well as the fit, was impeccable! Even without his "coming out" story, the minute I saw his look come out on the runway, I knew he HAD to be the winner! Congrats, Miss Mondo! Once again. Can you say "Finalist"!!!
Bye, Andy … Oooops, I'm Wrong Again!
And now to the bottom: Christopher's was BA-BA-Boring and dated-looking. When your outfit looks like something Barbara Walters might wear on "The View," it is time to reassess your design strategy. But Valerie's and Andy's were definitely worse. Andy's gray print was not fashion-forward, and the entire styling/ensemble reminded me of a tacky girl at 2 am on Hollywood Boulevard. He should have gone home! But the judges chose Valerie and her (as Michael Kors described) "bad ice-skating costume" as the one to be sent home. Well, once again, I disagree with the judges. It should have been Andy. I know that they say that, for each challenge, the judges look at the outfit in front of them and NOT their past creations, but I doubt it. Because this is the SECOND time Andy gets away with a REAL mess of an outfit (hello, remember those cameltoe pants!?). I just wish the judges would "play fair" and be a little more consistent and, heck, truthful.
In the end, the superb taste of Mondo's "Coming Out" scene overrides the Why-Is-Andy-Not-Gone Argument. This was a great episode it was so "For Your Consideration, Emmy Voters" and yes, a major Get-Your-Kleenex-Out Moment. For a hot fashionable minute it made me forget all the unnecessary drama. Uncle Nick "hearts" you, Mondo. I did back at the casting and I still do now.
OK, let me just get this out of the way: I am still NOT over those nasty pants from I'm-the-new-Alexander-Wang Andy South's "Jackie Kennedy American Sportswear" ensemble. I actually had draping nightmares over it. Before last Thursday, I remembered Jackie O as an oversized-sunglasses-and-Oleg Cassini-wearing DIVA who loved the Greek Isles (and a few other things, thanks to my fellow recap blogger Laura Bennett!). Now, I can only think of BAD-pants-Jackie O: from Camelot to Cameltoe in one hot minute. Darn you, Miss Andy! Oh well, let's progress to nicer thoughts: A New Roommate Situation (no, not that loser with two left feet from "Dancing with the Stars"!) and a New Challenge.
Chain-smoking Grandma Goes to Vegas
When the episode opens, we find Cutie Christopher (the official "Floater" of Season 8) and Mondo dressed like a loopy, chain-smoking, slot-machine-playing grandma in Vegas getting ready to change rooms at the Atlas. They will be joining Andy and Michael Costello. Andy is happy, saying that "it's nice to have people that I can trust" (a slam on Michael C., I presume?).
Make the Sponsors Happy
Afterward, all the contestants meet up with Tim at the Parsons Workroom for their next Challenge. Joining him is L'Oreal Makeup Consulting Expert Collier Strong, who tells them that it's the "L'Oreal Paris Challenge," where they are to create a high-fashion look worthy of Paris Couture Week. And the winner will get $20,000 (Hello!!), and they and their winning look will appear in an advertorial in Marie Claire. In addition (sit down, there's more!), they need to incorporate one of the eye shadows in the L'Oreal Studio Secrets makeup line. The designers then choose from a "preselected" theme: Crystal, Metallic, Velvet, Bright or Matte. Tim tells the designers that unless they are adept at working with Velvet, they shouldn't! Miss Gretchen chooses Velvet, of course. Something tells me she'll do just fine (I am so old-hat now with predicting the editing!).
Drinkin' Money for Mondo Lohan
They get two full days and $300, which leads Nicole Bobek April to use her "loud voice" and talk about how many designers will waste their time away. The designers get to work on their creations and during their "breaks" ponder the fact that they are all BROKE and really would D.I.E. if they had an extra $20,000 in their Non-Sufficient Fundsengulfed checking accounts and in Mondo's case, he would LOVE the "drinkin' money." Ummm, OK, hunny. This just in: Latin Urkel just turned into Mondo Lohan.
Oh No, Not Another Twist
After a full day of design and sewing in which several designers have worries about biting off a bit more than they can chew, the kids have returned to the workroom, and Tim is BAAACK! And yes, there's a twist: They have to create a second, more Ready-to-Wear Look, to accompany their "Paris High Fashion" design. Haven't they done this challenge before … in several seasons? Come on, can't we come up with more original challenges? Because of this new "twist," the designers are stressed but making it work all except for poor Valerie. Girl has done gone and lost her way! After a bathroom breakdown in which Ivy and Gretchen (of course!) give her a very half-hearted pep talk, Valerie is back to work, and in the end she states that she is just happy to have completed garments walking down the runway. Yikes, not a good sign!
My Runway Day Two Cents
Mumbai-born American designer Naeem Khan, who's famous for creating Michelle Obama's First State Dinner Dress, is the Guest Judge on Runway Day and is ready to offer his expertise on Haute Couture creations and their Ready-to-Wear counterparts. Here's what I thought: "Floater" Christopher's was a mess! After seeing his designs at the L.A. castings, Tim turned to me and said, "We have our Season 8 winner!" Not after seeing this dress. I didn't like Gretchen's and therefore was surprised to see her in the "Top." This was not "Paris High Fashion," and the accompanying lowbrow design was something I wouldn't pick up at Macy's! I totally disagreed with the judges about the makeup: It was so boring. If I was a makeup rep, nothing about that look would make me stop the boardroom meeting and declare that this is the one for our new advertorial. It was sooo 2 pm in the mall.
