Project Runway: Enough

My PR recaps started as a fun writing exercise. In Season 9 – three+ seasons, two All-Stars, and almost exactly two years ago – I was aggravated with the limitations moderated into the TWoP message board, so I thought I’d see if I could do whole recaps. I played with it as time went on: given a limited time, can I convey some information that goes beyond Project Runway (the amazing 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, a New Yorker cover capturing the art of fashion updates, unicorns, marriage equality), or even a theme for the season (art vs commerce, the use of narrative in “reality” tv)? It was, for a time, fun.

It’s not fun anymore. PR has become downright offensive to me.

I’ve been telling myself, it’s ok, I’m ridiculing them, exposing the artifice for what it is. But who am I kidding: there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and by posting links and such, I’m supporting, however obscurely, something I’ve come to despise.

The final turning point came last night when they aired Ken saying, “I need a gun.” Yep, when all else fails, trot out a Scary Black Man. They just put Howard University’s “Do I Look Suspicious? ” campaign out of business (addendum: this is not in any way to defend Ken’s obnoxious behavior). This follows the Week of the Scary Russian. Is the Republican National Committee a sponsor? To add insult to injury, in the preview there’s Tim “I Used to Be a Hero But Now Will Pimp Anything For Heidi” Gunn in a camouflage-patterned business suit talking about “glamping,” and I don’t even want to know what the gather-round tears are about.

I’ve had enough.

I love competitive reality TV (I even included a nod to the genre in my final paper for my Fiction of Relationship class) in spite of the artifice that’s part of the entire genre; I like comparing my impressions with that of the experts, and I frequently learn something. I’ve learned a lot – I knew nothing about fashion before PR – from the Bravo years (and I still learn from Top Chef). When done right, RTV can be an entertaining introduction to a new field: “Oh, that’s what godet/rubbing seconds/spherification means.”

I’ll admit I’m also fascinated, in a sick way, by what these shows have now become (planned dramas), and the underlying reason: reality is boring. People want story. And the mass market wants stories they already know: poor kid makes good. Pride goes before a fall. A hero, a villain. Find a way to cram in some yogurt or cars, pre-select a bland winner whose work fits some current marketing niche, and you’ve got Heidi too busy counting her money to care about what some obscure blogger says.

But even car wrecks lose their fascination if you watch them long enough, especially when the car wrecks are choreographed to provide maximum gore. Enough.

I’ll miss many aspects of recapping. I’ve become very fond of TBone from Blogging Project Runway, and of course my small band of regular commentors. I’ll miss the challenge of finding something to care about in an episode, a challenge that has grown every season. I may still dive into obscure topics like unicorns or the original Aunt Jemima or the wolf pack mentality when so inspired; penny-ante research is my recreation. And I’m not giving up reality TV entirely; I’ll see you for Top Chef New Orleans in October, and either Zin or I will be around for The Sing-Off later in the year. And of course I have a blast with literature: I smacked down Madame Bovary (the character, not the book, which is hilarious) and Zadie Smith in the same week, and once in a while I even stumble across a highly intelligent zombie novel for people who hate zombie novels.

But no more Project Runway recaps. I’ve had enough.

Project Runway Season 12, Ep. 4: Tie the Knot

Image by Illustrator Chris Piascik

Image by Illustrator Chris Piascik

Remember June 26? It wasn’t that long ago. It’d been a horrible week so far; the Supreme Court was shooting down civil rights out of the sky. On Monday, they punted on protecting affirmative action. On Tuesday, Down went Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act; Texas and North Carolina got to work passing laws effectively disenfranchising voters of color. But Tuesday afternoon, evening, night, into early Wednesday morning, a Texas legislator made a pair of sneakers famous and when the men shut her up, the crowd carried it over the finish line. Over Wednesday’s morning coffee, it still felt like (albeit temporary) victory. Then, at about 10am, a real victory: Prop 8 and DoMA were finally defeated. Remember how good it felt, how happy everyone was?

This episode recaptures some of that.

There’s some crap, too. But that’s fitting; there’s always crap, and it just means you have to try again another day. The nice stuff was really nice. Although…I’m not sure what’s real and what isn’t in this episode, and that goes for the good stuff as well as the bad stuff. I’m edging toward wondering how much of last week was set up as well. If this trend continues, by the end of this season I may well stop believing you are real; I may stop believing in my own existence, for that matter. What the effect of this will be, I can’t say, but if I should disappear in the middle of a

Now, come on, I’ve got a recap to do. “I do believe I do believe…”

We start at the end, with Sandro, who plays a leading role this week: nobody puts Sandro in a corner. Then we go back to the beginning and find out Jeremy’s grandmother died, which, believe it or not, is a step up from Sandro in terms of pleasant TV. He casually slips in that it wasn’t his grandmother, it was his husband’s maternal grandmother. Reality is on shaky ground from the start.

Tie the Knot websiteTim meets the cast in the workroom and introduces Special Guest Star, Jesse Tyler Ferguson. I’m pretty out-of-touch with network TV; seems he’s someone famous for wearing bow ties. His charity “Tie the Knot” sells bow ties and contributes the proceeds to marriage equality organizations, which is cool. I’m proud to live in one of the first states to enacte marriage equality by voter mandate, and I suspect adopting the term “Marriage Equality” instead of “gay rights” or “same-sex marriage” had something to do with that. Sometimes you have to make the point clear: it’s not about gay rights, it’s about civil rights. That’s reality.

Tim clarifies the details: The bow tie is the point of departure for any look they choose to create, and they must incorporate at least one bow tie into that look. They expect more creativity than just slapping a bow tie choker on the model: the bow tie must evolve. He suggests a budget of $200 (plus all the bow ties they can grab from Jesse’s stash) for this one-day challenge. They head to Mood, where Swatch is sleeping again. Swatch, baby, you ok?

Perfect Knots (top three):

Dom wants to incorporate bow ties into the neckline in origami shapes to make a bold statement and incorporating the Equal Sign by use of stripes. Tim wonders if the piping on the tie is looking pot-holdery and heavy, which is a great point. She says she plans a black wool jacket, and he encourages her to Dom's dressfocus on getting the chevrons to match perfectly instead; this goes into the Hall of Fame of Best Advice Tim Ever Gave in the Workroom. Helen teases Dom because her bow ties look like vaginas (what?) and Sandro thinks they’re more like seafood or glands (I’m not even going to try to figure this out). Her dress is terrific. It’s a bit problematic in photographic terms because the stripes strobe a little, but it’s cute, the seaming is terrific, and it fits perfectly. I don’t see origami, but who cares. The crowd goes wild! Zac loves the stripes and how she made everything work. Nina again uses the word “adorable” and “happiness” and calls it a celebration, very appropriate for this challenge. Jesse finds it heartwarming how they’ve incorporated the story behind Tie the Knot into their designs, and he’s crazy about the bow tie hair on the model’s head. Ok, a few points here, first, that back in S3, Alison got sent home for, among other things, the exact same hair, which Heidi proclaimed “funny” and “Minnie Mouse.” Reality, people. And by the way, I’m a little concerned about all this adorable from Nina. Is this going to go the same way Mondo did, with them heaping praise on her, then suddenly deciding her work is too junior? Nevertheless, on Closer Look they only have nicer things to say; Heidi says she’s standing out as a good designer and has a great eye. She does, too. Could this be the year? Don’t get my hopes up…

Bradon had guessed earlier they’d be doing wedding outfits for gay couples (Sandro calls him a witch); I wonder why he’d guess that, out of thin air, hmmmm… He talks a lot about his Brad's short suitpartner of 18 years, an opera singer he met at Julliard (that’s some high-power couple) and how you can go to the Czech Republic and get married but can’t in most of America; he’s from LA, so he’s one of the lucky people who’s seen his rights granted with one hand and taken back with the other. Tim’s crazy about the top he’s making out of pieced-together ties; Bradon debates making a shingled skirt with more ties, and Tim asks, “Would your customer wear the two pieces together?” which goes into the Hall of Fame of Best Advice Tim Ever Gave in the Workroom. He gets into a time bind but comes through. I love the top, but is the fabric for the jacket and shorts really the right fabric weight for this? He explains how he used faggoting to stitch the ties together for the top, as a pun. That’s pretty clever, and you’d have to be well-versed in technique to know how to do it. Heidi loves it; Nina and Zac are impressed with the combination of tie patterns. Jesse: “I think of people who wear bow ties as being brave, and that’s something we need for marriage equality. This is brave, home run.”

Kate's outfitKate goes hunting party/equestrian. Tim advises her to watch where the tunic cuts the model, and to consider a tuxedo stripe to make her look long and lean. Kate does a leather tuxedo stripe in a bow-tie wave which isn’t really a tuxedo stripe any more. She apologizes to her model of getting up in her “business” to fit the crotch, but what’re you gonna do, the pants gotta fit. It’s a little Sherwood Forest; wait, no, it’s from Michele’s S11 final collection. But that’s not how they’re selling it: Heidi sees a sexy modern look, and Nina proclaims the pants “sick.” Good-sick, that is (come to think of it, maybe Mila did those pants too). Zac proclaims Kate a “clever cookie” who’s growing in strides. Kate’s glad she showed them she can sometimes be a tough princess. She certainly can.

Slightly Askew (middle):

Sandro starts with Top Gunn, which apparently is Tim’s nickname among the designers. Sandro gets into a big “I don’t know what they want” discussion that’s really a thinly disguised version of “Tell me I’m an unrecognized genius being treated unfairly by that mean Zac Posen.” He really wants to get into a fashion industry version of a cock fight with Zac. Tim tells him not to make decisions on what the judges want to see, but on who he is. Thing is, Sandro wants to do that AND win. He claims he’s not getting any direction. He’s been in the bottom, in the top, and in the middle; when you’re in the middle, yeah, you don’t get feedback, that’s how the show works. He seems Sandro's dressto think it should be different for him. He’s in the safe group, but he raises his hand – raises his hand! – and asks for feedback anyway. Except he doesn’t want feedback; he wants to fight. I think they should tell him to shut up and leave the runway, but Zac engages. “It looks like someone went home with an evening gown and came back ripped, it’s the walk of shame after an awards show,” which, yeah, I can’t do better than that. Sandro pulls out the “I only had 11 hours” and Zac tells him the construction is impressive but the taste isn’t there. Sandro asks what he wants, at which point I wish they’d just get out a measuring tape and settle it right there on the runway; Sandro has the zucchini stuffed in his pants again so he’s ready (it occurs to me, he said he had cancer at age 18. The most common cancer in young men is testicular cancer. Is he taking too much testosterone? Could he have a prosthetic? Do I need to stop worrying about what Sandro has in his pants? Yes, clearly). Somehow Heidi gets dragged into things, and finally she shuts it down, which, Heidi, you should’ve done right off the bat. But he’s revved up now; back in the lounge, he gets into it with Helen (who tries to turn the spotlight back on herself, and fails) and Ken and even Karen, all because he was in the safe group? And yes, he storms out, leaving a trail of dead mannekins and a punched camera in his wake. I wonder if he broke Everybody's looking for Sandrothe camera. I wonder if they made him pay for it. I wonder if the camera operator got combat pay. Back on the runway, just before Closer Look, Tim informs Heidi (leading to her widely promo’d “NOoooooo…”) that he’s missing and they’re looking for him. Why? Let him go; if they’ve got his passport (as I understand they do on these shows), he’ll have to be in touch some time. In the meantime, he’s an adult, he left under his own power, he’s not their responsibility. Don’t give him any more of the attention he obviously pathologically craves. Frankly, I wonder if he told them he wanted out, and they arranged a super-dramatic exit. And dramatic it was – two thirds of the identified search terms for this blog today, are looking for Sandro. Seems I’m not the only one curious about the mysterious bulge in his pants.

Helen is emulating the shape of the tie on the front of her dress. I’m not sure she should emulate so much. She thinks it looks like menswear; she intended to evoke a tailored suit. Tim doesn’t see it, and boy does that take the wind out of her sails. It wasn’t even Tim at his snarkiest (and he can be snarky), it was a mild observation. But she’s devastated; she thought she knew what she was doing, but seems not, and now she’s left with a prison matron uniform. She cries on Sandro’s shoulder for god knows why, and interviews, “Once I’ve been criticized I freak out and I hate my work.” Well, gee, this certainly is the right place (and the right industry) for you to be, it’s a happy factory all season long with nothing but positive affirmation for all. In the workroom she asks if everyone else is struggling, admittedly to comfort herself with the misery of others. She has immunity, so they leave her in the Safe group, but Heidi gives her a scolding and Nina wonders if the win the week before should’ve gone to Kate. I’m beginning to feel sorry for Helen. No one’s more surprised about that than me. But it’s evident her “I’m a bitch and you can’t touch me” act was pretty tenuous.

Justin doesn’t just do prison matron, he does prison matron in mourning. What happened to Justin? Come on, guy, you’ve got chops, it’s in your portfolio. Find your footing.

Ken doesn’t even get to show off his bow-tie tattoo, which seems like a waste, but there’s too much drama and not enough time. His leather dress isn’t bad, but the bow tie is barely used. He regrets the exposed zipper in the back. Not as much as I do, man.

Alexander does what looks to me like the proverbial student work: a rainbow collar of bow ties over black pajamas. I can appreciate the rainbow, but, yeah, this is the sort of thing someone shows up with at casting and Tim goes, “You’re not ready.” The fabric is too flimsy to support the collar.

Karen can’t figure out flattering proportions to save her life. At least this one shows some work, but it’s borderline-student in it’s use of the bow ties (piping and a belt) as well.

Alexandria tells her model to look “a little bitchy” when she walks. It’s kind of prison matron tennis, isn’t it? In North Carolina, state employees can already get prisoner-made eyeglasses; maybe they’re branching into sportswear as well. What is it with the institutional grey everyone seems determined to use? Is it the color of the season?

Clip-on versions (bottom three):

Jeremy is making an outfit inspired by his grandmother. “NO, DON’T” viewers scream in unison; we know it’s not gonna end well. Remember Casanova? He admits to Tim the loss of his grandmother “has kind of knocked me off my game.” But Jeremy's pant suithe’s so quintessentially British when he says it. He goes for an updated tuxedo with a lace jacket; Tim wants him to think about the lace. “Another fundamental question: where is the bow tie?” Leave it to Tim to get down to the fundamentals. It’s around the back of the neck, which seems to be a popular hiding place for lower-scoring designers. On the runway, it’s absurdly red (though it looks orange in the photo) and, yes, slutty-grandma. The dumpy cut of the pants doesn’t help. Still, it’s an actual garment and it’s made well, which you can’t say for everything on the runway today. Heidi’s sorry about his grandmother, but he made his young gorgeous model look Madame. ” Yes,” says Jeremy, like that’s a good thing. Zac gives him credit for beautiful craftsmanship, but has “an offensive problem with the belly button, the highlighting of her tummy eye, it’s winking at me.” I have an offensive problem with Zac thinking an exposed navel is winking at him; it isn’t like it’s the only one ever on PR. Then I reviewed the tape. He’s right. I don’t know if the model has a piercing or just a very deep navel, but it’s winking. You have to want it, though. On Closer Look Zac’s impressed with the edging. Nina agrees he does fine work, but she wishes it were more contemporary.

Sue normally does volume and bigger shapes, so she’s eager for a challenge. Tim: “I’m looking at two garments, one read and Sue's dressone black.” Yes, that’s the way she works. Ken: “You made the same dress in two different colors?” Yes, that’s the way she works. Ok. Something about an exoskeleton, which is really a bow-tie harness with a bow-tie train dragging behind. Ok, this is different, and PR only likes different that’s been done before. Problem is, it’s not different enough to be interesting, and it’s not pretty enough to care about. Heidi thinks amateur. Zac thinks “Octopussy.” Nina gets Sigourney Weaver (which is who I assume she meant when she said Signore Weaver) in Alien, arts & crafts. On Closer Look, Tim points out she spent twice the suggested budget, and they wonder where it went. I say, wait a minute, they have the option to spend as much or as little as they want, no fair judging them on that. Zac drags the model away by the harness. End scene.

Miranda worries because she’s always under budget at Mood. Tim loves her houndstooth jacket, but he’s “disturbed tremendously by the prim fussiness” of the planned pink ascot-Miranda's suittie-ruffle-thing blouse. It isn’t quite “the inequity in the distribution of your ranks” (S11E4) or “viscera” (somewhere in S7 with Anthony) but it’ll do until Tim starts talking real dirty this season. He advises her it needs some pizzazz, some sex appeal. So she makes a Christmas-green satin cropped top under a tailored white houndstooth suit. The bow tie is a kind of thick piping on the neckline. Even Miranda hates the crop top as the model is walking down the runway. Zac says it’s killing the whole look, and besides, he wants to see more than pencil skirts from her. Nina wants more modern. Jesse loves a blur between masculine and feminine, but she didn’t get there. Heidi of course doesn’t think it’s cool. “Cool” and “hip” are the extent of Heidi’s positive vocabulary. Oh, and “hot.” On Closer Look, Tim admits he advised against her first impulse for a top and told her to sex it up, but wasn’t expecting a bare midriff. Zac isn’t seeing a designer here yet.

In or Knot:

Bradon wins (I wonder if it’s the faggoting reference and his story rather than the look; regardless, another black woman gets screwed on the runway) and is spontaneously moved to propose to his fiancé. It makes more sense than you might think. After all, the plan is, he’ll be watching this episode with Joshua at home and the proposal will make more sense then. It’s kind of sweet, and does seem to be spontaneous. Later, he Skypes with Joshua, who joyfully tells him the news of the Supreme Court decision striking down Prop 8 and DOMA, and… proposes to him. Bradon tells him he proposed already though it won’t air for a while, so he beat him to it. They’re very sweet… it brought me back to that day, the beam of light in an otherwise grim summer of oppression.

Remember?

Remember?

Thanks, Bradon, for taking me back there. Reality be damned. I’m enjoying this too much to quibble.

Since Sandro is now officially gone for good, nobody’s out. Don’t you just love it when everybody’s happy? Can we have some peace now?

Next Week

Ken and Alexandria bring the drama. Wait, what? I though we were going to have peace… nope. Drama is the New Normal. “This is your unconventional materials challenge.” Now wait just a minute here: this is the third unconventional materials challenge this season. Every other week is unconventional materials. What’s going on here? And there’s this: “It’s totally unprecedented that a model would leave the workroom not dressed.”

Project Runway Season 12, Ep 3: An Unconventional Coney Island

15th/16th Century Tapestry: "The Unicorn is Attacked"

16th Century Tapestry: “The Unicorn is Attacked”

First, Old Business:

Tim Gunn was John Oliver’s guest on The Daily Show the other night. His comments on the Pope and the NY Mayoral race are more interesting than those on PR. Though John claims to be a staunch PR viewer, I wonder if he’s been watching with the sound off: first, he claimed “There are no ‘human car crashes'” when there’s at least one every season, and this time there’s a whole car-crash circus; second, he suggests “a PR challenge on an actual runway.” Tim points out gently “We almost did that in the first challenge” and John recovers nicely with “That’s true.” Full disclosure: I have not been enjoying the John Oliver version of The Daily Show. At all.

More old business: veteran PR blogger SuzQ has an interesting report about some first-episode backstage producer shenanigans regarding Miranda.

Second, an obligation:

You know how when things get really passionate you sometimes say things you don’t mean, make promises you shouldn’t? Well, I did that during the show: I promised “a scholarly analysis of unicorns on this week’s recap.” I suppose I could wiggle out of it by saying the promise was invalid since I’m not a scholar, but that would be cheating. So here goes: the King James version of the Bible mentions unicorns nine times, and in Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (which I owned until about a month ago when I foolishly purged my bookshelves; isn’t that the way, you lug something all along the East Coast for 20 years and a month after you finally decide everything in it is available on the web anyway, you need it) Isaac Asimov, alav hashalom, explained it as a translation error of the word for “wild ox.” Lots of stuff in the Bible can be explained by translation error. Leprosy, for instance. But I was talking about unicorns (and Isaac Asimov; I still have his Guide to Shakespeare because I may have been foolhardy a month ago, but I wasn’t stupid).

The OED has the English word itself dating in English from 1225 from the Anglo-French unicorne derived from the Latin for “one + horn,” duh, but also gives the nod to the Middle English biblical “wild ox” explanation Asimov put forth much more simply. I don’t have a subscription to the online OED (but I do have a Compact OED, go figure; 24 volumes compressed into two micro-printed onionskin volumes) so you’ll have to take my word for it.

More recently, if you call the later 13th century and early 14th century recent, Marco Polo reported discovery of unicorns in Java. What he actually had there was a rhinocerous, but he’d never seen a rhino before, so he sensibly called it a unicorn. After all, the Irish Rovers didn’t release their Unicorn Song until 1967, so how could he known they didn’t make the ark?

Around 1500, a set of tapestries referred to as The Hunt of the Unicorn was created. The unicorn was in medieval times considered a symbol of Christ. In the story depicted in the tapestries, the unicorn is hunted, found, and killed, but resurrects himself in the last and most famous of the tapestries, “The Unicorn in Captivity;” this last tapestry may have been added later on to strengthen the Christ analogy, though I’m not sure why they’d put the unicorn in captivity in that case. Then again, I can barely keep up with what happens in my immediate vicinity in any present moment, let alone what some 16th century Belgian tapestry artist was thinking.

At one point in this evening’s festivities, Timothy explains the taxonomic classification of unicorns: they aren’t horses with horns, since they have cloven hoofs (which is true; they’re drawn that way on many coats-of-arms, including the official Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom; the lion represents England, the Unicorn, Scotland) so are more related to the hippopotamus. He might’ve been thinking rhino, but let’s go with hippo for argument’s sake. Hippos (whose name, to start things off on the wrong, um, foot, derives from the Greek word for “river horse”) are complicated (and a big topic of debate in kosher law, though I don’t want to think about why someone would want to know if a hippo is kosher). Some sources say they have four webbed toes, but the San Diego Zoo , which in spite of the lecherous mayor out there is a big deal in the zoo world, puts them in the order Artiodactyla (even-toed hoofed animals) and gives them four toes with a “nail-like hooves on the ends of toes.” I say the hippo debate is irrelevant: Timothy can define his unicorns any way he likes. Even if they’re more like antelopes than anything else.

And one more thing before we move on: one of my (recently discovered) favorite writers, Manuel Gonzales, included a unicorn story in his recently released extraordinary short-story collection. Gonzales’ unicorn causes a lot of discord; he foretold Timothy.

Enough already. But I look at it this way: I may never have another excuse to research unicorns. Besides, things are gonna get nasty in just a little bit; it’s nice to bring something good out of it. And I did make a promise.

And finally: Project Runway, Coney Island edition:

Heidi wakes everyone early in the morning (I’m betting a production assistant prepped them ahead of time. I mean, come on, no one really wears a sleep mask with that much gooey white cream under it like that, do they?) and takes them to Coney Island where they meet Yogurt Guy. Yes, they found a way to work yogurt into the Coney Island unconventional materials challenge. For the right promotional fee, they’ll work a funeral home into the Real Women challenge. Oh my… no, I’m not gonna go there. Sure I am… design a funeral outfit for these women with terminal cancer, to match the caskets they’ve chosen. And someone will say, “At least they’re all thin” and the Interwebs will explode. You think it can’t happen? Just wait, it’ll show up in Season 13. You heard it here first, folks – and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Maybe I’ve jumped the shark myself.

What’s really shocking to me this week is that $100 buys unlimited access to Coney Island. Isn’t that kind of steep? I thought Coney Island was a place everyone went, not an East Coast Disneyland. Or am I still stuck in the 1950s? That was, after all, the last time I lived in New York, and since I was only 5 at the time, I don’t remember it, except that for the next decade I talked about the huge waves at Jones Beach, which probably were regular-sized waves that just seemed huge to a 5-year-old.

The yogurt isn’t important (though the commercial with people gathering in porta-potties to eat yogurt is fascinating; isn’t that Jamie Lee Curtis’ territory?) so I’m not going to try to explain it. They go to the arcade to win prizes that will serve as the unconventional materials for the challenge. Yes, it’s a team challenge, with Tim picking the teams out of the Button Bag. Yes, people who hate each other are teamed up. And yes, they think someone out here still believes the button bag isn’t rigged.

Each team of two designers will do one look; it can be anything as long it goes with their yogurt words, but the words are glossed over (heh heh, get that, glossed over? Never mind…). It’s a one-day challenge, which is disappointing. Kelly Osborne is guest judge. Things got very, very nasty. But the right dress won, and the right person went home, and I can watch future episodes without all the anxiety. I don’t care who gets reamed out from now on.

The Brass Rings (Top Two):

Kate and Helen hated each other in the first episode; flashback to Helen calling Kate a bitch. But sometimes things work out; they’re the happiest people in the room. They get a lot of red sombrero, Kate watches someone cut the genitals off a large stuffed animal (which is scarier, that an oversized carnival prize could have genitals, or that someone might visualize cutting off imaginary genitals?) and they couldn’t be happier; Helen regrets her earlier snide remarks and Kate sees them as a sorority. Kate of course makes a corset. Helen squashes a sombrero flat. Their look is gorgeous. It’s clearly the sharpest, most polished thing on the runway by several miles. The judges use words like sculpture, art piece, high fashion, tailored, refined, dramatic. Kelly thinks it’s something a lot of girls would fight to wear (I agree). Zac calls it sombrero Saturn chic which I don’t quite understand, but that’s ok. Heidi asks who would get the win, and Kate, in a Good Witch state of mind, gives it to Helen: Kate’s all about structure and fit, Helen contributed a lot of artistic flair where Kate would’ve gone realistic. Helen heartily agrees with that assessment.

Dom and Alexandria want to do a playful, energetic garment; Alexandria suggests a sweater dress. They tell Tim they’re doing Japanese street culture; Tim sees eyes and a mouth, and by golly, he’s got it… he seems dubious. Alexandria suddenly becomes a nice person; she loves Dom, she wants another team project. Their look is adorable, but the plush is just a bit too thick for the proportions. And by the way, it’s the very definition of “junior.” Still, it’s striking: the judges were smiling as the model walked, and I was smiling at home watching. I smile whenever I look at the image. The judges use words like happy, inventive, fun, casual, adorable. Nina calls it an Instagram moment, the Spirit of Coney Island. Dom defers the win to Alexandria. Such cooperation.

Plastic Glo-in-the-Dark Rings (safe zone):

Sue and Sandro end up together; Sue thinks it’ll be fun, he makes her laugh. Turns out, she makes him mean. He berates her for the entire episode: “Don’t touch that you’re going to make a mistake” and “You don’t f*ing understand” were the only specific lines I caught. This seems to be a pattern, Sandro going off on someone for undefined reasons. Sue: “Working with Sandro is less fun than I expected.” We got that, girl. Finally Sue just crumbles and decides to just do whatever he says, which is what bullies and a**hats count on. I typed, “I want to kill him.” That isn’t the sort of thing I normally type in recap notes. It isn’t the sort of thing I normally even think. Their look is pretty much what you’d expect from the Unconventional Materials challenge, but it isn’t bad at all, though I don’t understand why the model is holding up a few layers in the front. They’re Safe, so they wait backstage, at which point Sandro utters the words that make him America’s Most Hated Russian since Stalin: “She said ‘I’ll be your assistant’ and that was genius. When women listen to me, that’s so cool.” Now I want to kill him slowly.

Jeremy and Ken have been pretty invisible in this season. Ken gripes about a second Unconventional Materials challenge, since he hates unconventional materials. Jeremy’s trying to win prizes in sophisticated colors, which is quite a challenge at an amusement park. It’s a very nice look, though I’m not sure about the difference in colors between top and bottom; Jeremy points out it’s not a fantasy or a work of art but modern, wearable fashion.

Braden and Karen also fade into the background this week. Tim tells he doesn’t see anything remotely like it in the room; it’s exciting; it’s leading his imagination. What it is, is Ven’s rose skirt, with a stuffed animal on the shoulder. Ven ruined pleated roses for all time.

Booby Prizes (Bottom Two):

Alexander and Justin are thinking playful, going along just fine with a simple but respectable dress, but when Tim walks through, suddenly Alexander worries it’s borderline junior. Tim suggests adding another piece without making it look silly. They do add the other piece, but unfortunately, it goes right through silly into preposterous. It’s easily the ugliest thing on the runway. Zac sees too much going on, and none of it good: kelp on the bottom, dorsal fins on her hips. Heidi calls it over-bedazzled. Nina thinks they got stuck between fun/kitsch and chic/glam and overworked it. when they take off the jacket however… wow. It’s a nice dress. Zac has them take the “erasers” off her hips, and suddenly, it’s a really nice dress. “Edit” becomes the word of the day (or at least the minute). On Closer Look, Tim admits he told them to add more, though he probably didn’t imagine they’d add kelp and dorsal fins and erasers. When asked who should go home, they won’t pick. Good for them. But I don’t think they have anything to worry about. Because we’ve still got…

Miranda and Timothy. First, the fun stuff: Timothy wins a giant stuffed unicorn prize at the arcade. Ok, end fun stuff (went by quick, didn’t it?) and play that augmented fourth chord again: it’s about to get nasty. Miranda has a lot of trouble making up her mind. First she doesn’t want to work with T, there’s “bad blood” between them (boy, would I like to know more about that). Then as they walk through Coney Island, she tells him “I know I’ve been stressed out and bitchy but I’d rather work with you than anyone else because I know we work well together.” Somehow she walks away for a minute and Timothy “redesigned everything.” I have no idea what actually happened, but that’s how she saw it. On walkthrough, Tim thinks it’s hospital-gowney, Disney, and craft-y, and Miranda begins her decline into insanity. Timothy: “Just because he does a negative critique doesn’t mean our project is bad.” Um, Timothy, I’m on your side, man, I stand proudly with you, but yeah, that’s exactly what a negative critique means. Miranda goes into a serious tailspin, and in the sewing room starts a truly cruel campaign of ridicule. What do I mean by “truly cruel?” So cruel Helen lectures her about team efforts. So cruel that Sandro, Mr. Sensitivity, tries to reel her in, or at least points out that Timothy has entered the room where she’s making fun of him (before he joins in the laughter and after he encourages her to let him have it, that is). This goes beyond the usual reality TV drama; this was sadism. Yes, I’ve been known to poke fun at some people; I’ve poked fun at Timothy, in fact. But please tell me I haven’t done that to anyone. I feel like Henry Wiggen in Bang the Drum Slowly: “From now on, I rag no one.” Except, of course, I will, but I’ll always have Timothy sitting on my shoulder when I do, asking me if it’s truly necessary, or if I’m just making myself seem clever at someone else’s expense. Say what you want about Timothy, but he’s had an impact on me. Shocked by the humiliation, he takes his unicorn prize and a letter his model wrote him – his model wrote him an encouraging letter, how sweet is that, something about him moved her to do that – and sits in a corner crying and reading the letter. I’m just praying the producers staged this, because the alternative is just to horrible to consider. Miranda has a call-to-Jesus moment, accepts responsibility for her behavior, and apologizes, though I’m not sure she uses the words “I’m sorry,” but things are patched up and they go on. By the runway show, Miranda loves their look. It should come as no surprise, however, that it’s not good (for it to be otherwise would ruin the story line they’ve carefully crafted for this episode), but I don’t think it’s worse than Justin and Alexander’s outfit. Still, I won’t argue the point. Other than the color, I like the jacket, which was Timothy’s creation (and yes, I may be showing bias), and I like the back of the dress. I strongly disagree with the scorn heaped on it by the judges: phrases like pool toy, life vest, toxic biohazard. As the inquisition wears on, Miranda goes back to complaining about Timothy, particularly his running out of the workroom for two hours after she (admittedly) humiliated him with all possible force. He, however, doesn’t help matters when he wishes he’d been working with a better designer. And something about the Titanic needing lifeboats. I can’t watch this episode again – it’s as painful to me as Team Luxe vs. Michael Costello take-down from S8 – so I’m not sure what that was about. See, I understand Timothy. He gets these associations that don’t make sense to anyone else, and he says them out loud before he’s really processed them to make them more comprehensible. In that, he’s much like Zin: he’s unedited. Self-editing is something he can learn to use when appropriate, to fill in the gaps so others can follow. Or he can just hang out with people who are willing to fill in the gaps themselves, or live with the gaps. I’m fine with gaps. And unicorns. If you’re not, it’s your loss.

