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The Project Runway Blog
Category: "season 11"
This recap is brought to you by Fred the Duck, who hit all his marks and looked great while doing it. Did you catch him waggling his little duck butt? You'll go far, Fred, I can tell.
Time for a second unconventional challenge! Bill Kahl stops by the workroom to introduce Duck brand duct tape as the medium for this week's challenge: Prom dresses. The designers don't appear to be phased by the weird material, but they're understandably alarmed by the abbreviated time allowance (less than a day) and the fact that their looks will be judged by a group of high schoolers before the official runway show. I can't blame them for their apprehension because high schoolers scare the crap out of me.
We also get a bit of a team switch-up. Kate chooses to work with Tu again, which is a smart move. They clearly get along, but the partnership works primarily because Tu is willing to be the seamstress second-in-command to Kate's bossy, in-charge designer/leader. That leaves Michelle and Amanda, Richard and Daniel, and paired together by default, Samantha and Patricia.
Let's talk final products:
Amanda/Michelle - Michelle's pattern-building is perfect, especially considering the folds of the skirt and the cross-over bodice. Chris likes that it's modern and fun, and I'm with him in loving the cut of the skirt. Michelle gets her long-awaited win with this dress, and Amanda is partially redeemed after her mess of a look last week.
Patricia/Samantha - I really am not connecting with this dress. Patricia's intricate textile work is well done and Nina compliments Samantha's work with the closure on the back, and the dress got the highest number of votes from the high school set, but I don't dig the robotic-looking color scheme of blue and silver.
Layana/Stanley - This strikes me as Hot Topic chic, as any garment combining hot pink, black, and zebra print is likely to do. But the skirt has great movement and the judges love the pop of pink in the bow.
Richard/Daniel - A well-constructed piece that unfortunately would not have been out of place on a Texas pageant princess in 1995. Gold, short, ruffles, and strong but misplaced detailing has the judges crying "Dated!" and lands the pair on the bottom.
Kate/Tu - The construction and fit of this gown might have landed them in the Safe Zone in any other challenge, but Nina and Heidi take issue with the length ("So old!" Nina yells) and everyone bemoans the use of denim-patterened Duck Tape instead of something more colorful and interesting. (Also the piece at the top of the bust looks like a fancy cracker garnish that I was served at a steak place once.) This dress gets Tu the auf, and surprisingly, Kate gets the boot, too, in the season's first double elimination.
Preferred prom dress styles vary by year, region, even school. I went to a Catholic high school in Ohio in the mid-aughts, where above-the-knee dresses were reserved exclusively for the fall homecoming dance; long, elegant, expensive-looking gowns were saved for prom, and 90% of them were strapless and solid-colored. The goal was to look good but not to draw negative attention by looking too different from everyone else. (Ah, youth.) Kate is my age and she's from Chicago, so everything about her design made sense for the style of prom with which I'm familiar. That said, it's 2013 and this challenge was built with fashion-forward NYC teens in mind, so I get why the judges gravitated as far away from Kate/Tu's design as possible.
I'll leave it to y'all in the comments to debate whether the double elimination was necessary. While you're at it, tell me about your prom experiences! What dresses were popular when you were in school? How would you have judged this set of looks? Who do you think handled the Duck Tape best? And if you were to go to prom tomorrow, which would you pick to wear?
Next week: Buff men means buff menswear, right? Plus, guest judge Emmy Rossum!
This blog is brought to you by my new mantra: "You've got great legs, so show them, b*tch! Don't be a fool." Thanks for the motivation, Joan Rivers.
I don't envy Michelle at this point in the competition, as literally everything she's done has been overshadowed by the lower scores and eliminations of her teammates. But she doesn't help her case by declaring early on in this week's episode that she doesn't want to work with Patricia (as if we haven't heard her say it a million times before). Hasn't she heard of foreshadowing? Of tempting fate? Heidi brings out the button bag, which decides that Michelle will join Patricia and Layana's team. "Wow, what a surprise!" says no one.
The designers head to Midtown Loft, where a group of lively older women are rocking out with a dance instructor. Tim tells the group that their challenge is to design a fashionable look for one of these mature women. There's no need for cohesion between teammates and no other constraints, and best of all, the ladies are fun, funny and game for anything. There are no twists and turns this week. It's all about design and execution.
