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The Project Runway Blog
Category: "episode 9"
The designers herd into the American Girl Place store in New York City and my ears immediately perk up. Like many late-'80s babies, I was SUPER into American Girl during my childhood. I had one of the make-your-own dolls who I named Tina and who I outfitted with random accessories from all the other characters' period-specific ensembles: Samantha's 1920s four-poster bed, Molly's '40s clothes, Felicity's horse ("Tina loves riding," my 8-year-old self reasoned), Kirstin's wash basin ("Tina loves to be clean"), and Addy's lunch pail ("Tina loves snacks"). My Tina was all over the place, aesthetically and conceptually. I loved her.
This is a long way of saying that I am very invested in this challenge.
Challenge: Paired with an American Girl Beforever character and model, the designers must incorporate the character's time period, style, and story into a modern and fashionable look for a young girl.
Parameters: American Girl is providing some fabrics that the designers are welcome to use if they want. $150 budget at Mood. One day to work.
Designing for children presents unique hurdles, especially in terms of proportion, but in some ways it's easier: There are fewer curves to tailor around, for example. Over lunch some of the designers compare their experience in this area and Emily, who has her own kids' line, seems to have an advantage. Tim's walkaround finds a lot of the designers in brow-furrowing moods over the direction for their looks. He's not at all excited about Char's plan to add fringe to her vest (neither does Sean, who won a challenge just a few weeks ago thanks to fringe), and he thinks Alexander might not be taking his look any further than Kids 'R Us standards. He also admits to Sandhya that he's not sure he can be of much help to her because he doesn't fundamentally understand a lot of her color relationships and choices. Since Sandhya usually just does whatever she wants, and since the judges have so far loved most of her work, there's little he can add to the conversation about it.
There's no drama with the models because they're very small and sweet, but Korina has to hustle a bit at the end to finish up her multicolored skirt panels. Let's move on to the runway. Our guest judges are "Mad Men" actress Elisabeth Moss and American Girl's senior design manager Heather Northrop. Away we go:
Kini - This one delights the judges. Heather likes that it connects to the character and she's complimentary of the mismatching plaids Kini chose. Elisabeth loves the cutouts. Zac thinks it's aspirational: "This is every young girl's dream." Kini gets the win, and this week he doesn't have to share it with anyone! Way to go, Kini.
Korina - This look read VERY "Jessie from 'Toy Story'" to me, but the judges are diggin' it, especially the graphic elements in the skirt and the smart pops of yellow underneath that are meant to reference the flower Josefina (the doll) wears in remembrance of her mother. Korina's safe.
Char - "If I saw Faith on the street, I would ask her where she got this," Elisabeth says. Nina thinks this is one of the most updated looks to walk the runway this week, but that unlike some of the others it still looks age-appropriate AND fun. "Easy" and "happy" are other adjectives thrown around. Char is safe.
Sean - Sean turns bright red when Heidi points out that the peace sign on the back of his vest is missing a leg. The panel doesn't hate this look, but their criticisms boil down to how thoroughly safe it is. Elisabeth would've liked to see a more interesting color, and Heather says that given how popular bohemian-esque style is with tweens these days, Sean could have had a lot more fun with the silhouette -- he probably should have used the fabric provided by American Girl instead of choosing his own. Our usual judges clearly like Sean so he's in no danger of getting the boot, but their pointed stares make it clear they expect more from him next week.
Emily - Heidi is on the fence: She thinks the iridescent ruffles look a little drab. Heather agrees and says the silhouette is too frumpy. Nina hops on board that train of thought and offers that for a tween, Emily's color choices seem sad. Lots of sad trombone sound effects, basically. Nina gets real cranky about this one, but the rest of the judges see enough good here to keep Emily around. She's safe.
Sandhya - The judges like this look...for a one-year-old. Nina says she feels like Sandhya was working off an entirely different challenge and that she should have designed something more age-appropriate. Zac agrees with Sandhya that kids should be kids, but that there's no avoiding the "circus flamingo" vibe this look gives off. The back-and-forth here is that the judges don't think a 9-year-old would want to wear this, ever, and Sandhya politely but firmly disagrees. She's out.
