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Nick Verreos Blog
Category: "Episode 13"
Season 12 is almost over. Almost. We're down to the top 5 designers out of sixteen. Two have confirmed sports at Lincoln Center NY Fashion Week -- Bradon and Dom -- and the other three have to "fight it out" for the coveted third spot. So pre-finale episode, here we come!
$9,000, Six Weeks and One Unconventional Look
Emmy Award-winning "Project Runway" co-hosts Tim and Heidi come onto the runway to congratulate the remaining designers and announce that they are giving each of them $9,000 to create a 10-look collection ($900 per look) and that the designers have six weeks to do it. In addition, one of the looks must be created out of unconventional materials, e.g. NOTHING that even looks like real fabric. Got it? Good. Now, byeeee! One month later, time for the Tim Trips:
Philadelphia and Dom: Dom's inspiration is the movie "Blade Runner,î and she calls her collection "RetroFuturism.î She has created her own prints which look fabulous! Everything looks fine and dandy until we find out she's only done three and a half looks (out of TEN!) and she's only got 2 weeks to go. Something tells me, however, that she'll be okay.
Los Angeles and Bradon: Tim goes BAREFOOT on a Southern California beach! Still, the jacket remains. Moving on...Bradon explains that his inspiration deals with flowers and the melting of snow right as spring is about to begin. Tim is instantly wowed. I'm actually a bit worried. From the quick glances, the collection has hints of Valentino, but Valentino from 1994. In a later direct-to-camera, Helen comments that she thinks Bradon's collection looks "old lady." Here's a shocker: for the first time this entire season, I agree with her!
San Mateo and Alexandria: It's only nine days until Fashion Week (thatís what the Chyron says) and Alexandria has made 30 pieces! Wow, she's a busy bee! Her inspiration is "Neo Nomadic Punk" and everything looks very her. I'm just a little worried at the lack of "punch" in the color scheme of her collection; it all looks bland. Alexandria then takes Tim to her Camp Couture, where little kids sew and create things. They've all made these "ugly dolls" inspired by Season 12 contestants: There's the Sandro Doll (where's the broken camera?), Unicorn Doll, Sue Waller Doll with dreadlocks and yes, even a Tim Gunn one. Alexandria better put those little kids to work--and FAST--to make a ton more because I can see those selling like CRAY-CRAY! Camp Couture just turned into Camp Sweatshop!
Union City and Helen: Somehow, it's still NINE DAYS to Fashion Week (that's what the Chyron says!) and Tim went from San Francisco to New Jersey in one day and it was still daytime. Helen tells Tim that her inspiration was clairvoyance. She's made a print out of her boyfriend's eye. There's a lot of color, especially red. I like that but...I'm just not sure about the shapes. If you're going to do Cristobal Balenciaga cocoon capes, those things better look IMPECCABLE. These do not. Helen does admit that she has never done a collection before and that this is her first. Not even at F.I.T.? Nothing? I think to myself "Wow, doing a ìProject Runwayî finale collection might not be a good place to start." Too late now.
Raleigh and Justin: EVERYTHING looks great! He's inspired by sound waves and is creating these original 3-D printing pieces. I am so intrigued that I just want to see more. For his Unconventional Challenge look, he is using test tubes. Test tubes! I can't wait! Let's hope his questionable construction will not be his Achillesí heel.
Back in NY
One week later and all the designers are back in NY. They're in their Parsons Workroom for the awkward first-look in front of their competitors. This is an unusual group for "Project Runway" since most (not all) of the time, there's always a villain, someone EVERYONE hates who makes it to the end. But here, nope, nothing. During the unveiling of the garment bags, they're all "That looks cute!" and "Oh, look what you did!" But when they're alone -- direct-to-camera -- they all diss each other. Typical.
But first...there's another twist
Tim walks in with Raquel Rozas, Tide Brand Manager, to announce that Tide is partnering with the CFDA to push their designers to create designs in washable fabrics. Therefore, the finalists who will make it to Fashion Week (Bradon, Dom and ?) will also have to create one additional look using washable fabrics for a look that "pops." Unfortunately, it seems that this challenge was sidelined and I have a sneaking suspicion that it was due to Tim's accident...
