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.


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.


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.

12 responses to “Project Runway S11 Episode 14: Finale, Part II

  1. While happy for Michelle’s win on PR I am deeply saddened Patricia came in second. Rules change so why couldn’t two people win? Why does our society not support artists? Patricia’s ideas are boundless. Her techniques, fabric fabrication and manipulations are contagious. In fact, Stanley’s design of beaded textiles may have resulted in his running out of time since he probably didn’t get his commissioned fabric until the last minute. Michelle quilted—a much easier and straight-forward fabrication process and she commissioned Joseph to produce interesting sweaters. Patricia not only made her own textiles, she pounded silver and mica into sequins and made wigs from horsehair. She showed something truly unique, inspiring the imagination.

    PR owns the designs that are made on their show. Designers are not allowed to reproduce their garments for sale elsewhere. Is this right or fair? Does this policy benefit or hurt artists? If she could retain the copyrights to her original designs would Patricia have shown the white leather dress we saw in Tim’s home visit made of many small squares that she calls one of her signature designs? I, for one, would love to have seen that white leather dress along with signature designs from all contestants.

    I bought Patricia’s dress with the pink and gold leather fabrication from the Heidi challenge because I HAD to see how she did it. I am fascinated that she got flow and movement from these leather squares and absolutely needed to know their size and how she tacked them onto the stretch mesh. I am a hobbyest and can sew and tailor anything but have not done so in more than ten years. Patricia’s inspiration made me get out my dress form and literally dream again. No other contestant on PR has ever stoked me to find my own unique voice of fabric and design. We need people who think outside the box and let their joyous soul express itself in surprising ways. This imagination is what I call “soul” food.

    Michelle’s aesthetic and thought process are much more in line with today’s successful designers. I am happy for her that she won. She used a well thought out color palette, replicated the same silhouette throughout her collection and she sews impeccably. Her silhouette works well for very tall, thin women with no hips or breasts and who are under the age of 25—maybe 1% of the population. I believe Michelle won for two reasons: (1) she is very articulate with her story and vision, and (2) she sews impeccably. Both are noble reasons for winning, but my heart cries out to experience the visions by artists such as PM Waterlily. After all, a waterlily is very similar to a lotus as both root in the mud-earth and inspire a conduit to higher consciousness while floating in the water and soaring to the sky-heavens. This is where I go when I dream.

    • Hi Kitty –This is lovely. If Patricia has inspired you to dream again, to create, then she’s earned her place in heaven; it’s a lot like saving a life. I’d love to see where you go with the energy.

    • I meant to say this earlier but I was on the fly: I think this worked out perfectly. Not because Patricia didn’t win, but because of the Ted Carpenter thing. Michelle is addressing her audience, and it happens to be the same as the fashion industry’s audience. Patricia isn’t going to address anyone’s audience; she’s created her own audience. It’d be nice if Patricia got the $$, but I think she’ll benefit from this, just as much if not more than if she had.

      • Hi Karen,

        I’ve really enjoyed your recaps over these long months. Thank you for writing them all. You are a talented writer—even when you “phoned it in” you wrote way better and more honestly than I could have. When you exercise your talent you have an opportunity to become an artist. It takes time, dedication, and maybe a few people who recognize your skill. I hope you count me as one who recognizes your talent and I encourage you in all of your writing endeavors.

        I agree that Patricia will likely greatly benefit by her national exposure. She does indeed create her own clientele and hopefully will help energize new textiles for the fashion industry. We need more artists like her.

        I got to thinking about what I’ve done over the past 9 months since you proposed, or at least intimated, the question. My list is daunting which helps me understand why I have a beautiful home studio to create gorgeous silk painted fabrics, and more, and it lies dormant most of the time. Between my husband and me, we have published a lot of books. In the last 9 months alone we completed our first eBook Creating Consciousness in Everyday Life (which is doing reasonably well), a hard back book, Creating Consciousness: How Therapists can Create Wonder, Wisdom, Truth and Beauty and the final 6 out of 16 edited volumes of The Collected Works of Milton H. Erickson. We also published quite a few scientific articles in professional journals, chapters in a few books, taught in Italy for a few weeks, professional conferences in the USA on both the East and West Coasts—not to mention seeing clients. I worked with our Über gardener and completely re-landscaped our yard with cactus, succulents, drought tolerant grass and literally tons of rocks and shale we scavenged from the side of the road 40 miles from home. Whew that project took 5 months! Oh, and I forgot I completed a 200 hour course to teach yoga which supplements the 500 hour courses done in previous years. Every morning I walk 4 miles along the ocean bluffs which equals 1080 miles in 9 months. … My life is great, just a bit too busy.

