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As I was born in the early 1980s, my sensibility for what makes or breaks a great 1970s outfit is not the best, but I can tell you when a heinous garment walks down a runway, so I can still write this post with some qualifications. When this challenge was first issued to the designers, I wanted to throw down the yellow flag. Did you not see last week's episode, people?! This is not the reference or decade ... again! But, given this was back to designing for women, I figured we could all give them the benefit of the doubt. For now.
The words "SOPHISTICATED" and "MODERN" were reassuring to me, and I was instilled with hope that Pocahontas would be gone. For now.
CUE THE DISCO MUZAK, and we're off to Mood!
In a true "Project Runway" first, Anya not only loses her entire shopping budget, she's also forced to either beg her fellow designers for the nickels and dimes left in their pockets or create a look with the wonders of muslin. I don't know what's worse, really.
However, this is an interesting time if you're into personalities and what really makes a person tick on this show. This is the time when we see whose mantra is "But this is a competition!" versus "We don't want you to go out like this" when someone's down on their luck.
Little did you know, but Anthony Ryan actually left behind buttons and other notions with Anya in mind before he hit the register so that she would have some money to buy something with his balance. Let's hear it for Southern gentlemen! Some (I'm passive-aggressively referring to you, Viktor!) were not so thoughtful.
Bert was like a whole new man in this episode. The guy we met at the beginning of the season wouldn't even hang out with the Studio 54, velvet-rope guy from Episode 10. He was also a wealth of information for his fellow designers to use both for the history of the time period and for unbelievable disco stories from back in the day. (Did anyone else catch that "balcony third row" comment? Bert! You saucy minx!)
Speaking of which, the other interesting part of this challenge is what I like to call the History Channel Showdown. Bert, without question, knows the aesthetic of the '70s. Carry on. Laura asserts herself as being very familiar with the time period because she's "wearing vintage clothing right now" (clearly), and claims that Kimberly is off the mark on the reference and is designing "JC Penney's" pants. (Incidentally, JC Penney's was established in 1902, so it's totally possible.) Meanwhile, Josh claims that since he was born in the '80s, he couldn't possibly be familiar with the decade, which offends, curiously, Viktor.
Viktor, if you recall, was the one who got schooled on references by (then mean) Bert during the stilt walker challenge. Yes, the same man who was confusing Elizabethan with Victorian and and nearly caused Bert's head to explode in a fit of fashion history rage. Did he do some Wiki cram-studying since Episode 3? Check that browser history!
Although it didn't make it into the episode in full (that's what we're here for!), Joshua actually goes on to nearly break down on the specific reasons as to why he was robbed of the experience of knowing fashion references. (Watch this exclusive video blog to see the whole slightly awkward scene unfold. Yow.)
History duels aside, when it came to the second look, you can see who it served well (Laura Kathleen, Bert, Anya) and who it did a disservice to (Anthony Ryan, Joshua). Laura Kathleen's first look had such clashing patterns on the top and bottom, they almost looked like a marriage of two completely different looks sewn together and hidden with a belt. Her second look may not have photographed well, as Nina pointed out, but was much more refined.
Bert's second look (the skimp) grew on me throughout the judging. It really has an effortless ease and simplicity that a lot of women would love. Although his first look was kind of bananas, it was fun and seriously inspired by the time. Perhaps a bit too vintage-looking, but it had a certain joy in it that was missing from the previous week overall. Anya's wheelhouse certainly seems to be creating resort wear with a relaxed vibe. Both winning looks could be in the same woman's suitcase.
If we've learned anything in this episode, it's never to stuff your money envelope in your bra. I don't care how much underwire you're rocking, your money for your reality-competition TV show will fall out. We also learned that you can make fashion with $11 and that even though the nice guy went home, he's still a class act.
Bert and Anya’s winning looks have sold out on Piperlime.com, but Olivia Palermo, our judge on last Thursday’s episode, has a bunch of great new picks at Piperlime.com! Click here to see her faves, and don’t forget you can shop the "Project Runway" Accessories Wall, too.