The Most Foregone Conclusions in the History of Project Runway:

Helen of Team Kate & Helen wins.

Timothy is out. I’m relieved; this is not his venue. I don’t have to steel myself to watch Project Runway any more. “I won’t stop believing in unicorns ever,” he says, as he packs his unicorn and goes. I hope not, Timothy. I’ll make you a deal: you don’t stop believing in unicorns, and I won’t stop believing in you.

Next Week

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, apparently someone I’m supposed to know, is guest judge for the bow-tie challenge. And we finally get to Sandro threatening the camera with physical violence.

Project Runway Season 12: Ep. 2, Million Dollar Fashion

Time to design for Seal Team Six.

Yes, of course I’m kidding. This is America; men with guns will be coming soon to a school near you, if the NRA has its way, so get used to it. These particular men with guns, however, are there to guard the $30 million worth of jewelry that serves as the inspiration for the challenge: in one day, come up with a look glamorous enough for serious jewelry (which goes back to the vault after the episode). Oddly, there’s no easily identifiable “sponsor” for the challenge, other than a vague reference to “the diamond industry.” By the way, I’m guessing these guys are actors; if real guards are truly required, I would hope they’re actually guarding the diamonds, not posing behind the PR screen.

Tim gives a “suggested budget” of $300, but everyone gets a product-placement debit card loaded with $4000 to last the entire season, and the designers can do whatever they like within that limit. Mood trip; first Swatch sighting of the season. He’s taking a nap; Season 12 is a snoozer for Swatch.

Eric Daman is guest judge. Oh, and in Week 2, anonymous judging is already somewhat compromised: Heidi oversees model selection (she wouldn’t let anyone else stand up there with all those jewels). Me, I wouldn’t remember, but I suspect she’s worn some of those diamonds. For all I know, they’re her personal collection.

Tim encourages use of the “Play Live” thing: “Here’s the polite way to give the judges the finger.” Oh, dear Tim, whose dignity and vocabulary I have admired so long. Are they really paying you enough to say these things? Don’t you remember the days when you declined to accept the turtle poop? Can’t we go back there again?

Shine On, You Crazy Diamonds: Top Three

Dom picks an emerald necklace; she wants to do something laid back but amped up, a dress that stands up to the glitz. She buys a print that looks like emeralds; to me it looks like French toile. Tim warns her to keep it from going Palm Springs poolside, since no one but a floozy wears an emerald necklace near chlorine. I did not know that. Thank goodness I am now aware and can avoid flooze. The judges go wild: it’s young, it’s fresh, it’s different. Ok, if you say so. I’m still not sure about the print, though I do love the straps off the shoulder. Nina loves the back but the green hemming is overpowering; Heidi would wear this but she hates the matching hair ribbon; Zac agrees, the hair band makes it beachy (I was thinking a much worse image), but he likes the play off the graphic nature of the jewelry, the skirt caught the air nicely and can go red carpet to debutante. Debutante? Ah, I see – a reference to his Fashion Week show last September, based partly on 1938 debutante Brenda Frazier. Smart man, Zac is: now everyone wants a debutante dress. Except me, but I’m not in his demographic (or price range) anyway. Dom is Top Three.

Sandro plans a shin-length vintage look with black lace. He throws a screaming fit in the sewing room (Ken seems to be the target and gets pretty nasty himself, but the original issue is obscure) giving Justin his first opportunity to take off his cochlear implant. I wonder if they’re allowed to bring iPods. Sandro tells Tim he’s doing the 50s, mixing retro and modern; Tim warns him to hone his critical eye. Sandro has no idea what that means so shines him on. Then we get to the steamer; when he can’t get it to work, he puts out a general alarm for help, but since it’s the last minutes before runway no one pays any attention to him. So he goes out to grab a crew member by the hand, drags him into the workroom,and demands he teach him to use the steamer. I wonder if they get this a lot, the crew. I vaguely remember Vincent berating someone over laundry a few years ago, but I would imagine it happens far more often than we’re shown. The crew member makes a hasty retreat – I’m assuming they’re told not to do anything sewing related under any circumstances – and Sandro yells “Thank you for good service,” which puts him in the general range of irredeemable for me. By the time they leave for the runway, his model is only half dressed, but somehow she’s just fine on the runway, and while it’s tight, no lady parts are hanging out. It’d be sharp if it weren’t quite so tight and didn’t feature a bare midriff – the second on the runway tonight, is this a current trend? If so, I hope it stops soon. Heidi points out he again piled on the detail, with the crumbcatcher top, midriff, and lace down the sides… but it works this week. Excuse me? She loves the peek-a-boos on the side and the fishtail. Eric likes the earth tones with the rubies, and while there’s too much lace on the fishtail, it’s nicely done. Nina likes the length, and use of a fabric not associated with jewelry. Zac, too, likes the unpredictable fabric, but notes it does need steaming (I’m guessing some sputtering was edited out); the lace sides make it trashy but the midriff makes it modern. I’ll agree with the first half of that; I thought the midriff was the retro element. On closer look, Heidi loves the chest, and Zac credits him with the most technique and construction. Nina and Eric team up to say “It walks the line between… stripper and chic.” Heidi thinks he got it right. Heidi would. Sandro left the line Nina was talking about far, far behind. Steamer or no, he’s Top Three. I hope the crew guy got a gift certificate to someplace nice. And an apology.

Kate wants to evoke stature, and make her model feel like she rules a small country. Power, the ultimate beauty treatment. Tim recognizes the signature Kate corset. Really? I didn’t remember that, but they’re right, she did the Heidi perfume dress and a couple of invisibly-corsetted mermaids. I love the top, but isn’t the bottom a little voluminous? The more I see it, the more I like it. Perhaps because of the color, it reminds me of Chris March’s museum dress. That’s not far off: she was going for Marie Antoinette (which is pretty hilarious given the “ruler of a small country” thing. Didn’t anyone in this group pay attention in History class? Oh for the days when Burt differentiated between Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth). Heidi recognized the corset, too; it’s light and pretty, with a nice back. Eric likes the whole Queen Marie story and the asymmetry, and the necklace pops; he thinks it’s the strongest work she’s done. Nina loves the color and aside from a few things she got twisted (I’m guessing that’s metaphoric rather than literal twisting, as in the catchphrase “don’t get it twisted” from ten years ago) it’s great. Marie Antoinette, Top Three.

Baubles, Bangles and Beads: The Safe Zone

Alexander hears “one day challenge” and his bowels drop. Cleanup in Aisle Six. He wears a nice shawl to Mood. He scares Tim with his chiffon teardrops; Tim’s thinking granny. I love the almost-hidden yellow on the sleeves, but there’s just too much chiffon for me.

Mirandapushed the shape.” Push it back, please. Fast.

Justin ignores Tim’s advice to reduce the number of layers he’s planning (which has more teeth this season, since Tim can call him out for that at judging), and puts his hearing device back on just in time to hear gasps as his dress comes down the runway; he’s proud of it.

Ken does a very sharp modern peplum. I love the color, though it changes from teal green on my TV to teal blue on my computer screen. It’s probably considered “too safe.” Still, it’s striking, and I’m very fussy about pepli.

Sue isn’t crazy about the necklace, but as Tim says, generally designers don’t tell clients to go screw themselves if their tastes in jewelry don’t match. She again has trouble with the sewing machine; someone removes her black thread and puts in green thread, she doesn’t know how to change it back. Dom to the rescue, but instead of being thankful for the help, Sue is prickly about her machine being altered in her absence. Sue said in her interview she’d never seen the show. The dress looks great on the runway, though (not so much in the photo); Zac is all smiles, and I figure she’ll be in the top with a one-way-monkey warning, but no, it’s the obscure middle.

Bradon: “I design for people wearing million dollar jewels all the time. No, not ever, really.” Whew. He had me worried there. It was the last thing I was expecting from the guy who said in his interview he could only win if everyone else was blind or quit. Excellent fake-out skills. He runs through Mood looking for buckram, a new word for me: it’s a stiff fabric used for bookbinding and for stiffening clothing. Ah. Like interfacing? (finding Unicorn Buckram at the Joann’s website was just a bonus.) Tim’s impressed his fabric only cost $20/yard; it’s curtain fabric, a synthetic, but it looks better than it sounds. In fact, on the runway, I’d never think it was curtain fabric. Alexander’s the one who frequently uses upholstery; maybe it’s catching. He worries it could go old-fashioned, something he does from time to time, and Tim tells him Nina was worried about that last week. Yes, he had a lot of trouble last week, when he won, hello. At any rate, Bradon has immunity, so if he’s going to go old-fashioned, this is the time to do it. Everyone goes “ooooh” when his model whips off her jacket on the runway, but I guess the judges didn’t feel it.

Jeremy thinks the diamonds are quite intuitive. I wonder what that means? Justin asks if he can do eveningwear; sure he can. “I think.” He does a lot of tulle along the bottom of the skirt. It’s an almost for me; there’s something very appealing about the tulle, but there’s also something very tacked-on about the tulle.

Karen makes a poorly fitting dress in a horrid color and is still safe. She made a shapeless mess last week and was safe. Is she the one with the pictures of Heidi with goats this season? Or are they just determined to beat up on Timothy week after week?

Alexandria continues to play Stealth Bitch by muttering brief blunt put-downs in a Swedish accent in her interviews, but is nearly invisible otherwise. Tim isn’t sure about the trim on her dress. The finished result is quite nice, but very, very simple, though she got a great drape at the neckline. Simple can go two ways on PR. Here, they ignore it, which may be the best way.

Nothing but Paste: Bottom Three

Timothy is officially everyone’s favorite chew toy, and by everyone, I mean everyone. I think the Dalai Lama may have tweeted, “Timothy needs to go home” last night. Timothy isn’t, of course, inspired by jewelry. He is, however, inspired by the blue velvet box the jewelry comes in, and he wants to follow that story. I like that story, too: you give your kid the hottest new toy, and he plays with the box. It’s how we learn passive-aggressive behavior in a pre-verbal state. He goes through the garbage at Mood. Not the garbage garbage, but the remnants. Tim suggests he check out the organic section, because that’s what it’s there for, right? This is the Mindset at work: eco-friendly, ah yes we have a department for that. Well, no, that isn’t the kind of eco-friendly Timothy does, he does reduce-reuse-recycle and he finds some blue velvet left over from what someone else bought and goes with it (to be continued…). He starts out with a blue rectangle over the bust. Not a bandeau, just a rectangle of blue velvet tacked onto a sheer bodice. It’s impossible not to connect it to the black vulvar rectangle Sandro’s look required last week (and I’m thinking that’s why they made that a black rectangle in the first place). Tim is concerned, for good reason. Hey, I love Timothy, but I’m not blind, Tim’s right that it looks stuck on, has no purpose, and doesn’t make visual sense. Where is the design, Tim asks? Timothy thinks this is where he’s supposed to nod and smile and take in wisdom, but Tim is asking a question and he’s having trouble processing because he’s feeling like a kicked puppy. Aww… now don’t all you haters feel mean? Come on, Sandro’s bullying crew members and screaming at designers, Sue’s complaining that other people are sewing on her machine, Alexandria is muttering Swedish curses, and all Timothy is guilty of is being very young and having been in this bubble of people who tell him he’s brilliant, and he can’t understand why no one here thinks he’s brilliant. He shouldn’t be here, he’s nowhere near ready for this, but piling on isn’t nice. Rage Against the Machine: don’t go along with it. He asks everyone in the room for suggestions, gets several different ideas, and somehow turns out a ballerina spinning in a jewelry box in three hours. I don’t get that image – the white fabric needs to be a lot less bedsheety – but it’s not terrible. In fact, it’s got some interesting lines in the skirt, and I’m crazy about the idea of the racer-front (it needs some tweaking). His model wears makeup, but Heidi isn’t happy with the hair. “You need to do a head-to-toe look.” Hey, he did a head-to-toe look last week. Maybe not your head-to-toe look, but he knew what he was going for. I wish he’d go back to the Virgin Mary sniffing her armpits at Hiroshima. Heidi: “You went through the garbage?” Zac: “The blue velvet is from my studio.” Hey, you haters, Zac Posen had the frozen scallops in his cooler (if you’re not a Top Chef fan, don’t worry about it). The main complaint is backwardsness; Nina doesn’t get the racer back in the front (which seems like a cool idea to me) and suggests he play with gender via a tuxedo jacket instead, because that’s her idea of playing with gender. I think Timothy’s having trouble processing again, but he claims it’s all helpful and he appreciates the feedback. In 20 years, he might be Patricia; right now, he needs some incubator time. I just hope this experience is good for him. Nietzsche was wrong; sometimes what doesn’t kill you cripples you for life. On Closer Look, Tim dishes about the miraculous improvement he made from the first effort, and Zac gives grudging credit for the sewing being “not bad” (Nina isn’t sure about that). But they still hate it. In the lounge, Alexandria moves the Bitch out of Stealth Mode and asks if he thinks he’s going home since he’s been in the bottom twice. Sandro tells him not to talk so much, certainly don’t tell them he got the stuff from the garbage. I say: Timothy, you’re not PR material, but you’re in good company: Joseph Aaron Segal, Kooan, Ping. NYFashionistas are not the universe; develop along your own path. Bottom Three.

Kahindo brings in her African heritage with a print. I love it, but Justin thinks it looks like camouflage and doesn’t go with diamonds. I don’t know about diamonds, but I like it better than Kate’s toile. Tim’s worried about silk charmeuse; it’s difficult to work with. He asks if she intended the “puckering” around the circular cutout in the back. She considered it shirring. It’s all what you call it, but it is pretty messy. He suggests covering the print with sheer black tulle, and she’s impressed. On the runway, Kahindo sees Michelle Obama in a cocktail dress. I quite like it (that’s a bad sign). I was glad when she was pulled out of the lineup, until Heidi declared it off-the-rack. Aha, that’s why I like it! Zac thinks the print looks like sand art, and the construction is not inspiring, since she herself outshines her model. Nina is bored (uh oh). On Closer Look, Tim accepts responsibility for the black tulle; when Nina sees the original fabric, she groans. Bottom three.

Helen does eveningwear so she’s got this. I can almost hear the augmented fourth playing over that declaration; you know what’s gonna happen. Her jewelry is a simple strand of chain links so she plans a strapless dress with cups she’s never done before and beautiful style lines. She shows Tim what she calls her “trademark machine fluting” but he’s worried about time. She’s supremely confident, this is her forte. There’s that diabolic chord again… She’s got so much time she’s running around giving everyone advice. “I have to stop being Tim, I guess it can be irritating.” That’s why you’re doing it, you thrive on irritating. Then Suddenly a Knock at the Door: she’s worried about time. And she’s worried that next to Kate’s dress, hers looks like dog turd. I’m not sure why she fixates on Kate, since hers looks like dog turd next to just about anyone’s. Just before her dress comes down the runway – that’s BEFORE – she starts crying, and Heidi sends Tim over to help (at least, that’s how it’s staged and edited to look; the designers get to see a practice runway show before the judges come out, and all the aired comments come from that. Which is fine; I like the comments) and he either kisses her on the side of the head or whispers something in her ear (like, “You’ve had your moment, now shut up so we can get on with this). A crew member brings tissues, making it THE FIRST TIME IN PROJECT RUNWAY HISTORY for a second on-camera crew member (or body part) this episode. I see the idea, but boy is this a major miss. Random strings hang from the seams; the back is half-ruched and basted together. Everyone’s shocked to find out eveningwear is her forte (how do you do bridal and evening without doing cups?) and unanimously blame poor estimation of time requirements. She gets quite emotional: she does couture, dammit, and she’s going to keep doing it no matter no matter how many times she messes up. Sandro surprises everyone by standing up for her. Heidi appreciates the passion, but it’s about the clothes. See how calm I am? On Closer Look, Tim points out he warned her about time and she assured him it would be fabulous; Nina wants to celebrate ambition. That’s ironic detachment. In the lounge, Helen says “They ripped me a new one and wrapped it around my body.” That’s pretty good, I have to admit. But I also think she’s loving it. Bottom Three.

Resetting the Stones: Results

Kate wins. She’s just thrilled to death, she is she is. Kahindo is out; it wasn’t the worst dress, but that’s what happens when you bore Nina. Twitter explodes with outrage, not out of any support for Kahindo but because everyone wanted Timothy out; a few thought it should’ve been Helen. I don’t think Kahindo belonged in the bottom at all, not with monstrosities by Karen and Miranda. But PR has never been able to handle African themes (just ask Korto), even as muted and vague as done here, and I suppose they wore out their pretense of diversity last season with Patricia. Tim can’t believe how close everyone has become so soon, and (as everyone kicks Timothy one more time) tells Kahindo, “You’re talented and you have a pure soul,” and tells us he didn’t use his rescue because as talented and pure of soul as she is, he agrees with the judges. Fact is, it’s way too early to use up his save. I’m guessing it’s all planned, anyway.
'Unicorn Blood' by Maryanna Hoggatt

Next week:

Coney Island, winning arcade prizes that will serve as raw materials for the Unconventional Materials challenge. The first Team Challenge. Clips of Miranda and Timothy in tears. As Hannibal Lecter says in the sequel: “This is really gonna hurt.” Good thing I’m maintaining my ironic distance, even if they do draw unicorn blood.

Project Runway Season 12: Ep. 1, The Sky’s the Limit

Daily Unicorn

I hated last season, with its “team” concept, before it even started; I even hated the way Heidi said “Teams;” it was like a dentist’s drill. But I’ve been favorably disposed to the changes I’ve heard about going into this first week, and now that I know more, I’m even more favorably disposed: they’ve set up a pretty good structure. Of course, they’re also throwing airplanes and camping and a psycho (or two) into the mix, but this is Lifetime, and they do have to pay the bills, after all. Still – I’m pleased; it’s a good start. I never thought I’d say that about PR again. Now let’s see how long it takes for them to ruin it.

I already did a general Preview with first impressions based on the info on Lifetime’s website and such, so I’ll skip over “Road to the Runway” and just merge in any interesting tidbits of new discovery here.

Flight Plan:

Some of the changes this season are pretty small: Come on, who cares what hotel they use, or who stocks the Accessory Wall (“the department store for the modern Southern woman,” insert Paula Deen swipe here), though it’s interesting L&T seems to have cut bait after what seems like quite an extended run. But Runway Judging is where the truly interesting changes come in.

For the initial runway show, the judges won’t know who made what look. Anonymous judging! YES! Now this is exciting. They’ll give their scores, thus setting the top and bottom three, and only then will they know who made those six looks. It’s conceivable a designer could be unknown until quite deep in the season, which is perhaps a little motivation to not “skate by” for the first several weeks.

The Top and Bottom looks will also be examined up close and personal by the judges: they can feel fabrics, check construction, and see what’s being hidden under hair or a scarf. YES YES! I’m so excited I can hardly stand it! Ok, well, no, but it is a good change. They’re going to have to work harder to explain why good stuff is crap, and it’ll be pretty cool to have visuals of them in the same frame as yet another mediocre cocktail dress they’ve just proclaimed exceptional. Best of all: Tim will be available, not to judge, but to offer background information on what went on in the workroom. “I’ve always been here, but I’m no longer invisible.” That’s funny; I could swear early on he claimed to have no contact with the judges at all. Maybe that was Bravo Tim. Bravo, Tim.

Take-Off:

The designers gather at a tiny little airfield where the fan-voted returnee Kate joins them (hey, I called it – I think that’s the first PR prediction I’ve ever correctly made). Everyone pretty much hates on her right away. Helen calls her a bitch, which is in the dictionary under “pot calling kettle black,” and tells Kate she’s usually scared of bitches but she’s not scared of her. Kate isn’t scared of Helen either. Good, now that we’ve got that cleared up… Kate answers questions about last season, and Helen isn’t happy with her getting the attention so she wonders out loud if that’s “technically cheating.” Ten minutes in, and Helen’s on my list (to be fair, she had an hour to get on my list in RttR).

Then we get the parachuters, who arrive to “Ride of the Valkyries.” No, the designers won’t be skydiving; they’ll be making their garments out of parachutes. Thus follows a race to grab the Parachute of your Dreams, which is the part that should be set to war music: Kate falls, and Brandon steps right over her (except not really, but he likes the way it sounds when he says it). When they say fashion is a tough business, they mean it; getting trampled in an open field is just one more thing that happens in the course of a day.

It’s almost 4pm by the time they get back to the workroom, but that’s ok: it’s a two-day challenge. Yes! No Mood – meaning, no Swatch – but black and white ripstop (my new word for the day; presumably the parachute is ripstop as well) is available for use as contrast, but Tim’s very clear that the parachute fabric must be the primary fabric. Crucial plot point.

Guest judge Kate Bosworth is introduced with such a lack of fanfare I have to wonder if Heidi’s mad at her. But again – I approve. Less fanfare on PR is a very good thing. Nothing looked really great on the runway; the fabric just didn’t lend itself to great. But some things were less great than others.

Cruising Altitude:

Soaring: Top Three… uh, make that Two

Bradon McDonald, former dancer, likes to make things he hasn’t seen before. Problem is, unless you’ve studied fashion for seventy years, chances are someone has seen it before somewhere. He’s particularly fond of pleats and embroidery. He picks the dirt and grass out of his parachute, and Bradon's top three lookdecides not to sketch but just feel it: wind against the chest, flowing out in back, catching and billowing, ombre effect. Tim loves his in-progress, sees something James Bond about it. During fitting, Bradon apologizes for digging into his model’s butt: “It’s for your own good.” That’s what they all say, honey. “Mine, too,” he adds, which is more like it. His look is quite nice, and does exactly the floating effect he was going for. Heidi likes that it looks expensive and loves the strings. Zac loves the movement but finds the cording distracting and not refined; the movement, textures and colors work. Nina loves the light fabric dramatically billowing, the fragile detail of the strings. Top Three.

Sue's top 3 lookSue Waller doesn’t know how to use the industrial machines they have in the workroom, so Dom helps her out. And someone snipes. She’s never seen the show before; welcome to PR, Sue. When Tim comes around on Day 2, she tells him: “I had a 1% hope, then I put it back on the mannekin and let it speak to me.” Tim is pleased; it’s now a knockout. “You learned something profound by that terrible struggle.” Any midwife will tell you: if the baby’s stuck, change position. Hey, I read a book about a midwife once. I love the top; the bottom is a little voluminous, but that’s ok for this challenge. Heidi loves the colors; it looked like a runway show. Zac likes the sculptural quality and she used the most couture technique; it looks like she morphed an object into a dress. Nina thinks it’s sport and elegant and the ruching is well-placed; it looks easy but it wasn’t. KateB likes the back. At Closer Look, Tim relates her struggle: it was a disaster, now it’s Bergdorf’s. Top Three.

Turbulence:

Miranda Levy, former Army mechanic, lives by the words: “When war ends, fashion begins.” That makes no sense at all, but it’s catchy. She designs for the Andrews Sisters. Militant but feminine. Miranda's lookFloral substituted for camouflage. She and Timothy are homies; Top Chef contestants frequently know each other, but is this the first time on PR two designers have been acquainted? “He’s got quite an ego,” she says. On Walkthrough, Tim warns her that her dress is made mostly out of the black supplemental fabric. “Well, the parachute is hard to use.” I see, so the word “challenge” means “avoid?” What Army did you serve in? It’s a very nice look – the sharpest thing on the runway, though I’d prefer less going on in the back at the waist – but yeah, it’s black. I don’t quite understand; isn’t the black fabric the same quality as the parachute? At first the judges are full of praise: they like the colors, Nina loves the silhouette (“it’s very Now,” she says, paying it the highest compliment), the finishing touches, the buckles are placed perfectly, it’s a great first impression. KateB would wear it; Zac likes the polish. Heidi is the voice of reason: she didn’t do the challenge, is that fair to the designers who did? Tim spills that he warned her about that very thing: “The teacher in me would give her an F.” I’m so caught up in imagining Tim as my teacher, I kind of lose the thread of things (Lifetime may have tarnished his image for me, but he’s still in there somewhere, I can feel it). What Will They Do? Zac: “We must set a precedent.” Sure, go ahead, you set precedents every week some seasons, let’s see how long this one lasts. She started out as Top Three, but ends up Bottom Three.

Clouds: The Anonymous Middle

Alexandria von Bromssen, the Swedish model, quit modeling because she wanted to get some brains. She runs a camp teaching kids to sew, which is pretty cool. Words to live by: “Clothing is your armor, you should say something when you wear it.” She may be the Stealth Bitch: perfectly nice face to face, but those interviews are a different matter. She wins Tim over at walkthrough with her colorblocking. Her dress isn’t bad, though it kinda looks like scrubs; I think that’s thanks to the fabric.

Justin LeBlanc comes with an ASL interpreter and occasional subtitles; he explains he’s not from a foreign country, he’s just Deaf. He thinks his cochlear implant is an advantage: if people start annoying him, he can just turn it off. Suddenly everyone wants a cochlear implant. What’s kind of cool is on the drive back to the city, Timothy asks if they need to face him directly for him to hear, and he tells him not to worry about it, if he can’t hear he’ll ask. I give Timothy props for asking; it’s better than talking about someone behind his back, or worse, making assumptions and screaming or mouthing words. Full disclosure: I did a couple of fun semesters of ASL in Boston, including attending the Deaf Miss Massachussets Pageant for a term paper, so I’ve got some positive bias stuff happening here. He’s fairly invisible this episode; his design is a little matronly, but it’s polished and I like the skirt panels.

Kate Pankoke recovers from being trampled in a field and practices signing with Justin. Deaf people get that a lot; everyone wants to show them how clever they are. She makes a sexy princess, kindergarten style, for the runway. Kinda cupcakey, isn’t it?

Helen Castillo, as already noted, will be playing the #1 Mean Girl this season. And I mean that literally: everything about her screams, “I want to be mean! See how mean I am? Are you scared of me yet?” It’s a bored kind of mean, like she can’t quite make the effort to be truly mean. “My work is going to make you go home and cry; it’s going to destroy you.” Ok, fine. During casting, Michele wanted to rent motorcycles and go to a local dive bar with her. Tim was worried about her range. “When I’m told to do something, I do it, and I do it phenomenally well.” No, she’s not here for her talent; she’s the one-woman Drama Department. People assume she’s sadomasochistic but she isn’t. No, I’d say she’s attention-seeking, but if it makes her happy to be thought of as sadomasochistic, I guess I can try. No, I don’t want to put in the effort, either. When she hears about the parachutes, she says, “I can deal with blood and bugs and snakes and shit, but I cannot imagine making something decent to look at with this fabric.” I’d like to see what she makes out of blood and bugs and snakes and shit. She makes a dress out of the white fabric, with parachute as accent. Tim is concerned, but since she isn’t in the bottom three, it doesn’t matter. I like her look; it’s a bit Snow Princess, but there’s a great deal of impressive detail.

Dom Streater explains she’s African American, Native American, French, and Cuban. [I had a really great swipe at Florida law here, but it's probably inappropriate to a PR recap. Use your imagination] She makes a really great jacket; I’m not sure how much of it is parachute, but since she doesn’t get cross-examined, we don’t find out. They can only handle one precedent per week. Still, it’s a striking outfit, three pieces.

Alexander Pope (the designer, not the poet) did drugs for a while because his mother left and his father remarried and he resented his stepmom. TMI. He likes to cross gender lines. Tim loves having costume designers. Yeah, so you can tell them, “It’s too costume.” He’s worried that his dress is rising up in the front as the model walks down the runway, but it’s pretty good anyway; though it’s a rumpled mess, the shape is interesting.

Ken Laurence has bow-tie tattoo. I think if I got a tattoo, it might be a bow tie. He’s been secretly competing at home all eleven seasons, so now he gets to do it for real. He, too, has a sob story: he’s been homeless four times. His look is a simple dress with some fancy ruffles tacked on, and I think they’re going the wrong way.

Kahindo Mateene went to fashion school after she got laid off from her marketing job, which is backwards from the way things usually go. She makes up songs. Tim thinks her pleating is messy on walkthrough, but I liked it a lot on the runway; the top is a little simple, but the armholes in the back are sharp, and she got a great fit.

Jeremy Brandrick picks up his babies by their feet and dangles them in the air. He’s from England, maybe that explains it? He’s thinking a modern Amelia Earhart. Not sure I see that. Then again, the pants are so hideous, I can’t tell what I see.

Karen Batts does some really interesting things with photographs and fabrics. But not today: her model looks a bit “grandma at the beach.” I like the colorblocking pattern she creates, but the shape is awful.

