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Fit to be Bow Tied

Posted By kim_messina 4:42am GMT

Chaotic and wonderful. Two words to describe last night’s rollercoaster of an episode. One minute I wanted to throw something at the TV and the next, I was crying with tears of joy. Let’s begin with the "how timely" factor. As you may know, lately there has been some rampant homophobia and anti-gay legislation that has been passed by the Russian Government (Sandro’s homeland coincidentally enough). Mark that with the contrast of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down DOMA and require the Federal Government to recognize same-sex marriage. This episode aired at a fitting time indeed and a coup for "Project Runway" injecting itself into current events. Now, let me get to the recap before the Supreme Court changes its mind…

The episode began with a POW! Tattooed Helen and Anger Management Issues Sandro were arguing and shouting; Sandro subsequently storms out of Parsons, punches a cameraman (or the camera to be more precise)...and scene. Cut to 36 hours earlier: the designers awake at their Refinery Hotel, get ready and head to Parsons to await their next challenge. In the workroom, they are greeted by hundreds of colorful bow ties. The minute the designers see all the bow ties, there is an, "Oh no, Are we doing menswear?" gasp. But, alas, their frowns transition into smiles as they quickly learn that it is not. Tim Gun—in a bow tie—of course, introduces "Modern Family" actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Jesse is the co-creator and designer of Tie the Knot, a tie company created to support marriage equality.

Bradon vs. Sandro: The Two Story Arcs
The challenge is to design a look using at least one bow tie in a non-traditional way. After Mood shopping, the designers head back to the workroom. Two separate stories begin to form within this episode. The first centering on Bradon and his partner Josh; we learn that they have been together for 18 years—longer than many straight marriages, thank you very much! How "un-traditional" indeed. The second storyline is focused on Sandro. As the intro tease shows us, something will go down, but first we need to learn about the beginning and middle, since we already learned the end. As the episode moves on, Sandro is venting to his fellow designers (and Tim Gunn) about how annoyed he is at the judges’ critiques telling him how his designs are a bit "too much." He lives in Sandro World where more is more and is not realizing that while many of his designs might work in Moscow Fashion Week, they will not pass the grade in New York City. He also confides in Tim his disdain for judge&3151;and very established and successful fashion designer—Zac Posen. "Top Gunn" Tim advises Sandro to just be himself (Oh Dear!).

Over-The-Top Sandro = Not Finalist Material for "PR"
Two observations on Sandro: First, I can (kind of) understand Sandro’s frustration on the judges’ comments to him. But at the same time it’s painfully obvious what they are saying is true; his designs are too over-the-top and need some serious editing. In Sandro’s delusional mind, he thinks the fact that he was picked for the show is enough of a trophy to say that he is a "Fashion Design Diva" and qualified enough to be the next "Project Runway" winner. However, here is the harsh truth: he was probably chosen more for his "Diva Drama Queen" character and less for his fashion design aesthetic. We all know his type of cray cray/over-the-top pseudo Lacroix-meets-Galliano design taste does not make you a Top Three contender on the show, nor worthy of a New York Fashion Week Runway Show.

Make It Down the "Project Runway" Aisle
Let’s just cut to the day of the Sandro Meltdown, I mean, the runway show. Jesse Tyler Ferguson is the Guest Judge ready to see which designer "tied the 'Project Runway' Fashion knot." I LOVED Dom’s dress, Kate’s outfit and of course, Bradon’s design. Kate has come a long way from her "I-just-came-out-of-design school" ingénue aesthetic of last season. Something occurred between then and now to actually make her a possible Top 3 contender this season. Dom’s sexy fitted striped dress was exquisitely made; the mitering of the stripes and pattern work, along with the superb sewing made her design a frontrunner. The use of ties as a neck accent and detail was, as the judges cooed "a celebration." But clearly Bradon’s was the best. The tie top could have gone a bit predictable and very "happy-hands-at-home," but it was EXQUISITE. It is not easy to fit a top made completely of straps: he had to make every strap extra-long and then, custom adjust it on the model, plus that fabulous faggotting technique. Tim and I were very impressed with Bradon during the LA casting when he showed us the same exceptional, labor intensive technique on one of his garments. How apropos that he got to use this faggotting technique during the "Marriage Equality Challenge." It’s like a Fashion Middle Finger to anyone who has ever used that derogatory word toward us—The Gays. And for that, I give him an "Atta Girl Bradon"!

