Project Runway Season 10 Episode 13: Finale, Part I

Even <em>The New Yorker</em> understands the value of styling.

Even The New Yorker understands the value of styling.

The best thing I can say about this episode was that it kept me from obsessing about the debate.

I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe one little something that would make me go”Aaaaahhhh!” Or “Oooooooh!”

Instead, I went, “WTF?”

Even Tim’s visits, usually a highlight and the only reason for this absurd excuse of the first half of a two-part finale, were boring.

It’s just not fun anymore.

The whole sad story:

Heidi and Tim meet the four victorious designers on the runway to tell them they aren’t so victorious after all: “You’re not guaranteed a spot in the final three.” The phrasing is very important: notice she doesn’t say, “Only three of you will go to Fashion Week.” She doesn’t say, “One of you will be out.” Just that there are no guarantees, which turns out to be a guarantee after all. She sends them off with $9000 and five weeks.

Tim’s Home Visits:

Christopher seems to live with his parents on Long Island. He uses leather, and fabric created from his boyfriend’s x-ray (yes, it sounds like he says it’s his mother’s, but he corrects that in his tweets); it’s really quite interesting, because the design aspect becomes figuring out which part of the fabric to put where. Tim’s worried about the leather bustier: the sweetheart neckline is too sweet. Christopher shows in a piece of whether that he “ruined” with bleach, just to see what the bleach would do to the leather. Tim loves the effect, and says it takes it to another dimension; he should think about using it in the bustier. That’s the sort of experimentation having months instead of weeks would help with. At this point, he’s only got a couple of weeks, so sure, he can splash bleach on the bustier, but given time, he could really develop the idea. Still, Tim is excited. Then it’s family time complete with a table of cakes. You know you’re in trouble when the best line of the night is, “This looks so very… caloric.”

Fabio is using his best friend’s dad’s space in Brooklyn as a studio. On the Lifetime video we get a true glimpse of what it’s like to be a PR contestant:

Tim: How long have you been working here?
Fabio: Since I got out.
Tim: You make it sound like prison.
Me: Well, if it quacks like a duck…

Fabio describes his process of making the pink fabric: “It was grey fabric, I painted it pink, then extracted the color, so I did a discharge on this dress.” That’s worse than Elisa spitting. He also did some work with tiles, and his accessories – necklaces, purses – are made from what looks like large needlepoint plastic. Apparently they are made by someone else, which I guess falls under the heading of specialty item. I wish they fell under the heading of “discard.” His concept is cosmic tribalism, and each look is a different persona in the tribe, such as the priestess. Tim is a little worried since Heidi has a well-known dislike of pastels, but Fabio says it’ll be okay. It will, huh? Tim worries about the pants; they’re like long johns. And he hates the shoes; Fabio likes them clunky and ugly, but Tim thinks they look like winter: “The woman wearing this dress wouldn’t remotely consider those shoes.” That is exactly what Fabio wanted. Tim: “You had me in your arms, but now I’m baffled and confused. There’s so much potential for wow factor, but it’s undercut by other things that are happening.” Fabio’s mom joins them for Family Time. I didn’t know that Fabio was born in Brazil, and his mom came to New York without him when he was four; he lived with his grandmother in Brazil until he was 11, when he joined his mother in New York.

Dmitry resigned his job to be on PR and lost his lease, so he’s staying at a friend’s (very nice) place in Jersey City while they’re in Spain. You don’t suppose they arranged the finalists to mostly be in New York, to make up for that trip to Trinidad last year? Dmitry’s inspired by organic architecture, geometric but fluid. He loves leather and fringe, so he’s made a jacket with fringed leather sleeves; I have to say, I hate it. There’s a very pretty, but simple, yellow dress; he asks if Tim likes the color: “No, but I can see how it would work.” Now there’s a ringing endorsement. Tim’s worried: is there enough so the judges won’t say they’ve seen this before? But Dmitry somehow thinks it’s one of his best critiques. I’m concerned, Dmitry. They have tea on the patio; no family, no friends. It’s what I’d do. Poor Dmitry.

