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It is getting down to the “Project Runway” wire. Out of 16 designers, only seven remain. There are some who are talented and, arguably, some who are not so talented. There are definitely a few in the bunch who probably shouldn’t have made it through so far. After the last “Sequin and Feathers” Christina Aguilera/Bob Mackie Challenge, it was probably time to bring it down one or two sequin notches, or so they thought. With that in mind, Heidi Klum tells the remaining designers they are to take a little trip to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, where Tim Gunn would await them.
Shakopee Trading Post to Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
Shakopee, Minnesota native and token “Podunk-er of Season 6” Christopher got excited at the prospect of going to Rodeo Drive, admitting that “there are no Guccis or Yves Saint Laurents in my mall …” That might be his problem. Maybe it’s time to get on a United Airlines flight and get thee to Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue or find a cheap flight to Paris to see that there are other designers and stores besides the Shakopee Trading Post. But I digress. With this challenge, the producers of “Project Runway” are doing their part in exposing little ol’ Christopher to a brand new world of fashion, and at least it’s a start.
Paris Hilton in Mykonos
The designers arrive at the Rodeo Drive West Coast Flagship of Michael Kors. Surprisingly, Kors was actually there: For a second I thought he might be at the store via SKYPE! He explains how many of his collections are inspired by his travels around the globe, to places such as Santa Fe, St. Tropez, Palm Beach and Greece. It is fitting, then, when he introduces the next challenge for episode ten: to create a look inspired by a fabulous locale. As a designer myself, I am always influenced by international locations, whether or not I have been there. But the whole point is that it provides me with a point of design inspiration. Sometimes too much so, as witnessed back in my season, when I kept referring to the outfits I created each week as “Paris Hilton in Mykonos” or “Diva in Capri.” Curiously enough, Michael Kors chastised me for doing that, which seems odd since that’s what he is all about.
Put Down the Necklace and Make a Dress
With that, the designers get their locales and are back at the FIDM workroom, post Mood shopping, to see who was actually paying attention in their geography classes back in high school — and who may need a new Eurail Pass. Tim makes his visit and first checks in on Gordana, who picked Park Avenue/Manhattan. She’s used up all her time making a beaded necklace (see photo), and Tim says he’s nervous to leave her without seeing an actual dress. Irina, who chose Aspen, looks as if she’s almost done. That girl is OUT OF CONTROL; she is Bitchy McBitch and Speedy Gonzalez all rolled up into one!
Carole Cook Palm Beach Caftan Fantasy
Althea’s inspiration is St. Tropez, and she is doing separates for a girl heading out to brunch on the French Riviera. Mall rat Christopher is working on a Santa Fe, New Mexico, look, which immediately makes me squirm. However, Tim is somewhat liking the Navajo-looking leather belt. Carol Hannah is going to Palm Beach, but stressed she may not have enough of her leaf-printed fabric. At one point, her drape was looking like a Carole Cook (look her up, kiddies!) caftan, and I was LOVING IT! Nicolas, who got my favorite locale, Greece, is inexplicably doing something that doesn’t look very Greece-inspired. He boasts about never having been to Greece, and Tim looks a bit worried. Soon he’s in the confessional saying that he doesn’t want to go home or be in the bottom three. That’s the moment I say, “Oh, Nicolas is SO GONE!”
Ukrainian Arms Dealer Trophy Wife Goes to Aspen
It’s Runway Day and, as usual, the kids are in a panic. Michael Kors, Nina Garcia and guest judge model/actress/designer Milla Jovovich are all on hand to see the “Project Runway” World Inspiration Tour. Carol Hannah’s sundress looks fabulous (I still secretly wish she would have done a caftan!), and she is praised for it by Jovovich, who says she would “live in that dress.” Gordana did get to make something to attach to her beaded necklace, and the judges liked it. It looked very uptown and classic, but I was yawning over her repeated use of gray. Irina Shabayeva’s après-ski look ended up being the winner. It looked luxe, and at least the girl had a vision — from head to toe! It was very “trophy wife of a Ukrainian mafia arms dealer.”
New Mexico Circa 1983
The bottom group was a Testosterone Fest: Logan, Christopher and Nicolas. Logan created a cute yet uninspired ensemble for his Hollywood locale. (See photo.) Logan frustrates me. Why he didn’t just go ahead and make a rockin’ hipster female version of himself is beyond me. Logan is more stylish than his own designs! Christopher’s Santa Fe creation was the opposite of Irina’s: It lacked vision. Heidi even said it was “sad and ugly.” But Milla liked the belt, saying it was very 1983. That would have been a compliment, if only the ENTIRE OUTFIT wasn’t so 1983! His look was something a (58-year-old) proprietor of a New Mexico turquoise shop would wear.
But it was Nicolas Putvinski who really “missed the ferry” from downtown L.A. to Patras, Greece, during this Fabulous Locale Challenge. His look had nothing reminding anyone of the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea and blue-capped buildings of the Greek isles. Sad, ill-fitting gray pants and a white cotton surplice-wrap top? Nicolas: It’s Greece, not AFGHANISTAN! With that, Heidi waved goodbye and gave him a gift certificate to the nearest gyro restaurant. Yassou, Nicolas!
I just have one word for episode nine: OMG!! But I will get to that in just a minute. Critics and some fans have argued that maybe some of the early challenges have been, well, a bit lackluster. However, I have been noticing that in the recent weeks, the show has been gaining “Challenge Momentum”: The Costume Challenge and Nicolas’ fierce Ice Queen; the Newspaper Challenge and Johnny’s lie and Bleeding Bird Dress; and last week’s Divorcée Re-Do and accidental Oktoberfest fashion disasters, have all made for major highlights. Our favorite show is definitely taking its “fashion vitamins.” And now Xtina AND Bob Mackie?! Can a gay man ask for anything more? It’s called absolute H-E-A-V-E-N.
Sequin Crazy at the FIDM Museum
Eight designers are left, and Heidi Klum walks in — looking especially HOT. She tells the designers that A) they have no immunity from now on, and B) this challenge will be their time to shine. With that, they follow Tim Gunn into the hallowed corridors of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum and Galleries, which, incidentally, houses one of the most comprehensive (12,000) archives of costumes, accessories and textiles from the 18th century through to the present day, including film and theater costumes. At the Gallery, “The Sultan of Sequins,” Bob Mackie — along with Tim Gunn — awaits them.