To put the icing on top of the marriage equality cake, after winning the challenge, Bradon proposed to his partner Josh right then and there to the judges and Tim—as well as all of America! Both my partner and I were doing the hyperventilating type of crying, for sure. It was a truly beautiful moment. Note to the producers: use this episode for next year's Emmy Awards consideration nomination…just sayin’.

This is NOT "Project Runway": The Student Edition
And now for the bottom: Helen was very lucky, as Heidi noted, that she had immunity and could not be eliminated. Her design was one of the worst, by far. Sue’s black tank dress with "dripping ties" was, as Jesse Tyler Ferguson pointed out, a "failure." Karen’s bad fitting "Depends" pants were a D-, if I were to grade her for a patternmaking class. And then there was Sandro. His pink "Russian Marie Antoinette" design with bow tie suspender-like straps was dated and two seconds shy of 80s tacky. Sandro, however, wasn’t even in the bottom, yet he went ahead and confronted the judges wanting some direction on what design path to take since he sensed (once again) that the judges weren’t loving him. Zac Posen tells him to focus on his taste (Hello!). Sandro’s response of, "I’m a student…I’m learning," is what set Posen off and rightly so. Posen, without missing a beat, put him in his place and shut him up by replying, "This is not 'Project Runway': The Student Edition!" Ouch!

Back in the holding room, Sandro is exploding and screaming at Helen and this is where we come full circle to the beginning of the episode. After ranting and raving, he finally storms out of Parsons and onto 7th Ave and punches the camera. We soon find out from Heidi that it was an Auf for Sandro after he left the building. Therefore, no other designer will be eliminated this week. So with that we say, "God riddance," to Sandro and I say to him: please go ahead and take your angry, misogynistic attitude and no-taste dresses with you and don’t look back. Let’s just hope that the drama, drama, drama has not only left the building but the entire season as well. Let’s return to what "Project Runway" is really about: the fab fashion!


Fleur de Hardware

Posted By kim_messina 4:41am GMT

Dear Future "Project Runway" Contestants
It is imperative that you watch previous seasons—yes ALL THE WAY BACK to the beginning—before you even think about going on "Project Runway." If so, one particular designer this season would not have made the mistake she did on this week’s challenge-which incidentally, almost caused her to get the big ol' Auf. It seems to be chic to say that you’ve never EVER watched previous seasons of the show before. How do I know this? Because I hear it ALL the time from contestants as well as EVERY year during the castings. But, as everybody knows "Project Runway" is a competition that requires the knowledge of its history, as well as the obvious skills to do well in it. You would do yourself a disservice by ignoring the former. And if Amanda had done her "Project Runway" history homework, she might have remembered that my dear fellow Season 2 contestant, Andrae Gonzalo, was eliminated for making a dress out of (drum roll) GREEN MOSS, the same plant she chose. And so it goes…

Flowers Are Back
Fans and viewers of "Project Runway" LOVE the Unconventional Challenge. It’s one of the most popular challenges. But for me it was torture. For my Season 2 Unconventional Challenge, we had to make dresses out of flowers. I stood for about five hours in the workroom just spraying water on them because I had NO IDEA what I was going to do. I also kept thinking, "How does this prove to the judges that a designer is worthy of showing at NY Fashion Week?" In my opinion, it doesn’t. It took nine seasons to bring the flowers back and this time it was with a twist. The results were surprisingly whimsical as well as stylishly sublime. For this season of designers there were few mental road blocks and it ended up being one of the best runway shows in PR history.

Smells Like Another Sponsor Tie-In
Team Keeping It Real and Dream Team gather at their workroom to find Tim overlooking many fragranced candles. Another fragranced-themed challenge, I thought? As if reading my mind, Gunn quickly explains that these were Glade 2-in-1 candles and they were there because this was the Glade 2-in-1 Unconventional Challenge. First, he says that the teams will make something using flowers, but that’s not all. Heidi walks in to announce the "2" of the 2-in-1: they will also be using hardware. Each team is to create a cohesive line of 6 looks which will have to include both hard (hardware) and soft (flowers) elements.

