Project Runway Season 10: Episode 5 – It’s My Way On the Runway

Just what kind of work are these ladies dressed for?

Just what kind of work are these ladies dressed for?

Now that we’re dressed for work (snicker):

MORNING COFFEE:

Gunnar misses Buffy and Kooan; Melissa’s lost all three of her roomies one way or another, so she’s moving in with Elena and whoever else is in that room. Raul loves Christopher, and feels he’s really made a connection. This makes me very sad. You know he’s going to end up disappointed. Fabio (I think it was Fabio; it might have been Nathan; from now on I’ll just do Fabio/Nathan until I can tell them apart, which could be a long time) tells Christopher, “You made Andrea run away.” Are we still doing this? Can we move on now?

THE MORNING RUSH-HOUR COMMUTE:

Heidi comes out to the runway with the fear-inspiring velvet bag. “You know it’s never a good sign when there’s a button bag,” says Fabio (and I’m pretty sure that was actually Fabio). She calls out Nina. Several cracks about Nina happen. I don’t really think she’s any harsher than anyone else, but I do think she has more say in the final decisions.

The challenge is to create a fashion capsule collection that’s editorial but works in the Real World. That’s hilarious. To them, the Real World is a NYC fashion magazine editorial office or a photo shoot. Of course they’d be fine with a fashion-forward lawyer or insurance agent or financial planner or corporate VP. Off Manhattan Island, not so much.

MAJOR TRAFFIC JAM ON THE EXPRESSWAY:

Oh, by the way: they’ll be working in two teams.

Elena is disappointed by teams. Raul hates teams. Ven wants to kill himself.

BUT THE DRIVER IN THE NEXT CAR IS SUPER-HOT AND GIVES YOU A GREAT SMILE

Each team will direct a photo shoot at the magazine; the winning team’s photo shoot will show up in Marie Claire At Work, a new project. I’m not sure if that’s a second magazine, a section of the magazine, or an Internet site. But Melissa is psyched: “I’ve always wanted my garments published in a magazine.” Something about this amuses me. I can just see a bunch of designers sitting around: so, where have you been published? Oh, he’s been in all the slicks. Do they use submissions trackers? Do they frame acceptance letters and store rejections (for that day when they win a Pulitzer and wave it in someone’s face)? I thought designers just wanted to be worn.

CHECK YOUR EMAIL:

Since Sonjia won last week, she gets to start one team. It’s one of those serial-pick things, with no team leader.
Sonjia picks Elena, because she’s got real technical chops. Yes, she does. Are you out of your mind? Gunnar would rather eat dirt than be on Elena’s team. I suspect several people feel that way about Gunnar. Elena chooses Melissa who gets Dmitry. They get Raul by default. He feels like leftovers. See? This is why it made me sad. Dmitry picks Alicia. At least I think he does. I screwed up my notes, but she ends up on that team.

And we go to the button bag… it’s Nathan who starts the other team. For him, it’s a matter of logic and strategy: Ven has done well with the judges, so he picks Ven who goes with Christopher who takes Fabio (thus disappointing Raul, who thought they had each other’s backs; Christopher feels he was actually looking out for Raul, keeping him away from Ven) who has to choose between Gunnar and Raul and takes… Gunnar. And, as Nathan (his name is on the screen so I know it’s him) is crass enough to point out, Raul is sitting there last like a schoolyard reject.

Because they haven’t bothered to replace one of the escapees with an auf’d designer, the teams are unequal. Tim names them thusly:

Team Five: Nathan Ven Christopher Fabio Gunnar
Team Six: Sonjia Elena Melissa Dmitry Alicia Raul

Funny how all the women ended up on one team.

YOUR CALENDAR FOR THE DAY:

They have 30 minutes to consult, plan, and sketch before they head for Mood. The budget for each team is $200 times the number of designers: $1000 or $1200. They have until 11 pm that night, at which time all garments and accessories must be loaded into garment bags for transport to the photo shoot first thing in the morning; they don’t get the usual two-hour window to finish what they didn’t’ get done (except they must get fitting time at the photo shoot; they just won’t have access to sewing machines and other equipment).