Melissa is working out in San Francisco. Her “wow” piece is a crackle-painted leather jacket. That sounds like a garment that can only be worn once. Tim says she has an aura about her that says “I know what I’m doing and I stand behind this.” He thinks it’s clearly her look. In fact, I don’t remember any negative comments that all. They go for a boat ride with her parents and boyfriend; turns out she’s only been sewing for four years, which is a surprise.

Back to New York:

Tim tells them they’ll be presenting a show of three looks the next day, to see who qualifies for Fashion Week. Melissa has a crisis of confidence when she sees the other designers’ collections; maybe she didn’t push herself enough. Tim gives her a pep talk, and she feels better. Oh, the crisis of confidence, I smell a winner. That jacket probably wins it for her on its own. Christopher is leaving the selection of the three looks for the last minute. Why? He’s got a gown that’s absolutely gorgeous; unfortunately, I think it’s similar to something Christian did in his finale. Tim tells Fabio they’ll either love it or hate it; it’s a very distinct point of view. That’s one way to put it. Fabio, I adore you, you’re one of my favorite PR people ever, but I don’t get your designs. And here’s what’s really strange: or his introduction questionnaire, he listed a Brazilian website (in Portuguese) showing his designs; he is the model, judging by the tattoos, and the clothes are amazing. I love how he dresses himself; I just wish he dressed his models the same way. Tim seems most worried about Dmitry; it wants more color. Isn’t it a little late for that?

The Runway:

As usual for the almost-finale, there’s no guest judge. And I realize this episode has really missed the mark, since what I’m most interested in is what Fabio is wearing himself. What makes that really sad is that overall this is probably the strongest slate of finalists in three seasons.

As a side note, I looked at the Extended Judging videos and forgot to keep the notes separate, so I’m not sure where the episode left off and the videos began.

Christopher sends out shorts, vest, and a see-through sweater over dark bra. I’m the first to admit I know nothing about fashion, but I know crap, and this is crap. To be fair, the vest is interesting, especially the back with the asymmetrical flat ruffles and seaming. If I could see the bleach I’d probably like that, too, but I suspect you have to be within arm’s length to get the effect. The sweater could be nice, and might be up close (the knit looks like it might be interesting), but over the dark bra, just looks like that Goodwill thing you get because they don’t have anything else that day. The shorts look like they have that sewn crease of the polyester stretch-pants I thought I’d never see again. Christopher has lost his mind. I could understand this being a look snuck into his collection as casualwear, but sheesh, at best, it’s – let me borrow a Nina word – ordinary. No, I’m being polite: it’s just stupid that he sends this out as representative of his work.

He also sends out more shorts! I confess, I liked this better. In fact, it’s not a bad way to include shorts in his collection. The shorts themselves look nice, and I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the leather or the waistband (did he say it was ostrich?), they don’t look like just shorts you could get for $9.99 at Old Navy the way the other ones did. And I very much like the way he used the fabric for the top; it doesn’t look like an x-ray, and I like that it might be a secret only the wearer would know. I hate the chain in the back, though. But two shorts when you can only send three looks? Stupid.

His third look is a narrow skirt in the print, and the leather bustier, now with a straight neckline. While the structure itself is pretty standard, the design comes in the arrangement of the fabric so the white accent, still not identifiable as an x-ray (though in the back it kind of looks like braces, but that’s probably because I know what it is) lines up slightly to the side. I wouldn’t call it a “wow” look – he left that back in the workroom for some reason – but I think it’s got distinct appeal.

He explains the print. Heidi’s glad she didn’t know about it because that’s a little creepy. Michael says if he’s going to go dark that way, fine, but he needs to stay that way, keep the volume raised so there’s no snooze. And this is definitely snooze material: the silhouettes are all normal. He’s got fabulous prints, he needs to try different combinations because these looks aren’t that interesting. Nina agrees; the vest is beautiful, there’s nice detail, but there’s “very little clothes here” (sic; typing that hurts but that’s what she said) and everything is too similar. Heidi tells him he can’t send the first shorts look down the runway, it’s too boring, and she doesn’t get why he used that today (I agree with her). Christopher says there wasn’t enough time for pants and coats: I assume he means to fit pants and coats, and that’s a valid issue since they only had one day. But he’s going to have to fit all of his looks eventually.

