Project Runway All-Stars Season 2: Episode 12 – Finale: Go Big or Go Home

Jeff Salisbury: "Patron Saint of Mediocrity"

Jeff Salisbury: “Patron Saint of Mediocrity”

I wonder if the president of Lifetime has an etching of Antonio Salieri in her office.

Finale Judges are Liv Tyler and Margherita Missoni, which is unfortunate timing since her uncle’s plane went missing a week and a half ago. But this was all filmed long ago, of course. Georgina Chapman is now Gorgeous, and Isaac is still One of The Most Famous Names in Fashion. Notice neither of them have ever been described as “talented,” “innovative,” “hard-working,” “inspiring,” they’re just pretty and famous. Because what else matters to Lifetime? They’re still kicking themselves for missing out on Honey Boo Boo. But at least they’ve got Dance Moms. I’ve developed a very quick trigger finger on the remote control, thanks to those promos.

Help! I Need Somebody:

The three finalists can pick an assistant from the eliminated designers, someone who’ll help them out for a couple of days.

Anthony Ryan chooses Joshua, who… refuses? “I love you, I love you, but I’m just too tired.” It’s surprising – the last eliminated is a natural choice, and they’re friends – but I get it, too. He probably is tired. And still smarting from his elimination. I seem to recall some Top Chef contestants who weren’t enthusiastic about participating in someone else’s bid for the grand prize. AR’s second pick is Kane, and that works out just fine.

Uli decides on Casanova, who spends a lot of time sleeping on the couch in the lounge because “Designing is like sex, I have to be in the mood… I’m still on vacation.” Uli takes it in stride: “He’s like a baby, he functions for a while then falls asleep; I have to work around that.”

Emilio picks Althea because she got all the way to the finals of her season so she knows what it’s like; they do a lot of true collaboration and discussion of ideas. It’s interesting so few All Stars made it to the finales of their seasons. Most, if not all, showed collections, though; they just weren’t televised finalists.

The PRAS2 finale challenge:

Four days, $3000, 90 minutes in Mood, make anything you want, as many pieces as you want, any theme, any music, any kind of show. Sounds like something a thoughtful, creative person could run with, right?

Uli wants to do Winter Wonderland, because she’s done well with white and ivory this season. What? Shoot for the moon, and that’s what you come up with, doing the same thing you’ve been doing all season? She’s never been big on concept, but she delivers on execution. Casanova sees her tool box on the floor; he thought it was her daughter’s lunch box for child care. He created a whole little story there, didn’t he, considering Uli doesn’t have a daughter. She’s working with fake furs in addition to white; she calls it her Sasquatch Collection at one point, and at another, thinks it looks like Yeti in a box. She explains the concept to Joanna on an early walkthrough, who likes the two things she can see; it’s coherent, and she understands the girl, but a runway show needs at least one spectacular piece. Joanna keeps prompting her to bring in The Wall. Uli finally gets it: behind the wall there was no freedom or creativity, so now she’s in her happy place. Which has nothing to do with Winter Wonderland or the collection, but Lifetime has their narrative.

Anthony Ryan chooses a theme of The Line Between Dark and Light. Which means the same colorblocking he’s been doing: “They’ve loved what I’ve done so far, so I’m going to do more of the same.” Joanna noticed the graphic qualities of the pieces under construction from afar; he explains he’s taking something innocent and creating chaos within it. Really? Where is that, exactly? Of course, it really means cancer, though the word is never used; his narrative is assumed. But it doesn’t matter, because he has another narrative: he doesn’t have the resources to continue working at this if he doesn’t win.

Emilio does Urban Plantation: Working Women in America from Aunt Jemima (real name Nancy Green, a storyteller from Chicago) to Rosie the Riveter, rooted in the male-style clothing women wore in the 40s, inspired by the first model of beauty he knew – his mother, who worked in a factory – and accented with Dorothy Dandridge. See what happens when someone thinks, when someone brings a brain and a heart and a soul to the process? At that point I figured Emilio knew the fix was in, and he knew it wasn’t for him, so he decided, the hell with this, I’m showing myself through my work to the world beyond Lifetime. Maybe someone in the audience from the fashion industry got it. He picks a red, white and blue print because it’s an American collection, but he doesn’t pick a print that screams 4th of July – it’s more like orange and electric blue and yellow and white, so it’s more subliminal than overt. I love Emilio. He has nothing on a manikin by Joanna’s walkthrough, so they talk concept; it’s the first time she’s heard this kind of thing in PR, and it’s really exciting. I’m betting some Lifetime Ladies are scared. Emilio struggles with time, and ends up cutting corners – no linings, no shoulder pads – to get one jacket completed.

The Runway Show:

Emilio: His show comes complete with a drummer behind the shadow screen, which I love beyond all measure. The clothes, not so much. Even I could tell his first look was the wrong first look. Everything I know about fashion shows, I learned from Project Runway, and it’s supposed to be a wow look that makes you curious to see more. This is a pretty but ordinary dress from The Limited. My least-favorite look is the print pantsuit; it’s just too much print. But my favorite look is the print jacket; the print grew on me, and in small doses, I like it fine. I’m not into jumpsuits (and the model is scary-skinny), but they seem to be popular. All the judges praise his collection for POV, Isaac acknowledges the political aspect (notice that only when you use black women as a muse is it political; if white women are your standard, that’s, well, the way it’s supposed to be), and then come the blows: Missoni sees a specific woman, but not much experimentation. Isaac and Georgina think some looks are too junior.

Anthony Ryan does what he does: horizontal lines, graphic color blocks. A lot of it was very likeable, such as the opening gown; my favorite of his looks was the yellow-and-black skirt with black tunic. I didn’t like his more flirty shapes and at least one dress looked poorly fitted. The judges are blown away, of course, though no one likes his final gown, and Missoni thinks he’s trying to please too many people. I smell a Lifetime winner there.

Uli: The Winter Wonderland was made up of very pretty clothes in white and silver with touches of fur and beads. Her gown with shawl was gorgeous; uncharacteristically for me, I very much liked the faux fur vest (but didn’t Rachel Zoe cover that territory pretty thoroughly?) and the dress with the faux fur neckline. Her closing look was my least favorite; it looked like early-60s-hostess-gown-on-a-bad-drama. The judges love the textures and POV, Missoni in particular liked the fairy tale quality and the hair and makeup (fashion designers do love their ugly). Georgina isn’t sure it’s wise to rely so heavily on faux furs; it gets inexpensive.

Does it really matter what the judges say? Because, even though I kept the faith until the very end, it happens just as you knew it would:

Anthony Ryan wins.

It’s been a rough couple of days for competitive reality TV. First Kristen on TC, now this. Though nothing here should’ve been a surprise, I was still surprised. Because hope runs deep. I’m taking “I told you so’s” now, as I promised.

Back in Episode 1, when Anthony Ryan won, I said: “…it’s Anthony Ryan. Really? This is not off to a good start, aesthetically.” And so we close the circle on All Stars. I’m with Swatch on this one.

Project Runway All Stars Season 2: Episode 11 – Couture De France

Right off the bat, Blondie inflicts herself on the French language. If we don’t have the national and political will to restrict assault weapons and high-capacity magazines while our children get shot down en masse, at least we can pass a law that makes it illegal to use French words unless you pass a pronunciation test. I doubt the NRA would have a problem with that.

Then she sends the designers to Paris.

Anthony Ryan: “I need a couch to jump on.”

Joshua: “I’m like a straight guy at a baseball game.”

They meet Valentino designers and see Valentino clothing josh in tankand go to a fantastic fabric shop, with a fantastic budget to match. They go to a Valentino fashion show. At least Joshua had the sense not to wear his leopard tank top to show; or maybe the producers made him change. I think he actually looks better than Anthony Ryan, though actual fashionistas will probably disagree. Uli and Emilio blow them both out of the water, in terms of class. Joanna tells them it’s about dreams and magical thinking.

Then they come back after this less-than-24-hour trip, and in their exhausted state, design haute couture for Cynthia Rowley, Isaac Mizrahi, and The Exquisite Georgina Chapman (she seems to have been recently promoted from The Beautiful) to senselessly admire before giving Uli one more hoop to jump through. I was seriously worried about my blood pressure for those ten minutes; in your heart, you knew they might. But they didn’t.

Why would they make this a show whose success is measured as, they didn’t do the worst possible thing?

Who’s Haute:

Emilio starts with fabric and heads for a ball gown. It’s red. In photos it looks kind of orange, but on my TV it looked red. Really, really red. Joanna sees Valentino red. She loves the appliques but advises him to keep an eye on them because they could overwhelm the red. Emilio takes her advice and the final result has no appliques at all. It’s a lot of red. Yes, it’s dramatic and striking and has an interesting shape with the pleats in the back; but isn’t it just too much fabric? Floor length, long sleeves, high neck, high back – it’s a dowager dress, something you’d wear to a coronation. Or maybe a charity ball. Where do people wear these things anyway? Is this what the Academy Awards red carpet is going to look like? Aminat seemed to have some trouble walking, but that might’ve been how she was asked to walk. Emilio tells the judges he noticed a lot of transparency and austere necks and long sleeves in Paris, and that the fabric looks like brocade but it’s actually very light. Isaac and Cynthia get up to have a feel. They love the fabric Isaac loves the dress, the slightly high waist, but thinks it should’ve been five inches shorter to show just a bit of ankle. There – see, it is too much fabric. Georgina finds it elegant and is glad to see beautiful execution, especially in light of how they slammed him for execution last week. Cynthia notes it’s very strong in its simplicity; it’s all about the fabric. Well, if you’re using $3000+ of fabric, why not. Blondie says something someone told her to say to give the impression that she’s relevant. In fact, I wondered at one point if she’s taping her comments after the runway show, off a script.

Anthony Ryan is thinking sheer, lining, motion, different. He goes for fabrics that aren’t necessarily in his comfort zone, like black, and is drawn to texture. Joanna comes through just as his gut is telling him he has to throw it out and start over, and Joanna would never get between a man and his gut, but just in case he’s wondering she likes the bodice. It’s driving me nuts that he’s wearing a hat that turns him into the guy from “To The Boy With The Blue Knit Cap” episode of L&O:CI because it really depresses me that I’m able to make that connection. By the time he’s done, he thinks his model looks like Tarzan the Warrior Princess. Or maybe it was a Warrior Princess from Tarzan, because Tarzan was neither a warrior nor a princess. Maybe in person; on my TV I saw a sparkly black gown but it’s actually black lace over a nude lining with two different patterns of open weave. Again, high neck, long sleeves. Georgina can’t see where the lining begins and ends, and AR tells her, “There is no lining.” Well, there’s something covering the openwork over her erogenous zones, whether you call it a lining or not is up to you. Isaac loves how the side panels are controlled, that it’s not siren-y but sexy in a brand new way. Cynthia loves that the negative space on the waist looks like a beautiful shadow. You lost me there, Cynthia. Blondie thinks the dress should breathe a little more; I think it if breathed any more it’d pass out from hyperventilation. But everyone ignores her so it’s all good.

Who’s Naute:

Uli wants to do a long dress with a little train, something loud and out there. Joanna loves the front on the mannikin; it’s dramatic. But she thinks the rest looks like skin: “like a gladiator alligator meets a Sicilian widow.” I love that phrase so much I’m not even going to try to parse it out (I can’t believe Simone9155 already created the gladiator alligator seen above; now all we need is to integrate the Sicilian widow). Uli’s struggling with the lining; she doesn’t like it, but “I can’t send her down the runway with her goods showing.” Not on the level of Peach’s “good china” but it’ll do. The lining of the skirt doesn’t bother me, but I hate her use of illusion fabric on the bodice. Cynthia finds it an interesting mix of textures but doesn’t like the lining at all; she felt like she was seeing something she shouldn’t be seeing. Georgina pipes in that there should’ve been a better way to resolve the issue, like a short. Please, please, no, no more shorts! Isaac thinks it looks expensive but not couture. He doesn’t explain exactly what “Couture” looks like, though, so I’m just living on what was said the last time Uli saw Paris in S3.

Joshua, Joshua, Joshua. What are we going to do with Joshua? He goes into this incredibly expensive fabric shop and comes out with black lace and somethingjoshua dress that looks like the children’s bedding. Let me say that it’s a very interesting idea to meld elegant lace with funk, and someone like Mondo, or Uli, could maybe pull it off. Joshua does not pull it off. Funny thing is, I liked the bodice on his mannikin at one point – I even wrote it in my notes, ” Joshua I like what he’s doing”. That was sans flowers, though. Joanna warned him she couldn’t see it, but he didn’t listen. He tells the judges he was inspired by the greenery in Paris. You went to Valentino and you came away with trees? Isaac tries, he really does: couture is an experiment, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and guess which one this is. He likes the lace and he sort of likes the print skirt but not together. Georgina thinks the scale of the floral is off; if it were exaggerated it might be better. Cynthia finds it ill-fitting at the shoulders. Blondie wisely observes something about the skirt is off, but it’s a brave combo and she likes it. There it is.

Whaute?:

Anthony Ryan wins, of course. I wonder if, in real time, he was beginning to be just the slightest bit embarrassed at this point. Emilio is safe.

Uli and Joshua, on the other hand, well, the judges want to wring ten more minutes of nonsense out of a mostly nonsensical season. So they have a face-off: in one hour, they must deconstruct and reconstruct their garments using leftover fabric, which will be brought to them on the runway, because it seems checkout time on the workroom was at 11am. No sewing machine, no work table. And, by the way, no mannikin: the models get to be stripped and pinned.

Who thought this up? Alexander McQueen. Really? And PR thought they’d steal the idea because…

I kind of like the idea of having the lowest rated designers (and I’ll even agree with that rating in this case) “fix” their designs, but why not give them either the time or the materials – pick one – to do it properly? Not to mention that back in the lounge, Emilio an Anthony Ryan are wondering what the hell is taking so long; nobody’s told them there’s another showdown taking place.

Uli compares it to The Hunger Games – either you or your friend is going to end up dead. She takes the nude lining nobody liked and makes a dress out of it, then makes a jacket from the gold and black fabrics. To me it screams “Chris March Got Eliminated The First Time For This.” PR liked it so much, they left it out of their Rate the Runway pics, but you can see it over at TLo’s (thank you, TLo). I will forever appreciate Cynthia Rowley for her observation: “It’s a hilarious f*#& you to all of us, making the whole dress out of the lining we hated.” I wonder if that’s what Uli was thinking. Wouldn’t you just love it if it were? Isaac calls it entirely different, influential and fabulous. Yeah, yeah.

Joshua doesn’t think so grandly. See, I was channeling Fabio, thinking he could turn it upside down. But instead he just cuts it down to size, reverses the bodice back-to-front, and calls it a ready-to-wear look for Nine West. And here’s where I got scared, because dang if it didn’t look cute. Georgina’s shocked at what an extraordinary job he did; there’s a lightness to it now. Isaac thinks he got closer to the original intent to marry lace and print. Cynthia calls it pretty and fresh. I agree. It’s not perfect, but allowing for the time and the conditions, it’s terrific – and it’s a vast improvement over his first effort, which I can’t say for Uli.

Here’s where I got scared: Joshua’s remake is clearly miles above Uli’s. Could they actually cut her and leave him in, making Wendy Pepper sneaking past Austin at the last minute a distant second in terms of atrocity?

Oute:

Joshua bites the dust, showing the producers still know the value of “this far, and no farther.” My blood pressure goes back down to a normal range. I really don’t know what I’d have done if it’d gone the other way. I’m relieved I didn’t have to find out. That’s the most I can hope for from PR these days: to be relieved.

Next Week:

Put this puppy to bed with a 4-day mini-collection.

I know everyone thinks Anthony Ryan, with all his inexplicable wins, is the designated winner, but I still think it’s Uli. If the retail component weren’t involved, I’d go with Emilio and his Tony Award panache, but I don’t think he’s enough of a Lifetime-viewer fan favorite to generate sales of either Nine West garments (a far more Uli market) or magazine sales. I think Anthony Ryan is a decoy, the way Christopher was last season. But be patient – only one more week before you can all laugh at me and tell me, “I told you so.” Personally, I have very little stake in the matter. I’d like to see Emilio take it; I think he’s the one with the most breadth. But I recognize that’s a longshot, and I’m fine with either of the two.

Then a week later we get to start all over again with PR11, The Team Season (let the drama begin). I didn’t know Ed Begley, Jr. was a designer.

Project Runway All-Stars Season 2: Episode 10 – All Stars and Stripes

Two captains, a corporal, and a reservist go into to a bar….

Their big mistake: They left and came to Project Runway.

They rise from the depths of The Intrepid accompanied by the music of an invisible brass band. “All four of these women are actual veterans,” says Anthony Ryan, whose never seen an actual veteran before. What was he expecting, actresses from whatever latest war movie? Super close-up on Joshua all teary-eyed over the truly harrowing tale of his client; Tom Grunick would be proud. And did you know the military, famous for bizarre terminology, has a medical designation of “imminent death status” – I told you it was truly harrowing – and that they’re sometimes wrong?

I apologize if I seem snarky towards the military, or the women involved in this show. I’m not, truly. They’re admirable women; they were terrific on the show, and I hope they had a great time. I’m just tired of TV shows trotting out veterans and waving the flag and getting all “Support the Troops.” They’re too good for this. I’m all for supporting the troops (especially with things like ending wars that never should have happened and providing superior health care for those who do serve and voting for candidates who promise to do those things instead of cutting taxes). I just don’t support Project Runway using them for ratings. At least Ven wasn’t part of this. Even Joshua minded his manners; his crack, “Don’t ask don’t tell – with me they don’t even have to ask” with a wave at his pink and yellow flowered tank top was downright funny. And there was a Swatch sighting – it only lasted a couple of seconds, but he was there, hiding behind Emilio.

A famous designer, whose name I never caught, was guest judge. Katie Holmes was also guest judge. I’ve been hearing her name for years, but I never actually saw her or heard her before last night. I think that’s for the best.

Uli chats with her veteran, who’s going to a wedding, likes purple, and, oh, hey, really likes Uli’s Untitled3dress. So Uli makes her dress in black and white, because she couldn’t find purple print fabric. It’s the prettiest thing on the runway. It’s the only truly pretty thing on the runway, in fact. Everyone loves it, but Isaac wishes the embellishments weren’t there. I never noticed them; problem solved. Katie says she should’ve used feathers instead of those embellishments and everyone laughs: “She’s been the Feather Queen for weeks.” Katie assures them she’s been watching, which, well, she’s lying, and stupidly, too. I thought Katie Perry was the stupid one. Have I had my Katies mixed up all this time? Isaac says it’s ambitious for such a short time, which cracks me up – ambitious? She’s made this same dress a thousand times, she can make this dress on her lunch hour. It’s pretty – it’s clearly the only thing deserving of a win – but it’s Uli Dress #4. It just so happens Uli Dress #4, like Uli Dress #1-#3 and #5, is very pretty.