Bob Mackie=Sasha Cohen
Standing next to all the iconic costumes he has designed for Cher, Madonna and Diana Ross (see photo above), Bob Mackie introduces the next challenge: to create an extravagant stage look for pop SUPERSTAR Christina Aguilera. Nicolas “I-never-met-a-feather-or-sequin-I-didn’t-like” was DYING! When he saw Mackie, I was afraid a team of medics would have to be called in to calm his excitement! He acted the same way I did when I saw Olympic figure skater Sasha Cohen in my Season 2 Figure Skating Costume Challenge — I guess Sasha Cohen was my Bob Mackie!
Vegas Drag Queens at the Ice Capades
$300 worth of Mood feathers and sequin fabric later, the designers return to their FIDM workrooms to begin their stage looks, which they have two days to create. The following morning, Tim arrives to see whose outfit would “Shut It Down!” and which ones would be worthy of showing at a Vegas off-the-strip Drag Queen Review. Gordana “I’m a DEEEEESIGNER” is safe (because of last week’s win) but stressed: Her beads keep falling off, and Tim thinks her dress (which she is remaking) looks matronly. Tim looks at Christopher’s outfit and calls it a “general disappointment” and adds that it reminds him of a 1999 ice skating look (Hi, Sasha!).
Guinevere-Vampira meets Irina McBitch
On the other hand, Tim thinks Carol Hannah’s look might have a “wow factor.” I’m just afraid of how dark the colors are. Nicolas — who should have this one in the bag — is making a “Mini-Me” of his winning Ice Queen design, and Tim calls him out on it. Shirin seems to have bought every tacky cheap sequined fabric at Mood, and her creation is looking like a “throw-in-everything-AND-the-kitchen-sink” dress. Tim says it looks like not only Guinevere-meets-Vampira but also a really bad prom dress for a 16-year-old. If I was Shirin, I would crawl under the table and hide until one of the production assistants slips me a BIG OL’ strong drink, and call it a night! But of course, you can’t really do that. On the sidelines, Bitchy McBitch, Irina, is at it once again, talking trash about everyone within a five-foot radius. She’s good at what she does, I’ll give her that, but it seems like an insecure mechanism (isn’t it always?) to be doing that, especially if you are so sure of how good you are.
Season 6 Supremes: Diana 2.0, Mini-Me Ice Queen, Elegant Xtina
Tensions are high on the day of the runway show as the designers are sewing their last sequin and feather on their figure skating outfit … I mean, 1999 Prom Dress … I mean, Stage Look for Christina Aguilera. At the judges’ seats are Nina Garcia (she’s finally returned from her lovely vacation in Cartagena), Bob Mackie (Nicolas is having a second cardiac arrest) and yes, the one and only Miss Christina Aguilera (EVERYONE is having a cardiac arrest now!). The Project Runway Stage Divas come down the runway, and Althea’s model, Tanisha, looks more Diana Ross than Christina, but that’s still good in my book — as well as the judges’. Aguilera loves Nicolas’ “Ice Queen Little Sister,” giving praise for its “booty-shaking” drama. But Carol Hannah Whitfield’s sophisticated black feathered gown takes home the Project Runway Grammy for Best Dress.
Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Christopher?
While the top three looks were stunners, the bottom, not so much. I actually thought Logan’s look was cute, but it didn’t stand a chance next to the “you-can-me-see-from-row ZZ1,008” creations of Nicolas, Althea and Carol Hannah. The judges deemed it a bit “cavewoman,” and I agree; she looked like Wilma Flintstone going to the Nokia Theater. The bottom honors, however, went to Christopher and Persian Princess Shirin. Christopher’s look reminded me (and Bob Mackie) of a hoochie Pussycat Dolls costume. (See photo.) The judges nailed it when they told him it was reminiscent of Aguilera’s “Lady Marmalade” period. What was he thinking? Christina does not want to look like a cheap VH1 hooker anymore — that was Christina EIGHT years ago! And then there was poor Shirin. It was too much dress and suffered from the “student project” virus. It also reminded Heidi of a Halloween witch dress. So it was between Lady Marmalade Hoochie Soul Sista and Halloween Witch Couture. And with a wave of a broomstick, Heidi bid adieu to our little Shirin Askari.
Keep Away From Matches
This week was no different in episode eight. The episode begins with Irina, bitching about how all the other designers must hate and be jealous of her (she’s won twice), and therefore building some sort of story arc that I am certain will play out in upcoming episodes. Heidi enters the runway and tells the designers that they have “new models.”
Suddenly nine women appear in the tackiest of wedding dresses. It looks like a going-out-of-business sale at Filene’s! Miss Klum then tells the designers that these women are divorcees and that they are wearing their old wedding gowns. I shriek at the thought that any of them actually had the impudence — I don’t care if it was FIFTEEN YEARS AGO — to choose such tasteless visions of acetate and tulle.
Divorzillas Get a Makeover
The challenge Heidi then gives them is to convert an old wedding dress into a fashionable new look. The designers choose their models. Irina, being first, picks the divorcee with the biggest “Gone With the Wind” gown (smart girl), while last-in-the-velvet-bag Persian Princess Shirin gets stuck with a client whose simple shift dress consists of maybe 1 1/2 yards of fabric. This challenge was to “test” the designers’ ability to work with a client who wasn’t 5'10" and a size 2.
It was about listening to the client, their wants and needs, as well as injecting your own design aesthetic. In past “Project Runway” client-designer challenges (the “Prom Challenge,” the “Mother Challenge,” etc.), the “real-life” clients were of varying body types. However, I noticed that for the most part, these divorcees were all consistently the same size. I feel that this was certainly to the designers’ advantage. It would have been nice to see more size diversity.
The designers meet their clients. Shirin is already having issues with her “model,” Charlie. You see, Shirin’s client wants to look like Cher — peacock feathers and all — and Shirin, rightfully, does not want to go there. They are off to Mood, where they are given $25 to purchase 2 yards of “other” fabric, and wouldn’t you know it, Shirin buys peacock feathers for her Cher-fabulous ensemble. (Don’t do it!)