I want to jump straight to the runway looks because I think there's a lot to discuss. Michelle and Layana are apparently given high scores for their work, but Patricia's low score lands them squarely in the Safe Zone. Here's the thing: I like Patricia. I like her perspective and I like a lot of her techniques, but I'm increasingly beffudled by her design choices. The thick-looking fabrics, the color blocking, and the neckline of her look combine into an unflattering and frankly amateur-looking mess. I imagine she was super thankful for the teams conceit this week, because it absolutely saved her from elimination.
Daniel/Samantha - I assumed these looks would land the team in the Safe Zone, so I was surprised to see them on top. The judges love the thoughtful details in Daniel's black pantsuit, and they like the thought behindif not the execution ofSamantha's sassy leopard-print look. (Different sleeves and a minimization of the bow at the waist would have improved the latter a lot, I think.)
Richard/Stanley - Stanley's purple suit looks expensive and it flatters his client, but working with a woman in possession of such a model-esque figure was an advantage I was surprised the judges didn't acknowledge. I agree with Nina that the silhouette of Richard's jersey dress drowns the client just a tad, but the judges like that the look is youthful and simple.
Benjamin/Amanda - The judges are not at all fond of Amanda's hankerchief-hemmed dress, and I don't blame them; there's something very off about it, including but not limited to the messy tailoring at the back of the skirt. Melissa Rivers says, "You've tried to make a cake with whatever was in the kitchen," and that hits the nail on the head, really. Ben is justifiably called out for the constricted fit and misguided style of his garment.
Kate/Tu - Tu admits that he a) failed at properly sewing his garment, and b) let down his client. The entire judging panel is sort of horrified by the fact that the belt is the only thing really holding his dress together. Kate, on the other hand, knocks it out of the park this week. The subtle ribbing and detailing in the sweater is great, and combined with the strong print of the skirt offers a very classy, timeless look for her client. (Shorten the sleeves and the skirt just a tad and I'd wear that look, too.)
So whose look is the worst? The tightness of Benjamin's top is problematic, but certainly no more so than Tu's basically unfinished dress or Patricia's ill-proportioned mess. And compared with Amanda, at least Ben put together a garment that looked polished, and one that the client truly liked. This challenge wasn't Ben's finest hour, and I'm not his biggest fan by any means, but I'm not sold on his auf-ing.
What do you think? Was Patricia's look as terrible as I thought it was? If this challenge had taken place in a team-less season, who do you think would have been eliminated? Which look was your favorite? And if you were a designer, how terrified would you be to have your look judged by the ruthless Joan and Melissa Rivers? Chime in below.
Next week: Prom! Duct tape! ACTUAL DUCKS! Sign me up.
This recap is brought to you by Tim's use of the insult "stinkpot," which I'd never heard but plan to incorporate into my vocabulary immediately.
Before the designers have a chance to recover from last week's elimination, Heidi and Tim appear with Ye Olde Button Bag to winnow down the teams into pairs. We end up with Samantha and Daniel, Richard and Stanley, Patricia and Layana, Matt and Michelle, Kate and Tu, Amanda and Benjamin. This seems like a fairly natural extension of nascent friendships and what we've been able to glean about their individual aesthetics.
The gang heads to Johnny Utah's, a New York City bar that has wholeheartedly embraced the country-western aesthetic, and it's there that Tim announces their next client: Miranda Lambert. She's a successful, respected country music star now, but Ms. Lambert got her start as a contestant on the talent competition show "Nashville Star" a decade back. Take aspirational note, designers! Each team must create both a red-carpet look and a stage-ready look for the singer.
At one point in the workroom Layana says, "There's a fine line between interesting and glamorous and tacky." I personally don't think the line is all that fine during a typical challenge. "Glamorous" and "tacky" are opposite ends of the spectrum. But the materials the teams jump to use herefringe, sequins, denim, leathercan very easily trend toward tacky, so the difficulty really becomes reigning everything in enough that it feels country without feeling Dolly Parton-style country.
Richard/Stanley - Richard's look is the one that immediately strikes me as being perfect for a country performance AND perfect for Miranda Lambert herself. Heidi likes that it looks expensive, Nina likes that it's flattering, Miranda likes the style and the length. Stanley's gown is complimented for highlighting the waist but neither Nina nor Miranda like the volume of the skirt.