Dmitry replays his biggest success with a white dress using the floating-in-space illusion he did with the black jacket over the print. Except there’s no print. I keep trying to figure out the dress, and that’s the interesting part. Visually, I’m not so sure: it looks a little big, and it points to her crotch. I have to admit I’d love to spend some time figuring out exactly what he did – there’s some kind of sheer fabric underneath, but how are the pieces connected? It’s more interesting to think about than beautiful to look at, which is ok; I appreciate stories I describe that way, so I’ll give it to him.

Unfortunately, things get ugly in a hurry. His jacket with fringed-leather sleeves might work if the body of the jacket wasn’t that diamond print; as it is, it’s so ugly I can hardly stand to look at it, but I don’t dare look at the blouse underneath, because that’s an absolute horror. It’s all over a skirt that has some kind of longitudinal texture, which could be interesting, but with the other stuff, just screams “Am I the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen or what?” And here I thought Christopher took that honor already.

Looks like it’s gonna be tough competition for ugly tonight, because his white pants are in it, too. For some reason I’m thinking “lounge lizard.” But it’s the top, another black see-through number, this time with ruffly short sleeves and a bedazzled chest inset, that takes it to a new level of good-lord-how-could-someone-who-made-some-of-my-favorite-clothes-this-season-do-this?

He explains to the judges about architecture and the Guggenheim Museum and Sidney Opera House and Nina shocks me by saying “It looks like you’ve done a lot of work, it’s polished, expensive…” Ok, I give up, was someone holding a gun to her head off-camera? She thinks he needs to work on the styling; some pieces could look better. Yes, most of them would look better under trench coats. She wants him to let the purity and simplicity shine. Sure, Nina, and then you’ll tell him it’s too basic. Michael thinks he has too many ideas and he doesn’t know where to look; hint, Michael, don’t look at either sheer top or the white pants. He thinks the dress is fantastic (no complaints about doing what he’s done before; they’re really being gentle to him), and the pants are great but not with that top; pair them with something simple. Same with the jacket, take it down a bit. He has the model take off the jacket and calls the dark skirt and sheer black top the Dmitry version of a Little Black Dress. It is much better, though I still don’t like the see-through with bra underneath (not that I’m suggesting she not wear a bra, not at all…). Michael wants the styling to be younger and cooler, with some sex appeal, because it looks dowdy and matronly. Now Michael has a gun to his head: I suppose there are dowdy matrons wearing see-through blouses, but aren’t usually hanging over filthy bars in disreputable parts of town trying to make the rent? Heidi tells him to pick a wow piece and stick it with something more boring. But not too boring. Heidi’s drunk the idiot juice again, hasn’t she? Basically, they want him to swap the pieces around. I want him to bury the pieces.

Fabio breaks my heart by sending out pointless pants, a grade-schooler bra-top, and an asymmetrical vest. Ok, I like the vest, quite a bit. I hate the necklace; it’s craft-fair. The thing she’s holding in her hand like a purse doesn’t bother me as much, probably because I can’t see it that well in the pictures. Oh, I do like the shoes, now that he’s painted them in a lighter shade and added funky laces. But my favorite thing is the scarf he’s attached to the back of the cap he is wearing. Once again, Fabio’s own clothes beat anything he’s put on the runway.

The skirt and cropped jacket he sends out for his second look might be fine, but all I see is gaping at the bust like it doesn’t fit. Not because it doesn’t fit, but because of the starburst designed into it that bursts all over. As much as I hate the front, I adore the back with the draped lace hanging down; that’s gorgeous. It’s too bad she has to go out facing forward. Then there’s the Leggo purse… I hope it’s just me being fashion-blind. I want Fabio to have every success. Just don’t make me wear this. Except the back of the jacket.

