Project Runway S11: Episode 9, “He Said, She Said”

Editorial Comment from Swatch - and me

Editorial Comment from Swatch – and me

Time for another rant. Oh, come on, it’s been a while. I’ll even block it, so you can skip over it.

I wrote my resignation last night.

Maybe “resignation” isn’t the right word. After all, recapping PR isn’t a job, certainly. It’s a fun thing. A fun thing. A FUN THING, DO YOU HEAR ME?

What, don’t I sound like I’m having fun?

For me, it all came down to something Rachel Roy said towards the end of the show; she approvingly interpreted Samantha’s approach as: “A girl that dresses like me, looks like me, why not bring her into the store; we need that in fashion, in design.” Everyone agreed with her. But a few moments later, that same panel of judges – originally from three countries, ethnically from four continents – said: “But not into my store.” Because as hard as they try, on the surface, to have a diverse mix of contestants, they’d better all be designing for upper-middle-class white women who shop at Lord & Taylor. Or at least bring good Drama. That’s what the show is.

That’s what the show is.

That’s what the show is. Resignation is exactly the right word.

The Challenge

After Michelle and the girls set their goals as: “Stanley, Daniel, and Richard” (what does that even mean? Do they want to hook up, is it an evil incantation, or is this some kind of conspiracy?), the designers meet Tim at Lord & Taylor. Richard finds it so luxurious, he feels right at home. He’s wearing a crystal-studded hat with spikes sticking out of it. Just what kind of home did he come from, anyway?

Tim divides up the winning team from last week into two teams of two each, and leaves the losing team to slog through another week together, since they’ve done all that work forming new enmities. In case you’ve forgotten who’s who (last week was so forgettable), this week’s teams are: Patricia/Stanley, Michelle/Daniel, and Richard/Layana/Samantha. Fortunately, we’re not going to be subjected to another round of “Who can come up with the stupidest name for a team,” which is fine by me.

Their task: use the Lord & Taylor rose logo as inspiration for a Spring 2013 look, to sell at L&T for under $250 (this L&T/PR thing seems to be working out. Did they ever manage to get a store to retail looks for more than one season before? There was Banana Republic, and Macy’s, Sarah Jessica Parker’s line – which I believe bit the dust – Blue Fly, the Heidiwear project…so many outlets to exploit). One look per designer. The word “cohesive” is never mentioned, underlining yet again that the point of teams is drama, not fashion.

The Mood visit is marked by the most inelegant Swatch sighting ever: the butt plop, rear view, complete with sound effects. Come on, guys, do you have to turn absolutely everything about the show into trash?

Rachel Roy again fills in for Zac Posen who’s been filling in for Michael Kors. L&T is the guest judge.

Smelling like a Rose:

Michelle starts off thinking a black rain vest over a chartreuse silk dress. Rain vest? Hey, she comes from Portland, they do rain. And she does vests. Hence, rain vest *shrug*. Tim is dubious: the dress is fresh and joyous, but the vest is gloomy, heavy, apocalyptic. His advice: lose the vest, focus on the dress. Michelle is sad: the dress is not her passion. She works on both, but in the end, the vest isn’t finished so she goes with the dress. And again I marvel at how she managed to get through the first four episodes without producing anything decent: it’s a great dress. I don’t quite understand it – she claims there’s leather in it, but I don’t know where – but it looks great, and I say that as someone who reacts to chartreuse like chalk on a blackboard. She tells the judges her inspiration was buds breaking in spring. I’m not sure where the L&T rose comes in, but sure. Heidi loves it, which would’ve meant something back in the day before Heidi decided her erogenous zones were property to be advertised. It’s sophisticated, fun, young, and Michelle thought about the challenge differently. At which point you can see the thought bubble over Michelle’s head: “What was the challenge again? Oh, the L&T rose… well, I had chartreuse buds, that’s like roses, right?” Nina loves it, and since it isn’t a prom dress, that means something. L&T plugs the accessory wall. Oh – duh! It just dawned on me – this is why they’ve been harping on styling for the past few years, to draw attention to the sponsor’s stuff. Silly me – I forgot, it’s the Product Placement hour. all that said – it’s still a great dress.