Joshua has a brother in the army, so he’s really nice to his veteran. She was serving in Bosnia when a blood clot nearly killed her (see “imminent death status” above) and necessitated amputation of her leg. When she returned to “alive status” (yes, I made that one up) her first question was “Will I be able to wear high heels with a prosthetic leg?” She has a “service animal,” aka a dog, and he’s cute, too. [Addendum: Thanks to TWoP I discovered PRAS left something out about Joshua’s vet, Leslie Smith: Leslie Smith: in addition to losing her leg, she lost vision in one eye and most of the vision in the other, making her legally blind. Maybe I’m stupid; were we supposed to assume that because she has a service dog she’s blind? People have service dogs for all sorts of reasons, and I wasn’t even sure if Isaac was her service dog or a dog she was training for the Army. In any event, I hope to God it was her request to leave that detail out of the episode. I think it creates an entirely new and completely fascinating twist to the challenge, not to mention a geometric increase in the already superbly high levels of grace and confidence she displayed throughout the episode] She wants a dress for various military events; she usually wears her uniform, but sometimes she wants to dress up. Her favorite color is leopard, which is probably why she was paired with Joshua. He can’t find a regular leopard print (really? What’s going on at Mood? First no purple prints, and now no leopard) but he finds a black-and-white leopard print (I’m calling it snow leopard) and dyes it green to add color; it comes out looking grey in the pictures, but it was green on my tv. Joanna’s glad to see him much more excited and inspired this week. He is, too – he even makes a little vest thing for the dog. His dress is a basic LBD, with a panel of floating leopard at the hem. It’s nice. I’m not sure it’s a Special Event dress, it’s more of a Special Event Hem, but it’s ok. For Joshua, it’s great; one of the judges notes that he could’ve gone crazy with leopard but he didn’t. He went… kinda boring, actually. Not as good as his S9E8 Real Woman dress, which, deservedly, won. But good enough for PRAS, which is sad commentary. Isaac is happy the dog is named Isaac, but wishes his vest thing were more fabulous. The designer guest judge (I just don’t care who it is, so I’m not bothering to look it up) asks the woman, delicately, “Did you make a conscious effort to show your prosthetic?” That could’ve gotten ugly in a hurry, because what if she’d said no? But she’s proud of it and absolutely wanted it to show. Her intent is to wear this to military functions, so I think I get that. On the runway, they love it; in private discussion, they admit, it’s kind of tame, but it’s still surprising elegance from Joshua.

Emilio thinks the least he can do for someone serving the country in the military is make a dress. That’s why I hate these challenges with military people. His veteran wants a dress with “wow factor” for a Vegas bachelorette party, and her favorite color is yellow. So Emilio makes a yellow dress, but he gets all snarled up in “fusing” and has to make the top over when it doesn’t fit. Joanna calls it “brave” of the woman to wear “all this yellow” which to me says “take it down a level” but it seems it didn’t mean that to Emilio. She thinks this challenge might be harder for him, since he’s used to costuming and red carpet, but he says he dresses regular women all the time. Maybe, but the color makes this daytime to me. And I hate the straight band across the back. The sides gap, too. No, no, no, Emilio, what are you doing to me? Katie loves the color; it’s a fun dress. Georgina wonders if it’s two different fabrics, which it isn’t, it’s just the top that’s fused though. Isaac loves the idea, but it needs some work with the lining. The designer talks about “cheating the angle” to make the sides fit more snugly against the body. Blondie assures him the color variation is no big deal, and the overall design is perfect. Then they talk privately, at which point everyone hates it. Blondie doesn’t like the hem, Georgina doesn’t think he, or maybe the dress, is “committed,” it looks homemade, Katie sees the start of a lot of beginnings, Isaac doesn’t like the color, the designer calls it out for poor execution.

Anthony Ryan asks a very intelligent question: “What area of your body are you self-conscious about?” “I’m a boob-hider,” she confesses. All I can think of is Olivier from S9, how he’d be apoplectic. She’s recovering from an injury so she weighs more than usual, and she’s feeling a little awkward. She wants a long dress for her 40th birthday party, “definitely strapless.” Anthony Ryan goes for ombre, and he has good ideas: using boning and canvas to keep the garment in place, putting the dark part of the ombre at the bust and having it lighten up going down. And Joanna suggests one shoulder, or something for support, and he figures he can talk her into it. UntitledAll good. Except… no. She looked fine in her t-shirt during the intros, but on the runway she looks huge, so it’s the dress, not her. Take it from me, tying a flowy dress at the waist doesn’t work when you’re a woman of girth. Blondie starts out with “You look lovely” which is a patent lie but it’s hard to tell someone she’s fine but the dress is doing awful things to her in 5 words or less. The most Blondie will say is she looks “hidden” (which is what she wanted), and that the bust is unflattering. Georgina wishes the body was shown off, thinks the straight-across neckline is “hard” which it is, and the straps are claustrophobic – to me, they’re place too steeply, and they almost look like plastic, they need tapering of some kind – but she loves the overall idea, just like Mrs. Lincoln loved the play. Katie wants the straps beaded like a necklace, which makes my teeth hurt. Isaac’s nose keeps growing and growing as he says it’s one of his favorite things and he loves the spirit and it’s fresh and young before admitting, oh, by the way, it’s not figure flattering. Even in private, he won’t listen to voices of reason saying it’s pretty awful.

Because the judges were hampered by tact, it wasn’t clear who they thought was top and bottom, but it turned out to be exactly as I would’ve placed them: Uli and Joshua are the top two, with Anthony Ryan and Emilio in the bottom. They talk about the potential loser: “Who had the best collaboration with the client?” They’re divided.

Backstage, Joshua tells his client, “I haven’t had that good a critique in… like ever.” Therefore, Joshua wins. What? Sigh. I guess you can’t have Uli win all the challenges.

And in the spirit of We’re All winners, nobody is out.

I think Uli’s got this in the bag. Yes, they seem to love Anthony Ryan’s designs for all kinds of unfathomable reasons, and he’s done this whole fashion show thing in New Orleans, so maybe they’ll go for that. But… he’s color blind, for god’s sake. How can he be a guest fashion editor for a year? But maybe his merchandising trumps a sense of color. I still think Uli’s got the fan base to propel her into the win. She really is a sweetheart, so she’d be easy to work with (unless I’m making too much of this guest fashion editor thing). And she really can make great clothes.

Next Week:

Paris. I thought the finale was next week. The finale’s in Paris? Why do I keep expecting this show to make sense?

Project Runway All-Stars Season 2: Episode 9 – There’s No Business Like Sew Business

Welcome to Fifth Avenue, that Ready-to-Wear hell designers scorn because it sells “consumer-friendly” clothes to “the masses,” as Joshua puts it. Emilio’s a little less judgmental: “it has to please a lot of people.” What’s hilarious is that most of America shops at Target and Wal-Mart, maybe Sears or Penney’s, right, Isaac, Michael, Nicole? But just like all writers want to be David Foster Wallace or Salman Rushdie, all designers want to be Dior. Today they’re slumming it.

Elie Tahari is the name of the day, the penniless Israeli immigrant who went from electrician to fashion star in three years back in the early 70s. So now everyone else thinks she can do it, too. Sorry, only so many Cinderella stories to go around.

The Business Proposal:

Uli’s so taken with the building – “it’s crisp and clean and airy and light” – she hardly notices Elie and Blondie. It’s the Save the Garment Center challenge. Remember last time, they took Mondo’s winning dress and ruined it completely by making it more fitted and removing the pockets (it’s on sale at Nanette Lepore for $178.80 right now, by the way)? Well, this year Elie Tahari will crush someone else’s vision.

The official challenge is to make a modern, sophisticated look, using any fabric from Tahari’s stash, that will sell for $500 – $700. The profits will go to… wait, you thought the designers were going to get paid for their 9 hours of work? Hah! Not on Project Runway. No, the profits go to Save the Garment Center because they’re all in this together, right?

They do the whole visit-the-price-consultant thing, and it’s even less informative than last time when at least they showed their designs to someone who estimated production costs, then gave them a figure they could use for fabrics. This time they just walk up to a “price consultant” who for the most part says, “Sure, you can use that,” and sends them on their merry way. If you’re going to do a challenge about pricing, why not show the details of how pricing is calculated? Could it be you don’t want people to actually know that $500 dress cost $52 to make?

Poor Joanna: when she comes in for the walk-through, it’s apparent she has split the fabric of her skirt at the waist. In two places, no less. It’s too bad none of the designers offers to mend it for her. I barely heard the walk-through because I kept staring at her stomach and wondering if she’d gained weight or was pregnant. It’s too bad, too, because she brought Elie, who passed on words of wisdom for all the Special Snowflakes in the Room who are Winners No Matter What: “All love, no fear.” I think a couple of these designers need a little fear. But fear isn’t in their contract.

Elie and someone with very long legs are guest judges. I’ve been informed Legs is also George Clooney’s girlfriend. And a wrestler. And a model. And an actress.

Assets:

Uli rules out feathers, fringe and trims. Because, well, she’s obsessed, but she’s not stupid. She plans a dress and vest, and picks out a white fabric that looks to me like waffle wipes. The price consultant tells her the vest puts her over budget, so she’s down to a white waffle wipe dress. In the workroom, she starts moaning, “Why did I buy white fabric again?” as it’s her third white dress this season. Joshua suggests she subconsciously wants to get married. She frets that colors work so much better on the runway. Except, back in Episode 2, she thought a white disco dress would stand out, and she won that one. She’s got to do something cool with the design to make it less white. So she wraps a towel around the waist. Elie thinks the extra fabric is too heavy, and Joanna thinks the mannikin looks enormous from the side. Uli explains how she got worried about too simple, and Elie starts in: “Fear, that’s when you took the wrong road.” So she takes away the towel and frays some napkins for the shoulders. The good news is, it doesn’t look like waffle wipes any more. The bad news: now the dress reminds me of aida or huck – I used to do a lot of counted cross-stitch and I frayed the hems exactly like that. The dress is huge on her model. I think it’s the worst thing Uli’s made all season, maybe ever in her life. That’s why she’s in the Top Two. Maybe it looks better in person? Georgina loves the shoulder detail because it draws attention to the face, but the length bothers her since it’s neither this nor that, and that’s why Isaac loves the length, because it’s a little bit wrong; it’s young. Elie loves how she used fringe, it’s “a wonderful achievement.” Ok, he’s smearing it on a little thick. They all are. Come on, look at it!

Anthony Ryan gets a beautiful print; now he just has to figure out how to place it. He’s also got some other fabric he refers to as “almost neoprene” for stretch, which strikes me as bizarre. He cuts up his print – parts are blue, parts are orange, parts are almost animal print – to put the different parts of the print in different places. Mixing prints is the sort of thing Mondo does beautifully, and the Michael Costello clone – Christopher, I had to look up his name, that’s how much I remember from last season – who did the x-ray fabric, knew how to place a print correctly. I’m not so sure about AR. Joanna says the print is doing a lot of the work, which, well, yeah, it is, but isn’t that why you get a superb print? He has a discussion about pockets with Elie – they do add to the cost but they also increase value, but the important thing is to give “the lady” the best shape at the hip. That’s the best information this episode. Then Elie lapses into pseudo-shrink schmaltz: “When things are easy we get lazy, you need to grow up fighting for your rights and food and love and you appreciate it more.” When I looked at fabric insert on the Rate the Runway slide, I realized it’s not a silky fabric at all; it’s quite coarse, in fact, which surprised me. I don’t like it as much as I did. I have mixed feelings about the final result: I like the shoulders, I hate the navy inserts on the sides, I like the pockets and the way the print is used in front, I hate the sides of the skirt in back, and I really, really hate the strip down the skirt in back. It looks like skid marks. You wear that dress, people will assume you’re taking Alli and forgot to bring extra pants. Which is why he’s in the Top Two. Isaac loves the side panels and the pockets, but not the neckline. Elie thinks it’s easy to wear; he’s impressed. Georgina thinks it’s young without being junior.

Liabilities:

ivy fabricIvy does ready-to-wear, so this is her challenge. What she doesn’t do is prints, so of course she finds a print; she thought it was ombre, but it’s a landscape. It’s gorgeous, but, like Anthony Ryan’s, it’s the sort of print you have to place correctly. She wants to do a maxi dress to use the whole panel of the fabric, but still using a color block technique. Elie tells her she has guts to use that fabric, which, given he can’t very well say “What the #*%@ are you doing to my beautiful materials” is maybe for the best. Ivy tells Joanna she’s going to leave the dress long, and the customer can cut it to the desired length. Ivy, what part of “ready-to-wear” do you not understand? Joanna tells her customers won’t necessarily want to tailor the dresses they buy, and it’s the sign of a lazy designer, anyway. Especially with that print: it isn’t a repetive pattern. I think Ivy knows this is the last challenge of her contract, so she doesn’t really give a shit, so even though Elie tells her it should be short, she leaves it long. And doesn’t bother with design, fit, detailing, at all. Dear lord. It’s a desecration of that fabric. Blondie doesn’t like the slits billowing out. Slits? I didn’t even notice the slits, I was so overcome with ugly. Georgina finds it a frumpy length. It came out better than Elie thought, which makes me wish I’d heard what was really in his head during walk-through. Isaac thinks it looks like the day after the world exploded and the sky turned orange; it was fine when she was walking, but as soon as she stands still, it’s awkward. Legs wouldn’t even try it on. Isaac: “Week after week, she’s in the bottom.” He finally noticed.

Emilio wants to have a successful business, and ready-to-wear is the meat and potatoes of that; he’s going for a straightforward, classic dress. Fabric selection is everything, so he finds a beautiful mustard silk. Did you catch the oxymoron there? Because there is no such thing as “beautiful mustard.” But he gets it anyway, and I want to cry. His clients expect color from him. That’s fine, but that color? He also gets some burgundy for color blocking. On walkthrough, Joanna says it’s interesting, but the color is hard to wear; Elie likes the back better than the front, so Emilio, who’s no fool, makes the front more like the back. He’s worried it’s too simple. It is simple, and the color isn’t that bad. It’s actually nice, but who knows what it is in person. Georgina doesn’t like the color and wishes for more ideas. Legs hates the color. Blondie tries to cheerlead for mustard/burgundy, but who’s going to listen to her, ever. Elie admires the achievement, which is his version of “Everyone’s a winner.” Isaac expected more, specifically from Emilio: “Is it enough from you? No.” In the judges’ private discussion, he confers immediate immunity on him: “I’d throw myself across the runway before sending him home.” Georgina thinks it’s a fine dress, but that’s about it. For this episode, a fine dress is pretty good.

Joshua picks a glowing magenta and matching lace. By the walkthrough, joshua eliehis manikin has a bare chest. With Joshua, you never know: it could be a crazy scoop neckline, or maybe he’s going to put gerbils in there. Elie wonders about the lace: “It takes it somewhere else.” I don’t think that was a good thing. Joshua does battle with a zipper, and the zipper wins: “She looks like she has a dump in her butt.” She does, too. Maybe she’s taking Alli, too. Considering it’s really pretty simple, it’s one ugly dress; the chest insert bows out, making her look pregnant in the chest. Or like she’s expecting an Alien to pop out and wants to catch it. It’s really a bad idea. The exposed zipper in the back, lined by lace overlays, is just ugly. But Joshua thinks it would compliment all ages and sizes. I don’t think it compliments any age or size. Georgina loves the color, but the model has breasts down to her waist, and “no one wants to have droopy breasts.” Isaac isn’t sure about the length, and he won’t even talk about the zipper; the lace appliques “go moderate.” That’s a bad thing, right? Elie loves the color but not the lace. Legs thinks the zipper makes it modern but takes away the femininity, while Blondie thinks it cheapens the dress. “If the zipper were gone, it would’ve been a great dress.” No, it wouldn’t, but it’d be better. “Editing,” says Joshua. Yes, but you’re supposed to think of that before the runway. Privately, Georgina thinks he should be shot for doing that to stretch fabric, which is more like it. Elie saw a slutty lady, and pregnant, to boot. Congratulations, Joshua, you have a new specialty: the pregnant slut.

The Bottom Line:

Anthony Ryan wins. And that destruction of vision that made me so mad last time, when they wrecked Mondo’s dress? It works this time. They changed the fabric to eliminate all the orange, took away the pockets (damn), got rid of the skid marks, and sleeked down the side inserts. And it’s only $400, which is below the target price range. Because there’s a limit to how much people will pay for a cotton sheath.

For the auf, it comes down to: do we tell Ivy once again to push herself, or do we tell Joshua once again to tone it down? You know who wins when they put it that way: Ivy’s out.

Next Week:

They go to the Intrepid and inflict themselves on veterans. Come on, these women have already sacrificed to serve their country, just how much more suffering do they have to take? I’ll tell you how much more: Katie Holmes. It just isn’t fair.

Project Runway All-Stars Season 2: Episode 8 – Flapper Fashion Face-Off

Juan Coronado: "Fashion Victims"

Juan Coronado: “Fashion Victims”

Never failing to tackify a trend, PR flashes back to the 20s.

Never failing to look for something of value in anything, I digress.

The 20s was about more than flappers and Prohibition (which had a long and complex history all by itself). It was a post-war boom period, much as were the 50s. One of my favorite books from childhood, Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, is set partly in the 20s. Don’t, by the way, confuse that charming book, or the 1950 movie starring Jeanne Crain and Clifton Webb, with the junk of the same title from this millennium. The current Oprah’s Pick The Twelve Tribes of Hattie and last year’s The Warmth of Other Suns tell of a different 20s, one of The Great Migration, which fed into The Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Bessie Smith, not to mention, later on, Billie Holiday. Throw in The Lost Generation – early Hemingway, Fitzgerald – and the 19th Amendment, and it’s an era as wonderful and terrifying as our own. Or any other era.

Other cool stuff to know:
Archibal.J.Motley - "Nightlife"
The Life Expectancy in the US was about 54.
The population of the U.S. was slightly over 100 million (over 300 million now).
Average annual salary was $1,236.
It took 13 days to reach California from New York.
There were 387,000 miles of paved roads (now, about 2,600,000).

Anyone still with me? Let’s move on…

The Challenge:

There’s a complicated thing about invitations that can’t be opened until Blondie says so, but it boils down to this: Each designer must create a 1920s-inspired look for the woman of today attending one of three specific 20s events. Since there are six designers, two will be designing for the same event, and they’ll be judged head-to-head, with the three “bests” competing for the win, and the three “worsts” up for elimination. Wait, didn’t I just did do this with Top Chef? Fine, then, I’ll just use the same format.

If it doesn’t quite make sense to you that “today’s woman” would be going to a speakeasy, well, we’re often asked to suspend disbelief on PR, so why not.

The hands-down best moment of the night was when Laura revealed her card, a misspelled “Social Soriee.” I’m not sure how they got Uli’s right and Laura’s wrong; did they hand-make these? Doesn’t anyone know how to use a computer? And… why on earth did they leave it in for airing?

Guest judges are Gretchen Mol (of Boardwalk Empire and thus an authority on the 20s) and Jenny Packham (British designer to the stars and the Duchess of Cambridge. That’s Kate Middleton, to those of us who haven’t been paying attention to British Royalty).

And there’s some smack-talk, mostly precipitated by Joanna. I guess they felt the show needed more conflict. Some of it’s really good. So good, in fact, I wondered if it was written for them and rehearsed.

Afternoon Garden Party by Emilio and Josh:

The smack talk:

"Garden Party" cartoon from Punch, July 28, 1920Emilio: My lady owns the estate; Joshua’s is a guest.
Joshua: Emilio’s lady may own the estate, but she’s the appetizer for her husband, while my girl is the main course. Oh, Joshua, a million feminists just threw up.

