Another Opening, Another Show…
The Play: 10th Anniversary Edition. And tonight, we see Firsts. No, not the Firsts PR has been touting (the Times Square fashion show, etc.) – but the perennial firsts we all look forward to: first Bitch. First inane guest judge. First Swatch sighting. That last was the high point.
Set decoration: Photographs of nine previous winners look down on the sixteen new players.
Overture: Reports (which, though they contain no names, could be considered semi-spoilers, click at your own risk) have already circulated about certain twists and turns that await our players in their quest to kiss butt and pretend that this show has any credibility left.
Act I, Scene i: The sixteen contestants present a look they brought with them, one which demonstrates their aesthetic, and make a second companion look in one day with $100, to be displayed in a Times Square fashion show.
Inarticulate Useless Guest Judge (cameo): Lauren Graham.
Industry Guest Judge and Worst Hair of the Season finalist (yes, it’s only the first episode, but there can’t possibly be many worse than this): designer/stylist Patricia Field.
In the role of First Out of the Gate: Christopher Palu, 24, an FIT grad from Massapequa, NY. The Original look is lovely (the photo doesn’t do it justice), a gown made by sewing strips of fabric and sheer to create a new textile. His New look, a black cocktail dress, doesn’t fit well at all – it’s riding up, the stomach bags out a little, the zipper is doubled up in the back – but is likewise sewn in strips that make an interesting pattern. Michael Kors loves the dresses but not the styling; Nina saw the problems of the second dress first, but loved the first one so much, she forgot about them; Lauren makes her only coherent contribution of the evening by pointing out how hard it is to see the stitching detail on the second dress because it’s black; and Patricia is impressed with the 30s quality and the use of old lady fabric to create something very special. We have a Winner, doubled-over zipper be damned. After all, last year’s winner couldn’t do zippers at all.
As Rami Redux: Ven Budhu, FIT grad originally from Guyana (being under 30, he thinks no one’s ever heard of it; those of us who are a little older still remember Jonestown), now living in NY. I keep typing “Zen Buddha.” His Original look is a white pantsuit featuring a hot pink satin bustier with rose-folded top and wide pleated pants. I’m crazy about it; for some reason, the Lifetime website has a glitch which makes it hard to see a front shot including the spectacular rose detail (keep clicking on different versions, it’ll show up eventually). Having no faith in the integrity of anyone associated with this show, I’m wondering if it’s deliberate. His New look is a pink cocktail dress with interesting skirt seaming that echoes the pleating and folding of the rose; he has some fit issues in the bodice, front and back, and there are some finishing issues: the hem is obvious, and it looks like some of the back darts haven’t been pressed at all. If that’s a time issue, it could come back to bite him later. Heidi likes how the two looks work together; MK thinks they’re fabulous, but maybe he had too many ideas; Patricia thinks he could step out, whatever that means; Nina calls it perfection, though she says “technically good” which usually is followed by a “but” somewhere; I kept waiting, no but. Lauren – arghowuth —- fresh and happy – thwuthgal — pink. So of course, with a Fabulous and a Perfection, he doesn’t win. Nobody’s talking about the flaws, which I could see clearly during the TV show on my 20-year-old set.
Appearing as Black is Beautiful: Melissa Fleis, 31, Academy of Art/SF MFA, a fan of historical art movements, leather, and Black. Lots of Black. The Original look she brought with her is from her Bauhaus period (both the school and the band, she specifies), a square, stodgy leather jacket over a flowy brownish dress; I don’t quite get it. Her New look is pretty cool – strongly diagonal, curving at the top and dangling in back. MK knows her vibe right away, but hopes she will do more than black; these are things a girl would want to wear. Nina likes the second look more than the first. Heidi would wear both looks; Lauren —- story —- touendg – coolness – mqwenlign — . Third place.