Almost Even Teams
Coming off last week’s "Heidi Klum Challenge," Team Keeping It Real is still celebrating its winning streak and Dream Team is feeling defeated, and then there’s the issue of team number inequality. Tim’s gonna fix that: he tells the five-member Dream Team that they can choose two designers from the other team. They chose a boy and a girl (how gender diplomatic!), Stanley and Layana. Then, Tim tells Team Keeping It Real that they are to chose a designer from Dream Team. They pick Michelle which does not make her happy.

Bigger Budget Envy
Both teams head to a hardware store and then to the flower mart to get their supplies with a whopping budget of $2,500. Side note: have the budgets for these designers gotten bigger and bigger as the seasons have progressed? I had $100 to make my "Flower Power" dress in Season 2 and these kids got approximately $400 EACH!

A Gay Disaster Bunker
After buying all the leaves, calla lilies, chicken wire, buckets, blinds and hot glue needed to make a Gay Bunker To Protect Yourself from a Nuclear Disaster…the teams are back in the workroom for two days of creating. Team Keeping It Real is soon realizing they have no cohesion with their designs and when Tim Gunn makes his visit on Day 2, he tells them so. Keeping It Real’s Michelle uses her loud voice once again and decides their theme should be "Decades of Fashion." Amanda is making a dress out of green moss and it’s falling apart and not looking cute. Her teammates help by offering advice. On Dream Team, Stanley takes the lead and suggests they create looks based on Dior. They’re looking pretty good. Could this be their time to finally win a challenge?

Woo Hoo It’s Bette Midler!
Day of the runway show and Bette Midler is welcomed as the Next Coming of Christ (I would have been excited too!). A fashion blogger is there as well as judges Heidi, Nina and Zac. Both teams did exceptional work and both received "job well done" nods from all the judges (With all that money they had, they should’ve!). Of the two teams, however, Dream Team was the best for the first time this season and for that: congrats!

Dream Team: My Two Cents
Matthew created a nicely done halter dress using mops for the top and yellow moss for the skirt section. Benjamin hand-loomed his own fabric using strings and made a one-shoulder asymmetrical top and did a flared skirt of flowers. Stanley created a very sophisticated dress using white roses and green leaves. His was one of my favorites. Tu’s was another of my favorites. He used rope and calla lilies, making a vest, an original necklace and a wonderful skirt. The judges sort of skipped over him and how great his ensemble was. Not sure why. Layana made a caged dress out of hydrangeas, wire and string. Hers could have easily been on a Paris Couture runway. Very new Dior meets Valentino. It was finished and flawlessly elegant. But it was Samantha who got the win with her contact paper, mesh and green leaves dress. The leaves were "trapped" within a wire mesh pencil and peplum’ed skirt and the judges agreed that it looked fragile, delicate yet so fashion week ready. But I still would have voted for Layana as the Winner.

Team Keeping It Real: My Two Cents
Team Keeping It Real received the "Almost Winning Team" title this week, coming in second. Daniel’s metal mesh net, PVC pipe, lamb’s ear flower dress was UBER chic and reminiscent of recent Giambattista Valli Haute Couture, especially with that full front peplum. Once again, it was referential, but still fab. I also loved the model’s hair. That hairstyle should get a special award from L’Oreal Paris. Richard and Michelle made a caged Gaultier-like dress using blinds, leaves and flowers. I loved how the flowers and leaves hid in between the blinds. Patricia made a that was verging on a stylish Miss Papua New Guinea. Kate’s was a well executed tea-length gown of calla lilies and carnations. It looked expensive and appropriate for Le Crillon Debutante Ball. Good job kids!