Tim returns for his critique and he's all gashed up! "What happened?" everyone asks. (An extra-long time must have transpired since he last told them that he'd be back). Poor Tim fell down the stairs in the subway, slashed his lip, nose and forehead and consequently had to go to the emergency room. You know THE LAST place he wanted to be was back filming in the workroom to critique the designers. But he's a trooper! After his check-in, as he is saying goodbye, he chokes up and gets emotional. Part of me thinks it's less about the designers and more that he's just happy the day is OVER. Time for a stiff martini!
Judges Heidi, Zac and Nina are there to determine who makes it in. I've got my Judge's Note Cards and here's what I wrote:
Alexandria -- I like her three looks. These girls look edgy and modern; very NY-meets-Berlin fashion editor. I LOVE the pant pocket detail. The clothes don't necessarily have a "runway punch," as Nina noted, but they're great for the showroom, and a super hip boutique in the Marais. I would have liked more variation in the pant looks, however.
Helen -- Uh oh. Where's all the amazing construction and creative designs that she did all season long? There's always one designer in these final stages who is really good the entire season, then goes home and somehow, fails. The capes she made were clunky and restrictive (Nina was right in calling one a straightjacket). I know what she was going for, but it didn't work. As Zac said, it takes YEARS to master architectural shapes like those. You can't do that at 25. You can try but it ain't going to be right. I also didn't like the print: It was drab and uninspired. Oh, and the center back zipper closure of the printed cape-dress was wonky and rippling. And what do capes have to do with clairvoyance? Just sayin'.
Justin -- One word: Bravo! All three looks he showed were fab! I loved the cut-out vest and pants, the painted flared dress was great, and the "test tube" gown, wow! His 3-D prints/accessories were unique and strong statement pieces. I loved that he showed a variety with a pants look, a dress and a gown. And it all worked. This is how you do it kids! And I am with Nina: I liked the hair. So there!
Justin was by far the one to keep, so he's in! Alexandria and Helen are left. Will they both be out or is Heidi tricking us? Yep, she is. It's Top 4 not 3, darlings. (For ìProject Runwayî historians, this is only the 4th time in 12 Seasons that there has been a final 4). Alexandria snuck in and "caped crusader" Helen is out. So it's Bradon, Dom, Justin and Alexandria. Who do you guys think will win? And was it okay to let Alexandria in and have a Top 4? Was this really necessary? And will she use a COLOR that "pops" for her Washable Tide Look? Please Alexandria, I hope you do.
When looking back at past seasons of "Project Runway"and particularly the pre-finale episodeit wasn’t always obvious who the winner might be. Whether it was the editing or the amount of talent, there was always a sense of "I wonder who it will be?" Not this time. At the end of this episode, it was pretty obvious that this was Michelle’s year to win. The other designers didn't even come close, in my eyes, to what she presented. So how did this penultimate episode play out and will my prediction be right? Time to discuss…
Michelle, Stanley, Patricia and Daniel are in the top four. The episode begins with Heidi and Tim congratulatingand reminding them7#151;that "only one can win." Heidi announces that she’s giving them each $10,000 to create a 12-look collection for Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Week (That’s about $833 per outfit!). Oddly, she then tells the designers that they need to use Fall colors, make sure to forecast Fall Trends, and think outerwear. It reminded me of when I give a "How to Make a Collection" assignment to my fashion students; it’s understandable that I have to tell my students this, but why say it to these designers. Shouldn’t this be obvious if you are showing during Fall Fashion Week? But I digress...it's time for the designers to head home and create their collections.
Four months later and Tim begins his home visits. First, he’s in Taos Pueblo, NM, to visit Patricia. After a nice lunch with her family, he surveys her pieces. Patricia’s inspiration is "trees." She’s done a lot of fabric manipulation to the textiles she’s using, giving her collection a definite "Patricia" stamp. Tim is intrigued but worried it might look too "arts-and-crafty."