Benjamin/Amanda - I don't love Benjamin's gown because it's sort of boring and the beading on the bust looks like sleepy eyelashes. But the judges and Miranda like it, and so does Benjamin, who looks thrilled to have done well yet again. Amanda's dress, like Richard's, rocks the fringe in an easy, flattering way.
Michelle/Matt - The enormous fringe leather necklace on Michelle's look is such a huge misstep, and she's so convinced that it's great, that it ruins basically everything else about the look, including the otherwise satisfactory leather vest. Matt's lack of confidence gets the real critique because his dress is so blah.
Daniel/Samantha - No one likes Daniel's look, myself included. Unflattering silhouettes are never improved by unflattering fabrics, Daniel!. Nina tears it apart, and Zac gives him the "you're good but you better get better, fast" speech. Samantha has immunity, so the fact that no one likes her dress is a moot point for now.
Richard takes the win, deservedly, and he looks super excited. Go Richard! He's turning out to be quite the personality. I'm glad to see him get a win. On the sad-trombone side of things, Matthew gets the auf after failing to establish confidence and authority over his work. Michelle lives to see another challenge, but she's going to have to pull out all the stops to break away from her seemingly permanent place on the bottom.
What say you? Was Matthew's look the worst? How would you compare Richard's dress with Amanda's? What look screamed "Miranda Lambert" to you? And now that we're a few episodes into the season, which designers are you the most excited to starting to like and dislike? Weigh in below!
Richard absolutely wins this episode for employing the phrase "RuPaul meets 'Gilligan's Island'" and by extension filling my mind with visions of an incredible celeb and drag queen-filled themed photo shoot. Someone call Annie Liebovitz!
I've always loved the now-infamous Unconventional Challenge (so infamous it gets capitalized!) and this season's contribution to the pantheon doesn't disappoint. Tim kicks things off with a little shakeup: bottom-placing Dream Team, down to five members, can snag two designers from Keeping It Real, who can then steal one of Dream Team's original designers for themselves. DT smartly chooses solid utility players Stanley and Layana. Keeping It Real makes the equally sound move to grab Michelle, one of the few Dream Team designers to stand out for good work instead of bad. The Season 11 group might not have been prepared for the team angle, but they've caught on quickly to the strategy that must be employed toahemmake it work.
Tim announces that the teams have two days and $2,500 a piece to spend on this challenge, which is fabulous. More time + more money = better looks. Working with weird materials means the designers need all the time and money they can get.
The shopping portion of the unconventional challenge is a make-or-break moment. Flowers, plants and hardware are more difficult to measure in large quantities than fabric, and it's inevitable that someone will wind up with an uncooperative (or surprisingly ugly) material, so the choices the designers make here are crucial. Wire, twine, tape, buckets, clasps, blinds, stacks upon stacks of petals and branches and leaves? I wouldn't know where to start.
But these groups don't get the luxury of complaining! So they get to work. The results are actually kind of awesome. Stanley's forcefulness in pushing Dream Team's "1950s Dior" style results in a collection that's impressively cohesive. Team Keeping It Real's errs when they forge ahead on individual looks without concerning themselves with a unifying them. But the judges (including the incomparable Bette Midler and the man repeller herself, Leandra Medine) seem to genuinely love every piece that walk the runway, so let's get to it:
Dream Team - Top (Finally!)
The judges really love this collection, and I don't blame them one bit. There are a lot of details to appreciate, from Layana's delicate cage skirt with dainty flower embellishment to Tu's gorgeous, seemingly wooden blouse, and of course Benjamin's painstaking loom work. But the judges single out Samantha's mesh peplum-y skirt and lattice top for the win.
Team Keeping It Real - Not The Top (But Not the Bottom?)
The lack of a convincing theme gives the edge to their opposition, but the judges like Keeping It Real's set of looks as well. The judges come down hard on Joe's oversize sweater dress (which I loved) and have surprisingly little to say about Patricia's. . .inventive Mother Nature dress/shawl-looking thing. The rest of the team points at Amanda's minidress as the source of their problems, but the judges have the final say on these matters and choose Joe to depart our little game.
