I hated last season, with its “team” concept, before it even started; I even hated the way Heidi said “Teams;” it was like a dentist’s drill. But I’ve been favorably disposed to the changes I’ve heard about going into this first week, and now that I know more, I’m even more favorably disposed: they’ve set up a pretty good structure. Of course, they’re also throwing airplanes and camping and a psycho (or two) into the mix, but this is Lifetime, and they do have to pay the bills, after all. Still – I’m pleased; it’s a good start. I never thought I’d say that about PR again. Now let’s see how long it takes for them to ruin it.
I already did a general Preview with first impressions based on the info on Lifetime’s website and such, so I’ll skip over “Road to the Runway” and just merge in any interesting tidbits of new discovery here.
Some of the changes this season are pretty small: Come on, who cares what hotel they use, or who stocks the Accessory Wall (“the department store for the modern Southern woman,” insert Paula Deen swipe here), though it’s interesting L&T seems to have cut bait after what seems like quite an extended run. But Runway Judging is where the truly interesting changes come in.
For the initial runway show, the judges won’t know who made what look. Anonymous judging! YES! Now this is exciting. They’ll give their scores, thus setting the top and bottom three, and only then will they know who made those six looks. It’s conceivable a designer could be unknown until quite deep in the season, which is perhaps a little motivation to not “skate by” for the first several weeks.
The Top and Bottom looks will also be examined up close and personal by the judges: they can feel fabrics, check construction, and see what’s being hidden under hair or a scarf. YES YES! I’m so excited I can hardly stand it! Ok, well, no, but it is a good change. They’re going to have to work harder to explain why good stuff is crap, and it’ll be pretty cool to have visuals of them in the same frame as yet another mediocre cocktail dress they’ve just proclaimed exceptional. Best of all: Tim will be available, not to judge, but to offer background information on what went on in the workroom. “I’ve always been here, but I’m no longer invisible.” That’s funny; I could swear early on he claimed to have no contact with the judges at all. Maybe that was Bravo Tim. Bravo, Tim.
The designers gather at a tiny little airfield where the fan-voted returnee Kate joins them (hey, I called it – I think that’s the first PR prediction I’ve ever correctly made). Everyone pretty much hates on her right away. Helen calls her a bitch, which is in the dictionary under “pot calling kettle black,” and tells Kate she’s usually scared of bitches but she’s not scared of her. Kate isn’t scared of Helen either. Good, now that we’ve got that cleared up… Kate answers questions about last season, and Helen isn’t happy with her getting the attention so she wonders out loud if that’s “technically cheating.” Ten minutes in, and Helen’s on my list (to be fair, she had an hour to get on my list in RttR).
Then we get the parachuters, who arrive to “Ride of the Valkyries.” No, the designers won’t be skydiving; they’ll be making their garments out of parachutes. Thus follows a race to grab the Parachute of your Dreams, which is the part that should be set to war music: Kate falls, and Brandon steps right over her (except not really, but he likes the way it sounds when he says it). When they say fashion is a tough business, they mean it; getting trampled in an open field is just one more thing that happens in the course of a day.
It’s almost 4pm by the time they get back to the workroom, but that’s ok: it’s a two-day challenge. Yes! No Mood – meaning, no Swatch – but black and white ripstop (my new word for the day; presumably the parachute is ripstop as well) is available for use as contrast, but Tim’s very clear that the parachute fabric must be the primary fabric. Crucial plot point.
Guest judge Kate Bosworth is introduced with such a lack of fanfare I have to wonder if Heidi’s mad at her. But again – I approve. Less fanfare on PR is a very good thing. Nothing looked really great on the runway; the fabric just didn’t lend itself to great. But some things were less great than others.
Soaring: Top Three… uh, make that Two
Bradon McDonald, former dancer, likes to make things he hasn’t seen before. Problem is, unless you’ve studied fashion for seventy years, chances are someone has seen it before somewhere. He’s particularly fond of pleats and embroidery. He picks the dirt and grass out of his parachute, and decides not to sketch but just feel it: wind against the chest, flowing out in back, catching and billowing, ombre effect. Tim loves his in-progress, sees something James Bond about it. During fitting, Bradon apologizes for digging into his model’s butt: “It’s for your own good.” That’s what they all say, honey. “Mine, too,” he adds, which is more like it. His look is quite nice, and does exactly the floating effect he was going for. Heidi likes that it looks expensive and loves the strings. Zac loves the movement but finds the cording distracting and not refined; the movement, textures and colors work. Nina loves the light fabric dramatically billowing, the fragile detail of the strings. Top Three.