I found it interesting, though not unsurprising, that for this kids-based challenge the judges chose Kini's nice but very adult-seeming garment for the win instead of something like Char's, which was more playful and age appropriate. Also, as much as I've been a defender of Sandhya's work this season, I admit she was totally off the mark this week. Still though, sending her home instead of Emily felt a little...abrupt. What did you think? Could you see any of the young girls in your life wearing these clothes? Did Sandhya deserve the auf more than Emily? Did you have an American Girl doll? If so, please describe her for me in detail, and let me know what else you thought of this episode in the comments.
We're nine challenges in and the designers have wised up. When Heidi and Tim offer them a relaxed sit-down brunch, the gang immediately starts to brainstorm how it might tie in to their next task. "Do you think we're designing for a garden party?" "Mad Hatter's tea party." "Socialite women." "Maybe [the clients are] our servers." Tim finally clues them in: They'll be designing for the modern Southern woman, or more specifically, the Belk customer. The look can be for day or evening. 30 minutes to sketch, a suggested Mood budget between $200 and $250, and -- as usual so far this season -- they have a day to finish. The winning look will be sold in Belk stores and on belk.com.
"Southern" means different things to different people. Alexander, Alexandria, and Helen admit outright that they don't know who this customer is at all. On the other end of the spectrum, Dom and Ken feel self-assured since they both hail from Southern families. (Dom's family is from New Orleans; Ken's is from Birmingham, Alabama.) Dom and Ken roll their eyes at the stereotypical understanding of the South that their fellow designers latch on to. "Tim said to design for the modern Southern woman, not 'Little House on the Prairie,'" Ken says as Bradon, Alexander and Alexandria gravitate toward plaid fabrics and flouncy skirts. Dom agrees: "The women in my family? They're not going to throw some polyester plaid dress on. These aren't farm boys. They're people who live in cities."
Interestingly, the judges feel the opposite about the looks that are eventually sent down the runway. They dislike the bottom three -- Dom, Jeremy, and Ken -- so much that they send those designers back to the workroom for 60 minutes to either create a new look or alter the garments they've already made to better match the goal of the challenge. Twist! (Helen, Alexander and Kate are brought in as reinforcements, thank goodness.)
Our guest judges: Belk's Executive VP of Private Brands, John Thomas, and "Supermarket Superstar" host Stacy Keibler.Top Three
Bradon - A sleeveless cotton shirtdress with a high-low hemline done in a sort of pastel madras plaid. The judges really like it, citing the sex appeal and modern feel of the silhouette as a huge plus. Plus it's made well. Bradon wins.
Kate - An empire-waist dress with cap sleeves in a bright orange, white, and pink print. Heidi thinks the model looks pregnant (no surprise -- she never seems to like empire waists, which do add volume to thin women but are usually very flattering on average- or plus-size figures) but Nina and Stacy both adore the colors and the print.
Alexander - A painted-plaid patterned handkerchief-hem dress with a sweetheart neckline at the fitted bodice. John and Stacy both love the way it moves on the runway. The bodice earns praise for being nicely constructed and the judging panel agrees that the overall look is fresh and young.
Dom - Dom, frustrated with landing in the safe zone nearly every challenge so far, wants to show the judges that she's capable of making tightly designed, pattern-free work, so she sends this floor-length cap-sleeved purple and green gown down the runway. Nina is disappointed in the color and Zac just seems bored.
Heidi LOVES Dom's second, totally different look, an asymmetrically draped, flirty dress in a black and white pattern. Zac, Nina, and Stacy love its effortless style, and John Thomas loves it so much that he decides to produce it for Belk along with Bradon's. This means that Dom is a winner of the challenge, too. Yay Dom!
Ken - A floor-length deep purple racerback gown. Zac likes the color but calls the dress "a beautifully-cut purple nightgown." Heidi and Ken have a staring contest after she says she doesn't find the gown very flattering. John says he's seen the look before.
Ken's second look is a glammed-up version of his gown. He keeps the racerback, adds a drapy dolman sleeve, and shortens the length to make it more of a bodycon mini-dress. The judges are placated. Ken's safe.
Jeremy - A sleeveless, knee-length V-neck dress in a pink-hued floral print, paired with a red jacket. Heidi's quick to let Jeremy know that she finds it old and un-sexy. Zac is disappointed by the jacket. Nina hates the print. When he gets a closer look at it, Zac says, "It looks like a college fashion show in a non-metropolitan city," which I think sums it up: It's inoffensive, but absolutely been-there-done-that in terms of cut, fit and color choice.