Daniel loses his mind. I guess a producer took him aside and told him to ramp up the volume, but didn’t give him enough in the way of specifics, because he loses his mind over the phrase “21-year-old.” Don’t worry about it, it’s so artificial there’s a metallic aftertaste. His basic issue is that he needs to keep current, so he proposes a jacket over shorts in hot pink. If you immediately thought “Michael Knight, Pam Grier, hot pants,” you, too, have been watching PR too much, too long. Tim leads a Discussion on Pink, and Michelle continues to evade the question, “Do you like this color?” since she hates pink. Tim sees Joan Collins in the jacket, leading Daniel (after the phoniest crying this side of daytime soaps) makes a dress instead: “I forgot I like to design clothes that make people happy (sob). and Michelle, you can’t bring me down (sob) because I’m a happy person (sob) – these are tears of happiness.” Diane Keaton once told a story about her early days doing Hair, how no one ordered them to take their clothes off during a performance, but they’d get extra money if they did. I wonder how much Daniel’s tears earned him. He ends up with the world’s most ordinary dress (it looked better on the runway), even if it is pink. Nina’s glad he embraced a bold color to go with the conservative shape, but the shape is still too conservative. She talks to him like he’s a hypersensitive child on the verge of a meltdown. Heidi and Rachel are more direct: nothing new here. Rachel suggests he stop thinking and start feeling. I think he’s just relieved that he’s on the winning team and doesn’t have to defend or die.

Smelling like a Silk Rose:

Stanley shifts. Tim asks, “What’s new about it?” What’s new about any of this crap, Tim? He encourages Stanley to give some thought to a collar or cowl, something different. Stanley nods politely. Tim implores him to percolate. Stanley nods politely again. He does end up with a little drape at the neckline, and though he claims it as a design decision, to me it looks like bad fit, if I may borrow the bug-or-feature debate from the tech world. It’s not a bad dress at all. In fact, it looks like a much better version of Daniel’s dress. But, as Heidi said about Daniel, there’s absolutely nothing new about it.

Patricia has a vision of something involving wet muslin. Stanley hasn’t been on a losing team yet – that’s pretty amazing – so he’s taking control to make sure he’s not going to end up there now, and tries to talk specifics, but Patricia’s got her own method of teamwork: “There’s nothing you can say to controlling people so just agree and they’ll go away.” I hate to say it, but in general, she’s right. However, when you’ve been sinking week after week, it may be time to take a little advice. However, I remember someone made a broomstick skirt that went over big, and that involved wetting the fabric; maybe that’s what she’s up to? Tim’s worried about the cost of manufacture, but likes the idea of sleek pants and a billowy top. At some point along the way, Patricia decides this isn’t working, so she takes Stanley’s advice and achieves epiphany: “I can do something simple, too… it’s allowing me to be who I am.” The pants are sloppy in the crotch and I hate the shiny fabric, but the top is kind of nice, if a little motley.

Smelling Like Something Else Entirely:

Layana spends her time whining ignoring Richard and whining about him ignoring her. She tells a Mood employee all his fabrics are horrible, “nothing against you.” Girl’s working, doesn’t have time for social skills. Her idea is a soft, feminine print with leather detail. Sensing the tension in the room, Tim forces each team member to critique the work of the others, a charming technique he didn’t use on the other teams. Tim, what happened to you, man? Remember when you used to be on the designers’ side? Remember when you were an educator instead of a performer? Remember? When did you go over to The Dark Side? Samantha likes Layana’s dress (so do I), and Richard is having a hard time finding a reason to say he dislikes it. Something about flowers and open-toed shoes. Tim isn’t crazy about the leather, but tells her to stand by it if she feels it’s right. And of course she feels it’s right. It looks right to me – it’s my second-favorite up there, though I wish there was a slit or some solid fabric to break up the skirt a little. Nina loves the leather, not the print – it’s old-lady fabric – but the design is great, tough and soft, youthful. Rachel isn’t crazy about the waist, but overall she likes it. Heidi calls it a “hot” dress (Heidi, get a grip) with a horrible print.