Sue Waller doesn’t know how to use the industrial machines they have in the workroom, so Dom helps her out. And someone snipes. She’s never seen the show before; welcome to PR, Sue. When Tim comes around on Day 2, she tells him: “I had a 1% hope, then I put it back on the mannekin and let it speak to me.” Tim is pleased; it’s now a knockout. “You learned something profound by that terrible struggle.” Any midwife will tell you: if the baby’s stuck, change position. Hey, I read a book about a midwife once. I love the top; the bottom is a little voluminous, but that’s ok for this challenge. Heidi loves the colors; it looked like a runway show. Zac likes the sculptural quality and she used the most couture technique; it looks like she morphed an object into a dress. Nina thinks it’s sport and elegant and the ruching is well-placed; it looks easy but it wasn’t. KateB likes the back. At Closer Look, Tim relates her struggle: it was a disaster, now it’s Bergdorf’s. Top Three.
Miranda Levy, former Army mechanic, lives by the words: “When war ends, fashion begins.” That makes no sense at all, but it’s catchy. She designs for the Andrews Sisters. Militant but feminine. Floral substituted for camouflage. She and Timothy are homies; Top Chef contestants frequently know each other, but is this the first time on PR two designers have been acquainted? “He’s got quite an ego,” she says. On Walkthrough, Tim warns her that her dress is made mostly out of the black supplemental fabric. “Well, the parachute is hard to use.” I see, so the word “challenge” means “avoid?” What Army did you serve in? It’s a very nice look – the sharpest thing on the runway, though I’d prefer less going on in the back at the waist – but yeah, it’s black. I don’t quite understand; isn’t the black fabric the same quality as the parachute? At first the judges are full of praise: they like the colors, Nina loves the silhouette (“it’s very Now,” she says, paying it the highest compliment), the finishing touches, the buckles are placed perfectly, it’s a great first impression. KateB would wear it; Zac likes the polish. Heidi is the voice of reason: she didn’t do the challenge, is that fair to the designers who did? Tim spills that he warned her about that very thing: “The teacher in me would give her an F.” I’m so caught up in imagining Tim as my teacher, I kind of lose the thread of things (Lifetime may have tarnished his image for me, but he’s still in there somewhere, I can feel it). What Will They Do? Zac: “We must set a precedent.” Sure, go ahead, you set precedents every week some seasons, let’s see how long this one lasts. She started out as Top Three, but ends up Bottom Three.
Clouds: The Anonymous Middle
Alexandria von Bromssen, the Swedish model, quit modeling because she wanted to get some brains. She runs a camp teaching kids to sew, which is pretty cool. Words to live by: “Clothing is your armor, you should say something when you wear it.” She may be the Stealth Bitch: perfectly nice face to face, but those interviews are a different matter. She wins Tim over at walkthrough with her colorblocking. Her dress isn’t bad, though it kinda looks like scrubs; I think that’s thanks to the fabric.
Justin LeBlanc comes with an ASL interpreter and occasional subtitles; he explains he’s not from a foreign country, he’s just Deaf. He thinks his cochlear implant is an advantage: if people start annoying him, he can just turn it off. Suddenly everyone wants a cochlear implant. What’s kind of cool is on the drive back to the city, Timothy asks if they need to face him directly for him to hear, and he tells him not to worry about it, if he can’t hear he’ll ask. I give Timothy props for asking; it’s better than talking about someone behind his back, or worse, making assumptions and screaming or mouthing words. Full disclosure: I did a couple of fun semesters of ASL in Boston, including attending the Deaf Miss Massachussets Pageant for a term paper, so I’ve got some positive bias stuff happening here. He’s fairly invisible this episode; his design is a little matronly, but it’s polished and I like the skirt panels.
Kate Pankoke recovers from being trampled in a field and practices signing with Justin. Deaf people get that a lot; everyone wants to show them how clever they are. She makes a sexy princess, kindergarten style, for the runway. Kinda cupcakey, isn’t it?
Helen Castillo, as already noted, will be playing the #1 Mean Girl this season. And I mean that literally: everything about her screams, “I want to be mean! See how mean I am? Are you scared of me yet?” It’s a bored kind of mean, like she can’t quite make the effort to be truly mean. “My work is going to make you go home and cry; it’s going to destroy you.” Ok, fine. During casting, Michele wanted to rent motorcycles and go to a local dive bar with her. Tim was worried about her range. “When I’m told to do something, I do it, and I do it phenomenally well.” No, she’s not here for her talent; she’s the one-woman Drama Department. People assume she’s sadomasochistic but she isn’t. No, I’d say she’s attention-seeking, but if it makes her happy to be thought of as sadomasochistic, I guess I can try. No, I don’t want to put in the effort, either. When she hears about the parachutes, she says, “I can deal with blood and bugs and snakes and shit, but I cannot imagine making something decent to look at with this fabric.” I’d like to see what she makes out of blood and bugs and snakes and shit. She makes a dress out of the white fabric, with parachute as accent. Tim is concerned, but since she isn’t in the bottom three, it doesn’t matter. I like her look; it’s a bit Snow Princess, but there’s a great deal of impressive detail.