Likey-Likey, and the BevMo Gift Certificate Goes To …
I LOVED Andy's twosome. From the out-there makeup (you'd think L'Oreal would like that!) to the all-in-one pants-and-shoes creation, it was very editorial. But was it ad-worthy? Nope. Hawaiian homeboy needed COLOR! Well, let's turn to Mondo for that! Latin Urkel delivered color in spades, and the judges awarded him the unparalleled $20,000 prize! Time to go to BevMo and get you some drinks on!
Ouch, That Train Just Hit Me in the Face!
The least favorites in the judges' minds and mine were Michael C., Ivy and Valerie. Michael Costello's Bordeaux-colored gown was too over-the-top. I think that train almost hit poor Naeem! As Michael Kors said, "She's got all the curtains from Tara ripped off the wall and put on one dress." Yep, that pretty much sums it up. And his "mini me" was REALLY mini Heidi Mini!
Miss Guatemala Gown Competition
Valerie's white one-shoulder concoction wasn't so bad, but Nina HATED IT. She compared it to a gown for Miss Guatemala. Oh no she didn't! Now, may I just say, I made one little comment about "looking like a preCold War Polish secretary" back in Season 6 when I was a guest judge and got about 10,000 e-mails from everyone and their Polish grandma. I sure hope that every Guatemalan e-mails Miss Nina and is as mean to her as those people of Polish descent were to me. Just sayin'. In the end, it was Ivy and her turquoise blue "High Fashion" Bridesmaid-Pageant Gown catastrophe as well as her strapless "Ready-to-Wear" cocktail dress for a "Mean Girl" at her 10-year high school reunion, who was sent home. Now, I'll let you get back to that Nina hate mail …
I just arrived in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico to host a fabulous Macy's event ("Don't Cry for Me, San Juan!") and had visions of last week's Resort Wear Challenge and how maybe they should have brought the designers here but somehow I don't think a trip to Puerto Rico would be in the show's budget! Upon arriving at my hotel, I got "good and ready," turned on the flat-screen TV and began watching this week's new "Project Runway" episode to see:
A. What Challenge these kids would not understand;
B. If Gretchen would continue her critiquing; and
C. If maybe, just maybe, Mondo figured out how to take his tacky Vegas Resort Roller Disco Girl (from last week) to a higher level … I would soon find out.
The Queen of Effortless Chic
Still Shag-a-delic Heidi Klum greets the designers by telling them that they are to meet up with Tim, where they will be "stepping back in time." At a "Capsule Studio" in Manhattan, Tim Gunn with a wall of fabulous Jacqueline Kennedy photographs projected behind him tells the remaining designers that for their next Challenge, they will create a look that defines THEIR point of view on American Sportswear and use fashion icon Jackie O as their muse. For me, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis represents Timeless International Chic; part American Sportswear and part European Couture. For my NIKOLAKI line, I design mainly cocktail and evening gowns; so of course, I would know EXACTLY what to do if I were ever "challenged" to use the late first lady as my inspiration to do sportswear. Every designer should know. Let's see what these designers thought …
Who's Jackie O?
Immediately, Christopher was excited for this Challenge, since, according to him, Classic American Sportswear is what he does. To be honest, even at Episode 8, I really didn't know what Christopher's forte was, so I was happy he told me. My favorite of last week, Andy, was at first not too happy with the Challenge, because it contradicted his un-American and more Asian aesthetic, but then said he would create a more "risk-taking" Jackie Kennedy look. Uh-oh, I thought. With all that, I was just glad that these kids even KNEW who Jackie O was! I am always shocked when I reference an Icon like Jackie Kennedy in one of my classes and I am looked back at with blank stares!
Annie Oakley Skirts, and Gretchen's "Critique Corner" Is BACK!
Back in the workroom, the designers are busy homing in on what their take on American Sportswear is. Tim checks in. "The Other Michael" is doing a cartridge-pleated skirt that reminds Monsieur Gunn of "Annie Get Your Gun." (Bernadette Peters would be proud!) P.S: This is NOT the Challenge to be doing something that reminds Tim of that. He loves Mondo's exaggerated herringbone fabric and compliments Andy's draped pants. I have no idea why. To me, even at a quick glance, those baggy pants do not say American Sportswear or Jackie Kennedy. Not cute. And that crotch looks a mess. More on that soon … But for now, Miss Gretchen who's been quiet (on the Gretchen annoying scale) these last few challenges returns in full "Tim Gunn Jr." mode, giving her infamous "Gretchen Two Cents" whether she's asked or not. I said it once and I'll say it again: Why do these designers even ask her for advice??!!
It's Runway Day … No, It's Not!
The following day, the designers think it's Runway Day, but I-Want-a-Mint-Julep Seersucker-Suited Tim Gunn walks in to tell them of a twist: They are to create an additional outerwear piece that should coordinate nicely with the rest of their already-made look.
After more Mood shopping and some time to create, Seersucker Tim is back to review. He revisits Michael Drummond, and that not-so-modern skirt hasn't changed. Michael C. has made like EIGHTEEN dresses and jackets and basically just wants "Daddy Tim" to tell him which one he likes the best. Tim advises Mondo to give his dolman-sleeve jacket some shape, and finally (thank God!), he notices that nasty crotch on Andy's pants and reminds him that "Jackie Kennedy would NOT have cameltoe!" Attagirl!
A Fun, Whimsical 2010 Jackie Kennedy
Finally, IT IS Runway Day, and actress and newly minted Fashionista and Red-Carpet Girl du Jour January Jones is on hand for the judging. January loves Christopher's one-shoulder dress, minus his "dirty dishrag" of a shrug. Ivy does an elegant pant ensemble that is very polished and screams "Jackie O shopping for expensive art." But the best was Mondo's: It was whimsical, sleek and sharp. He perfectly matched American Sportswear, Jackie Kennedy and his definite "kooky" Mondo point of view. He wins, and it is well deserved. It is the antithesis of his "Roller Disco Vegas" girl.