Jeremy goes in the opposite direction with his new look, a bias-cut sleeveless beige dress. The judges appreciate that this look is considerably more youthful and brunch-appropriate but it's still a little too boring. Auf wiedersehen, Jeremy.(He takes the loss with a good attitude: "I get to see my kids...and I get to f***ing drink tonight!" Cheers.)
Were you as disappointed in the runway looks as the judges were? Did you think the new looks were an improvement for the bottom three designers? How well do you think the group captured the idea of the modern Southern woman? Let me know in the comments.
Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think had the Top and Bottom looks each week!
As much as I'll miss the hunks from Thunder From Down Under, I think we can all let out a sigh of relief because that disaster of a challenge is over. But as it became clear through out this episode, the designers were not quite ready to see past it. (I'm talking to you, Richard.)
It's the Lord & Taylor challenge! Besides the HP challenge (Next week!), this is always my favorite challenge because it gives us, the loyal "Project Runway" fans, a chance to actually purchase the winning design. But more on that later…
I really feel for the designers. At this point of the competition, they are sleep deprived, haven't seen their families for weeks and are so close, yet so far from being crowned the winner. And you can just see the look of despair on their faces each time Tim tells them they have "some business to take care." I don't know what's better anymorehaving the judges pick the teams or the button bag. This week the teams were at the mercy of the judges again, dividing last week's teams into pairs with one trio: Stanley and Patricia, Daniel and Michelle, and Richard, Layana and Samantha.
After the usual drill of sketching (This week's inspiration: the Lord & Taylor rose) and Mood (Hi, Swatch!), it was on to 1407 for what should have been a relatively quiet day in the workroom since each person had their own design to worry about. I believe Stanley said in the beginning of the episode that it was going to be, "no drama day." He was wrong. In fact, he was the source of a good amount of drama!
If you were to ask me in the beginning of the season who would be one of the first ones to go, I would have said Patricia solely based on the fact that she typically has unconventional ideas, especially when it comes to textiles. But if there is one thing I've learned over the years, when it comes to PR, there is never a clear winner or loser at the beginning of the competition. And I must admit, Patricia has really won me over. It's a shame Stanley didn't feel the same way! Bless her heart. I would have gone total New Jersey on Stanley's @$$ if he badgered me as much as he did to Patricia. I get it Stanley, you don't like to lose, but leave her alone!
But Stanley's whining was nothing compared to the silent treatment that Richard was giving Layana. Get over yourself, dude. It's a competitionat some point, the claws will come out. I'm glad Layana didn't stoop to his level, but I would have also loved to have seen a full-on confrontation. That girl is a sassy one.
While Michelle and Daniel didn't have any drama, per se, but that pink fabric was a major sore spot for them. I'm team Michelle on this one (I hate pink). However, I do support Daniel's mantra, "Happy clothes for happy people." I do not support his tears over deconstructing his jacket. That was all a little to soap opera for me.
It was nice to see Rachel Roy back on the judges panel. She's a PR judge A-lister at this point! And as always, Bonnie Brooks brought an element of class and poise. She's pretty fab.
-Patricia: The colors of her outfit look like sherbet to me. I'm not a huge fan of capri pants, but I thought the flowy top was beautiful. I loved the opening in the back. It's not my favorite design of hers, but it was definitely good enough to keep her safe.
-Stanley: Snore. Boring shift dress. Next.
-Michelle: Obsessed. As Heidi said, she was definitely the clear winner. Great color and the leather detail was the perfect touch. I agree with Rachel when she pointed out you could tell that Michelle really took into account what would look good on women of shapes and sizes. I'm literally running to Lord & Taylor tomorrow to buy the dress.
-Daniel: Also another boring dress. I'm just over these simple dresses. It's springhave some fun! I kinda wish he stuck with the shorts idea. It would have looked dated with the "Joan Collins" blazer he made (RIP), but at least it wouldn't have been boring.
-Layana: I'm a sucker for a good maxi dress. Unlike Heidi, I actually liked the fabric. I do wish, however, she used a lighter fabric than leather for the accents. It was too much of a "hard and soft" contrast for me.
-Richard: OMG, guys! He designed a jersey dress just like the one he did for the senior fling! Gasp. He should have been sent home this week. Richard's been given one too many chances, if you ask me. Not that his dress was bad, it just lacked creativity.