P.S. The winning looks' biggest fan? Heidi Klum herself! Check her out in Anya's winning Piperlime jumpsuit:
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I love the menswear challenges when they make an appearance on the show, mostly because they freak everyone out. As I've readily admitted before, I don't sew. I have no technical knowledge as to whether constructing a garment for a man to wear is the most difficult thing on the planet or not. And I really couldn't tell you whether male designers have a distinct advantage in this challenge solely because they wear the garments being made. All I know is everyone loses their cool, and it shows the true strengths (and weaknesses) of the designers remaining in the competition.
One of the bigger problems for the designers may not have been the fact that it was menswear, but that the 1970s came up as a not-so-subtle inspiration for The Sheepdogs' vibe. Almost every outfit up there on that runway had the elements of a literal Halloween costume checklist:
- Flared pants
- Puzzlingly feminine floral pattern top
-Native American-esque beaded accessories
* Guitar not included
However, the Most Ridiculous Excuse of All Time Award must go to Olivier a.k.a. the Veruca Salt of Parsons.
Maybe it's the Surrey-via-Cincinnati accent. Maybe it's all the tension built up from never unbuttoning his top button. All I know is that Olivier dislikes unfit models, boobs and 6'3" men who play in bands.
He's going to have a difficult time marketing his clothing to the masses when he will only allow 5'10" AA cup supermodels to be his muse, which is sad, because the potential is certainly there. But, if you're coming into a design competition as a, quote, menswear designer and you go home on a menswear challenge, that leaves a lot of people scratching their heads.
Viktor took home another well-deserved win thanks to a pleather jacket that was truly the saving grace of the night. That and the guest-judging of Adam Lambert. Although he couldn't take credit for coining the genius that is "Reggae Jesus" (bless you, Michael Kors), he was on the money about every single look on the stage. Come back next season, will ya?
One of the most frequent questions I get is "When are you going to bring back the menswear challenge, already?!" And now I can finally tell you! ... Not this week. (But VERY soon!)
Believe you me, I was fooled just like the rest of you when Tim threw in the "You're not making menswear" caveat, and momentarily even thought that the designers would be making something for the most rugged-looking drag queens of all time, until the wives and girlfriend showed up in the workroom.
Nonetheless, this was a great challenge. The key to doing well here was really how adept one's boyfriend or husband was at articulating their significant other's style. And this is probably trickier than one would think, because straight men can't shop. (If this episode didn't help prove that, I don't know what will.)
The situation kind of reminds me of that reality TV show where two people date in the dark and each tries to blindly guess what the other person looks like based on personality alone, and then once the lights flick on, they are either pleasantly surprised or running for the exit. If whatever these men conveyed about their partner's wardrobes didn't match reality, a designer was headed to the exit.
Viktor's client should have had it easier than anyone. His girlfriend's sense of personal style was clear. We know she's spent some quality time at the local Anthropologie, whereas Bert's client tempted me to just go ahead and call this blog post "What a Boob." I'm still trying to recuperate from watching husband Anthony motorboat a dress form, no less the fact that I got paid to write the word "motorboat" just now. But we move on ...
Anthony Ryan's client was a dear. The fact that he knew enough to use this challenge as a way to come across as a hero on national TV by replacing his girlfriend's two lost dresses was precious. Marry that man now, Caitlin!
Olivier was so petrified by boobs that he had to ask Tim Gunn for clarity on what the words "Double D" meant (hilarious moment alert!), and then was so overwhelmed by his clients' wishes that I think he got a bit railroaded. If he didn't end up being safe in this challenge, he for sure would have had to defend a garment the client didn't really like and neither did he.
It looked as though he pulled a P. Diddy and sampled the vibe of Kimberly's winning garment for the Nina Garcia challenge (especially the back), and was stuck on that yellow fabric that made a cameo in his Harlem School of the Arts challenge dress until Tim snapped him out of it. That may have ultimately saved him. And the fact that his model worked it out on the runway. (P.S. Did you see that RING?!)
Joshua's "Ode to Betty Draper" dress really surprised me. He showed a lot of restraint in not bedazzling the crap out of that thing, and the client certainly adored it.