Drummond Triple Threat: An Old Lady, a Cheerleader AND a Figure Skater
The "Would-Jackie-Kennedy-Really-Wear-That" bottom 3 designers were Valerie, Michael Drummond and "Cameltoe" Andy. The judges were uninspired by Valerie's jacket-over-a-jacket boring ensemble, and they really did not like Michael Drummond's as well. It wasn't "American Sportswear"; it was "Poor and Sad Sportswear." One-liner Master Michael Kors said it was "an old lady on top and a cheerleader, figure skater on the bottom." He really should have listened to Tim Gunn and thrown that skirt under the table and started anew or borrowed one of Michael C.'s 55 dresses and coats he made!
Bad Crotch vs. Bad Skirt
However, the worst outfit for me was Andy's Cameltoe Pants ensemble. Nina Garcia was correct when she deemed it a "train wreck." Amen. How on earth did he think that outfit said "American Sportswear" or Jackie Kennedy? He should have done an elegant version of his "Asian-inspired" aesthetic. Maybe a modern obi wrap over a fitted blouson jacket and matching pencil skirt. Come on, Andy! Somehow he still made it through and inexplicably was still really pleased with his Nasty Crotch, poorly draped and poorly styled ensemble for Jackie FUGLY. So, it was poor Michael Drummond and his Annie Oakley skirt that was sent back to the farm. It was your time to go.
Oh these kids … these Season 8 "Project Runway" kids … More and more, as I watch, I feel like an old fogey designer/instructor, wanting to slap them all upside their coiffed heads with my pattern ruler for not really having a clue as to what the heck Resort Wear really is and for the "I-just-don't-do-patterns" excuses … But, I digress. Let's get to the matter at hand: This week's episode involves going on a fashionable vacation, more of the Michael C. He-Can't-Sew-fest (I am SOOO OVER that!) and a sad adios.
Mimosas With Michael Kors
The remaining designers were instructed by drop-crotch, silk-charmeuse-pant-wearing Heidi to meet Tim Gunn and "a very special guest" at the marina (didn't realize Manhattan had a marina!) for a mimosa-filled brunch. Once they arrived, Tim and Michael Kors were waiting for them, flanked by a fabulous yacht. The designers' Challenge: to create a Resort Wear look that captures their point of view, and is interesting, eye-catching and, of course, super fashionable. Kors also reminded the designers that Resort Wear could be anything from a swimsuit to a gown. Oh, what fun, I thought! I just recently returned from three weeks in Europe, where I spent some R&R time on the Amalfi Coast, so I KNOW what these resort divas wear; I was READY! But it seemed that some of the contestants were not.
So Not Resort: Mondo in his Underwear
"Latin Urkel" Mondo Guerra kept reminding us that he had no clue what Resort was, since he's never been to one and to him, walking around in his underwear at home in Denver is "Resort." No excuse, sweetie. Have you ever opened a Marie Claire and seen a spread of a fabulous model lounging in the Greek Isles with a silk chiffon caftan? Do you ever dream of getting out of your hometown and being THAT DIVA in the Greek Islands? Come on, I have!
Who Is My Seamstress?
In typical "Project Runway" form, Tim Gunn then comes into the Parsons workroom velvet bag in hand to announce that the designers will "pair up" (oh dear, not another Team Challenge!) and the paired designers will have to construct each other's look. Valerie is paired with Andy; Michael C. is with Mondo; April is with "Cutie" Christopher, "General" Gretchen is with Casanova (oh dear!) and Ivy gets Michael D. OK, now this "twist" is good and bad on several points: This can show people's weaknesses and strengths, and yes, there's potential for DRAMA (and this season LOVES the drama!).
La Kors Is BAACK???
Michael Kors then makes another guest appearance as "Tim Gunn 2.0" to survey what the designers are coming up with after they've received their "velvet bag o' tricks" twist. He tells the designers that "(in the fashion industry) you always have to explain what you want to someone else, and the chances of sewing every sample in your career are impossible." Yes, true. So that makes this challenge (and the twist) very apropos to the industry, BUT… you also would NEVER HIRE a sample maker/pattern maker with subpar skills, which is exactly what some of these contestants were stuck with. So, in reality, this Challenge doesn't reflect the industry it just makes for GREAT drama-filled TV!
Pattern Making 101
In terms of the pairings, it ain't going good for several of them: Ivy is having problems with Michael D. because his construction skills are not so good, and Mondo is dealing with "Michael C.-doesn't-do-PATTERNS" issues. On that note: Hello! In my season, we didn't even get pattern paper! (I noticed pattern paper on Season 6, interestingly enough.) I draped all my designs on muslin and then transferred them onto separate muslin as if that was my pattern paper so I could have accurate patterns. Does a designer need to know how to do patterns? On "Project Runway," it isn't a necessity and you can just "Make It Work," but the FIDM Instructor in me (sorry, Michael C.!) says YES! How are you going to produce those ideas of yours without one of the most fundamental skills in fashion design? If you can afford to hire a full-time pattern maker, then good for you; most designers starting out cannot. With all the early MondoMichael C. issues, however, Mondo "works it out" and succumbs to Michael's Mediterranean looks, and once again, Michael C. proves everybody wrong and is able to produce a quality garment … at least construction-wise.
What Resort Is She Going To?