Emilio is using the latter part of the 20s, when the silhouette got closer to the body and the hemlines became more demure. That’s the word he uses, “demure.” I love him for that. He he needs to go back to what the judges know him for, the Wow Factor. Prints were big in the 20s so he’s using a geometric; Joanna’s a bit concerned about the print; is it “young?” She sees it on her grandmother’s sofa, which is pretty scary criticism. Then she worries about the lace; he thinks it’s nostalgic, not old. I hate to tell him, but I think Joanna was right. It’s pretty, still. He arranged the print to start blue at top and “grey down,” which again is a cool turn of phrase; I’m not sure this graying-down is noticeable, but it’s a nice concept. Blondie sees Ralph Lauren in the detailing at the top. Gretchen likes the ladylike length. Jenny thinks it’s a little dated, but still elegant and a successful design. Georgina thinks it’s a touch lacking in personality, ouch. Isaac gets Ginger Rogers, which, yeah, I follow that; he thinks it’s more 30s, so Emilio tells him he “skewed later” in the 20s. I wonder if I like Emilio because of these phrases he keeps trotting out. I haven’t even noticed it before, but today, his mouth is genius even if his dress is grandma. I think he stayed too long in the 20s and didn’t update quite enough. But I know nothing about fashion, and less about the fashion of the 20s. Top Half.

Joshua wants to come up with a clean, classic daywear look. He’s using this incredibly awful print muslin as a template; what, were they out of plain muslin, or did he actually buy that stuff? It looks like something he might use, actually. Someone asks if he’s gone to many garden parties: “The only parties I go to in NY are on fire escapes and rooftops.” Joanna loves the “very Josh color” but is worried it’s not a flattering silhouette; she points out neither he nor Ivy have won any challenges, and they were both in the bottom last week. Just in case he was holding back, see. He fools around with the brooch, placing it in different locations; Anthony Ryan tells him it looks Scottish, which I’m still trying to figure out. It’s not terrible in terms of lines and ideas, when you consider what atrocities Joshua is capable of, but like most things he does, it’s off and the overall effect is pretty bad. I don’t like the asymmetrical skirt (and I usually do), the grey fabric looks too thin, and what I like the best, the yellow strip on the back, is missing in the front. Georgina loves the cut and thinks it feels modern, but the brooch and handbag are awful. Jenny sees a snappy great little shape and interesting pleating. Gretchen loves the yellow. Blondie thinks it’s too safe. Well, sure, considering the asinine things she’s been wearing all season (she seems to have toned it down in the past couple of episodes; I’ve actually liked a couple of things, and her dress for Runway isn’t half bad). Isaac doesn’t think it’s interesting enough in front, though the back is divine. Hey, that’s what I said, you mean I was right? Bottom Half.

Speakeasy by Ivy and Anthony Ryan:

The Smack Talk:


Anthony Ryan gives Ivy’s design a 7-8.
Ivy gives his a 5.
Boring. But Ivy gets all paranoid about Anthony Ryan watching her, and he thinks she’s being secretive, which was a little more interesting.

Anthony Ryan wants to make something low-cut, not form-fitting, with a high hem, so when she walks down the runway you want to have sex with her. Wow, those feminists who’ve just cleaned up after Joshua made them hurl just hurled again. He makes this feathered capelet that I love; Joshua does a great job modeling it, I wonder if he’s done any modeling or performing in whatever the modern gay equivalent of a speakeasy is. Joanna loves the capelet too; it’s a little naughty, it celebrates freedom. Yeah, the freedom to have everyone want to have sex with you so they can claim you were asking for it (there’s been a skin-crawlingly-horrific discussion of “nice guy rapists” going around that’s definitely colored my perception of some things this week). It’s probably the most flapper-esque thing on the runway. Jenny likes it; it’s very modern, but needs to be closer to the body; Isaac doesn’t like the capelet, but Georgina loves it. Top Half.

Ivy likes art deco, so she’s found some eye-catching embellished fabric to work with. Problem is, it’s $150/yard. Holy sh*t. They only have $250 for the challenge. She gets a yard and a half and crosses her fingers she has enough to cut the chevron pattern she’s planning. Joanna loves the fabric; it’s Roxy Hart. I knew someone was going to say that. Ivy’s worried about making sure everything is finished properly, since she’s been dinged for craftsmanship in past weeks, and she considers it her strongest asset. I have no doubt she can sew beautifully, but most of the stuff I’ve seen here and on S8 was sloppy. It’s probably a matter of time. Every time I see her dress from a different angle, I change my mind; sometimes it’s cool, sometimes it’s dumpy. The Lifetime website picture is definitely dumpy. Blondie thinks it’s Prada-esque, too literal. Isaac loves the chevron but it’s so heavy in the front. Jenny doesn’t like it at all. It grows on Gretchen the longer she looks at it; she could see it at an art opening. Aha, another art gallery dress! Bottom Half.

Social Soiree by Uli and Laura:

The Smack Talk:


Uli: This challenge screams for feathers.
Laura: I don’t need feathers to compensate for my design.
But hey! Let’s both wear headbands with feathers to the Runway! That’d be fun!

Uli is wondering if feathers are her destiny, since “this challenge screams for feathers.” Joanna wants to break into a Charleston when she sees what she’s working on, but she worries if it’s too similar to other things she’s done. Uli explains, she has to do this, because if she pulls back, the judges will scold her with “Here was your opportunity….” She’s right. Fact is, no matter what the designers do, the judges will praise or censure simply because it’s your turn to be in the top or bottom. It’s a rule I learned from gaming in Pyroto years ago: no matter what you do, someone’s going to complain, so you might as well do what you think is right. Her dress does look very familiar, and I’m not sure about the arched cutaway in front, the half-lining looks like a cheap half-slip, but I’m crazy about the Möbius shawl. Uli really has this eye for creating something aesthetically pleasing, as Nina would say. Isaac loves everything but the white fringe, which makes it “go cheap.” Georgina loves the modern feel; there’s some disagreement about whether the shawl adds or detracts. Top Half.

Laura don’t need no stinkin’ feathers; that’s styling, not design. As opposed to fur and beads, which she does need to make the same jumpsuit she made in the Green episode, except with beaded fabric and a fur shrug. She struggles with cracking the glass beads on her fabric, and Uli the Stylist who Needs Feathers Yet Has Won Two Challenges helpfully hands her the exact tool that will work. Laura doesn’t have the brains to realize irony. She tries to pass it off as Art Deco because of the glass beads. Isaac thinks it’s brilliant as long as she gets rid of the fur that weighs it down and turns the girl into a cave woman. Georgina thinks it’s made beautifully, and I’m wondering what Bizarro world I’m in until Blondie, of all people, doesn’t like the pants. Then it all goes downhill. Georgina worries about the hips looking big, and warns her to “watch the crotch” when using reflective fabric: “it creates shadowing no woman wants.” PR helpfully shows a closeup of exactly what she means: the pants have pubic hair from certain angles. Oopsie. Bottom Half.

The judges talk amongst themselves. By sheer coincidence, the three people I’d be fine never seeing again are in the bottom: Joshua, Laura, and Ivy. I’m relieved; usually, someone good gets caught in the crossfire in these things, but I don’t really care which one they auf. Isaac likes Joshua’s enough to take him out of danger right away (is the the only one who can make a call like that?), so they debate between Ivy and Laura: Georgina likes the essence of the woman once the fur stopped weighing it down, but Blondie thinks it’s dowdy and boring. I don’t like being on the same side of the fence with Blondie; it makes me doubt myself. Isaac thinks Ivy’s design just went wrong, and they all are disappointed with how she used that incredibly expensive fabric. For the winners, they rule out Emilio right away, since he did nothing new; Anthony Ryan’s is more modern, but Isaac doesn’t like it without the feather capelet. Jenny loves the detail in Uli’s, and Isaac is happy about the layers and complexity.

Decision:

Anthony Ryan wins. Fine.

Laura’s out. Fine, too.

Next week:

Fifth Avenue, Ready-to-Wear. No one wants to have a droopy breast. And someone looks like she has a dump in her butt. That Joshua, made of class.

Project Runway All-Stars Season 2: Episode 7 – Unconventional Christmas

Prize courtesy of de Grisogono

Prize courtesy of de Grisogono

You know the season is going on too long when you look at the opening sequence and think: Peach is in this? And you know the season is ass#$%&-heavy when you also think: Awww, Suede, he wasn’t such a bad guy.

Blondie meets the designers at the South Street Seaport harbor. I remember the South Street Seaport from an episode of last summer’s Food Network Star, but I thought it was a high-end market. Seems it’s an actual harbor, leading Joshua to wonder if they’re doing a pirate-themed challenge. Staggers the mind, what some people actually say on television. By the way, while Pier 17 just re-opened, many shops are still closed for business due to damage from Sandy, according to their website, and many other less promotable efforts are still ongoing.

Our crew is joined by Fawaz Gruosi, founder of de Grisogono, yet another thing popular with the rich and famous of which I know nothing. The winner of the challenge will get a watch. I take it this is a bigger deal than when ANTM gave away Mikimoto pearls?

None of this has anything to do with the challenge, by the way.

Unconventional Challenge, Christmas version:

The idea is to buy $350 worth of Christmas stuff in 30 minutes, and make an outfit that doesn’t look like it came from a Christmas store. Which is a relief, because I wasn’t looking forward to a bunch of Santa’s Elves walking down the runway.

Uli: “Buy a thousand things to make sure your dress is covered with Christmas that doesn’t look like Christmas.”
Joshua: They’ll never know this was a train.
Laura: Find everything pretty and silver.
Emilio: A big fat man who climbs through your chimney in the night would get shot in my neighborhood – we call those burglars.
Casanova: What I can do? A live piñata.
Ivy: The models are elves inside our little sweatshop.

Some Kylie Minogue person is guest judge. She’s a singer, right? “This is probably the biggest judge in Project Runway history,” gushes Anthony Ryan, which makes people like Sarah Jessica Parker, Christina Aguilera, Debra Messing, and Victoria Beckham, not to mention DVF who hasn’t even left the building yet, feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

What Happens:

Who’s Been Naughty:

Ivy is thinking flapperesque, for movement and texture. She shows Joanna the garland she’s using for fringe; Joanna says it’s creative, and she wouldn’t know it was Christmas stuff. It’s not bad, though again, the bodice has some sewing issues, but who knows what that stuff is so she deserves a break on it. She managed to incorporate her obsession with sheer overlay in a way that’s attractive. I think it does look Christmassy, though; where else would you wear that but to a Christmas party? Still, I’m surprised she’s in the bottom. Georgina likes the idea; it’s the kind of girl you expect to see holding a martini and a cigarette. What? But she notes some proportion issues, like the keyhole, and the boxiness. I hadn’t noticed the keyhole until she pointed it out, but she’s right, it’s too big. Blondie doesn’t see a wow factor. Oh, really, with gold lace and gold branches you don’t see a wow factor? Isaac thinks the gold base fabric is the problem; it’s a 60s junior imitation of a cocktail dress because the waist is too high. Now they’re just picking on her. I’m no fan of Ivy, personally or artistically, and I’d love to see her go home, but she doesn’t deserve it for this. There’s an artistic touch that’s missing, sure, a touch Uli or Emilio would’ve brought, but for an unconventional challenge it’s pretty good.

Casanova is wearing something strange on his head. It isn’t quite a turban. Or maybe it is but it’s falling apart, with little things hanging down in back. It looks dirty. But it’s strangely appealing. I think Casanova has checked out of the competition. He doesn’t know what to do. It isn’t as easy as gutting Plush Puppies, which is what he did in Season 9; I can actually hear him saying “Plush Puppies.” Joanna doesn’t want to wear the dress he shows her. So he starts over. Then he starts over again. Overnight, his roomies warn him he isn’t using anything unconventional, so on Runway Day he starts over again, and because he’s gone through all the stuff he bought, he goes through the trash and asks the other designers for their leftovers. Yeah, Casanova has left the building. The result is not the catastrophe I was expecting. The sections are pretty incongruous, and the sides are gaping from the back, but I actually like the pleating on the skirt, and hey, you can’t see her privates. Georgina likes it more than the story he tells (“My first look was Santa Clause, my second was horrible, my third is leftovers”); it’s a little heavy-handed. Isaac likes the ropy espadrille stuff on the bust, but it’s then it gets old-lady. And again, I want to meet some of the old ladies these designers are hanging out with. Kylie doesn’t like how the center panel bulges over her belly. She’s right; it should be concave, not convex. Someone named Lala – I must’ve been sleeping when she was introduced – is impressed he created three looks, but as Isaac points out, he put himself in that situation by what he chose. Lala still thinks he showed his talent in the roping, and he has potential. I think by the time they hit All-Stars, designers should have more than potential.

Joshua buys trains. He thought he had a roll of fabric but it turned out to be a felt menorah wall hanging the size of a calendar, so all he’s got is ribbon. He starts with a sports bra bustier thing made out of… I don’t know, mirrors, plastic pieces, trains. Joanna: “My heart is beating for you.” I don’t think she meant it the way that looks in print. She points out others are doing more “considered” outfits. Joshua isn’t worried: “They can’t do Josh like I do Josh.” So you think “doing Josh” is a good thing? Here’s his problem: he doesn’t have a bottom. He’s thinking high-waisted shorts, but now he has to make them out of ribbon. But, as he says, it doesn’t look Christmas. No, it looks insane asylum. When his model walked the runway, I typed: “omg. Abomniaton.” Hey, I was typing in the dark, give me a break. She has trains on her shoulders. She has mirrors on her boobs. And god help us, Isaac could “see inside” the shorts as she walked by: “It doesn’t really work to show someone’s privates on the runway.” Words to live by. Georgina can’t tell from the back if it’s shorts or a skirt. Georgina, honey, look at this, does it matter? Everyone seems to love the top, which makes me want to bang my head against a wall. But even Kylie, who is apparently famous for wearing hotpants (!) wouldn’t wear those shorts.

Who’s Been Nice:

Laura channels the other Laura and shows Joanna a silver beaded dress; Joanna sees a modern 60s vibe. Laura’s feeling her oats, having won a challenge: “It must be innovative, it came from a Christmas store.” It’s not bad, though I wish it was a little more fitted, especially in back where the sides gap. Kylie especially loves the pockets, which, yeah, I can see that. I’m a big fan of pockets. But she also thinks some of the droplets are too big and look thrown on. This Kylie person, for all her hotpants ways, has an artistic eye; she’s right. The shift from small to large, plus the color, is too sudden. She also thinks it looks heavy to wear; Isaac agrees, it’s heavy in a way Ivy’s and Uli’s weren’t. Blondie loves the shape in back, which makes me want to slap her. Isaac’s major criticism is that it makes the model look fat; it isn’t expensive-looking. Georgina wants a different placement of the embellishments, which is pretty much what that Kylie person said.

Uli remembers what DVF told her: Embrace the Trims and Feathers. So she’s going to make a whole dress just from embellishments. Oh, Uli, where have you gone? She tells Joanna this is her challenge. I don’t quite understand why. I don’t remember what she did in the S3 unconventional challenge (was that the rip-up-your-apartment one?). But she feels pressure because everyone’s expecting her to waltz away with it. Maybe this is the episode she paid to win? She does a pretty good job of making an embellishment dress. The difference between her and Laura, or Ivy, is clear. It’s still gaudy as hell, but it’s organized gaud. Isaac loves her “signature,” how she fits things together like magic (I think that’s what I’m calling an “artistic eye”); it’s just that the hem in the back dips down, so it looks like the embroidery is weighing it down. Kylie loves that it’s not silver or gold but both (? I just gave you props, girl, don’t go idiot on me now). Georgina likes how she used materials to highlight and diminish certain areas, but she doesn’t like the seam on the sheer side panels (they don’t show in the pictures). But it’s pretty perfect, young, light, well-proportioned. And she gets her girl right every time.

Anthony Ryan goes for Winter, not Christmas. He’s making a stage dress for Kylie with mirrors and snowflakes. It’s the glue-crap-to-muslin challenge, so he glues crap to muslin with a vengeance. I hate the back, but I like the snowflake at the waist; it looks like a belt. But it’s clearly Christmas. Isaac loves the color; it looks really expensive, like something on a Paris runway. Oh, give me a break, he couldn’t have paid for this much, could he? Georgina likes the “pauses” where it goes flat, the sense of relief and cleanliness, which is such a cool way of phrasing it I don’t even care what she’s talking about. Someone-named-Lala is blown away, which makes me wonder about her blown-away threshold; parts read Christmas, parts read snowflakes. Who is this person? Kylie loves it as a performance itself, especially the hem.

The Invisible:

For some reason, Blondie tries to create drama out of which one of the seven designers will be in the single safe slot: “Ivy, Casanova, Emilio, one of you will be safe.” I don’t understand. Don’t do that again, ok? It’s stupid. The suspense of this episode is in seeing how they’ll find ways to praise three looks when they’re really all pretty bad.

Emilio is suffering hardware-challenge flashbacks; I think Tim still holds it against him though come on, Tim, Jesse wasn’t anything to write home about. Emilio should be comforted that there’s nowhere to go but up from that disaster. But his brain just doesn’t compute Christmas shit into clothes. He deliberately picks stuff that doesn’t look like Christmas at all. Purple. Lots of purple. Joanna wouldn’t know it was Christmas stuff, but she’s the Joanna version of Tim’s concerned: “You can’t just dress someone in ribbon and hope the ribbon does all the work.” Joanna, when was the last time you made a dress out of Christmas stuff? Emilio has his first glue gun experience. When he breaks it, he has his second glue gun experience. And another. His table is littered with dead glue guns, the carrion of his destruction. It’s a very purple dress; I like the checkerboard design with glitter and not, it fits really well, and I like how the white of the skirt looks like a lining. That’s kind of an Emilio thing, the skirt designed so the lining shows. The problem is, it looks like strips of wrapping paper. I love Emilio, but I would’ve put him in the bottom instead of Ivy; it’s a much more artistically created dress, but the overall effect is far worse.

Who Gets A Watch, Who Gets a Lump of Coal for Christmas:

Uli wins. I’ll agree with that. watch2She’s the only one whose model looked good. She gets an incredibly ugly black watch, with Fawaz Gruosi coming into the backstage lounge to put it on her wrist himself. Couldn’t they even have him come out on the runway? I don’t care how expensive it is, it’s huge, it’s clunky, it looks like plastic. I’m betting she sells it on eBay.

Casanova is out, because they could feel the torture in his design; it was ill-conceived from the beginning. And I think he told them he wanted out, because I can’t imagine anyone on the planet thinking his design was more ill-conceived than Joshua’s. Ivy cries. No comment.

Next Week:

Fashion Faceoff. Head-to-head match-ups. That means somebody’s gonna get screwed.

Project Runway All-Stars Season 2: Episode 6 – Green Dress for the Red Carpet

"Oak King" by Fi Bowman.

“Oak King” by Fi Bowman.”Oak King” by Fi Bowman.

You know the episode was boring when it’s noon the next day and you still haven’t even thought about the recap.

I’m not even sure why it was so boring. The High Line is an interesting project – a park built on defunct elevated freight train tracks on Manhattan’s West Side, creating beauty and life out of decrepitude, preserving rather than demolishing, all those cool things. Since this is a Green challenge, and since Diane von Furstenberg is the guest judge and she’s a major supporter of the project (meaning she’s donated enough to get a section named after her and is hawking expensive goods with her name on them to help raise funds), it kind of ties in.

AirDye is pretty interesting, too: a process of dyeing fabrics without using the large amounts of water normally involved. And it just so happens the Lumberjack Designers (Costello Tagliapietra) debuted the technology in their 2009 collection, and still use it today.