For The Girl Most Likely To Let The Door Hit Her In The Ass On The Way Out: Beatrice Guapo, 28; FIDM grad from Marina Del Ray, CA. Knitwear fan, doesn’t use woven materials or zippers. Because that would mean, like, work. Her Original look is a sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off, topped by a horse blanket. It took her four days to make. Not a good sign. To be honest, I like the sweatdress; it works. Even Nina admits the shape is “quite beautiful.” But that took 4 days? And with that blanket on it, it just looks smelly. When something looks smelly, it’s not gonna fly. It’s like Marion’s Pocahontas knit top that grew as the model walked down the runway; it isn’t that it’s bad, it’s that it’s Dumpster Chic without the Chic, which makes it Dumpster (and if you’re a fan of Dumpster, stay tuned, there’s more Dumpster coming up, and it’s not about clothes, either). Her New look is a bronze top and grey knit skirt, simplistic but not bad; I don’t quite get what’s going on at the hem. MK doesn’t get who she is as a designer or who her girl is, because it can’t be that she’s just a casual knitwear designer, that would be too obvious; then he snarks about designing Snuggies, which has Heidi defending Snuggies. Yeah, I can just see Heidi in a plastic fleece snuggie. Lauren talks – not related – these words – maybe — . Nothing catches Patricia’s eye. Exeunt Beatrice.
In the orchestra pit, playing I Used the Python (But I Did Not Use The WaterSnake) on guitar with Bunny Wailer on percussion: Lantie Foster, 47, FIT grad from NY with a fondness for python. In her first talking head, she slips and says she’s 38 instead of 48 (she must’ve had a birthday between compiling the bios and filming). Oopsie! Isn’t that adorable! She says “it’s python” any time anyone gets within earshot, as though she went to the Amazon, hunted down, killed, skinned, and tanned the damn thing herself. Problem is, the rest of the stuff is so ugly, no one actually sees the python. She gave her two-piece collection a name. No, I don’t remember what it is – something about rain, I think. Hey, Running Through Thunder worked for Gretchen. [addendum: I have learned, through diligent research (no, if I'd been diligent I would've researched it before posting) it was "Snakes in the Garden" which has nothing to do with rain. My bad.] The Original look is puffy flowers on white with a snakeskin belt. Curtains? A little kid’s Easter dress? Her New look is gathered tulle with python skin slapped on the chest, but since it’s similar to how last season’s winner glued a racing stripe on her animal print jumpsuit, no one can really pound her for it. Nina thinks the first look was trying too hard but not awful (really, Nina? Really?); then the second look ended up being horrifying. [You know, it's easy for me to sit here taking potshots at everyone, but I know what it's like to present something you love and have people you respect, or at least people In Power, tell you it's crap. It's not fun, even when done gently. How these people handle it on television without more in the way of crying jags and breakdowns is beyond me. Maybe writers are just naturally gentler with their criticisms.] The guest judge thinks she’s one step below designing, in between design and styling a granny dress, and an ugly one at that. MK calls the second look muddy mosquito netting; she reworked vintage clothes. Lauren – happiness – gheouit – words. Just barely safe.
The part of Crazy Asian will be played by: Kooan Kosuke, 30, from Japan. It’ll be hard to live up to Ping and Olivier, but Kooan seems to be exceeding them on sheer exuberance alone. His biggest fear as a designer is “Think about the time that everyone stops wearing clothing.” I’d rather not, thanks. His Original look, representing his aesthetic at 16 (or maybe it was actually made when he was 16) is a denim romper with circle patches and giant pink plastic clips over a wild print tee. Once you get done laughing at it, it’s kind of hilarious, and, much to my dismay, it appeals to me in a never-in-my-wildest-dreams-would-I-wear-that way. His New look is a not-so-good silver dress in some kind of oddball fabric. I think he’s wearing hot curlers in his ‘fro. I wonder what you have to do to Asian hair to make it frizz like that. MK calls the romper “borderline Teletubby” (OMG, he’s right, it’s Burt’s avant-garde look), but can see he knows how to sew, he just has to get it to look expensive and polished; it’s ok to be cartoon if that’s your thing, but it can’t be a joke. Nina’s worried he’s being outrageous just to be outrageous, which is part of the “show us who we are, and if we don’t like you, be someone else” routine; as resident Bad Mommy and killjoy, she’s also worried about his behavior, which is nervous and giddy and shy and maybe a little confused but perfectly polite. The guest judge thinks he should’ve used different fabric for the second look, but he’s got a strong pov. Lauren – here — ghotygnal — words ––. Heidi defends him, and wants to give him a chance, to see what he does next week. Third worst.
