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 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.


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 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.


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.

12 responses to “Project Runway S11: Episode 13 – Finale, Part I

  1. Hi Karen,

    I think Michell was is the wine business for 10 years.

    i hope all of your family, friends and all others you might know in Boston are now okay.

    • Oh, the wine business – that makes a lot more sense than “the line business.” Thanks, Kitty.

      My circle is safe & sound. Still thinking about those who weren’t so lucky. Thanks.

  2. All of this talk about Dali immediately reminds me of the Inca bird (I’m funny that way):

    Between the mop top, the nutty astronomical blabber and incoherent vision, he was doomed. His collection ended up as a depressing mess, more like WWII Berlin than anything else he told Tim.

    Taos, NM was the real revelation. What an incredible, inspiring place. I would like to spend some time on a writing sabbatical there.

  3. My sincere concern, and compassion to you and all of yours out Boston way.
    And no I’m not looking forward to the end of PR; your re-caps are a bright spot
    every Sunday evening when they appear on my screen!
    I’m going nuts trying to find at least one other example of Patricia’s headdress…
    I’ve spent hours searching and I can’t see it for male or female rituals, ceremonies,
    or rites (I’ve scanned many tribes) . It’s very striking and I feel I’ve seen it before.
    Unless I’m confusing it with something Lucy and Ethel wore on some fashion
    escapade of yor.
    All the best to you.

    • Thanks, Guest, the lockdown was scary for a lot of folks (and was still ongoing as I was writing the post), but all ended well.

      About the headgear: I kept seeing people on TWoP referring to it as a roach, and I had no idea what they were talking about since it didn’t look roach-like to me at all. Turns out, there’s a Native American headdress called a roach (something to do with horses, not bugs) and that could be the reference, since she specializes in taking native motifs to new places.

      From what I’ve seen, it’s more closely linked with more Northern tribes, but it also seems pretty universal throughout North American Indian culture. That’s my best guess unless she offers further details.

      • A somewhat miraculous 48 hour siege that had everyone there pulled
        together so quickly, so tightly. 3 Cheers for Boston and God Bless.

        I hope someone does ask her more about it – I’ve wasted a stupid amount of
        time trying to find a single image. I’ve searched Polynesian, Mongolian,
        African, S.American, and several Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Anasazi, Pueblo and
        Plains Tribes. The closest I found was on;
        Japanese headdresses made of yak and horse hair.
        The roaches you mentioned are all longish types (think Mohawk) and all
        worn by men. So far.
        It’s an attractive head piece, debatable whether it should have been deployed
        for the collection, but they are cool. And I know I’ve seen this before, I just
        don’t know where – so now it’s an itch!

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