It’s the Design-your-own-Fabric-Challenge-4.0.
Here’s what I wonder: why haven’t any of these people given any thought to this before? They seem lost. Even if they haven’t watched the show, haven’t they ever thought, wow, I’d love to do a fabric with this kind of design? Of course, they’re restricted to a pattern that will replicate, and to cotton fabric, but still, from the reactions, you’d think they had to design for professional wrestlers or surfers or based on a museum or something.
Mondo’s in the workroom to give a little pep talk about how this challenge changed his life. I still remember that night, the only time I’ve ever cried over reality TV. In retrospect, it was probably engineered to be more dramatic than it actually was, but boy did it ever work. He warns them not to make a national costume, and to “apply your truth to what you create.” Mondo designed a carrying case for the product-placement computer. “It’s about breaking away.” He was a little bitchy during All-Stars, but that’s ok, I love him all over again. At least until judging, when he gets bitchy again.
“Special guests” deliver the computers, pre-loaded with material to use as inspiration. We all were expecting the Mommie Parade and the Oh My God Chorus and Baby Picture Show and Tell, but the designers seem oblivious as people start walking through the door. Most are mothers, except for Fabio’s boyfriend, Ven’s sister, and Dmitry’s oldest and dearest friend. Do you ever imagine what would’ve happened, back when you were that age, if they tried to rope a member of your family into something like this? I do. It makes me sad.
Mondo and Anya are guest judges. The welcome for Anya is noticeably less enthusiastic than it was for Mondo.
I just realized (don’t worry, we’ll get to the menstrual cycle, I promise. And copulation. Be patient. Or skip ahead if you just can’t wait) this is the first season since Seth Aaron that I don’t get the sense that they’ve picked a winner before the season started. I’m not saying they haven’t, just that it doesn’t seem that way. Maybe they’re just getting better at hiding it. I also realized, looking back at some Season 8 and 9 Rate the Runway pics for some “oh, he’s channeling this” links, that the Season 10 designers are head and shoulders above most of what went on those two seasons. And one more thing: listening to Anya as a judge does not change my opinion about her talent one bit.
Some impress the judges…:
Sonjia thinks “wide trouser” which means it’s all about the fit of the pants. Her print is red, white, and blue, because she’s American, and black, because she’s black. We don’t get any insight into the print itself, however; to me, it looks like a stylized eagle head. But maybe that’s because just this morning I saw a photo of a reconstructed eagle beak. Her pants clearly channel Mondo; hey, if you’re going to channel someone, that’s not a bad way to go but isn’t it a little obvious? The top looks pretty simple, but the curved seams in the front and the beautiful drape in the back mimic the curve in the print. Me, I think the pants with the white background and multiple shape elements are too busy; they don’t work as well as Mondo’s more linear plus-signs on purple. But that’s me. The judges fall all over themselves loving the outfit. Nina loves the surprise of the draped back, and it’s – the magic words – young, cool, chic. Mondo thinks it’s one of the most successful. Of course he does, it’s his design, except he made a lined jacket to go with his draped top. Here’s where Michael slips in his “Pacman eating her crotch” quip, except it was edited in the promos: he actually says “With that print, if it isn’t right it would’ve looked like Pacman is eating her crotch.” Deceptive advertising, why am I not surprised. He loves the attention to detail and thinks it’s kind of perfect.
Dmitry comes from a family of artists, his father and grandfather. His “oldest and dearest friend” brings a video from his father in Belarus. Dmitry goes for an ornament used in traditional costumes. LetoileSole on TWoP pointed us to Belarusian decorative towels called ruchnik; yes, that looks like the inspiration for his print. There’s a pretty extensive Wikipedia entry on ruchnik, though Wikipedia is a pretty bizarre place that will not allow the subject of an article to correct an erroneous fact (Just ask Philip Roth) so take it with a grain of salt. Dmitry knows he must do separates or he’ll be in trouble. Tim thinks it’s a little prim, and it is, but it’s striking in the workroom. And it’s pretty cool on the runway, too. It’s the sort of thing you keep looking at to figure out, with unusual lapels and a geometrical layered effect. The skirt bothered me on the runway and in the picture, and the print itself is, as one of the designers said, a bandana. But the overall effect is professional. Guy can make separates, who knew? And it’s different. Michael loves it, with concept, execution, and wearability. Heidi loves the illusion of the jacket floating over the print; she’d buy it. Nina pronounces the jacket “phenomenal.” Only Mondo is a bit of a wet blanket; he calls the jacket a showstopper, and recognizes the ability, but thinks it’s overdesigned. I think Mondo is enjoying being on the other side of the runway. But I wish he’d stuff a sock in it.
Melissa designs her print to look like bloodlines converging. It’s a lot better than it sounds. Considering her comfort zone is black, she really went for it. I love the dress. It’s something I’d wear if I wore nice clothes. Psst… that’s not a good sign. The sleeves kind of remind me of Viktor’s Nina dress, except they need more interfacing or something to keep them from flopping over. Michael is surprised to see uptown Park Avenue from Melissa; it’s great, but it’s just a pretty dress. Heidi wishes for more Melissa Coolness. Nina seems most appreciative. Anya wishes she’d pushed more, because that’s what everyone else said.