Lost in Translation
The designers return to the FIDM workroom and begin constructing their looks. Tim visits and quickly has his patented “I’m perplexed” look. I love that the first reaction upon seeing Christopher’s design is “What is this?” That might not be a good start. Epperson tells Tim that he may have misunderstood the challenge, since he thought the task was to use “as little as possible” of the wedding dress fabric. Logan also seems confused and is using more of his purchased Mood fabric as opposed to the original wedding gown material. Is there a Berlitz translator who can help confused “Project Runway” contestants?
The Eastern Bloc contingency, Gordana and Irina, have both dyed their combustible fabrics and seem to be creating nice pieces. In another corner of the room, Shirin is having a meltdown, torn between wanting to make her client Cher-fabulous — and knowing it might end up like a train wreck ready for a Kors Teardown! Tim gives her a shoulder to cry on. Before heading off for his late-afternoon cocktail, Tim also reminds all the designers that the old tacky wedding dress MUST BE the core of their look. We’ll see if Epperson and Logan listen.
Fans, Rejoice: Michael Kors Has Not Left the Building
It’s Runway Day, and back at the judges’ chairs are Michael Kors (doves and hearts around his head), Marie Claire Fashion Editor Zanna Roberts, and Tamara Mellon, the chic founder of the Jimmy Choo empire and a member of the board of Halston. The designs come down, and Irina and Gordana’s are the best. Irina’s antique gold lace kimono-sleeved dress was age-appropriate and elegant. The gunmetal-gray dress deesigned by Gordana Gehlhausen was innovative and modern, and was made exquisitely. She wins as a result and gets the last “Project Runway” Immunity Idol.
Luck Be a (Bad Dress) Lady Tonight
Now to the bad divorcees who got a lucky break: I CRIED with laughter as Nicolas confessed, "This is the most HIDEOUS thing I've ever made." (He was right!) Persian Princess Shirin changed her dress at the last minute, adding black contrasting topstitching. I was on the fence about her divorcee look and actually secretly wished she would have done a Cher-at-the-Oscars look instead of this "Oh so cute and safe" design! Michael Kors did not suffer fools with his critique of Christopher's metallic Hefty bag of a dress. Christopher's taste level seems to be dropping by the minute. Maybe he just needs "time out" in that gorgeous FIDM Hope Park.
Logan and Epperson were at the bottom, however. Logan’s three-piece outfit was all over the place, and the client looked like a hostess at a Hofbrauhaus. I’m afraid he “bit off more than he could chew,” and if anyone knows about this, it’s me (remember the fully lined jacket, pants, dress shirt and scarf I made for Daniel Vosovic?). Epperson’s outfit was also another Oktoberfest waitress. Coincidence? (See photo of both designs.) Eventually, it was Epperson’s waitress from Heidi’s Hofbrau Restaurant that was sent home. She may be divorced, but she can cook a mean bratwurst in this dress!
Let’s get this out of the way right now: Yes, Michael Kors is BACK! It feels cathartic just typing those words. But I’ll get to that later. For now, it’s back to the matter at hand: last night’s episode. When we last left our contestants, dear Ra’mon was OUT with his “Hot Green Mess.” If there’s any consolation prize, we hope Lifetime will at least let him borrow the dress for Halloween. But I digress. Logan has moved in with the rest of the boys, so now they’ll enjoy (save for Epperson) some morning shirtless shots of him. (I’m jealous.)
Do I Get to Shoot a Commercial With Jessica Simpson Too?
Heidi tells the remaining designers to prepare for something “colorful.” Is this the Design for the West Hollywood Gay Parade Challenge? I wondered. Hardly. The designers meet up with Tim Gunn at their Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising workroom, where he’s brought a guest: Martine Reardon, Executive Vice President of INC International Concepts. The challenge this week is to create two looks in blue for the Macy’s INC brand. The winner will get the honor of designing a holiday dress that will be exclusively sold at selected Macy’s stores and online. Now, if only the winner could get a percentage of all those dresses sold, THAT would truly be “The Prize.”
No Love for Team Challenges
But here’s the bomb: It’s another team challenge, and they have one day to do it! All the designers pitch their vision of their two looks, and the lovely Edwardian-sleeved Martine chooses the five Team Leaders. Then those leaders choose their schlepper assistants … I mean co-designers. Althea picks Logan, Christopher chooses Epperson, Louise is excited to work with Nicolas, Irina is with Gordana, and little Shirin ends up with team leader Carol Hannah. Viewers and fans just love watching these team challenges so they can see the designers disintegrate into bitchy team infighting and witness a duel of the designer egos. However, we designers HATE these challenges. Or more accurately, I hated this challenge back when we were asked to design outfits for Banana Republic. Go back and watch the DVD of Season 2; I looked miserable the WHOLE TIME!
Say NO to Ruffles!
Team Eastern Europe Irina and Gordana are far from awesome. Gordana succumbs to being Irina’s “errand girl” and lets her walk all over her. When Tim approaches them, you can foresee what may happen on the runway when they are called on their individual looks. There is also no lovefest for Team Louise and Nicolas. He HATES ruffles, and guess what Louise is doing: dresses with ruffles! Tim doesn’t like the contrast ice-blue color on one of them but is excited about the potential. All right, Tim, I guess that’s one way of putting it. If it was me, I would say, “Get rid of the ruffles, girlfriend!”
La Kors Is BACK
Another day, another runway judging. And surprise: Michael Kors has returned from his lovely extended sojourn in Mykonos. OK, I know, he was in New York running his fashion empire. The producers should have put angels and doves around him, since I know the fans have been DYING for Michael’s return. Who knew he would be missed so much? Time to tell your agent to get that contract renewed for even more money, Michael! Marie Claire Senior Fashion Editor Zanna Roberts (great, now Zoe Glassner is vacationing in St. Barths?!) and Martine Reardon from Macy’s round out the judging panel. Heidi warns the designers that one or two of them might be out.
The designs come down, and Team Beautiful’s (Althea and Logan) outfit is safe. Love the fitted jacket, but the miniskirt is hiking and twisting (too tight), and the pants that model Lisa is wearing are having crotch problems. Team Awesome (Carol Hannah and Shirin) looks perfect for the INC customer. Team Eastern Europe nailed it! Irina Shabeyeva’s striped sundress is chic and effortless, and she wins because of it. She and Gordana bickered in the workroom but turned it out when it was necessary to do so.