Dom Streater explains she’s African American, Native American, French, and Cuban. [I had a really great swipe at Florida law here, but it’s probably inappropriate to a PR recap. Use your imagination] She makes a really great jacket; I’m not sure how much of it is parachute, but since she doesn’t get cross-examined, we don’t find out. They can only handle one precedent per week. Still, it’s a striking outfit, three pieces.
Alexander Pope (the designer, not the poet) did drugs for a while because his mother left and his father remarried and he resented his stepmom. TMI. He likes to cross gender lines. Tim loves having costume designers. Yeah, so you can tell them, “It’s too costume.” He’s worried that his dress is rising up in the front as the model walks down the runway, but it’s pretty good anyway; though it’s a rumpled mess, the shape is interesting.
Ken Laurence has bow-tie tattoo. I think if I got a tattoo, it might be a bow tie. He’s been secretly competing at home all eleven seasons, so now he gets to do it for real. He, too, has a sob story: he’s been homeless four times. His look is a simple dress with some fancy ruffles tacked on, and I think they’re going the wrong way.
Kahindo Mateene went to fashion school after she got laid off from her marketing job, which is backwards from the way things usually go. She makes up songs. Tim thinks her pleating is messy on walkthrough, but I liked it a lot on the runway; the top is a little simple, but the armholes in the back are sharp, and she got a great fit.
Jeremy Brandrick picks up his babies by their feet and dangles them in the air. He’s from England, maybe that explains it? He’s thinking a modern Amelia Earhart. Not sure I see that. Then again, the pants are so hideous, I can’t tell what I see.
Karen Batts does some really interesting things with photographs and fabrics. But not today: her model looks a bit “grandma at the beach.” I like the colorblocking pattern she creates, but the shape is awful.
Crash and Burn: The Bottom
Angela Backskoky was in a rock and roll band until she had a mid-life crisis at age 22, left her husband, and tried to be a lesbian, but it didn’t work out. I understand that. I often wished I was a lesbian while I was married. Just… nope, not gonna happen. She wants to make a bright sporty trench coat with air lifting the panels and pleating that makes it feel like a parachute. But, like being a lesbian, is just isn’t working out. On walkthrough, Tim gets the motion, but worries she’s pushing it into a place it doesn’t want to go: “Pull back, pretend it has a voice.” Apparently it said, “I don’t want to be a trench coat, I want to be a poncho. A hooded poncho, like they sell in little pocket packs at the drug store for $3.99.” Heidi thinks something’s missing, like the bottom – pants, skirt, shorts. Nina doesn’t like the proportions. KateB and Zac like the colors and the hood, but on Closer Look, notices gee, those seams are sloppy, and the darts are in the wrong place. Bottom Three.
Sandro Masmanidi was a Russian model until he got cancer at age 18. Now, at the airfield: is that a zucchini in his pants, or does he dress to the right? He interviews that he has “good potential” then asks if that’s not humble enough. He makes a swimsuit, but at walkthrough, he’s just got the bottom of a swimsuit and is planning a jacket for the top. Tim is concerned about time, but Sandro’s not worried. It doesn’t matter what he makes: all anyone sees is the black bar across the model’s crotch as she walks down the runway. I thought it was part of the design. “The good china is hanging out,” says Ken in the workroom (I guess Peach didn’t invent that expression). As she walks down the runway, Sandro says, “Vagina drops” which had me laughing so hard I couldn’t hear or see anything for a while. A whole new level of wardrobe malfunction. Sure, boobs fall out from time to time, but has anyone ever had a vulva slip? And while we’re on the topic: Sandro, please, note the difference between the vagina and the vulva. Please bring your knowledge of female anatomy up to at least the level of a Republican legislator; it’s one thing for them to make laws about vaginas without understanding them, but dressing them is a different story. Hey, in for a penny… The hilarious thing is, the model is standing on the runway smiling awkwardly, and the judges don’t say anything about her genitalia. Like, maybe, “Great wax job, who do you use?” Instead, they worry about the neckpiece. Neckpiece? She has a neck? Nina hates the jewelry. What jewelry? Heidi points out he did some great construction (she’s right, the ten square inches on each iliac crest are great) before bringing up the T-word: “Taste.” Zac calls it a costume. Really, Zac? Just what is this a costume for? “The mocktopussy has got to go.” I don’t know what the mocktopussy is (so many possibilities), but, well, everything about this look has to go. Bottom Three.