But it was still a boring episode. That’s Lifetime for ya.

The Challenge:blondie

Poor Blondie has run out of clothes, so she has cobbled together a dress from the sleeves of a cable-knit sweater with an old cut-up bodyshaper, a half-slip and some ace bandages. She meets the designers on the High Line along with a couple of suits from the project, who are there to get on TV and stand next to a pretty model. I’m betting at least one of them wonders what the hell she’s wearing.

The challenge: create a Red Carpet look out of their choice of a set of AirDye fabrics. They’ll also use “recycled” trims and embellishments from former challenges, meaning the stuff that looked so good in Mood but turned out to be godawful once they got it back to the workroom. To cap it all off, Blondie will wear the winning look to a Red Carpet event. Given the taste she’s displayed on this show, I wouldn’t consider that a prize, exactly.

In the workroom, Ivy’s hot. Casanova’s smelly. Anthony Ryan’s something, and they all get a little silly. Then there’s a bullshit session where Joshua asks if anyone’s ever done a red carpet gown. Althea did the Kardashian Girls and The Jenner Girls for a poster. I don’t know who the Jenner girls are, and I keep trying to forget who the Kardashian girls are, but everyone’s pretty impressed. And Emilio sent Audra McDonald to the Tony Awards. I know who Audra McDonald is. Dayum.

The Reddest of Red Carpets:

Laura goes for a pretty print. And it is pretty, at least it looked pretty out there in the sun on the High Line. Turns out, DVF is her idol, so this is a huge deal for her. She snarks on Emilio, that he’s a good designer but he’s a costume designer and there’s a difference. Yep, it means he has a breadth and a skill she should only hope to have some day. Is my bias showing? She talks over her plans for a jumpsuit with Casanova. Joanna calls it palazzo pants. Anthony Ryan isn’t impressed: “It’s like a little pig squealing in the mud.” I’m not sure I get that, exactly. But Anthony Ryan’s such a goofball, he can say stuff like that with his Southern Country Boy accent and get away with it. On the runway, the print is pretty, all right, it’s pretty horrid, pale, washed out. Over the past few seasons I’ve learned there’s an art, a skill, to working with prints: you have to know where the elements will fall, how they’ll look. This is more like what I’d do with a print. I like the draping in the back, though the band at the top is clunky, and I like the shoulder treatment, though I have to agree with Georgina, who points out the shoulders are narrow and the waist wide, giving a bulk-increasing triangle effect. DVF tells a story of screwing around in Rome when she was 20 and engaged to a Prince – seriously – and wearing a new fashion called pijama palazzo all the time and how wearing it makes one elegant and confident. Isaac isn’t sure what’s going on under the arms. I’m not sure we want to know, Isaac. But he applauds how she made the print fresh. Ok. This is the win Laura paid for, right?

Anthony Ryan picks a fabric with the right weight for movement, and he ignores trims and feathers: they’re not Red Carpet (don’t tell the starlets). He’s going flowy this time. Joanna gets it. She appreciates that he’s doubled the sheer fabric because, with those flashbulbs out there, life can be a nightmare. During fitting, his model keeps tripping over the sides. I thought I hated Laura’s; I really hate this. I hate the way it’s draped, leaving massive circles of fabric over the hips (where’s Kors when you need him to complain about making the hips look bigger?), and I hate the use of the black on the halter straps and especially in the back, where it looks like a bra band. And I hate the color. It’s the Anthony Williams’ Big Blue Condom from S7E12. But DVF likes it. It’s comfortable. Isaac is torn, that much color makes him think Hare Krishna. Wait, that’s orange, isn’t it? Are they branching out? Blondie worries about her undies – that’s her word – peeking out at the side. It’s true, Anthony Ryan did catch a peek of panty when the model turned, but “it’s ok, who doesn’t love a good panty.” Georgina loves the whole feel of the goddess approach. I wonder if I’ve lost my mind. Why are they so determined to make Anthony Ryan the Chosen One? He’s a very nice guy, and I wish he’d gone further on S9, but come on, this is horrible.

Uli grabs – guess what – a print. “It’s time for an Uli explosion.” Ok, could you do that over there, and come back when you’re done? She gets all kinds of embellishments; Emilio’s a little snooty about “feathers.” She thought the print looked bright out in the sunlight, but in the workroom she’s worried it’s too dark; she tells Joanna the fabric is like a rainy day in Miami. “That doesn’t sound like the Red Carpet,” Joanna Want a Bob Ross T-shirt? You know you do!wisely observes, but she has feathers and trims to make it light and happy. Nothing says light and happy like a boa of ostrich feathers and a strip of safety pins. DVF channels the beloved Bob Ross (who was about as far away from Rome and pajama palazzo as you can get) and calls it a happy accident. Isaac gets turned on when he shouldn’t like something, but does, which is WTMI. But – I agree with him. Against all odds, I like this. A lot. It’s true, the safety pin trim looks a little like a bandolier, but I love the shape and how the fabric falls perfectly. This, Laura, is how you use a print. I’d probably have given this the win, feathers or no.

The Faded Pink Carpet:

Casanova must’ve been there, but I have no notes about what he was actually sewing, just the runway note “Nice front.” And the whole “I stink” riff. Let me look: Oh, yes. The Scratchy Plaid Patchwork gown. The sad part is, I love the top of the bodice, with the lined fin that flips over and meanders around her breasts (yes, I know, it’s been done, so have plunging necklines and jumpsuits and goddess dresses but that doesn’t mean people don’t still make and wear them), and I like the side. I like the whole thing, in fact, just not in that print, which belongs on a bandanna.

Joshua also slides under my radar except for the runway. He thinks it exudes sex. Joshua, I think you do not know what this word means. He said his turquoise pantsuit for the disco challenge had the element of sex he’s known for, and I thought it was closer to office wear. His denim blue drape is a very pretty dress – I would’ve put it in the top, in fact, but I’m a sucker for denim blue – but there is no exuding I can see.

The Black Carpet:

Emilio decides he knows what the judges like from him, and it’s bold colors and silhouettes. So he picks the most retina-shredding red nightmare in the lot (on the Lifetime website it looks retina-shredding orange, but on my tv it was red. Not Christmas red or fire-engine red, but that awful cheap plastic toy red). He spends most of his time constructing the undergarment so the chiffon doesn’t have to bear the weight of the garment, which is fine; he did the same thing in S7 and got the win for it. The difference is, he actually finished that dress. He does take a break to complain to Casanova – in Spanish – that’s he’s not like Uli, who makes everything out of bedsheets. Hey, now cut that out, or you’re not going to be my favorite for the season much longer. Wouldn’t it be awesome if one of the other designers spoke enough Spanish to understand? Study a foreign language, kids, you never know when it’ll come in handy. Joanna comments on the “spectacular color” and in person, it may be spectacular. He tells her about the peekaboo drape in front and the low hardwareback – he can’t show her any of this because he’s still constructing – and she’s optimistic. But he never finishes the dress. He never gets the zipper in or the front slit sewn properly, and forget the hem. “It’s not the dress Joanna thought I could make.” He actually apologizes to the model; it’s the sloppiest thing he’s ever presented. Maybe that’s true: his hardware bikini was a lot of things, but I don’t think “sloppy” was one of them. It doesn’t look that bad until they do some closeups. It still doesn’t look all that bad, but I’ll take his word for it and credit him for not trying to bullshit his way around it. Isaac watches it move down the runway with his hand over his mouth in horror. DVF pretty much skewers him: the lining is a problem, the slip and trim aren’t necessary. I guess it was very different in person. Either that, or he was scheduled for a “fall-down” episode so he could “recover” next time. You think I’m making this up?

Ivy gets gold because she’s inspired by the sun and a woman should feel like a star on the Red Carpet. You know, I’m all about interesting inspirations, but Ivy’s aren’t interesting, they’re out of an American Girls book. She says: “I generally do maxi dresses or short length dresses so this is a challenge.” I couldn’t have heard that correctly, could I? What she actually does is make up a thousand pattern pieces, reminding me of Melissa of S10 who made a Rockettes costume out of seven thousand pattern pieces and still accidentally put a #1 on the front. It’s long. Then it’s short. I don’t care much for Ivy, but watching her cut into that fabric hurt. I’ve realized something about Ivy: she has these great sketches, and can’t execute them worth a damn. It’ a mess. The fabric, whatever it is, has the recalcitrant qualities of satin: the seams pucker and her gathers wilt. The idea is to showcase this eco fabric, and, as Isaac says, “This is the worst this fabric has ever looked.” So Ivy pulls out the “I don’t do…” card with “Red Carpet” on it. No dice. DVF can see the intention, but the execution “leaves to be desired.” Georgina says she needed to understand the fabric. Here’s the crazy thing: this is the same dress she made two of in S9 in the challenge that got her eliminated. She screwed it up again.

Althea must want to go home; that’s the only reason she would pick the Holly Hobby fabric she chose. Joanna tells her it could be a dreary fabric, but Althea’s talking exposed shoulders and panels at the bottom for movement, so it sounds like she knows what she’s doing. It’s an astonishing mess. It’s a less gaudy version of that Mesopotamian princess Santino had in S2, being held against her will until she designs her way out of it (or whatever; it was a dress for Iman), except in dotted swiss. Ashy pink and purple dotted swiss. No, it’s not dotted swiss, but it looks like it. A five-year-old after a fistfight? Or, as DVF says, Marie Antoinette meets Frederick’s of Hollywood. Even worse: Homework. Georgina can see she had a hard time with the fabric; it’s tatty. It looks like an old dress to Isaac. Yes, that’s it, it’s the dress worn in a post-apocalypse movie by the mean girl who survives just long enough to suffer a while. Althea may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but she’s better than this.

The End of the Carpet:

Laura wins, and you’ll never convince me it wasn’t part of contract negotiations: “I want to win the DVF challenge.” But fine, Blondie’s got the worst taste in America, so let her wear this somewhere. Just what kind of Red Carpet events does she go to, anyway? Is she really famous?

Althea is out. She didn’t do much this season. And she seemed stupider than she did in S6, though that may be because S6 was so chock full of idiots and all she had to do was stand next to Carol Hannah to seem brilliant. She cries while giving the traditional “it’s been a wonderful experience” interview, which made it really sad. The other designers seem to like her a lot, and she seems pretty nice, so I wish her well.

Next Week:

It’s time for the Unconventional Materials challenge combined with That Most Wonderful Time of the Year… hey, does this mean they’re going dark until after Christmas? That seems like a long time. And this season is already pretty forgettable.

Which begs the question: why am I disappointed such a horrible season will be interrupted?

Project Runway All-Stars Season 2: Episode 5 – You’ve Got Male

Robert Hartl: "Androgynous Buddha"

Robert Hartl: “Androgynous Buddha”

I once took a college math class with someone whose sex I never knew; I decided at one point she was female, just because. She was very tall, very slender, with glasses and straight hair, always wearing jeans and t-shirts and a jacket. Not unattractive, but fairly plain. It drove me crazy until I gave up trying to categorize her and started focusing on L’Hopital’s Rule. She was, I think, accidentally androgynous; it wasn’t a fashion statement, it wasn’t gender confusion or a sexual identity crisis, it was just what she looked like, how she liked to dress, and she saw no need to change it. She got me thinking about gender roles, especially how unthinkable it is for a man, at least a straight man, to have any female characteristics, while the reverse is more acceptable. Tomboys are cute; pansies are anathema. Women have worn pants, at least for work, since pants were invented; men wear dresses when hell freezes over (except in Scotland where hell froze over a long time ago, and only then in costume). It’s considered a sign of approval – a promotion, of sorts – to be “one of the boys.” You don’t call a guy “just one of the girls.”

So I’m all for androgyny. And since it’s the hot “fashion forward” trend this season, that’s the challenge. Subtitled: avant garde, but I suspect that’s inherent in the idea of androgyny.

Joshua’s psyched, of course. Kayne thinks of all the androgynous people he knows, like David Bowie, Adam Lambert, and Lady Gaga. I guess that means he doesn’t actually know any androgynous people. Emilio’s excited about it, too. Laura and Uli, on the other hand, feel like they’re up shit’s creek. I get Uli’s problem, but Laura’s done some very structured, architectural stuff which could easily take on characteristics associated with masculinity. But that, of course, would require conceptual thinking to modify her mindset, and I don’t think her mind is up to that.

Sketch, Mood. Then Georgina shows up in the workroom. It must be fun to have everyone groan when you walk into a room. But they know what’s coming: twist time.

The actual challenge is to make two outfits, one boy and one girl (I’m using those terms because it’s easier), that will complement each other. Emilio’s plan is screwed. Ivy looks like she’s having a panic attack. Kayne asks his model if he likes boys or girls, and offers to fix him up with one of his sisters.

Jason Wu and Robert Rodrigues are the guest judges. BTW, Blondie didn’t bother me as much as usual; she actually made some coherent observations during judging. And her outfit in the opening modeling pose was quite sharp, though for the runway, she was back to hideous in something that reminds me of the reptilian science fiction horror from the S6 movie challenge. But she still needs to learn how to talk to adults.

Avant Garde Androgyny (the top three):

Emilio initially was headed for women’s wear in menswear fabric, a suit, something cool and avant garde, with circular fins that go around the body. Wait, man, you had me, then you lost me – circular fins? Fins? He’s a little thrown by the twist, since he’s already going quite masculine, but he deals with it: he turns the fabric inside out. Joanna thinks it’s well-put-together and dramatic; she can’t tell the boy from the girl, which is androgyny, right there. My first thought when they hit the runway: Gangsters. Not gangstas – gangsters. Incredibly cool gangsters. The walk is perfect – this wasn’t a runway, it was theater. I think I held my breath. Georgina appreciates the attention to detail and the use of the fabric turned around, but isn’t sure about the fins; he did nail androgyny, however. Robert can’t tell the boy from the girl, either (neither could I, but it was awfully dark), and the fabrics and colors were amazing. Jason declares, “This is what androgyny looks like,” which, well, what more do you want. Isaac wonders if it’s too heavily reliant on the hat. Nah, but that’s definitely the perfect finishing touch. Blondie calls it “music video ready”; she’s hot for the boy and starts fanning herself as they leave the runway (ok, this wasn’t where she surprised me with insightful comments).

Uli of the flowy gowns is not sure what to do, but she finds some trim with an armor feeling, uses a strong shoulder, and a shirttail for the boy. Joanna loves the detail and the safety pin trim (apparently safety pins are big this year; I immediately think of Chris March). Joanna learns the term “ball room” which makes perfect sense to me. The girl’s outfit is pretty cool, but I hate the feathered shoulders on the boy’s shirt; it’s something Michael Costello might do on one of his more tasteless days. Uli calls it “tribal-inspired” which always makes me nervous. Georgina loves the girl’s top under the jacket, and she’d wear everything; someone calls it “sick” in a good way. Jason wants the pants; they’re good pieces, more than meets the eye. Robert would wear the boy’s outfit. Isaac finds it a sophisticated take on androgyny. I still think the boy’s top is awful.

Anthony Ryan goes evening-inspired, with a boy dress, but decides to put pants under it. He shows Joanna some yellow fabric, but she worries it’s going to look like a wasp with the black stripes (that’s a bumblebee – wasps are all black – but good point). He ends up with a lot of sheer over print, which isn’t bad, though the girl’s doesn’t strike me as androgynous at all. Robert finds it wearable; Georgina is thrilled to see him do anything other than another dress. Jason thinks it looks well-made and expensive; Isaac loves the textures and points out the seaming on the print that turns it into something else.

Not so much, no (safe):

Trent

Ivy breathes into a paper bag and makes something hideous that I think I’ve seen in a Star Trek dominatrix scene (ST-TNG, “Angel One”). She shows Joanna a pair of male panties with a little pouch for the goodies; she did not just do that. Yes, she did. But she’s putting something over it, she says. Too late, I can’t unsee it. The jackets aren’t bad at all, the multiple lapels are really nice and I like the girl’s top, it’s her pants, and his panties under sheer, that’s just awful. Seriously, can’t you just see that guy on the planet ruled by women episode? I don’t think that’s the idea behind androgyny. She and Joshua get into it while waiting in the lounge: he’s pretty brutal – she’s made the same boxy jacket over and over, she has no courtesy for others, she should’ve already left – and she doesn’t really fight back much, which is a surprise. Maybe she doesn’t think he’s worth the effort. I don’t think either of them are. But he almost made me feel sorry for her, and that’s quite a trick.

Joshua wants to make a skirt with assless chaps, but Anthony Ryan tells him he could get arrested for that. “You think it’s costumey?” Joshua asks. “No, that’s just vulgar,” says Anth0ny Ryan. He tells a dubious Joanna he wants to make a yoke for the shirt “and trim the fur down to make it loo like a pony.” A pony? “Whoff, that does sound avant garde,” says Joanna. Then he makes a dust cover for his boy’s clutch out of fur. Excuse me, a dust cover? Is this like a real thing now, all the fashionistas use dust covers for their purses? And he thinks Ivy should be out? I think he now holds the record for the total number of incredibly stupid things said during one episode. What really scares me is that (whisper in small voice) his outfits weren’t half bad. I actually liked the boy’s, and without the furry sleeves, the girl’s isn’t too bad. They aren’t all that androgynous, though, and there’s nothing avant garde about them (fur does not make something avant garde, just stupid). I think he earned his safe spot. His sniping in the lounge is immature brattiness laid on top of fear.

Althea surpises me with her cluelessness: “Our looks need to be sexless.” No, no no – what, doesn’t anybody read anymore? Androgynous doesn’t mean neuter, it means using both male and female elements for an outfit that could be for either sex. She’s using leather and making coats. Joanna sees a cult out of Eyes Wide Shut during her walkthrough; I have no idea what that means, but the final looks, while quite appealing, rely on bulky coats to obscure rather than blur the lines. Sharp, attractive coats; but the guy looks like he’s wearing his mom’s winter closet, which isn’t exactly the idea. Still, I would’ve put her in the top three instead of Uli.

Not at all (bottom three):

Casanova hasn’t done menswear in a while, but he figures he can pull it off. He’s got this amazing cutwork going on, and I’m wondering what’s involved in that: does it require special equipment, or just a super-sharp exacto knife? Joanna wonders what man is going to wear gold leather. Come on, Joanna, who’s going to wear any of this stuff off the runway? She sees scorpions and gladiators. Ivy helps him a little with his pants, to the dismay of Laura and, surprisingly, Anthony Ryan. Emilio sees amazing craftsmanship, but not a bit of androgyny. It’s Casanova’s interpretation of warrior armor. I’ve been impressed by Casanova this season, but here we’re back to crap, and again, I’m thinking Star Trek, this time, costumes for TOS, which was always operating on a shoestring. Georgina likes it, she says unconvincingly, but it’s not androgynous. Isaac thinks the boy looks like the girl’s accessory, which is hilarious. Blondie doesn’t like the knees of the girl’s pants. Jason doesn’t see androgyny or avant garde; they’re nice outfits (really?) but not the challenge; they’re costumes, his least favorite.