The Pooping Ruffle Dress vs. The Shower Curtain Shirtdress
Christopher and Epperson were at the bottom, as well as Ruffle Crazy Louise and Nicolas. No one was more shocked (at being at the bottom) than “Project Runway’s” new Love Couple. I actually think Christopher and Epperson’s jaws dropped so far onto the stage, Heidi had to pick them up! Michael Kors described their looks as a “teal disco pumpkin” and a “librarian 1979 shirtdress.” Love him! Where does he come up with these zingers? Christopher cried, but Kors was on the mark. Worse, however, was the ruffled mess Louise and Nicolas sent down the runway. Again, Michael “See my act at the Comedy Store next Thursday” Kors described one look as a “bridesmaid dress with a shower loofah ruched up the front.” It was seriously a Pooping Ruffle Dress. With that, it was Louise Blacks’s time to go. No double elimination Heidi, you’re such a tease! It was tough, but only one mess had to end up in the Macy’s stockroom to never be delivered.
Famous costume designers, from Adrian to Edith Head, once ruled the style and look of Hollywood. They dictated the hemlines and silhouettes of their era and, at one point, influenced fashion more than the Paris couturiers. However, a costume designer does not always make a good fashion designer, and vice versa. With that backdrop, we are on to the next challenge!
Costume Designers of Downtown L.A.
The remaining contestants were transported from their downtown L.A. FIDM “set” to a real Hollywood soundstage where Tim Gunn and L’Oreal Paris Consultant Collier Strong were waiting. For their next challenge, they were to create a look inspired by a movie genre and to invent a character that lives there. With only ONE DAY to do it, each designer chose their genre, save for we-never-hear-a-peep-out-of-you Epperson, who ended up being given his. The genres were Action Adventure (Logan, Carol Hannah), Film Noir (Irina, Louise, Althea), Science Fiction (Nicolas, Ra’mon), Period Piece (Christopher, Gordana) and Western (Shirin, Epperson).
Trick or Treat?
Once the designers returned to their workrooms, they were off and running. No time to waste — and NO Johnny or Mitchell to assist in wasting it! Tim enters the FIDM workroom to see if their costumes are worthy of an Oscar or should be relegated to the Halloween sale rack. Christopher decides to do an 1800s Period Piece, designing a bustle skirt-gown with a sleeveless blouse. Tim quickly notes that sleeveless doesn’t sound so Victorian. The resident “go-to boy” for bitchy commentary, Nicolas, creates a Cosmic Queen character who likes white stretchy gowns with lots of feather appliqué. Tim tells him to “queen out” his Ice Queen even more! Uh-oh, this might look like a Eurovision Contest Part Deux!
Ra’mon is making a green outfit with ill-placed crocodile-skin leather patches. Tim rightly says it might end up looking like a ‘big hot mess.” With only two hours before the workroom doors close, he decides to scrap his Kermit the Frog jumpsuit and start anew. Not a good idea, Ra’mon! (See photo.)
Meet the Woman Who Makes Madonna Look FIERCE!
It’s Runway Show Day, and the sewing and pattern workrooms are swathed with lots of nervous tension and last-minute madness. Time’s up, and they are off to meet their fate — and see if Michael Kors and Nina Garcia are back. They’re not. In their absence, we have Zoe Glassner from Marie Claire (she’s an old pro at this now), menswear designer John Varvatos and Academy Award–nominated costume designer (“Walk the Line”) Arianne Phillips. In case you didn’t know, Arianne is also Madonna’s one and only stylist, and has styled some of the FIERCEST Vogue Italia photo shoots known to gay men. In other words: She’s a “Fashion God.”
Uncle Nick Is Confused
The designs come down the runway, and I’m confused: confused by some of the designs as well as the judges’ observations. I disliked most of what the judges LOVED and liked several of the ones they didn’t. Were the contestants asked to make costumes — or contemporary fashion with a “costume” subtext? The challenge was to “create a character and a look inspired by a movie.” OK, I get that. And even Tim, back in the workroom, told the designers that normally he tries to have the contestants move away from looking “too costumey,” but for this challenge THAT was the point. So was there a miscommunication? Were the judges told something different? Throughout time many people have confused the job of fashion designers and costume designers. They are two very different jobs. In very simplistic terms, a fashion designer creates contemporary clothing to be worn and purchased. A costume designer creates clothing to aid in the development and enhancement of a character. What role were these contestants asked to play?
Charles Worth Is Turning in His Grave
First, I really thought Christopher’s was a mess. It was neither a costume nor fashionable (sorry Christopher, I still love you!). I thought he was going for 1800s Victoriana, but he missed it. A white 1990s-looking halter top? And the skirt was not any better. I realize you can’t really make an 1800s bustled petticoat in addition to an entire gown in such a short time, but that skirt was more 1980s Versace than a vision from 1850s couturier Charles Worth. And the judges just LOVED it! I was confused. I agree that Gordana’s 1920s-style flapper dress was a tad unimaginative in terms of design, but there was no denying who the character was and from what genre. I could totally see her doing the Charleston! Epperson’s look — and the subsequent positive judges’ critique — also left me dumbfounded. It looked Western, but I actually thought Shirin’s Saloon Girl was much better.
Ice Ice Baby
But where I did concur with the judges was in their assessment of Nicolas Putvinski’s white feathered Ice Queen. It was entrance-making and had all the drama of a costume. Her makeup and hair were fabulous. Nicolas knows how to do costumes. After all, he’s been making the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show designs for years. Also, his story was by far the most creative. No surprise, then, when he was given the “Project Runway” Best Costume Design Award.
Cougar Godzilla for Halloween?
Like the judges, I was disappointed with Louise and how boring her Film Noir girl was. I echoed Zoe Glassner’s assessment: It was truly a snoozefest. If I was a client and wanted to make an impression, I probably would not go to “Louise’s Boutique of Snoozeland.” The dress Louise was wearing was better than the one she designed. Not a good sign. I couldn’t believe that finally, after six challenges, Louise gets to stay on the runway stage, but for being in the bottom! Fortunately for her, dear Ra’mon and his reptilian nightmare were more of a mess. Her hair and makeup were very Miss Estonia Universe, and the dress looked like it came from the porn version of a bad Godzilla movie. His “cougar” Godzilla movie unfortunately had a sad ending, and Ra’mon-Lawrence Coleman was sent home. And where do you suppose his design will end up? Check the costume sale rack this Halloween!