Richard spends all his time ignoring Layana, and I’m going to ignore his ignoring. He’s doing something with “a huge pop of color.” How about we come up with some new ways to describe the use of color as an accent, to stop all the popping? Maybe “color as an accent” would work. A slash of color for red. A trickle (or flood) of color for blue. A bloom of color for pink, a glow for yellow, a sprout for green. No more pops. Tim wonders if he’s prepared for the judges to say they saw this from him already with sleeves in E1 and in the fat-lady version in E8). Richard’s shocked that anyone would say that. And hopes they’ll remember how much they liked those looks. Hey, Kara Janx made her career on a knit wrap dress in a variety of color combinations, lengths, and sleeves. He could do that with this; it’s not bad at all. Heidi would buy it – wait, what? No, she wouldn’t, but she said that about the E6 dress, too, so at least she’s being consistent. Nina’s not impressed; it’s generic, and he’s done this before, better. It’s beachy (beachy? What?) but too dressy for day, so she’s confused. I’ll say she’s confused, if she’s wearing full-length black-and-hot-pink-jersey to the beach.

Samantha tries to keep out of the line of fire between the other two. Tim advises her to make her colorblocked dress into separates; she asks about a heart cutout on the back, and he says, “If it’s done well, it’ll look adorable… they’re looking for a teen customer.” So she goes junior. Oh, Tim, how could you – when was the last time anyone got praised for a junior look? To make matters worse, Samantha has some fit issues at the very end which hike the skirt up to the stratosphere. Long, long ago, on a network far away, on the first episode of ST:TNG, Deanna Troi became known as the Galactic Cheerleader. Deanna Troi had nothin’ on Samantha, except Samantha threw in some Carhop reference as well. It’s a horrible design, horribly made. It’s easily the worst thing on the runway. But at least she tried. She didn’t recycle something she made before. She didn’t do safe. She brought it. Usually that counts for something, but not when you’re up against Mr. Sulky Drama with the Spiked Cap. Rachel is the most complimentary: it’s youthful, it’s got thoughtful design elements, it’s unique, it could be a tunic for an older customer. Even Nina doesn’t hate it, but maybe not for this client. L&T doesn’t want to alienate anyone, because, to paraphrase Michael Jordan, Juniors buy clothes, too.

The Rose, and the Thorn

It’s so clear Michelle is the winner, there’s not even a pretense of suspense. You can buy it (sans leather, wherever it was, but it looks exactly as it did on the runway) for $259 [oopsie, no you can’t, at least not right now – it’s sold out already, at 3:30 pm ET Friday, but they hope to have more in soon]. Here’s a note to chew on: you won’t find her name, or “Project Runway,” anywhere on the webpage. I still want to know how she got through the first four episodes without showing any evidence of actual talent. Turns out she might be the Real Deal after all.

It comes down to Richard and Samantha. And the Shock Boot. Yep, Samantha’s out. I waited before I even typed it in my notes – first Heidi said Richard was in, and I thought, maybe this is a fake-out, and they’re both in. But, no, she’s out. Tim: “You should be proud, you made it to the final seven.” I’m going to say something I never thought I’d say: Tim, shut the fuck up. [and I swear, I wrote this before I visited TLo this week]

I’m tired of feeling dirty every Friday when I press “publish.” I’m not recapping Season 12 unless Heidi gets therapy and Tim undergoes deprogramming.

Next Week:

Design your own fabric at the Guggenheim. Hey, Heidi? I don’t see anything new here…

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10 responses to “Project Runway S11: Episode 9, “He Said, She Said”

  1. Well Karen, I was actually ok with the elimination. I thought Samantha’s design and execution were both bad. And her decision to do the heart cutout was tragic. It was a joke of an outfit.