The Flower and Hardware Bombs: Mumsie Joe and Moss Shift Amanda
There were two underwhelming designs in Dream Team, however, which brought them down: "Cat Sweater" for his design. It was mumsie with wrong proportions and an unflattering style. He should have gone over-the-top volume (as judge Zac Posen suggested) or at least balanced the fullness up top with slimness at the bottom. It was one of the worst…in an otherwise good bunch. Now, onto Amanda: her green moss with cotter pins shift dress was also at the bottom (See: Andrae Season 2). After so much struggling in the workroom, her final dress wasn’t half bad. Her team, however really threw her under the "Project Runway" bus when Heidi asked them who they thought should be eliminated. Interesting that in this Team situation, they all agreed. It was a very "Survivor" reality show mentality. But in the end, it was Joe’s time to go. And I agreed completely with that decision.

But wait…
As the episode is ending, Tim walks in and announces to the teams that "it’s not over" and Heidi had some news…I wonder what this could be? An extra green moss challenge? Andrae Gonzalo from Season 2 was outside waiting to de-moss-ify all the designs? Heidi was being attacked by kittens revolting against her decision to Auf Joe? What could it be? Stay tuned… Until then, make sure to rent all the previous seasons of the show and do your "Project Runway" history homework, kids!


Hasta La Vista Baby!

Posted By kim_messina 4:16am GMT

It seems like every season of "Project Runway" — or at least the last eight seasons of which I have had the honor of blogging — there always comes an episode in which I need to Get Things Off My Hairy Chest. Usually, these "nuggets" of recap-wisdom come later in the season, however for Season 10, this desire to vent came early. If you’ll allow me kiddies, let me begin:

1) Cowards, Cop-Outs & Quitters

Well, well, well. At the end of last week, we find out Andrea BA MA MFA Fashion Instructor who likes Hoop Skirts and Victorian Gallery Owner fashions ... is OUTTA HERE. Her roommates wake up and they're like "Where's Andrea?" She gone, as they say. Then, as this week's episode is still on its "Act One," we find out JapFro Kooan also wants to leave. Alrighty then. Either something is rotten in the Atlas Apartments water or we've got (in case you're counting) TWO Cowards, Cop-Outs and yes, Quitters.

2) Quitters Make Me Angry

Let me get on my "Uncle Nicky" soapbox if you’ll allow me: I get SO mad when this happens on "Project Runway" (and it doesn't happen very often). First off, I am so proud of being an alumnus of the show and all the wonderful things that have come forth as a result. I have worked my little butt off for 95% of them, but ... it is undeniable that being on the show has been a trampoline. I am honored to be an "ambassador" of sorts for "Project Runway." THOUSANDS of people apply for just SIXTEEN spots. I have seen many of these designers, since I have been a casting judge for the last eight seasons of the show. In fact, there were several I saw in Los Angeles THIS season, that did not make it onto the show — who were more talented than both Kooan and Andrea, yet by the luck of the Casting Fairy, did not make it. And if you remember way back to my season, I had a moment of weakness myself and considered calling it quits, but truly deep in my heart I could never imagine walking away from such a great opportunity. So, when I see not one, but TWO contestants quit, I am both dumbfounded and angry.

3) Kids, Get Back To Work!

When Tim Gunn comes into the Parsons workroom and informs the (remaining) designers that Andrea has left and then Kooan says his "I think I should go" announcement, the designers are all verklempt about it. Nathan is actually CRYING (seriously huney, get a grip!). Cutie (but has become quickly annoying) Christopher, is self-blaming (PS: it's not all about YOU, huney). The designers spend all this time huddling together and commiserating over the loss of the two designers. GET OVER IT. I don't even care if this sounds insensitive but, I would have been cuttin', drapin' and starting my sewin' as all that mess was going on. I would have also been mad and thinking, "Ummm, we only have A DAY to make this week's challenge look and now we've wasted an hour of it ... can we move on?!"

4) Raul, You Need More Time in The Fashion Incubator

Raul got the chance to come back into the show after Andrea and Kooan left. That's nice, however, usually if you have been auf'ed very early in the season, it pretty much means that you probably deserved to be sent home. It's the "Project Runway" Darwinian Law of Fashion Evolution (yes, I just made that one up). Raul's bravado is a little much: "I'm back Bi***!" Wow. Not the classiest return I’ve seen and please, let's discuss the look he made: those awful, awful pants. Even Kors —during the judging—aid he HATED IT. Ouch. How do you not measure your model correctly? As my dear friend Tim Gunn would say: he needs more time in the fashion incubator. And then, and only then, can he have the resume to have this bravado that he seems to have.