Last night was all about fairy tales: fairy tales involving steaming, newspapers and origami. It was also about how fairy tales can catch up to you — on national TV! With that, we begin our “Project Runway” tale on a runway stage, somewhere in Los Angeles, as our storyteller, Heidi “I’m a German Sailor Boy” Klum, greets the remaining designers.
Don’t Read the Newspaper, Make a Dress From It!
Like Little Red Riding Hood on her way to Grandma’s house, Tim Gunn and the designers begin their fairy tale journey through the resort-like, palm tree–lined FIDM surroundings and head off to the gritty Los Angeles Times headquarters. There, Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic Booth Moore awaits them, announcing that for their next challenge they are to create a design using newspapers as fabric. And this, my children, is where, for some, the fairy tale begins to turn into a nightmare.
Origami Flu Disease
Dragging their newspaper-filled Hefty bags, the designers make their way back to the workroom. Tim tells them that they will have the aid of dyes, brushes, markers and muslin. As the designers begin working, it quickly becomes apparent that a lot have caught the “Origami Bug.” Here’s a brief lesson from Instructor Nick: Origami (Oru meaning folding, gami meaning paper) is the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, and these kids went right to it!
Woeful Origami Bleeding Birds
Tim returns — after his lunch break at the local downtown L.A. Ralph’s Supermarket salad bar — and surveys the room to see how much the origami flu has infected them, or not. He praises Gordana for not using muslin to create her shape and then warns Nicolas not to get too “costumey” with his punk design. Irina nixes her original idea and instead goes right into making a shawl-collared coat. Johnny’s origami-inspired dress is quickly looking like a Hitchcock Movie Gone Wrong, faux birds and faux blood included. Thesaurus King Gunn is “woeful” about his design. Johnny quickly balls up his bad preschool craft project and starts all over again … kind of.
The Spewing Steamer
As the models file in for their fittings, Johnny is seen relaxing during one of his many breaks in the modern FIDM lounge. There he begins his convoluted story about how he had to start from scratch because the iron-steamer spewed water on his original dress (say what?). Back in the apartment, Johnny continues his “Project Runway” Fairy Tale Tour as he tries to make his roommates Logan (no shirtless shot this time, sorry!) and Ra’mon believe his spattering-water tale.
Gaga for Eva
The following morning (runway day), the models can barely get their dresses on because of how stiff they are. I keep thinking: Oh dear, this is not going to turn out good! I’m having bad memories of my stiff flower dress from Season 2 but know that in the end they will “make it work,” as I did. Heidi introduces the judges, and it’s obvious now that the producers have sent Nina Garcia on a search in the Caribbean to look for Michael Kors.
In their place are Marie Claire Senior Editor Zoe Glassner and designer Tommy Hilfiger. The kids go gaga with thunderous applause when “Desperate Housewives” actress Eva Longoria Parker is introduced as the special guest judge. Let’s see how they feel after she tears them a new side seam!
A Headline-Making Trench Coat
On the runway, most of the creations are outstanding. Althea’s strapless architectural dress looks sexy and well-done, and makes the model’s bum look good! Sexy bum=success! Ra’mon’s origami (yeah, he caught the “bug”) techniques pay off with an interesting folded design. Carol Hannah’s rust-colored gown doesn’t even look like it’s made of newspaper, but more like a Carolina Herrera gown. Louise’s cone-shape skirt is playful and original, and I loved the “jeweled” neckline. But of course, the winner is Irina Shabayeva with her ingenious though simple trench coat. (See photo.) The crushed-newspaper collar and sleeve cuffs were flawless. Those pockets won it for me.
Nicolas and Johnny’s designs were a mess, especially when placed next to the other designers’ creations. It’s no surprise that these central characters of the episode ended up in the bottom. Johnny’s dress looked as if he made it in five minutes, and his “Steam Fairy Tale” was believed by no one. You got to give the kid points for having the chutzpah to call his original design “Dior-like.” I’ve read every Dior retrospective book and know almost every design of the master, and I have NEVER seen the Dior origami bird-and-blood dress, not even from John Galliano. Nicolas calls him on it, in front of the judges, reminding him of what Tim Gunn had said in the workroom. Oh Snap! If you’re keeping score: It’s 10 points for Nicolas, two for Johnny.
The Last Word, According to Tim
Nicolas’ “insect” design wasn’t any better. It was more cockroach than punk club kid. The way the episode was going, I was positive he was going home. I figured they would keep Johnny since he might be “better TV”; however, Johnny-the-Liar Sakalis was sent packing. But kids, it didn’t end there: For the first time in “Project Runway” history (or as far back as I can remember), Tim Gunn did not give a designer the requisite goodbye hug, but rather looked at him with disdain and contempt. Not wanting to end this episode (and challenge) with the world believing Johnny’s lies, Tim finished with words that will most likely go down in “Project Runway” history: “I am incredulous at the utterly preposterous spewing of fiction Johnny did on the runway.”
Enough said. End of Johnny’s fairy tale.
It seems the producers had a conundrum (Hi, Tim Gunn!): How do we inject “Models of the Runway” into the show and have a challenge where the designers and the models are together most of the time? Make the models their clients! So, for this challenge, the designers had to create an eye-catching look for their models to wear at an industry event.
In case you don’t realize it, it’s “Recycled Challenge” time. Back in Season 1, the designers had to create a wedding dress for their models. The episode focused on designer Jay McCarroll and his manic and unstable model, Morgan, a.k.a. “MORGANZAAAAA.” So as Tim Gunn and the models greeted their designers back at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, we were all waiting, with bated breath, for some model-designer DRAMA! Was there a “Morgan of Season 6” in the room? Or was it going to be all “model peachy”?
Tiger Meets Smurf
After a quick trip to a new Mood Downtown L.A. “outpost” at the California Market Center, the designers return to begin working. Tim checks in to see if the designers are translating their clients’ design wishes. “Peaches and Herb” doppelganger Epperson has been trying to make sense of his model, Matar’s, desire to have the most multi-hyphenate dress ever created. Tim likes what he sees. On the other hand, he suggests that Qristyl’s jersey concoction looks messy. (See photo.) As a result, Qristyl starts all over again. Finally, while visiting Logan, Tim questions his use of fabric and styling, and agrees with Logan’s own assessment that it looks like a “Smurf prom dress.” Uh-oh, Logan’s in trouble.