Crash and Burn: The Bottom

Angela Backskoky was in a rock and roll band until she had a mid-life crisis at age 22, left her husband, and tried to be a lesbian, but it didn’t work out. I understand that. I often Angela's bottom 3 lookwished I was a lesbian while I was married. Just… nope, not gonna happen. She wants to make a bright sporty trench coat with air lifting the panels and pleating that makes it feel like a parachute. But, like being a lesbian, is just isn’t working out. On walkthrough, Tim gets the motion, but worries she’s pushing it into a place it doesn’t want to go: “Pull back, pretend it has a voice.” Apparently it said, “I don’t want to be a trench coat, I want to be a poncho. A hooded poncho, like they sell in little pocket packs at the drug store for $3.99.” Heidi thinks something’s missing, like the bottom – pants, skirt, shorts. Nina doesn’t like the proportions. KateB and Zac like the colors and the hood, but on Closer Look, notices gee, those seams are sloppy, and the darts are in the wrong place. Bottom Three.

Sandro Masmanidi was a Russian model until he got cancer at age 18. Now, at the airfield: is that a zucchini in his pants, or does he dress to the right? He interviews that he has “good potential” then asks if that’s not humble enough. He makes a swimsuit, but at walkthrough, he’s just got the bottom of a swimsuit and is planning a jacket for the top. Tim is concerned about time, but Sandro’s not worried. It doesn’t matter what he makes: all anyone sees is the black bar across the model’s crotch as she walks down the runway. I thought it was part of the design. “The good china is hanging out,” says Ken in the workroom (I guess Peach didn’t invent that expression). As she walks down the runway, Sandro says, “Vagina drops” which had me laughing so hard I couldn’t hear or see anything for a while. A whole new level of wardrobe malfunction. Sure, boobs fall out from time to time, but has anyone ever had a vulva slip? And while we’re on the topic: Sandro, please, note the difference between the vagina and the vulva. Please bring your knowledge of female anatomy up to at least the level of a Republican legislator; it’s one thing for them to make laws about vaginas Sandro's bottom 3 lookwithout understanding them, but dressing them is a different story. Hey, in for a penny… The hilarious thing is, the model is standing on the runway smiling awkwardly, and the judges don’t say anything about her genitalia. Like, maybe, “Great wax job, who do you use?” Instead, they worry about the neckpiece. Neckpiece? She has a neck? Nina hates the jewelry. What jewelry? Heidi points out he did some great construction (she’s right, the ten square inches on each iliac crest are great) before bringing up the T-word: “Taste.” Zac calls it a costume. Really, Zac? Just what is this a costume for? “The mocktopussy has got to go.” I don’t know what the mocktopussy is (so many possibilities), but, well, everything about this look has to go. Bottom Three.

Timothy Westbrook… oh, Timothy… where do I start. I had such a good feeling about him last week, mostly because of the thing about his blind father listening to books on tape and turning those tapes into a visual medium by weaving. But I did say he was awfully young; turns out, he’s even younger. But he is, as Nick predicted in RttR, a hoot. I’ve permanently damaged whatever good reputation I may have had with TBone by admitting my affection for him in spite of everything, but I don’t care: I love this guy. Just like I loved Ping. But like I never loved Jason with the Clockwork Orange bowler or Ari who did the geodesic dome that ended up a tin foil volleyball in S6. I’m going to give this some thought; why do we cut some wacko people slack, and others we chop off at the knees? At any rate, Timothy won’t be around long, but I had a great time watching him. His words to live by: “We have to protect the forest to keep the unicorns alive…Remember the unicorns.” First, the parachutes reminded him of paratroopers in WWII which brings him to Hiroshima. Sorry, Timothy, no paratroopers dropped into Hiroshima, though there were parachutes attached to instruments dropped along with Little Boy and survivors (the word “surivors” in this context is pretty startling) reported seeing parachutes. So, ok, parachutes to WWII to Hiroshima. Whew. You just have to really want it. For the unicorns. And Hiroshima to cranes, which is very clear. What does this have to do with a garment? No idea, but I’m just going where I’m led, and we’re just getting started. Timothy doesn’t use electricity to make his art, so he’s a little bummed about electric sewing machines. He does, presumably, use lights. Maybe elevators. Heaters, air conditioners, refrigerators. But his art is created without electricity – I get that. It’s sort of like “I built this.” I can tolerate a little cognitive dissonance. He burns the parachute fabric: “burning is neither additive nor reductive, but transformative.” Yes, that’s true, burning turns nylon into… some gas, I wonder which one… hmmm… well, they use it in aircraft upholstery so it can’t be too toxic. For the record, Tim loves the burning effect. Timothy won’t let the hair people use electricity or product on the model’s hair. “That leaves bobby pins and braiding,” he says. And no makeup. No shoes (Tim okay’d this idea, btw; I’m just sayin’. What’s the use of a mentor if the judges disagree with his advice?). He, Timothy's bottom 3 lookhowever, wears gold glitter heels instead of his usual sequined flats. He ties a rope around one of her wrists, and gives her lessons on being dragged down the runway. Then there’s something about the Virgin Mary sniffing her armpit. No, I am not making this up. The model is trying to figure out if she’s being punked. On the runway, however she just walks and poses at the end of the runway with her arms over her head. Maybe someone told her, “I don’t care what he said, you walk out, pose three seconds, walk back, that’s it.” Either that, or she said, “No, I am not getting dragged barefoot down the runway by unseen forces then sniffing my armpit.” Hey, he may not have created the performance he wanted, but this was performance art. I had a great time. And it was clearly his point of view, even if he did lose “half the dress” when the model didn’t do the dragging thing. I didn’t even think the dress was that bad, though I have no problem with the judges thinking otherwise. Zac calls it Tinkerbell at Burning Man; she looks like a burn victim, which, considering the Hiroshima reference, may be accurate. Heidi and Nina are downright offended by the lack of hair and makeup (those are major sponsors, after all; this has to be nipped in the bud). Nina wants gorgeous sustainable. Sustainable without pain. It should come as no surprise he’s in the Bottom Three.

Coming In For a Landing:

Bradon wins. I’m fine with that. It’s a little fairy-tale princess, but it’s interesting, it’s pretty, and he really did capture the whole billowy thing.

I was pretty sure Timothy would be out – as much as I love him, I’m not delusional, I can see he’s just begging for it – but then they started talking about Miranda and “setting a precedent.” I like Miranda. She made a good dress. It’s not really fair that at least two other designers used substantial amounts of non-parachute fabric, but because their finished products weren’t as striking as hers, they got away with it. Moving her from the Top to Bottom, isn’t that enough? Turns out, it is, but it’s Angela who’s out, much to my surprise. I guess they’re either hoping to scold Timothy into submission, or at least get a really satisfying auf out of him, since the hatred for him on Twitter last night was pretty unanimous. Except for me. Love you, Timothy – I remember the unicorns, every last one of them. By name.

Connecting Flight to the rest of the season:

A Camping trip. Yelling. Someone’s missing. A smashed camera. And a foaming vagina. This is turning into the Season of the Vagina: Hail to the V.

Project Runway Season 12: Preview

Didn’t I just do this? Yes, I did. But it’s time for another round, starting next Thursday.

This season’s innovations make more sense than teams: More Tim Gunn (who gets one “rescue” vote, guaranteeing a shock boot at some point), and closer inspection of garments. I approve. Hey, I’ll approve of anything: it’s the Season of Ironic Distance for me. One hour challenges? Blindfolded judging? Go for it, I’ll take it all in stride. This summer has been so depressing, aside from one glimmer of a rainbow and a pair of running shoes, I’ve shut down a bit. At least until the first crack-pipe decision.

They’ll also be adding a past losing designer, chosen by popular vote (uh huh) to the mix: oddly, I approve of that, too, except I thought that was what All-Stars was for. Dishing them out in small doses is a much better idea. The choices were Ra’mon, Valerie, and Kate. That’d be terrific if anyone could remember who they are, so here are some hints: Ra’mon is the one from the Lost S6 (the one no one watches on reruns, so that’s why we don’t remember him) who dyed the neoprene dress in the toilet (and Tim Gunn was so outraged that it won, he bought it for Nina when it went on auction). Valerie is Cray-Cray from Evil S8, and she was a model for S10E3 Emmy challenge that Ven and Kenley won. Kate… Kate… pancakes come to mind… yes, Kate Pankoke, who couldn’t believe what was being done to her but came back for another round. Since she’s the most recent (and the most impolitic), she’s probably the favorite, but the neoprene dress could take it from behind.

For the new cast, we’ve got the usual blend of cannon fodder and interesting oddballs mixed in with genuine contenders. I have a terrible track record of predicting the outcomes of these things, so I’m not even going to try. Ironic Distance, remember? Someone might need to remind me of that around Episode 4 or 5, which is when things usually go off the rails.

The contenders:

Alexander Pope (38, Queens NY) has some plusses – he likes opera and Charlotte Bronte, and his website‘s incredibly slick – and some minuses – he hopes they don’t do overweight or old people, for god’s sake. He seems a bit obsessed with weight, in fact, judging from the fact I know he has a 26″ waist (he announced it in his closet tour video). His style is dramatic (he’s a costume designer, comes from a “family of actors”) and he likes to use upholstery fabric. It’s great stuff – not sure what he’s going to do with the ready-to-wear that’s become the staple of PR. He reminds me of Austin. I’ve been watching this show too long – everyone reminds me of someone.

Alexandria von Bromssen (38, San Francisco via Sweden) was a model/advertisement assistant at TIME (TIME has models?) before she finished her MFA and became a designer/boutique owner. Seems to like slash/jobs. She didn’t make the PR cast five years ago, but “they reached out” to her this time. She seems versatile – lingerie, a few gowns, jackets, sharp modern-edge sportswear. And they do love sharp, modern-edge sportswear – but twice in a row?

Angela Bacskocky (33, Richmond VA) likes Oscar Wilde and The Scarlet Letter, sang in a rock band, and loves to wear Gretchen’s grandpa sweater. No, not Gretchen’s own personal grandpa sweater, but a “grungy, oversized old man sweater” owned by her own grandfather. PR recruited her off her Kickstarter campaign. She trained and worked for a time in Europe, but her clothing seems pretty unremarkable to me, with faint Michelle overtones; maybe it’s the color, that drab yellow. Love the wild-woman photography, though it doesn’t seem to go with the clothes.

Bradon McDonald (38, LA), a 2012 FIDM grad (he was an upscale modern dancer before) won my heart with 1) his appreciation of Purcell, and 2) his hilarious answer to the routine “Can you win?” interview question: “There is a very slight chance that I could win, as long as the other 15 designers are blind and/or quit the show before the finale.” Unfortunately, I think he’s right: he does a lot of pleating, some of which is terrific, and some of which is… not. What’s really cool is that his website includes production cost information on his garments in Excel spreadsheets, the kind of detail I’ve always wished PR would include in their “production look” episode.

Dom Streater (24, Philadelphia) likes birds. Halcyons, specifically. That’s why she used that name for her line. I’ll be honest: I didn’t know there was a halcyon bird (a kingfisher, like that helps). I just knew about the adjective. And the drug. For that matter, I had a shrink named Halcyon once. Aside from some interesting hoodie suits, her portfolio doesn’t seem outstanding, but at least she reads (Tim O’Brien, Anthony Burgess; those are not names you pull out of your hat to sound smart).

Helen Castillo (25, NJ) seems to like strategically placed lace and appliques (which remind me a bit of Samantha Black’s final collection from last year, and Daniel DeFranco’s lingerie). She has a unique way of phrasing her answers to the interview questionnaire: “Describe your family: Living mother…” Weaknesses as a designer: “Criticism for the way I look instead of acknowledging design strength.” In other words, don’t mention her tattoos. We’ll see.

Jeremy Brandrick (41, NY via London) is the only person I’ve ever known claim “Empire of the Sun” as a favorite movie, but he is British. He’s London-trained (after a couple of false starts in architecture and interior design), worked for D&G in Milan, did casual menswear for a while, and is now doing bridal; I prefer his menswear. I don’t see anything super-creative, but he’s trained, he can sew, and he’s versatile. He’s got kids, so I’m sure we’ll be treated to a lot of teary Skypes.

Justin LeBlanc (27, North Carolina) has an architecture background, shades of Laura Bennett; he now teaches at the NCSU College of Design; and oh by the way he’s deaf. Or at least he was deaf until he got his cochlear implant. He’s a Palahniuk fan, which could go either way. He has some interesting textures and shapes, all very architectural, going for him, but as always the question on PR is: can he throw together a waitress uniform in six hours?

Kahindo Mateene (34, Chicago via Democratic Republic of the Congo) likes bright colors, which is always nice to see when so many designers favor black. She’s a reader, too – so many readers this season – Adichie and the Twilight books, now there’s a combination you don’t see every day. She didn’t make the cast the first three times she auditioned, but they encouraged her to try again, so here she is. I like that her line, Modahnik, is an anagram of her first name. And last initial.

Karen Batts (29, Queens NYC) likes the word “amazo” which immediately makes me nervous. She also likes Gatsby, Jane Austen, and Malcolm Gladwell, which, oddly, also makes me nervous (sounds a little too self-consciously “literary” to me, but I could be wrong). She has an odd combination of (rather nice) denim-ish print mixed with (less nice) bright color block on the same runway; the juxtaposition confuses me, but a lot of things confuse me, and I’m more worried about “amazo.”

Ken Laurence (24, Birmingham AL) says he was “Goal-driven, nasty attitude and very outspoken” as a kid. Now, he’s only goal-driven and outspoken. He doesn’t seem nasty at all in his home visit video. His personal style includes a lace sweater (“the pattern makes it masculine”) and color chinos. Oh, and a mirror obsession, but maybe only in home design. He does some interesting things with shapes and shoulders, but he does a lot of less-interesting things with houndstooth and ruffles, too.

Miranda Levy (29, NYC via WI) spent eight years as a mechanic in the military; uniforms were a way of life before they influenced her classic post-WWII designs. She seems to be playing Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin on her home page. Her biggest fear isn’t failure (or the grander “I have no fears”) but rather, sewing over her finger with a sewing machine. Now there’s a fear everyone can understand. This was her third audition; it looks like she can sew, so I wonder what took so long. Maybe they were saving her? She sounds interesting; if she turns out to be a jerk, well, I’ll (ironically) pretend this paragraph never existed.

Sandro Masmanidi (28, NY via Russia) has a fake Faberge egg and hopes some day to get a real one. He likes beading on female skin. He’s eye candy out of central casting, complete with the half-exposed chest. He could be completely adorable, but it’s a fine line between charm and smarm. Still, his favorite authors are Chekhov and Dante, so I’m going to hope for the best. Looks like he can sew, but he tends a little towards cheesy, with lots of open crochet and lace. Obviously, he can’t possibly win; Belarus is too close to Rus, and Dmitri wasn’t that long ago.

Sue Waller (45, Brooklyn) doesn’t know who her favorite past PR designer is, because she doesn’t watch TV. That’s a really good sign right there, eh? Does she understand the one-day challenge means she has about six hours to make a complete garment? She’s a little old to play hipster, but she pulls it off with a lot of confidence. Her favorite colors are gunmetal grey, greyish greens, and dark greys. Hey, at least it’s not black. She does a lot of leather, and very fine pleating; her photos remind me of fingerprints which is seriously cool, but I’m not sure how they play in real life.

Timothy Westbrook (24, Milwaukee) was last year’s Pfister Hotel Artist-In-Residence, which is… I have no idea but it sounds cool. He weaves fabrics out of plastic bags and cassette tape. He’s a figure skater and might be the only PR designer ever mentioned on the Smithsonian blog – did it have to be for sequins? – but he’s awfully young and other than a couple of ten-year-old prom dresses, there’s no evidence he’s made clothes at all.

The usual blend of types, specialties, and personalities all chosen to allow the pre-selected Winner to rise to the top, kicking some upstart to the curb if necessary to allow Nina to feature a suitable magazine spread. I’m betting cassette tape, bright colors, and houndstooth don’t stand a chance. Uniforms or architectural shapes might just work. And you can never count out a good grandpa sweater. Though I’ll never understand why.

Break’s over.

Project Runway S11 Episode 14: Finale, Part II

If you address yourself to an audience, you accept at the outset the basic premises that unite the audience. You put on the audience, repeating clichés familiar to it. But artists don’t address themselves to audiences; they create audiences. That artist talks to himself out loud. If what he has to say is significant, others hear and are affected.”

– Edmund Carpenter, ‘They Became What They Beheld’
For more, see Vi Hart’s video of the same title

I stumbled across this yesterday afternoon, idly listening to my “Liked” videos on Youtube. It was fortuitous timing, since this is the last rant I’ll have an excuse to make for a while about how the consumer culture is choking every last dollar possible out of Art and leaving behind a dead and rotting corpse.

But you’re probably here to read about the Project Runway finale. Ok.

The final three designers go to Mood with $500, Tim gives critiques, the assistants bow out, the families visit the workroom. They do the Fashion Week show at Lincoln Center. Somebody wins.

More?

The Workroom

Michelle seems pretty comfortable in the role of I-know-I’m-the-only-one-who-had-a-good-critique-but-I’m-not-going-to-jinx-it. She has good reason to be, since she’s the only one who got a good critique and, other than removing “some of the flair” and asking the hair people to do something else, has little fixing to do. At Mood, she gets yellow fabric; then she and Amanda decide Swatch has gained weight (or, to put it more cleverly, “chunked up”). I could swear I saw a tweet last night banning them from the store (in jest), but I can’t find it now so maybe I imagined it. Many years ago, a woman buying our car called our cat fat; she was murdered three weeks later. No, we had nothing to do with it, but karma’s a bitch. Tim loves everything, but he sees the bleeding heart sweater as belonging to another collection. Michelle decides the purpose of constructive criticism is to give her something to ignore.

Patricia‘s considering her edits, but she’s not considering Nina, since she’s “a right-wing conservative sometimes.” That made me smile. But Patricia’s got a point: she isn’t going to win over Nina at this point. Her main concern is making her collection an actual collection – you know, cohesive – so she’s going to make four more looks. She buys leather. The leather has holes in it. I don’t get why the leather has holes in it – is it sold that way? – but she doesn’t seem to think that’s unusual. It is, however, a problem, and she spends a good part of her time after she’s made palazzo pants out of the leather wondering what to do about the holes. It’s very suspenseful. She finally solves the problem by putting more holes in the leather. Tim wants her to find more opportunity for cohesion with her scarves, but she can’t find them: “They’re around here somewhere.”

Stanley needs “a hem and a shoe” to please the judges, but he’s still creating most his collection. I’m confused. He’s been pretty on top of things all along, and now, in the last lap, he shows up unprepared? I don’t get it. In fact, given that and the constant focus on Stanley constructing garments moments before the Fashion Week Runway, I wondered if they were going to shock everyone with a switcheroo. He’s jealous of the camaraderie and collaboration between Michelle and Amanda, something he doesn’t have with Richard. Later, he admits the whole team aspect scared the crap out of him because he doesn’t like people. Interesting, since he seemed to be terrific at teamwork; it was his arrival at the Losing Team that made it the Winning Team (though back in those days, I referred to Daniel as being the obvious choice since he was so good; shows you what I know). Tim thinks it’s all vintage, and that’s not a compliment. Sometimes it is, but not this season. He reminds Stanley that Nina wanted the beaded top and skirt split up, the top paired with skinny pants. Yes, she did, but Nina’s nuts, that outfit is magnificent as is (though I’m not sure what it’s like to sit on those huge beads, but this isn’t a comfort show, it’s a fashion show), he just needed to stop covering it up with a leather jacket.

Tim is exhausted after the walkthrough from redesigning Patricia and Stanley’s collections.

By the way, seems they’ve exported S10 winner Dmitri to Europe. He’s doing very well there. It’s probably better that way.

The young package their messages in media that fit their messages, that is, they create new media to fit their messages. In so doing, they create their own audiences. Some of these audiences may be very small at the beginning….

– Edmund Carpenter, ‘They Became What They Beheld’
For more, see Vi Hart’s video of the same name

The Runway

Heidi comes out looking fresh from a chemical peel. Seriously, what happened to her? She looked fine last episode, couldn’t have been more than a few days before, and now, between the raw shiny face, the garish lipstick, and the absurd Gautier jumpsuit (though I’ll admit, I love the print), all I can think is: clown. Of course I just read a terrific story about clowns. Or, more accurately, Klouns. Still, she looks ridiculous.

Michael Kors is guest judge, which means he doesn’t know anything about anyone that Heidi hasn’t told him or that he hasn’t seen on the tapes. Don’t kid yourself, Michael got the memo.

The runway show features a lot of knee shots for some reason. I almost understood it for Michelle’s collection, since her hemlines are kind of interesting. But what’s the deal with everyone else? Are knees in this season? And is Mondo wearing a popcorn bucket on his head?

Stanley calls his collection “Urban Opulence.” Heidi likes that he cut down last week’s gold failure into a top, but his coat is sloppily hemmed; I hate that look, I think it’s lingerie (though the model didn’t look as pregnant on the runway as in the photo). And his gown is just old-lady (Michael calls it “Betty White on Dancing with the Stars” which is nonsense, but it is pretty ugly). Nina wants the whole thing brought into the 21st century. And, like Daniel last week, Stanley now becomes irrelevant. I’m still surprised this was his collection; it struck me as the stuff I’d be most likely to wear, and given that my taste is, shall we say, mature, I was sure it was Daniel’s. I expected more from Stanley.

Patricia dedicates her work to trees. You know, I’d completely forgotten her name is Water Lily. Her first look uses beautiful fabrics she created, but doesn’t the model look pregnant? The top of her second look got overlooked somehow; it’s really clever. I love her flowy dyed fabrics. I don’t get trees. I don’t really get “collection” but on that topic, I keep thinking about an old episode of thirtysomething (don’t groan) when Melissa had a photo exhibit and was worried because she didn’t have a theme; nothing was connected. “You are the connection,” someone told her (come on, it was 1988, can you remember a tv show from 1988?). The collection is about what Patricia can do: she can make paints and dyes and chemical treatments, she can pound coiled silver (her stepfather’s a blacksmith), she can create new fabrics. It’s a different kind of fashion show.

Three-fourths of the judges respond to it. Michael uses his entire annual allotment of the word “fabulous.” He loves the chambray shirt (which is actually leather, isn’t it? We did this last week) though at first he was thinking art teacher on acid. I think that describes Patricia pretty well, actually. Zac gets to use the terms “techno-pow-wow” (which has already been applied to Winnipeg band Killah Green) and “fashiontainment” (the title of several blogs); he prefers her more abstract work, like the blue dress. Heidi noticed the crowd perk up; she loves the fabrics, though she isn’t sure about putting the yellow print over the red top (I rather like it – it evokes both a blanket and sari for a linguistic pun – but, like Fabio’s stuff, I can’t see anyone actually wearing it. By the way, it was nice to see Fabio again. I miss Fabio). Nina recognizes Patricia’s talent for bringing something to the table that’s unique, and she loves the blue dress, but only over her dead body will she win Project Runway. No, she doesn’t say it, but it’s in her attitude. And in chat, while Heidi and Zac are energetically praising Patricia’s work, Nina sits there looking at her blue cards dripping disdain from every pore. She’s like a kindergarten teacher pretending to take a kid seriously when all she wants to do is move on to what really matters to her. Addendum: TLo’s Recap – “Bring Me the Head of Nina Garcia” – is not to be missed.

It is one of the curiosities of a new medium, a new format, that at the moment it first appears, it’s never valued, but it is believed.

– Edmund Carpenter, ‘They Became What They Beheld’
For more, see Vi Hart’s video of the same name

Michelle (who is wearing a satellite dish on her head) is so obviously the winner all the fighting over Patricia seems ridiculous. I thought her first look was a little overcomplicated, and I hate the square plunge she uses twice, but that’s just because I don’t care for naked chest; it makes sense in the context of the collection, reflecting the hem, so while I personally don’t like it, I can understand it. I also hate the chaps, but again, that’s just me; they fit into the collection. I love a lot of the looks, and like the rest.

During interrogation, she whines again about being a lone wolf who’s lost her pack, forgetting that she spent four weeks blaming her pack for her lack of success. Nina’s happy: the silhouette’s consistent, she offered a lot of pieces with the option to take things apart. Her stand-outs were the coat and the yellow dress with nude leather. But what she’s really super crazy about is the bleeding heart sweater (take that, Tim). I’m ambivalent; it’s a little over the top on its own, but I have to admit, the look worked in the show. Michael loved the opening look, and the way she used fabric combinations that were disparate but worked. He questions the felt gown, though, first, because it’s felt, and second, because it’s a gown; he tells her not to feel compelled to finish with a gown just because that’s what usually happens in shows. Raise your hand if you think they’d slam her for not including a gown; I can just hear it: “You do sportswear, are you versatile enough to do evening wear as well?” He doesn’t like the chiffon tie; I (and Zac) disagree; it’s one of my favorite looks. Zac is slightly less enthusiastic about the collection overall; it could get cartooney, and it’s not really what the kids are wearing. Michelle insists it’s what hipsters are wearing (I’m still trying to figure out hipsters; I thought they wore heavy-rimmed glasses and ironic t-shirts?). He smacks her down by telling her, “What you’re drawing from has been in fashion already,” and the idea is to do something that’s completely out of fashion and bring it back, at which point they would have told her she’s not on trend. You can’t win with these guys, right? He acknowledges it’s beautifully made, amazing work. Oh, can it, Zac, you know she’s the obvious winner.

Decision Time:

Why does each designer feel s/he should win?
Stanley: He has a clear message, executes it well, and would represent the show well.
Michelle: She has unique creativity, a voice going towards the future, creating a woman who doesn’t know she exists.
Patricia: she’ll continue to create new techniques and ideas, with a voice that’s never been heard before.

In Chat, Heidi says: “We don’t have to look for a commercial designer” and her nose starts growing.

And the winner is: Michelle.

I think that’s a good thing. I think Michelle and PR are a good match. I don’t know what the deal is when they sign on for the show, but I’m assuming they will own a piece of her for the forseeable future. I think Michelle can manage that. For all I know, they own a piece of all of them; but Michelle’s the one that gets the prizes, so she’s going to get the most pressure to produce.

Patricia, on the other hand, could benefit from the exposure, if designers contact her about her fabrics or to suggest collaborations. That could be terrific for her, since that’s where her strength really lies.

Wrap-Up:

Do you remember where you were last July 19? Maybe you were on the beach in some lovely vacation spot. Maybe you were still cleaning up after your Fourth of July Backyard Bash. Maybe you’d just sent the kids off to camp, or were dealing with a heat wave or a power brownout.

Project Runway has been running, every week except for Thanksgiving, since then. That’s nine months of virtually non-stop Project Runway. The equivalent of a school year or a pregnancy of spending every Friday trying to figure out how to make sense of what’s going on, and when that failed, of trying to find something interesting to use as a focus, or just as an aside.

No wonder I’m burned out.

I didn’t always find something interesting; I phoned it in several times, particularly this season; I had a lot going on this winter/spring. If they aren’t going to take the competition seriously, why should I? No one’s forcing me to do this, and no one’s paying me, so I must be doing it because it’s fun. But it’s become less and less fun over the past several seasons as I have to look harder for the hook.

Thank you to Blogging Project Runway for providing a venue for those of us crazy enough to keep doing this over and over again, especially T-Bone, who is patient with my rants and has provided great information in his post comments. And to the other regulars who show up here and share what they think: guest2visits, MoHub, Kitty, Paul & Sarah Debraski. Whether we agree or disagree, you bring the fun even when the episode doesn’t. And thank you to my little audience, everyone who has read here over the past months, and for allowing me to be yours, you who have posted here.

I don’t know if I’ll blog Season 12; I’ll have to see how I feel when it comes around, and at what else I’m doing. Maybe it’ll be fun again by then.

For now, I’m glad it’s over.

Project Runway S11: Episode 13 – Finale, Part I

Given the real-life tragedy that unfolded this week (and the real-life drama, affecting people I know, that is still unfolding as I type this), Project Runway seems pretty far away and pretty trivial. But I’m sure it isn’t trivial to the four designers who see all those prizes (regardless of the strings attached) in their grasp. And I made a commitment.

You know what happens: Home visits. The awkward back-to-New-York reunion (no, I won’t revisit the “21-year-old” remark, and Daniel shouldn’t have, either) complete with close-up of the champagne bottle to compensate for its donation (if the company had chipped in a few bucks, someone would’ve mentioned what fine champagne it was, but seems they did the bargain product placement rate). Final touches to the collections with the help of the eliminated designers (including a pregnant Layana, which was a surprise). The parade of the mini-collections. One designer is eliminated.

Still want details? Ok.

Michelle:

Michelle comes home feeling alone and misunderstood. Oh, can it. I pronounced Michelle the Star of PR back in Episode 6, and that was before I even liked her clothes. Hers has been the classic Rising Arc with Late-Stage Crisis and Recovery; she’d have to do something truly nuts to get eliminated at this point.

Tim greets her in Portland and blows the myth of separation of workroom and judging out the window: “I was in there with Heidi saying, she has to stay” during Michelle’s Dark Period. I think any question about Michelle’s continued participation in the competition was purely for viewer consumption. During the traditional Family Feast she explains she was in “the line industry” (I think that’s what she said; later she said she did alterations, so is that the line industry?[Addendum: thanks to Kitty for setting me straight: the wine business]) for ten years, and only got her first dress form four years ago when her family pitched in for her Christmas present.

Her collection was raised by wolves. No, make that, inspired by wolves. The Lone Wolf, in fact, because wolves are misunderstood, they’re described as bloodthirsty but they’re really loving pack animals. And every West Wing fan – fourteen years after S1E5, “The Crackpots and These Women” first aired – jumped up and down yelling, “Pluie! Pluie!” Tim’s enchanted by her work-in-progress.

Zip forward to New York: On the runway, Michelle shows a coat with two saddlebags on the hips and a messenger in the back (wow, that’s a lotta stuff she’s carrying), a steampunk suit I like more than I want to (though I’m never, ever gonna wear a neoprene skirt, no matter what), and her wolf-running-in-circles sweater over pants with detachable chaps. Aside from the chaps and the too-many bags, I really like everything. Zac asks about techniques, probably just to get it out there how many she used: quilting, leather, detachable elements, and knitwear, with early eliminee, knitwear expert, and my personal crush this season, Joseph Aaron Segal, providing assistance in creating the sweater. Nina praises her use of resources. There’s a certain satisfaction in that, and a certain irony. Heidi wishes it had more color, but likes it. Zac credits her with creating a universe and making a riff on kooky proportions work. Everyone warns her not to call the side bags saddlebags since they sit on the hips. And, by the way, maybe three bags is overkill. Ya think? Nina’s happy, but warns her to edit it down, to get away from things being too tricky. And they hate the hair and makeup.