Kayne goes into orbit, as expected. Strong shoulder, houndstooth, and neon yellow. Leather flowers. A smiley face in black on a neon yellow metallic mesh tee. “It’s either hideous or…” says Joanna. Kayne nixes the smiley face, showing he has a few functioning brain cells. He tries heels on his boy model, and Joshua – Joshua, who was going to do assless chaps – tells him it’s too much. When Joshua tells you something is too much…. I hate the shorts on the boy, (but I hate short suits under most circumstances), I hate the ruffled lapel on the girl, the print’s a little loud and the girl’s pants a little vulgar, but dang it’s well-made and sharp. Isaac thinks the yellow brings and inexpensive feel to it. Blondie would’ve rather seen her bare, it would’ve been very sexy (no, it would’ve been undressed). Georgina is impressed with how he cuts and sews, but he needs to edit. Hey, you guys, he did edit, you didn’t see the smiley face or the heels: this is Kane, edited. Georgina notices that he did better with the boy; when it comes to a woman, he goes askew. Isaac’s annoyed because he can really sew, it’s what he chooses to sew that’s the problem. He’s right: those jackets are incredibly polished, and they fit perfectly. They could’ve come out of a store, and he made them in two days. Along with the smiley face shell. Aww, Kayne.

Laura thinks smoking jacket with exaggerated proportions and feminine cutouts. Joanna warns her to watch the details; her lapels aren’t parallel. “That’s exactly the sort of detail that Georgina will swoop in on like a crow on a carcass.” A lot of things aren’t parallel. The boy’s look is sloppy, and has nothing to do with the girl’s. You can’t just cut squares in flimsy fabric and expect them to stay square when worn; Casanova’s cutouts stayed perfect but that was leather (and I’m pretty sure there was a lining underneath). Isaac can tell it was hard for her; the textiles look inexpensive. Jason sees too many ideas. Blondie doesn’t like the gold buttons or the cutouts. Robert finds it over the top. Georgina says it collapses on itself, and she should’ve played to her strengths and brought more of her feminine design to the boy.

Decision:

Emilio wins which was pretty obvious all along. His models should win something, too; they oozed ‘tude. Considering she had some halfway decent comments during the runway, Blondie now reverts to moron: “It’s you, Emilio!” I’ve never appreciated Heidi more. But Emilio… he’s been far out in front of the pack lately, after a slow start. I realized tonight, when I saw all the stuff he had looped around his neck, I’ve been conflating him with Fabio. That’s not a bad thing at all.

Kayne is out. As he packs his knives… oops, cleans up his space in the workroom, the hat and the pink jacket say to me: Gay Frank Sinatra. I like Kayne, but his days were numbered. Laura clearly had the worst stuff on the runway today, but they really hate his particular brand of gaud.

Next week:

Going Green with Diane von Furstenberg.

Project Runway All-Stars Season 2 Episode 4: Made In The USA Today

First: There is nothing interactive about this challenge.

Second: I’m pretty sure Blondie’s judging dress was on Fashion Police recently as a Fashhole nominee. The first one, well, obviously she didn’t get the memo from Michael Kors that illusion fabric is for old-lady-ice-skaters.

The Teaser Line:

In spite of the “interactive” thing, it’s just another “design a dress from a picture” challenge, just like the Harlem School for the Arts episode or the “go out and take a picture and design a dress from it” challenges that have been part of PR from S2 when Andrae took a picture of gutter water and turned it into a gorgeous gown. This one is even less interactive, in fact, because while “fans” tweet in pictures and designers use them as inspiration for a look, there’s no contact with the photographer, no explanation of the pics, nothing except the picture and the name of the photographer. It’s less interactive than designing for makeup colors, or hats, or even Heidi’s running shoes, because those involved actual communication with the creator of the inspiration. So let’s just call it a photo challenge. The designers also need to come up with a headline. Uh oh. Words? Really?

And then USA Today gets into the mix.

USA Today claims to be a newspaper. It’s really a daily advertising supplement, but ok, let’s humor them and call it a newspaper. A rep from USA Today joins Joanna in the workroom and pitches their “infographics” and “visually driven storytelling” which is what you get when nobody wants to read anything over 140 characters. The winning designer, and the person who sent in the photograph, gets to be in USA Today. Oh, goody. A USA editor accompanies Joanna on her walkthrough: “You were probably feeling some emotion in the picture; make sure it translates into the final product.” No one from USA Today is on the judging panel, so who cares what they want.

There’s a lot of fuss about the order in which they pick the photographs (mostly to give Laura the chance to pout about being picked last again and complain about how no one understands her because she grew up rich), since the setup only allows two at a time to view them. To me, this showcases the limitations of their product-placement computers, but to people who consider this an interactive challenge and who think USA Today is a newspaper, it’s probably very exciting.

The guest judges are designer Charlotte Ronson and some sixteen-year-old fashion blogger, which fits perfectly with today’s theme of pretending things are more than they are.

You can find the photos each designer used, and the designs they created, on TLo (thanks, TLo!); for some reason (stupidity, probably) Lifetime decided not to include them, so I’m not bothering with links other than the one that shows everything. In fact, I may do that from now on, since I like TLo so much more than Lifetime anyway.

Today’s News:

Top Stories:

Emilio picks a picture of little Sophie; he has a niece about her age, and he’s taken with the All-American, young, fresh, innocent qualities. He’s done bold so far; now’s the time for his softer side. His “headline” is “Sophie’s Choice” which is a cute pun but is about as far away from all those qualities as you can get. See, this is what happens when designers do words. Joanna, bless her heart, points out maybe he’s just playing on the name and his headline has nothing to do with his design. When his look comes out on the runway, I jotted down, “Emilio – weird,” but after looking at it a while, I kind of get it. It’s kind of the kid’s version of his circus dress, which IIRC Michael Kors said was his favorite look ever on PR to that point. I think the hoop skirt needs to be a little better, because it almost looks like a mistake this way. And the top is just a shift, with no reason for being there other than to hold up the skirt. It’s clearly not ready-to-wear, but the challenge didn’t ask for that, now did it? Isaac loves it: it’s light as a feather, totally modern, and a fresh idea, it’s playful and fun, but the shape could be pushed out more. Georgina loves the inspiration, and the dress evokes that emotion with a wink to creativity; she loves that he stepped away from everyone else. He was in a different place, and he was right and everyone else was wrong. Now that’s not fair: if the idea was to go avant garde, they should’ve specified that. On the other side, it’s not fair for Charlotte to point out it’s not an easy dress to wear. No, it isn’t, but that wasn’t part of the challenge, either. See how important words are? Is this a runway challenge, a photo challenge, or an event challenge? If you don’t specify, you can’t complain.

Laura has a pity party all episode; Joshua comforts her and tries to explain that what she thinks is talking about her childhood might be coming across differently. Y’know what, if an adult woman doesn’t know that, why bother with her. She takes a picture of a little whirlpool of water and uses silk charmeuse and her own dyeing technique to capture the fluidity. Joanna notices she’s more emotional than usual (“tensions get higher”), and asks, “When do people wear long gowns?” And again, I’m bamboozled by the lack of definition given the challenge. But Laura hits it out of the park: “I’m not making clothes accessible to the farmers of America, but things that are fashion forward and progressive.” She should go work for Romney, she’s got the same deft turn of phrase guaranteed to make everyone hate her. But I’ll tell you, I like her gown. I love the vest-like top, I love the dye job, I love the shape; I don’t like the use of the dark fabric in the back, but other than that, and I hate myself for this, but it’s gorgeous. The judges like it, too, especially the print, but wish the long skirt touched the floor (I like the arch in the hemline). Isaac likes it, but it isn’t a “wow” dress. Yes, in fact, it is, but it’s a quiet “wow.” And again, the challenge wasn’t to create a “wow” dress, it was to interpret a photograph. I hate that I’m defending Laura, who divides the world into the farmers and the fashion-forward. That’s what PR has driven me to.

Anthony Ryan picks a black-and-white graphic print that evokes paths crossing; his headline is “Always Moving Forward” referring to his cancer treatment. Ok, this is going to sound insensitive and callous. I have some idea how life-changing his experience has been. I applaud his ability to pick up and move along, and hope his RockOne1 idea grows. But he’s got to realize, in a competition setting, it’s nearly impossible to bring out the cancer card without seeming to exploit it. That said, his dress delivers. I don’t know what it has to do with the photo, or with moving forward, but it’s very sharp, and the back is interesting. Isaac sees a sexy, in-control woman, and gets his intention; it coud be too sexy but it isn’t. Charlotte worries the back is a little too low (it is) but likes the longer length.

Filler:

Casanova plays with a fusion of masculine and feminine, for a white pantsuit. It’s quite beautiful; I love how he used the print on the pants, and I’m crazy about the jacket. I’m surprised how much I’m liking Casanova’s clothes this season.

Ivy chooses a butterfly picture and goes with evolution and change (I guess she hasn’t seen Silence of the Lambs). It’s not the most original thought out there, but I love the outfit she makes; it’s the first time I’ve ever liked the boy-shorts-under-sheer thing, maybe because they’re boy-shorts and not panties, and maybe because the print obscures them enough. I love the vest-like top; again with that technique, I guess it’s what’s being done this year. I’m no Ivy fan, but it’s lovely. And I wouldn’t have blamed her for smacking nemesis Laura for yawning during the runway walk of her design (though it’s quite possible that was edited in and it didn’t happen that way at all; I don’t trust Lifetime with anything).

Kayne picks a photo of brightly-colored vintage jewelry, which surprises no one. He comes up with…a very nice red dress? Yeah, it is. Casanova doesn’t think so (“a Parisian prostitute with a chicken on her head”) and I hate to argue with someone famous for dressing his models like whores but I think it’s quite nice. I guess the connection with the photo is vintage and bright. The black lace in back, which Joanna warned him about, is just on the ok side of too much. This is supposed to be the dress he said was Kate Middleton; I can see why he’d say that (the hat alone does it) though I don’t know enough about her to agree or disagree. But it shows some restraint, and that’s always been his Achilles’ heel, so it’s a success.

Uli uses a picture of clouds from an airplane, comes up with words like “free” and “peaceful” – and I just realized, literally as I was typing that, because I remembered she used the word “free” in her S4 photo challenge, and combined that with the comment she made last week about getting out of East Germany immediately when the wall came down because everyone figured it would go right back up again – “free” has a special meaning to Uli. A lot of us bandy about words like that, but I suddenly got struck by how important that word is to her. But… she makes a nightgown. It’s a lovely nightgown, if a little too nude. It’s the second nightgown she’s made. I guess sleep is free and peaceful, but what was this about a new Uli who doesn’t just do flowy designs?

Tabloid Territory:

Althea has this amazing picture of the inside of a big architectural train station; she’s taken with the colors and shape (and remembers the moment her now-husband proposed to her though I don’t remember why; were they in a train station?). She decides to do pants instead of a dress; she’s been in the Safe zone all along so now she wants to get in front of the judges. So she makes the ugliest thing possible because that’s one way to get screen time. She’s a separates designer, but she’s going to push it more than she usually would. Joanna’s concerned (or she would be if she were Tim): she loves the colors in the photo, but the fabric is taupe instead, where’s that coming from? I don’t think Althea bothered with the photo; one brown tone is as good as another, it’s got shapes, round shapes, long shapes, close enough: let’s make kangaroo pants. Isaac doesn’t get it; it looks like a wound. This comment makes me wonder about Isaac: just what kind of wounds has he been looking at? Georgina appreciates the effort to do a suit, the nod to the drop crotch and extreme jodhpurs, but no. Just no. We’re all in agreement, then. I think she was trying to recreate the glory of her “paper bag waist” win in S6, but boy did she go wrong. And the color is mud.

Andrae chooses a photo of a black woman with a headband looking down; he gets “forlorn” from it, and he’s sad, too: he was picked last again, and he has nothing in common with the other designers. Because they’re, like, working designers, and he’s more of a playing-in-the-basement kind of guy, I’m afraid. I love Andrae, but he hasn’t progressed since S2, and he’s outmatched on all sides here. Emilio sees him as a “personality” rather than a designer; that’s kind of a mean thing to say, but it’s not completely inaccurate. He’s making “modular units” that zip together, so if you wanted to wear, say, a shirt with a blue patch on the side, you could, then you could unzip it and zip in a yellow patch. This isn’t a totally crazy idea. But he isn’t up to it, not yet. Joanna’s trying to figure out if it’s bonkers or brilliant. Laura thinks it’s wackadoodle (her word) which makes me want to like it. But… I can’t. It looks like an ill-fitting color-blocked wetsuit. Oh Andrae, I’m sorry. Isaac doesn’t get forlorn (I do: if I had to wear that, I’d feel plenty forlorn), and he doesn’t understand the panels. Georgina senses a Teachable Moment: when you use stretch fabric and a stiff zipper, the zipper will buckle and disrupt a smooth line (aha! There’s actual theory for this). Charlotte gracefully allows that with more time he might’ve been more successful.

Joshua is another one who breaks my heart, not because I like him, but because he’s, artistically, much like me. But first… his picture is orange and blue and squares and circles. I have no idea what it is (water meters on a rusted panel, maybe?), and that’s fine. Joshua doesn’t know what it is either, I guess, because he’s reacting to the colors and squares and circles. And his shirt is colorful round-cornered squares. Don’t you just love it when everything comes together? Joanna’s concerned about the artsy-craftsy vibe of the top, but he keeps going: “Boo boo, you have got to hurry up.” For some reason he reminds me of Nick Verreos when he says that; sorry, Nick (I do like Nick, very much). Here’s the exact first-reaction note I wrote when I saw it: “Joshua, if I can get past colors, I don’t like it.” And yeah, that’s about it. The overall shape of the top is ok, though it should either be more boxy or more tapered, but it’s the pasted-on effect of the stripes that does it in. And the skirt, well, the color’s off, I hate the asymmetrical hem, it’s too short where it’s short, and too flowy for the jacket. And too shiny. Why does he remind me of me? Because neither of us are able to execute what we have in our heads. Take that exact outfit, give it to, oh, Seth Aaron or Mondo, someone who works with colors, even Mila, and it’d be improved a thousand percent just by small changes, like tapering the colorblocks or slanting them (though the fabric of the skirt needs to be changed, it just does) and executing it well. You give me seven items and ask me to arrange them on a table, and I’ll make a mess of it, whereas an artist knows how to get the eye to flow. I can tell when a story I’m working on doesn’t work, but I don’t know how to fix it. That’s what being an artist is, it isn’t about matching colors and making shapes, knowing to switch up sentence lengths and vary structures; it’s about intuitively knowing how to make almost-right, right. And Joshua just isn’t blessed with that sense; neither am I. The difference between us is, I don’t go on Reality TV and try to convince the world I’m an Artiste. It doesn’t get better, either. It’s not like discovering new methods, new inspirations. It’s more like colorblindness. It’s the difference between Talent, and Not. Anyway, for all that, Georgina finds it costumey and schizophrenic, with no resemblance to the image, and Isaac sees too much to think about. Someone suggests it’s “military geisha” and Isaac tries “Sgt. Pepper.” No, it isn’t; Sgt. Pepper was gaudy and stupid but it flowed. This doesn’t flow, it stops and starts.

The Lead (hey, when I bury the lead, I really bury the lead):

Anthony Ryan win; his photo and interview appear in the online USA Today. This is not to take away from his design – it’s a striking dress and I think he deserved the win – but I suspect the decision was made when the USA Today editor did her walk-through and heard the word “cancer.” I’m glad his work didn’t make it awkward to explain it.

Andrae is out; I’m sorry our little lamb has gone astray, it was baaaa-d, baaaaa-d, baaaaa-d. But it was great to see him again. His last words: “This is something I’m proud of.” Me, too, sweetie.

Next Week: androgynous clothing. And naked men. With a twist. I’m guessing they start of designing for women, then the men come in. But I could be wrong. I’m looking forward to this from Joanna: “Did you just say there isn’t much ball room?”

Project Runway All-Stars Season 2 Episode 3: Up Your Aerosol

Didja ever just want to cry because something incredibly wonderful got fucked up by idiots?

Here’s what shoulda happened:

5Pointz Aerosol Art Center is this amazing place in Long Island City, NY (in Queens) that features a 200,000-square-foot factory building as a canvas for graffiti artists, who come from all over the world to show off mad skillz. And if you have any doubt that this is art, check out this time-lapse video of the creation of “Fire Marshall Bill” by 5Pointz Curator Meres One (aka Jonathan Cohen). I promise, during the last minute, you’ll swear tree stumps just sprang up out of the cracked ice.

Or check out some of the art created by Sen2, owner of graffiti-supply store Da Bakery in the Bronx. Or this video interview with graffiti artist (and Sotheby’s art handler) Zimad.

These three artists meet the Project Runway All Stars to introduce them to the techniques (like these) they’ll need to create their own art on white fabric, either cotton or chiffon, which they’ll then design and construct into wearable art.

And what we got instead:

Blondie #1 sprains an eyelid doing her sing-song “Your challenge is to create WEARABLE art but instead of using canvas or walls you’ll be creating your own patterns using this …” with a Price-is-Right reveal of crates of spray paint. And she had a helluva lotta nerve taking credit for the logo, even in jest, even for a second.
Suede and Joshua read scripts that prove no one’s ever used the phrase “aerosol art” in a spontaneous sentence.
Blondie #2 (Laura) explores new depths of idiocy with: “I’m not a graffiti artist but I like to spraypaint old furniture.”
Ivy: “This challenge is really exciting for me because it makes me think (pause…what was that phrase again? Oh, yes – ) out of the box.”
Suede: “Suede has NEVER in his entire life held a can of spray paint.”

Lest you think this is an impossible situation in which to say anything remotely intelligent, Althea manages (she does her own prints so she’s excited to be creative) and Emilio hits it out of the park (“the people who do [graffiti] well, do it really well, and if you try to do an imitation of it, I think it just comes out looking amateurish” so he’s going to be inspired by graffiti, not try to imitate it). So it can be done. Of course, if you’re Laura, you’re worried about your expensive clothes, and who’s helping whom, and who’s using the same colors as you. And if you’re Ivy, you’re worried about Laura bragging about how rich her family is and how good she had it growing up. And if Suede is Suede, Suede is Suede.

This made me sad.

So I watched the Fire Marshall Bill video again, and I felt a little better. [addendum: to feel even better, watch the NYT slide show of the development of subway art in the 80s and 90s by Henry Chalfant. Real graffiti, the way it was meant to be]

Then the Lumberjacks arrived, and I felt downright giddy.

These particular lumberjacks just so happen to be Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra, actual fashion designers. And their clothing line has nothing to do with plaid flannel. And2, they’re really nice, really thoughtful judges.

So the hell with those Lifetime morons…

Let’s do clothes:

Kings and Queens:

Emilio has drips, but he turns them so they’re dripping up, which is so cool I could scream. When his model comes out on the runway, I could scream again, this time from the colors drilling into my brain. I’m not a big fan of super-bright colors, and I hate orange, but once I put on sunglasses, I have to say, it’s amazing workmanship, and decent use of the graffiti idea, as well as print placement. The problem is: it’s too big. The model looks like a linebacker. Some of that is deliberate – he specifically used the way the fabric was stiffened by the paint. But the jacket sleeves have too much fabric, don’t they? None of the judges have my issues, though. Georgina sees a divine silhouette; Isaac loves the marble top and graffiti bottom, and the Lumberjacks think it feels honest though they’d prefer a brass zipper for the back of the skirt to the black one; they aren’t crazy about the belt either. But they’re all salivating over it. I’m surprisingly ok with that, first because I’m glad Emilio is finally getting some love, and second because the parts I don’t like are about my personal preferences. But come on, I’m not saying it shouldn’t be in the Top Three, I’m just wondering, isn’t it a little huge?