        Since childhood I dream every night about fashion and wake up with extraordinary ideas that have never been brought to life. Wouldn’t it be fun to find the space and time to bring at least one original idea into something I can hold in my hand? Next month I see free time on the calendar when maybe I can writing original thoughts in the morning of using yoga in psychotherapy and the afternoon to playing in my studio and see what happens.

        You can tell that my passion is appreciating artists in every form–artists like you. I don’t need to be a fashion designer, or play one on TV, I just need to be creative and be inspired by others who exercise their creativity daily.

      • How much do I love this discourse, Karen and Kitty!

        Patricia’s success on the show I think was maybe the sole saving grace of Season 11. Here is a unique voice, ‘talking to herself out loud’, if you will. Her presence reminded me of the very early days of the show when we would watch with wonder at those magical moments of inspiration as a designer manipulated a simple textile into something beautiful.

        And thank you Karen for a season filled with brilliant insight and laughter. I know it gets wearing week after week (believe me, I know), but you have created your own audience here and we love you. I have turned into a sloppy old fanboy. Anyone who can seamlessly weave Vi Hart and thirtysomething references together is beyond extraordinary.

        i will personally be begging your return come july!

      • Aww, TBone, you’re sweet, thank you. And I needed that – I accidentally signed up for a Freshman Comp class via Coursera (long story, post in the works) and just discovered that, based on word and sentence length, I write at a fourth-grade level. I’m quite distressed. Maybe I should’ve thrown in an “interregnum.” 😉

      • What about this idea for an essay for your class: A discourse on onomatopoeia. I bet ya you could do an amazing funny piece and banish the mere thought of being branded at the 4th grade level forever.

      • Kitty, that’s quite a list of accomplishments. I hope you’ll get into your studio more, but there is this thing called time which is finite. It’s terrific that you have so many varied interests and abilities.

  2. 9 months?! Good grief. No wonder I’m feeling a little burned out, as well. Thank you, Karen for keeping up the recapping and the commentary. I loved having part of watching the show then be the follow up of joining in reading what you wrote about it. Kitty, I love what you said about Patricia. From the beginning I thought she was just too kooky to stay, but then I started to think, hey, maybe someone who is a true unique artist can go to the end. It was refreshing to see a designer who truly tried to marry art and fashion.
    And on a more gossipy, catty note… we also remarked on Heidi’s strange appearance, then read what you said about a chemical peel, and then……someone came over today who had just had one. I didn’t see her, but Paul told me all about it and it sounded nightmarish. And made me think of Heidi.
    Enjoy your break! And even if you don’t return to PR, I’ll still read some of your posts 🙂

  3. And now I finally have a good moment to sit and take in your final re-cap for PR’s season 11; which I have been especially looking forward to.
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you are one of the most enjoyable and intelligent voices in print that can be found. Did I mention funny, too? Your work is so valued and so appreciated – I’ve read some books and trilogies lately that I would have gladly traded for any of your re-caps! So I hope you’ll be back, after a deserved vacation, or break.
    I’m very happy for the Michelle win, I guess her collection just spoke to me more than Patricia and Stanley’s. I loved her way with the fabric, and I liked the woodsy, mossy tone. I just do not get the bleeding heart-appeal, myself; but strangely people are crazy about it. But the population is nuts about zombies, too. Go figure.
    I liked some of Patricia’s prints, most especially the use of the feather/arrow. But I believe her foundation; the clothes themselves, were neglected in the bargain. I think I am like the rest of the country – I think most American’s have an ongoing admiration and affection for all things classified American Indian. The arts, the heritage; have a resonance to man and the natural world. I see a lot of business coming Patricia’s way.
    It’s also disturbing (as Kitty noted above) that the show owns the designer’s work; what exactly does that mean…? ( Georgina Chapman gets to use horsehair headdresses or fabulous quilted coats in her next fall collection?) I’m surprised the show can find designers willing to sign on the dotted line.
    Anyway.. enough pondering PR’s motives. I want to say thankyou for your hard work and dedication; so Thankyou!

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