Patricia:

As she’s leaving New York for Taos to prepare her collection, she tells Michelle she’s not planning on making all her own textiles, since that wouldn’t make reproduction feasible. That’s a very reasonable plan, actually. Only problem is, Patricia hasn’t shown a whole lot of depth outside of doing interesting things with textiles.

Tim climbs the ladder up to her childhood home for lunch with her parents and sister. After, as he leads her away to visit her studio, Patricia’s mom starts to cry, and Tim becomes Tim again: “What’s going on here, I’m not taking you off to some awful place, this is a happy time.” Turns out, Mom’s just proud. Thing is – we’ve been hearing all along, and she says it again now, how her family is all singers and dancers and she makes their performance garments… but we see no singing, no dancing, no costumes. Not even pictures. Cool house, though.

The studio space, in contrast, is very modern. She’s making a cape with horsehair tassels, a dress inspired by trees, and is working on painting fabric about the face of youth. Tim offers some good advice about the fabric: when she takes literal themes to an abstract level, it works; when it’s as literal as the painted fabric, it becomes “crafty” and looks like student work. It’s nice artwork, though; not for high fashion, but it’d be cool for interior design of spaces intended for kids.

In New York, Tim worries about one of the pieces she’s picked for the mini-collection: a blue-and-white handpainted leather shirt. He thinks it looks lumberjacky, like a man’s shirt. I thought it was a man’s shirt. I thought it was kind of strange she included what amounts to a camp shirt in a collection like this, but I seldom understand what designers do; apparently I was right. He hates the fit of the shorts, too, and I’m with him there. So’s Patricia; she sends out a different look.

So what the judges see is the blue dress with micaceous sequins, easily my favorite piece; the horsehair tassled cape which just feels too studiedly-western to me; and an empire-waisted eagle feather dress that’s kind of meh to me.

We already know the judges don’t like human hair; how do they feel about horsehair? Heidi likes it; Nina doesn’t; Zac never specifies, he’s too enchanted by the Tina Turner Smurf on the first model’s head. Still, he’s worried about the excessive diversity of the collection. These judges are tough, man. Your looks can’t be too much alike, nor can they be too different. But he’s right; this fails the old “would the same woman wear these three looks” test. Nina wants everything restyled, especially the TTSmurf. But Zac points out it’s great to have too much, because you can always edit down. I’m not sure editing down is the point here. Patricia’s idea of cohesiveness lies in that all the silhouettes are “festive,” which seems pretty weak to me.

Daniel:

Daniel comes to the door to greet Tim and I missed the rest of the segment trying to figure out what the hell that was on his head. I’m confused. Is it a wig? Is it what happens when he doesn’t Brylcreem his hair down? Why is he tilting his head to look out from under the bangs instead of just cutting them or getting them the hell out of his face? I’m trying to think who he reminds me of, but I can’t place it. Addendum: Got it – Adam Sandler in Reign Over Me. Or Dylan. It’s easy to confuse the two. But neither is easily confused with Daniel, who just looks weird. Even Tim says he looks like a Chia Pet.

Ok, wait, focus. Project Runway. Fashion design. Daniel tells Tim his inspirations are Salvador Dali, the nebulas around planets, and Berlin.

First: I hate to be a nitpicker, and I’m not claiming to be an expert in astronomy, but I’m not sure “the things around planets” is the best way to describe a nebula. Second, how do those three things relate? This isn’t helped by the fact that a few hours before I just happened to watch an old episode of Chopped featuring a contestant being inspired by sea urchin to make “Salvador Dalí’s spring afternoon sea urchin feast.” But that at least made sense, since Dali was publicly fond of sea urchin (and I gave the chef credit for knowing such an arcane thing; the judges, however, were not as impressed, as they consider themselves to be the stars of the show and resented anyone showing a higher degree of cleverness than that which they themselves are capable). Wow, I’m digressing again, huh? It’s ok, Daniel, like CNN, is irrelevant at this point. He would’ve been much better off to have been cut last week.

So back to nebulae, Salvador Dali, and Berlin. Tim doesn’t get it, either. Daniel (who, when he isn’t wearing a chia pet wig, does bear something of a resemblance to the artist, though it’s probably just the mustache) explains how he molded the collar of the leather jacket in the heat of the sun with his bare hands, which sounds pretty cool; is that how it’s done? Tim brings out the monkey house story again, the one he used to (unsuccessfully) dissuade Chris March from using human hair.

In New York, Daniel says “sting ray” four hundred and seventy eight times. So that’s why this episode is two hours long. I never realized you could make clothes out of sting ray. Or that you’d want to, for any reason other than saying, “Hey, I made this out of sting ray.”

His mini-collection is entirely black, which is never a good sign. He presents ill-fitting cropped pants with a jacket that reminds me of a cross between the first jacket he made in E1 and Daniel Franco’s losing attempt at lingerie; a sweater I like a lot, but paired with ordinary pants, it’s not that impressive; and a black gown whose sole feature of interest is a strip of sting ray running down the back. They rake him over the coals. Zac informs us all of the difficulty of sewing with sting ray (aha, so it is something people actually use… which still doesn’t tell me why, other than… but I already said this). Still, it isn’t sophisticated. Nina doesn’t see shape or drama needed to pull off all-black. Heidi’s overwhelmed; “And I like you!” Yeah, when someone who likes you is underwhelmed, you’re in trouble.

Stanley

His inspiration is renaissance Spain. Tim labels the issue of the cape covering the fabulous dress as “a high class problem.” The orange dress, however, is more of a regular problem problem. But overall, he pronounces it opulent, which worries me. PR is more about – say it with Heidi – young and hip. He tells Stanley he’s the one the other designers are worried about; that seems to surprise Stanley, who thought he was “the quiet horse.”

For whatever reason, Stanley shows up in New York with pattern pieces instead of completed garments for some of his looks. I didn’t get if this was his plan, or if he started in a new direction and didn’t have time to finish. It’s a strange approach; there’s always finishing and fitting to be done, but usually they start with basically completed garments. Tim advises him to show more skin, because his collection is looking “mature,” the most hated word in the fashion industry. Stanley doesn’t know what he’s talking about: it’s fall, who shows skin in fall? That sounds like an incredibly naïve comment for a designer with his experience to make. That’s the sort of thing I’d say.

His runway pieces include a jacket and blouse (I’d wear those; that’s a bad sign) over pants, a horrible garish-yet-frumpy gold dress, and a jacket I love over a skirt set that’s my favorite thing on the runway – but together they cancel each other out. Heidi has the same problem she had with Daniel: not enough ideas, no wow. Zac calls it “chic banal;” the proportions are dated. Nina sees some special pieces, but wants more sexiness. That’s Nina who wants more sexiness, not Heidi, who thinks short and tight are right up there with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

So Who Goes to Fashion Week?

Trick question! They all go to Fashion Week, as well as all the assistants. The real question is: who are the actual three finalists?

Michelle, Patricia, and Stanley. So I was off by one; I thought Layana would be there, not Patricia. I still don’t get why Patricia’s there, but I gave up caring about things like that quite some time ago.

Bye, Daniel. I’ll always think of you whenever I see Salvador Dali by the light of a nebula in Berlin.

Next Week:

I will be very grateful for a long, well-deserved rest from all things PR.

Project Runway SII: Episode 12 – Europe, Here We Come

Tim is here to make things perfectly clear: No one is going home.

Ever? Will they spend eternity in the bowels of Parsons?

No. They’re going to Europe (except for Michelle) for one day to get inspiration and $1000 worth of fabric. And for some reason, the assistants – the eliminated designers – will be going with them. I can see the thought bubble over Patricia’s head: “How can I arrange for Richard to miss the plane?” But even Heidi has some mercy: they switch up the assistants.

It’s a low-drama episode, full of oohing and aahing over torn paper and pleather. Hey, don’t ask me, I’m not a designer.

Michelle:

As T-Bone predicted in last week’s comments, she’s being punished for defying Nina’s instructions yet still making the best-looking outfit on the runway last week (right up there with Don’t Bore Nina should be, Don’t Make Nina Look Like a Fool) so she stays behind in NYC with only Tu to keep her company. She’s pretty weepy about that, and the pity party gets old pretty fast. It’s raining when she heads out for inspiration and fabric, which cleanses negative feelings and washes her wounds. Her words, not mine; I couldn’t write that with a straight face. Some half-demolished New York buildings have soot on the exposed chimney walls, and that’s her inspiration. Rain. Soot. Anybody got any Paxil? She loves having a whole $1000 to spend, so she gets cashmere and diarrhea-brown leather (again, her words), because, well, who wouldn’t.

The globe trotters return, and Michelle sulks. They all had a wonderful experience and bonded without her! Michelle, you do understand they were in separate cities, and the only bonding was on the ride to and from the airport? She still Does Not Want To Be Touched. I actually am sympathetic about that; I don’t like to be touched by people I’m not close to, though I would imagine by now she’s become fairly close to these folks, at least the ones she slept in the same room with. Maybe she needs to go stand in the rain and wash her wounds a little more.

She’s making a tailored grey wool cashmere dress with a leather bib. She describes it thusly: “A reversible quilted leather breastplate.” “Armor.” “Avant turd laminated chest plate.” “Bondage and lobster eating gear.” This cheers her up. I’m fascinated by her coprological obsession. Then, because it’s not quite shitty enough, she ombre’s the hem with fabric paint, to capture the chimney soot. “Soot it up,” Tim encourages her. Here’s the problem: it’s pretty amazing; the leatherwork is astonishing (though I don’t care for the bondage straps in the back). The soot, well, you need to know it’s an artistic statement – remember that – and not just the hem of the skirt getting dragged through the mud, but it’s very apocalyptic, and it fits her portrayal of the Wounded Warrior. Nina loves it; it’s a comeback, she captured the city. John loves how the cashmere walked and the unexpected combination with the shine of the leather, which is pretty sophisticated fashion analysis for a musician; does he have a line of his own? Zac sees New York. Heidi sees a dirty horse blanket. Heidi’s going to lose this one; once again, Michelle has the most interesting thing on the runway.

Stanley:

He and Richard do London. Stanley’s perfected the art of not paying any attention to someone without being rude. So have I, it seems, since I didn’t take a single note about Richard nor do I remember anything about him in this episode. Stanley’s fascinated by Big Ben; the windows are darker towards the top, so what would a woman be wearing up there: something ghostly, haunting; something dark and lean. He always wanted to be a vampire when he was a kid, and he’s made a lot of cheery clothes this season so it’s time for the Dark Side. I’ve never understood the fascination with Big Ben – hey, it’s a clock tower, if a very old clock tower – but I like his story. Even if it does have a whiff of “here’s what I want to make now I have to figure out a story to fit the challenge.”

He finds some fabric I don’t quite understand; apparently it’s got shiny leather pailletes, and apparently it’s horrendously expensive after pounds are converted to dollars. He gets it anyway, to use – are you ready – as a lining. He can only afford a tiny amount, so he won’t even cut it until after model fitting. But he’s happy; it’s the perfect fabric. His dress is definitely lean and dark; from the front it’s all about the capelet, from the back it’s all about the skirt. It’s very classy. But why the exposed zipper? Nina loves the drama and luxury. “Bravo,” says Zac, opening old wounds; he likes the Sherlock Holmes reference of the cape (funny, I got Florence Nightingale), the surprise in back, and the essence of London. Heidi likes the simple but strong silhouette, but mostly she’s happy to see Stanley smiling.

Daniel:

Daniel gets sent to that world capital of fashion, Berlin. Someone hates Daniel (Addendum: I take that back: in his Introductory Interview, he listed Germany as the place he’d most like to design). Amanda goes with him to give him a younger vibe. He cries a lot. He cries because he’s happy. He cries because he’s sad. He cries because the camera’s on and he wants more screen time. Every time he cries, I think he’s faking it. He may be the most sincere person on earth, but he sure cries phony. And a lot. He visits Checkpoint Charlie. Who’s arranging these tours, anyway? He finds a building he likes, Bürohaus Henriette–Herz-Platz 3. Kind of interesting: Henriette Herz started a famous Berlin Salon for Jewish intellectuals in the late 18th century, moving to Italy after Napoleon barged in. Now there’s a building in Berlin named after her. Take that, Nazis. And good choice, Daniel. He likes it because it looks like a UFO: “The mother ship has landed.” Ok, whatever.

He also finds the crappiest fabric store in Europe. No silk. No leather. It looks like a low-budget Joanne’s. He wants to surprise the judges by making, of all things, a jacket. He wants to make a skirt, but Amanda convinces him that younger women wear jackets over dresses, not skirts (do they really?), so he goes with a bias dress instead with a lot of movement at the bottom. Since he can’t get leather, he gets “vinyl that looks like leather.” Pleather, by any other name. White pleather. Sigh. Does PR have some kind of agreement with this fabric store, and he can’t go to a different one? That’s just mean. Then he makes black upper-thigh-high boots. I’d groan, but they turn out to look like leggings, so who cares.

It’s not bad, at least from a distance. I’m not crazy about the fit of the jacket – it looks too tight at the torso and too big across the shoulders in the back – but it has a certain Stormtrooper appeal, and the skirt twirls beautifully. Nina gets the edgy Berlin underground look; Zac’s amused by pleather and the weird futuristic effect. Zac has this way of being non-committal while sounding positive, so no one can use this against him later. Heidi does her “it’s young, hip” thing, and sees Berlin, and I guess that means a lot coming from Heidi. John’s the only holdout: he sees Berlin but doesn’t like the pleather. You go, John! The look fits comfortably in third place, to be sure, but it’s not the smashing success the other judges imply.

Layana:

Layana’s perfectly happy going to Spain with Samantha. She loves the tiles and architecture. Is someone telling them to use architecture as inspiration, or are they all coming up with that on their own? Because no one’s noticing people, or clothing, or trees or flowers or water, just buildings. She finds lace over leather that’ll mimic the tile patterns. But it seems they aren’t big on service in this store, and she has to cut the fabric herself, poor baby. Still, she gives Samantha props for her sewing assistance, so I guess I’ll have to stop complaining about Layana. She’s getting a much kinder edit this episode.

Her look doesn’t get a kinder edit, though we all know by know the judges decide what they want the result to be and adjust their comments accordingly. Zac credits her with smart fabric choices but calls the sleeves a “big eyesore.” I can’t disagree with him, though I’d be a lot harsher about the shape of the coat. And the coat is about it; the pants and top are throw-away except for those draggy cuffs which Nina hates too. Heidi finds no sex appeal at all. “Not that everything has to be hot and sexy…” except it does…”but you want to look hip and young, not older.” You do, do you. They decide Layana herself looks great, but the model looks like her mom. No one sees Spain. They’re not wrong about that.

Patricia:

Patricia’s so happy to be Richard-free, I don’t think she cares who she’s paired with or where she goes. Paris is just the icing on the cake. Kate gets very excited about torn paper. Then Patricia gets excited about torn paper. It’s kind of decoupage graffiti, and seems they don’t have that out in the desert. She’s intrigued by the layers of history in those papers pasted to the wall. She’s in Paris, and she’s excited about the history in post-it notes? She’s not doing the romantic, whimsical Paris, she’s doing the gritty street Paris. “I don’t give you a native woman on a buffalo with wind blowing in her hair, why would I give a romantic Parisian?” Post-its it is. I shouldn’t be so snide, I’m a fan of street art, and what better place for it than Paris.

She’s thinking of layering history in a fitted jacket. She ends up with dozens of different fabrics and needs to put 247 Euros of it back, leading to a three-way wrestling match as the fabric lady and Kate each pick their discard choices while Patricia just wails, “I NEED THAT.” Eventually the fabric lady convinces her if she puts back one piece of black fabric, she’ll be all set, they hug, and Franco-American harmony is restored. It’s a funny segment. Cut to Patricia and Kate having what in any movie would be a romantic moment in the sunset, but here on PR, it’s just filler.

She tries to explain the installation graffiti to Tim, and he’s pretty impressed by her fabric technique. He’s not so impressed with the look as a whole; the dress doesn’t fit with the jacket. He suggests she start calling the jacket a top. I’m not sure how that solves the problem, but she seems to think it does.

And we end up with another Patricia outfit which means it looks like draft of something that could be terrific but is actually pretty messy. I like the jacket, except for the finishing details like the hem. I like the neck scarf, though I suspect that’s only there to cover up an unfinished neckline. The pants are throwaway, but they fit. Zac calls it “trash couture” which is pretty good. He appreciates the textile development and sees the decoupage reference, but it went wrong. I don’t think it went wrong, I think it didn’t get where it was going. Nina’s underwhelmed. John’s at his modest best: he wasn’t sure he was hip enough to get it, so he’s relieved no one else likes it. Heidi seems to like it more than the others, but she’s been on Patricia’s side all along.

Chat turns into a fascinating discussion about Fashion and Art. As in, Nina: “Fashion isn’t art. Stores are not museums.” Somewhere, Alexander McQueen laughs. Fashion doesn’t have to be art, it often isn’t art, but it can be art. And that right there is what’s wrong with Project Runway: it’s now the land of the Least Common Denominator, what will sell at Lord & Taylor. And by the way, can I remind you how excited everyone was about Michelle’s artistic use of soot (see, I told you to remember it for a reason) so they’re not even being consistent. Fact is, Patricia’s art is usually unfinished week after week, and that’s where her problem lies on this show. That said, I still fully expected Patricia to be auf’d, particularly given Nina’s pronouncement that Layana is the most commercial of the remaining designers.

The inquisition:

And now the questions everyone loves to hear: why should you go to Fashion Week, and which two designers should go with you? Few people bother to answer the first question properly; they turn it into how hard they worked rather than what they have to offer. But the second question always yields interesting results.

Stanley: “I’ve evolved.” He likes Daniel’s evolution, too, and likes Michelle’s stuff and her conviction.

Patricia: She’d bring a different look. She’d bring Michelle and Stanley since she likes their silhouettes.

Layana: She knows who she is. She picks Michelle, and she’s interested in what Patricia does but would pick Stanley instead because he’s the stronger designer, which is known as trying to have your cake and eat it, too.

Daniel would bring Stanley and Michelle for her forward POV.

Michelle thinks the world is ready for her take on lean modern sportswear with a dirty edge. And she wants to bring Stanley and Layana.

No surprise, Michelle and Stanley lead the voting in a tie.

Final Auf (except for the one next week but that’s part of the finale so it doesn’t count in PR terms):

Michelle, Stanley, and Daniel are all quickly pronounced safe. They were the top three this week. This leaves Patricia and Layana.

In a surprise that I didn’t see coming, Layana‘s out.

That means Patricia has time, lack of which has been her greatest enemy, to create her collection for the final auf. Do you think they could do it? Make Patricia the winner? I can’t remember another PR winner who was so consistently problematic. In the judges’ eyes, that is. I had problems with several of them.

Next Week:

Home visits. And Nina’s underwhelmed again. It’s tough being Nina, so underwhelmable.

Project Runway S11: Episode 11, Finally On My Own

No more teams: There is joy in the land.

Except wait: it’s the Teams Edition of Project Runway. So there must be teams. There will be teams: the designers will have helpers, making communication and management part of the deal. You know by now, right, you can ignore the criteria set out for any given challenge? That they’ll re-configure the criteria before judging into, “What Nina Wants”? But laying out the unimportant criteria gives Heidi something to do at the beginning of the episode.

The Challenge:

Soon the designers ascend the giant elevator in the Hearst Building (ooooh, just like The Devil Wears Prada except not) and Nina herself sets out the real criteria:

1. Fashion forward
2. Editorial
3. May issue of Marie Claire
4. for Jordana Brewster to wear
5. Not a gown or a Red Carpet look
6. Not t-shirt and pants
7. Bold color
8. Bold shape
9. Bold print
10. Bold Silhouette
11. What’s next, not what’s now
12. Do not disappoint Nina
13. Do not embarrass Nina

Ok, I didn’t number them the way the PR chyron-makers did, but that’s the general idea. One day, $250. Zac is back, and Jordana Brewster herself (whoever she is… she’s yet another in a string of actresses from movies and tv shows I’ve never heard of that PR seems to be able to wheedle onto the judging panel) is guest judge.

Now about those assistants…

Show of hands: who here immediately assumed they would be from an eighth-grade home-ec class? I even wondered if PR had possibly deteriorated to the point where they’d mine a local School for the Blind, but apparently even Heidi (or someone) has limits (or they couldn’t find such a School that would sell out its students). Come on, the possibilities are endless: Prisoners. Politicians. Political Prisoners. Politicians who are now prisoners. But no, it’s just the eliminated designers, which means they can wring one more round of drama out of those who have already been told they’re Not Good Enough.

Back when PR (and Top Chef) were in their infancy, I couldn’t understand how eliminated contestants could not put forth full effort (looking at you, Stephen Asperino and Dave Martin) when called upon to assist those still competing. Don’t they have any pride in their work, any self-respect? I’m over that now. Maybe because I’ve decided most people who go on reality shows, especially the Lifetime version of Project Runway, have no self-respect and are there for fame, not to demonstrate their abilities to potential clients/employers or even to win. Still, I sometimes wonder: what if I were approached to appear on Project American Blogger Star? No, I don’t wonder: I know. I’d laugh and mark as spam. I’m not gonna be anybody’s cannon fodder, nobody’s drama bait. At this point, with Heidi pitching for contestants during each episode, designers who have actual talent and serious plans should to find other ways to promote themselves. Fame whores only need apply.

Round robin of interviews: Michelle doesn’t want to get Richard. Layana hopes she doesn’t end up with Richard. Daniel doesn’t want to work with Richard. Patricia… guess what… hopes Richard is inflicted on anyone but her. Richard is clearly the Devil. The one who doesn’t wear Prada.

Because he won the last challenge, Stanley gets first pick (like it matters; the way Tim roots around in that bag, you can practically see his fingers feeling for the roughened edge of Patricia’s button and the little bit of stickum on Michelle’s. Another side effect of too much Reality TV: rampant paranoia).

Stanley picks Tu, which is something of a surprise. But he thinks Tu will be great at constructing the jacket he’s planning.
Michelle grabs Amanda so they can re-live their prom success.
Daniel takes Samantha.
Layana ends up with Kate, because the alternative is Richard.
And Patricia… Tim: “Déjà vu.” Patricia would pray, but she doesn’t know how to pray any more. See? Richard is the Devil, Evil Incarnate let loose in the world. (see “rampant paranoia,” above).

The Work:

Stanley plans three pieces, including voluminous high-waisted pants for a magnified silhouette under a tight jacket. He drives Tu crazy. Everything must be neat and organized; every stitch must be perfect. He admits he’s OCD. He’s also pretty belittling to someone he picked when he had the whole palette to choose from, someone who has really nothing to gain from this. Tu’s ready to stab him with pinking shears by the end of the day. On the runway, Heidi asks if they bossed their assistants around (remember the good old days when you believed they didn’t know what was going on in the workroom?) and Stanley ‘fesses up. But boy, do they get it done. When the model pulls the pockets out to the side, forming a perfect rectangle, I actually said, “Oh, wow,” out loud. Ok, it’s not as “something they’ve never seen before” as Stanley thinks, but it’s really, really good. Nina’s smitten: it’s smart to create three pieces since it gives them options for the photo. I think she says “fabulous” three times. Maybe only twice. Heidi credits him with good management for whipping Tu into producing the jacket. Zac and Jordana are likewise enchanted. As am I. My only concern: is a leather jacket Spring? It is in Maine, but in New York? Hah, leave it to me to worry about such mundane things as comfort.

Layana is inspired by the architecture of the Hearst building. She also goes for leather; seems leather is her thing, and judging from the final collections I’ve seen, it’s a leather kind of year. She cuts cobalt blue leather into triangles and attaches them with chain links, draping it over a nude lining and using a frothy sheer swirl for the skirt. She hurts her fingers bending the chain links, the poor darling, reminding me of Elena in S10E2 having a meltdown over hot glue on her finger. Not to mention Jillian, long ago, weeping over her licorice sticks and claiming a needle went through her finger. Ah, it’s the “I was wounded in the line of fashion” trope. Tim’s impressed with the appearance of armor. I liked it in the workroom; I was less impressed with it on the runway, and in the photo it’s a downright mess. I love the idea, but somehow the contrasting color of the metal rings looks sloppy, the leather looks unfinished, and overall it looks like the model is bursting at the seams. What’s impressive is how well it matches her inspiration of the architecture. The judges are impressed, but I’ve long since given up taking what the judges say seriously. It’s a good draft, and given more work, it could be impressive. But it’s not ready for magazines.

Daniel hears “fashion forward” and thinks Star Trek. Then he hears “spring” and thinks “peeps.” And again, I swear to you, I wrote this (and selected the header pic) before I read TLo. It’s a jacket with Peeps shoulders and shorts. In yellow. Tim: “the whole look is yellow?” Oh yes, it is. “How will it keep its shape?” Daniel is so proud of the interfacing he’s created for shoulders that can be molded, just like peeps heads. He demonstrates this mutability on the runway; I don’t really see it. Looks like the change is minimal, no more than you’d get when squooshing any pile of fabric. Heidi, who’s been too long at Victoria’s Secret, sees wings. Zac’s not sure about the closure, which I hadn’t noticed until he pointed it out; yeah, it’s very sloppy. While Daniel thinks the sheen of the linen is a plus, I think it looks like it’s been ironed at too high a temperature. Nina thinks it’s good, if a little FTD (which cracked me up; Nina gets the prize for best line of the night, and I’m betting that was truly ad lib’d); it’s the sort of thing that would be on a rack for a celebrity model. On the rack, sure. On the model, not so much. They seem to be falling all over themselves looking for ways to say, “This is horrible” without saying “This is horrible” since it isn’t Daniel’s week to be horrible. But I’ll tell you this: I am cravin’ me some Peeps right now. Even though they’re the most horrible tasting food-like product ever manufactured, I want Peeps.

Michelle plans “bitchin’ giant pleated linen pants and a weird t-shirt.” “Wait,” I said, “didn’t Nina specifically say not to make a t-shirt and pants?” I actually said that. Out loud. Yes, I talk to myself. Another side-effect of Reality TV. But Michelle has just begun: “A see-thru knit tank that opens when you walk.” That sounds similar to what Daniel was proposing last week, the idea that Layana thought was so out-of-touch. By the time Tim gets around to her, it’s a matador pant with a black bra. Tim: “Don’t you care tremendously about that bra?” Of course she does. Except no, she’d rather not have a bra, but she can’t have the “lady bits” exposed, that would upset the censors; we’re not in France, after all. Tim: “There’s a far cry from nothing to a black bra.” Further evidence of Tim’s decline: the man whose control of the English language has in the past made me swoon is mixing his metaphors. Michelle has some kind of epiphany in the restroom (which is a great place for an epiphany), but I don’t quite catch exactly what it is. Maybe it’s along the lines of “Is it enough.” And I again say, out loud, “No, it’s a t-shirt and pants, and Nina said not just a t-shirt and pants.” But Michelle doesn’t hear me. I’m a voice crying in the wilderness here. But y’know what: I love her look. The pants have that same relaxed sexiness that Kara Saun first surprised me with in the Postal Worker challenge: they could be a mess, but they’re great, which shows how little it takes go to from great to a mess. I love the shirt, though I wish the back matched up better at the waist. The nail in her coffin is her capsule description on the runway: a take-off on muscle tee and pegged pant. Heidi’s shocked… (I bet the writer/director/editor spent all day working on this suspenseful pause) at how good her sewing skills are. But is it enough for editorial? Nina says it’s impeccable but not strong enough, and reminds Michelle of the brief (with a refresher rewind for those of us playing at home). Jordana would wear it all day, but it’s not editorial. Zac sums it up really well: it’s the look you want in your wardrobe, but it’s not what you want to see in a publication. Which may be why I don’t understand fashion magazines. Aren’t you supposed to want the clothes? Nina explains it to me: the magazine is part fantasy and part reality, to make a woman think, wow, I’ve never seen that before. And since the American reader has the memory of a mayfly, “haven’t seen before” can mean “this week” or “this year” or maybe even “this decade” since it’s only 2013. Ok, got it. Thanks, Nina, for explaining the mindset of the fashion magazine reader. I wear clothes (when I need to), but when I want something I’ve never seen before, I go here. Or here. Or even here.

Patricia is thinking two pieces, off-the-shoulder, organics, bulbous shapes like flowers about to bloom (for some reason that sounds outrageously pornographic to me; I’ve never thought of “bulbous” as particularly obscene, but from now on, it is), and a collar across the shoulders which I suspect is another version of the disaster from E6, the Senior Citizen look. Then she finds out she’s got Richard “helping” her, and everything goes to hell in a handbasket. Except, Patricia never executes what she sets out to execute, or at least what it sounds like she’s saying she’s setting out to execute, so I’m not that surprised. She’s unable to communicate her ideas and needs to Richard, she’s also unable to send him away so she can work in peace, so she spends 40 minutes teaching him a French seam she could do in 15 (and for the record, I haven’t sewn anything in 20 years, and I might be able to fake a French seam. I learned how watching Project Runway. Maybe Richard should watch back episodes of the show). Tim: “This is an opportunity to heal and repair, since it didn’t go so well last time.” Yes, I’m sure that’s why you felt for that scraped button with Patricia’s name on it, so we could all watch the healing. Tim: “Why are you introducing blue?” She doesn’t have another opaque color, except suddenly she does. She perks up a little. Tim: “You feel better, you look better.” She sounds better. Unfortunately, the outcome is not better. There’s nothing particularly innovative in slicing up leather into fringe; most seven-year-olds have done something like that (albeit with felt or construction paper) to make an Indian Halloween costume. I can’t even tell what the dress is: it seems like a sheer poncho over neutral. She tries to defend it by talking up the dancing fringe, but it’s nonsense. Again, the judges struggle to say “this is crap” without saying, “this is crap,” which again puzzles me, because – and I support Patricia’s oddness – this is crap. I’ve liked having her around this far, because she’s come up with some interesting things even if they often were a bit stillborn, but this is crap. I’ve liked how she sometimes uses Native American ideas but turns them into something barely recognizable, but sometimes, like this time, she just produces crap. This is what I might make if someone told me (who knows little about Indian motifs and nothing about textiles or sewing) to make an Indian dress. Nina sees to think the problem is that the tent-like shape wouldn’t be flattering to Jordana. Zac sees spring texture but not enough movement and it’s “not a totally finished look.” Heidi isn’t sure: does she like it, or is it borderline Pocahontas? Oh, Heidi, give it up, it’s not even a close call. Why are they trying to maintain the suspense?

