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.

14 responses to “Project Runway S11: Episode 4 – The Ultimate Hard and Soft

  1. I really liked almost everything-flowers! so pretty! But I felt so bad for Joseph, who is nice and cares about things being comfortable and recognizes that real people when it’s cold out don’t wear skimpy sexy dresses. So it was obvious he would have to go home. Even though his design advice helped stupid Amanda stay in. Man, I disliked her. I also felt like Joseph ended up in trouble having to explain his dress as a “future” dress when clearly they thought up that whole “decades” thing after everyone made their garments. Which was stupid. Booooo hisssss bad team.
    I loved Layana’s delicate cage dress-so pretty! and Stanley’s lovely green dress. I don’t think the judges gave it enough love. I was also cracking up over how wowed Nina was (going so far as to explain it to Bette) that Samantha encased the flowers in the mesh. Guess what? I’m a mom of a 5 year old girl and literally me and every other mom I know is remotely vaguely sew-y crafty knows how to make a tulle tutu with flower petals (and other stuff, if you like) encased in the layers. it’s adorable. And not at all something that is a giant wow so innovative of her.
    I think if the teams get more mixed up they’ll have to change the names and then you’ll be spared typing the ridiculousness that is Keeping it Real.

    • Hi Sarah – I’ve seen your wonderful So What? Sew Buttons! blog, I’ve seen your Cornish Hen blog and Etsy apron shop, and I have no doubt you could give some of these “creative” people a run for their money. Of course, you have an advantage – none of them have kids. Parenthood forces you to learn creativity. 😉

      The whole picking-winners-and-losers was a popularity contest for the designers, but the judges pretty much ignored their suggestions.

      I hope Joseph’s attitude catches on. This whole “I suffer more for fashion than you do” thing has gone on long enough. One small silver lining: now I don’t have to figure out if I should call him “Joseph” like the titles say, or “Joe” which is what everyone calls him. I have my hands full trying to figure out a way to use the team names without actually using the team names next week. 😉

  2. I’m absolutely delighted and surprised to find you’ve checked out my blogs! Thank you for the many compliments.
    You know, much as I liked the dresses I do wish that there had been more hard/soft combinations in the dresses. You know, for unconventional and innovative. As much as I didn’t like Amanda I liked that she was putting together metal (cotter pins!) with moss. I actually wished that the poufy cupcake dress had the chicken wire on the outside. (and yeah, what a contrast to sweet Joe who wants people to be comfortable-but forgets to use a zipper-and she says protect your legs so you don’t bleed!)

    • Considering that usually half the contestants are yammering about “I like to do hard and soft” it was kind of lost this week.

      Joe forgetting about the zipper was hilarious. Unless I misunderstood – it sounded like he actually put one in the dress (I can’t see it on the pics) but just forgot to open it. Which is, well, pretty bizarre.

  3. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the nicest group of designers in the Lifetime era of project Runway. I think the big team concept is contributing to this as well since they need to support one another. Now this may change as the numbers dwindle but I have to say this has been a surprising season.

    And this was a great episode. A little more time and sufficient budget really showed on this runway.

    • It’s nowhere near as contentious as I’d expected… so far. I’m not optimistic about what happens once the pressure starts to mount. Even the S8 Mean Girls, and Joshua, were muted in the beginning of their seasons. It’s like they want to hook us before letting loose with the screaming and/or evil.

      But I agree it was a good episode and that’s something. If Michelle is as bad as the nasties get, I’ll be very happy.

  4. I always look forward to reading your take on Project Runway, Zin. I also love Joseph, and his fashion philosophy. I was rooting extra hard for him as he is a friend of a friend of mine. Laughed out oude at your 40-to-death woman schlepping cat litter and milk home from the grocery store on the bus challenge comment. Still can’t get over that 40-to-death demographic. There must be a flash fiction stroy in that, doncha think?

    • Hi Jeanne – be sure to tell the friend of a friend to tell the friend to tell Joseph – whew – that I love him and hope he does well. p.s. This is Karen… Zin isn’t allowed to do PR recaps. Zin isn’t doing any recaps right now, only Sunday with Zin. Which is pretty lazy. I should whip Zin into shape. Don’t worry about it, I know it’s confusing. Sometimes I get it mixed up myself. 😉

      The first story I published (this millenium anyway) was about a 40-something woman schlepping around the supermarket.

  5. Turns out Joe was a pretty nice guy. But every time he’d say something in that
    wide eyed baby owl stare; I would just think – oh come on now…really?!
    I didn’t really like his creation but it wasn’t horrible. Patricia’s was the one to go,
    for me; it was a big mess. Also liked Layanna’s the best; which troubles me
    since in my experience ‘The Pretty Girl’ usually does not carry the skills – just the
    towering attitude. I believe her inner Ruling Princess has been tamped down and
    is waiting to explode. We’ll see. She had a sure hand and a very nice design this
    And of course; what a difference time and money made for all the work on the RW.
    In spite of what I consider the meaningless use of TEAMS; the episode was
    almost fun; people were making things that looked like RW designs instead of
    wobbly train wrecks.

    • Hi Guest – funny, I never thought of Layana as a “Pretty Girl,” but she might start to feel her oats with success after success racking up and turn into one before my eyes.
      I don’t really know why the teams aren’t the usual mess this season – maybe they deliberately chose contestants who were better suited for cooperation. Or maybe they’re just editing out all the “They want to do Dior and I do postmodern so I’m lost” stuff. Of course, this was the first “cohesive collection” challenge of the season, and one team just ignored the “cohesive” part…

      • I think in her head – she is the Pretty Girl. The one who’s behavior should
        be excused, or indulged. I think she’s being edited, or she’s controlling her-
        self mightily. Granted; speculation on my part. I can’t know for certain any
        of that; I just think I recognize the behavior.
        The teams do seem to get along well by what we are seeing – but for me;
        whether it’s a happy camp, or a seething nest of hot hate for each other –
        I do not view teams as an interesting or meaningful format.
        .And I question if the teams have any validity; if the members are inter-
        changable then what is the point of the team-scores…. I mean I get that it’s
        just another way the show is adding a twist to the challenges, but I think
        I feel it gets in the way of individual style or expression, when the first rule
        is what will work for the team. But oh well… I’m still watching… and I’m still
        interested in what may turn out on the RW each week.

      • I’d love to know how they set up the initial teams.

        But overall, the whole “team” thing is one more symptom of Jumping the Shark. Next, Heidi will fire everyone and start using social media for focus-group voting. 😉

  6. Pingback: Project Runway S11: Episode 8, Take It All Off (and as quickly as possible, please) | A Just Recompense

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