We didn't get to see a whole lot from his this season, but I really appreciated Joe's zen, wholly unique take on fashion. Do you think Joe should have been auf'd? If not, who deserved to be cut? Which runway looks caught your eye? And if you had to design an outfit based on either florals or hardware, which would you choose to work with?
The episode kicked off with the designers chitchatting back at the Atlas probably no more than a few hours after the most recent elimination, where they said goodbye to James. What started off as a simple "Team Keeping It Real is kicking @$$" conversation, quickly turned into a roast of the "weakest" designers, most notably, Kate. But Kate proclaimed that she isn't going to play Miss Nice Girl anymore:
As the designers make their way into the workroom at 1407, they are greeted not only by Tim, but by baskets filled with items like rose petals, pink peppercorns, mandarin oranges and jasmine leaves. Tim then tells them that for this challenge, they'll be creating something for a "very important client." (VIC? Let's go with that.). And in walks none other than Heidi. IT'S THE HEIDI KLUM CHALLENGE. DUN DUN DUNNNNN.
Heidi goes on to tell the designers that as a team, they'll be designing garments for the launch of her "very feminine and sensual" scent, "Surprise." Each team will be responsible for designing four garments for her "Surprise" TV and print ad, and two looks for a press event. After all a woman needs options, right? Or to put it in Heidi terms:
Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon co-owns a New York-based table tennis club called SPiN. It sounds like the start of a weird joke, but it's totally true. Fresh off their first elimination in a team-based season, the "Project Runway" designers get to spend a few hours working in the bar/ping-pong lounge/restaurant before they're tasked with their next big challenge. The goal: create cohesive, fashionable, upbeat new uniforms for SPiN's coed serving staff and ball boys. The designers have taken relatively quickly to the concept of working in teams, and they get started right away on divvying up responsibility and figuring out their collective visions for the uniforms.
I liked this episode a lot, and not just because it could easily be turned into a drinking game. Take a shot every time someone says "balls"! Take a shot every time Patricia says "leggins"! Take a shot every time Matthew talks about his personal creativity! Boom, you're drunk.
One good thing about the team setup is that it makes trips to Mood far more interesting. There's a lot of collaboration during the fabric-finding process, notably between Cindy and Benjamin, who are paired together to create a look despite the fact that they don't get along and have wildly different aesthetics. James, worried about the negative impact his team's advice had on his look last week, makes every effort to close himself off from the group by taking on the creation of a full look himself. (Foreshadowing! Ahem.) And in the workroom, Layana and Daniel work adorably together while Benjamin and Cindy continue to clash. Matthew and Patricia separately try to figure out how to best incorporate their specific aesthetics into basic (but necessary) pieces for their teams.
The runway show is judged by Heidi, Nina, Zac Posen (who definitely steps up his game this weeKgo Zac!), and the incredible Ms. Sarandon herself.
Team Keeping It Real - Top Three
Daniel/Layana - The utility of the skort is really smart, and in a nice athletic touch, the black-and-white combo and the cut of the vest echos a referee's uniform. Casual, theme-appropriate, sexy but not over-the-top. An easy win. One caveat: The asymmtery on the back strap is great, but the same effect on the lapel is too floral-looking for my taste.
Stanley - Making a drop-crotch pant look good isn't easy for the designer or the wearer, but in this case it came off extremely well. The easy, clean cut of the top (good fabric choice!) complemented the pants nicely.
Joseph/Richard - I didn't love this look. The harness for the ball-catching contraption was super smart and the judges were good to acknowledge it, but the typographic treatment on the pockets and chest made my eyes bleed (I blame that terrible boxy font). On a separate note, I really liked watching Joe and Richard work together and I hope they do so more in the future. Something about their laid-back personalities and good humor made me smile.
Dream Team - Bottom Three (Again! Womp womp)
James - The vaguely alarmed look on Nina's face as James exposited about this look said it all. This isn't a bad look, per se, but not for a food service employee (no sleeves = no go) and not for an indoor club-type atmosphere.
Benjamin/Cindy - Again, not a terrible look overall, but absolutely not appropriate for the setting. The puff sleeves and short-cropped torso on the jacket looked very "lady ringmaster at the circus" to me.