Timothy Westbrook… oh, Timothy… where do I start. I had such a good feeling about him last week, mostly because of the thing about his blind father listening to books on tape and turning those tapes into a visual medium by weaving. But I did say he was awfully young; turns out, he’s even younger. But he is, as Nick predicted in RttR, a hoot. I’ve permanently damaged whatever good reputation I may have had with TBone by admitting my affection for him in spite of everything, but I don’t care: I love this guy. Just like I loved Ping. But like I never loved Jason with the Clockwork Orange bowler or Ari who did the geodesic dome that ended up a tin foil volleyball in S6. I’m going to give this some thought; why do we cut some wacko people slack, and others we chop off at the knees? At any rate, Timothy won’t be around long, but I had a great time watching him. His words to live by: “We have to protect the forest to keep the unicorns alive…Remember the unicorns.” First, the parachutes reminded him of paratroopers in WWII which brings him to Hiroshima. Sorry, Timothy, no paratroopers dropped into Hiroshima, though there were parachutes attached to instruments dropped along with Little Boy and survivors (the word “surivors” in this context is pretty startling) reported seeing parachutes. So, ok, parachutes to WWII to Hiroshima. Whew. You just have to really want it. For the unicorns. And Hiroshima to cranes, which is very clear. What does this have to do with a garment? No idea, but I’m just going where I’m led, and we’re just getting started. Timothy doesn’t use electricity to make his art, so he’s a little bummed about electric sewing machines. He does, presumably, use lights. Maybe elevators. Heaters, air conditioners, refrigerators. But his art is created without electricity – I get that. It’s sort of like “I built this.” I can tolerate a little cognitive dissonance. He burns the parachute fabric: “burning is neither additive nor reductive, but transformative.” Yes, that’s true, burning turns nylon into… some gas, I wonder which one… hmmm… well, they use it in aircraft upholstery so it can’t be too toxic. For the record, Tim loves the burning effect. Timothy won’t let the hair people use electricity or product on the model’s hair. “That leaves bobby pins and braiding,” he says. And no makeup. No shoes (Tim okay’d this idea, btw; I’m just sayin’. What’s the use of a mentor if the judges disagree with his advice?). He, however, wears gold glitter heels instead of his usual sequined flats. He ties a rope around one of her wrists, and gives her lessons on being dragged down the runway. Then there’s something about the Virgin Mary sniffing her armpit. No, I am not making this up. The model is trying to figure out if she’s being punked. On the runway, however she just walks and poses at the end of the runway with her arms over her head. Maybe someone told her, “I don’t care what he said, you walk out, pose three seconds, walk back, that’s it.” Either that, or she said, “No, I am not getting dragged barefoot down the runway by unseen forces then sniffing my armpit.” Hey, he may not have created the performance he wanted, but this was performance art. I had a great time. And it was clearly his point of view, even if he did lose “half the dress” when the model didn’t do the dragging thing. I didn’t even think the dress was that bad, though I have no problem with the judges thinking otherwise. Zac calls it Tinkerbell at Burning Man; she looks like a burn victim, which, considering the Hiroshima reference, may be accurate. Heidi and Nina are downright offended by the lack of hair and makeup (those are major sponsors, after all; this has to be nipped in the bud). Nina wants gorgeous sustainable. Sustainable without pain. It should come as no surprise he’s in the Bottom Three.
Coming In For a Landing:
Bradon wins. I’m fine with that. It’s a little fairy-tale princess, but it’s interesting, it’s pretty, and he really did capture the whole billowy thing.
I was pretty sure Timothy would be out – as much as I love him, I’m not delusional, I can see he’s just begging for it – but then they started talking about Miranda and “setting a precedent.” I like Miranda. She made a good dress. It’s not really fair that at least two other designers used substantial amounts of non-parachute fabric, but because their finished products weren’t as striking as hers, they got away with it. Moving her from the Top to Bottom, isn’t that enough? Turns out, it is, but it’s Angela who’s out, much to my surprise. I guess they’re either hoping to scold Timothy into submission, or at least get a really satisfying auf out of him, since the hatred for him on Twitter last night was pretty unanimous. Except for me. Love you, Timothy – I remember the unicorns, every last one of them. By name.
Connecting Flight to the rest of the season:
A Camping trip. Yelling. Someone’s missing. A smashed camera. And a foaming vagina. This is turning into the Season of the Vagina: Hail to the V.