DEPARTMENT MEETING:

Team Six: They’ll have everyone make two pieces but not necessarily for the same outfit; Sonjia will do two skirts, Alicia will do two pairs of pants; they want Raul to do tops, but he thinks he’s better on pants and needs to do something good so he can defend himself. Four minutes into the challenge and he’s worried about defending himself. Poor Raul. Someone reminds him of that cute top he made once, how he’s good at tops. This reminds me of one of the Volts shuttling Robin into dessert for Restaurant Wars because she made the apple tart they liked that one time. Poor Raul. I can still hear Robin trying to actually make the pear pithivier when Michael – it was Michael, right? – was leading her literally step by step, telling her exactly how to cut… “But it’s my dessert!” No, dear, but it was your ass on the line, and sadly, he saved it. Now there’s Raul. Same character, different setting; he’s really being uncooperative and bratty, but at least he’s fighting back. Not that it’s gonna help him; he’s got Toast written all over him. I am sad. When they get back from Mood, they realize they’ve left a bag behind, and now Elena doesn’t have the wool she needed to make her jacket. She uses Dmitry’s heavyweight jersey instead.

Team Five: their theme is color, as evidenced by items on the Accessory Wall. Gunnar isn’t pleased: “They picked crazy-ass Barney purple, turquoise, and fuchsia, 80s colors.” Looks like they’re all going to be making a single look each. Nathan has some kind of idea about solid motion.

No Swatch sighting. Sigh. Mood without Swatch is just a store.

TIME TO ACTUALLY GET SOME WORK DONE

In the course of their travels, someone discovers Kooan’s comb under a table. All that’s left of Kooan is an ugly orange plastic comb. All that’s left of Robin is Michael Volt’s recipe for Pear Pithivier (which I still have tucked away for some day when I feel brave enough to try it). All that’s left of Raul is a doomed cantankerous struggle to be taken seriously. Sigh squared.

So there’s a lot of conflict. Lots of people complaining about lots of other people. You know the drill. Raul and Elena get center stage because they’re the loudest. Yawn.

A VISIT FROM QUALITY CONTROL

Tim takes a look at team six. He was “anticipating a mess” but he’s pleasantly surprised. He likes that the looks don’t necessarily look like they came out of the same box. He props up Raul on his ruffled top, but he doesn’t sound enthusiastic. Elena worries that her jacket is matronly and plain (what?); he disagrees. Yeah, those aren’t words I’d use in a million years for that jacket. Overdone, perhaps. I actually like it, but the shoulder stuff is extreme.

Team Five: Tim’s concerned – oh, no! – about the clowning combination of black and white plus the color; it’s a bit circus-y to him. Gunnar calls it “drag team cocktail hour on our side of the room.” Really? I can never tell at this stage, but nothing looks circus-y or drag queen to me, with the possible exception of Elena’s jacket. Tim’s also worried about the lace looking old. And uncostuming a bullfighter outfit. Following this visit, Gunnar throws out his four hours of work and starts over.

STUCK IN THE ELEVATOR WITH THAT BOZO FROM ACCOUNTING

Chiffonzies. That’s Elena’s term for Team Five. They’re putting silk chiffon over everything, and it’s not that practical. Geez, Elena, be a bully why don’t you. Melissa agrees with the substance, however: “What the Chiffonies [dropping the z] don’t realize is that women don’t wear silk chiffon to work every day. Sorry, Chiffonies.” Melissa, stop! Don’t go over to the Dark Side!

Elena turns her fangs on her own team. She informs Dmitry, colorblocking navy blue, that nobody wear navy blue any more. Now she tells him. Of course, on Romulan ships, everyone wears black. That’s a TWoP thing, Elena being a Romulan designer. It really fits. Dmitry: “Everyone hates Elena; even if they say the like her, they hate her.”

A LITTLE MORE ACTUAL WORK

The models arrive for their fittings.