Don’t Tell Me What to Do
As the models have their fittings, my hopes for a bitchy model-designer catfight are heightened as Johnny “I love necklaces from Burning Man” Sakalis and his model Emarie have a moment. He snaps at her, saying, “Don’t tell me what to do … because I don’t tell you …” My first thoughts were “No he didn’t!” and “Girl, you need to slap him!” But he quickly catches himself, realizing that he actually does tell her what to do and how to walk … and how to eat, and how to wear her hair and what color lipstick she should be wearing … But, all in all, there were basically NO model meltdowns. Maybe it’s the bright and airy FIDM workrooms that are keeping everyone in such high spirits!
Time for a Shirtless Logan Commercial Break
The next morning, Johnny takes a break from telling his model what to do and instead is having trouble getting out of bed as he longingly stares at Logan’s super-skinny silver jeans and shirtless torso. Thanks to the producers, all of America is also treated to another shot of our favorite “Project Runway” Centerfold.
Nina and Michael are BOTH in St. Barths?
Back on the runway, and once again Michael Kors is M.I.A. In his place is designer Marc Bouwer. I know I have joked about how Michael Kors has either been stuck at the St. Barths Airport without a flight or has been trapped in a tanning bed. In truth, I realize that it must be difficult to run his New York–based fashion empire and be filming “Project Runway” 3,000 miles away AT THE SAME TIME. You can’t check on fittings, fabric choices or concur with your patternmakers via Skype. Sometimes you have to physically be there.
Michael was not the only one missing this week, as Zoe Glassner, a Marie Claire editor, filled in for Nina Garcia. I have actually judged several seasons of the “Project Runway” castings with Zoe, and she’s great! Rounding out last night’s guest panel is Angelina Jolie’s stylist, Jennifer Rade, someone else I admire and have worked with while doing my red-carpet “Fashion Wraps” for the TV Guide Network. If only they would have added another chair and dragged Lisa Rinna into the mix, then it really would have been FABULOUS!
Tanisha Walks It Like Her Rent Is Due!
The fashion show begins, and I am surprised at how much I like Christopher’s apple-green tulip-pleated cocktail dress. It’s very Oscar de la Renta model-who-lunches. Another surprising standout is Epperson’s stretch Devore mini dress. Somehow he married all his model’s desires into one dress. But the winner for this challenge was Althea Harper, whose design I really didn’t think was “all that.” I understand making three items in one day is a major undertaking, and I loved the Phillip Lim–looking skirt, but that unfinished, almost see-through top looked a bit sloppy. However, the ensemble was definitely well-merchandised. It also helped that Althea's model, Tanisha, worked it like the rent was due! Go, Miss Tanisha!
“Project Runway” Cougar: Jennifer Rade Loves Logan
In terms of the not-so-good: I personally thought Johnny’s was the worst of the week. It was an uncreative bridesmaid dress that seriously belonged on the David’s Bridal sale rack. (See photo.) But in the minds of the four judges, there were worse creations. There was Qristyl’s one-shoulder black-and-boring number, which, according to Heidi, aged her model, Valerie. And cutie Logan’s taffeta and lace prom dress looked as if it came directly from Goodwill. After some overt flirting between guest judge Jennifer Rade and Logan, we all knew it was Qristyl’s time to go. Tune in next week, when Logan sneaks off for a midnight rendezvous with stylist and newly crowned “Project Runway” Cougar Jennifer Rade … and Qristyl Frazier joins the “Project Runway” Halfway House. Ari, guess who’s coming to your yoga class?
Postpartum Field Trip
After last week’s “Pregnancy Chic” episode, I had one postpartum thought: When will they get rid of Mitchell and why the heck was he still on the show? I’m sure some of the remaining designers are also thinking this as Heidi tells them that for this week’s challenge, they get to go on a field trip. When anyone mentions “Project Runway Field Trip,” all I can think of is “Oh no, an ice skating rink in New Jersey?” since that was my Season 2 field trip; it was a fun challenge, minus the HEINOUS leotards we were forced to wear. But for Season 6, “Project Runway” is in Southern California, and this time they go to the beach!
Tim Gunn Mani-Pedi
As the designers sink their toes into the warm Venice Beach sand, Tim Gunn is waiting in a blazer, khakis and … wait for it ... FLIP-FLOPS! Now, these are four words I thought I would never mutter: “Tim Gunn” and “flip-flops.” Along with Tim, Garnier Celebrity Stylist Philip Carreon was on hand to introduce the “Garnier Challenge”: to create a fun and fashionable surf-wear look.
Random Team Captains?
Surprise, kids! This is also the dreaded Team Challenge. After reaching into his velvet bag, Tim begins “randomly” calling out the team captains. I hardly think those captains were chosen at random, however: Shirin (last week’s winner), Mitchell (of course!), Nicolas (bitchy drama?), Qristyl (hoochie meltdown?), Johnny (hopes for a crying relapse?), Althea and Logan (the cuties). The design captains then pick their teammates and convene with a group of six “surf chicks.” A short visit to Mood (not long enough for Qristyl to cause too much destruction) and the designers were back at their fabulous Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising headquarters. I hope someone oiled up that overlock machine, because they’re going to be using it.
Two for Two
Tim, sans flip-flops, arrives and has news from Heidi (and by Heidi, he means the producers have decided to throw a curveball): They are to make a second outfit, an “avant-garde look” that corresponds to their swimsuit creation. I’m now dubbing it the Surf and Turf Challenge. The next day it was time for Mr. Gunn to see if he needed to do some “couples counseling.
Most of the teams this week seem to be working swimmingly (pun intended), save for the usual subjects. Although Mood Destroyer and Spell-Check Victim Qristyl is the team captain, Epperson has clearly taken over and, much to my surprise and amazement, he SPEAKS! Epperson seems to have come out of the self-induced “Project Runway” coma he has been in the last two weeks, and is ready for a “Jerry Springer” fight with Qristyl. Button-nosed Mitchell and Ra’mon are also having a few issues working together. It didn’t take long for Ra’mon to have the epiphany of how useless Mitchell was going to be, and therefore he took over on both designs. Tim’s “What is that?” reaction to their Marvel Comics chocolate scuba jumpsuit echoed mine. As a result, Ra’mon decides to scrap it and somehow finds neon-yellow fabric to create another dress. Ra’mon must have really been “neoprene happy” back at Mood!