Portlandia Hunger Games
Tim is now in Portland, OR, to visit Michelle. Her inspiration is wolves, and particularly a female hunting "lone wolf," which she says is a perfect metaphor to how she felt during the entire filming of the season. She’s making breastplates as well as a great hunting coat (She listened to Heidi and her "make some outerwear" directive!). It looks very “Hunger Games," the Ready-to-Wear Collection. And just from the small sampling of garments she is offering up to Tim, I can tell it is going to be a great collection.
Salvador Daniel Cosmo Girl
Next up, Tim is in Austin Texas to visit Daniel. First off, I’m surprised Daniel wasn’t crying 30 seconds after Tim showed up. Instead, it was his sister who began tearing up (It must be in the blood!). After the Kleenex box was put down, Daniel showed his collection, inspired by Salvador Dali, Surrealism, the Nebulae around the planets, Berlin and architecture. Tim seems to like most of it until…he sees the "Grandma Robe." In not so many words, he tells Daniel to get rid of it because well, "it stinks." Si.
Finally, Tim goes to Los Angeles to see what Stanley has been working on. His inspiration: the 60s and Renaissance Spain. It looks luxe, elegant, "Oscar de la Renta Ladies Who Lunch" and very Barbara Walters. There’s nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that I can just hear the judges saying that it doesn’t look new or directional. When he said it was 60s-inspired, did he mean he was inspired by a 60-year-old heiress who lives in the Upper East Side?
Cast-Off Kids: We're Not Done With You Yet
It is four weeks later and the designers are back in NYC. After the designers settle into their penthouse suite at an undisclosed hotel, they head off to their workroom to unzip the garment bags that hold their collections. Tim welcomes the designers with the news that they will have to show three of their favorite looks to the judges, who will decide which three designers will continue on to Fashion Week. To keep up the "Team" theme (Aren't we over this by now!?), they get sewing helpers: Richard, Amanda, Samantha and Layana. Highlights (or low-lights) include Layana bad-mouthing the designer she's helping (Patricia) and Stanley not even close to being done. Somehow six months wasn’t long enough for him to almost-finish a collection.
Finally it’s Runway Day. Heidi, Zac and Nina are ready to give one designer the auf. Patricia is first. I am not a fan of her first ensemble, a hippy-dippy dress and scarf appropriate for a mom taking her teenagers to Coachella. The shoes, styling, earrings are dated and not stylish at all. However, Patricia redeems herself (in my eyes) with her second and third looks. I liked the horsehair trimmed cape (Sorry, Nina) and the blue sequined dress with the unique dyed horsehair headdress. But (It’s a BIG but), the three ensembles were not necessarily cohesive. Nevertheless, I’m kind rooting for her. After watching this entire season, I feel emotionally attached to her story, her kookiness and especially her strong conviction to her unusual vision.
Daniel is next and it’s all black. First impression: where’s the COLOR? Where was all the red, crème and "celestial blue" we saw back in his Austin home visit? The judges slammed him for showing three all black looks. Heidi also said that she was underwhelmed. It was a snooze fest of looks. He sent out two semi-fashionable girls (Marina worked that runway walk OVERTIME!), and one stodgy "sweater girl" that held a purse as if she was the 86 year-old Queen of England.
The positive: the clothes were beautiful and very rich in their fabrications, but as I predicted, the judges said the styles were not sexy and lacked modernity. s nooze fest part deux. And then there's his stubbornness and excuses: I almost spit out my red wine when Stanley commented that his gold dress wasn’t looking right because of the models body. Really Stanley? I think the problem was more about THE DRESS and less about the model.
Michelle’s "Hunger Games"-Lone Wolf Girls were modern, fresh, new and cohesive. Zac correctly said that she "created a Universe"; the three looks seemed as if they came from one girl's closet (unlike Patricia or Daniel). If there was any criticism, I would agree with Nina and Heidi in that she may want to lose all the bags&3151;or at least a couple of them; it's a little too accessorized and tricky. But otherwise, Michelle's is the best of the four. Even the judges critiques couldn't disguise that.