Here’s why:

Stanley’s the winner, of course. I still think Michelle was a challenger for the win, and it wouldn’t have been the first time they changed their minds or said, “You made a t-shirt and pants that’s more than a t-shirt and pants.” Because it truly is. But that’s not how they’re playing it this time. That’s fine; Stanley deserves the win. It’s a great outfit, and far more complicated than Michelle’s.

But now we find out what they’re up to. It comes down to Patricia, and … Michelle.

What? Patricia and Michelle? Not Patricia vs Peeps? I could tell it wouldn’t be Patricia vs. Armor-All from the (imo undeserved) praise they heaped on Layana, but… Michelle? I guess they did this so they could auf Patricia without guilt; obviously they’re not going to cut Michelle, who’s won so many challenges and has really shown herself to have more of an artistic sense than she initially showed, in favor of Patricia, who’s mopped up the bottom over and over again.

Except… Patricia’s in.

As much as I hate the manipulation that’s going on here (and it’s only just begun), and as much as I hate myself for promoting that manipulation, the reaction of the designers in the Lounge was worth watching this entire miserable season for. Layana has Patricia dead and buried since no one with a grain of sense can comprehend the possibility that the judges would keep Patricia over Michelle. The girls, in their overnights, have had this “boys vs. girls” riff going, but let’s face it, they know the score. And even if it weren’t Patricia’s turn to go just by looking at her portfolio, she turned in crap. Layana’s priming her tear pumps and working up an aura of sympathy towards Patricia. “She’s so good at textiles, if I had a company, I would use Patricia for sure.”

Then Patricia walks through the door, and says, “I’m in.”

You can hear the screeching, smell the burning rubber, see the skid marks in Layana’s face. “Oh my god… I mean, I’m happy for you, but oh my god.” Daniel’s trying to work out his own shock. “What? We were just going on how…” How what, Daniel, how it’s such a shame she’s out when she’s so creative and talented? …”how much you inspired us.” Quick thinking there.

To be honest, I felt the same way. I had some warm, “Hey, you had a great run” feeling for Patricia, and it never occurred to me she’d survive this auf. So I did my own little spit take. Even though I know what PR is capable of, it never occurred to me they were capable of cutting off their nose – and both ears, a right arm, and both feet – for the sake of a ten-minute Twitter trend.

Turns out, they’re not: Michelle isn’t out. She gets another chance.

No, we don’t know exactly what that means (oh, that suspense, can’t you just feel it), but I’m guessing it’s something along the lines of two people will be cut next week, and unless Michelle wins, she’ll be one of them. It’s the “both of you will design collections for Fashion Week and show us previews, but only one will be in” moved one week early. Michelle, Stanley, and Layana are still going to be the Top Three. All this nonsense is smoke and mirrors (and by the way, I have to applaud Michelle for the lack of jaw-drop and eye-roll when Patricia was announced in; she was a little brittle backstage, but still held her composure and didn’t bitch or whine); this was a planned maneuver.

And how am I so sure of this?

Because Next Week: they send them all to different countries. And you just don’t cobble something like that together for an extra person on a day’s notice. That is, if they’re actually sending them to real countries and not some Vegas imitation of other countries.

We’ll all Watch What Happens. For sure.

Project Runway S11: Episode 10, The Art of Fashion

Ah, the Guggenheim. An icon of modern art. What better place for a set of talented, eager designers to find inspiration to create works of wearable art to rival the Cezannes, the Gaugins, the Degas.

Or, they could just complain about each other for an hour and a half. Heidi’ll find a way to rake in product placement fees, either way.

The judges create the teams again, and finally – FINALLY – decide to match the six remaining designers in pairs according to approximate standing: Michelle and Stanley, the stars. Layana and Daniel, who can produce good stuff but are inconsistent. And Patricia and Richard, the left-handed red-haired stepchildren. Funny thing is, Michelle used to hate Patricia, but since Richard hoarded the gold tape in the prom challenge (and perhaps since Patricia became her roomie), she’s changed allegiances. Richard’s now the Bad Guy. Remember the girls putting the boys on their list at the beginning of last week? Funny how we just so happened to end up with boy-girl pairs now.

The Challenge:

Each team must create one grand, over-the-top wearable art look (I guess they’ve given up on anyone understanding what “avant-garde” actually means) and one ready-to-wear companion piece. Oh, and because this season isn’t enough of a mess, let’s throw the design-your-own-textile thing in here, too, and incorporate that fabric into both pieces. Tim: “You have all this material to help you with your wearable art”: Elmer’s glue. Bubble wrap. Oh. You want that kind of wearable art. So a little Unconventional Material challenge as well. There’s also a trip to Mood. I give up; I think we’re getting a glimpse into Heidi’s mind, and it’s pretty jumbled in there.

The winner gets $10,000 and a computer (which CNET describes as “slower performance at a high price. You’re paying for style,” making it the perfect PR computer). Rachel Roy again fills in for Zac. Guest judge is Tracy Reese, to prove that even though a black woman can’t win Project Runway, if she makes it anyway, she can appear as a guest judge. Yes, I’m still bitter. Even though I suspect I know which decoy collection was Samantha’s, and it’s nowhere near my favorite.

Stanley and Michelle:

From the moment Tim paired them, I knew they’d be the winning team. Or, maybe I should say, I hoped, because if they’d found a way to cut one of them, I might have run amok. They’re both happy with the pairing, probably recognizing each other as the best option. “We’re both in the same head space,” chirps Michelle. They’ll both work on the art piece, she’ll design the fabric, and he’ll do the ready-to-wear.

Michelle creates a fabric of her face. I swear, it reminds me of Munch’s The Scream. To be honest, I have very poor facial recognition skills, so it might be obvious to everyone it’s not her face, making it considerably less narcissistic. But it’s a face, and it’s creeping me out. Yes, Seth Aaron did a face on his fabric, and it worked great, but it was much less recognizable as a face. And it was clearly not his face. Michelle says her kitchen is painted the same color as her face. Maybe she means the camouflage background, which she finally got to use. She draws The Scream on fabric, she makes kilt vests and rain vests, I can imagine Michelle painting her kitchen in camouflage.

For the Wearable Art portion of our program, Michelle makes a coat-thing out of olive drab waterproof canvas; the faces only make a brief appearance around the shoulders. She draws more on the train of the coat. She’s taking this Wearable Art thing seriously, isn’t she. Tim gets chills looking at it. Stanley gets inspired by bubble wrap and makes a petticoat for the coat thing. There’s some concern when it takes longer than expected for the paint to dry, but it’s all good. Stanley: “A museum piece should not fit in a cab; by that criteria we nailed it.” Michelle makes a spiral headpiece that evokes the Guggenheim (and if it had been better-sewn, might’ve worked), but overall, this look screams Pregnant Post-Apocalyptic Wedding Gown. Still, it has its appeal, in a vaguely steampunk way.

For ready-to-wear, Stanley makes a Pregnant Bridesmaid’s Dress out of Michelle’s fabric. He refuses to use the hat she’s made: “She made this hat with faces coming out of it. We have faces all over the dress, why do we need faces coming out of the hat?” I think I just fell in love with Stanley. Where have they been keeping him all this time? He’s got some of the best lines in PR history this episode. Michelle wears the hat to Runway. And she wears a pin with the little face in all her interviews as well. I’m betting she wore the hat, too, but it screwed up the lighting so they made her take it off.

They’re the Winning Team, Michelle with her “Dark woman on the brink of insanity” and Stanley’s dual inspiration of sculpture and bubble wrap. Perfection. Out of control fun. Yin and Yang. Shape. Inspiring. Editorial. Taste. Yeah, they all love both looks. Heidi asks who should win, and Michelle suggests each of them say the other, which surprises me since I figured she was in charge here. They explain the division of labor: he did the dress and bubble wrap, she did the print, the painting, and the coat.

To my surprise, Stanley wins. No comment from Michelle. Wanna bet we get an earful next week? I wouldn’t blame her; the showpiece dress was pretty much hers, and the fabric was all hers. But Nina liked Stanley’s dress better, and that’s what counts.

Layana and Daniel:

I’m not sure how much they’re paying Layana to play the conniving, devious whiner, but whatever it is, they should pay her more, because she plays it to the hilt. I can’t wait to hear her complain about her edit when this is over; somehow, I can’t believe anyone can really be this evil and still live. Right off the bat, she’s disturbed that she now has to carry Daniel, who, by the way, won the first challenge, and when he and Layana were in the running for the second win, graciously indicated she should have it since he had immunity – ok, the comment made no sense, but it was a nice move. And now she’s out to destroy him. They both want to do the art piece, of course; doesn’t everyone? Daniel lets her take it, then she complains that he’s doing the companion piece, following which she decides she’s nervous because it’s all on her shoulders. She won’t give him any of the fabric she’s designed, though it was made clear both looks have to use it. And in the end, when his look gets a better reception than hers, she cries because he didn’t give her enough credit. Forget Jeffrey, forget Gretchen and Ivy; they were amateurs. This, this is how assholery is done.

Which makes it doubly delicious when she’s the one who can’t produce. Her first attempt dies a painful death for reasons unknown. Her second brings her to tears because the fabric doesn’t look ironed. Daniel leads her some distance away and shows her it looks fine; she sees it’s true, the tears stop, she gets back on track, just in time to start complaining she’s all alone. Damn, girl is good. A lotta stuff thrown at tv screens last night. They should start giving Best Actor awards for reality shows.

On the runway, her look doesn’t work; it’s like she made the dress, then threw some netting over it and glued on some napkin rings. I like the overall idea of the print covered by something sheer and diagonal, and I love the headpiece, but it’s off.

Daniel, finally able to wrest one yard of the fabric he’s required to use away from the clutches of Layana, makes a bubble skirt and sleek, narrow-lapel blazer. Both pieces are pretty nice, but think the contrast between them is too extreme; they don’t seem to work together.

The judges, however, are ecstatic about Daniel’s look. I suspect a lot of that ecstasy is more tied to knowing the viewers at this point have been given a view of Layana that makes them all want to flush her head in the Port Authority men’s room toilet for a few hours, rather than the aesthetic merits of the clothing. Heidi pronounces the jacket “hot,” Nina credits Layana with providing a good influence and Daniel’s head doesn’t explode. Layana, on the other hand, not so much. Struggled. Hodgepodge. Kitchen Sink. Period Piece. Yesteryear. Barbie. Barbie? I don’t think so. Anyway, they ask who should win, and Daniel says he thinks his look won. Layana argues, it was 50/50. Yes, it was, Layana was 50 for Layana, 50 for Layana. I think Daniel’s just so happy to not be in the bottom, he agrees with everything Layana says. She cries backstage anyway: “It’s not your garment, it’s our garment. I feel so betrayed.” Oh, can it, sweetie, nobody’s buying it. You did everything you could to leave Daniel out in the cold. It didn’t work.

Richard and Patricia:

Both of them recognize this is Patricia’s challenge, so Richard stands back and lets her work. That’s to his credit. However, standing back for a day and a half, making only a bracelet, is not to his credit. It seems he thinks he needs to see her look before he can make the ready-to-wear, since nothing Patricia says ever makes sense to anyone and it wouldn’t matter if it did since she usually ends up doing something else anyway. As in this case when she starts out with “a corrugated skirt” and ends up with Taliban chic (™Michael Costell0). I…actually like it quite a bit (ducks head in shame). It’s weird as hell, but there’s some strange appeal to it, similar to the appeal of Michelle’s coat. I hate the print of the lower skirt, the one Patricia designed based on an eagle feather – it’s too sharp – but the print she used for the top (the arm restraints), the print she seems to have painted on organza, is great. It’s kind of a statement. My first note was “hostage wear” but the patterns, particularly the top, are so free and joyous, it’s kind of interesting. Yeah, I’m serious. I actually like it.

Richard, on the other hand, makes bloomers. He’s got the restraint idea in the skirt, and it’s a good idea, but the proportions are completely off (the skirt falls too low on the hips for starters, the hem comes in then goes out just like, well, bloomers), and the top is much too sporty and doesn’t fit. Visually, it’s in a different universe from Patricia’s, even though I can see a shared idea. It’s clearly the failure of the night. But that was forecast when he looked blank when Patricia asked him what shape he was using, if he was doing something mod or a-line, like he’d never thought about clothing in that way. I think Richard realized early on he was in over his head, and he’s been struggling to not show it. But now he’s just given up.

It’s really interesting that Tim turns into a shit-stirrer this episode. Remember when they took our sweet Mondo from S8 and turned him into a cranky old man in AS1? They’re doing that to Tim now. He wonders if Richard’s using a strategy of blaming it all on Patricia, since everything is her idea. Richard is shocked, I tell you, shocked to his foundation. So is Patricia. So was I, not at the thought of someone being so devious (considering the graduate seminar in treachery Layana’s been giving) but that Tim would suggest it to Richard and Patricia, both of whom have their problems but neither of whom seems particularly cutthroat to me. I miss Tim. The real Tim. Maybe he’ll return some day.

They’re the losing team, as the judges are Not Impressed. Heidi, oddly enough, loves Patricia’s look. I agree with Heidi on a controversial look; that scares me. They don’t ask who should be the loser; they ask, who is the stronger designer. Oh, yeah, so now you start worrying about that. Richard talks about different aesthetics. Patricia interviews: “I’ve been doing textiles for 20 years, if I go home over a challenge dedicated to textiles, I’m going to lose my mind.” Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Patricia.

But it’s Richard who’s out. I don’t think he’s a bad guy; I don’t even think he’s a bad designer. I do think the team aspect of all this was particularly hard for him. But it’s particularly hard for Patricia as well, though for different reasons.

What does it mean when you’re fine with the win/lose, you found most of the clothes interesting, and you still feel pissed off? I think it means you’re over Project Runway.

Next Week:

It’s Nina’s turn: The “Celebrity Editorial” for Marie Claire. And they finally pull the plug on this teams nonsense.

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…

Project Runway S11: Episode 8, Take It All Off (and as quickly as possible, please)

Remember, back in S4, when Tiki Barber came to PR? Carmen’s not-a-shirt, a swath of fabric tucked under the Members Only jacket like a scarf so her model’s chest hair wouldn’t show? Sweet P’s rumpled mess of laundry claiming to be a shirt? The kindergarten attempt at a suit by… oh, what was his name, I don’t even remember?

Turns out, those looks might have looked pretty good amidst the rubble from last night.

But this was a set-up. In the novel that is Project Runway, the exposition’s over; it’s time for escalating conflict and complications. Yawn.

Picking Sides:

Heidi and Tim join the flock on the runway to create two new teams of four, selected by the three judges. We eavesdrop on their earlier musings:

Zac wants to balance Patricia’s techniques with Daniel’s construction; Heidi thinks Michelle has a cool vibe, so she’s thrown in that group, and Zac wants Stanley to show he can stay strong amid “all these forces” so him too.

Nina pairs Richard’s obvious talent but questionable taste with Layana since he needs her young, hip vibe (and if I never hear the word “vibe” out of these people again, I’ll be very happy). Zac thinks Samantha and her strong opinions will wake up this group. Then we have the inconsistent Amanda because, well, who knows. It’s all bullshit anyway.

All the designers think they’ve been paired up with inferior partners. Funny how that works. Michelle is obviously displeased at working with Patricia again. Layana thinks Richard is good for stuff that’s far out and tacky, Amanda has good ideas but she hasn’t seen it yet, and Samantha is a little tacky as well. You know, guest2visits tried to tell me after S4 that Layana had Pretty Girl syndrome, and I didn’t see it. I see it now. She’s just a little princess, isn’t she. And no one else is good enough for her.

The Challenge

Men.

Not just men. MEN. The Cowboy, the Fireman, the SWAT guy, the mailman, the businessman, the construction worker. An Australian dancing/stripping troupe called Thunder From Down Under, apparently the hottest thing in Las Vegas. Forgive me, but all I could think of was the Village People.

The designers watch them dance and rip their clothes off. Samantha calls them classic action figures. Amanda’s worried her mom’s going to watch this. Daniel would be happy with any one of them; “That was a lot to handle for 10am.” Richard thinks it’s like designing for Thor, The Incredible Hulk, or The Avengers. Am I the only one who still thinks John Steed and Mrs. Peel when I hear The Avengers? Michelle’s a little worried, since she doesn’t know the male beefcake body. Then she recants a little: “My husband is beefcake, but he isn’t that kind of beefcake.” At one point she’s so flustered by the biceps she can’t remember the word “fabric.” And Layana plays Blushing Princess to the hilt.

Each team of four designers must complete three tear-away looks for a new show featuring business attire; one look must be a suit. They have one day. And that’s when I knew it was a setup. One day – a short day, considering at 10am they’re still on site, they still have shopping at Mood to do – to make menswear for guys with thighs bigger than their usual models’ waists, including a suit, using tear-away seams, a technique not many designers have ever seen (turns out Stanley has, but that’s kind of freakish; it might be the reason he was cast). The Season 4 disasters had two days. Nope, this was for the drama, not the clothes.

The guest judge is an actress I’ve never heard of. And I keep wanting to pull up Heidi’s errant bra strap. The runway is hilarious. The clothes are so awful, but you’ve got these male strippers dancing. “It’s like a wet dream,” says Zac. No, no, he didn’t say that, he said “Like a weird dream” but I’m betting they had to re-shoot to clean it up for tv. They all forget to vote, whether it’s because the guys are so attractive, or the clothes are so awful, it’s hard to tell. Nina breaks into hysterical laughter, rivaling Michael Kors’ giggles when faced with the lady wrestlers of S4. The whole episode was like a mashup of S4, now that I think about it. A bad one. Intended to get us sputtering. I refuse to sputter.

The teams

Each team also has to come up with a team name, and given the ridiculous things they came up with back in S1, I wasn’t surprised when they came up with equally, if not more, idiotic ideas. Team Slick & Hip? Didn’t they learn anything from Team Luxe? When you name your team after a look, it’s a given that you’re going to end up with something that’s the opposite of that look.

Team Slip & Fall: Richard, Amanda, Layana, Samantha

Right off the bat, Richard’s out of touch with his team. Samantha interviews he’s headed for a drag race between Ru Paul and Boy George; Amanda worries about his ‘tude, his dated aesthetic (she’s using the word ‘tude and complaining about his aesthetic?) and his inability to speak her language (she’s visual, he’s verbal); Layana seems to think he gave her the wrong answer about something, but it’s pretty unclear to me exactly what was going on. The actual problem is this: nobody knows what they’re doing when it comes to menswear. Richard volunteers to make three white shirts and he’s never made a man’s shirt before. Ok, I’ll admit, I didn’t know what a collar stand was, but first of all, I’m not a designer, and second, now that I do know what they are, I realize a lot of my more tailored shirts (from back in the days when I wore such things) had them, so they aren’t exclusive to menswear; what’s wrong with these guys? Layana’s the jacket girl, but only girl jackets. Amanda has two pairs of pants to make so she knows they’d better be perfect; is it really a surprise when they’re too short and too tight, even though Samantha’s are just fine and they all used the same pattern?

The highlight of the episode is Amanda’s discovery of the penile bump while goosing the manikin: “It has a bump. A little penile bump. And I do mean little.” Your mother’s gonna watch that, too, Amanda. But Amanda shows she kind of knows her stuff, too: she points out, “Another problem is we don’t have a style.” Layana announces she’s thinking Armani. I guess she expected everyone to pick that up by telepathy. But Amanda goes with it: “Oh, so mid-century, slimmer cut, slimmer lapel.” I have no idea if that’s actually Armani, but if so, she’s not as non-verbal as she claimed with Richard. Of course, it could be completely off (isn’t Armani pretty current?) in which case she’s proved her point. I’m flexible.

Richard gets beaten down by the girls to the point where he Skypes a friend in tears. Poor Richard, he has a band-aid on his head over his ear, he must’ve cut himself shaving his scalp that morning, too.

Predictably, the result is a complete mess. Richard’s shirts look like bad kurtas; they can’t be tucked in because Amanda’s pants are too tight, the point where they’re opening up during the Q&A. Even Layana’s tie looks ridiculous – hey, I think I might be able to make a tie, isn’t that the first thing they teach you in home ec? – and her jacket is too small and ridiculously feminine. The only thing that looks halfway decent is Samantha’s vest, but it’s hard to see because Richard’s shirt is so scary-awful. On the plus side, the clothes tear away perfectly when the guys dance. And with these clothes, the faster they tear away, the better.

Shades of No Way

I’m beginning to wonder if someone cooked the books on Michelle early in the season. Why is it that for the first four episodes – at least two of which involved no collaboration at all – were distinctly mediocre, and now for three weeks she’s been churning out the best stuff on the runway? It’s almost as though she had the narrative when she started, and deliberately held back for several weeks, to create a character arc. That isn’t something someone would do, right? At least, not unless she knew she’d already been chosen the winner, or at least guaranteed the time to complete the ascension? Thing is, Christian took a while to get started; maybe a little time to get the feel of things is necessary. Whatever the reason, at this point, she’s actually (almost) equal to her opinion of herself.

Not that her design is good; it’s nonsensical in the context of the challenge and the other looks. But it’s something different and interesting, and it looks like a draft of something that might turn into something interesting, if it weren’t supposed to be related to work. And strippers.

Not only that, but she starts off the planning session with a good idea: an office guy in suit, a more casual worker, and a bike messenger. Stanley shoots her down (after a struggle, during which Michelle admits on national television that she fantasizes about bike messengers on a daily basis; I’m sure her different-kind-of-beefcake husband will be happy to hear that; maybe he’ll tell her about his fantasies, too. Maybe there’s a reason for that rumor about post-PR break-ups). I think her kilt-vest is possibly a thumb in the eye to the team’s more “classic” vision.

Since Stanley just made tear-away suits a few months ago for a photo shoot, he’s doing a suit; he suggests that Patricia make a basket weave textile for the plackets of the shirt, which is a good use of her skills. Of course, it doesn’t quite work out that way, as the shirt she ends up making is pretty hideous once it escapes from under the boring and vaguely obscene trench coat Daniel takes as his destiny. Interesting that Tim sees clergy in that trench coat. Overnight, Michelle tells Layana, “If the ship is sinking and there’s only one lifeboat, I know who’s going over.” Layana guesses Patricia, twisting the metaphor into a soggy pretzel. On the runway, their clothes don’t have quite the same level of horror as the first team, but the tear-aways fail. And this I have learned from Project Runway: There’s nothing funnier than a stripper with his pants tangled around his ankles.

It’s All Over but the Shouting:

I lost track of the criticisms somewhere along the way. Heidi even suggests auf’ing everyone, but of course she can’t do that, she’s got more thigh to flash. So Team Oil Slick loses, and while that means Team Named After Mommy Porn doesn’t lose, it doesn’t mean they win, either, they’re just a little less terrible, and the most important consideration was the tear-away feature which they completely screwed up. The conversation with the judges is hilarious:

Nina: “Why not be creative?”
Patricia: “We were thinking office looks…”
Zac: “Stop – what office story does this tell you?”

He’s got a point. Ever seen these guys in an office?

The Decision:

Heidi falls all over herself in Little Chat trying to convince the actress these really are designers and they have produced some decent looks in past challenges, but in the end, she just can’t name a winner. Best decision all season.

As for the losers, it’s evident that Samantha is safe, and somehow the Princess gets by, so it’s between Richard and Amanda, who can’t decide if they want to snipe at each other or kiss and make up. Amanda’s out, so it’s moot.

Next Week:

Didn’t they just do a Lord & Taylor challenge? No, that was last season… they’re all beginning to run together.

Project Runway S11: Episode 7, A Sticky Situation

I had two favorite dresses this week. One won; the other lost. Neither was really a prom dress, but they were pretty. Project Runway, with their arbitrary choices and nonsensical judging, has finally beaten me down to the point where I don’t care.

Except that, at the final second, they went beyond jerking contestants (and viewers) around to being just plain mean. Watching them lie – LIE – and cut someone off at the knees – SURPRISE! – for no reason at all isn’t fun. It’s cruel.

That’s entertainment. Lifetime-style.

The Duck:

Enter Heidi with a duck named Fred. Daniel likes ducks; he had a pet duck once, so they have a special place in his heart. Tu, on the other hand, hates ducks. A friend of his had a duck, and it followed him and tried to bite him. I’m wondering where all these duck people came from. Out of ten people, two have encountered ducks-as-pets? Is this true for the general population – half have had a pet duck, or know someone who has? Have I been duck-deprived all my life? Is that what’s truly, fundamentally wrong with me? Or did they select contestants based on personal experience with ducks?

Here’s what I really want to know: how is the leash attached?

Layana’s trying to figure out what they’re doing with farm animals. I’d love to see what’s in her head right now. As Heidi fades out behind the screen, Fred makes a break for it, and Heidi reacts like a girl. That’s what you get for putting a duck on a leash, Heidi.

The Duck Tape

The Man from Duck Tape is in the workroom, wearing a Duck Tape tie. We get an official Duck Tape history lesson, but they don’t mention that in 1943 Navy mom Vesta Stoudt, an ammunition factory packer in Illinois, wrote a letter to President Roosevelt suggesting a waterproof tape as a better way of sealing ammo boxes, making it quicker and easier for troops to get to the ammo when they needed it. Leave it to a concerned mom to come up with ways to protect her kids while the men are off posturing. No, she didn’t invent Duck Tape in the same way Mike Nesmith’s (the guy from the Monkees, sheesh, just when you people born anyway) invented Liquid Paper, but she specifically suggested it.

Until recently – less than 10 years ago – I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Duck Tape. I called it “duct tape.” I looked into this back then, wondering if it was a clever little play on words, but found that nope, it was originally army green and referred to as “duck tape” due to its waterproof quality; after the war, it was produced for civilian use, particularly the construction boom as all those soldiers used the GI Bill to create the suburbs, in the traditional silver color, and got to be generically referred to as “duct tape” as it was used to hold metal air ducts in place for welding. Turns out, in 1998 a couple of Berkeley National Laboratory physicists demonstrated that the one thing duct tape is really bad at is… sealing HVAC ducts. Water, it can handle. Repeated heating and cooling, not so much.

And in this millennium, what duck tape is really very good for, is… prom dresses.

The Duck Tape Challenge:

The designers, working in teams of two, must create one prom dress per team, which makes this an actual team challenge. Students will get a mini-runway-preview in a high school gym at the end of the day, give the designers some feedback, and vote for their favorite; their overall vote will count towards 20% of the team’s score. So time is short on this one.

Daniel: “How can you go wrong on a prom dress for a sixteen-year-old girl?” Ask Christian Siriano, he’ll tell you. Funny how things work out, isn’t it. What if Christian had been eliminated that week? Would he still be dressing the rich and famous today?

Samantha isn’t feeling it; she’s not into proms, or teenagers. I have to say, I’m with Samantha on this one. I wasn’t into teenagers even when I was a teenager. Especially when I was a teenager.

Layana isn’t enjoying the idea of being judged by high school kids, since they’re just going to vote for the one that shows the most skin. I wonder if this says something about Layana’s high school experience.

Patricia is terrified of teenagers. Yeah, me too.

The Duck Tape Challenge Teams:

Because the pairs are all snarled up at this point, Tim brings out the Button Bag and new partner selection begins.

Stanley gets first choice, since he won the week before; he picks Layana, which hurts Richard, who thought he was Stanley’s soulmate. “He probably thinks her aesthetic is better for prom, but what he doesn’t know is, my specialty is prom dresses.” But Stanley was actually thinking, he likes to learn something new, and Layana’s someone he can learn from. It’s a little Glee drama in there, isn’t it?

Kate gets to pick next. She can’t stand Michelle, Layana, or Amanda: “They’re bitches.” I love Kate. She’s this incredible Good Witch/Bad Witch, lying to Daniel one week, standing up for Tu the next, and now she’s being a bitch about who’s a bitch. Good Witch Kate stays with Tu since he’s been so nice to her (sorry, I’m reading Wicked).

Michelle picks Amanda for reasons which pass understanding.

Richard takes Daniel.

That leaves Patricia and Samantha stuck together. “This will be interesting,” says Samantha. I suppose this isn’t the time and place for a diatribe on the devaluation of the word “interesting.” I warn you, some day I will bust out on this.

After the high school run-through, they’ll come back to Parsons for the real runway the next day. Zac is back from not wasting his time on senior citizens, and Chris Benz, pink-haired
Designer to the Stars and First Lady, is guest judge. The winner will be credited with a $5,000 donation to Autism Speaks, which bizarrely comes out of left field showing no connection to anyone or anything involved in the episode. I don’t know why I’m surprised; Project Runway gave up on making sense a long time ago.

Does it seem to anyone else that there are an awful lot of self-promotional spots buried in here with tiny slices of sponsorships in them? Are they having trouble selling full advertising time, so they’re offering something like integrated spots with no production costs?

The Duck Tape Challenge High Scores:

Stanley and Layana

Layana wants gold duct tape, but Richard’s already hoarded all the gold and won’t part with any; she thinks it’s because Stanley picked her instead of him to go to the prom. Wow, Eric3000 is going to have a blast with this episode. Stanley tries to be reasonable and tell her not to get stuck on gold, here’s some really nice hot pink we can use, but as Bad Witch Kate points out, Layana’s used to getting her own way. They compromise on black and zebra print with a big pink bow for Stanley, who, remember, has immunity, so it’s not his ass on the line. Their pinafore is absurd; the bow is the least of their problems. So of course the judges love it; it’s lovely, smart, 3-D, almost comes to life. Heidi wants to be friends with this girl, she’s modern, plugged in, cool, and whatever other word Heidi can think of to prove how modern, plugged in and cool she herself is. And she loves that they weren’t afraid to put on that ginormous pink bow. Zac loves the bow; it ties the whole thing together, no pun intended, I’m sure. Chris likes that it references Greek warriors in the bodice, fetishism with the black leather look, and has all sorts of strange layers of inspiration to keep the feel fresh and modern. This is modern? Can we go back to the old days, please? I will say I love the petticoat. There’s a story that David O. Selznick insisted all the Gone With the Wind costumes be complete with beautiful petticoats; when asked why, since the audience would never see them, he said, “The actress will know.” So I give them points for including a petticoat, even a muslin-and-duck-tape petticoat. Heidi asks whose idea the garment was; Layana claims the top, Stanley the bottom.