Now on to Runway Day: Along with Heidi, Michael Kors and Nina, actress Kristen Bell joins the judging panel. Some designers got it and some did not, as usual. There were times when I was thinking, Do these designers really know what RESORT means? For some reason, a couple of them caught the "Palazzo Pant Bug" (Gretchen, Michael C.). My favorite was Andy's swimsuit DIVA (made very well by Valerie). His model earned her month's rent with that walk! That look could have TOTALLY worked in Positano, darlings! The judges deemed it great but very saleable. Is that a bad thing? On "Project Runway," it is. Creative always wins over Saleable. Michael Drummond's design was ultra chic and very Latvian-cruise Resort. But it was April's black sheer baby doll ensemble that inexplicably took the prize. Although the outfit was modern and directional (loved the asymmetrical neckline), it was too much like a negligee for my taste, and I cannot think of any woman, in Cabo, Cancún or the Maui Hilton who would wear that. It's very editorial, but not Resort (shows you how much I know!).
Casanova's Resort: A Retirement Home
In the bottom were Ivy, Mondo and Casanova. Let's start with Ivy: There's no excuse for her poor design; it was uninteresting, boring and the silhouette was more Amish Resort than Girl in Mykonos! Mondo's was SOOOO Junior. As Michael Kors said: "Very Forever 21" (ouch!). What was he thinking? What tacky Vegas pool party hosted by some random D-list celeb is she going to? Although Mondo remained true to his kooky aesthetic, his girl ended up being more Roller Disco than Holiday Chic. But it was my Cuchi-Cuchi Casanova who got the boot with his 70-year-old-lady-looking Resort ensemble for my aunt in Florida. He just can't get it right: It's either too hoochie or too old. Adios, Casanova see you at the Retirement Home Potluck Resort Picnic!
Well, kids, it took a while to wash off last week's nasty and stressful team challenge episode where designer Gretchen Jones turned into General Patton Runway and all of her teammates drank her "Just-do-as-I-say" and "Boy, Isn't-Michael C.-such-a-bad-designer/patternmaker/draper/sewer" Kool-Aid. Only a slight (and secretly wonderful) residue of Tim Gunn bi***-slapping them at the end of the episode was left! With that, we begin the next challenge, and one filled with more Michael C.- hatin', lots of fire-igniting polyester and plus-size issues. Let's begin, shall we?
Never a Bride … Always a (Tacky) Bridesmaid
Heidi in her signature tight and very mini ensemble informs the remaining designers that they will have new models. Oh, dear! You know what that means: It's either Mommy Madness or unruly little bratty children. Nope. Eleven women walk out, wearing hideous bridesmaid concoctions. We now know EXACTLY what this challenge would be: Create a fashionable look that these women can wear from these tacky bridesmaid dresses.
The designers are allowed to choose their models. Come on, kids. Prove all of non-fashionista America wrong and choose a non Size 4 girl and don't let them think that we, designers, are "size-ists." NOT! Cuchi-Cuchi Casanova, last week's winning designer, gets to pick first, and of course he picks the tall and perfect Size 4 Julia. One-by-one, the contestants choose, and the ones left are the "plus size" ladies. Are you kidding me? Really? The last ones standing are the lovely and full-bodied ladies. Can I just speak for the average size woman that is NOT a Size 4: This is just PATHETIC! (There, I said it!)
Tim vs. Gretchen: Not!
Post-Mood shopping back at Parsons, the designers get their Tim visit. Everyone's waiting for some sort of confrontation between "'Project Runway' Bus Driver" Gretchen and "Tell It Like It Is" Gunn, but, alas, it doesn't happen. Casanova says "EXACTLEEEEEE" about three hundred times (to Tim's critiques) and Mommy Peach decided to be the new "Miss Jay" and teach her "model" how to "work it"! (Oh, Peach, you are a closet DRAG QUEEN). And, of course, 98% of the designers are still hating on Michael C., calling him an incompetent designer.
You Like Me … You REALLY Like Me!
As a "surprise twist", Tim later announces that there will be a Designer Showcase where they will get to show their looks in a Gallery Space on their "models" as innocent NYC bystanders get to vote on what design they like the best. Attendees were given buttons to drop into fishbowls in front of each designers' dress. Mondo looked happy while poor Michael Drummond and Peach had reason to worry. Here, some he said, she said smack talk "drama" occurs between Ambulance Ivy and Michael C.
What Am I Missing?
On that note: What the heck is going on with all the Michael C. hating? It's not like he's being a Santino Rice or a Wendy Pepper or he's going into the workroom, arms outstretched with an "In Your Face" attitude. I just don't get it. Michael C. seems like a nice guy. I can only blame it on a "hyper clique mentality" where they all start believing one person who starts saying stuff. (I wonder who?) I've been in the "Project Runway" "bubble" and, yes, it's a surreal environment, so I can understand the stress and how it can make people edgy. But again, I just don't get it. He doesn't seem like a nasty person. Am I missing something? It can't be the editing. My mantra is if someone seems nasty on reality TV, they are FIVE times worse in real life. It's NOT the editing kids! Trust me.
It's runway day and the judges are ready to see the Bridesmaid-to-Runway transformations. On hand, along with the usual subjects, is the winner of the "Project Runway" "Most Frequent Guest Judge" Award, designer Cynthia Rowley. There were several capri pants and bad Camel toe crotch ones at that! (I'm talking to you, Casanova and Ivy). I actually liked Michael Drummond's cocktail dress and thought he would be in the top. (Shows you how much I know!).
Michael C.'s Revenge
The best, according to the judges, were Mondo's pink-and-black cocktail number, as well as Michael C.'s "Heidi Klum Would DIE for this" number. I thought Mondo's was a bit too "cartoony," very Judy Jetson-meets-"Jersey Shore", but it was well made. It was Michael C.'s black (very) mini dress that won (much to ALL of his fellow designers' dismay!) on his Size 2 perfect runway-walking "model." (Of course.) He definitely reworked that tacky bridesmaid gown into a hot and sexy little black dress.