Only One Can Win
Stanley and Danielthe "Snooze Boys" understandably were in the bottom while Patricia made it through and Michelle was an obvious shoo-in for the win. Daniel eventually got the boot for underwhelming and disappointing the judges and serving up "sloppy seconds," according to Heidi. Stanley got very lucky, because luxe-loving Nina is his biggest cheerleader. Coming in to this finale episode, it's pretty obvious who might win the entire thing. Patricia and Stanley better step it up...and fast! Only one can win, and by all estimations, the Hunger Games Wolf Girl has this one all wrapped up.
Well kids, we're heading to the end of Season 10 of "Project Runway" and I learned several things from this penultimate "Finale Part 1" episode. For one, most of these kids (save Melissa) do not have a place to call home or their own place to work. Secondly, I learned that a stylist is a very important job and someone ALL these designers needed. I also think that this pre-finale episode is in serious need of a reboot. Wondering what I mean about that? Keep reading...
Don't Be Safe
Last week we saw the end of Sonjia, with her table-napkin-meets-bad-figure-skating-costume design. As I argued in my last recap, there was nothing avant-garde about her design, nor the designs of most of the other four. (Note to producers: Maybe it's time to re-name that particular challenge). I also discussed my annoyance at seeing very safe looks from all these designers. I think I am echoing what Tim, Nina, Heidi and Michael feel EVERY episode. It goes without saying that I think "safe" just doesn't cut it, especially at this stage. Need I remind you? DO NOT BORE NINA. So now we are down to the top four.
Congrats! You're The Top Four
Our dear Heidi congratulates the designers for making it this far and tells them that they will each be given $9,000 and five weeks to create a mini-collection for Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Week. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that NOT everyone is guaranteed a spot in Fashion Week. Or so she says. As an avid viewer/fan/former contestant/perpetual recapper of the show, I've heard this song from Heidi before. Can anyone say "Season 9"? But oh well, we'll stick to the script, Miss Heidi.
Four weeks later and Tim Gunn is off to visit the designers. No trips to Trinidad and Tobago (Anya) or Hawaii (Andy South) this time around. So, my friends, no chance of seeing Mr. Gunn in flip-flops, dealing with slimy fishy whiskers, eating plantains or holding Mai Tais. For his first stop, Tim is off to Massapequa, NY to see Christopher Palu. "Golden Boy" Christopher is at his mom and dad's home working on his collection. He tells Tim that he made a print from an X-ray his mother got from a doctor's visit. This could have gone macabre, but it didn't and Tim likes it. Tim also comments on a leather-and-bleach mistake, which he assures Christopher is a "good mistake" and should be done again.
Fabio Manhattan Pastel Palace
Back in Manhattan, Papa Tim visits Fabio in a fabulous apartment that a friend is lending him to work on his collection. By the looks of the apartment, Fabio must be good friends with the Ambassador of Brazil, because it's very luxe and very expansive by NY standards. Even Tim remarks on how nice it is. Friends-in-High-Places Fabio shows Tim three pieces from his collection, which he's titled "Cosmic Tribalism.” One look is the "Priestess" and the others are the "people within the tribe." Leave it to Fabio to have a strong concept. I give him FIVE "Nick Points" for that. Tim is captivated by the pastel draped designs. It's avant-garde but, at the same time, very sellable; Alexander Wang meets Rio. But as soon as Tim says "J'adore," he's a bit mystified by some of the individual pieces: A certain pant, a bra and a stacked clunky shoe. There is potential for a "wow" factor, Tim says, but he's underwhelmed by some of the styling choices. Styling. We Have a Problem.
Geometric Belarus and Melissa's SF Artsy Collection
Next up, it's Dmitry. Once again, this designer is NOT living/working in his own place. Dmitry is in another very nice home, but it’s in New Jersey and looks as if it would require a job with Goldman Sachs to even afford. I need to meet Dmitry and Fabio's friends. Seriously. Dmitry is working on his NY Fashion Week Collection based on "Organic Architecture." The looks he shows Tim are very geometric. On the rack, the garments look very clean, modern, and cohesive. Finally, Tim travels to San Francisco to check on Melissa. She's using special textiles, including "cracked" leather. The designs are very her; artsy and edgy. Tim is responding positively to the collection. Of note: Melissa's studio/home is not someone else's. She has a home!