But, I ultimately disagree with the judges' decision. Viktor should have taken this one home. I feel like Joshua just created a beautiful dress for a girl who loves beautiful dresses. That could be any girl. I don't think it was indicative of who she is. Viktor really hit the nail on the head from, as Bryce accurately noted, head to toe. Her look and her personal style were in harmony.
As for Bryce being given the big adios, I must say I didn't totally hate his pink-pocketed dress. Yeah, the fit was wonky, but if the girl enjoys oversized pockets and wants to use them as personal cubbies, have at it, sister!
Another team challenge, another opportunity for drama.
But first, a cartwheel break by the legendary Betsey Johnson.
We need a collection! We need a show! And I hope one of you knows how to use video editing software for lib-dubbing mediocre pop songs and uploading them to Tumblr.
While Team Chaos (who should really lend their name to Team Nuts and Bolts, cause that's what they were CHAOTIC) were giggling and slow-motion braiding each other's hair, Joshua was dominating a team that was clearly labeled as LEADER-FREE CHALLENGE and desperately trying to recall the members of The Village People* for inspiration.
Like a kid waiting for the right opportunity to jump into a double-dutch tournament, Joshua seizes the opportunity to cause some waves by hastily accusing Bert of having the foulest mouth of all time. (Where's that British gum lady when you need her?)
Based on Joshua's dramatic Norma Desmondstyle overreaction, I thought I missed a much more dramatic moment, and paused to think to myself, "Wait. Did Joshua just think Bert didn't say CLOCK and said something ... ELSE?" And then I began to laugh with every subsequent reference, because it was just so double-entendre ridiculous.
Once I realized this was really over the words "friggin'" (Really?) and the F-bomb proper (I'm sure nuns say that nowadays), I stopped laughing and wondered why Joshua blew up as much as he did.
Forfeit? You're going to forfeit (Can one actually even do that?) a challenge because someone ... swore? Designer/Detective Laura Bennett has done some recon work and discovered that Joshua actually curses twice in this episode. I will not stand for it!
At this point, this workroom is desperately needing some color to liven up the awkwardness in the room. Yet each team only goes for black and white. The ABSENCE of color, and white. Did I miss something? Look back at Seasons 7 and 8 (I'll wait!) and check out the winning prints by Emilio Sosa and Mondo Guerra: vibrant color. Or, hey, look at any of the prints the designers created in those seasons, and it's a Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor ROYGBIV bonanza compared to these patterns.
Team Chaos' Rorschach test idea certainly lends itself to, well, black ink, but I would have loved to see some prints that didn't look like they came from the neighborhood library's Xerox machine.
While Team Chaos is still thriving and jiving, Team Nuts and Bolts is falling apart. It took Father Timothy Gunn's prayer circle to intervene and bring some true cohesion. Yes, Joshua eventually apologized to Bert, and it was probably best that it happened in front of everyone so that there were witnesses to back it up, but the fact that he called it a "PSA" cheapened it. I'm sure if he had access to a publicist, there would have been a press release and an "I'm Sorry" after-party, but we move on ...
Let's talk about the collections:
Team Chaos really wrapped their heads around the whole experience Betsey was preaching about in the workroom. Aside from the messy hair and makeup choices, they knew exactly who their girl was, where she was going, what she was wearing and why she was wearing it. It was clear that theirs was the winning collection. Best of all, they all used the HP print.
Team Nuts and Bolts used as much of their print as they could legally get away with, and the rest worked with whatever excuse they could muster as being clock-like, gear-esque or generally inspired by the inner workings of Big Ben. Thankfully, the judges recognized this right away and called out the offending players:
Laura Kathleen's belt felt like a way to use the print just for the sake of using it (she quasi-admits as much), and Kimberly was smart enough to just plain avoid it.
Joshua's jacket looked great from the front, but I question the functionality and practicality of the garment. To reveal the second print, he had the cogs open the way they did on the front of the jacket to mirror it. It looked as though the model was peeling away like a fashionable banana, since, you know, no one's closed a jacket in the back since Celine Dion's backwards-jacket Oscar look.