LET’S WRITE A FEW MEMOS

Dmitry: “Ven is a one-way monkey.” That’s gonna follow Ven forever. And it’s true, y’know? Amazingly, there is a band that calls themselves One-Trick Monkey. Monkeys crop up in all sorts of things. On TC1 the adorable Cindy Pawlcyn called Dave the Pepper Monkey. Hung sneered at something on TC4: “My monkey could do that.” No one’s sure;maybe he said “My mother.” Or “my mother’s monkey.” The legend keeps growing. There’s even a PR/TC recapper who named his blog after that line. There’s a bus driver here in Portland who props a collection of toy monkeys around the bus when she’s driving; she’s the nicest, most helpful driver in the city, and I always break into a huge smile and say “Yay, it’s the Monkey Lady!” Monkeys are very popular.

Elena calls Raul “Eddie Munster.” His vest needs darts. Yes, it certainly does. And he needs a shirt underneath. Yes, he certainly does that, too. She’s a bitch, but she’s pretty accurate in this instance. But I’m not sure one piece defines him as an incompetent designer. Didn’t he say on the challenge with Alicia that he did menswear? Maybe that’s why he left out the darts.

COFFEE BREAK

And the evening and the morning were the next day. It probably seemed like a coffee break to them. I don’t for a second doubt the lack of time allowed for things like sleep.

PICTURES FOR THE ANNUAL REPORT:

The next day they show up for the photo shoot. Elena is pretty bonkers again; props were provided, and most people on her team want to use them, but Elena thinks it moves it from editorial to catalog (I actually know what that means; Tyra wasn’t a complete waste of my time). Thing is, she’s beyond vehement about it. Melissa worries that she doesn’t see how she’s coming across (oh, I think she knows exactly how she’s coming across, and she either doesn’t care or she’s snickering up her upholstered sleeve that everyone’s taking it from her) and at some point things are going to break. I’m not sure what breaking would look like; would it be worse than this? I mean, she’s yelling at the top of her lungs at Melissa. If I saw Elena walking towards me, I’d hide behind the nearest lead shield.

PRESENTATION TO THE CLIENT

Heidi meets the two teams at the runway. “Did you enjoy working in teams?” she asks. Team Five smiles and nods; Christopher/Gunnar (don’t know which, I’m still a little fuzzy on them) gives thumbs up. Team six sits in stony silence. Heidi notices. The guest judge is Joanna Coles, which makes sense, since it’s her magazine that will publish the photos. I never liked her much until she played mentor on All-Stars; she did a decent job. Not Tim, of course, but the All-Stars didn’t need the same coddling as newbies.

Team Five: Ven acts as spokesperson; he talks about black and white with touches of color and print. Heidi thinks it was smart of them to bring in the softer fabric; it gives business women a softer touch, makes them not as tough. I wish I’d seen Elena’s face when she heard that comment. Nina thinks they did a great job keeping it a collection; it looks like they all worked together, had a direction, and collaborated on their theme.

Nathan sends out a one-shouldered flowery print blouse and billowy white pants. Just what do the women in Nathan’s life do for work? This is really nice resort wear (I was actually thinking it looked like something Casanova might have come up with), for a cruise ship or wandering the shops in Palm Beach. I actually see the model, who’s probably 25 at most, as in her 40s or 50s. But it’s quite nice. It’s insane to think anyone other than a fashion magazine editor could wear a one-shouldered flowery chiffon blouse to work. Haven’t any of these designers ever been in an actual workplace? Don’t they have insurance agents or bank accounts? Still, it’s nice that Nathan finally got some screen time. Nina thinks it’s matronly and the pants are unflattering; the fold design looks like there was some kind of problem and the pleat is to cover it. Nathan says it was an intentional pleat; “Then it’s even more tragic,” says Nina. She asks if you really want that kind of softness and leisure look in the office.

Christopher has a print skirt, black jacket, and shell. I love this look. The jacket is very streamlined, the skirt makes it just a little girly without being frilly. I’m not 100% sure about the whole chiffon thing; it might be too fragile for work. But it looks great. One of the designers claims she looks like a secretary. I don’t think so, but secretaries buy clothes too, you know. Nina loves the print skirt; the fabric manipulation makes it interesting; there’s that stitching he likes to do on the bias; on close-up it looks furry somehow, like angora, is that deliberate? They name it in Chat as one of the Top Three: Michael thinks the girl in the photo comes across as “the boss.”