Five weeks have passed and time is up. The four designers meet up at the very sleek YOTEL. I've stayed there numerous times and LOVED it (their complimentary coffee and muffins are divine!). They then go to their new workroom offices at the 1407 Broadway building. After setting up their collections and surveying each others' designs, Tim comes in to check on them. In general, he's worried about all the collections. Not a good omen.
After seeming to have only a VERY short time to fit their clothing on the models, the designers return to Parsons and present their three best looks to Heidi, Nina and Michael. Fabio's "Cosmic Tribalism" gets a positive nod from the judges. Kors thinks it's very cool and sweet. He does suggest to Fabio to rethink the chunky bang wigs (too distracting). He says there are styling issues. Yeah, perhaps. Can we call Rachel Zoe? Like ASAP. But overall, the judges LIKEY. Dmitry's three-piece collection looks polished and expensive according to Nina Garcia. But there's an overall feeling that it is over-styled. It is interesting how overworked it looked on the runway compared to when he showed Tim each piece individually. Purity and simplicity should shine, or so the judges suggest. A strong hint that Dmitry also needs a stylist. That's two for two.
Hoochie Shorts for Fashion Week?
Christopher shows his three looks and it's all a bit underwhelming and not high fashion. Hoochie shorts. Leather bustier. Nothing earth-shattering, and nothing worthy of showing at NY Fashion Week. Supposedly he had fit issues and therefore the three pieces he showed were the only things that actually worked on any models. Um, okay. And then there is Melissa. Her designs are (not-surprisingly) Goth all she showed was black and white, and who could get past those awful wigs? Now it's official: These kids REALLY need a stylist. Somehow, all four got it wrong. Who will be OUT? Well, kiddies…[drum roll]…NO ONE.
Do They Need a Stylist or a New Collection?
While it is clear that all these designers need a visit from Rachel Zoe, my frustration lies more in the fact that it is more the actual clothing that needs help than the styling. Do I think some amazing styling could elevate all these collections? Yes. But I feel that because the judges are forced to critique the designers a day or two prior to the actual show, they encrypt their comments and are compelled to talk about styling because they know the designers have NO time to change their collections. Changing a shoe or discarding a wig is easier than making FIVE new looks in one day.
"Project Runway" Reboot
Basically, we have all figured out by now that this episode has been structured to have a pay-off at the end. But now the judges must critique the collections in a format that is designed to make almost any collection look bad. Do I think that all the designers should have picked stronger pieces to show the judges? Yes. But it seems that they were given such minimal time with the models that they had to just "make it work." What seems to happen is that the judges are forced to choose between several bad collections and they end up eliminating no one. I think it might be time to re-think the structure of this episode and do a "Project Runway" reboot!
This episode is definitely going to get the fans riled up! I can already see the comments here. I don't know if the producers planned it this way, as it's always good to have people talking (or so they say), but they certainly aren't playing it safe this season. We're down to the Top Four, and Heidi states adamantly that they still have one more Final Challenge to narrow down the designers to the Top Three, and ultimately, who will show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. This is repeated over and over again throughout the episode. But then, right at the end, it's changed to "Psych! Just Kidding! Y'all are IN!" What happened?
$900 Per Look
Let's rewind a little bit: As the episode begins, Heidi greets our Top Four and gives them $9,000 and five weeks to create a 10-look collection. That's a very short time, but honey, I've done TWENTY-plus-piece collections in the same amount of time so, no sympathy here. Also, if my calculator works correctly, this means they each get to spend $900 per look – for fabric and accessories. No money can be spent on any pattern or sewing (hired help). At $900 a look, they better be AMAZING! Finally, before saying "Until next time," Heidi adds, "Only THREE will get to go on ... to NY Fashion Week." Not "MAYBE three of you" (as she has done in the past). No, "THREE."
Here's Your MetroCard ... Now Go!
