The Project Runway Blog
Category: "episode 7"
It's time for a pulse-taking. The designers chat about the fact that the stakes are higher, both because the competition is now halfway over and because Tim's sole designer-rescue card was put in play last week to keep Justin around. Better step it up, make it work, etc.
The gang heads to the Marie Claire offices at Hearst to peek in on the mag's epic shoe closet. Editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider is there to help introduce the challenge: Design a look inspired by a pair of shoes. The models will be wearing those shoes on the runway, so the looks have to complement and show off the footwear, too. The suggested budget is $250, and the designers have 30 minutes to shop.
Alexandria gets first dibs in the shoe-picking game thanks to her win last week. She grabs a pair of intimidating thigh-high gladiator sandals. In order to determine who'll pick next, the designers are quizzed on fashion history by Tim and Anne. They're asked about the inspiration for Christian Louboutin's famous red-soled heels, the creator of the Little Black Dress, Dior, McQueen, Marc Jacobs, and the famous ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, until finally Miranda, last to choose, nabs a pair of red leather loafers.
At Mood, Alexander and Miranda gravitate toward very similar wool plaids, and in the workroom they realize they're creating nearly the same outfit: White tops and fitted, high-waisted plaid pants. Both designers acknowledge the coincidence, but neither backs down from continuing to make their garments. I think there's an interesting challenge idea in there somewhere -- it would really test the creativity and construction abilities of the group if they were all required to make the same basic outfit, no? I can't be the only one who'd love a jeans-and-white-tees challenge -- but, as Ken points out, when two people create nearly identical looks, it's going to benefit one of them and leave the other in the dust.
For the runway show, Anne Fulenwider steps in as a guest judge, along with The Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco. Onward:
Shoes: Black stiletto booties with silver studded toe embellishments
A tailored sleeveless knee-length dress with a black shrug cape. Nina fawns that it's minimal and classic and sophisticated and fashionable (enough adjectives to prove she really likes it), and Zac digs the simplicity of it. Heidi compliments the young, modern hair and makeup. Faced with three solid, chic black dresses, the judges pick this one for the win.
Shoes: Thigh-high black gladiator sandals with knee pads
An understated black shift dress with lace cutouts at the clavicle and an asymmetrical hemline also trimmed with lace. Heidi loves that its femininity contrasts with the hardness of the shoes. Nina likes that it has an editorial attitude. Zac doesn't love the shoes or the dress nearly as much as the ladies on the panel, and even goes so far as to call the look "pedestrian," but he's easily outvoted.
Shoes: Lace-up black sandal heels
"My interpretation of a maneater for the new milennium," Ken says of this black peplum cap-sleeve minidress. The judges are impressed by the fabric choice and the garment's edginess, especially since Ken has struggled to keep his looks youthful. This one fares even better once the panel gets a closer look at it.
Shoes: Black velvet knee-high stiletto boots with gold buttons along the outside length
A tube miniskirt and shimmery gold tank paired with a cream-colored silk chiffon mock-argyle sweater. Like many of Jeremy's previous designs, this one veers too old and too trampy for the tastes of our judges. Zac gets real: "I'm starting to question who you are as a designer. [...] I really need to see [your techniques and skills] come together so we can properly assess you." That's an official warning, Jeremy!
Shoes: Gold tuxedo loafers with gold beading decoration
A halter-necked silk top draped and sewed to resemble water paired with a brown silk circle skirt. There's no love in the room for this garment, but the judging panel likes Bradon a lot so they offer a lot of suggestions for what they would've liked to see with those shoes instead, like a suit or a brocade t-shirt dress. He's in the bottom two, but let's be real: It's too early for him to go home.
Shoes: Red patent leather tuxedo loafers
Plaid pegged pants with a white polka-dot top and a white leather bolero jacket. This is not offensely bad, in my opinion, but the judges have no residual affection for Miranda's work so they tear into it a bit. Zac admits that he likes its inherent "nerd alert"-ness, but Nina says it's too Christmas-y and too obvious. It's also way too similar to many of Miranda's earlier works. Miranda gets the auf.
What say you, commentariat? Was Miranda's look that much worse than Alexander's? Was Helen's dress that much better than Alexandria's or Ken's? Do you think this is the beginning of the end for Bradon? Which pair of shoes appealed to you the most? (I loved those studded black booties. Gimme.) Holler at me in the comments.
Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think had the Top and Bottom looks each week!
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!