Patricia and Samantha

Patricia’s got a technique for stripping a floor to show layers of paint, and she’s going to use it on this dress; this makes Samantha very nervous. Seems like everyone on Patricia’s team is always nervous. But when Tim comes around, it’s Patricia who looks scared to death; they sketched independently and have two very different design concepts. “I know you’re working hard,” says Tim, “but are you working smart?” Right now it’s the bride of the Tin Woodsman (maybe Tim’s reading Wicked, too. No, he probably read it years ago). Samantha realizes one of them is going to have to get watered down by the other, which sounds like something that would make a fortune on a different kind of show. At the high school show, Patricia realizes their final look is pretty out-there in the future. Again, if that’s what the future holds, I want to go backwards. It’s not out there, it’s ugly. The colors don’t work together, the skirt has awkward lines and a vaguely, i.e., unintentional, bulbous shape, and the top looks like a cheap cami with no style at all. Of course, the kids voted it their favorite, which just proves that teenagers have little taste and less sense. On the runway, Patricia explains her floor-stripping technique; I think if she’d used something a little more harmonious than electric blue for the top layer, it might’ve worked. Heidi loves it; Nina thinks it channels Katey Perry, and the back is fabulous – ok, there’s a cute little string closure as a hook-and-eye at the top of the zipper, but it’s .02% of the dress. Chris says the proportion is a little tricky (it sure is), most girls want tight and short, but he loved the idea and they could use it as a format to create their own prom dress. Wait, I thought the idea was to actually make a prom dress, not a format for someone else to make a prom dress. But the judges are smitten, or pretending to be, and there’s no reasoning with them. Who should win? Samantha can’t give the credit to Patricia fast enough. She’s no fool; she doesn’t want to be associated with this mess. Patricia repays the compliment, saying it’s good to have someone pulling the reins in on her, and she’s always grateful for someone who can say, “Stop.” Hey, Patricia? Stop. Ok?

Michelle and Amanda

Add Michelle to the list of people angry at Richard for hogging all the gold tape. She’s thinking Power 80s but she’s also thinking camouflage, which makes no sense to me. Her prom dress, see, was really funky, so she’s going to push the edge, no one wants to show up and find Becky wearing the same gown. Who’s Becky? Amanda nixes the camouflage and suggests tie-die. Michelle Just Says No to that, and they end up creating a print for a punk-rock dress. Bad Witch Kate calls it a Queen of Hearts costume, which it kind of is, but it looks pretty cool in the workroom. Amanda tries to add, and fails: “I’m twice the age of these kids…. Well, no, almost twice… yeah, I am, I’m twice their age.” Amanda is 31. Are the kids 15 ½ ? I’ll even give her 16. I confess: I love this dress, and that’s hard to admit since I’m waiting for Michelle to trip over her narrative and fall down. But it’s the best thing there. I’m not 100% sure it’s a prom dress, but when I was prom-age, we all wore floor-length empire chiffon with sheer sleeves. At least, I think that’s what everyone wore; I wasn’t there. In any case, Michelle and Amanda’s dress is great: sharp, unusual, and clever. Chris loves it; it’s modern, fun, and slightly sinister, a little high school fantasy. Zac loves the shape, the pattern (“tessellations,” he says, which endears him to me forever, and Michelle wisely doesn’t correct him with, “Actually, it’s houndstooth”); he’s a little concerned about the side cutouts which need boning (I didn’t even see them; he’s right). Nina sees Gwen Stefani, which makes the designers happy. When Heidi asks who should win if the dress wins (which it absolutely should) Amanda gives it to Michelle. That’s happening a lot this season, isn’t it? Michelle says it was 50/50 kismet, “but I did pick her,” just in case the judges get any funny ideas that it actually was a 50/50 collaboration and they consider giving it to Amanda. I still don’t have a clue why she picked Amanda in the first place, but I can’t deny that it worked.

And Those Who Couldn’t Quite Quack It:

Kate and Tu

Tu wants a short circle skirt, but Kate worries it’s too much and talks him out of it. Bad Witch Kate interviews, “There’s only room for one cook in this kitchen, and that’s me.” Tu knows Kate went to prom, so he respects her opinion on what’s appropriate, and Kate thinks every girl wants a long gown, since you only get to wear a long gown once when you’re that age. Tim doesn’t like that it’s pretending to be fabric; the point was to use duck tape, and he sees a flat, lackluster effect that’s forgettable. Kate’s shocked that Tim hates it, and rethinks her being the only cook in the kitchen; maybe she should trust Tu more. She sets to work giving Tim the volume he craves without compromising anyone’s personal design aesthetic. She’s pretty sure their dress is the most realistic of all in the room. Tu: “We’re going to prom, girls, not Hollyweird.” I have no idea what that means, but I love the color and on the runway I love most of the dress; in the photo, it’s a bit wrinkled, though it’s easier to see the reference to denim. The model has a little trouble walking in it, and it’s not really a prom dress at all, but I still think it’s pretty good. Nope. Heidi “didn’t respond to it.” It doesn’t look like fun. Chris thinks it’s old-fashioned, and it ages her. They said the same thing about that amazing dress Rami designed for prom; they said it was a dress for a 30-year-old. They had a sliver of a point then, and they do now, but it’s still damn good. But it seems long prom dresses have gone the way of the dinosaur (that would be me). Nina and Zac get into a little tiff about who knows more about prom dresses, which Heidi tries to defuse by asking Zac to ask her to prom. Heidi, dear, I know you’re going through your post-divorce second childhood, but let’s not get ridiculous. They try to figure out who’s to blame. Good Witch Kate stands up: the length and silhouette is on her. But Heidi wants to beat Tu up a little, since he hasn’t been doing much for the show in the way of Crazy Asian sound bites, so she scolds him for not speaking up.

Richard and Daniel

Richard decides there’s only going to be one gold dress at this prom, and it’s going to be his, so he takes all the gold tape and squirrels away what he doesn’t need. Because if he can’t have Stanley, at least he can have gold duck tape. They’re doing Beyonce, or maybe Rhianna. Though at one point he realizes they’re doing baked potato, which isn’t Beyonce-ish at all. Them change tactics; instead of putting tape on the mannikin, they make fabric out of tape then use the fabric on the mannikin. They’re doing great with this latticework on the sides, and then they add ruffles. Big ruffles. Still, Tim is impressed: it’s the opportunity to have fun and do sculptural forms, and this looks like a wow. The ruffles don’t bother me at this point, but ruffles can go bad fast, and they do; they sag, and there’s nothing worse than saggy ruffles. Well, actually, there are plenty of things worse than saggy ruffles – famine, poverty, disease, to name a few. But for this dress, the ruffles are dragging it down. Daniel claims he was thinking Sixteen Candles which turns out is not Heidi’s favorite movie, and since it came out 20 years ago, isn’t perhaps the best image to work towards. Zac tells them putting detailing on the side is kind of a waste, since the arms cover it. He’s not wrong, but still, it’s kind of cool to have a little surprise peeking through; not everything has to hit you over the head like a bag of hammers to have impact. Though I suppose on Lifetime it does. Nina is borrowing Michael Kors’ scriptwriter: “You go from heroes to zeroes.” She should give the writer back. They stick together, though; they’d both work together in the next round, and refuse to throw each other under the bus. I’m approving of this trend this season, more and more. It’s too bad the rest of the show is so awful.

Who’s In, Who’s Auf:

Michelle wins. She absolutely deserved it, though she should’ve given Amanda a little more credit for talking her out of camouflage. Now I suppose we’ll have to hear about how she’s hitting her stride now that she doesn’t have to carry around all the deadwood any more, which is pretty funny, considering Amanda seems to me to be mostly deadwood. But she’s deadwood Michelle can push aside in pursuit of her own ideas, which makes all the difference. “Now I feel like I’m supposed to be here,” interviews Michelle. And, when poked with a sharp stick by the producers, “And $5,000 goes to Autism Speaks which is pretty freakin’ cool.” To be clear: $5,000 would have gone to Autism Speaks, via the Duck Tape people, no matter who won. But I’m sure they wanted to get credit for the donation, in addition to all the advertising for duck tape they hope to sell to high school students everywhere for this year’s prom.

Patricia and Samantha are consoled with how close a decision it was. No, it wasn’t.

Which leaves us with the Gold Dust Twins or Tu and Kate. I still think they were second and third and shouldn’t have been in danger at all, but my opinion counts for little. Richard and Daniel are whisked away to safety.

Tu is out. I’m not surprised – I don’t think this was his venue – but I’m sad. He’s not; he’s fine. He even thinks he deserves to go home. Now I’m really sad.

Then comes the stupid part: Kate is out, too. Both Good Witch and Bad Witch.

Now, that was just mean. Didn’t Heidi say at runway time that “one designer from the losing team” would be out? Yes, she did, I just watched the video. She lied, having left all pretense of integrity and consistency behind when she jumped to Lifetime. Mean Girl pays better, I guess.

So they wait until Kate bids adieu to Tu, and Good Witch Kate is feeling some measure of guilt mixed with Bad Witch Kate’s immense relief, and they axe them both.

Mean, Heidi. Just mean.

Next Week:

Male strippers. Because deception, lying, and cruelty aren’t enough.

Project Runway S11: Episode 6, Senior Fling

Michelle: “I must have kicked a bunny years ago, because luck is not with me.” The fault, dear viewer, lies not in ourselves, but in our stars that we are underlings.

I’m fascinated by Michelle. Remember narratives from last week? Michelle has her own private narrative: “I’m doing great, it’s the fault of my teammates that I’m always on the bottom.” Nothing – not the fact that when she switched teams, her new team started losing; not the fact that she hasn’t been singled out for a good effort on the losing team as several designers have been; not even Nina’s Proclamation of Doom (Questionable Taste division) last week – nothing makes a dent in that narrative. I envy her that. Me, I hone in on the slightest whiff of negative evaluation of my work like a laser; if I get a 99% on a test, I’ve failed. I’ve been trying most of my life to find the middle ground. And I’m trying to look at Michelle as entertaining. In any case, it looks like she’s going to be around a while: articulate cluelessness is the coin of the reality show realm. And you’ll never convince me they aren’t playing it to the hilt. Michelle is the Star of PR11.

The Challenge:

We’ve been having some discussion in last week’s comments about the Button Bag, and how it seems rigged. Once again, the Button Bag has magical powers, and manages to assign the partnerless Michelle to team with Layana and Patricia. Poor Michelle, the harder she tries to avoid Patricia, the more she’s pushed up against her. All by the luck of the draw, of course. And one button with a sanded edge. But though Michelle vehemently denounces Patricia’s work as utter crap, she looks at the bright side: “There’s something the judges see in her that’s magic so maybe it’ll rub off on me.”

It’s time for the old fart challenge. The politically correct term for “old” is “mature,” just fat people are “curvy.” Hey, I’m old, I’m fat, deal with it. The designers visit a dance room, where a bunch of barely-senior citizens are Dancin’ in a scene straight out of Cocoon. Amanda: “What’s the angle, are we making dance costumes?” Tu just wants to dance. And they do, until Tim enters and pairs up each designer with a “mature” lady who will play client. Again, teams play no real part in this other than to ramp up the tension and give teammates good reason to harp on each other.

Zac Posen takes the night off (maybe he doesn’t like to get too close to old people in case it’s catching) and Rachel Roy fills in. Joan Rivers tones down her Fashion Police brand of humor to serve as guest judge (I watch Fashion Police every week, but it gets tiring to hear all those vagina jokes in one place) and Melissa’s dragged along by the umbilical cord.

Brace yourselves: This was one of the worst challenges on record. There’ve been bad “real woman” challenges before, but nothing like this schlockfest. There wasn’t much in the top group that wasn’t cringe-worthy. One stood out, though it might’ve been the client modeling that shone, and another not in the top group was probably the only look of the night that someone would actually wear. I think they should’ve burned the tape, started the challenge over, and let them try again, because this was embarrassing. On the bright side, none of the clients ended up in tears.

High Scoring Teams (but don’t ask me how):

Daniel makes a badly-constructed, ill-fitting black pantsuit. His client requested a “sexy” black suit for a cruise, and this is what he came up with? The jacket closure makes no sense, and the pants are a huge expanse of belly (very flat belly, by the way; this is not a weight issue, it’s proportion). The judges focus on the asymmetric lapel and the “pop of color” both of which are fine but don’t take away from the impression of mess. Nina welcomes Daniel back, which I find hilarious; if this is “back” he should go astray again. Rachel likes the elbow, Melissa the nipped-in waist. Is that what you’re calling it, nipped in? They’re all crazy. It’s a mess.

Samantha and her client both love leopard, so that’s where she starts. The woman also just lost 30 pounds and wants to show off her arms, legs, and tattoos (which look completely fake to me but I’m no expert). She ends up with some kind of 50s party girl mess with a chartreuse satin top and a leopard skirt. The sleeves have possibilities – they aren’t just puffy sleeves, they’re constructed, but they fail. Badly. The woman looks like a crazy lady who picked up some shiny objects at the Goodwill and thinks they’re beautiful. She loves it, however. Joan calls her a menopausal kitten: “The dress says I’m not dead yet.” Heidi loves the way she walked the runway, but doesn’t like the sleeves or the use of leopard; Nina sees mixed messages with the racy vibe combined with puffy sleeves and a big floppy bow. Maybe that’s where I’m picking up crazy lady. You know, the one that has lipstick smeared all over her face? That’s what she looks like.

Stanley says “jumpsuit” and I want to cry. Not just “jumpsuit” but “strapless jumpsuit” and “bolero.” But his client seems game, and he did have a jumpsuit I didn’t hate in his portfolio. Turns out, it’s the only thing on the runway that looks like actual clothing. The client looks spectacular walking down the runway; I think the outfit benefited greatly from her wearing, because in the photos there are a few problems: it looks like she’s outgrown it. Heidi wishes the pants were longer, and the crotch isn’t perfect. Joan loves it: it’s age appropriate and sexy.

Richard focuses on comfort, and something that can be dressed up of down. What comes up with rivals what Jeffrey made for Angela’s mother (remember?) as the Worst Thing Ever Made on Project Runway. Joan likes that it’s easy and chic and shows off her legs. Heidi says she’d wear it with boots or leggings. Oh, right, that I’d like to see. Nina calls it an “interesting” silhouette that would work on many body types, but it drowns her a little. Rachel thinks it’s the most youthful of any design up there. What is wrong with these people? It’s a jersey nightgown with an unspecified band at the waist and a neckline that’s neither structured nor draped. This is not a fat woman – look at her legs – and she looks enormous. It’s what I’d wear, sure, but that should speak for itself.

Stuck in the Middle With You:

Michelle spends most of her time worrying about Patricia. Her main concern is that if her team is in the bottom, Layana’s won a challenge and been in the top, and Patricia has the judges spellbound by some mysterious force, so she’ll be the one who’s out. And that’s not a bad analysis of a more typical team setup, but in this case, they’re all making separate looks so I’m not sure that would apply. I’m surprised when she’s able to find time in between complaining about Patricia to make a pretty good dress. It didn’t impress me at all on the runway (possibly because I was so annoyed with Michelle at that point), but in the photos it looks very good and fits quite well. Their team ends up in the “safe” zone, but Heidi carefully points out that Michelle and Layana had her highest scores of the day; it was solely Patricia’s awful scores that kept them from claiming a prize. Michelle’s narrative gains Official Sanction. Patricia better sleep with one eye open.

Layana makes another relatively simple dress; I hate the second line on the hip, and I think it’s too short and too flimsy and the sleeves make it kind of goofy. I think Safe is the right place for her. It’s not the train wreck most of the “top scores” are, but it’s nothing to write home about either.

Patricia gets points for not saying “Native American” once during this episode. Or the editors get points for cutting it if she did. She’s thinking shawl; Tim’s hearing ponchostraganza: “You’re looking at me like I’m crazy.” Why, just because you made up the word “ponchostraganza?” I see nothing crazy about that. She talks about a wrap-around skirt, and Tim reminds her: “The more volume your clothes have, the more volume you have; it doesn’t hide anything.” Right on cue, it’s time for the unstable triad to turn into a dyad: ” A common behavior observed in a triad is that, in any group of three people, two of the members will often unite against the third.” It’s amazing to see social theory in action, as both Michelle and Layana start complaining about Patricia in interviews: they’re going to lose because of her, her teammates have carried her this far. Now, those comments aren’t completely unwarranted; Patricia has a tendency to go out there, beyond the bounds of what’s ok on Project Runway (textile and costume design won’t work here), and while her craft approach is impressive, it needs far more time than is available in this setting to look finished. Face it, she’s cannon fodder. However, I still enjoy seeing what she comes up with. It’s more interesting to watch than a print dress that’s a replica of every other print dress a woman of a certain age has in her closet. But it’s not by accident that these three people ended up as a triad. And, at this moment, the only triad. I’m thinking the producers were a little disappointed with the lack of fireworks. So they decided to create some. Sorry, Patricia, you’re the fuse. All that said, even Patricia realizes her poncho-shawl is horrible and she starts over in the morning. It’s clear by now she’s never made a regular garment in her life. Some people can innovate and come up with magic (hi, Rami), and some come up with high school home ec projects. But at least she started somewhere interesting.

The Lowest Scores:

Amanda shows clear signs of being an idiot. I wonder what’s wrong with me that I didn’t pick up on this before now. She doesn’t know how to get her POV across with people this age. Amanda’s POV? She hates flowers, ball gowns, and athletic garments and lives under the shadow of her famous brother. Oh, right, structure and fit. She goes for a flirty shape with an interesting neckline, but doesn’t quite get there. It’s kind of amazing what some of these people come up with. Don’t they have mothers? Grandmothers? Haven’t they ever seen an old person in real life, maybe crossing the street, or in a bank or restaurant? To her credit, she knows it’s a mess; she’s embarrassed at having made it. She was three steps behind from the start, since she bought the fabric for the print, then realized it was too flowy for the structure she wanted to make and then realized too late she hated the print. She did something truly bizarre in the back, where it looks like it was pinned for display and she forgot to take the pins out. And flutter sleeves, gee. Her client is a great sport and loves it. Rachel appreciates her use of an abstract print on a dress for a painter, but from neck to hem it’s a mistake. That pretty much sums it up. Melissa thinks she made it with whatever was in the kitchen. Nina sees it as children’s wear. When Heidi asks how they worked together, Amanda says she could’ve used more assistance from Ben, which stuns me, since he was checking with her constantly during the entire work period. What is she talking about?

Benjamin makes a party dress in shiny turquoise – what could go wrong? Well, the bodice fit before he added the sleeves, or so he claims. It sure doesn’t fit now. But you know, that’s the main issue; it’s not a terrible design. It has some degree of shape, and interesting seaming. The judges don’t see it that way, though: Rachel thinks there’s a lot wrong with the construction, beyond, I take it, the tight fit, which I agree is impossible to overlook and turns it into a mess. Nina finds the skirt lopsided. Joan thinks it’s heavy and stiff.

Tu knows he’s in trouble because his sewing was really bad. He makes a shirtdress with handkerchief hem. Again, it’s not a bad starting point, but the neckline’s a mess and the fit isn’t good. His client admits she’s a bit let down. Nina finds an overabundance of fabric swallowing her up (oh really? And this is as opposed to Richard’s look?). Heidi discovers it’s held together by the belt, which is pretty unforgivable, though not immediately obvious. Joan calls it an old-lady dress, which is probably why I don’t think it’s that bad. Kate, who I really raked over the coals for her insincerity last week, surprises me, and stands up for Tu: when she’s told she wouldn’t be in the bottom if it weren’t for Tu, she says, “That’s ok, Tu respected me and it’s the first time I’ve felt like that in this particular competition.” Of course, she’s probably lying, and she’ll take it back in her next interview, but it was a nice defense in front of the judges.

Kate works with a client who’s an interior designer and appreciates structure, texture, and lines. I didn’t like it as I watched the woman walk down the runway, but in the pictures it’s quite nice in fact; the top has some interesting construction. Nina loves the joyful, appropriate fabric. Heidi tells her she wouldn’t be in the bottom except for Tu, at which point Kate launches into her defense (above) and I take back all the mean things I said about her last week. Or at least promise to reconsider. Until she takes her defense back in an interview.

Why Not Announce No One Wins (they did it on Top Chef):

Stanley wins. With some reservations, I can get behind that. It was a complicated garment and looked great, at least from the calves up. His client deserves a lot of the credit.

It comes down to Benjamin and Amanda, and Benjamin is out. Amanda cries. He’s pretty surprised; he felt like he was just hitting his stride. But he’s going to be graceful, even though they were wrong, which is pretty artful commentary on his part. I think he’s another one who has a narrative in his head that doesn’t match reality. He seems like a decent sort, and I wish him well.

Next Week

They’re designing for the Aflac duck. And the week after, the Geico gecko. But when they let Morris the Cat in, tragedy ensues…

Project Runway S11: Episode 5 – A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock ‘n’ Roll

If you recall, we left off with a teaser last week (which I erroneously transplanted to Top Chef yesterday; I’m going to be unusually confused this week, since I have Tim’s picture plastered all over that TC recap): Tim wandered back to the designers after the auf and said. “Come out to the runway and meet with Heidi, there’s something that needs discussion.” I speculated, “It’s probably a complete recalibration of teams….”

And, sure enough, the Evil Button Bag is clearly silhouetted. The designers groan. Except for Stanley, who’s glad to get rid of all that dead weight holding him down.

Me, I’m thrilled. Now I don’t have to worry about those dumb team names. See, everything works out, if you just procrastinate long enough.

They’ll be working in teams of two, usually called pairs, but then they’d have to change the promos to “Project Runway: Teams or Pairs Edition.” Tim exhorts them to choose a true partner, someone who will complement them (not “compliment” – the “e” makes a difference – though I suspect they’ll all go for the compliments over complements). Because she won the last challenge, Samantha gets to pick first, after which Heidi goes to the Evil Button Bag.

Samantha picks Daniel because he likes shapes and structure.
Richard picks Stanley since their energies are great together; “it was destiny.”
Patricia takes Layana maybe because she’s sitting right next to her. Layana’s dubious.
Matthew picks Michelle.
Kate picks Tu.
Amanda Benjamin are just stuck with each other. Benjamin’s nervous, since all those people pushed her under the bus last week; she’s still smarting from that. But he’s going to push her to be more adventurous. All this talk of pushing is making me nervous.

Field trip! They end up at a country-western bar which has nothing to do with the challenge but paid for the promotion. Turns out they’ll be designing for country singer Miranda Lambert. Everyone gushes about how wonderful she is throughout the episode. Wanna bet no one ever heard of her before this episode? Except Amanda, who’s from Nashville (making Benjamin a little less nervous about her) and pronounces her “not a princess or a diva, she’s one of those cool country stars.” If you say so.

Each team-pair produces two looks, one for performance (a little bit… etc), and one for Red Carpet use (chic, young, fresh, not overly designed). Dang, why doesn’t anyone ever want something old and out-of-style? And it’s time to celebrate curves. Oh goody. The looks don’t need to be cohesive. This means that the “teams” are once again a notion of convenience rather than an actual part of the challenge. With the exception of last week, I don’t think there’s been a challenge in which cohesion played a significant role, has there? They get $400 per pair and one day. Miranda herself will be Guest Judge.

It’s not about the clothes, it’s about the narrative.

Rising Arcs:

Benjamin and Amanda: Team Narrative – Double Redemption.

Benjamin does glamour, so he takes the Red Carpet look. They end up so seriously under-budget at Mood – only using $271 of their allotted $400 – that he’s worried. The extra money, once you get beyond the basic cost of decent fabric, really is for fixing mistakes and allowing options, I think; if you know exactly what you’re doing and can execute it perfectly, I guess you can manage on less. But it’s very risky. He even manages to stay on schedule, and gives us a little insight into his personal psychology with, “My mother would be so proud.” Tell me more about your mother… On walk-through, Tim thinks it’s great, and Benjamin is very psyched. The finished look is striking, but whenever you pour a model into a tight dress, it’s striking. I know Miranda wants to embrace her curves, but does she want to embrace them that tightly? I’m not sure about the placement of the fanny pack, or the swinging curtain of beads on her right boob. I, however, am not a fashionista, and apparently it’s terrific. Lack of side seams apparently is an important feature. Nina thinks it’s elegant and gorgeous from every angle. Zac likes her hair. Her hair? I wonder what else he said that they cut out. Miranda is dubious, and all the thin people on the judging panel tell her it’s perfect for her: it’s got support, it’s streamlined without those bulky seams, and it’ll be great. I hate it when thin people tell non-thin people how great they’ll look in stuff that only looks good on thin people. But Benjamin’s on the schedule for an upward arc.

Amanda has seen Miranda (once) and she’s pretty sure she’s got the Performance look nailed. She shows Benjamin a fringe technique for the skirt and he loves it. She’s doing “hipster country.” I’m still working on “hipster” but they all seem kind of whiney and annoying to me. She and Michelle enjoy a little gossip about the dubious value of their partners. Tim loves the in-progress; she’s glad, but, as she says, she always gets good critique from Tim, right before she goes out on the runway and gets slaughtered. She’s dealing with her own psyche: her brother is a rock star. Literally. So she’s tired of being the other one. Her dress looks pretty “other one” to me – lots of blue fringe and a silvery glitzed-up v-neck. She explains the model is wearing a “regular bra” but that back seemed really low. Still, it’s a good thought; Miranda needs a bra. She likes the shape. Zac loves that she took casual jersey and made the fringe, giving it a wet-t-shirt connotation, which is another thing I never thought was on the list of fashion do’s. Seems the chevron makes it chic. I have no idea what chevron he’s talking about, but I’ll take his word for it. Nina likes that it’s easily accessorized. I suppose the last-place-to-top narrative is foremost on the agenda, since Heidi can’t stop talking about it.

Richard and Stanley

Richard (narrative: t-shirt ex machina) does the Performance look, all glitz and glam. Netting, chains falling, rock goddess. This is the guy that wanted to buy a water pump last week, remember? He keeps in mind she’ll be sweating a lot, so the fabric is more like netting. Tim’s fine with that; it’s not a coverup, some skin is going to show. At the end of the day, he realizes there’s all this fishnet stuff with no lining. “It’ll happen, something will come along.” Really? I know I said everything works out ok if you procrastinate long enough, but he’s got less than 24 hours. On Runway Day, he’s still worried; no one has anything he can use as a lining. And somehow one hasn’t dropped out of the sky like he’d expected. Then the miracle happens: he bought a “Thank You, Mood” t-shirt with his budget, so he can use that to make a tube dress for a lining. Thank you, Mood, indeed. His fringe dress isn’t bad, until she turns around, when it’s seriously ordinary. Zac loves the movement and sparkle, and the body exposure in the back. Heidi thinks it looks expensive; of course it does, those Mood t-shirts go for up to $30. Nina likes that it plays up her curves (by hiding them under layers of fringe). Miranda would wear it. ‘Nuff said.

Stanley (narrative: Designated Black Designer who Won’t Win but Proves We’re Not Racist) who is working on the Red Carpet dress; he wants a hard edge, with beading that isn’t prim and ladylike. Just before runway, he’s worried he hasn’t done his best. I don’t think so either; it’s slut on top, Amish on bottom, with a hammered foil belt he’s very proud of. Miranda likes the plunge, but the bottom’s a lot of fabric. Nina thinks it’s beautiful, but Miranda would be swallowed up by all that pleating. Heidi likes the neckline. Of course she would.

Tragedic Twists:

Samantha and Daniel: Team Narrative: How the Might Have Fallen

Samantha (narrative: one day you’re in, the next you’re out, and boy it’s a good thing you’ve got immunity) takes the Performance look. She explains to Tim about the motorcycle vest and skirt with movement; he likes the counterpoint of tailoring on top with an “exuberant” skirt. I’m not sure what he saw, but in the final look, the skirt doesn’t exuberant to me, it looks like the upper third is showing by mistake. The vest is pretty, though. She tells the judges she does rock, not country. Zac wanted more wow. Miranda would wear what Samantha’s wearing, not what she made.

Daniel (narrative: the hare who started strong now stumbles) goes Red Carpet; he figures he’ll do separates so they can be used at other times. He’s thrilled with some metallic navy leather he finds in Mood. She’s cutting up cotton jersey for a skirt that moves. He’s got this soutache technique he’s dying to use. Now, I associate soutache with military uniforms, but apparently it’s all the rage in jewelry, so if he wants to use it for a country singer’s Red Carpet gown, sure, why not. I think he just likes saying “soutache,” myself. Thing is, he doesn’t usually use leather, so why he’s torturing the leather in this particular way, I’m not sure. Maybe because it’s what he knows how to do. He explains it to Tim, who focuses instead on the center seam and slit as the winner of the Bad Idea of the Day. It’s not improved by shredding the hem with a fork. Then we learn something interesting about Kate: she keeps telling Daniel what a terrific thing his soutache is, but she really thinks it’s stupid. Keep in mind for future reference, Kate is a two-faced phony liar. Either that, or she actually liked it, and the interview was shot after judging. Having seen the final product, I don’t quite get the big deal myself. It doesn’t look like anything in particular, other than texture with shine (Heidi thinks it looks like tin foil); to make matters worse, the skirt’s ugly and stiff, and the top and bottom have nothing to do with each other. Miranda’s not impressed; it’s someone’s interpretation of what a country star would wear. I don’t understand that, maybe the fringing? Nina puts the dread “inexpensive” label on it, and she hates the middle seam. Tim’s no longer infallible, but he called it this time. Nina breaks her own record for using the word “bad” in one critique. Zac: “Pieces from you are starting to look referential and old; they’re not flattering.” Ouch.

Michelle and Matthew

Michelle (narrative: Questionable Taste?) does Red Carpet, starting with a plunging leather vest. She starts with navy leather, but notices everyone’s getting navy (I’m guessing it’s in the Dossier) so changes her mind. She seems ambivalent about Matthew; one minute she’s worried about how he’s been in the bottom so many times, but then she loved his unconventional look last week and she respects his convictions. Tim thinks her fabric looks like eel. Is eelskin a thing? To the point where it’s recognizable? Michelle does a Nina imitation making fun of the necklace she’s making, except her Nina sounds more like Natasha. I like the vest she ends up with, but the skirt’s absurd and the necklace doesn’t make sense. She was thinking more rock-n-roll, MTV awards. Heidi’s sure she’d go on the Worst Dressed list. Miranda’s distracted by the necklace (Zac calls it linguine) but might wear the vest with a short leather skirt. Removing the necklace improves it greatly. Nope, Nina doesn’t approve, it’s Rock of Ages, AC/DC, bad rock-n-roll. Michelle professes her love of hair metal. Miranda: “You tried to capture my personality and I appreciate that but I don’t like it.” So there.