The length of Bert's dress was just too long and took away from what actually worked on his garment. It would have been worlds better if it fell closer to the knee. But Michael and guest judge Rachel Roy hit the nail on the head: This collection's problem was that it was FAR too literal. "Don't give me bad energy. I don't want to wear something that says 'CANCELED.'" AMEN.
And poor Becky was down for the count no matter how many times she redid that skirt.
The one thing they did do right was clip those blunt bangs to those models' foreheads. But at least it's not The Village People.
* The policeman, the construction worker, the sailor, the biker ... (I watched "Wayne's World II" more than once.)
Based on the Harlem School of the Arts painting session pairings, I was totally taken back to Season 4's prom dress challenge. Would Viktor's student Skyy become akin to Christian Siriano's prom tweenmate? For his sanity's sake, I hope not!
While receiving Dalai Lamaesque life lessons and avoiding House of Deréon inspiration, the designers all did their best to wrap their heads around the definition of "avant-garde." So that we're all on the same page, here it is:
avant-garde |?avänt ?gärd; ?avä n |
noun (usu. the avant-garde) new and unusual or experimental ideas, esp. in the arts.
I watched this episode three times in the hopes that something "new" and "unusual" would slap me across the face that I didn't notice the first two times. And finally, during the third replay, it did: EVERYONE IS NICE TO EACH OTHER NOW!
What a relief! Perhaps now that everyone is humming "Kumbaya" in 11-part harmony, we'll see some truly inspired avant-garde fashion:
Olivier, as much as we want to protect him like a tiny kitten, needs to ROAR already. His winning pet-challenge look was far and away more avant-garde than this look. This one was too safe. And just because he had some chiffon available (presumably because Danielle is no longer hoarding it and calling it her "Precious" in a corner somewhere), does not an avant-garde look make.
Bert, although half-harlequin and half-whatever crazy geometric thing Katy Perry wore to the VMAs, got the "unusual" part right, but it was too unflattering a fit to be a legitimate contender. Litmus test: If you make a model look like she has a saggy butt and the world's shortest torso, you're in trouble for the rest of us.
Josh C. spent so much time toying around with that ghastly red faux fur and his throwback to the sassy X-rated version of "Bram Stoker's Dracula" that he just couldn't get past the fact that it wasn't good. Painting or no painting! What's sadder still is that he had one of the cooler paintings to work with. His tweenmate who, incidentally, could have passed as his kid sister should have let him know.
Laura Kathleen's hard-meets-soft rose concoction had potential, but the combination of the green boning and the yellow organza just bothered me. I couldn't see past it. And apparently, neither could the judges for as much as they liked it. (Watch it again and take note of the number of times they applaud her for hard and soft ... and not much else.)
Joshua M. did a nice job of giving his skirt some texture with his paint application, but remove that belt in your mind and ponder how the top transitioned to the bottom. That wasn't using an accessory to accessorize; that was a foot of mystery in the middle. (Prove me wrong by removing the belt and I'll rescind my comment!)
Anya, for as much flak as she gets, really put together a great look this week. I'm surprised it didn't resonate with the judges more than just being safe. The shape she achieved in that skirt really set her apart from the rest of the pack. She, as always, seemed to be spot-on with the styling. Her model's hair? Genius.
Bryce's look had lot of potential too, but the fit was way off. Gaga would be all over that thing if it was done right. And she'd wear the sleeves tied behind her on the red carpet and have her minions speak for her using only index cards transcribed in German.
Anthony Ryan's look, I really loved it, but it was love I already had for his second challenge dress ... because that's what it was. Same neckline. Same silhouette, just longer and not covered in birdseed. Maybe it was a blessing that Nina wasn't there to remind Michael and Heidi of this?
If it sounds like I'm being harsh on the designers in this episode, I am. We're down to 11 designers. I want to see something spectacular. Spectacular Spectacular! I didn't expect them to, you know, throw Swatch the Mood mascot dog on someone's head as a hat and label it "avant-garde," but it certainly would have piqued my interest.