-Samantha: Sammy B, what happened?! I 100 percent get that she wanted to design for the younger L&T audience, but this dress could have easily been sold at Forever 21 or H&M. Too much frill, the heart cutout was excessive and the colors screamed middle school dance. auf Wiedersehen.
By Allison Ebner, popculturemadness.com
If "Project Runway" had a soundtrack, we’d nominate Bon Jovi’s "Livin’ on a Prayer" for the song of the episode when it came to the HP Intel Print Challenge. The designers may be halfway there in terms of the overall competition, but, boy oh boy, a few too many of them were living on a prayer when it came to this week’s runway.
Heidi greets the designers on the walkway with a wake-up call of her own: it’s time to step it up! Gunnar’s motivation to step it up? He’d like to buy his mom a boob job when he wins. Kind of sweet, we guess, but more along the lines of totally creepy.
The designers go to meet Tim in the workroom where he’s joined by Mondo Guerra, "PR All Stars" winner. Remember back when we all liked and rooted for Mondo back in season 8 where he ended up revealing that he was HIV positive through his fabric and winning the challenge? Yeah, that’s why he’s there. So the challenge is this: create a textile design and modern runway look inspired by your cultural heritage. Mondo’s parting words of wisdom? Don’t’ make the print too literal – which certainly has us hoping we don’t see any straightforward prints covered with initials.
Seriously, could there have been anymore references to the male and female anatomy in this episode? I felt like I was awkwardly in 7th grade health class!
I freaking love the HP challenge! I feel like it's one of the only times a season where the designers get to completely show who they truly are. So going into the challenge, I had high hopes for everyone.
Before I go any further, I had one small confession: I cry at the drop of a dime. So basically the minute the designers' families entered the workroom, I ran to find the closest box of Kleenex. I totally get how having their families there would throw off their game, but I also can't imagine going weeks without seeing and barely talking to my loved ones. If I was in their shoes, I trade my creativity any day for a piece of home any day of the week.
(A few family observations: Ven and his sister look freakishly alike, Gunnar's mom does not need a boob job and Elena will be the carbon copy of her mother in 25 years.)
I'm sorta baffled by the way some of the designers translated the word "heritage." According to Merriam-Webster, heritage is defined as: property that descends to an heir; something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor. Designers like Melissa, Sonjia and Ven took the literal meaning of the word and ran with it. (i.e. Sonjia's "black" shirt and "red, white and blue" pants.) However, for designers like Gunnar and Fabio ... I'm not too sure where "heritage" came into play with their designs. I whole-heartedly agree with each of their sentiments, but to me (And feel free to comment below to dispute this), I don't think their designs personified their "heritage." And for what it's worth, I'm pretty much obsessed with the fact that Fabio made a jacket out of phallic symbols ... and that Tim Gunn didn't realize it! Which brings me to my next subject...
TIM GUNN SAYING "MENSTRUAL CYCLE" MIGHT BE HIS BEST ANALOGY IN "PROJECT RUNWAY" HISTORY EVER. That's it. The end. I was literally crying of laughter when he told Ven that his origami dress looked like a used maxi pad. (Good thing I had tissues!) I could go on and pick Tim's brain as to why he even knew what that looked like, but I'll stop while I'm ahead. It was just amazing.
Instead of my usual runway critique, this week I'm going to give out awards for the final looks (in no particular order):
Best Designer to Mask Their Sh***y Pattern with Other Fabric: Christopher
Best Designer to Execute a Flawless Look: Dmitry
Best Designer to Create Futuristic Scrubs: Elena
Best Designer to Incorporate Ps & Vs: Fabio
Best Designer to Have Their Work Shown at Fashion Bug: Gunnar
Best Designer to Go All Modern Day "Mad Men": Melissa
Best Designer to Make American Flag Colors Look Fashionable: Sonjia
Best Designer to Create the Future 1-800-Flowers Uniform: Ven
And my boy Dmitry finally won a challenge! His jacket was to die for. I am sad to see Gunnar go. As far as I'm concerned, he was one of the more interesting people to watch this season. So selfishly, I'm going to miss him for the entertainment-factor. (But did I tell you or did I tell you that all along Gunnar and Christopher were going to kiss and make up?! Their moment at the end of the episode was just precious. I should have put money on it...)
Which fabric was your favorite? Do you think it was it really time for Gunnar to leave?