5) The Challenge: The Real Thang vs. The "Marie Claire" Editorial Version

The challenge — which was dubbed the "Michael Kors Challenge" — was to design and create a look for a "woman on the go," i.e. something that can take a woman from the office to cocktails. Or so they said. Later at the runway judging — officiated by Kors, Nina, actress Hayden Panettiere and the gorgeous Rachel Roy — Miss Nina says the look must be "comfortable while glamorous," as well. Let me get this off my chest: I did not necessarily agree with the top choices. While they were fab, chic and oh so sexy, I cannot see an actual real-life woman, in say, San Francisco, Seattle or even Little Rock, wear Christopher's asymmetrical jersey dress and cropped leather jacket, or Sonjia's peek-a-boo twisted draped jersey dress at 8 am as she drops her kids off at school, then heads off to her desk job, returns to pick the kids back up and then somehow end the day having apple martinis. Not happening. I LOVED those dresses, but they were the "Marie Claire" Fashion Editorial version of what one would think "women on the go" would wear. Maybe if the challenge was to design what Victoria Beckham and JLo would wear "on the go" from their British Airways First Class LAX departure to landing at Heathrow Airport, some of these outfits might make more sense.

6) The Real Thang

To me, what I did think worked was Melissa's layered look. Now this, I can see a web-designer mommie in San Francisco wear "on the go" from day to cocktails. I also think Elena's grey structured coat and skinny pants look, was nice even if the jacket was a bit bulky. Finally, Dmitry's dress was very day-to-cocktails. It was glamorous, on the go and yet not so "that's Victoria Beckham not Jane Smith of St. Louis, Missouri". But in the end the judges LOVED Sonjia's dress. Hayden even said she would wear it at a red carpet event. Well, I think that says it all. A red carpet event really isn't a scenario for a real woman on the go. But it was a very cute dress, for sure.

7) Bye Tacki-licious

I was not very surprised that the bottom two were Buffi and Raul. And while Raul should have been there, Buffi was the no-brainer as the one to be eliminated. As Nina said, she really showed lack of technical ability to do anything worth sending down a runway during NY Fashion Week. I think she might be a better stylist than an actual fashion designer, but that’s just my opinion. She did, however, earn some points in my book, when she said that this "goodbye" would push her to make more tacky-licious stuff. PLEASE do! With that we get another "Hasta La Vista Baby!" Three designers eliminated in one episode. I think that's a first — and I hope the last.


Do You Have a Plan C?

Posted By CaitlinBergmann 5:08am GMT

Nina challengeDesigning for a client: a rite of passage every fashion designer — amateur or established — must go through. The circus is gone (thank goodness), and this week it's all about designing for a REAL client: Nina Garcia. The Legend. The Diva. Born in Colombia to a wealthy importer (Wikipedia!). Attended an exclusive boarding school for girls in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Holds TWO bachelor's degrees, from Boston University and FIT, and (if that's not enough), she also attended the Ecole Supérieure de la Mode in Paris. Oh, and did I mention the woman has enough style and class to fill two football fields in Texas?

Couture Cab
Heidi announces that creating an Office-to-Fashion Event outfit for La Nina is the Challenge for this week. The prize: She will wear your creation, and it will be shot for a Marie Claire editorial, as well as featured on top of NYC taxicabs for one of the magazine's ads. "DEEEEEEsigners: Imagine arriving on your transcontinental flight from L.A. to NYC for that dreaded 'Project Runway' Reunion Episode, tired from being in 36D way back in Coach, only to wait in a 50+ person line for a taxi at JFK, and then seeing your outfit on top of one of those cabs!!! Just imagine! Well, this could be you!" Heidi tells them. Well, she doesn't really say that, it's just what I'm thinking in my jaded little head. Nina, in a polished black-and-white ensemble, then tells the contestants what she likes and doesn't like: classic with an edge, streamlined, clean silhouettes, NO loud patterns or bright colors. NO voluminous clothes. NO pleats … and most of all, NO WIRE HANGERS!!!