Gunnar‘s look is a white over black dress with touches of the colorful print to break up the black and white. The overall style isn’t bad, but something about the placement of the print, the squareness of it, feels a little off to me. The style of the back is fine, but the finish is awful; the fabric is sagging under the weight of the zipper pull. The front has a tie-thing like you’d see on an Ellie Mae shirt, with all the fabric gathered under the bustline; as the model walks the runway Heidi whispers something about souffle boobs. During cross, she goes through the whole “the boobs were too low” thing, like he rearranged the model and put her breasts on wrong. Are saggy and bouncy breasts the designer’s fault (and how must the model feel hearing that)? I suppose it is if the dress accentuates it and precludes, say it with me Joanna, wearing a bra. And Michael points out pleated silk is unflattering (I did not know that). Heidi thinks it looks cheap. I can see what she means in the back. Gunnar says he was going for a younger woman, and goofed. They decide he didn’t understand the fabric he was working with. Ok, I’ll buy that. Chat finds this in the Bottom Three for unfortunate use of fabric and disastrous boobs. Joanna: “It looked like two puppies wrestling in a sack.” I think she’s seen Steel Magnolias too many times. And no, Joanna, you don’t get credit for cleverness when you just modify a line from a play.

Fabio sends out a black dress with a white yoke. I liked this a lot. The white yoke starts above the point of the v-neck; that seems to me like a really important detail that makes it far more interesting than if the color changed at the point. And it seems like a dress someone in entry-level or mid-management might actually wear. It’s not a power suit; it’s not for high-level meetings. But it’s fine for a regular business day. The headache band is ridiculous, though. Michael likes this the most; he knows people in their twenties and people in their sixties who would wear it – but why the headwrap? Heidi doesn’t mind the headwrap; she likes having fun at work. This is how women turn into workplace jokes. Joanna likes that it’s easy to wear. And it is – not only can you wear a bra, but you don’t have to make sure something’s tucked in and something else is falling the right way. In Chat, Heidi and Michael loved his use of silk crepe; it would work for women age twenty-two to sixty. Joanna appreciates that it’s flexible; that’s what clothing has to be. It’s a Top Three look.

Ven does a black sleeveless belted jacket and white skirt. I’m crazy about the jacket: the draped lapels, the extended shoulders, it’s just great. The skirt’s wonky. Seriously wonky. When they showed a close-up on the runway, I thought it was pants; it’s a skirt with a crotch when she walks. Not sure if that’s the fabric being too soft, the cut being too full, or the fit being off. I’m surprised no one called him out on it (am I seeing things – it’s not that noticeable in the website photo but I watched the show twice and I couldn’t help staring at her crotch both times – or are they giving him the darling edit?), because to me it’s a huge problem. The vagina that ate the skirt – and that’s freaky, no matter how good the jacket is. He’s “very satisfied” with it. Michael (I think) calls it a modern classic.

Team Six: Alicia, surprisingly, does the talking for the group; at least that’s how it’s presented. She explains they did pieces, keeping to their strengths, so most of the looks are combinations of designers. Nina finds it modern with editorial touches, and they’ve got one showstopper. Michael notes that everyone did their own thing; nice clothes, but they don’t look like they were created by a team. On the plus side, they didn’t kill each other. That’s where the bar is for teamwork on Project Runway.

That would be Melissa‘s bright blue sleeveless dress with an exaggerated funnel neck and asymmetrical back zipper. I like it – I’m crazy about the zipper – but it looks a little sloppy to me. Wrinkled. Not casually crumpled, but just messy. I wonder about the fit, it’s kind of tight, particularly from the back. The neckline is amazing, but is it practical for work? First, you’d be fighting with it every time you looked down at papers on your desk, or your computer. And second, you walk into a meeting like that, and no one’s going to hear what you have to say, they’re not going to talk about your ideas afterwards, they’re going to remember only the dress. Didn’t Sigourney Weaver channeling Coco Chanel teach them anything? Not that the dress is shabby; it’s just inappropriate. But Michael and Nina agree, the dress is strong and edgy, but believable for an office setting. It’s one of the top three looks in Chat: editorial, dramatic, but wearable. Snort.