Ivy goes with a suit for the meeting between girl power, superhero, and pop art. She tells Joanna she’s thinking of Lichtenstein (presumably the artist, not the country) and superheros which is why she spraypainted words (like “Passion” and “Tenacity”) on her clothes. Joanna asks her, “Looking around the room, how important is taste?” Ivy says you’re born with it, or you’re not. I wonder if Joanna’s trying to tell her something. Georgina thinks it’s modern and sensual, with a juxtaposition of flirty and feminist. Isaac doesn’t like the word choice, but he likes how the front is pristine and the cutout back is a surprise. The Lumberjacks wish the white skirt was a color rather than white. These guys are good, y’know, because they’re right. Georgina does notice it’s the same jacket Ivy’s made before.

Anthony Ryan makes a fabric I’m sure he (or someone on PR) has made before, or used before – three horizontal, three vertical, I’m sure of it, but I’m overwhelmed with work so I can’t be bothered to go search for it. If you know what I’m talking about, please tell me (never mind – found it). He used to be a graphic designer, so this is a good challenge for him. His dress is adorable. Georgina loves the proportion and the cutout in back, as does Isaac, but thinks it ‘s a little safe. The Lumberjacks (forgive me for lumping them together; there’s no way I’m going to be able to distinguish between two Lumberjacks sitting next to each other on Project Runway) love the print and that it’s young; they aren’t sure it’s art gallery, but hey, what on the runway is?

Knights:

Althea makes a graffiti giraffe print; Joanna notices it looks very much like the print she’s wearing at that moment. Which is also a print Althea designed, so no surprise. She makes a very pretty dress but she herself figures it doesn’t stand out.

Casanova also makes a very pretty dress. In fact, it’s possibly my favorite thing Casanova has ever made on any PR episode. I even like the touches of sparkle. But the graffiti aspect is minimal. I like the placement of skyline stencils, but at first, I thought they were price tags, and I was so excited by that concept, I was disappointed when I found out they weren’t.

Uli makes – wait for it – a very pretty Star Trek dress – hah, fooled you there, didn’t I. Joanna asks about graffiti on the Wall in East Germany (isn’t that the sort of thing that would get you killed at one time?) but we don’t really hear much about that; we do find out Uli took off like a bat out of hell as soon as the Wall came down, because no one believed it would last long. It’s the kind of conversation I wish they’d have more often on this show, instead of the lunchroom sniping.

Joshua tries to convince Joanna his hairstyling technique makes him an aerosol artist. Oh, do shut up. His design isn’t as bad as I was expecting – I actually like the highway around the waist – but it doesn’t fit, it isn’t made well, the peplum looks disgusting, and the skirt belongs to another outfit. I would’ve put him in the bottom instead of Suede, in fact.

Andrae made a joke for his model to be in on. That isn’t fair – our little lamb caught the spirit of the challenge pretty well, but I don’t get the green panels reaching around the sides from the back, gaping open on the bodice. The bow, well, obviously we could do without that, but it does have some element of graffiti, with a solid center and netting blowing outward. In fact, if he neatened up the bodice, he’d have something, with the explosions of sheerness mimicking the fade of spray paint.

Toys:

Laura annoyed me so much this episode, I just wanted her to go away, but I don’t completely hate her dress. It’s more tie-dye than graffiti (a common issue on this runway), it’s way too short, and the horizontal bands in the back don’t work – I get that they’re structurally necessary, but part of the work of design is to accomplish what’s necessary in an aesthetically pleasing way. I don’t hate the fringe as much as I hate the netting that goes with it. I;m kind of surprised she’s in the bottom, actually. Georgina loves the top, but the bottom cheapens it. The Lumberjacks like the spatter effect, but it’s too short.

Suede kisses up to Joanna by designing for a bra-wearing woman. She asks if he can win this challenge; he should’ve listened to that. And here’s where I get myself in trouble: I like it. Let me clarify that: I like it for a graffiti challenge; I think it very cleverly captures a lot of graffiti elements. The grayness of the skirt speaks to an urban vibe, the chiffon is spray-painted, and since tagging is a subset of graffiti, I love all the “tags” on the bodice, tapering off and sprinkling down the skirt (though I have no idea if that’s what he was thinking). Also, graffiti is the art of putting artsy stuff on practical stuff, and that’s what the circles do. And I think it’s kind of pretty (though who knows what it looked like in person). And when they did their six-pack critique, I didn’t realize Suede was in the bottom. Georgina loved the feminine approach, but felt the circles lost the spray paint feel. Isaac doesn’t think it’s wearable, and the pailletes are costumey. As opposed to having words painted on a jacket? The Lumberjacks love the softness of the handkerchief hem, but not the waistline.

Kayne – no, I’m not going to address his dinnertime cattiness – tells Joanna he’s using velvet ribbon as brush strokes. Joanna tells him it’s a fine line between hideous and fabulous, which should tell him something. But he thinks his model looks like Kate Middleton. Maybe in some weird alternative universe only he can see, she does. I don’t know much about Kate Middleton, but my impression is she’s got way too much class to wear a plunge-to-the-neckline halter or a kindergarten project (for the record: Kayne sent a tweet during the broadcast that this comment was a technical foul: “BTW! Editing nightmare! I said the Kate Middleton comment about next weeks dress. Stay tuned. #imnotstupid”). Poor Kayne, it’s a replay of his Recycled craft project. But you know what? Tidy up the plunge, get rid of the mermaid tail, and it’s not a bad look. He thinks the black ribbon is like the outlining of graffiti letters. Isaac acknowledges it’s dramatic, and he loves the top, but there’s a disconnect. The Lumberjacks don’t like the stripe across the knee creating the illusion of girth, stopping the flow. Georgina lost the fun in too many ideas. Isaac brings out the word “tacky.” “Almost tacky,” to be exact.

Judgment:

Emilio gets his first gold star.

Even the worst looks weren’t bad this week, but someone’s got to go, and Suede gets his airkiss goodbye. He’s just too creative, see. His last words: “Make daddy cat proud. Suede out.” Oh, Suede, I was all set to defend you, throw Joshua to the wolves, but that, no, that did it. Buh Bye Hon.

Next Week:

In Blondie’s words: “The first… … … … interactive … … … … … challenge … … … … EVER!” What the hell is an interactive challenge? Don’t worry, I’m sure… … … she’ll … … … … EXPLAIN it!

Project Runway All-Stars Season 2 Episode 2: Put On Your Dancing Shoes

Stay Tuned for our New Feature: The Tin Foil Hat Theory of the Week.

Stay Tuned for our New Feature: The Tin Foil Hat Theory of the Week.

Uli goes Bitch! Suede cries! And a little bit of Casual Racism! Did I say last week I thought this season was going to be boring?

I’m So Excited:

Bring on Product Placement Challenge #1: The Shoe Store. No, I’m not going to say which one, but you can probably guess from the Product Placement Accessory Wall.

They meet at The Shoe Store. Suede: “Shoe peasant-arama.” Huh? Ohm wait, that was “Shoe heaven-arama.”

Disco is the theme of the week: select a shoe and create a matching look inspired by 70s disco. Wendy’s happy, since she lived through the 70s. An orange cork heel speaks to Kayne. Uli’s worried, since she grew up behind the Iron Curtain: “My disco was different from everyone else’s.” They had Disco in East Germany? Apparently so.

The prize – oh, now they have a prize – is inclusion in a fall ad campaign for The Shoe Store. I assume that means the look they design. Or does the designer get to pose in the shoes?

Between days, there’s a painfully staged disco scene (Wendy wants to dance with Joshua; isn’t she just so cute) and an equally painful thrilling video of Karl Lagerfeld.

The Hustle:

When The Runway finally rolls around, the Current Model Host tries to bring side boob to high fashion (please stop that, Current Model Host, side boob is still ugly and makes you look fat and flabby), and the Film People decide flashing black and white is the way to go (please stop that, Film People, it’s painful and distracting). The Shoe Guy is guest judge. I think it’s a hallmark of PRAS that I can’t tell, even after the runway critiques have been given, who’s Top and who’s Bottom until they spell it out in What Passes for Chat. When you can’t tell the difference between praise and censure, you’ve lost the whole idea of a competitive reality show, haven’t you?

That’s the Way (uh-huh uh-huh) They Like it (uh-huh uh-huh) – Top Three:

Uli wants to do white, because it’ll stand out. Is White the new Black? Joanna isn’t sure it references the 70s, unless it was the few moments of the 70s when she was asleep. But Uli keeps going with lots of fringe: it’s the New Uli, and Fringe is the New Flowy. This would be the perfect place for some Michael Kors Pocahontas-Flapper snark, but it doesn’t go like that; everyone loves it (and I have to admit, I like the photo a lot more than I liked it on the runway, though now I think it looks like fishscales). The Shoe Guy wants to go dancing with her (sure he does); Isaac sees a futuristic Cherokee, which is as close to Pocahontas snark as we get; he sees Cher, but wants more skin on the back. Georgina likes the use of a simple shape plus the embellishment of the fringe; it’s sharp looking and modern. In private, they agree she didn’t do 70s disco, but it was “a jewel of a dress.”

Casanova wants to go short, simple, sexy, with a spiderweb on the back. He’s stuck on S’s. What he likes: It’s nightlife, it’s slutty, it’s Casanova. I think he just likes saying “slutty” because I don’t see slutty at all in his dress. He wants his girl to be comfortable, meaning he doesn’t want her worrying about her boobs popping out or her panties showing. Joanna likes that he’s thinking of comfort. To me, it doesn’t look comfortable at all: isn’t she going to be tugging on the arms all night, making sure they’re even and aren’t falling down? And I hope she doesn’t intend to actually dance, because raising her arms over her head is a recipe for disaster. But it’s a nice dress. I wish the spiderweb in back had more organization to it; randomness is fine, but even randomness needs a distribution pattern or it just looks sloppy. On the runway, Casanova is wearing a harness that reminds me of the training harness Capt. Kirk wore as a thrall in “The Gamesters of Triskelion“. Fabio could pull off the ropes, the floral wreath, and Williamsburg chic, but this on Casanova, not so much. The dress,however, is a hit. Everyone likes the back. Isaac loves that it’s sexy but not dangerous. Where is this focus on Safety coming from? Is Safety the new Chic? Georgina loves the color but it’d be more chic if it were longer. Privately, she didn’t dislike it but it didn’t say anything new.

Ivy wants to do a jumpsuit in emerald chiffon. That idea gives me a headache. She tells Joanna she’s thinking the ad will be about the shoe, so the dress is a supporting player; before I can formulate the words “that sounds like a bad idea,” Joanna asks if she’s answering the prize and not the challenge. But it’s a tricky thing, because the winner will be chosen primarily by how well it will fit in an ad for the shoe, so it is a consideration. She’s running out of time so Casanova helps her put embellishments on her dress “because there’s a bunch of crappy designers who need to go home.” I see, so we’re going to add Casanova’s rep to the trashpile with Mondo’s? The outfit, whatever it is (it doesn’t look like a jumpsuit to me, but maybe it’s a romper or shorts under the chiffon) isn’t as bad as it sounded – the green is more subdued than what I think of as “emerald” – but I hate the double horizontal of the shorts and skirt. On the runway, Ivy explains that the 70s was about bell bottoms or jumpsuits – so she made a dress? I don’t get it. Georgina likes the flapperesque look; I’m not sure where that is. Isaac doesn’t like that the stones aren’t set on the yoke in the back; this is a function of time and he should shut up. The Shoe Guy wishes it was shorter – yes, if the chiffon ended just below the romper, that might be cool – and it’s a little too pulled together. I think that’s what he said. But privately he loves it. What? Maybe I should watch this with the sound off. Isaac remembers older women looking like that, which isn’t a good thing. And just how many older women go to discos? Or is “older” the fashion world’s term for a 35-year-old?

Stayin’ Alive – Middle of the Pack:

Althea gets ignored this week, except for her snark that she finds Laura annoying and prefers Emilio and Uli since they’re more on her level. I like her outfit, but it’s more of a suit than a disco thing. If she made the skirt shorter and flirtier, and cleaned up the back, she might have something.

Suede tries to spin his bottom-three finish last week: he got feedback, so “Suede Says that can work in his favor.” Using Suede Says (the name of his “brand”) and third person, however, will not, I promise. He’s Wendy’s new best friend. Joanna is dubious on her walk-through; she’s feeling the white man’s overbite, which made me laugh out loud, literally; that wasn’t anything I ever expected to hear from her. I don’t quite understand what a long dress is doing in a disco, or why the skirt is so sheer, or what’s 70s about the Grecian Goddess back, and it’s way too much gold. I suspect he ran out of time, since the neckline in the back is just pleated together without any finesse at all.

Laura doesn’t care that everyone else has friends and she doesn’t. She doesn’t need friends. Joanna’s worried when she hears she’s making a blazer: “Just the word blazer makes me shrivel up.” But no worries, it’s a loose gold sequined blazer over a tie-died jumpsuit, and if that isn’t a mixing of metaphors, I don’t know what is. The blazer isn’t the problem; it’s the horizontal-pattern jumpsuit that looks like pajamas that does it in. Casanova thinks it’s a look for the office. It’s official: no contestant on this show has ever been in an office.

Emilio makes a flowy yellow satin gown with pink straps and belt; he calls it gold, but it isn’t, it’s yellow. Almost chartreuse. I do not think he knows what disco means. Either that or he isn’t paying attention to the words either. As a gown, the bodice humps up at the chest a little too much; it’s just off. Emilio, what’s wrong with you?

Anthony Ryan made a cocktail dress – he calls it that himself – and a damn ugly one at that. Not to mention crooked. Well, he did threaten to use a glue gun in the first segment.

Joshua chooses the disco challenge to make a turquoise pantsuit complete with belted blazer (I can just feel Joanna shriveling). He put the element of sex he’s known for in the back, which… nah, I’m not gonna go there.

Don’t Leave Me This Way – Bottom Three:

Andrae needs a look that doesn’t require explanation, so his fabrics have to have a lot of vocabulary. He seems to have succeeded in that, as Joanna asks if one fabric is pot-scrubber material. Maybe “kitchen cleaning products” is not the right vocabulary for disco. He tells Joanna about the coat he’s making, and she warns him she’s never worn a coat in a disco – and she used to go to discos a lot. Ooooh, Joanna, how you talk, girl. When dressing his model, he puts the top on upside down and inside out. What happened to Andrae? He’s a mess, he can’t even communicate with the judges on the runway. Isaac wants the coat gone, then says what remains is “gorgeous.” I’m not so sure about that; it looks like upscale secretary to me. Privately, Isaac wonders if he’s lazy or random; is he thinking? The Shoe Guy wonders how he’s going to survive if he keeps falling apart with every critique.

Wendy goes for a leather pant, a “punchy” print, and a silver chain. Joanna thinks it looks Halloween, and the ersatz belt buckle looks like a spoon rest. Joanna’s doing a lot of kitchen imagery in her walk through. Uli: “It belongs on the street in some back way at 5 a.m.” Uli is pretty sassy this time around; are they trying to get her to assassinate her own image, too? Not that I disagree. But Wendy’s confident. To me, it looks more disco than anything else on the runway – come on, that silhouette, those bells, the chain, I had fake snakeskin bells and a chain belt – but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. She tells the judges she started with a tuxedo pant; you lost me there, Wendy. Everyone agrees it’s too much. A bit much? As much as I don’t miss Michael Kors’ ghost written zingers, there is a time and a place for remarks like, “She looks like her last john stabbed her.” And this is the time and place. Georgina doesn’t get tux either, but applauds the blood… er, color. Isaac thinks it’s a bit theme park, a little junior. In the judges’ private discussion, the model-host, whatever her name is, shocks me when she says, “Are we in Spanish Harlem?” I’m even more shocked no one edited it out. I guess racist remarks aren’t that big a deal any more.

Kayne is going Donna Summer. Or JLo. Or something. He’s doing palazzo pants with striped fabric arranged in a chevron pattern, and seems surprised to find out it takes more fabric to do that correctly. Joanna warns him to get them right, and bless his heart, he does, in double chevrons all up and down the pants. I think he deserves a lot of credit for that, but Isaac isn’t that impressed; “Doesn’t mean it’s good.” Actually, it’s the right shape, it’s sparkly on top – it’s disco. Disco was an ugly time. If they didn’t want 70s disco clothes, why’d they make it a 70s disco-inspired challenge? Kayne thinks it’s Studio 54 meets Michael Kors Resort. Um, maybe not, hon. Isaac sees the JLo, but that works against the disco thing. Make up your minds, people, do you want disco or not? Nobody likes the top. Georgina is very happy to see the chevrons lined up perfectly, but there’s no mystery.

Who Will Survive:

Uli wins.

Wendy’s out. That’s a surprise; I figured it was Andrae as soon as he got called for the runway. It makes no sense: Uli didn’t make anything disco, and she wins; Wendy made the ultimate disco, and she loses. Lesson to be learned: don’t listen to the words.

Suede’s heart is broken because his newfound friend is out already; he’s really crying, which is kind of sweet and kind of stupid at the same time.

Tin Foil Hat Theory of the Week:

I used to wonder if they paid designers to be on this show. Now I’m wondering if the designers pay them. So much per episode, so much per Top Three, so much per win. It would account for what seems random choices.

Even TLo says: “They’re just checking names off a list. ‘Okay, it’s Wendy’s turn to go home. Let’s see what she did and then figure out a way to justify eliminating her.'”

I’m just taking it a step further:

Casanova: “I want two top-three placements, and to last to the final five; how much will that be?”
Wendy: “I don’t think I need more than two episodes to remind people I’m here and get more of my townsfolk to buy my cookies and soup. Hey, laugh all you want, but soup and cookies are a lot easier to make than clothes.”
Andrae: “I prostituted my cat to afford four episodes, and damn it, you’re going to keep me on no matter what I do.”

Next Week:

I have no idea what the challenge is, but apparently it’s time for some Drama.

Project Runway All Stars Season 2 Episode 1: Redemption on the Runway

In an austerity move, this season losing designers will just be vaporized.

In an austerity move, this season losing designers will just be vaporized.

Wow, this is going to be boring, isn’t it? There’s no one to root for.

Sure, there are some good people in the mix. Uli has what’s practically a cult following, so she’s probably the nominal “favorite” to win. I’m pulling for Emilio, myself; aside from that hardware store disaster, I liked his stuff in S5. While Laura’s decoy collection would’ve won S9 hands down (since she never did anything that impressive during the season, I’ll always wonder if she had a little help, or if it was just a factor of having more time and fewer restrictions), and Althea had her moments (if you can call anything that happened in S6 to be a “moment”), they were in far weaker seasons.

But things can change – who’s been working somewhere with professional advice and feedback, who’s been just trying to pay the rent in a niche market, who’s put some effort into developing skills, it could easily make a difference.

Getting Started:

With her first sentence, new host Carolyn Murphy gave me hope that she was an improvement. By her third sentence, she’d taken it away. Do they learn that wide-eyed wonderment over the prizes, or the kindergarten teacher lilt, in model school? At least they had the sense to leave Isaac Mizhrahi, Georgina Chapman, and mentor Joanna Coles alone. Guest judge Rachel Roy was a good thing. Mondo…. Hmmm. I liked him better in lederhosen than a cow costume. Mondo is a good example of how not to expand your fan base via PRAS.

They start with a group challenge. Oh joy. Of course, this is All Stars, so there won’t be any juicy stuff. The challenge is basically “make stuff” – each team selects a one-word concept and makes a mini-collection. This is a challenge?