Benjamin/Matthew - I understand why this look doesn't work visually (and why it wouldn't work for SPiN's purposes) and yeah, that screen printed crotch overlay was tasteless, but Matthew gets many many bonus points in my book for going with his gut and making a kilt instead of standard jeans. Had the other parts of the look been stronger I think the judges would have responded to this a lot more favorably, if not for the ball boy than perhaps for a server or host.
Dream Team carried a lot of negatives this week, but Cindy's lame jacket, Benjamin's below-average contributions and Matthew's borderline-annoying kilt were no match for the utter blandness of James' look. He seems like a chill, talented guy, but a little too chill and not quite talented enough to move forward in the competition.
Next week: More shenanigans! And a Heidi-focused challenge, which is always fun. Until then, holler back in the comments about your thoughts on the episode. What's the most important quality for a restaurant/bar uniform to have? Which team presented the best collection of looks? If you were Susan Sarandon, which look would you have chosen for your employees? How quickly do you think the animosity between Cindy and Benjamin will devolve into a knock-down drag-out fight?
Also, are you any good at ping-pong? Because I am terrible.
We're back with a new season of "Project Runway," and almost immediately the show reminds me of one of the things I like the most about it: Its commitment to casting diversity. The Season 11 group is comprised of a wide range of body types, ages, education levels and races, and that's a pleasure to see on a long-running reality show. Whether or not this diversity will be reflected as the race winnows down remains to be seen, but this is a good foot on which to start the season.
Episode 1 is a flurry of introductions, but some people stand out right away. Daniel has a fabulous mustache, Benjamin is Australian, Cindy is a funeral director and Patricia is the first Native American to appear on the show. [You can check out the full roster of designers here. Go ahead, I'll wait.]
The group assembles for the first time, and Heidi fills them in on the season's big twist: they'll be working in teams. At this point I have to pause my screener because I'm laughing so hard at the designers' reactions. They've still got smiles plastered on their faces but you can see the terror and annoyance in their eyes. It's admittedly a bummer of a twist for any designer who entered the competition expecting to work solo, but hey, we're eleven seasons in. I don't hate the idea of shaking things up a bit. Fashion is way more a team sport than this show usually acknowledges, and as Nina notes later in the episode, forcing the designers to interact with and depend on each other's garments will hopefully raise the bar for quality all around.
On to the challenge! The designers must create a garment that shows their personalitiesbuilt with input from the rest of the designers on their teamsinspired by a view of New York City. Team Keeping It Real (hold on while I pause my screener to laugh at that terrible name) takes a boat out on the Hudson, where the designers size each other up. Dream Team (again, terrible) does the same from the roof of Atlas.
There are more changes afoot. 1) To adapt to the team challenge format, Tim's critiques are now a kind of art-school-ish group critique session, which I'm anticipating will lead to a fair bit of drama. 2) The adorable/talented/fabulous Zac Posen has stepped in to fill Michael Kors' spot. 3) Since the judges are paying attention to the work of the group as well as the work of the individual, we're treated to a second group-walk down the runway after seeing each look. This hews a little more closely to industry standard for collection presentations.
Team Keeping It Real - Top Three
Daniel - A striking silk wool crepe suit, and probably the most NYC-feeling garment of the episode. I particularly loved the cut of the pant. The judges gave this look the crown and I totally agree that it was an exciting standout for the season's first runway show.
Richard - Zac Posen liked the use of asymmetry, and all the judges commented on the sporty elegance of the dress.
Patricia - I was nervous when Patricia first started to work on her fabric, but the end result, with the incorporation of the cobalt blue detailing and cut-outs, was very strong and totally wearable. She's the designer I most excited to follow as the season goes on.
Dream Team - Bottom Three
James - Yawn. Posen described it as "pedestrian," and that really sums it up: no one would protest this dress, and I've actually seen a number of people on my morning commute rocking the same basic ensemble, but there's nothing of substance or interest in it.
Cindy - A ho-hum but acceptable silhouette that's totally ruined by a mind-blowingly bizarre combination of prints.
Emily - Hot mess! Just a hot mess. A mishmash of silly pieces and poorly chosen fabrics, without even the benefit of smart construction to save it. I want to defend Emily (She's my age&3151;us eager early-twentysomethings have to stick together), but she was way over her head here and got the boot because of it.