The designers go home. For New Yorkers Joshua and Viktor, this means "Congrats! Here's a one-way MetroCard! Now get to cuttin' and sewin'!" Kimberly goes to Maryland, and Anya heads to Trinidad and Tobago. Three weeks later, it's time for the "Tim Visits." Kimberly is first. She seems to have been working "like the rent is due." Her collection is based on the Urban Brooklyn (pre-gentrification) Fashion Girl. Prints, colors, a '90s "Banjee Girl" vibe, and (I'm afraid) lots of gold-and-silver hoop earrings and bracelets. Read: Glam Hoochie.
Next, Tim heads to Trinidad and Tobago to check in on Anya. She has NOTHING, except some fabrics and her inspiration. No actual garments, not even sketches. Seriously? What. Has. Anya. Been. Doing? Drinking rum & Coke and laying out at the beach? Tim tries to shake her out of her funk, but I'm not sure it quite worked.
Guadalajara: Bien – Queens: Not Bien
Back in New York, Tim visits Viktor and is wowed by the clothes on his rack, inspired by a trip to Guadalajara. We knew Viktor would get to work right away, so no one is surprised that he was muy bien. Next stop: brunch in Queens, New York, to visit Joshua. Here, we find out Miss Josh was good at sports. See, the gays CAN do sports … and then switch over to fashion design! In his studio, he has a sad, thrift-store-looking printed fabric which Tim hates (I do too!), as well as lots of loud, neon-y "Joshua" colors. You could just see Tim's "What the heck is that?" brow go into overdrive.
Five weeks are up, and they reunite at the Hudson Hotel Penthouse. After a day of rest, they head to their new workroom, where Tim then tells them their next Challenge: to present a three-look mini-collection to the judges. Tim reiterates that this will decide the THREE who will go on. Cut to Runway Day. Heidi, Michael and Nina are all there. No actor or celeb fashion designer "guest" judge plugging their latest projects. Yea!
Overall, I liked Viktor's girls. His custom-made "photo" prints were fabuloso, but I thought that leather zipper "car wash" overskirt was tricky and so "Fashion School Graduation Show." I was happy to see my South American "sister" Nina also feel the same way and make him remove it. The three looks Joshua picked to show were surprisingly dark, modern, and oh-so-not-bedazzled and tacky-licious. He either listened to Tim's critique following the visit or he was very smart to not show the "Joshua McKinley" Neon Ladies to the judges ... just yet.
Anya's three-piece collection looked as if she had made it in a 48-hour challenge, and the judges tell her so. The pieces looked sloppy, half-double-stick-taped and reminiscent of something one can find at a street bazaar in Port of Spain, Trinidad. What happened? The judges LOVED that first (printed) dress, but I wasn't a fan; the gaping armhole was worrying me. Kimberly's looks were OK – that black gown was SO Heidi, but the back booty bump skirt: No LIKEY. But at least Kimberly's was better than Anya's. Both of the girls are at the bottom. Kimberly is deemed IN … so is Anya out?
Too Much Advice?
The judges' critiques dumbfounded me this week: They were giving A LOT of helpful advice to the designers – especially Anya. As it turns out, Anya is also IN. What happened to the Top Three? Was this changed all of a sudden because the judges felt bad since she had done so well throughout the season? Or did the producers already have this "twist" in their minds from the get-go?
This is what it looks like to me: Anya's was the obvious worst, but the judges didn't want Anya out. Am I on the right path or am I being a "Project Runway Conspiracy Theorist"? Many of my readers think there's quite a bit of favoritism being placed on Anya by the judges, and now I kind of have to agree. Based on these four finalists, it's not that she isn't worthy of being in the Finals and showing at NY Fashion Week. In fact I think she and Viktor are the top two designers. However, if we are just judging by the three looks they presented, Anya should have been OUT. The only thing consistent about this season is its inconsistency. It seems that the judges have decided to evaluate what they have seen over an entire season as opposed to what is presented on the runway each week. Heidi, early on, seemed to try to take a stand for her catchphrase "One day you're IN … and the next day … you're OUT." But clearly this season it should be changed to "One day you're IN … and the next day you're IN"!