Team Bold: Joshua, Peach, Laura, Emilio, Andre, Suede.
Team Confident: Kayne, Uli, Casanova, Ivy, Althea, Anthony Ryan, Wendy.

I’m bewildered: Joshua picked Peach ahead of just about everyone else? It’s no surprise at all that Wendy was left until the end. Hey, you’re the one who set yourself up, and reaffirmed yourself, as Queen Bitch, no whining over the consequences of that. Though I’m sure the editing will be, as Tim says, kind. I bought Tiffani Faison’s rehabilitation. I’m not buying this one. And come on, those team names? Thoroughly generic, along with the others not picked: Independent, Ferocious, Provocative. Bleh. How about, Team I Want To Be An Astrophysicist? Team My Inlaws Are Coming To Dinner and The Dad is Super-Hot? And for a real challenge: Team I Got My Period Yesterday (balance the bloat, irritability, and discomfort, then call in a tampon company to judge for a commercial bragging about lowered accident potential). Those could yield some interesting interpretations. Or, even better: Team Shy, Team Insecure. Shy, insecure people need clothes, too. Come on, have some imagination.

The Runway (and Designer Intros because I was too busy to do a Preview Post):

Team Confident: Winners. That’s what confidence will do for ya.

Anthony Ryan Auld, S9: He’s been busy in the past year: he started Louisiana Fashion Week and his charity for cancer victims, RockOne1. Not so much designing, it seems, though he says he’s done some custom work. He really grew on me during S9 (though there wasn’t much competition, in the area of pleasant personality). It’s only been a year, so there hasn’t been that much time for him to develop (though he says his aesthetic has done a 180; I’m not sure I know what his aesthetic was in the first place). And he was on a very weak season; he might be in for a struggle. But not tonight: his pants and top are a hit. Not so much with me – I think it’s completely nondescript, a bowling shirt over pants, and the back, while nice, doesn’t make sense to me. But the judges beg to differ. Georgina loves the surprise in the back; Isaac overlooks the weird-fitting crotch (thank you for at least acknowledging it) but loves the pants; Rachel loves the fit of the tush. Top three. So what do I know.

Ivy Higa, S8: She talks about taking time off to build capital for her capsule collection; I’m not sure what that means exactly, but apparently it includes working at Zac Posen, DVF, and Theory, all of which may serve her extremely well in this competition. For all her ranting about her terrific construction skills, she never turned out anything in S8 that I actually liked, and a lot of her stuff was sloppy, possibly due to planning more than she could accomplish in limited time. We’ll see if she’s learned how to be pleasant – or if she needs another needle in the eye. And surprise – she finally admits to being a bitch in S8. She was under a lot of stress at the time, see. As much as it annoys me, I have to admit her shorts suit is really nice. I’m a little ambivalent about the lace insets – at a glance, it looks like some humongous ink stain spreading out. But… I also like that. I even like the shorts. Georgina loves the jacket, though wonders if lace shorts would’ve been better than leather; Isaac thinks pants would be better. But they’re all impressed, and though I hate to admit it, so am I. Top three.

Casanova, S8: If you’re only going to read catch-up interview, this is the one to read. “I became a bag designer because I’m lazy….The show helped me to define my design aesthetic as risqué.” You get the idea. The biggest surprise is: he works for Ivy as a design assistant. And surprise on top of that: Neither of them mentioned they would be on PRAS. Either they both honored the secrecy thing, or they don’t actually talk to each other. I’m not crazy about his leather-and-lace dress; because it’s black, it’s hard to see, but there’s nothing about it that appeals to me. The judges again think me wrong: Top Three. Georgina loves the lace in the back; Isaac and Rachel think it should be a little longer. Mondo likes the tone-on-tone, but doesn’t find it exciting.

Wendy Pepper, S1: she makes clothes for sale in her home town, as well as cookies and soup. Diversification is a good thing. From the promos, sounds like she’s vying for the Villain role again. And imagine, she’s hurt she gets selected last, then is encouraged when she gets a compensatory toast back at the apartment. It’s election season, so I’m damn sick of people who manipulate and exploit and twist everything to their own advantage. And I’m not that crazy about people who make dresses with pubic hair either, no matter how confident they think it is. It’s actually not a bad dress, if it weren’t for the little lace thatch in the front.

Kayne Gillaspie, S3 : He’s doing evening wear, as well as shoes for Benjamin Walk and intimates for Empire Intimates. I like his use of color; if he can tone down his rhinestone addiction and ruffle fetish, he might be a contender. But that’s like asking a fish to live in the desert. He looks strange on the intro video – iridescent duskiness. Lay off the bronzer, hon. Or find a better shade. And Joanna was so right on her walkthrough: his look is Catwoman from the 60s. I was actually thinking Jill St. John in a 007 movie, but Goth Catwoman will do, too. But damn, boy can sew.

Uli Herzner, S3: She wants to be known for more than flowy print resort-wear. That’s pretty much all that’s on her website, but her L&T dress is very tailored. IIRC, her first All-Stars appearance also featured more tailored clothes, and it was quite a disappointment. Did Anya poison the well for flowy prints? Uli’s work is far more sophisticated and goes well beyond picking a pretty fabric; there’s real design there. But steering away from her strength – and her signature – might not be the best strategy. She sends down a nightgown. But a very pretty nightgown. With leather straps and a neckpiece. I don’t understand the neckpiece, but without it, you couldn’t wear that out of the boudoir.

Althea Harper, S6: She spent a year working at Tory Burch before starting her own lines; she’s got some nice stuff on her website. What interested me most about her Lifetime catch-up interview is that she’s never watched any season of PR except her own. So she doesn’t know she was on the Worst Season Ever? She could do well here; she’s got very expensive taste, and she’s been working a while, developing skills. Thing is – she’s not the first person you think of when you think PR. And this is first and foremost a TV show about ratings. She looks great; she’s lost that simpering Barbie look she had in S6. I really like the white and lace dress she sends out; the lace is pretty, and the asymmetry is interesting. I especially like the little black edging on the slit.

Team Bold: aka Second Place, and considering we’ve only got two teams, that’s a problem.

Suede, S5: He’s been working on the “SuedeSays” line of Simplicity patterns. That’s interesting. No, seriously, it is, I’ve never heard of anyone who’s done that before. Then again, I haven’t looked at a Simplicity pattern, or any pattern, since my required Home Ec class in 1969. Men’s, women’s, kids’. And he’s making things with an eCraft machine; I have no idea what an eCraft machine is, but the dresses are pretty amazing. I doubt any of this will help him in the competition, but he’s definitely got a niche. And the minute I saw his dress on the runway, I thought, “Folded Napkin Dress.” Sadly. Because, while the dress isn’t that bad, folded napkins never go over well, unless they’re extraordinary; these weren’t. And the sleeves are layered breast cups. Yeah. Sorry, Suede. I’ve had a soft spot for you ever since you said you studied the cello for 12 years, but this isn’t going anywhere. And sure enough, he’s in the bottom three. Mondo credits him with good ideas but they don’t work, they’re working against each other; Isaac loves the skirt (much to my surprise) but not the top; Georgina sees two different dresses, and it’s too much visually.

Andrae Gonzalo, S2: From his questionnaire, seems he’s been doing custom work and theater work, but nothing at a professional level. I get the sense he’s been struggling. But he’s very sweet, and I had hopes for him. But he starts out rough, with a mélange of sheer and not that could’ve worked but didn’t; I don’t mind the sheer overlay or the blue twist; in fact, the only thing I hate about it is the sheer belly, and that it looks kind of amateur. He’s in the bottom three. He defends it by saying the blue fabric directs the eye towards areas of interest. Silence. More silence. The judges are confused by it – is it a tank, a dress, what’s going on with the zipper in the back? Georgina likes the intention and edginess, but it’s too complicated; Rachel finds it “so difficult.”

Peach Carr, S8: She has a line of “tennis-to-day dresses” and is “dabbling in stretch sequin cocktail attire.” Apparently she’s doing well; I’m glad, she’s another sweetheart. But her range seems limited, and short time limits were always a problem for her. Her runway look seems off to me; the sleeves, the neckline, it just looks rumpled and ill-fitting. She tries to explain, and Isaac stops her: “The more you talk the more I dislike it, so stop talking.” It seems she was trying to make something that fit in with the collection rather than the things she normally does; Mondo and Georgina encourage her to stick with her strengths. So, if she’d sent down a tennis dress, you’d be ok with that? I’ll just bet.

Joshua McKinley, S9: Oh, it’s too soon, do we have to? His palazzo pants midriff top look pretty cheesy to me; the straps in the back don’t really help. Hooker chic?

Laura Kathleen, S9: My, she’s been busy, clothing and jewelry available in boutiques. Her S9 decoy collection was a huge hit, so she has that to live up to. I’m dubious. But boy am I surprised: her look was my favorite; it doesn’t look that great in the picture, but it did in motion. I love the flare of the top. She was the judges’ favorite, too; too bad she was on the losing team.

Emilio Sosa, S5: In addition to his line, he’s been working in theatre, and was nominated for a Tony award for costume design on Porgy and Bess – that’s the real Broadway production, not some regional theatre troupe. That’s pretty impressive. He’s my guy; maybe it’s the Year of the Dominican-American (since Junot Diaz just won a $500,000 MacArthur “Genius” grant). Sorry, Tim; hey, anyone can have an off day and end up with a string-and-washer bikini. Unfortunately, I didn’t so much like the dress he sent out. The black band squashes the breasts, and the fabric on the side of the bare midriff has a tendency to gap.

And the Winner Is…

It’s between Anthony Ryan and Ivy for the win, with Casanova a distant (I hope) third; I thought Ivy had it for sure, but nope, it’s Anthony Ryan. Really? This is not off to a good start, aesthetically.

Among the losers, Suede is safe, leaving only Andrae and Peach. Well, you know how the axe is gonna fall, and sure enough, Peach is out.

Next week:

Disco party! And Joshua wants to puke, which makes two of us.

Project Runway Season 10 Episode 14: Final Finale

"My nerves are travelling through the screen right now and if you touch it I'm sure it will be shaking just like my heart is right now"

“My nerves are travelling through the screen right now and if you touch it I’m sure it will be shaking just like my heart is right now”

Oh, the angst (and a quick game of pool) following last week’s critique!

Fabio and Christopher “knew all along” they’d all be going to Fashion Week.

Fabio’s going luxe, Dmitry’s going sexy young thang, Melissa’s adding color, Christopher’s pouting: “I didn’t see myself as a colorful person this season, I was confused as to what they thought they would see from me; I’ve been doing this for five weeks and to get it shot down now, I don’t know….I’ve been the front-runner all along, I’ve won four challenges, they make me feel like they’re doing me a favor by moving me forward,” he interviews as he sends a pool ball into orbit. Can you say “entitled”? Did he seriously think all he had to do was show up and collect his prize?

In the workroom, Tim comes in and does a gather round, and starts singing: “It’s a new dawn, a new day…” And from my living room I finish it for him: “and I’m feeeee-eeeeee-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-lin’… gooooooood.” They have two days, $300 and a half hour at Mood. “Don’t be thinking about a new collection; how do you take what you already have and enhance it.” At Mood (where a glum-looking Swatch lies listlessly on the floor), Fabio gets an expensive looking fabric that drapes the way he likes. Dmitry gets black silk. Melissa gets blood orange leather (“Blood orange? She’s so pretentious. It’s f#&@in’ red,” sniffs Christopher Pout-face. Has he been this bitchy all season, and I just didn’t notice?). And Christopher wanders aimlessly. I’m confused: is this a winner-edit or a loser-edit?

They work for a couple of days. On walkthrough, Tim’s startled at Dmitry’s mention of silver leaf in his models’ hair (it was the hair stylist’s suggestion) – will the audience see the hair and not the clothes? Christopher continues his bitchstreak by hoping he uses it all. I get the sense these interviews were filmed after Christopher found out he lost. Tim’s concerned about Christopher: he’s making too many new looks, his new fabric looks cheap. Melissa notices Christopher looks exhausted. He does, to the point where I think he’s been made up to look that bad. She also notices he’s feisty: “Like extra-crispy.” Yeah, he’s that, too. Then she brags about making the most complicated piece she could with three hours to go. Maybe, but she’s made that dress at least three times now so she should be able to crank it out pretty quick. Tim loves Fabio’s new fabric: “You’ve had an epiphany… I have goosebumps.” Even Christopher notices: “I think he took the judges’ critique and ran with it. We’ve never seen this side of Fabio before.” Any side of Fabio is fine with me.

At the 15-minute warning, Christopher protests he has two more looks to make. “You were done this morning,” says Tim. “No, I wasn’t,” says Christopher, looking seriously cowed. That’s some meek whipped-dog look. Has he been taking acting lessons? Because he’s shown us the Many Moods of Christopher in the past half hour.

The Runway:

Jennifer Hudson is the guest judge. That’s nice. She’s pretty superfluous, and won’t be mentioned here again. It’s nice to see Kooan in the audience. Hi, Kooan! My heart belongs to Fabio now, but you can share if you like.

Christopher:

It’s about deconstruction and reconstruction. I get it, the x-rays of broken bones with restorative hardware.

His first look, a brown top and black skirt, gets me thinking he’s turned this around; I like it very much. Looks like he used his fabric-strips technique, as well as the bleached leather. Interesting angles.

His second look – ostrich(?) jacket with a Melissa collar over a slim black dress – is really nice, too, collar and backdrop dress aside. It’s a great jacket, with an interesting diagonal closure.

Then we go bump-thud: it’s those horrible too-short-shorts with the see-thru sweater; it’s covered by a very interesting jacket that looks like clipped-together leather, but the shorts and sweater make it so awful the jacket visually turns into poodle-fluff (aka lambswool). What is his obsession with those shorts? Swapping out the vest he used last week for the far better jacket didn’t elevate the look, it devalued the jacket. It’s an astonishing come-down from those first two looks.

Then we have the leather shorts and print top, which I liked last week and still do. But he’s ruined the turn-around the first two looks created.

Another new look, a purplish-blue trench, follows. The front has some interest at the waist, but it’s a pretty standard look. The seams in the back don’t look pressed; I’m not sure if that’s poor finishing or the fabric’s fault, but whatever it is, it isn’t good.

The leather vest and bustier over high-waisted brown pants comes next. Above the waist, it’s great. The pants seem too tight to me, but maybe that’s because the website picture caught a serious case of camel toe, and I can’t unsee it. Overall it’s not a bad look, assuming the fit problem is my imagination.

Next comes a print blouse over black pants. The pants are pants; background. The top is nice – great use of the light and dark of the print – but not enough to put with background and call it a day.

His blue jacket over pink-and-grey splotchy pants doesn’t work for me, but that could be just my preference. The pants look to me like they’re taken from Heidi’s babywear, and the blouse and jacket just look old-lady to me. I’m not sure what the technique is for the jacket – press pleats, his fabric stripping, or something else – and it’s a very pretty effect, but I don’t like the overall shape. And I’m not sure what this and the blue trench have to do with the leather and x-rays.

His one-shoulder x-ray dress is striking; the print is put to great use. It’s a simple design, sure, but figuring out how to position the fabric is the key, and he did that very well.

His final look is the stunning gown that shades from beige to brown to black. It’s lovely.

I say: he’s got serious potential, but the collection was uneven. 70%.

The judges say: Huh? Michael loved the opening looks, the print and leather, but the romantic gown didn’t fit. Heidi gives him props for some amazing pieces like the shiny (of course) leather jacket and the one-shouldered dress. Nina says he has the most wonderful ability to take fabric and make it look light, but she wishes he’d made something unforgettable. Uh oh, that sounds like see ya later.

Melissa:

She looks gorgeous, by the way. Her collection is about a new exploration of death to life, fitting for spring. I didn’t really get that, but I’ll take her word for it.

First, we have The Jacket. You know which one – white leather with high black collar; she cut off the black cuffs as requested. It’s very striking, much better than it looked last week.

Next, a grey vest over a slinky long black dress. It’s striking, too, in a completely different way. The vest has some cool texture and detail; it’s either lined or reversible (I assume the model would’ve reversed it if it was reversible). Pretty simple. But a nice look.

The high-necked black tunic over slit skirt looks so much like the black dress she showed last week, I’m going to have to wait to see if there’s a second black dress. I hate the purple tape around the waist as a belt. Overall, ok.

The swimsuit looks so awful on the model it’s hard to realize it’s actually got some interesting construction going on.

And now it’s time for her so-what look: the generously-roomy pants from last week paired with a white tank and black vest. It’s perfectly fine for a casual look; the fabrics on top look interesting, even if the bottom does look like a kid’s snowpants, complete with all that room for a diaper. But I’m not sure this is what Fashion Week is for.

Then again, is Fashion Week about a black tank dress? Ok, the white insert in the back is unexpected, but still…

Things get a little back on track with the one-sleeved white leather cocktail dress. I like the combination of the sleeve on one side and the cutout on the other side of the waist.

She’s got another interesting jacket over a red vest, white shorts, and a black cutaway. From the chest up, it’s winter, whereas south of that, it’s warm and sunny. I guess that’s appropriate. But I love the jacket, and I love the layering.

Then we have a big mistake. It isn’t the white tank dress itself; I like the cut, even if I’m not crazy about the leather in the back (I think it looks like masking tape again). The problem is that the model can’t walk in it. This is the “Binders full of women” look: it’s a hobble-dress. Melissa knew it at fitting, and she chose to do other things rather than fix the dress, so her model took baby steps all the way down that very long runway and back. Bad move.

It’s followed by a stunner of a blood orange leather dress with the piled-higher collar. It’s gorgeous. I think blood orange is a good term for it, since sometimes it looks red and sometimes it looks orange.

I say: Repetitious, and some pieces that are kind of silly, but the two jackets, plus the blood orange dress, might just do it for her. 75%.

The judges say: oooooh. Michael says she understands how a girl wants to look; he loves the gesso leather; but why oh why did she send out an unwalkable dress? Heidi loves the hair and makeup; Nina loves the red dress, it’s sexy without being slutty.

Dmitry:

All about organic architecture and geometry. Query: what would inorganic architecture be?

His first look is the white dress from last week. I wish I could like this more; it’s obviously got some cool stuff going on, but I still just don’t think it looks good on the model, and that’s mostly because of the fit; yet I think the fit has to be loose to get that “floating” effect. Maybe it should be a more obviously floating style? This looks like a sheath that’s two sizes too big.

His white jacket using the same technique is a lot more successful. It’s nice he found a place to use that triangular sleeve he brought to the last challenge. And I love that he paired it with the skirt that got lost under that hideous jacket last week. Great look.

Then we crash and burn. It’s the sheer black top over geometric pants. Good lord, it’s out of LulaMae’s Happy House or something. And what did he do to that poor model to make her look so ugly?

His fringed diamond dress isn’t as pretty as it sounds. It’s well-made, there’s some obvious craftsmanship at work (as opposed to, say, a tank dress) but damn, it’s tacky. It’s made for doing the Charleston, though.

But wait, there’s more! His fringed-sleeve diamond jacket over a sheer top and blouson pants boggles the mind. Last week they told him this jacket with the sheer top and the bra was too much, so in a stunning leap of logic he took away the bra. And the pants, forget what I said about Melissa’s pants having room for a diaper, these could hold their own zip code. But it’s the jacket that is truly, amazingly, hideous. And, again, the model. What did he do to these girls? They’re models, they can’t be that ugly, can they?