Holly Hobbie Halter, Goiter Peplum Meets Do-Rag Mosquito Netting
On the bottom were Valerie and her color-blocked mess of a dress (I actually liked the original bridesmaid gown better!) and do-rag-wearing (what was that about?!) Michael Drummond's plunging neckline design. I get it: He went from bad bridesmaid dress to cocktail dress. Not a big leap. And then he used cheap fabrication that looked like mosquito netting. But I thought his model, Jacleen, looked great and the dress fit well. But it was Mommy Peach's "Holly Hobbie Halter Goiter Dress" (thanks, Miss Kors!) who was out of the wedding redo aisle. It was refreshing to see Peach have such a positive attitude from her experience. That is class. After all the drama, it was nice to see so much "Project Runway" love. Bye, Mommy Peach, we'll miss you and your pink sunglasses sweater!
One word: WOW! What an episode! Three things off the bat: Why do I have a strong urge to A) douse myself with rubbing alcohol to rid myself of all the nastiness, B) feel like I would NEVER want to be on a team headed by Gretchen and C) want to bring some Kleenex to poor ol' Michael C. to try and console him? This last episode got me all riled up: There was DRAMA, egos, lots of crying, a designer wanting to leave and another designer becoming the official LOCA of this season. I cannot wait to get started …
OMG!!! It's Philip friggin' Treacy! God, Genius, Hat Zeus! Seriously, I got the shivers just thinking about what I would design with one of his masterpieces! I was so excited at the prospect of the marvelous creations these designers would make. But then someone slapped me back to life I think it was the Ghost of Alexis Carrington from "Dynasty" with the realization that Casanova was still in the show and that there would certainly be some embarrassing messes ahead ... But before we get to all that, plus the Triple Panty Party and how EVERYONE'S drinking the Handkerchief Hem Kool-Aid, let's talk about Designer Down:
Model Diet=Designer Down
Last week … we were left with ambulance noises, and a hallway full of "Dude I Didn't Sign Up for This" production assistants, sound and camera boys, as well as one Designer Down. Ivy Higa, as it turned out, is on "The Model Diet" of cigarettes and Diet Coke, and therefore not getting enough real liquids and nutrition during these first three episodes of the show (in actual "real time," she's been there for about a week). One quick trip to the hospital and she's all good and ready to join the rest of her comrades to get "Hat Happy"!
Miss Heidi struts out, followed by the "Project Runway" models, all wearing the most GLORIOUS hat creations from designer Philip Treacy. EVERY fashion designer and student of fashion even every junior-high kid who loves fashion needs to know this man's name. Learn it, Google it, memorize it. ADORE IT! Treacy is also there to assist in announcing that for this week, the designers will create a look inspired by one of his hats. He advises them that it is all about Volume, Proportion, and Understanding the Silhouette of the person wearing it. And with that, they are off to the "Project Runway" Royal Ascot Hat Races … at Mood!
Nicole Bobek Diapers Meets Donna Karan Knockoffs
Post-Mood shopping, the designers head to the Parsons workroom, and Father Tim makes a visit. Olympic figure skater Nicole Bobek's doppelganger, April Johnston, is doing Booty Shorts that look like diapers (privately, I am DYING!). Tim loves Christopher's creation, but honestly, I am so not a fan. It looks so '90s: the fabric, the portrait collar. Speaking of dated, San Juan Boy Scout Casanova gets ripped by Monsieur Gunn for his un-original Donna Karan black jersey number circa 1988. In another classic Casanova moment, he does his best Charo impression when explaining that it's EDITOREEEEEEAL! (Privately LOVE HIM!)
Change It Up, Daddy!
"Happy Father's Day" Michael Costello is having puckering issues, and Tim suggests he needs to be "put back on track." Side note: 27-year-old Michael Costello has a CHILD? Who does he think he is? Neil Patrick Harris? I can't even take care of my three-year-old dog, and I'm … well, never mind! Soon after the Tim visit, Daddy Michael C. decides (wisely) to tear his original dress up and start anew as "I'm a Two-Time Winner, Y'all" Gretchen is still in the confessional giving her Tim Jr. Assistant two cents. Oh, it's going to be a HATCRAZEEE runway show, I can tell.
Make Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow Proud!
It's Philip Treacy Runway Day at "Project Runway," and the judges with Heidi featuring a Philip Treacy chapeau, of course are ready to score. Would the designers' creations play homage to Treacy's fabulous hats, or would they end up in the back of the Royal Ascot line? Gretchen's design looks very Zara … on sale. A.J. Thouvenot's dress is a Lacroix pouf from 1987. Ivy's hospital-inspired ensemble looked like a muslin sample as opposed to a finished look. And these kids were "In"! Surprisingly, my Latino sister Casanova also made it through, with a black jersey dress that actually wasn't that bad.
Michael Drummond's architectural backless jacket with hand-pleated, crinkled skirt was fabulous! LOVED this ensemble (and so did the judges). It really complemented his Philip Treacy hat; they looked as if they belonged together. The judges caught the "Handkerchief Hem Virus" and liked Valerie's dress with cropped vest as well as Michael Costello's second creation (that boy can sew very quickly!), an iridescent chiffon dress straight from the movie "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time." Both of which had handkerchief hems. Did I not get this fashion memo? Even Queen Gretchen caught the virus and sent down a handkerchief-hemmed tunic top.
Princess of Puerto Rico
Michael's dress was pretty and, as Nina said, effortless, but I may have to agree (I know, sit down!) with Casanova on this one: I think EVERY Puerto Rican girl probably does already have this dress in her closet! But Daddy Michael wins and gets immunity for next week and hopefully lots of e-mail and Facebook Friend requests from the female population of Puerto Rico!