Matthew (narrative: If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will, either… and maybe not even then) wonders just how edge a performance look can have before it becomes kitsch-y or costumey. As have we all, during those Dark Nights of the Soul. Tim and Michelle play double-team therapists. “It’s weird to be my age and still struggle with insecurity.” Oh, honey, don’t you know yet, it never goes away? The big problem is, he’s got a top but no bottom. Matthew, make the skirt. After a few hours of seemingly doing nothing but dithering over not having finished, he finally does make a pleated skirt; it’s not the design he wants, but it’s the one he can finish in the short time he has left. After all, he’s been busy worrying about not finishing in time. He ends up with a depressed figure-skater costume. Except the skirt is more cheerleader. I don’t even see what he was going for. Nina sees little movement and no shine. It’s Miranda’s turn to play therapist: have confidence in his craft, he can do better with the leather and lace idea. Michelle is kind of nice, chirping that last week he had a great look, then takes it back by saying he was stuck this week.

Minor Sub-Plots

Patricia and Layana:

Patricia (narrative: Look, a Native American designer!) does the performance getup, since she’s Native American. She comes from a family of performers, and they have to create all their garments. I believe her. She explains her semi-constructed look to Tim: the crossed straps are bullet holsters, and she’ll add twisted leather fringe so you’ll see hints of brown and gold underneath. Tim: “When I saw it before I knew what you were going to do, I was terrified, I wanted to run for the hills.” Wait… so that means bullet holsters are a good thing? I want so bad to make a Cowboys & Indians joke. Hey, wait, I don’t have to – Patricia’s dress is a walking Cowboys & Indians joke. X marks the spot.

Layana (narrative: it’s my week off) talks to Tim about ruching and chiffon; Tim thinks her keyhole feels modern. I think the whole thing is awful; there’s nothing natural-looking about this dress. She managed to recreate Daniel’s cheap look without fringing the fabric or the center seam. Maybe the model is holding the dress open; but why?

Tu and Kate

Tu (narrative: I’m the Crazy Asian this season) likes curvy. He’s going Gaga: volume on the hips, “curvy when she moves and like the country music.” I have no idea what he means, but he’s happy, at least until Tim walks through. Tim’s so upset, he actually takes off his glasses: a new level of “Tim, Concerned.” “It’s going to be wacky, coming out here and here, exaggerating.” Tu nods, excited: that’s it exactly! Tim: “You really gaga-ized her.” Kate suggests stitching down the pleats; but it’s not the pleats, it’s the projectiles. Tim is gasping for air. Then he sees Tu: “You really want to do this, don’t you?” Tu does. But he’s aware Tim does not like his design, and it troubles him. Lifetime didn’t create the Crazy Asian Reality Show Contestant stereotype, but they’ve certainly exploited the hell out of it. I’m a little troubled myself. He makes a few changes, but doesn’t have time to revamp completely. I think I would’ve liked his original vision better than what he dialed it back to. It has nothing to do with country music, rock & roll, performance, Miranda Lambert, or really anything at all. I like the dress in general, and if those little droopy napkins on her hips had been allowed to fly as he envisioned, I think it would’ve been amazing.

Kate (narrative: I’m a two-faced stone-cold liar; see Daniel) likes Tu, because he’s always been nice to her, and they start with the same idea so she’s encouraged, but by the end, she’s working hard at ignoring him because he’s gone Gaga. She needs to show Nina she can make more than feminine, floral garments. Isn’t it interesting everyone’s worried about Nina. She goes mermaid in red leather. I rather like it though I see some sewing goofs and the fabrics don’t quite match in color; the neckline could use some work, too. I guess I like the idea rather than the actual garment. But it flows really nicely as she walks, and the train works for a change.

The Closing Chapter:

Richard wins. Thank You, Mood.

Matthew is finally put Auf of his misery. What a great story arc: tell him to have confidence in himself just before you cut him loose. I should have more sympathy for Matthew – he’s probably the contestant most like me – but he’s just this black hole of self-pity. Pot, kettle. Tim: “It was a self-fulfilling prophecy on your part.” Twist the knife a little deeper, why don’t you? Matthew even agrees with him, poor schmuck.

Next Week:

It the 40-to-death challenge for real – hey, I was joking last week! We get Joan Rivers, too. Because who else would it be.

Project Runway S11: Episode 4 – The Ultimate Hard and Soft

While discussing the preview of this episode with MoHub in last week’s comments, I made a series of predictions:

Richard, Joseph, Patricia, and Samantha will do well
Matthew, Benjamin, Kate, Amanda, and Michelle will need Xanax. Which isn’t much of a prediction, since all but Michelle have needed Xanax all along.
Patricia will win.
Matthew will be out. Not for clothes, but for smelling up the workroom with the Heart of an Artist he carries with him everywhere. With luck, the donor will be found and reunited with his/her body part.

It’s a good thing I don’t gamble, since I was wrong, wrong, wrong. But who knew this would turn into a pretty good episode, with pretty good clothes?

The Challenge:

The designers gather with Tim in the workroom by candlelight. Candlelight? Don’t worry, the candles (like the competition itself) are only there as an excuse to collect fees for product placement.

It’s time for the Unconventional Materials challenge. Tim really enjoyed the flower shop challenge, so they’re recycling that one. Samantha is happy; Amanda is not (hey, at least I got that much right). Amanda hates flowers. She didn’t even have flowers at her wedding, she hates flowers so much. She doesn’t understand their wavy lines.

What kind of person hates flowers? Georgia O’Keeffe, for one, who said, “I hate flowers. I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.” And, as a bonus, they look like vaginas.

Heidi drops in on the workroom: she has an idea, too. She liked the Hardware Challenge, so they’re doing that, too. As the title says: the ultimate Hard and Soft. I guess they figured so many designers claim to use that as their inspiration, they might as well make a challenge out of it. And make some money off the two-in-one candle manufacturer while they’re at it.

Each team needs to come up with a cohesive line of six looks; the line must include both hardware and flowers, though the individual looks can be one or the other.

And one more thing…

Tim is concerned about ‘the inequity in the distribution of your ranks.” I melt when Tim talks dirty like that. With one team of eight and one of five, it’s time to even things out.

The Losers get to pick two Winners. Benjamin’s happy; he needs the energy shift. He pushes for Stanley, while Michelle wants Daniel. I thought Daniel would be a no-brainer, but maybe Benjamin, with his unresolved management desires, doesn’t want someone quite that good. So they take Stanley. Then they pick a girl, for no reason other than gender equity, which is a little silly but ok. Michelle vetoes Patricia; she’s condescending, talks for others, and thinks she’s the end-all-be-all and that’s Michelle’s job. They take Layana, who, understandably, is not happy.

And then in a reverse twist, the Winners get to pick one of the Losers. They don’t even need to huddle; they want Michelle, who suddenly wishes she’d let her team pick Patricia after all. Funny how the universe gets ya sometimes.

Each team gets $2500, or about $400 per look – a lot more than the $100 for the original Flower Power challenge or the $150 on the original Hard Wear challenge – and, here’s the best part – two days. That’s probably because running to two different stores eats up a lot of time (it isn’t like you or I going to two stores, there’s camera guys and production assistants and noses to be counted) rather than to allow the designers creative time, but it’s still a good decision. And it shows. Lesson to PR producers: do this more often. Time and money, that is, not hardware stores and flower shops. Let pressure and economy be the focus of an individual challenge (or two), not a way of life.

Fashion blogger Leandra Medine – aka MAN REPELLER – is guest judge. Everyone’s got a niche. And no, I’d never heard of her before this. Hey, I’m a PR blogger, why don’t they make me a guest judge? On the “40-to-death woman schlepping cat litter and milk home from the grocery store on the bus” challenge? Now that’s man repelling.

They also make a big deal out of revealing Bette Midler as the second guest judge, which I’m guessing is part of her contract (“I will make an entrance”), and it’s a good part. I love Bette Midler. The designers do, too. Bette Midler in a room of gay men, what were the odds.

What Happened:

The Heretofore Winners plus one Loser Minus Two Winners who now become the Losing Team:

Ok, ok, I guess now that they’re shuffling teams, and the Winners have Lost, I’m going to have to start using the correct names, but I don’t want to, not just yet. Next time. For now, this is the Amanda-Daniel-Joseph-Kate-Michelle-Patricia-Richard team. But not for long…

First they decide who will pair up, since they have seven people and six looks. Kate’s paired up twice already so she wants an exemption. They decide to get Richard to supervise newbie Michelle to make sure she’s up to their standards before letting her loose. No, of course not, they just happen to both have the same idea during brainstorming so they decided to work together. The team decides to incorporate both flowers and hardware into all six looks.

The theme of the day is cohesion, or lack thereof. About midway through the challenge, they suddenly realize none of their looks relates to any of the others. They do a really bad job of trying to bullshit this (“The hardware and flowers are the common elements;” “How about if we all add some black netting to our individual looks?”) before coming up with a better layer of bullshit: they’re each doing a decade, from the 50s to the future. But that’s pretty much labeling tacked on after all the work is done, so it’s weak. It’s a good effort, though; some of the looks actually worked into it. But not enough.

Kate is obsessed with cupcakes. So she makes one. Tim warns her not to let it look too much like a craft project – it reminds him of the paper mache volcano he made in 3rd grade – but she figures they’re working with hardware and flowers, it’s a craft project kind of challenge. And as cupcakes come with diabetes, her cupcake dress comes with a torture device underneath: chicken wire to produce the cupcake shape. She’s willing to bleed for Project Runway, but she warns the model to wear something to protect her legs. Hey, Joseph, what were you saying about designing clothes for how they feel? How would a dress that may cause bloodshed fit into your worldview? I thought two things as the model walked down the runway: 1) Did the dress start out pink shading to red, or is that blood? And 2) Kenley. It is pretty, though. If a little over-frosted.

Amanda starts with an idea for a short semi-fitted tank dress in hardware, embellished with something fringey. A metal minidress. Since she hates flowers, she gets moss, which apparently has lines she likes. Obviously she didn’t watch PR2 where Andrae got the boot thanks to his moss tribute to Audrey Hepburn. She too has the problem of the moss falling off the dress; Daniel says it has alopecia. Tim tells her it’s a pretty background, and the bald spots can be filled in easily; it’ll be fine if it’s just embellished. But Richard’s worried, calling it the Swamp Thing and Moss Couture. Hating flowers is bad karma, see, the moss will get you for it. I wrote in my notes, “Everyone hates Amanda;” she keeps whining about the problems she’s having. Finally Joseph makes a suggestion: cut half the panel of sunflower petals in the back and put it on the front. Genius! A fringe of eyebolts around the collar and she’s got a pretty decent look stemming from that one little suggestion Joseph made.

Richard and Michelle: The idea that initially united them was a high stand-up collar plunging down in front. Then, once Michelle signed on, Richard started in with Bjork and Ru Paul meets Gilligan’s Island and “the point is not to be practical” and she’s having second thoughts. When he starts jabbering about a pump for water, she decides her role is that of editor. She probably likes saying “no.” And yeah, Richard needs an editor at this point. A pump for water? They get window blinds, and they’ll fill in the spaces with flowers. But it doesn’t go as planned, and Richard asks if they should use the tree he bought. Yeah. Ok. Tim thinks it’ll be great if they just put the soft stuff in the negative space created by the frame they have, and that seems to set them on the path to love and harmony. Michelle: “After three or four hours of darkness, it feels good.” Move to the light, children… It’s kind of a Dominatrix Eve look; I love the skirt – it almost looks like a print – but I hate the bra cups, which have little shades over them to… keep the nipples shielded from sun and rain?

Joseph: I love Joseph. I love his attitude. His voice reminds me of Bradley from S3 – the guy who made tinkertoys while the other designers were making real clothes. I like most of the stuff on his website. But his conversation with Tim was a dead giveaway.
Tim: She looks huge.
Joseph: I want her to be huge.
Tim: You don’t want this to look like it’s consuming her.
Joseph: No, you don’t want this to look that way.
You gotta love a guy who gets the better of Tim. If only for a moment; you know Tim’s ultimately going to win the overall argument on this one. But Joseph has his philosophy: “Not everything has to have a sexy fit,” he says. “If it’s cold, you don’t wear a skimpy dress.” He designs for how clothes feel, not how they look (my fashion mantra, by the way). Oh, you little lamb. He has some idea about a string of garland attaching flowers to the dress, and makes an openweave net (“for a sea hag to troll the ocean,” snipes Michelle, who’s probably feeling her power having been so immediately and unanimously chosen for rescue from the Losers) that doesn’t work. He replaces it with some kind of strip-sewn screen adorned with flowers. He can’t tell if it’s too weird or not. Oh, honey, I love you, but it’s way, way too weird for this crowd. It’s about even in weirdness with Patricia’s; very similar, in fact, with flowers dripping down over an underdress. Thing is, it’s less flattering, and that’s a major sin. It’s a tight fit to pull it on over the head of the model, because – duh! – he forgot to use the zipper he put in the back. All the designers who sew models into clothes, here one puts in a zipper, then forgets. I love you, Joseph. Please stay in touch.

Patricia tells Tim she’s doing something about mother nature. It does have a roses-over-mud feel to it, but I’m not sure I get it. And her bra is exposed in the back. She calls it “Frida Kahlo” (which I sort of get) and “Ave Maria” (which I don’t). Not as good as I was expecting from her.

Daniel has a sculptural dress I liked in the workroom, but on the runway it’s got the Paniers That Ate Pittsburgh. I love the white leafing on the skirt, it’s very lacy, but I can’t tear my eyes away from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon on her hips.

The Remnants of the Heretofore Losers Minus One Plus Two Winners who now become the Winning Team:

That’s Benjamin, Layana, Matthew, Samantha, Stanley, Tu you.

Stanley asks about the initial inspiration and direction they want to take, and everyone ends up on Dior. Simple shapes, 1950s, but good 1950s, not vintage. I thought I understood what “vintage” meant but I guess I don’t. See, this is the step that was missing from the other team. I wonder if Stanley’s been The Man all along. He thinks morale has improved already, but if they don’t shape up under his direction, he and Layana will form their own team. I’m not sure secession is allowed on PR, either, Stanley. I don’t know if he saw S2, but he remakes Chloe’s dress. I think the proportions are off; it’s just a little long. Not necessarily at the hem, but overall.

Samantha isn’t about frilly and flowery, so she goes Hardware. I love the lattice bodice she’s using in the workroom – turns out it’s contact paper and she cut out the lattice, which is pretty amazing. However, she’s running out of time, and she’s struggling. Layana: “I had a dream about your dress last night, do you need help?” No, thank you, Samantha knows exactly what needs to be done. She’s seen enough people on the runway not trusting their vision and getting called out for it, so she’ll stick with her plan. Stanley’s worried about her, too; she seems to be the Amanda of this team. She does finish her dress; I think it looks sad. The bodice has real possibilities, and I like the leaves under the screen, but the peplum is droopy, the proportions of the skirt are off, and the gray straps in the back just look odd. As with Patricia, I’m surprised; I expected much better from her.

Benjamin wants to be recognized – and not in the way he’s been recognized for the past two challenges – so he builds his own loom and weaves his own fabric. Time management issues? Who, me? Matthew’s gonna get mad if he doesn’t finish and they end up losing again, but Benjamin thinks they’ll appreciate the detail. The finished product is pretty impressive when you realize he started with string, not with fabric; someone always uses some kind of basket-weave technique on these things, but his is real weaving, and the fabric has two different kinds of texture. I wish the diagonal line of flowers went up to the strap, but it’s not bad at all.

Tu explains to Tim he’s making a sleeveless jacket. “You mean a vest,” says Tim. Thank you, Tim. It’s a very interesting garment, and it fits really well. But again, it looks heavy in the skirt, slightly out of proportion, to me. Maybe this is the 1950s Dior signature; if so, they’ve certainly captured it.

Layana constructs a cage for her skirt. It’s a little like Kate’s Cupcake Theory but not as life-threatening, and with a much nicer, more sheath-like shape. I think the sheer part of the skirt starts a little high (I’m hard to please), but overall it’s my favorite look.

Matthew makes a great bodice out of mopheads, but the skirt has a weird shape from the front; it’s better from the back. I’m just happy there was no whining about his Artistry. He did much better than I expected.

Over to You, Judges

Heidi’s very impressed with what they did (yeah, it was a lot better than I expected – see what an appropriate allotment of time and money can do?). But decisions must be made: DT wins, and KIR, well, they come in second, which means they lose, but it sounds better.

Who Wins:

The blogger likes Tu and Stanley.
Zac and Nina like Samantha’s play on transparence and fragile, delicate quality, and Layana’s beautiful cage; Bette appreciates the craftsmanship involved.

Heidi asks the team who should win:
Stanley nominates Tu.
Samantha talks about Benjamin’s loom. He built a loom, for pete’s sake.
Benjamin and Samantha both nominate Matthew.

But the judges have their own ideas, and Samantha wins. I’ve liked a lot of Samantha’s past looks, but I’m surprised she gets it for this one; I think it’s the weakest look on the team. Maybe they’re keeping track, and awarding cumulatively.

Who Loses:

Kate explains the “decade theory”: her 50s dress, like an Alfred Hitchcock leading lady going to a dinner party; Amanda’s 60’s color blocking, Daniel doing the 80s, Michelle and Richard taking on the 90s, and Joseph off in the future. I can see the 50s, 60s, and future; I’ll admit, I don’t know what the 90s were about, fashion-wise. This would’ve been all well and good if it’d been clear on the runway that was what was happening, but the judges never saw it in the work. Zac likes Patricia’s “pow-wow chic” dress, a description that makes me cringe. Heidi likes Daniel’s; for that matter, she likes everything, so it’s hard to pick. Nina has some trouble with Joseph’s silhouette; he explains it might be inappropriate for this experience, but it’s a good jacket shape, at which point Zac says, along with everyone watching, “It’s a jacket?”

Then comes the nail in the coffin. Zac asks, “How do you define the future of fashion?” and Joseph says, “Wearing what feels good instead of what looks good on your figure.” I love Joseph. But that was a stupid thing to say to those judges. I thought maybe he had a shot with MAN REPELLER. But I doubt her vote matters much. And I doubt her idea of repelling men means dressing comfortably instead of fashionably.

So they ask the team: who should go home? To my great surprise, Everyone Still Hates Amanda. Patricia is particularly pointed: she tried to talk her out of the moss. Joseph, bless his heart, rescues her again: she’s been seeing clients and working in the real world, so he’s impressed. That gives her an angle: maybe she’s been focused on what will sell and hasn’t been focusing on the avant garde enough. Nina chirps, “Whatever the struggles you had with Amanda, they weren’t apparent from this side.” Amanda’s kind of surprised everyone saw her as a burden on the team; it didn’t seem that way to her. Oh, honey, it seemed that way, in terms of the emotional wear and tear of all the whining, to those of us watching. But Nina’s right; her dress wasn’t the worst thing on the runway, and her annoyance value wasn’t anywhere near high enough to justify her team turning on her. It was that Wolf Pack thing again: once the first person singled her out, everyone else was glad to have someone to jump on, just so it wasn’t them.

Joseph is out. No surprise, but I’m sad. He isn’t sad at all; he knows he doesn’t really fit into this competition. I hope he got some good publicity, and it helps him, because he’s the sweetheart – the Kooan – of the season. And they’re always out early, it seems.

While we’re waiting for next week’s promos, Tim comes into the lounge and announces there’s something that needs discussion, come out and meet with him and Heidi on the runway.

Fade to black…

I hate it when they do that. It’s probably a complete recalibration of teams, since it isn’t mentioned at all in the promos (if it was something juicy – an allegation of cheating, or someone needing to leave – they’d tease the hell out of it.

Next Week:

Miranda Lambert, Country Star. What they’re doing to her, I have no idea.

Last Week:

The ad for Heidi’s perfume is available, and, much to my surprise, the dress is substantially identical to the one made last week by Kate and Layana. As for the Press Event dress by Daniel, I have no idea; if you’ve seen pics, by all means, let me know.

Project Runway S11: Episode 3 – Surprise Me

Michelle: “If we lose one more time I’m going to need some happy drug.” Oh, Michelle, we all need some happy drug, whether you lose or not.

The Challenge:

Tim warns them they have to design for a client who’s very particular. Didn’t he deliver this speech last time, and the time before? No surprise here: it’s Heidi. Daniel and Layana act like it’s the first time anyone’s ever been allowed to design for Heidi. Are people getting stupider, or is it just that only the stupid people are still watching PR? Oops…

Did you know Heidi has a new fragrance coming out, called Surprise? Surprise! Fragrantica describes it as “balmy” – isn’t that the word used to describe your great-aunt Eunice who isn’t sure what day it is? It’s got mandarin orange, pink peppercorns (which they keep calling pink pepper, much to the annoyance of any dedicated TC viewer), and other stuff. And the poor girl doesn’t have a thing to wear for the TV commercials and the PR events.

Each team must make four outfits for the ad, and two for press events, which means the Team of Losers gets to assign one look to each designer, while the Winners will have to team up on a couple of looks. That’s an interesting built-in advantage for the Losers, I think. Heidi provides them with a box of “inspirations” including Heidilicious, the photo book by Rankin (aka John Rankin Waddell – no wonder he goes by Rankin) who’ll be doing the ad photos. She wants them to stay with the colors of the perfume bottle – pink, black, gold – produce garments that are sexy but not slutty, and include hard lines and feminine softness. Piece of cake, right? It’s not like they have to make a dress out of flowers or hardware (yet).

Each team gets $1200. Two winners – one commercial, one PR – will be chosen, and one loser. Interesting – I think she left out the thing about the winners coming from the winning team. She probably wanted to give herself some flexibility, just in case. This ain’t Heidi’s first time at the rodeo, after all. Kristin Davis is the guest judge; I’m not sure who she is, but everyone else seems to think she’s pretty famous.

The Losers: Yep, they lose again. Prep the happy drugs for Michelle, please.

Benjamin (Bottom Two) is completely within his comfort zone on this challenge. He doesn’t try to manage anyone this time, and we maybe get a glimpse into why he was so invested in being Team Manager before: he’s recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship that eventually affected his career, and he needs to build up his confidence as a person and as a designer… just when you’re thinking he’s pulling the old “feel sorry for me” card, he just breaks and cries, and it’s impossible not to feel sorry for him. I don’t know what he went through, for how long or how long ago, but he’s either a terrific actor or he’s genuinely scarred. But here’s the thing, Benjamin: that’s one. You get one. You take two, you’re pushing it. I just scolded a woman mourning the death of her father, for pete’s sake, you think I’m going to let you off easier? Still, I admit I’m kind of curious about what was going on. Not from any prurient impulses, I assure you – more of an impulse to compare notes. At any rate, he’s making something out of a high school production of Romeo and Juliet where the mothers make all the costumes. And he struggles mightily with time, falling apart towards the end. He’s got some seaming going on over the rib cage, but then he covers it with leather straps wrapped around the torso eight or ten times (which Tim sort of suggested), and the fabric over the breasts, which is thin and flowy to begin with, is staying up on a wish and a prayer. He just ran out of time before he could structure a proper bodice with cups. But why he ran out of time I don’t quite get. Yes, he has several seams, but it isn’t that complicated a dress. Maybe Benjamin had me fooled – another of those guys who seems to know what he’s doing, but when it comes down to it, can’t quite get it done; my comments from E1 lean in that direction as well. So Benjamin isn’t rating high on the credibility scale right now. On the runway, he says he chose his pink fabric to match the “juice” of the perfume (or did I mishear that?). Kristen loves the color, and the overall dress is flattering, but the breast part is so upsetting she can’t even look, it’s painful. Zac: “Mushy boobs.” Heidi: “Sad droopy boobs.” Benjamin explains there is boning, but not there, which is really strange – he boned the part that’s pretty much wrapped in leather, but not the part that desperately needs it. Nina says it’s the worst construction she’s seen, and comes up with “shipwrecked.” That isn’t a bad concept, really, but it’s the mushy, droopy boobs that kill it. Zac starts in on “slow down with the excuses” which makes me pretty sure something was cut out of the runway grilling, because what was shown wasn’t excuses; he admitted he had a time management problem, which isn’t the same as saying “I didn’t have enough time.” Mean Zac.

Matthew (Bottom Two) isn’t feeling it. He’s intimidated, because Heidi of course looks good in everything being a supermodel and all that, so he has to nail it. And all he heard was the word “bondage.” Can’t imagine why – take a look at those storyboard elements, nothing suggestive of bondage there, right? He’s not a dressmaker (from last week: “I was in dance, I have the heart of an artist”), which I guess is his interpretation of the challenge. I’m a little sick of him and his moping artist persona already, and I’m someone who loves a good moping artist persona. Tim senses his despair. He also senses his early effort is going matronly, so suggests going for all-out S&M through a fashion lens, not through a sexual deviant lens. Hearing Tim say “sexual deviant” is scary. Unfortunately, his fashion lens is not calibrated to the judges’ fashion lens. Zac thinks the fabric is fine but with the neck piece it looks trashy, not sexy; Heidi wonders where her whip is (and that sound you hear is all the straight guys watching Lifetime – all three of them). She can’t wear this on a red carpet. I think the collar plays with Fifty Shades of Grey but it’s much too short and is missing the “soft, feminine” element that might bring it back from over the edge. Kristin blurts, “I’d die if someone asked me to wear that.” She notes how creatively Matthew has dressed himself, and wonders why it didn’t translate. He brings out the intimidation factor; she tells him to stop being intimidated, and dream. I don’t think lack of dreaming is his problem. I don’t think his taste matches Heidi’s – which, by the way, is nowhere near as demure as her pearl-clutching would indicate.

Cindy (Bottom Three) is going to go sexier than anything she’s ever made before, which isn’t very sexy; she’s mostly about classics, jackets, tweeds. Which raises the question: why isn’t she working on a Press Event look instead of the Ad Look? Mistake. She buys a bunch of fabrics and takes a vote on which one she should use; Benjamin proclaims one is “Madonna, Material Girl, not a good reference” so she ditches it. She trusts Benjamin. When Tim comes through, she explains she’s doing cap sleeves in leather, which seems like a pretty awful idea to me. Tim thinks so, too, and advises her to show more skin, and to do the whole look in one textile. She trusts Tim. Can you see where this is going? Yep, right down the tubes. I liked her dress, actually, but I’ve said that before. I must have the same old, dowdy taste she has. It’s hard to defend someone wearing a ball-fringe-trimmed shawl over a tank top, but I liked the iridescence of the fabric, and I liked the overall style, even though it didn’t fit very well. But the judges are brutal. She points out how she sexed it up with a slit over the chest, and Heidi gives her a lesson on sexy: a slit doesn’t make it sexy, it needs to hug the body in a sensual way. Zac asks, why shantung? She thought it was elegant and classy. Zac disagrees; it’s hard to photograph, and it shows every wrinkle. The iridescence I liked? It’s cheap. Ouch. Good thing I can’t afford iridescent clothes anyway. Heidi asks the team if anyone advised her to stay away from the fabric; Samantha says this was the best of the fabrics she bought. Kristin is the only one with anything positive to say; she could see what she was dreaming of. That’s something, I guess.

Samantha intends to highlight the back, a very sexy area. I like the overall impact of her dress, with the curvy color-block, but the black fabric strikes me as too stiff and shiny, and the illusion mesh is just a no. If the black had been softer, hung more graciously, and the pink was fabric – even sheer fabric – it might’ve been a different story. But I think there’s an imbalance, too much of a difference between the black and pink. And the sewing in the back is awful. Still, the design is there.

Michelle knows how to sex it up: “I can take my volume up to 11.” Oh, goody. Tim loves the Press Event look she’s working on. On the runway, I think the model looks pregnant, but I like the yoke. Still, I wonder why she doesn’t get a dressing-down for something that doesn’t hug the body in a sensual way.

Tu tells Tim he’s working with a rose-petal shape. I don’t see it. I see a dowdy mullet gown that doesn’t make sense. But Tu isn’t a 58-year-old funeral home director without Peach’s personality so he passes.

Winners Winners Winners:

Patricia (Top Three) again makes her own fabric, this time by cutting hundreds of tiny squares of pink leather and sewing them together into a mesh that lies over a skin-tone skimmer. Tim finds a way to rein in her penchant for long explanation: “Tell us in 100 words or less what you’re doing.” He’s impressed with the ambition, and gives his approval. She wanted to do the whole dress in leather, but given costs (and time) just does it on the top front. She thinks this is great for press appearances since no one’s ever seen this kind of fabrication. That sounds like self-promotion, but I think she’s right. And yes, it’s impressive technique, but… isn’t it a bit sloppy? Do the colors really go together? What are the gold squares doing there? Isn’t the skirt a little sheer? I think this is a draft, and after some revisions, it’ll be fantastic. In spite of (what I consider) the flaws, it’s very impressive work, and I’m glad she got the recognition for being truly innovative, as opposed to what passes for innovation on this show. Everyone loves it, and Heidi recognizes it as a – wait for it – surprise. Kristin worries that it’s boxy and not that flattering; Zac thinks it’s more appropriate for a younger girl, which earns an impressive, if staged, glare from Heidi. But Nina thinks it’s a nice departure. In chat, Heidi notes it’s something that, in a press interview, might make news.