His third look is a nightgown. Oh, Fabio, I love you so much, I love what you did with the fabric, discharging all over it, but this is so not PR. Maybe that’s a good thing, in the grander scheme.

Heidi shocks everyone by loving his completely different POV. Oh, wait, that isn’t exactly what she said: she loves that he has a completely different POV, somewhere between space and schlumpy (and where is that exactly, Heidi?), it’s got a cool vibe, modern and out there; she’s intrigued. She thinks the necklaces and bag are fantastic. Guess who has a gun to the head now. Though I’m guessing Heidi hasn’t been to that many grammar-school craft fairs, 105 kids or not. It’s something she hasn’t seen before. True, and there’s a reason for that. Michael thinks it’s cool that the pastels are normally considered sweet and saccharine and that’s not the look at all; he likes the tension that creates. He’s glad someone did color, and he likes the demented shoes. But not the wigs. He likes the cutouts and the skirt, but thinks the combinations need to be better balanced. Nina delivers the fatal blow: some pieces, like the vest, are beautiful. But it needs to look more luxurious and expensive. The tie tank and pants are neither here nor there, it looks junior, and he needs to up the sophistication and polish to elevate the very conceptual design. There it is. Exactly what she said to Mondo a couple of season ago. Sorry, Fabio; maybe they’ll do another All-Stars after the one that starts next week.

Melissa does shorts, too, in a white fabric that’s two layers, giving them some texture something like breathable underwear. She’s got a vest that’s open at the bottom and exposes the bra a bit. Bras are the new granny panties, I guess. Then she piled on a scarf around the neck, maybe because she couldn’t figure out a way to make a stand-up collar for the vest. She should market to throat-surgery patients, tracheostomies and thyroidectomies, people who want to cover their scars. For all my snark, it’s not a bad look.

Then comes her cracklin’ jacket over pants roomy enough to hide a family of four in the crotch. Since no one said anything about the crotch coming halfway down the thighs, I’m going to assume it’s stylish. It kind of could be; I liked how Alicia used that cut sometimes, but I think Alicia did better with it. Again, it’s not a bad look, for all that. Maybe my expectations have been lowered.

Finally there’s a little black dress with a high collar. Maybe there’s something about it that raises it above the level of every other LBD I’ve ever seen, but I don’t know what it is, and no one mentions anything. She had other stuff that looked interesting; why did she send this out?

She explains she wanted to show them shorts, pants, and a dress, hence her choices, and point out the texture of the “waxed linen” but I’m not sure which fabric that is. Heidi says it’s definitely Melissa. The jacket is the hero; the dress is fine but too simple, and there’s nothing else. Michael asks if she has enough to create head to toe looks with impact; Melissa assures him she does. He too loves the jacket, and the handbags, but hates the wigs (I kinda like the wigs, actually). Nina asks if there’s anything with color; yes, of course, there’s one red dress. You can do black and white, says Nina (oh, good, since everyone does) but she has to have extraordinary styling when the clothes are so limited. She gets a sense of coolness, but it needs something else. And the cuffs on the jacket sleeves look like Robin Hood. Melissa folds them back, but nope, cut ’em off, says Nina. And oh, by the way, none of this is going to project to the fifth row. Wow, that’s pretty scathing, considering Tim’s critique was so positive.

So who goes to Fashion Week:

They’re all winners; it’s the Trophy Kids season, so there’s a Final Four.

Maybe the judges are as shocked as I was to see the dreck on the runway, and figured everyone deserved a chance to fix it. Or maybe they set up a little “send out your worst looks and we’ll scold you then you’ll have a great resurgence in the finale” drama because they don’t think anyone will notice when nobody makes any changes and they suddenly start praising to the high heavens the stuff they panned tonight. They might fool me, but they won’t fool TLo.

I think it’s clearly between Christopher and Melissa; they’re the Cool Kids this season. I think Dmitry surprised them, unpleasantly; they were expecting masterful tailoring, and they got Ballroom Dance. And Fabio, maybe they love him as much as I do and figured, hell, why not – if so, I’m glad it broke my way for once.

Next week: it’s all over but the blogging.

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