Indochine vs. Orchid Nation
But now, we will travel to Indochine and the Land of Sad Orchids. Oh, Miss Nicole Bobek I mean, April I kind of get what you were going for, but it just didn't work. As the judges said: "Right category, wrong design." The Triple Panties and their bad fit are what put you there. Why didn't you channel something more in line with John Galliano's "Madame Butterfly Dior Haute Couture Collection" from Spring '07? Instead you went to an Indochine Hooker Party. But it was Kristin's uninspired black and fuchsia dress that lost out. She had this STUNNING and oh-so-majestic orchid hat design and she did not understand what to do with it; such a joyous hat, such a bland dress.
With that, we leave the Royal Ascot Races of "Project Runway" and the glamorous world of Philip Treacy and hope that next week the designers will have moved on from the handkerchief hems and Miss April will have left the Triple Panties back in her Atlas Apartment drawer.
What could be more fun than party dresses, a new Tim Junior in the workroom, Gretchen-hatin' and a transvestite flamenco dancer at a funeral? Oh, and yes, call the ambulances: We have a designer down! Yep, welcome to Episode 3 of "Project Runway" Season 8.
Where's the Party?
The day begins with a model elimination and Heidi announcing that Tim is throwing a party. I assume it is to celebrate that Jason "I'm a Straight Designer, Dude!" and his staples and safety pins are gone from the workroom. Nope, no such party. The 13 remaining designers meet up with Tim at the "Party Glitters" store (sounds like a drag club in Brooklyn), where he announces that this week's assignment is the "Unconventional Challenge," where they are to design an outfit using party-store supplies. He tells the designers that they should NOT use materials such as tablecloth or wrapping paper, since those are similar to actual textiles and the judges do not "likey-likey."
Not a Fan
These challenges are usually the most unforgettable ones of each season: Remember Austin Scarlett's infamous dried-up corn-husk dress from Season 1? Or Mychael Knight's coffee-filter dress (Season 3)? Fans LOVE watching it, but I bet if you polled past alumni, 95 percent would not be fans. I HATED when this challenge came up in my season where we had to make a dress out of plants and flowers. I stood in front of my work table for about five hrs just staring at my soon-to-be-wilting banana leaves with not a single creative thought and jealous of the designers around me already half-done with their "Flower Power" creations.
Where Do You Side?
Tim says that these challenges are really about pushing the boundaries and being innovative with materials you wouldn't normally use, but I argue on whether this really is a make-it-or-break-it challenge in deciding who gets to be "America's Next Great Designer." Honestly, I think it's more about the fun in watching what HOT MESSES the contestants will make, rather than "pushing creative boundaries."
After the marathon party-store shopping, the designers head to the Parsons workroom, where it's quickly looking like a Quinceañera after way too many heavily spiked margaritas! There are several workroom dynamics simmering that revolve around Miss "I-Won-the-Last-Two-Challenges-So-You-Can-Suck-It" Gretchen. She's fast becoming this season's not-so-nice contestant (rhymes with RICH), which means you KNOW she makes it to the Top Three! And for some reason, she has taken it upon herself to be Tim Gunn's junior assistant, giving her (mostly unwarranted) two cents to everyone else.
Lupe, Part 2
I shake my head in wonderment EVERY TIME I see designers on "Project Runway" try to give advice to other designers or ask it, for that matter. Lupe (Guadalupe Vidal) was my season's Gretchen, albeit in a much more naïve way. I watched her go from designer to designer giving advice, and all I kept thinking was, Huuuuuney, you better not even THINK of coming to my table … Alas, she didn't. If there's one big rule on "Project Runway" (future contestants, listen up!), it's this: Do Not Take (supposed) Advice From Your Fellow Contestants! It Is a Competition!
Wooly Ball Obsession and Casanova's Hearing Problem
Tim visits, and he is half-impressed and half-puzzled. Everyone (including Tim) is expecting great things from A.J. (who, incidentally, is no longer Daniel Vosovic Jr. but now has transformed himself into Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" lovechild!). He loves making "quirky dresses" using unconventional materials, but for some reason he is doubly stressed. Tim loves Ivy Higa's and (FIDM graduate) Sarah Trost's color palette (before she lets Gretchen sabotage her!). There's a very funny moment with Kristin, where we discover much to everyone's delight that Tim likes "Wooly Balls" (wink wink). And of course, Casanova, once again, is suffering from a hearing impediment when he somehow doesn't (or chooses not to) hear Tim say "No tablecloths." Cut to Casanova madly creating a gown out of …. TABLECLOTHS!
Heidi and Rihanna Fight It Out!
Runway Judging Day is upon us, and the guest judge is (drum roll!) Betsey Johnson! Who else could judge such a challenge? No one as well as Miss Betsey! Let the "Quinceañera Red Carpet" runway show begin. As expected, there are some stupendous designs and some, not so much. On the "Partyfabulous" side are Michael Costello and that showstopping red gown (wow, he made THAT in one day!), Valerie's napkin black & white dress, as well as Mondo's colorful mini creation (that bustier was hot!). But the best were Gretchen's (loved the pieces, HATED those boots!) and Andy's HOT black hand-twisted ribbon dress ideal for Heidi or Rihanna which eventually takes the prize (cut to Gretchen's snarly "I Hate You!" look).
Who Gets Kicked Out of this Quinceañera Party?