Alicia and Elena present narrow pants and a streamlined black top. This didn’t seem that interesting to me. And I see some issues: I don’t like the pants at all. They’re low-rise, leaving a tiny sliver of peek-a-boo between the waist and the top. Skin in an office is asking for trouble above the clerical or tech-geek level (geeks can get away with anything, but sexy clothes are not what they care about getting away with). And I’m sorry, but there’s always something off about Alicia’s pants. Maybe she’s making a statement about unisex clothing. But it’s an invitation to stare at someone’s crotch to figure out what’s wrong with it. Or am I just crotch-obsessed? I can’t remember the last time I looked at a woman’s crotch in real life. Elena likes the top; it’s toned down but still her. The judges love her pants. Shows you what I know.

Alicia and Elena send out a second look: striped trousers and a super-shouldered black jacket. Surprisingly, I rather like Elena’s top, though she herself doesn’t; yes, the shoulders are huge, but I’m thinking of it as a jacket, not a blouse. Heidi thinks the jacket is too much for an office. I can’t really disagree with that, though I think it’s borderline. The work is gorgeous, regardless. Elena may be hell-on-wheels, but damn she can sew. And, by the way, if she only worked with Alicia, why was she bothering everyone all day? I like these pants better than the others; they’re wider, so the distinction between roomy hip and slim leg isn’t so jarring. The judges like that two very different tops and pants were included in the collection. Elena’s jacket is a Bottom Three pick in Chat; Michael says she’s obsessed with shoulders, and this is today’s version. Nina thinks her other jacket looked modern and great, but this went over the top. Heidi: “I don’t hate a lot of things, but this I hate.” I don’t like it well enough to argue for it. But I still say the work is impressive.

Raul and Sonjia have a ruffled blouse and narrow skirt. I didn’t understand the ruffles. I’m not a big fan of ruffles anyway, but these seemed like they were pressed down enough to be ok for me; then they winged out in front like a rudder. I don’t remember anything interesting about the skirt; it’s nice, it fits, there’s nothing unusual about it. Raul loves the movement of the ruffles; he thinks it’s a dramatic piece. But Heidi thinks the ruffling overwhelms the model, and it’s too much for the office. Raul’s top – actually, both his tops – get put in the Bottom Three category (counting them as one piece) in Chat. This one is ugly, the other one is boring; the leather isn’t even noticeable.

Raul and Sonjia send out a second look: a leather tank and draped skirt. I love the skirt; it’s the sort of thing that has to be done very carefully or it just looks like a mistake, and she pulled it off. I thought the top was fine; I’m not sure it’a a good idea to tuck blousy leather into any skirt, but it didn’t detract from the skirt, which was the star. I think it might be too fussy for any real job that involves movement (reaching for high shelves, low file cabinet drawers, running for cabs, lugging presentation materials around) or might involve stuff getting caught in the “pocket.” It’s interesting that they worked together to produce one standout piece and one background piece for both looks: her skirt was this look, his blouse was the other look. Unfortunately, her standout was terrific and his, not so much. Sonjia’s skirt is a huge hit.

Dmitry worked solo on his blue/black color blocked dress. I like this a lot; the style is simple, but the neckline and color blocking add some interest. I’m not sure about the padding on the shoulders; I like the idea of extended shoulders, but not really padded like that. I’m crazy about the back, with the zipper bisecting the space – but that makes it completely inappropriate for any job outside of fashion. Heidi’s nuts if she thinks “those two tiny triangles” aren’t going to cause problems. They’ll diminish the authority of a woman in a professional or managerial position – damn, I can hear the water-cooler jokes – and invite all manner of pranks for those in lower pay grades.

WATER COOLER GOSSIP

Heidi asks each team member to name the weakest link. On their team. No fair naming the weakest link on the other team, even if Elena was driving everyone crazy.