For the role of Outspokenly Outrageously Cool and I Have the Leopard Tats On My Shaved Head To Prove It: Buffi Jashanman, Parsons AA, Indian/Australian/Brit, it’s not about the customer it’s about Her Art, which is the Club Scene. She registered her line in New York as Naked, Inc. then decided she hated it – you know how it is with these artist types – and is now Quiet Riot, Dubai. She’s funny and the life of the party, just ask her, she’ll tell you. She makes tees with hearts on the nipples. And a surprisingly demure wedding dress; she must’ve been medicated for that one. For all her posturing, some of the stuff on her website is quite nice. The stuff she shows here, not so much. Her Original look is a meh pink satin top. Her Original look… I forget, let me go look… oh, it’s still meh. Dmitri hates her already. She’s gonna grate on some nerves, which of course is the idea.
In a dual performance as Obnoxious Gay Guy / Never Give Up Second Chance Kid: Gunnar Deatherage, 22, Louisville KY, who was one of the four kicked out the first day of Season 9 for his Kentucky Derby dress and was brought back just for that name. My paternal grandfather’s name was Gunnar. Or so I’ve been told, he died in Sweden long before I was born. He and Christopher get the Season Enmity off to an early start, but I can’t tell them apart (yeah, I know, so sue me, I was just talking to someone [hi Jeanne] about my poor facial recognition skills, so lay off) so I don’t really know who started it, just that Gunnar took a comment about muu muus and Prada and a slight inflection on the “that” in “is that your aesthetic?” as an insult and we’ve got Josh 2.0. Can I pass? Since last year he’s discovered himself, and now he designs for older Southern women (he seems ashamed when he tells that to Tim Gunn), which means he just found a label for what he’s been doing all along. I don’t remember his looks, let me check…Oh, I see, we’re not talking Miss Daisy, we’re saying older than, say, him. His Original look isn’t bad, though I don’t get the jacket. The New look doesn’t appeal to me, but it’s a reasonable effort.
The dual role of Lesbian Tomboy Hillbilly / WhiteLocks will be covered by: Alicia Hardesty, 27, University of Colorado from Louisville KY. Her favorite model is Az Marie, which is what refusing to wear Tyra’s butt pads will get you; I wonder if Tyra regrets kicking her off ANTM yet (I watched two episodes of that disaster of a season, and if Pocahontas and John Lennon wasn’t bad enough, the “booty tooch teach” convinced me not to watch any more. Maybe ever. Unless Tyra fires herself). I’m a complete sucker for dreadlocks. And her appreciating a modelTyra couldn’t bully adds to that. I hope she finishes her website soon. Her Original look of hoodie Rompsuit in rust is her Modern Huckleberry style; a nice relaxed casual aesthetic. The New look, I’m not so sure; the drop-crotch pants are weird, but they work; the pieces don’t seem to work together. The dramatic question is: can she do professional, polished, and glam?
As Sensitive Romantic Artist, European Division: Dmitry Sholokhov, 33, BFA Parsons, originally from Ukraine, now NY. He got into fashion via ballroom dancing. Wait, he won 24 Hour Catwalk? He already won a fashion design show? And a recent one – What is this? He’s already annoyed by Buffi; could this be a foretelling of future fireworks? Does anyone care? The stuff on his website is graphic and sophisticated, though you’d never know it from the gaudy puffy-sleeved sequined gown he brings for his Original look. His New look is a much more interesting one-sleeved knit cocktail dress.
To recapture the magic of Mila: Elena Silvnyak, 28, Academy of Art SF; loves futurism and neoprene. Her Original look is stodgy even if it is based on fencing uniforms, which is why it’s sculpted to fit a woman with pregnant thighs. Her New look is a stuffed panda. What is it about former Soviet heritage that makes women cut their hair in straight bangs and design clothes based on black and white color-blocked animals?