Now to the bottom: Poor Olivia Newton-John lovechild A.J. That was, as Nina Garcia said, a "hot mess." A fringed crotch? … A.J.? … Really? If only he would have just taken it 110 percent further!! Betsey Johnson was right on that one. It was a Heatherette DISASTER! Casanova's was THE WORST (in my eyes). I think I spit out my glass of cabernet when Michael Kors said it looked like a "transvestite flamenco dancer at a funeral" dress. Amen. And Casanova tried to back it up by suggesting that he was a COUTURE designer. Couture with a "K" maybe! But it was "I-Shouldn't-Have-Listened-to-Gretchen" Sarah Trost who was kicked out of this Quinceañera Party for an uninspired, sad dress made from paper palm-tree cutouts. Adios, Sarah!
And with that, we are back at the Atlas Apartments and … why are there ambulances? Say what? My first thought was: Did Gretchen punch Andy out for winning? Did Casanova cha-cha his way to Margarita-land and have one too many? Nope. Contestant Ivy Higa is down! Boy, I think this really must have been a crazy party!
Well, stay tuned …
Hi, "Project Runway" kiddies! I am finally back from my trip to Europe. A little bit jet-lagged, but back! What better way to snap me out of my "Why am I waking up at 4 am ready to start my day?" time clock than watching my favorite show. There's nothing I love more than seeing Straight Designers remind me that they are Straight (and that safety pinning is their form of "construction"), watching Tim lower his glasses one more time, see so-called designers ask for pattern and styling help, and seeing judge Nina Garcia have an awkward moment with her boss, Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire. May I begin?
X-tra Large Marie Claire
The 16 contestants are very ecstatic to be "officially in" (even Casanova and Jason Staple Boy, much to my dismay!). The next day, they gather to have the unveiling of their first "official" challenge. Tim is there, and so is Heidi (still working her shag 'do). But they have a friend: Joanna Coles in her best Knightsbridge upper-crust British accent announces that they are to design a look that defines the Marie Claire Woman, who is five things: Intelligent, Practical, Fashion-Forward, Confident and Sexy. As a special bonus, the winning outfit will be displayed on a billboard in Times Square! Seriously BIG, figuratively and literally.
I Ain't Schooling You!
Back in the workroom, Miss I-Don't-Speak-English … or Do I? Casanova is asking Daniel Vosovic Jr. I mean AJ for pattern help. REALLY? OK, I admit, back in my season, several fellow designers (who shall remain nameless) asked me for help in making their sleeves, bustiers, etc., and I happily obliged. I guess it's the FIDM instructor in me. It wasn't until Chloe Dao (Season 2 winner and my good friend), took me aside and told me, "You need to stop doing that and helping them!" that I woke up and smelled the Reality Show Roses! So, it KILLS me when I see other designers ask for pattern help or draping help or any other type of help. You Are On Your Own, Ladies! And I guess that's what AJ told Senorita Casanova. On a similar note: What is Mondo doing asking fellow designer Valerie for styling advice? What part of "This is a competition" did you NOT understand?
"Golden Girls" Meets Figure 8's
Father Tim walks in, and instantly his glasses begin to slide down his nose. Tim deems Michael Costello's design too "Blanche Devereaux." (Michael probably didn't even understand; he was born in 1983!) Tim also calls Peach's design "discordant" (love those Tim-isms!), and questions Jason's (who looks like a doppelganger for "Dr. 90210" by the way) "Figure 8" creation. Tim then announces that there's another element to the challenge: There will be a photo shoot of their design, edited by the contestants themselves, which will be considered come runway time.
Mondo Is Back in High School
Back in the Atlas Apartments, Mondo is reliving high school all over again and feeling like an outcast since he's not with the "In Crowd". Bless his high-waisted Steve Urkel pants/kooky glasses/miss-matched ensemble heart! He's been in his apartment for less than five hours and already trippin'? Someone get him some liquor! Luckily, he snaps out of his "Pity Party" doldrums in time for the runway day.
It is Marie Claire Billboard Runway Time, and to no one's surprise, Miss Joanna Coles is the guest judge. It's her magazine on the line, after all! In my eyes, the designs were oh-so-safe and, well, rather yawn-invoking. But being that this was a very commercially oriented challenge, it isn't a surprise. This is not the time for avant-garde. But somehow, I wished I would have seen something that would have made my heart skip a beat. I did not.
But first, Le Good
Casanova actually did well! That bishop-sleeved blouse/jacket and skirt were actually muy bueno. The construction was sublime. So, I have a question: Did he really need AJ's pattern help? Was he then just acting as if he needed help? And if so, why? Both Nina and her boss, Joanna Coles, liked Mondo's look. First time they've ever agreed? Muy interesante. Can you say awkward?? The design was OK, but it felt a little more "Forever 21-meets-Teen Vogue" than Marie Claire. I agreed with the judges and some of the designers that Valerie's red high-necked, fitted red dress was one of the best. The color could "pop" in Times Square; it was both directional and still approachable, very Marie Claire. However, Miss Gretchen won, once again. Hers was a plunging-neck dark navy jumpsuit. It was VERY New York fashion magazine junior editor going out to the Standard Hotel "Boom Boom Room". With that, she win's the Times Square prize. PS: Can we see more of Coco Rocha jumping up and down?! She's worth EVERY penny she gets kids! Now THAT'S a model!
Marie Claire goes Amish…and Hoochie
Oh, Miss Peach! Her polka-dotted dress looked like a reject straight out of the closet of "Desperate Housewives'" Bree Van de Camp. And supposedly this was her THIRD creation?! I laughed when Michael called it an Amish cocktail dress. The fabric alone looked like a paper napkin from "Bed Bath & Beyond"! Michael Drummond's hoochie micro-mini dress was more Vibe magazine than Marie Claire. Nicholas' was BAD. The cape, the badly draped back, the wonky-hemmed skirt … yeah, not cute. Too bad, because his model was GORGEOUS!