I know y'all have a lot of feelings regarding the team challenge format, so chime in with your comments below. Should Cindy or James have gone home instead of Emily? Whose first look impressed you the most? And who are you planning to keep an eye on as the season moves forward?
A team is only as strong as its weakest link…but only ONE Project Runway designer can be the winner, so who will play nice and who won’t this season? As 16 talented designers from across the country arrive to The Big Apple, they will have to prove they can create, construct and collaborate their way to Fashion Week for "Project Runway" Season 11 - Teams Edition, premiering Thursday, January 24, at 9.8c.
In the premiere episode, the designers will use New York as their inspiration to create their garments but discover working in teams for the entire season will challenge their patience and creativity. The designers will have to watch their backs while keeping their eyes on the prize as they work together to impress Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, Nina Garcia and featured judge Zac Posen and guest judge, Season 4 "Project Runway" winner Christian Siriano.
And the Season 11 designers are:
Amanda Valentine, 31 - Hometown: Nashville, TN; Resides in Lincoln, NE
Benjamin Mach, 35 - Hometown: Sydney, Australia; Resides in London, England
Cindy Marlatt, 59 - Hometown: Kent, WA; Resides in Kent, WA
Daniel Esquivel, 48 - Hometown: Dallas, TX; Resides in Austin, TX
Emily Pollard, 24 - Hometown: Richfield, OH; Resides in Falls Church, VA
James Martinez, 29 - Hometown: Dallas, TX; Resides in Fort Worth, TX
Joseph Aaron Segal, 30 - Hometown: Framingham, MA; Resides in Providence, RI
Kate Pankoke, 23 - Hometown: Eau Claire, WI & Parkland, FL; Resides in Chicago, IL
Layana Aguilar, 28 - Hometown: Valadares, Brazil; Resides in New York, NY
Matthew Arthur, 30 - Hometown: Hammond, LA; Resides in New Orleans, LA
Michelle Lesniak Franklin, 34 - Hometown: Portland, OR; Resides in Portland, OR
Patricia Michaels, 46 - Hometown: Taos, NM; Resides in Taos, NM
Richard Hallmarq, 39 - Hometown: Saramento, CA; Resides in Sacramento, CA
Samantha Black, 28 - Hometown: Bronx, NY; Resides in Fairfield, CT
Stanley Hudson, 45 - Hometown: Lynwood, CA; Resides in West Hollywood, CA
Tu Suthiwat Nakchat, 26 - Hometown: Chacheangsao, Thailand; Resides in Springfield, VA
There is no "I" in "TEAM," but there is in "FASHION!" Project Runway’s Season 11 returns on January 24 at 9.8c with a twist...the 16 designers will be participating in the series’ first-ever Teams Edition! Yep, you read right. The normally controversial "team challenges" are taken to a whole new level when the designers must work together for every challenge while ensuring their own garments stand out on the runway.
"Project Runway" is also spicing up the judges panel this season with the addition of featured judge, award-winning fashion designer Zac Posen, to help rate the designs alongside Heidi Klum and Nina Garcia. Tim Gunn, will, once again, serve as the mentor, as they sew their way to New York Fashion Week at Lincoln Center where Michael Kors will serve as the finale guest judge.
This season will also feature guest judges: Bette Midler, Oscar® winner Susan Sarandon, country music sensation and Grammy® Award winner Miranda Lambert, Grammy-winning singer songwriter John Legend, red-carpet fashion experts Joan and Melissa Rivers, Emmy Rossum, Kristin Davis, Jordana Brewster and designers Rachel Roy, Tracy Reese, Chris Benz and "Project Runway" winner Christian Siriano.
Even though all the challenges are team challenges, there will only be one winner. As part of the winner’s prize package, this season’s victorious designer will receive $100,000 from L’Oréal Paris to start his/her own line, a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine, a 2013 Lexus GS 350, a $50,000 technology suite by HP and Intel to create his/her own vision and run his/her business and the opportunity to design and sell an exclusive collection at Lord & Taylor. The model paired with the winner of Project Runway will also appear in the designer's Marie Claire editorial feature and receive $25,000 from L'Oréal Paris EverStyle.
React! What do you think about all team challenges? Do you think Zac Posen will make a good addition?