Playing the part of the Energetic Oldster Who Plays Age For All It’s Worth: Andrea Katz, 58, Manhattan MFA and art school teacher. The recession sent her first business down the tubes, so she’s hoping to start round two. She’s never seen the show (bullshit). She hates jeans, oh shades of Laura Bennett (yes, I’m one of the three people on the planet who finds Laura Bennett insufferable). But, I’m conflicted, because she also reads – Alice Munro (and she spelled it correctly so she isn’t faking), Jonathan Franzen. And her stuff is unusual, and quite nice. But she needs to shut up about the age thing. For the record, I’m 58 too. I know it’s harder than when you’re 30, but you’ve also had more practice. And you know more. Especially if you’re reading Alice Munro and Jonathan Franzen. I should hate her Original look – it looks like her slip is falling down, and the shape is similar to Mila’s awning dress – but there’s something about it that works if you don’t look too closely at the hem; the back is another matter, it looks like an apron worn backwards. The New look is a short version, and again, I should hate it, but it kinda works; I think the fabric needs to be a little less paper-stiff so the bottom layer hangs better.
In the role of Who?: Nathan Paul, 33, FIT grad from NY. My only notes: “second, meh. Very meh. First, meh, too.” No idea who he is, what he said. His website shows lots of sleeveless, easy fitting clothes, which often means someone who can’t do sleeves or tailoring. Or maybe he just likes sleeveless and easy. So let’s check the Lifetime website: His Original look does have a sleeve, and is kind of interesting, a wrap with intricate knotting in front; the New look is almost identical in a different color (in fact, I may have mixed up what was Original and what was New) but looks a lot sloppier. In fact, it looks like a bathrobe. I don’t remember either look, even now that I’ve seen them.
Appearing as Who Else?: Sonjia Williams, 27, Lasell College grad from Boston. She’s selling stuff via iBoutique. I liked her Original look jacket and wrap pants, it’s different and interesting. The New look, a leather vest over a two-fabric dress, is interesting as well, and I don’t mean interesting-boring; it’s fun to look at, to wonder how it’s done and why. She deserves a promotion out of Who Else.
For Underdog Self-Taught Designer who Fell Asleep to the Lullaby of his Mother’s Sewing Machine: Raul Osorio, 27, Minneapolis. He likes suits. There is some early misdirection about his New look being too sheer for the runway – Tim is Concerned – but all is well. His Original look is indeed a suit: a nicely tailored, if ordinary, pantsuit with sheer blouse. Extremely sheer blouse. Guy likes sheer. Unfortunately, it’s grey, and reminds me of Ben’s shark-tooth suit from the Elements challenge in Season 7. The New look is a halter-dress version of the dotted-swiss-on-steroids thing, the sheerness not being an issue with all the fuzzy stuff growing on it.
And in the truly thankless role of Let’s Remind Everyone of Top Chef’s Fabio and Annoy the People Who Didn’t Like Him or Compare Unfavorably for the People Who Did: Fabio Costa, 29, “Fashion Design School” (that seems to mean a specific one to people in the know but I’m not sure which and I’m not interested enough to figure it out), from Brooklyn. His dream is to design a dress to be worn upside down for Bjork. Maybe she could just walk on her hands? I’m sure she’d be cool with that. He likes Japan, so he and Kooan should get along well. Or kill each other. I have no idea what he sent down the runway, I just cringed every time I heard his name (which tells you which camp I’m in). And he’s a Freegan – aka dumpster diner (see, I told you there would be more dumpster) – and very proud of it (I saw a documentary on this once, it’s not quite as gross as it sounds. Supermarkets do throw away terrifying amounts of perfectly good food daily). I forgot what his two garments looked like; now that I’ve checked Lifetime, I can see why. His Original look has possibilities, but unfortunately seems to have been worn freeganing. His New look is better, but incomprehensible.
Post-show chatter overheard by various taxi drivers, waiters, and passers-by:
Wrong on both counts, though not by enough to fight about. It should’ve been Zen Buddha for the win, Lantie out.
They start in media res at the fashion show, then go into backstory. How literary.
I’m tired of people with personality.
How did I hear “I’ve got to get it done” as “I’ve got to get a gun”?
Tim has been reduced to a walk-on, and that just isn’t right.
For future reference: Gunnar is thinner than Christopher, and has a blond section of hair.
My favorites: Zen Buddha (though I fear he’s going to turn into a know-it-all asshole at some point), Kooan (can’t help it, I love Crazy Asians, and he’s got a Mondo vibe going on), Alicia (it’s the locks), Sonjia, possibly Dmitry and Christopher. All for completely different reasons. All subject to change as the edit changes, because that’s what the game is.