No More Staples … and Safety Pins
BUT… my favorite Straight Designer, Jason, took the cake as WORST in my eyes: He wanted to design an "Infinity 8" dress and in fact made a safety-pinned, badly fitted Infinity MESS dress and then tried to show how it Could've, Would've Should've looked. NEXT! Surprise, surprise: Both Jason and Nicholas were gone. Heidi kept alluding to "One … or more of you will be gone," and it came true. No more staples. No more safety pins … and no more "Give Me a Break, I'm a Straight Designer!" excuses. No Marie Claire Billboards for you boys. Now, back to Nina and Joanna agreeing and Coco Rocha jumping!
Bonjour, designers! I am in Europe and happen to be writing this first recap from Paris. The City of Light and The City of Fashion and Haute Couture! Yes, I know Shut the Front Door! Thanks to the magic of hotel satellite TV, I can "make it work"! So let's get started.
Tim has dry-cleaned his suits and wiped his glasses clean; Heidi has a new shag-a-delic 'do, Michael is re-bronzed and Nina has polished her new Louboutins. This could only mean one thing: "Project Runway" is back! Seven seasons and over 110 contestants later, and still going strong. For Season 8, 17 bushy-tailed, bright-eyed and PR-agent-ready designers from across the U.S. arrive in New York and get to meet each other "Real World"style at various NYC landmarks. From the brief introductions, they seem to be a very "colorful" bunch. Their names alone slay me: Mondo, Peach, Casanova? It sounds like the cast of a porn movie or a Telemundo telenovela! Also, is Daniel Vosovic back, or is AJ his younger brother?
Once all together, they gather at Bryant Park oops, I mean Lincoln Center, the new site of New York Fashion Week, where Headmaster Tim and Empress Heidi await. After Tim's requisite "You're Our Best Group EVAAAHHH!!!!!" speech, the 17 designers are then told that the audition process is not over yet. This first challenge will actually decide who gets to be in the "final cut" and eventually sleep soundly at Atlas Apartments. Heidi asks each designer to take out one favorite item of clothing from their suitcases (which is assumed to be what they will create their first look with).
But there's a "twist": They had to pass that item to the designer on their right. Each designer now had to create a look incorporating this item into the final runway ensemble and had only five hours to do it. Casanova somehow brought a pair of $1,070 Dolce & Gabbana pants, which he proudly took out but now will be ripped by a fellow designer. Side note: If Casanova can afford $1,070 pants, tell me why he needs $100,000 to start a line? I can barely afford Zara! But I digress.
Glasses on the Nose
Tim and the designers head straight to Parsons, where they get to work. Monsieur Gunn informs them that because of the unusually short work time, Mood Fabrics will come to them. I'm sure they breathed a sigh of relief that they didn't have to spend several hours traveling in a van with enough security detail to protect the President of Afghanistan. After a brief time working, Tim comes in and gives his two cents. A clear sign that things are not going well is seeing how low Tim's glasses slip down his nose. There were several glasses-on-the-nose moments. Models come in for fittings, and we get glimpses of the messes that we're about to see walk down the runway.
Le Premiere Runway
Along with Heidi, Michael and Nina, actress Selma Blair (looking very cute in a bangs-and-a-bob hairstyle) guest-judges this first "What's in Your Luggage?" runway show. Because it is 17 designers, this first presentation is always long! And it seemed even longer because, honestly, there were A LOT of messes.
Hot: Le Black
Only two really stood out as good for me: Andy's über-stylish all-black ensemble and Gretchen's chic black short-to-long cocktail dress with embroidered shoulders. The judges were unanimous that Gretchen's was the clear winner for its simplicity, elegance and wearability as well as how she transformed a little capelet into a pretty and stylish cocktail number.
Not So Hot: 50-Year-Old Divorcees on Vacation Meets Dubai Strippers?
The bottom lot was not just a potpourri of ugly, but a whole buffet. I was surprised how some of my bottom picks sailed through, however: Peach's printed halter dress was a snooze and not fashionable or directional, and AJ's design was a bad prom tulle confection (was that bow made out of aluminum foil?). But the judges' bottom picks were worse, including Ivy's printed capri pants that she "re-made" … from pants! The whole outfit looked like a 50-year-old divorcee going out to dinner on her vacation in Pensacola. And then there was Jason's backwards kimono. Lord, was that BAD. His model looked like Kelly Osbourne before she got a stylist! Casanova's was equally bad, a Cavalli-meets-Versace circa 1992 disaster. It was just tackety-tacky. Dios mio!
Not My Choice for the Worst
Surprisingly (at least for moi), the judges' worst was McKell's shirtdress baby doll. I have to agree with Tim in that I actually thought it was cute. Was the styling dubious? (Love those Tim-isms!) Yes. That hair was dated, and the oversized bag, well, better suited for a millionaire's wife on her way to her Botox appointment. But are we judging the overall styling or the creation and design? Because in creation and design, McKell's exceeded over Jason's stapled-backwards kimono as well as Casanova's tasteless "cover-up" of a dress. Not so sure how McKell ended up being worse than those two. I was also a bit dubious (Hi, Tim!) on why the judges seemed to be making excuses for Jason and Casanova especially. Both Nina and Selma concurred, "It is fascinatingly bad … but still fascinating." Really? I thought it was just BAD!!! But that's the beauty of fashion. It's all very subjective. We'll see how much more stapling and stripper dresses those two continue making. For now, we bid a quick adieu to McKell. My final advice to future contestants: Pack CHEAPLY, and no more Dubai Pole Dancer Dresses!