Tweet along with @projectrunway and Episode 6 guest judge Kenneth Cole (@kennethcole), plus Marie Claire's Zanna Roberts Rassi (@zrobertsrassi) on Thursday night at 9 et/8c. Use #projectrunway in your tweets to follow the conversation!
Well, let's just start off with the awkward elephant in the room: Cecilia's departure. She's not the first designer to choose to walk away from "Runway," but she's certainly the first to do it this soon.
Only the designers who have competed on this show over the years can truly know the pressure, stress and insanity the contestants face day in and day out, but after going through rounds of casting and years of trying to get your work recognized, why take yourself out of the competition at THIS point? I guess only Cecilia can answer that question.
Moving on to Olivier, quote, falling like a bitch (didn't know that was an "ism" across the pond, by the way) and the choosing of teams for the Heidi New Balance challenge …
Newly discovered track star Joshua strategically picks Anya for his first teammate, followed by Becky for her strong sewing skills.
Bryce smartly chooses last week's winner, Kimberly, and rounds out the team with loves-a-chiffon-moment Danielle. Anthony Ryan chooses former stilt-walker-challenge teammate Laura Kathleen, and is stuck with Bertzilla (LOVED that Heidi beat him in five-inch Louboutins!), who complains that he's picked last, yet gets along with no one at this point.
Viktor chooses a brought-back-to-life-from-near-death-fall Olivier, and is allowed to choose a third team member from the previously dismissed designers. His choice? Josh C. (Now I have to use Josh initials again! Thanks, guy.)
From the get-go, it's clear which teams are really teams of two with an oh-sorry-you're-working-with-us-too bonus mate, and who have true party-of-three cohesion. Anthony Ryan and Laura Kathleen initially shut Bert's ideas down in a dismissive way that perhaps is unfair, but given his winning personality lately, can we really blame them? Likewise, Joshua M. and Anya are clearly fashion BFFs, and Becky is the third wheel in this arrangement.
Josh Squared bromance is back, y'all!
But even this momentary moment of workroom happiness can't stop the sass factory that's about to take over the next hour of our lives.
In the workroom, Anthony Ryan often asks Bert what he thinks, but doesn't quite assert his authority as team captain to rein Bert in. Maybe it was his body temperature slowly rising over 98.6, but he could have had much more dominance in what needed to be done as a complete collection. Instead his work suffered, and his team fell apart in the process.
Both Joshua M. and Anya ask Becky to help sew their garments, and I use the word "ask" here purposely. They ASKED her. What Joshua eventually said to her with the whole "Your clothes are dowdy!" rant was certainly offensive to Becky, or anybody for that matter, but at no point did she ever open her mouth and say, "No! I will not be your seamstress wench! You figure out how to sew jersey, magician!" She should have put her foot down when Josh put his foot in.
Speaking of sewing, let's talk about the epic fails of needlework Betsy Ross is somewhere rolling in her grave about. The last-minute stripe on the front of Anya's maxi dress was tacked on with a stitch every foot or twelve. You could stick your hand through it to give your teammate a high-five when the judges completely missed the for-decorative-purposes-only exposed zipper on the razorback that was simply laid on top of the garment. The overall effect was nice, but the execution on these notions was seriously sloppy.
Bertzilla strikes again on the runway as he openly mocks and laughs at his own teammates during judging. Yes, Anthony Ryan's look was probably one of the bigger tragedies ever seen on the catwalk, but at what point was it OK to kick the guy when he's down ... and feverish? Bert's look, although better than the giant basketball-shorts romper next to him, was a pair of socks and a Staten Island Ferry ride away from a 1988 "Working Girl" moment.
On the flip side, Viktor's motorcycle jacket (pictured right) makes us all want to go out and buy one, and Joshua M. picks up the surprising second win.
In what's sure to be one of the more controversial judging decisions since Gretchengate of 2010, Danielle is sent home and Anthony Ryan is spared. Did you think her elimination was fair, or did Anthony Ryan's body of work save him?
Tweet with @projectrunway, special guest Heidi Klum(@HeidiKlum), plus Season 7 designer Jesse LeNoir (@jesselenoir) on Thursday night at 9 et/8c. Use #projectrunway in your tweets to follow the conversation!