    And these designers always have to remember that this is a game. Not always a fair one, but a game nonetheless. If the game is to make a boring upscale department store look, then you are usually best served to at least attempt something on that front.

    Damn, does it sound like I am defending Project Runway?

    • Hiya T-Bone – I’m having trouble locating my sense of outrage (since it was a hideous dress), let alone articulating it. It’s something along the lines that this is all a setup, and there’s something very ugly about the underlying perpetuation of the existing power structure. It’s coming from a lot of sources that have nothing to do with PR (politics and publishing to name a few) so maybe it’s a little nuts to see it here. Yet I do.

  2. I hate the show. I hate the contestants. I don’t want to hear another word out of their spoiled, whiny mouths. I have reached the point of ANTM where I FFwded anything where anybody talked. I hate Michelle’s voice (and why is she suddenly so good??), I hate Patricia;s bulging eyes, I hate Layana’s everything. The only thing I like is Daniel’s mustache. I couldn’t care less who goes home–I only wanted Tu to stay on the show because he never said anything.

    It was a good Swatch sighting though!

    We are watching SyFy’s Face Off, about making special effects make up. And the top five contestants were super nice guys. I liked all five of them. Imagine a show like this with FIVE people who are nice. And you are sad to see any of them go! There’s no faux drama, and they’re all talented. It’s such a better show.

    Karen I saved one of your previous posts because I wanted to bask in your vilification and reply, but I just didn’t have the energy. Suffice it to say I agreed with you :)

    • Hi Paul – maybe it’s just reached critical mass where even if an episode is terrific, I’m still going to feel unhappy about something.

      Maybe I’ve just had enough of fake reality.

  3. Hi Karen,

    Up until a few seasons ago I did’t feel so manipulated by the producers. Now I do. This is what is tiring and disheartening. Obviously L & T wanted Michelle’s dress as it would sell best to the masses. So Daniel got a pass for his “worst of the runway” ensemble this week. Richard’s dress was well sewn but unoriginal–a dress I would look for on the sales rack and then hem to a midi length. I would buy Patricia’s top in a heartbeat as it radiated Spring/Summer in a joyous way. I loved the peek-a-boo surprise th the back as the model walked.

    The show would have better credibility if Patricia and Stanley were the top pair, with Patricia taking the win. I admire how she handled Stanley when he was over bearing. In the end they were the team that most supported each other–the supposed purpose of the “teams” season. They listened to each other and Tim and then did what their inner mind told them was right.

    I, too, am thinking of tendering my resignation to Project Runway which, by the way, is the only television show I watch! Hopefully the joy will return by the end of the season.

    • There’s always been some degree of manipulation (the cannon fodder, the obnoxious hotheads), but since about the Gretchen season, the show has felt different, like the winner is preselected for reasons having more to do with making money off them than seeing what people can do or even presenting a good show. It’s taken me this long to accept, this is the new normal. I need to think about whether next season I want to spend the time (I’ll probably watch regardless of whether I recap), and whether I want to be complicit.

  4. Excellent recap and thanks for saying what so many people and recappers have been thinking. They’re not even trying to hide the results manipulation, or that of the teams, and like you, I feel dirty after watching it instead of feeling entertained.

    • The problem is if ratings are down, they’ll just make it 2 hours with more faux scandal and even worse manipulation, because Lifetime can’t read.

      On Sun, Mar 24, 2013 at 9:37 PM, A Just Recompense wrote:

      > ** > tropicalchrome commented: “Excellent recap and thanks for saying what > so many people and recappers have been thinking. They’re not even trying to > hide the results manipulation, or that of the teams, and like you, I feel > dirty after watching it instead of feeling entertained.” >

      • As long as everyone’s raking in the product placement fees, and Heidi’s showing off (?) her body, they’ll consider it a success. Even if they have to replace Nina with the teenage fashionista, and Zac/Michael with the Dance Moms lady.

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