Team Five: Fabio won’t play. He says Ven is the strongest designer on their team. Heidi is perplexed; ethical complexities do that to some people, I suppose. “So you mean he’s the best and that’s why you want him eliminated?” No, not at all, explains Fabio. He’s just going to name Ven as the strongest, and let them figure out the weakest on their own. Yeah, it took me a while to figure it out, too, and I’m still not 100% sure I’ve got his intent right (I’ll check around and see if there’s any clarification on TWoP or TLo). The judges let it pass without the usual threat to send him home if he doesn’t name the other witches. Note: it’s official: I love Fabio. I don’t care what religion he dresses as next, or what clothes he makes. I love him. Christopher, Ven, and Nathan pick Gunnar. I don’t even know who Gunnar picked. He’s a little pissy in the lounge. Of course he is; that’s why they do this. Pissy is their business.

Team Six: Here’s a dilemma; do you pick Raul, who might have skills but hasn’t shown much yet, or do you pick the crazy lady? Because those are really the only two possibilities. Sonjia picks Raul; she collaborated with him on two looks, she should know. Melissa says Raul’s tops are her least favorite pieces. Alicia also picks Raul. Raul says Elena; she has too much structure and can’t compromise. Elena, equally predictably, thinks it’s Raul, who doesn’t even know enough to put darts in a shirt. She’s the only one who seems really nasty. Then, in a truly unfortunate gaffe, Dmitry picks Elena “because she doesn’t have a work ethic, she puts stress on the team.” I’m assuming the judges know what he meant; Elena works hard, and she cares greatly. I’m not sure if she cares about art or she cares about herself, but her passion overfloweth. And she isn’t sitting around making the simplest thing possible. I’m pretty sure this was like “one-way monkey”: he meant she doesn’t do teamwork, and she’s hard to work with, not that she’s lazy. I don’t think he understands that connotation of “work ethic.”

Backstage, Sonjia brings it up; she was surprised to hear him use that phrase. They either didn’t include his reply, or I missed it. Even Raul admits he can’t stand Elena but she’s a talented designer.

PERFORMANCE REVIEW

There’s a big deal about the scores for the two teams being tied. I don’t believe it. For one thing, since one team had six people and one had five, it would have to be the average scores that were tied, and she didn’t say that. For another, I just don’t believe it. ;) I think they knew who they wanted to give the win to, but they didn’t want to have to cut someone from the other team. So they made up a tie. Hey, why not, no one believes much from this crew anymore. I’m ok with the concept; I’m just not ok with the further decay of credibility.

THE PROMOTION goes to Melissa for her blue dress.

THE PINK SLIP goes to Raul. Again.

See what I mean about them making up the tie? They wanted to give the win and loss to the same team. I’m fine with that; one of the problems with team challenges is that it knocks out good people just because they’re on the wrong side and had a bad day, while giving sanctuary to those who don’t always deserve it. I just wish they wouldn’t lie about it.

MEET ME AFTER WORK FOR A DRINK IN THE LOUNGE

On the runway, Raul takes it ok; he says “It’s all good” but you can hear his voice quavering. Gunnar, on the other hand, says “Thanks for the heart attack.” How gracious, Gunnar. I still don’t disagree with the decision. And Raul does get a second round of air kisses from Heidi.

Backstage, he announces “Some of you guys I like. But” – looking at Elena – “I hate your ass.” Come on, guy. We all know she’s eminently hateable (except the 36% of voters in the Fan Poll, who are obviously Romulans in disguise). But do you have to go out on a bitter note? Addendum: In his interview with Blogging Project Runway, he walks that back a bit. Note to myself if I should ever be on a reality TV show (tee-hee): pique fades, but videotape is forever.

Tim: “Few things pain me more than telling a designer to go to the workroom to clean their space twice, but that’s what we have to do.”

CHECKING TOMORROW’S CALENDAR:

Next week, it looks like a “real woman” challenge with very young women. In real sizes. Ven is worried about plus sizes. Elena displays more of her charm: “They have nothing to do with fashion.” It was Chekov who said, “The Romulans do not take prisoners.” That’s Pavel Chekov. Not Anton Chekhov. Just in case you weren’t sure.

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