Outfit-Change Nina
Half an hour later the designers get a consultation with Nina, who has now ditched her white wide-lapeled jacket and black pants and is wearing a completely DIFFERENT look. Only Nina can do outfit changes in half-hour intervals. She's now featuring a black-and-silver beaded top with bright salmon-colored sleeves. (Side note: I thought she didn't like bright colors?) At the consultation, she doesn't hold back: "No Cowl, Bryce!" "Do Pants, Kimberly!" "Too 'Dynasty,' Cecilia!" And this continues when she later visits them to check in on their progress. I love the moments when Miss Nina asks several of the designers if they have a Plan B. And of course, they do not.

Bored and Uninspired
Many of them are having fabric and color issues with what they chose for Nina: Uninspired Cecilia is not happy with her boring gray fabric (which she cannot change). Just-Learned-How-to-Sew Anya chooses a not-so-Nina mustard yellow printed silk, which she decides to dye — with the help of her Best Gay Boyfriend, Anthony Ryan. And speaking of Anthony Ryan, he and Grew-Up-in-a-Cult Becky somehow pick the SAME fabric at Mood. There are THOUSANDS of different fabrics at Mood and you had to pick the SAME one? I'm also concerned from looking at some of the creations how (save for TWO) NONE of them look very Nina Garcia to me. Since when does Nina Garcia wear dresses with back cutouts (Joshua)? Or plunging necklines (Bert)? Or tricky coatdresses (Julie)? No.

Nina challenge gold top KimberlyStep Over, Michael and Nina, We Have a New DIVA in Town!
Cut to Runway Day, and there are LOTS of judges: Heidi, Michael, Nina (of course!), plus Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire (who, incidentally, gets an A+ in Bitchy Commentary for this "dress rehearsal" of her new position as "The Nina" for the upcoming "Project Runway All Stars") AND actress Kerry Washington, who was also a judge on Season 6 when I subbed for Michael Kors on one challenge. Sorry to be a "Negative Ninny" yet again this week, but: I was so bored and uninspired by the clothes that came down the runway. If I were Nina, I would have screamed, "Is there a Plan C?" I was really surprised Bryce wasn't in the "bottom" group. His wonky-hemmed dress looked like a first-semester Fashion School creation. He definitely has got some Lucky Fairy Dust around him, as he RAN to the "Safe" waiting room as fast as he could, hoping the judges wouldn't change their minds.

Work That Gold Top, Miss Nina
There were really only two good outfits this week. Yes, Anya's was there, but seriously, a mud-colored jumpsuit with a 1990s low-slung belt for Nina? No. Viktor and Kimberly's were the obvious best. Viktor's was chic, very Fashion Editor Diva, and SCREAMED "New York City" in its all-black sensibility. The only problem for me: the black! You couldn't see any of the details. If you can't see the details on TV, this dress AIN'T going to work on top of a NYC taxicab. Kimberly's look, on the other hand — besides those well-cut black trousers — included a FAB metallic gold top with directional seaming and styling. This outfit can stand out in an ad — and on a NYC cab rooftop. It also looked very Nina and could easily work from the office to front row of a Jason Wu Spring 2012 Runway Show. She wins.

A Flight Attendant Serves Drinks to a St. Paddy's Day Party Guest
But now, the worst: Mousy-girl Leanne Marshall — I mean Danielle — had a green chiffon blouse look that Kors deemed "pedestrian" and something one would wear to a Joan Crawford St. Paddy's Day party (his comment writers are getting better and better every season). No-Makeup Julie created a coatdress that looked like a rejected flight-attendant uniform for low-cost airline easyJet. How on earth did she ever think her creation was suitable for Nina? However, the worst — I thought — was Cecilia's: a one-shoulder gray cocktail dress. A) We all know that Nina Garcia would never be caught dead in a one-shoulder dress, and B) A silk jacquard cocktail dress for 10 am meetings in the Hearst Building? So, obviously Cecilia was OUT, right? Nope, she was IN! At this point I was so bored and uninspired with ALL OF IT that I didn't even care.

Bye, Julie — take your coatdress and book yourself an easyJet flight from Madrid to Croatia. Oh, and don't be surprised if you have to show the passengers where the emergency exits are.