…Some aren’t worth mentioning…:
Elena had a happy childhood in Ukraine. Then what’s all this talk about needing to be tough? I thought she was raised by wolves on the steppes the way she postures. Her mom is an older, blonder, mellower version of Elena, and Tough Girl turns into a happy brightly-colored butterfly dancing through Mood in a multicolored romper. I think they should let her mom stay for the rest of the show, it seems to have a wonderful effect on her disposition. She admits to Tim her garment looks like scrubs (her print is in the same palette as her romper, I think), and he’s glad she can see that for herself. Tim goes outside her cultural reference points by invoking Marlo Thomas on That Girl, which makes it hilarious when she claims it’s the most modern design on the runway. I don’t think Ann Marie would ever wear anything like that. I don’t get her print, either; I see a Russian Orthodox church, a ghost (or a neon KKK wizard) and maybe a purple Christmas tree. It still looks like scrubs, high collar and sunglasses notwithstanding. But well-made scrubs, I’ll give her that.
Fabio wants rhythm, movement, and conflict. What he sees when the fabric arrives are fallopian tubes, penises, and vaginas. Copulation happening. Genders clashing and colliding. I love Fabio at this moment more than I can say, but all I see are squiggly lines. He doesn’t mention the penises to Tim. He loves it on the runway, it’s moving perfectly. I love Fabio, but I hate the outfit, it’s too black, it’s too squared-off in front (the back is a little better) and the pants are too wide. The jacket is kind of interesting, but it’s too hard to see what it is since it’s black over black. I’m glad he’s safe – it’ll be a dark day for me when he goes home – but I’m sorry I don’t get to hear him explain the sexual organs to the judges.
…And some are big mistakes:
Ven goes with the hibiscus from his religion (Hindu?) and uses it as an embellishment rather than as expected. Then he’s press-pleating flowers from the flowered fabric, as shown above. Tim sees an homage to a menstrual cycle. See, I told you we’d get there. It looks like cloths that have soaked up blood. Like maxi pads. He calls out to the workroom, “Am I the only one seeing this?” I have to hand it to Ven, he stays cool on the outside, even when he’s walking out on his interview with tears in his voice. I almost felt sorry for him. Almost. He changes his design, because he can’t have that comment in his head. And since Ven knows one thing, he goes back to the rose pleats. That’s the thing Ven doesn’t get: he has to do more than one thing. Even Diane Von Furstenberg had to make something besides a wrap dress. It’s not that bad a dress – it’s better than either of the safe designers – but Heidi sees Hawaiian airline hostess. Well, that’s a step up from homage to a menstrual cycle. Mondo has a really good specific critique: he acknowledges the obvious skill that went into it, but it’s disconnected, it’s a lot of info in one dress, and visually confuses him. During the Little Chat, the judges take the extraordinary step (remind me if they’ve done this before, a little cluster of brain cells is saying they have) of calling Tim out to verify he didn’t advise Ven to stop doing the roses. Tim gives them the menstrual cycle story. I think they just wanted him to say it again.
Gunnar listens to the Mondo Plus Sign story, and says, “If Mondo can make a statement like that then so can I.” Now I’m very nervous; is this going to turn into Dueling Personal Tragedies? The assignment, remember, is to reflect one’s cultural heritage. Gunnar decides being bullied in school is his cultural heritage. Now, like most people with two brain cells to rub together, I’m horrified by the bullying that routinely occurs everywhere. And I’m choosing to believe that Gunnar had only the best motivations. His print is a bird escaping two skeleton hands. I love that concept but the execution is lacking. He starts out with a black yoke, but Tim advises against it: “It looks like a don’t-bully-me suit of armor;” he wants light and airy, so he changes it. I almost like the back of the jacket. But… no. Heidi says it’s “not cool” which is the worst thing she can possibly say about anything. Michael thinks the print looks like a sheet of bird postage stamps, and the model is a suburban twirler. Nina sees sadness and struggle, not flight or freedom, and that’s the point Gunnar missed: Mondo’s pants were positive signs. Positive. Nina commented at the time how he made joy out of something so difficult. Anya can’t figure out if it’s TJ Maxx or not. Mondo finds the print chaotic, and doesn’t get the message; plus it’s a little junior. Ok, Mondo, lay off. Yeah, I know the judges gave you a hard time for all kinds of stuff, but they made up for it with All Stars, and Gunnar had nothing to do with it, so put away your claws. I’m just sayin’.
Christopher‘s grandmother died of a ladybug attack so he’s doing ladybugs. I don’t see ladybugs in his print, I see Atari Space Invaders ca. 1985, but maybe that’s the reproduction. It’s a nice dress. Everyone says it’s a nice dress. It’s just not a winning dress, and I guess they wanted to spank him for not doing more so they put him in the bottom. I sound like a broken record, but it’s better than the scrubs. Anya can’t see the print (because it’s covered with black organza) and the silhouette is a little prom, but the print is beautiful. Hey, I thought you couldn’t see the print. Nina thinks it’s his most disappointing creation.
The Bottom Line:
Dmitry finally FINALLY wins a challenge.
Gunnar‘s number is up. But hey, he’s 22, he outlasted a lot of more experienced designers, and he turned out to be a pretty sweet guy after a rough start. Christopher kind of bonded with him over the bullying thing, and he’s glad the wall between them finally came down.
The Rockettes. I’m not sure what they’re going to do with The Rockettes – probably just watch them before Heidi gives them the “design a stage costume” challenge – but they’ve been plugging it all season and it’s finally here. Does anyone care about the Rockettes any more? My father used to tell me they all had to have exactly the same measurements. I don’t know if that was ever true (he had a lot of strange ideas like a hatred of paperback books and brownstones). I’m surprised there hasn’t been a challenge to design something for her line of babywear since she’s never been shy about reaping the benefits of PR designers’ labors before.