Gaga for Neoprene
Time for the Surf and Turf runway show, and Michael Kors still can’t get a flight out of St. Barths (someone should check the airports!!). Max Azria, designer and founder of BCBG, Max Azria Group and owner of Hervé Léger (he’s got more jobs than me!) is sitting in his place alongside Nina Garcia and actress Rachel Bilson. When the designs came down the runway, I couldn’t help but think that the entire show was a bit of a mishmash. There were nice elements to many outfits, but the good outfits were definitely in the minority. I liked Epperson’s (I’m guessing that was his) leaf-printed, Bali-inspired swimsuit and blouson pareo, and Shirin and Carol Hannah’s bikini look was nice. Ra’mon’s dyed neoprene dress was questionable, but, as Rachel Bilson pointed out, with a couple of changes it could be cute. Much to his surprise, Ra’mon was given the top prize.
Christian Siriano and Chris March: We Need You!
For some reason, these designers just didn’t “get it” when it came time to make an avant-garde look. I hate saying this, but none of them were outstanding in my eyes. The entire time, I kept thinking of the sublime elegance of the avant-garde gown made by Season 4’s Christian Siriano and Chris March. It is so difficult not to compare, since their look was so spectacular. (See Chris March’s comment on the same challenge.)
Eurovision Contest Meets “Paris Is Burning”
Johnny and Irina’s brown-colored interwoven one-shoulder dress had no rhyme or reason and looked a tad bit sloppy. Qristyl’s (you KNOW that was Qristyl’s design) second outfit was something a drag queen from “Paris Is Burning” would have worn — back in 1987!! “Boris and Natasha’s” (AKA Nicolas and Gordana’s) outfits were straight out of a Eurovision singing contest. The stretch lilac lace chaps combined with a white lace and organza minidress screamed “hooker in Kazakhstan.” Even Logan and Christopher’s first outfit was a Laguna Beach housewife after one too many Bloody Marys. And that tulle explosion of a gown with a peplum vest had “first-year fashion school student” written all over it. It was beyond tickety-tacky.
No Prize for Whining and Ironing
The worst offender, however, was Mitchell Hall, for just being useless. He relinquished his team captain position and admitted that Ra’mon did most of the work. What did Mitchell do the entire time? Iron? Heidi doesn’t give prizes for ironing, and therefore he was FINALLY sent packing. Mitchell was not ready for “Project Runway” Primetime. You really do need to know how to sew, make patterns, drape and sketch for my little show not just stand there whining and ironing. Somehow Mitchell didn’t get that memo. I’m sure he gets it now.
Last week, Samantha Ronson look-alike and Disco Soccer Ball lover Ari was given the Heidi "drop and kick" and sent home. Who would replace her as the weird one of the group? We would soon find out. But first, I introduce to you the six-pack abs of Logan Neitzel.
Gratuitous Logan Torso Shot
When this episode begins, the designers are waking up to a new day, lamenting what they need to do to stay on the show. For Logan, it seems he decided that walking around shirtless might not be such a bad idea. I want to make a suggestion right here and now to the producers and editors of the show: Please show Logan’s six-pack abs and shirtless torso at the beginning of EACH EPISODE. Most of Gay America — and lots of 18-year-old girls — will thank you!
“Project Runway” Gets Knocked Up
But I digress. What was this week’s episode about again? Oh, yes, “Cheetah Girl” Heidi Klum saunters onto the runway and introduces the very pregnant actress and former model Rebecca Romijn. It quickly becomes apparent what the next challenge is: To Design a Chic Pregnancy Look for Rebecca. Something with a beautiful silhouette that would celebrate her figure, she tells them.
The Part of “Kooky” Ari Will Be Played by Malvin
After making a mess at Mood L.A. (I’m talking to you, Qristyl!), the designers returned to work on their designs. The designers walk over to their Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising workrooms (I’m not over the colorful walls and fun interiors!) and find “gifts” on their tables. They have been given a “pregnancy pad” to help them with this challenge. Most of the male designers didn’t know if they should put them on their heads or wear them as “man bags.” The only mom of the group, I-was-a-former-KGB-spy Gordana, quickly rushed to their aid, explaining the precise position of those padded pregnancy “bumps.” Tim Gunn is later brought in to do his walk-through. Louise tells Tim that her dress is looking a bit like a nightgown! Vocabulary God Tim mouths a fabulous “Tim-ism” when he tells her, “If your viscus [though Tim pronounced it more like “vicerous”] says ‘Uh-oh,’ then it’s probably true.” Say what? A high school diploma, two college degrees and I still had to look it up! Well, by the sound of the kooky music that came next, my viscus tells me Malvin Vien is making a mess! Malvin is trying to describe to Monsieur Gunn that his design is inspired by a chicken and its egg.
And if that isn’t bad enough, he wants to give his “pregnant” model jodhpurs shaped like chicken thighs! Uh, No! Poor Malvin. I venture to guess he’s one of those designers who have no real concept of how to design for a specific client — other than maybe a size 0 editor of an avant-garde Japanese fashion magazine.
Models then come in for fittings and get to try on their pregnancy bumps. We see Johnny has worked out all his “Hot Tranny Meth” addictions and taken up runway coaching. Miss J from “American’s Next Top Model” better watch out! If designing doesn’t work out, maybe Johnny could get a job there!
Is Michael Kors Back in St. Barths?
The runway show is about to begin, and — wait, where is Michael Kors? Is he in drag and now has suddenly turned into a red carpet gown designer by the name of Monique Lhuillier? Well, of course not; it IS Monique Lhuillier filling in for Mr. Kors! Heidi gives the designers a sly warning by telling them that each and every one of the judges has been pregnant before — in other words: “Don’t mess this up!”
Liz Lange: Are You Watching?