By Vicky Sullivan, Founder of Aspiringsocialite.com
In last week's episode of "Project Runway," the feuding designers got their classiest challenge yet when they were given the task of designing dresses that could potentially be sold at the Lord & Taylor flagship store on Fifth Ave. After meeting Lord & Taylor’s President, Bonnie Brooks, the designers began sketching classic dress designs with the dream of having their dresses prominently displayed in the store windows on Fifth Ave. The dresses will retail for $200-$300. So they must look expensive, but also be affordable to make. The remaining designers quickly found that making a simple dress can be even more difficult than creating a more complex design because when it comes to a being classic, there’s nowhere to hide your mistakes.
This week was very much boys vs. girls. Interestingly enough, designing dresses for the everyday woman was far easier for the guys than it was for the women designers who gravitate toward more avant-garde couture designers rather than the classic feminine dress. Designing for the Lord & Taylor customer was especially difficult for Elena who prefers to work with leather rather than lace. Tim Gunn criticized Alicia’s look saying it looked too much like "Joan of Arc" armor. Melissa was still cutting up her fabric when everyone else’s dresses where already up on their dress forms.
The next day, the girls struggled to finish their dresses while the boys leisurely chose accessories for their models. Sonjia shed her share of tears, but was comforted by Tim when she was told to, "Channel her inner winner." When the designers headed to the runway, no one is surprised to see lots of black and Bonnie Brooks of the guest judge. Everyone’s dress was pretty much black. I would have really liked to see at least one of the designers use red or navy blue. Black evening dresses are classic, but you don’t have to use black to be classic. If someone had used a different color they really would have stood out. Gunnar was criticized for being too safe. I see where the judges were coming from, but I think Fabio’s solid back dress was the one that was too safe. I’ve seen it in the dress department of almost every department store. Elena cried again when she discovered that her edgy baby dolls dress received one of the high scores. At first I wasn’t crazy about this design, but at second glance, I really think I would have rocked that dress at my next NYC cocktail party. Christopher was the winner with his black and blush gown. I wasn’t crazy about it, but I did like that he was the only one to do a gown. However, the biggest surprise was that NO ONE was eliminated this week. It’s looks like all the remaining designers have a vision that resonates with Lord & Taylor and will go on to next week’s challenge.
Dare I say this has been my favorite episode yet? After the disaster that was known as Episode 6 (Read my recap here), it was refreshing to see the a challenge with no real gimmicks. The only catch was that their cocktail/event dress had to fit in with a collection of nine other dresses from past "Runway" designers, but still display the designers' own aesthetic. So as far as I'm concerned, with the fabric essentially already picked out and a general guideline for the design, this challenge really gave the designers the framework to make something absolutely stunning.
But I guess it's never that easy.
With the added pressure of knowing that their dress would be sold at the Lord & Taylor flagship store in NYC (which is right down the street from the Lifetime office!) and on lordandtaylor.com, some of the designers had full-blown panic attacks during this challenge. (Not that I can blame them.) Poor Sonjia and Melissa. For the most part, the these two non-Chiffonies have really kept it together this season, so it was really hard for me to watch them struggle to the point of tears while making their dresses.
Elena, on the other hand, just can't seem to get it together … ever. The poor girl is so hard on herself (and on the other designers during group challenges!) that she literally has a mental breakdown every episode. As Gunnar said, "I know she can do this challenge. She just needs someone to let her know that she can." (Again, really loving Gunnar showing off his tender side. It's a good look for him one that I hope sticks around!)
Once the tears subsided and the anxiety level went from a 10 to a 9, it was time to leave it all on the line … err, I mean runway. As a whole, I thought the designers all contributed pieces that would fit seamlessly into the "Project Runway" Capsule Collection. But I didn't necessarily agree with the judges Top 3 (well 4).
First off, why is my boy Dmitry getting looked over again. Week after week he executed looks that are extremely well-made and have very few technical flaws, yet he has yet to win a challenge! I think he should have won this challenge hands down. It's not that I didn't like Christopher's gown, I just think that Dmitry's dress is more wearable for the average Lord & Taylor consumer.
I'm sort of torn about the fact that no designers were sent home. On one hand, I do agree with the judges that all the designers executed impressive pieces, but I also think that Alicia's "Chanel"-inspired dress was boring, uninspired and just plain 'ol ugly. I also think that Gunnar didn't deserve to be in the bottom his dress was one of the few that I, as a frequent Lord & Taylor shopper, would wear! I think Sonjia's Cyndi Lauper creation should have definitely been in the bottom.
But as they say in fashion: one day you're in and the next … you're also in. At least until Episode 8!
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.)