Layana and Kate, working together on a commercial look, struggle initially; they see the same silhouette, but Layana wants to do gold and black and thinks Kate’s pink and black is too cutesy. They’re over budget by $140 at Mood, and Kate’s freaking out, but the other team members have enough left over to over it: “It’s Layana, of course we get extra from everyone else.” I love her for saying that. Layana’s a Pretty Girl. And Pretty Girls don’t have to pay attention, or worry about budgets, because someone will always fall all over themselves to help. I’ve been the one trying to play by the rules, only to watch some adorable little bundle of personality and hair come by and get special treatment. Enjoy it, Kate, while you’ve got her on your side. This continues to play out in other ways: Kate’s bringing up some construction details, and Layana says, “Say it again, I didn’t pay attention.” I don’t think Layana’s malicious or “mean girl,” not at all – she seems quite unaware that she has this magical power, as if she assumes everyone has it, and she doesn’t get what Kate’s so uptight about. I had a friend who had this magic power, and was a Mean Girl. She once had a store clerk (working on commission) get a ladder and bring a bag down from a top shelf, only to glance quickly, put it on a table with a casual “no,” and walk away. I was the one who apologized to the clerk. If I’d had the $250, I would’ve bought the bag. Layana might’ve left the bag behind, but she would’ve genuinely been considering buying it and would’ve handed it back to the clerk with a “thank you.” I think. Anyway, clothes… During walkthrough, it’s Layana who turns whiny: she hates the pink. Tim tries to talk her down. Kate TH: “I don’t care if you’re worried, go cry in the bathroom. This is not time for doubt, I’ve made the corset and I’m not changing it.” That’s how those who aren’t born with generosity-inspiring charm (and who don’t have immunity) deal. It’s a whole little dyad psychology lesson here, I’m fascinated. They explain to Tim the corset will create the cleavage Heidi loves; “And she has beautiful cleavage,” agrees Tim. And Layana comes around, since the pink’s going to be well-covered anyway. And the final product? Really nice. Hard, soft, sexy; you can just see the wind machine setup; it screams Winning Ad Look. And is that Jaslene modeling? PR, the retirement home for Tyra’s cash cows. No, I don’t think so, but kinda looks like her. Heidi loves the luxury; Zac likes the draped top and shadow effect, though the lower part could use a little more black chiffon. Nina loves the movement for a photo shoot. Kristin loves the pink, it has a balletic quality. Heidi asks who should win, and Layana passes it to Kate, as it was passed to her last week by Daniel. Layana just shot way up in my opinion, Pretty Girl or not. Kate, on the other hand…”If I won, and you wore this dress, my mom and dad would be so proud…” Oh, honey, just shut up and say, “Thank you.”

Daniel thinks Bond Girl from the ad story board: low back, high leg. Tim suggests a halter, and he goes with that. Except: Crisis! He thought he got some contrasting fabric, but it’s not in his bag. Patricia to the rescue: she’s not using the dark leather she bought, so she hands it over. For some reason, Daniel thinks this is a Big Deal. Hey, they’re on the same team, she isn’t using it, of course she should give it up. He gets a bit emotional in a TH: “I come from nothing, and look what I’ve done.” Maybe the producers are waving tear sticks around in the TH studio today. His dress is kind of milquetoast, isn’t it? I love the leather, but the beige fabric is a little too beige, and a little too flimsy for me. But Heidi finds it simple, interesting, and sophisticated. Kristin likes that he thought about following the line of the bottle but actually followed the line of the body. Nina loves the construction and shape but the fabric looks inexpensive (aha!). Zac’s not sure the color is right for an ad (aha! again) but it’s well done.

Stanley goes bling: gold metallic. Tim: “Heidi loves bling.” I very much like the scarf effect at the top, I’m crazy about the zipper moved to the side in the back, but it’s too much gold for me. Heidi calls him out for the necklaces. There is such a thing as too much bling.

Richard… oh, Richard. You seem like a good guy. But every season, someone poops fabric or makes a hip goiter, and this season, it’s you who does both at once. I like how he turned the fabric to stripe in different directions; I even could like the goiter if it wasn’t so… fulminant. He knows he has a problem: “Her butt looks huge, it’s like an exotic chicken.” Heidi calls him out.

Joseph and Amanda have very different aesthetics. He’s about long, full, draping, sheer; she’s fond of structure and close fit. They dither for quite some time over what to do. Joseph: “I’d be proud if this was on What Not To Wear, I love that stuff.” Amanda: “Oh god help me.” But somehow, the tumblers click into place: she makes a structured dress, and he creates a lattice as pattern. Amanda sees the light: “This is where Joe really shines, it’s an amazing concept, fragmented like the design on the box. That’s why we love Joe.” I’m betting this TH was filmed after the judging. Whatever they did to come together as a team, someone should study it. I wish the lattice was a little more fragmented and abstract, but it’s my favorite press-event look. Not Heidi’s, though.

Surprise!

Instead of picking one Press Event look and one Ad Look, Heidi picks the two Ad Looks: Kate and Daniel win. I’m really disappointed for Patricia. Sure, there were some details that would have to be cleaned up, but it was true innovation, and I’m betting neither of these looks is going to be recognizable by the time Heidi wears them, which should be February 15th – isn’t that a strange time to launch a perfume, too late for Christmas or Valentine’s Day?

Addendum: And now it’s my turn to be surprised: I don’t know about the Press Event looks, but the dress in the ad is pretty much what Kate and Layana came up with.

Cindy’s out. No surprise there. She bids Tim an emotional adieu: “It’s because of you that I’m a fashion designer.” That makes me sad.

Next Week:

Now it’s time to make dresses out of flowers and hardware – it’s the Unconventional Challenge, and it seems they’re recycling ideas. Let’s see if anyone makes a washer bikini. And who better for guest judge of the unconventional challenge than Bette Midler.

Project Runway S11: Episode 2 – Spin Out

SPiN: Photo by Gray Matters Photography

SPiN: Photo by Gray Matters Photography

It seems the hottest spot in NYC these days is a ping-pong nightclub called SPiN. Susan Sarandon would like it to be hotter and thinks Project Runway on Lifetime will help. I think Susan Sarandon is a lot smarter than that. So I’m sticking with, she’s doing Heidi a favor by letting the designers come up with new outfits for the ball boys and servers.

Yes, ball boys. There will be lots of tee-hee about balls. When you start with a corporate slogan of “Balls are our Business” you’re pretty much expected to tee-hee about balls. And sticks. No, ping-pong does not require sticks, but the ball boys do, to net the escaping balls.

Are you with me so far? Let’s go back to the beginning…

The designers are still mulling over what they’ve learned from last week. Matthew regrets not helping Emily until the last minute. James decides he will be more greedy in taking care of himself, and not listen so much to others, because that’s why he ended up third-to-last. Hey, everyone has his way of getting through the day. Cindy needs to stop feeling like she’s been run over by a truck, which is what happens when you’re second-to-worst. Michelle lies through her teeth and assures her that she wouldn’t have been in the bottom if all sixteen looks had been included, instead of just her team. Again, I kinda liked Cindy’s dress, but given the hatred everyone in the Chairs that Count felt for it, Cindy would’ve been on the bottom if everyone in America had sent in an entry.

Heidi tells the designers only that this challenge will be a ball. Amanda: “Ball gown? Horrible. Athletic? Horrible.” That Amanda, she’s a cheerful gal. They head off to somewhere that turns out to be SPiN. Daniel: “Ping-pong? We just have guns in Texas.” Watch out, Susan, next they’ll be coming for your balls.

Each team must create five looks for: two female servers, two male servers, and a ball boy, all of whom will be young, attractive, and thin. Ok, that isn’t specified, but there’s no warning to make sure the outfits will work on different body types. Let’s face it, fat old farts aren’t going to be hired at SPiN, should they be so foolish as to apply. There’s probably a “must present athletic appearance” clause to get around legal nasties. A screen print guy will come in and add logos, slogans (“Balls are our Business” must be included on the ball boy uniform), in whatever size and location desired. The designers hang out making pests of themselves acting as servers and ball boys for a while so they’ll understand the requirements of the uniforms, since none of them could possibly have ever actually worked as a server before. Tu’s parents own a restaurant so he immediately drops a drink. Patricia gets herself fired. Benjamin has worked in high-end restaurants so he decides all on his own to play DT leader. The current uniform is a gray t-shirt, so pretty much anything is an improvement. They get $500 per team, and one day. Susan Sarandon, owner of the club, is guest judge. Tu: “She has big boobs.” I’m pretty sure that’s the designer talking, since, come on, they’re not all that big.

Winning Team (I told you, I’m NOT going to type the name ever again; hey, I put back links to the Lifetime images, don’t push me):

Layana and Daniel (Top Three) work together on a female server outfit. She’s open to criticism when she’s working with someone who knows more than she does and she can learn from them. Daniel doesn’t have any formal training, but he does have a quick way to drape pants and he’s happy to help “the weakest link.” During Tim’s consult, they show the skirt covered with a panel, aka skort, and Daniel’s got some asymmetry going on in the shirt. Tim suggests finding other opportunities to use the shape, and a lightbulb goes off over Daniel’s head: pockets. On the runway (after Heidi admires Daniel’s heart), the model looks like a server, and even acts like a server, taking out a pencil and pad of paper. It’s a nice server outfit; I like the lapels. Daniel did the vest (he watched a ping-pong ball bounce for the shape of the lapel), and Layana did the skort. Susan likes the combination of sexy and practical, which is hard to do; she appreciates that the vest says, “I’m here to serve you.” Zac likes the more formal aspect to the t-shirt and the asymmetry, though he’s not sure about the balance of the whole thing. Still, it works. Heidi likes that it’s sexy, but not overly so. Then she schools me on what it’s like to be one of the Beautiful People: “When you’re a girl, you don’t want the girl bringing drinks to have everything hanging out. You want to be the one with everything hanging out.” See, I was thinking of the server, who might not want to be serving drinks to drunken strangers with everything hanging out. We’re in agreement, just for different reasons. Nina likes the skort/apron thing, that they thought about a lot of details. Heidi asks: if your outfit wins, which one of you is the winner? Daniel does something incredible: he has immunity, so he passes the potential win to Layana. His reasoning doesn’t quite make sense (it isn’t like he’d be going home if she wins and he doesn’t) but it’s a nice thing to do.

Stanley (Top Three)tackles a male server uniform, and goes retro. Is that what retro looks like? Guy looks like a SEAL to me. It’s pretty simple: drop crotch black pants, black t-shirt. No, not a t-shirt; he didn’t want a t-shirt, so it’s a short-sleeve raglan sweatshirt. There’s something odd in the fit, to me. And I hate the orange belt sticking out. I’m ok with the drop crotch, though; the pants are fine. It just looks dark and military. But Nina thinks it’s edgy, fun, and cool, futuristic and retro at the same time, so what do I know. Susan thinks the guys would wear it; they weren’t too crazy about having “Balls are our Business” on their clothes, but here it’s on the back so it’s not so much in-your-face and, I gues, they’ll forget about it and not realize people are pointing at them and giggling as they walk away. Zac likes the pockets and the modern, angled construction, but he’s not a drop crotch fan. In fact, in chat he thinks it looks sloppy, though it’s fine if someone can pull it off.

Richard and Joseph (Top Three) seem to work together really well, doing what teammates must: listening to each other, bouncing ideas around, finding ways for minds to meet instead of ways to dominate. Though I know it’s ridiculous, Joseph’s glasses keep reminding me of John Lennon. He’s got a fun, cute, vintage business screenprinting cats onto old sweatshirts (or something like that), but Richard’s got more of a toned-down, masculine aesthetic, though he doesn’t do menswear. They work on the ball boy. Joseph suggests harem pants, which gets nixed. He’s into graphic patterns and interesting textures, and that gets incorporated. See, the ball boy needs a place to put his stick. After he’s netted an errant ball, he puts down his stick and suddenly doesn’t have it any more. So they figure out a harness that’ll let him put his stick down his back instead of leaving it laying around. Tim’s impressed with the cleverness. Yep. Then Joseph wants the pants more fitted (hey, wait, he wanted harem pants, what’s going on here?); Richard’s fine with that, he’ll go to leggings if Joseph wants, but no, they end up with ordinary black pants, again with boots. And pockets with “Balls are our business” printed on them. The color-blocked T-shirt has the logo in contrasting colors; it’s a real tour de graphics. Which is good, because otherwise it’s a t-shirt and pants. I think the pockets are a little too busy but it’s quite striking. Susan says they were going to have them carry back-mounted vaccuums a la Ghostbusters to chase after the balls; the nets were a compromise. And here the design is a back-mounted net. Zac likes the graphic break over the chest, unusual for men. Heidi likes the placement of everything. Who would get the win? They waffle: “It’s hard to say.” I think they’re right; it was an actual team effort. And it meshes with Stanley’s commando gear and the graphic shirt-and-vest. Susan murmured, “I love this” as it walked the runway (unless that was edited in from somewhere else, which is distinctly within the realm of possibility).

Amanda (safe) asks one of the male servers if he’d like something button-down. No. “Ok, just double-checking,” she says. Oh, come on, you were ready to make him an oxford. Instead, she makes a black tennis dress out of swimwear fabric for a female server. It’s short. Really short. Nicely made, though. I guess Waitresses to the Beautiful People don’t have to worry about getting goosed. One of the female servers told Benjamin to be sure things were long enough to cover important matters if they had to bend over; I guess Amanda didn’t hear that conversation.

Kate and Patricia (safe) collaborate on a female server uniform, and it’s kind of a nightmare. Patricia’s assignment is leggings, and she’s worried that if she’s called out, she won’t have much defense, since there’s not much to design. She’s right, too, even though Tim kind of pooh-poohs the concern, but you know it could happen. Me, I hate the top; I don’t understand how no one else said anything about it, tried to get Kate to do something different. The leather yoke is a good enough idea, but it just doesn’t work with the fabric, and the draping in back is ugly. The leatherwork on the hem is another good idea that just looks bad. I think Patricia has reason for concern, but everyone’s decided she’s got too much ego in the mix and she needs to shut up and do what needs to be done instead of trying to figure out how to do something better. I think she’s lucky they were the winning team.

The Losing Team:

Cindy and Benjamin (Bottom Three) are the poster children for what’s wrong with team challenges: for Top Chef fans, think Robin doing the dessert for MVolt’s team at Restaurant Wars. She’s pretty confident about her ability to make a jacket, but Benjamin’s breathing down her neck at Mood (where Swatch sleeps unawares). Cindy: “Why is he keeping such close tabs on me when James is picking the ugiest fabric in the store?” Cindy, the brown you picked isn’t anything to write home about. She’s desperately trying to get her POV out there, and Benjamin’s just as desperately trying to keep her from doing that. Her jacket is perfectly nice. Not for a waitress at the athletically-themed hottest club in NYC, but a well-made dishwater-colored version of the nondescript jacket everyone has in her closet. Benjamin makes the shorts, and they don’t fit right at all. Bottom Three. Susan thinks it looks sad. It’s catatonic, is what it is. Zac: “I think you achieved what you were trying to achieve but it’s not appropriate to the venue.” Nina calls it dated and catalog. Benjamin explains he spent so much time checking on everyone’s pieces, filling in gaps, he compromised himself as a designer. The problem with that being, the rest of the team just lost, too.

Matthew and Benjamin (Bottom Three) are working on a ball boy uniform. Matthew was in dance, and he has the heart of an artist, so making generic jeans isn’t really what he’s about, but that’s what he’s assigned because someone has to do them. Tim’s dubious about jeans. Michele pipes up, “We were joking around about a kilt…” and the energy picks up. Matthew’s excited; a kilt is more up his alley. Tim’s for it, too: an urban kilt. Michele likes that it’s rock and roll and edgy but wonders if Susan Sarandon would think it’s appropriate for her servers. But the idea has caught on, and a kilt it is. They add a sporran as place to store balls, and a tank. I confess, I love it. On the runway, Matthew starts talking about freeballing, and Susan maintains her composure: “My guys wouldn’t wear it, but it really is ballsy.” Zac thinks it has too many elements. Nina appreciates the provocation, but they’re supposed to be pitching a real client. Matthew: “I’m an artist, not a commercial designer.” Oh, Matthew, you had me, and then you lost me. Zac: “Fashion is art and commerce, not a fine art.” They need to pick their risks, and this was a design commission. Nobody says, “But Michele suggested it…” Or “Tim liked it!” It’s kind of overall grey, so it’s not the best thing, but I love that they actually did something instead of another pair of pants and a tee. In chat, Heidi finds the “crotchpiece” tasteless. This is nonsense. It’s not a crotchpiece, it’s a sporran. Actually, it’s a ball bag, but hey, it wasn’t Matthew who decided the company slogan would be “Balls are our business” and that ball boys would wear uniforms with that slogan on it. I’m not saying they should’ve won, but they deserved far more respect than they got. Even if Matthew actually did say he has the heart of an artist, and no one with the heart of an artist would say such a thing.

James (Bottom Three) goes off to a corner and works by himself on a male server uniform. See James work. He produces a really ugly purple shirt. “Shirt” is kind of misleading; it’s a maternity top, though he might’ve planned to turn the front pleat into button plackets. Cindy and Matthew disapprove. Benjamin doesn’t understand it. Tim says the shirt is a mess. Michele says the color scheme and proportions are off. The team says, scrap it. James: “I want to say, where’s your hope, let me fix it before you say scrap it.” He scraps it, abandoning all hope. He has hip hop pants, loose, knee length, no top. He doesn’t know what fabric he can use for his top. See James fret. I’m not sure where the fabric came from, but by runway time he has a color-blocked tank with a very sloppy collar half-tucked-in, half-out of these loose knee-length pants. He wants the consumer to remember the brand. Oh, they’ll remember it. Nina says the pants are a “disturbing” length, and that’s not a good kind of disturbing; he looks like a pool boy. That’s only because the model has longish blond hair. Susan doesn’t think he looks like a server. Heidi’s worried about a guy with furry armpits serving food in a sleeveless tank, and I have to say Heidi’s right about that. Zac thinks the top looks messy. The color blocking is fine, it’s even nice, and I don’t really have a problem with the pants, but now I’m worried about armpit hairs in my soup. In chat, Nina calls it “Surfer Dude” and would rather see the outrageous kilt. This is the second time he’s made something very simple, but very sloppy and not very attractive.

Michele (safe) notices the other team connects well, and manage to come together even though they have different points of view. In the overnight, she says she wants out of her team. Last week, I referred to Michele as Portlandia simply because she came from Portland, OR as opposed to my home town of Portland, Maine; I didn’t realize it was actually a thing in some circles, like with my buds Sarah and Paul from IJustReadAboutThat, that she’s a character from the TV show Portlandia. RealityCreator on TWoP even commented: “Maybe she’ll put a bird on it” which is pretty hilarious. She makes a dress in the same color as Cindy’s depressed jacket (and, by the way, Heidi’s dress); back in the 80s I had a dress exactly like that, in blue denim; it came in two washes, with short or long sleeves, from a catalog for about $20. My #1 Rule for Project Runway is: if I’d wear it, it’s a bad idea. It’s an especially bad idea since you can still buy it second-hand for $24. The collar’s also a mess, and there’s some oddball shirring or elastic around the armholes. She worked down my perfectly good dress. Even Michele thinks it’s a boring color, and it might not be a server dress.

Tu and Samantha (safe) make a female server uniform. Most of it – vest, skirt – is well-made and pretty good, but they lose me with the sheer-over-bra undershirt. Samantha wishes she were more covered as well. They’re reasonably happy, though. I’m crazy about the jacket Samantha’s wearing; she showed it at her casting session too.

Decisions, decisions:

Layana wins; she’s very excited since she can call her friends and tell them to check out the uniform she designed at SPiN. I’m surprised; I thought the ball boy had it. But I love that Daniel gave her the win. It was also a smart thing for him to do. He doesn’t need it, since he won the first week, and he’s building up good will that might come in handy later on.

Heidi points out that Benjamin had two pieces that failed; if he played a leadership role, he did not succeed, since the rest of the team was pretty bad as well. But both James and Cindy were up there last week. What to do, what to do? Kick James out, that’s what to do. He feels like he should’ve taken more control, which is exactly what he said about last week, and in both cases he was off by himself doing his thing, so I don’t know what he’s talking about.

Next Week:

Heidi’s Perfume Dress. The Heidi challenge already? Oh, I see… in time for Valentine’s Day. But just barely.

Project Runway Season 11: There Is No I in Team

Back in the 70s, Melanie Safka sang, “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma.” I’ll admit, “Look what they’ve done to my Project Runway” doesn’t have the same ring. But it’s just as true. And yet, I seem to be in for another round.

Instead of meeting on the Atlas roof for a glass of champagne, the designers gather in the Runway room, where the folding chairs are suspiciously divided into two groups. Heidi welcomes them to Project Runway/Teams (the designers are supposedly learning this for the first time), because they stopped caring about fashion or, heaven forfend, art, a while ago and they need to ratchet up the interpersonal drama for the Dance Moms and Double Divas crowd.

The teams have already been decided, using criteria known only to God:

One team:

Daniel Esquivel, 48, Austin, TX. He’s wearing an amazing jacket in his casting session. He can sew; can he do PR?

Amanda Valentine, 31, Nashville, wardrobe stylist/costume designer. She had skulls as toppers on her wedding cake. I see her as the murky middle.

Layana Aguilar, 28, NY, originally from Brazil. Her stated weakness is that she never listens to anybody. That bodes well for the Team season. The jumpsuit she brought to her casting session may be the only jumpsuit I’ve ever liked.

Richard Hallmarq, 39, Sacramento, CA. He brought a Ven-esque skirt (and his own hangers, with his name on them) to the casting session, but it looked like the roses were tumors. Shades of Kane, he has a belt with his name in silver letters.

Patricia Michaels, 46, Taos, NM. Her husband said it’s me or fashion, and she picked fashion. She walked into casting carrying a parasol. She’s really into textiles. She’s Native American (her native name is Water Lily), and she really knows how to use the motifs without going kitsch; I’m very interested in her fabrics and designs.

Joseph Aaron Segal, 30, Providence, RI. He’s a textile specialist, teaches part-time at RISoD. I like his Wonders of the World collection.

Stanley Hudson, 44, West Hollywood. He used to work for Bob Mackie and he has the purple ostrich feather skirt to prove it. He’s also got a green jacket I love, and either I’m getting over my hatred of jumpsuits or he, too, has the secret of making something I like.

Kate Pankoke, 23, Chicago. She’s working in Bridal. “I’m like a scary possessed Chihuahua.” She names her dresses. She would be a criminal psychologist if not a designer. Oh goody.

The Other Team:

Benjamin Mach, 35, Australia. I thought he was Ed Begley Jr. in the group photo, and imagined a screamer, but his videos seem much more mature and thoughtful. He seems to think he has a web presence, but one site doesn’t exist and Narcissus right now is an Etsy shop offering two necklaces. He’s really attracted to metal at the moment. And faded romanticism.

Cindy Marlatt, 59, Washington State. I love her because she’s a funeral director who, at age 59, she just graduated from the Art Institute fashion design program. Her website shows a variety of complex designs – jackets, pleating – in a variety of fabrics – leather, tweeds – but in her casting video, many of those things look sloppy. She won them over with latex. And, by the way, she hates team challenges, heh heh. I was initially delighted to see her reference Rachel Maddow as the “celebrity” she’d like to design for, but was dismayed by her reason: “Rachel Maddow (MSNBC talk-show host). Rachel wears a selection of the most unflattering, boring jackets available on the market today. I’m sure I could do better.” I’m sure you could – hell, I could – but forget it, Cindy. Rachel has said she prefers to keep her personal style off the table when she’s doing political commentary and present a more neutral visual, so people will focus on what’s being said (a glorious attitude for a newswoman, one I wish more would adopt). But I’m pretty sure that Cindy, this season’s Peach, is toast before she even starts.

Emily Pollard, 24, Falls Church, VA. She’s got some very creative fabric manipulations; I suspect she’s operating on a student level (“oh, wow, look what happened when I sprayed the organza with varnish and melted it with an iron!”).

James Martinez, 29, Dallas, TX. Fast talker. Loves zippers as accents. I like a couple of his looks, but I’m dubious. He liked to wear suits to elementary schools and got bullied for it. He names his sewing machines.

Matthew Arthur, 30, NOLA. He’s fascinated by people in rehab because in NOLA they start drinking wine at 2pm; his Spring/Summer collection is based on addiction. That said, I like his clothes, I love how he incorporates the bizarre rehab motifs, but it’s almost exclusively casualwear.

Michelle Lesniak Franklin, 34, Portlandia. Some interesting stuff, but overall, pretty routine. Geek chic is her thing.

Samantha Black, 28, Brooklyn. Ya gotta love someone whose favorite colors are “yellow, and neon yellow.” And who wishes she could design for “Hasidic Jewish culture. ” She’s got some interesting looks, mixed patterns and bright colors (which would go over big in Hasidic Jewish culture). I could do without the fox head on shoulder; it reminded me of the marten stole my stepmother had.

Tu Suthiwat Nakchat, 26, Springfield, VA. Parsons grad. He was a monk for a month, couldn’t take it because “you can’t watch tv.” He quit his job in Bangkok to do PR, which seems like an insane risk. I’m meh on his clothes.

First Challenge:

Make a garment that shows who you are as a designer with the input of your team to guide you. Someone on the winning team will be the winner, someone on the losing team will go home. The inspiration is NYC: One Team will look at NYC from afar via a boat on the Hudson, and The Other Team will look at it from the roof of Atlas. There’s the Atlas roof. You knew they’d work it in one way or another. Champagne, too.

Psssst… Heidi… That’s not a team challenge. That’s not even a group challenge. That’s a “do your own thing and ignore what people tell you unless you like them” challenge. Maybe they’re starting slow.

One Team, the boat people, name their team Keeping it Real. I have real doubts about the creativity and artistic values of a team that comes up with that name. The Other Team names their team Dream Team. Same doubts apply.

Swatch Speaks!

Zac Posen is the new Michael Kors. Christian Siriano is guest judge. I’m so relieved Heidi’s back and that awful Blondie woman isn’t grating on my nerves every time she sing-songs. And while I like Joanna and I no longer trust Tim Gunn, I still have great residual affection for him.

I can tell you from all the writing workshops I’ve been in, the key to getting advice is knowing which advice to take, and which to discard. So there’s going to be a lot of, “Why didn’t you listen to your team?” here, right alongside all the “Why did you let your team talk you out of what you wanted to do?” If the judges like it, you did the right thing; if they don’t, you didn’t. Figuring out what the judges will and won’t like on any given day is a crap shoot.

No, I’m not detailing it all. Too many designers, too little of interest. Tim’s walkthroughs are group events, some people think others are annoying or crazy or lousy designers, and there’s a lot of soul searching about whether one wants to help another, leading Kate to utter the line that nearly made me turn off my tv and vomit: “It’s like on an airplane. You help yourself first, then help the child who’s struggling for oxygen next to you.” I haven’t been on a plane in quite some time; do they really tell you that now? Lord help us all.

An editorial note: Thanks to Lifetime f*cking up their Rate the Runway page with forced advertising, I’m not linking to it any more, nor will I be using it. Blogging Project Runway and Tom and Lorenzo are still available with all the photos you need, and I actually like and respect the people who run those sites. One more thing: I’ll never again buy the product Lifetime thinks it’s selling.

Winning Looks from Keeping it Real (I feel stupid even typing that; are these the teams for the rest of the season? Because I’m not gonna type that every week, I’m saying right now):

Daniel: I like his suit, but I’m willing to bet it isn’t nearly so well-made in any color other than black. Still, he did a lot in a short time, and it’s striking. Zac likes the structure plus drape; Nina likes the shorter sleeves and pants. Christian loves the neckline.

Richard: He’s used to trees, and now he’s surrounded by buildings, so he thought of gray and black. I liked his look immediately on the runway, but I figured the judges would hate it. Nina likes that it’s urban and sporty; Zac likes the asymmetry; Heidi thinks it’s a great basic but it’s not schlumpy; Christian appreciates that it’s different. Richard was going to do bindings on the side – bindings? – but the team talked him out of it, and he’s grateful for their helpful input.

Patricia saw the shapes of windows from the boat and thought of the cubist artists, so she hand printed fabric to layer over cobalt blue. Heidi eventually interrupts her: “She’s a talker. You know the show is 90 minutes, right?” I guess it was the Andrae Monologue going on, but what they aired was pretty interesting. And it’s a great dress, which, as Heidi says, speaks for itself; the manipulation is genius. Christian gets the time and effort it took; Zac likes the tactile quality but thinks she should’ve included the emotional quality into the shape of the dress itself. Nina disagrees; she likes the shape simple, the panels give movement the shape doesn’t have.

In Chat, Patricia gets praised for her fabric manipulation and the artistic element and strong female POV; Daniel impressed them for all the structure he accomplished in one day, and for an interesting, beautiful, original look “of the moment” since it’s what just walked the Paris runway. Richard gets props for a straightforward, versatile, effortless look.

Daniel wins. Aww. I would’ve given it to Water Lily. But his suit was impressive.

Losing Looks from Dream Team (same aside as above except with more irony):

James wanted to color-block his tank but the team said it needed more detail, so he added a bedraggled neckline and now wishes he’d stuck with the original idea. Zac calls it pedestrian and chewed up; that’s pretty accurate. Nina doesn’t find it inspiring. I don’t get any sense of NYC, from any view.

Cindy: I was afraid of this. It’s a perfect 70s maxidress; she thinks it’s a gown. She was inspired by a checkerboard design on the side of a building, and the print reminded her of the jumbled colors of the city. She wanted to make a long top over narrow navy pants, but the team talked her into making it a long dress instead because the print was so beautiful. Heidi: “Raise your hands if you said that print was beautiful.” A couple of hands go up, but they explain it away as better than the alternative. Heidi loves mixed patterns, but not these patterns. Nina sees nothing NYC, nothing urban. Christian sees no designer quality to it. Zac doesn’t know who she is; it’s confusing to him, the construction isn’t that interesting, and the prints are jarring. I happen to like it. I like it quite a lot. But then again, I was young and foolish in the 70s. I just might’ve worn this dress back then.

Emily had serious time issues. We never saw her working on anything, just complaining about everyone else. Heidi thinks it looks like the sewing machine ate it up. Nina says they’ve never seen such an unfinished garment on the runway in eleven seasons, which might be a bit of an exaggeration but not much. I can’t even figure out what it is. A skirt, tank, and jacket? Very strange. The team says her sketches were amazing and they tried to help her, but it didn’t work. Zac says something good: “It’s important to have your craft ready to go.” Great line. So much better than a Michael Kors zinger.

In chat, James gets spanked in absentia for his mall look, what Zac calls “intern couture” (I’m liking Zac’s turns of phrase); Cindy missed New York and did old and sad (and only young, happy people are allowed into NYC); Emily’s look is both butt-ugy and a hot mess – two clichés for the price of one failed garment – but she did start with a creative idea whereas the others went nowhere from nothing.

Emily’s out. I’m ok with that. It was a strange outfit, and I’m glad Cindy gets another shot; it’ll probably be her last.

But it’s gonna be a long season.