As the designs come down the runway, I am loving some, and just grimacing at others, mirroring the judges’ responses. Qristyl somehow found class in that sass of hers and created a pretty copper jersey one-shouldered dress. One of my favorites, Irina’s flirty blue dress, wasn’t even chosen as one of the top. Althea made one of the best “red carpet” pregnancy gowns, but I thought that it was just shy of being an Hervé Léger knockoff. Shirin’s wine-colored dress and coat were splendid and appropriate, therefore garnering the honors as best choice for pregnant Rebecca and winner of this challenge. Safe and pretty can go a long way sometimes on “Project Runway.” Rarely, but sometimes.
Who Laid the Golden Egg?
I wasn’t a fan of Epperson’s jumpsuit (a jumpsuit for a pregnant woman?), but I did like the top section. Poor Ra’mon; his fitted anti-Goddess vision was a bad jigsaw puzzle of a dress. The contrasting pattern pieces were ill-placed, as judge Nina Garcia said, pointing awkwardly to the pregnant belly. But it was down to Mitchell and Malvin to fight it out for the most unflattering of maternity designs.
Mitchell’s looked like a trailer trash pregnant girl going to Vegas for a weekend! He even completed the look with an askew pigtail hairstyle. All that was missing was a cigarette from her mouth and a bottle of liquor in her hand. Those shorts were sewn so badly that even my first-quarter FIDM students have done better work!
But we all knew from the first sound of that kooky music back in the workroom that this would not be Malvin’s night. His hen-carrying-an-egg design ended up looking like a bizarre papoose as opposed to a conceptually chic ensemble. With that, he was sent home. Malvin tried to get the last word by saying he was “too conceptual for America.” Honey, keep telling yourself that, but I have a feeling that even in the hippest section of Tokyo, Berlin or Amsterdam, no pregnant girl would get this. But we will miss kooky Malvin and his unique creations.
"Project Runway" Glows with L.A. Sunshine
"Project Runway" fans, rejoice! Our little show is BACK! And it looks EXACTLY the same as when we last left it, albeit with a few “cosmetic” liftings. Goodbye, New York, hello, Los Angeles! This is a brighter, shinier, more glowing "Project Runway."
Fourth Time Is the Charm
When we first meet the designers, they are arriving at their new digs, the Title Guarantee Building Lofts in downtown L.A. The 16 designers are a diverse group, hailing from all parts of the U.S. Age-wise, some are mature, but most are quite young. After the fourth 24-year-old was introduced, I almost felt like collecting my Social Security and retiring to Palm Springs. There were also several with intriguing Eastern European "Boris and Natasha" accents. Several tell us how "this is the fourth time that I've tried out for the show," and I make a mental note how I would NEVER go back for abuse a second, third or fourth time! Talk about perseverance.
Who Are You Wearing?
Tim Gunn and the designers eventually gather at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, the home of the Grammys, Emmys and other award shows. Before you could say “Joan and Melissa,” you knew this was going to be a Red Carpet Challenge. Indeed, the first challenge was to create a red-carpet look that represents the designers’ point of view and shows true innovation. Next stop: their new L.A. workroom at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising/FIDM, the premier fashion design institution on the West Coast. Now, since I am an instructor at FIDM, I may be a bit biased, but their new design studios are FABULOUS! What a change from gray Parsons to the colorful, bright FIDM. It’s like Parsons with a moisturizing chemical peel!
A Brief Lesson in Fashion 101, Kids
We soon get a taste of who are this week’s "featured characters" when Missouri native Ari Fish declares that she does not know how to sketch. Tim Gunn just gives her the "Are you kidding me?" look. Young designer Christopher Straub then explains that he doesn’t know what smocking or a godet is. Maybe it’s time to give these kids a brief “refresher” course in fashion terminology BEFORE they apply to “Project Runway”? In the workroom, we find one designer, FIDM alum Johnny Sakalis, having a major breakdown as he second-guesses himself and then tells all of America that he was a crystal meth addict (TMI, by the way). If he’s “emotionally obliterated” now, honey, how is he going to handle the rest of the challenges? Of course, he eventually snaps out of it and goes on to make a very pretty design. (I knew he would, you gotta love those editors!).
Tired Excuse # 101: My Model Is Too Fat
The models arrive for their fittings. One designer, Mitchell, wants to create a Victorian-inspired gown but encounters a snafu: His dress doesn’t fit his model, Yozusi. He blames it on her, saying the measurements on the card didn’t match her real measurements. Lesson #101: Every designer knows that the measurements on those model cards rarely match the models’ actual measurements. Agencies make those cards up and say ALL their models are 34"- 24"-34", when in fact, most are 33"- 26"-37". Obviously, Mitchell didn’t get that memo, so now he has to remake his entire gown. And the result isn’t pretty.
Paparazzi Alert: It’s Lindsay Lohan!
As the runway show is about to begin, Heidi introduces the one and only Lindsay Lohan as this season’s first Guest Judge. Miss Lindsay almost trips off the stage as she realizes that her on-again, off-again paramour, Samantha Ronson, ISN’T really sitting among the designers; it’s just her doppelganger, Ari. Judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia are back, looking "refreshed" (those St. Barths vacations do them good!). As the creations come down the runway, I am instantly drawn to Ra’mon’s design. It was the closest to a real red-carpet stunner. Even though I was afraid at first when Christopher was creating his design in the workroom (Hefty Bag alert!), he actually pulled it off. It was very Leighton Meester at the Teen Choice Awards. As a result, he wins and gets immunity.
Bai Ling Would Love It!
Now on to the messes: Qristyl’s design was something straight out of the BET Awards, and that’s not a good thing. My-Model-Is-Too-Fat Mitchell ended up creating a sheer caftan/nightgown, TAPED onto the model. I love me some caftans (they’re all the rage for Resort 2010), but this was tragic. Finally, Ari created a space-age silver padded garment reminiscent of a “Disco Soccer Ball.” Only someone like Worst Dressed Hall of Famer Bai Ling would wear such a thing. Ari said she was creating something for the 2080 Video Music Awards. But I have a feeling that even in the 2080 VMAs, her outfit would have ended up on the Worst Dressed List. With that, Ari went into the Wikipedia record books as getting the first “auf Wiedersehen” of Season 6. Bye, Ari, see you at Lindsay’s house — or maybe at a Bai Ling red-carpet event — in 2080.