In a complete switch, we have a black one-shoulder tank over a pale yellow skirt. Ah, sweet relief for my overexposed retinas. Pretty. Simple. And here’s where everyone starts sneering, “Too simple.” Hey, diamond patterns plus leather fringe, I can use some simple right now. Not sure what one has to do with the other, but I’m grateful.

A pretty one-shouldered black pleated cocktail dress follows. It’s nice. A little too folded. A little too party-ruffly, if that makes sense. I’m not sure what it has to do with organic architecture. And I think the long sleeve makes it too heavy. But it’s not bad.

Time for more yellow: a dress with studded cap sleeves. I can’t tell what the sleeves are, actually. Beads? Spikes? Chain mail? Those things you clean your grill with when Brillo isn’t enough? I hate them. But other than the sleeves, the dress is pretty, if you can tear your eyes away from the spikes.

The silver gown is pretty. I’m not big on metallics, but it’s fine.

And for his finale, he sends out a ballroom dance gown. Sparkles! Slit! Organza fringe! This would’ve won the stage-costume-for-Christina Aguilera no question.

I say: Dmitry has made some great looks over the course of the season, and it’s sad (and puzzling) that this is how he wants to be remembered. 50%.

The judges say: Wow! Really? Yes, really. Heidi thinks the fringed jacket looks young now (I want to see her wear it), she likes the dress, and falls all over herself saying nice words Michael says it’s all impeccably made (which it is), fits beautifully (ok, most of it is), and looks expensive (bullshit). He does say the final gown is treading into costume territory. Treading? Nina proclaims fringe editorial; she’s very impressed. WTF?

Fabio:

Cosmic tribalism as a deep reflection on his heritage.

First out: shorts and a sheer top over a sports bra, all under the asymmetrical vest from last week. I like the shorts; he found the perfect striped fabric to go with his pastels. It’s better than anything he showed last week. I’m still not a fan of the sheer-over-bra thing, but this bra looks more like clothing than underwear, thanks to the substantial coverage and print. I don’t know what to call it; it’s about the shape of a sports bra, so that’ll do. I’d call the whole look good.

The blue tunic and white pants that follow, not so much. I can’t really tell what’s needlepoint necklace and what’s tunic, and I hate the needlepoint. I think there’s some nice draping going on, but I can’t really see it that well, and the overall effect is still, fat lady muu-muu.

The sleeveless jacket over the sports bra with white skirt isn’t too bad. I like the bottom of the jacket. I don’t like the notches; I still say the effect is that she’s popped her buttons, which obviously isn’t the case. But overall, yeah, not bad.

The blue-to-white dress is another muu-muu to me. The back has a lovely drape, though.

The white draped dress is far more successful for me. In fact, I actually like it. This makes me happy.

His loose white pants with sheer top over sports bra is kind of nice from the front and back, but not so much the side. I like the “X” effect at the waist; I even like the fit of the pants, though I’m not usually a big fan of loose pants. And I like the top. Yeah, I like it. I really like it!

But then there’s the grey tunic over white pants. The pants are the same jeans-fit, background. The top is, well, I’m undecided. It’s relaxed. It’s got some pretty drapes. Is it fashion? How would I know.

But then I know. He finally dresses a model the way he dresses, in a pink jacket over a pink print vest over a pink print sports bra over white pants with a grey skirt tied over them. This is what Fabio does; it’s like what Jay McCarrol did, mixing pieces perfectly. Any individual piece might be meh on its own or with something else, but all together it works great. Love it.

And maybe we’re on a roll – because aside from the needlepoint necklace, this sleeveless white dress is ok. I like the straight horizontal on one side and the diagonal on the other. Yeah, ok.

Then we close with pajamas. You know, this is the same mix-n-match thing, except the satiny tie just screams “bathrobe.” But it’s so close. The jacket is really quite nice, if I can avoid the tie. And the rolled pants and long tunic are quite nice, especially for pajamas. Would people really wear this outside? I don’t get it. But it’s beautiful.

I say: I adore Fabio. No kiddin’, right? I love how he himself dresses. But I haven’t really understood most of the stuff he’s sent out this season, or for this show. It’s hard to admit that. But go check out what TLo had to say about Fabio’s collection: that it worked much better in person than in pictures or on tv, and there was a palpable uptick in audience excitement when these pieces came out. I believe that. I want to believe. 60%.

The judges say: Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh… Heidi loves it, all this ethereal fluid stuff after all the dark looks. She’d wear the long coat (over a shiny short tight dress, maybe). Nina sees he listened and upped the sophistication level. Seriously? Michael credits him with taking Jordan almond pastels and working them, the draping is effortless and makes a fashion statement that could be interpreted into real life. I don’t know what that means. But that’s appropriate, considering it’s Fabio we’re talking about.

Down to brass thimbles

The judges ask why they should win, and everyone says “because I want to launch my career and I’m ready and I know who I am and I have a distinct point of view and I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me.”

The judges send them backstage so they can dish in private: Christopher’s collection was inconsistent and not really a collection; he should’ve made pretty clothes like he did all season. Melissa did the same thing she’s been doing all season so there was no sense of surprise. Do you get the sense that no matter what some people do, they’re out of luck? Fabio had no misfires, and knows what people want before they know it themselves, but can he do that all the time? Dmitry is a perfectionist with polish but also commercial appeal and a definite signature.

It’s between Dmitry and Fabio. Wow, was I wrong. Until the judges started talking, I was pretty sure Melissa won.

Dmitry wins. As perplexed as I am, I can’t really complain. He’s made great stuff all season, should’ve won at least two more than he did, he’s got serious chops, and he’s a nice guy. I can overlook that eyesore of a final collection.

Oh, Fabio, I’m sorry. I’ve loved seeing you on my tv every week, and I’ll miss you.

Next week:

What ever happened to reunion shows? Now they were fun.

But no, next week we get to start another All-Stars season, because the last one went so well (huh?). I hear they’ve replaced the model host, but Joanna Coles and Isaac Mizrahi will be back. I doubt I’ll have time to do a preview, so here’s the list:

Hooray:

Andrae
Anthony Ryan
Emilio (my top pick)
Peach
Casanova

Boo:

Ivy
Joshua
Wendy

Meh:

Kayne
Suede
Uli

Who?

Althea
Laura

Let’s see who’s changed, for better or worse.

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.

Project Runway Season 10 Episode 12: In a Place Far, Far Away

'Leaf Equasion' by Eve Andrée Laramée

‘Leaf Equasion’ by Eve Andrée Laramée

Time to pimp makeup. And absurdly extravagant wedding venues.

The designers meet Tim and the Big Cheese makeup guy at a fancy Long Island estate frequently used for weddings. The place has nothing to do with the challenge, but sometimes the makeup sponsorship isn’t sufficiently profitable.

They have to design an avant-garde outfit inspired by one of four makeup collections; out comes the Velvet Bag (I wonder if Heidi makes them use the same bag over and over every season):

Fabio designs for the Enchanted Queen, powerful and bewitching in black and berry.
Sonjia gets the Seductive Temptress, charming in gold and Bordeaux.
Dmitry uses the Wise Mystic, mesmerizing with violets and blues.
Melissa draws the Artsy Muse, in alluring pastels and coral.
Christopher is sent home since there’s no more cutely-named makeup. No, no, of course not, he gets to pick, and he goes for the Enchanted Queen because he can work with black.

Tim defines avant-garde as new and experimental. Just in case nobody knows, since last season, they didn’t. They get a bundle of money – $400 – and two days, but the judges are expecting two months of work so they’d better be ambitious. I think the whole time everyone’s looking over his shoulder for the twist. Turns out, there isn’t one. Tim does two walk-throughs, ostensibly to give feedback early enough to allow for course corrections, but the way things have been going, I’m thinking it’s so he can tell if anyone they’ve already decided should go to the finals needs a second challenge or to go back for more fabric. Sonjia does need more fabric since she left five yards of gold lamé at Mood – I seem to recall Kenley got to go back for some black tulle once upon a time, but seems Sonjia doesn’t count. Or maybe it wasn’t on her receipt, I don’t know.

Mood is rich with Swatch sightings; my favorite is him on the stairs.

Zoe Saldana is guest judge. And each designer is asked why they deserve to go to Fashion Week (most give the usual “I’ve worked so hard to get here” speech which has nothing to do with deserving it) and which two designers they’d bring. Heidi keeps saying, “One or more of you will be out.” I always wonder if the “who would you pick” question is designed to see who they think is the weakest competition, or who they like best. Or just more dramatic pot-stirring.

Here’s what happened:

Christopher (Enchanted Queen in black and berry) sees an evil villain with a structured hip for an evil hourglass shape. Hey, since when is an hourglass shape evil? I kept thinking of the dress Leeanne made out of car parts in Season 5 (which, as it turns out, wasn’t anywhere near as pretty but was a lot more avant-garde). Tim says it’s beautifully constructed, but sees a 1890s dress. Christopher points out the hips, and “nobody wants their hips to be bigger.” “Does that make it avant-garde or a mistake?” queries Gentleman Tim.

When I see it on the runway, I think of Chris March and the black dress so criticized for the circles on the hips. Except that one was a lot cooler, I think. Tim was right; this is a very nice period costume for some Masterpiece Theater episode.

Michael starts by praising the makeup, always a bad sign. Then again, they probably owe the makeup company one mention per segment. Michael gets goth Victorian; the feathers make her arms look hairy. Christopher thinks it’s cool; Michael thinks it’s crazy. While the hip is fine, he worries about the bust looking deflated, because there’s no construction at all. I didn’t notice until he said it, but he’s right, she looks like someone really let some air out of her tires. Heidi agrees, there’s too much fabric at the bust. Zoe pipes in: “Besides the face, that’s what people look at first, whether you’re flat-chested or not.” That gave me the giggles. That is not a world I want to live in. Nina sees too many ideas in one dress. Michael calls it a first try; but that’s the case for most of the stuff on this show. After all, we see the changes made when things go into production.

RE: Fashion Week: it’s his dream blah blah; Fabio and Dmitry should join him because they have very specific points of view and are consistent.

Sonjia (Seductive Temptress in gold and Bordeaux) never really recovers from losing her gold fabric; she ends up working with bright green. On Tim.1, she seems “not stuck but something.” Tim gives her a lecture: she hasn’t been working up to her potential and has more in her, she has to let it out. I’m confused. She started out really strong; she’s been fading a little, but that isn’t the same thing. By the second day she’s using illusion fabric so the green appears to be floating; Tim.2 sees avant-garde but her challenge is to keep it from looking like a student project. As soon as she said “illusion” I knew who Michael’s “it looks like a figure skating costume” promo tease was going to apply to; he hates illusion fabrics (so do I, especially on figure skating costumes), and he always uses that line.

On the runway, I see falling leaves. Then she explains her inspiration was Eve of Adam and Eve fame, and I suddenly see what she was going for (in the extended judging video, Nina sees of poison ivy, which makes me wonder about Nina). But… it misses. Heidi loves it, the color’s great, only the mesh bothers her because it’s too light for the model’s skin. Nina has a few problems: green is the color of envy, not seduction. Heidi calls it “unexpected.” Michael sees Nancy Kerrigan skating through a banquet hall; Zoe thinks napkins fell on her; Michael runs with that: “the banquet hall blew up all over her, there’s a tablecloth and napkins.” And there’s way too much Spanxy-stuff on the back, it’s the old lady’s answer to a bare back. Heidi gets the idea, to show she’s not wearing anything. I think everyone gets it, it’s not a bad idea, it’s just not done well. My biggest complaint is the straight line across the back at the waist; it completely ruins the leaf effect. Sonjia disagrees (with Michael, but probably with me as well) politely but strenuously.

RE: Fashion week: She tears up because Mom taught her and designing is everything blah blah, with Melissa because she appreciates her aesthetic, and Dmitry for his construction skills.

Dmitry (Wise Mystic in violets and blues) is inspired by the architecture of the castle (it looks like a really big mansion to me) to do a suit. He explains his triangular sleeve to Tim on Walkthrough One; Tim’s concerned that all the avant-garde is hanging on that sleeve, and it isn’t enough. Tim still doesn’t get the avant-garde on Day Two. Dmitry explains he’s never made this before, which makes me want to bat my head against a wall. “But have the judges ever seen it before?” Tim asks, more gently than I would have. It’s great ready-to-wear but there’s nothing new, and the judges have seen the same silhouettes from him all along.

I have to agree; lose the collar and it would’ve been perfect for the Work challenge. Heidi thinks it’s amazing; it’s got angles she hasn’t seen before (really? Where?) and she likes the peek-a-boo stripe on the side. Michael thinks the collar is a little Vampira; Zoe calls it Chippendales, it cheapens the look, but she loves the sleeve. They aren’t crazy about the shoulders sticking out as far as they do. In other words – other than the sleeve, everything he did to make it more avant-garde was a fail. Nina: “When in doubt, don’t go there.” That sounds like terrible advice for an avant-garde challenge. But they agree the details are incredible and he has magical tailoring skills.

RE: Fashion Week: his dream blah blah, he’d bring Fabio and Christopher because they’re different and have strong aesthetics.

Fabio (Enchanted Queen, black and berry) has been dying to make avant-garde; that surprises me. He’s thinking of his Queen as strong on the outside but frail on the inside. Hey – I worry about his view of women; I was a little concerned when he said his “real woman” “really just wanted a dress inside” in spite of her prohibitions outside against anything feminine, and this feels like more of the need to see women as weak no matter how strong they are or wish to seem. I’m concerned, Fabio. He’s going with a structured coat and sheer dress; it’s going to take a lot of inner building. Sounds like a plan. On first walkthrough, he says something about boy shorts. Tim looks dubious. Fabio’s hilarious in his interview: “When Tim has nothing to say, he goes through stages of silence: first, hand on face, then crossed arms, then he does a squint with a tilt, and if you get all those, nothing good’s going to come out of his mouth.” Tim thinks the coat is borderline costume and is flat. Now Fabio’s concerned. But by Day Two, he’s had an inspiration: he used to wear button-down shirts upside-down as pants, so he turns the coat upside down. Tim is stunned on second walkthrough; he’s crazy about the coat. Sonjia wonders what the hell is wrong with Tim; she doesn’t see it at all. Melissa sees it; she sees Fabio as her competition.

On the runway, to me it looks like something out of a Jack the Ripper movie to me, but I admire the cleverness of the jacket, and I love how he describes the “cage” of the bodice and seeing through to her. Michael’s crazy about the jacket, but the pallazo pants are momish. Heidi thinks she’s going to a funeral; it looks sad. Nina agrees with Michael on the jacket, but the clothes don’t define her curvature; you can’t see her, just the clothes. That’s a really good point. Fabio’s such a sweetie: “I appreciate you guys taking a look at it.” He’s wearing a halo thing. His model was wearing it in the workroom, but now he’s wearing it. I love everything he says; I so wish I loved the clothes he makes.

RE: Fashion Week: “The show has made me sure of how loud I want to speak, and I think at the fashion show I’d just scream.” Now that’s an answer. He’d like to share this experience with Melissa because he loves her aesthetic, and Christopher who’d complement the two of them.

Melissa (Artsy Muse in pastels and coral) is happy about an avant-garde challenge, but sulks a few times that she didn’t get the Enchanted Queen but has to use pastels. Those serrated edges playing tricks again? She’s doing a high collar. What were the odds? On Day Two, Tim is worried about all the work she has to do, and as usual, she’s still sewing as they head out to the runway, but it looks done to me. She’s worried about the color scheme: “It takes an eye to get it.” Darlin’, the judges have two eyes each, I don’t think you need to worry they aren’t sophisticated enough for you.

On the runway she explains she drew her look from Edie Sedgewick, artistic muse to Andy Warhol. That’s a good idea. She manages to make a mostly-black look anyway, adding a bright blue leather vest (with a high collar) and bright orange accents (is she a Miami Dolphins fan?). There’s no pastel, but it’s very Melissa and quite artsy. I’m not sure it’s avant-garde, and there are a few things I’m not crazy about (the blousiness of the black top, the straight line of the waist) but it’s ok. Michael loves the color combo; the separates are “thrilling,” (oh, get a grip, Michael) and the skirt shape is interesting and flattering. Nina loves the vest and collar but not the overly long skirt, though the slit works. Heidi doesn’t know which outfit is uglier, this one or Fabio’s (well, Melissa did say Fabio was her competition), and she’s shocked the others all love it. Heidi, you greeted the designers two days ago looking like Nebuchadnezzar’s sixty-third concubine, and now you’re dressed as Strawberry Shortcake, I’m not sure you should be calling anything ugly.

RE: Fashion week: it’s her dream blah bah, she wants to do leather, “old me” and “new me.” She wants Sonjia, with her fantastic hand for draping and tailoring, and Fabio, with his distinct style, to come with her.

I kind of like everything and kind of don’t like everything; I don’t see much I’d call avant-garde, but it’s not bad; usually the final challenge is a disaster. Or maybe they just make it sound that way.

In Chat, they do a retrospective of everyone’s work, which is cool. Nina worries about Melissa being one-note, but doesn’t think so; Sonjia has the ever-popular understanding of a woman’s body, but Nina can’t pinpoint her aesthetic; Michael wonders if she’s a storyteller; Zoe asks if she’d give good show. They seem to agree that Christopher’s in. Nina worries that Dmitry is a one-trick pony, which is great irony. I wonder what she’s talking about. Ok, he does fitted clothes, but he started doing separates as soon as they called him on it. Michael gives him credit for fantastic tailoring. Fabio’s the oddball, playing with proportion and gender roles; Nina gives him conceptual, androgynous, and articulate. Heidi complains his avant-garde is too weird and his classics tilt to basic; Michael points out how absurd that observation is. I know she’s always been hung up on the sexy, but has Heidi been this much of an idiot all season and I just noticed it now?

Dmitry wins. Christopher and Melissa are also in.

That leaves Fabio and Sonjia on the runway. I get it now. “One or more of you.” It was going to be more, but someone said, “Good lord, we can’t get rid of all the non-caucasians in one fell swoop!”

The auf falls on Sonjia.

So they’re all finalists… or are they? Not according to the promo: Heidi lines them up and says., “You’re not guaranteed a spot.” They are fond of last-minute surprises; what are they pulling this year?

Project Runway Season 10 Episode 11: It’s Fashion, Baby

Ok, it’s official. I love Elena. And, to add surprise to surprise, I loved this episode. Even though I think they got the winners and loser completely wrong, it’s the most fun I’ve had watching PR since Olivier was befuddled by double-D’s.

The Challenge:

The designers meet Tim and Heidi at Babies-R-Us. Dmitry: “Heidi’s there, and she has her 105 kids.” A bunch of women with baby strollers wheel over. Dmitry: “We’re all screwed.” Yeah, probably. He’s not sure how old they are, but he’s pretty sure they can’t talk: “It’s like making an outfit for cat.” Dmitry doesn’t have a cat either, does he? Surprisingly, Elena’s into the whole overdose of cuteness. Sonjia thinks this could be her challenge; she loves kids. Melissa’s thrown but trying not to show it. Christopher: “Babies.” He looks like all the oxygen has been sucked out of his lungs. But he’s happy when he gets matched up with his baby, because she’s wearing little cheetah shoes. Fabio’s first job in New York was as a babysitter; he has an ease towards kids. Fabio has an ease towards everything.

They are, of course, making outfits for these babies. They aren’t really babies, they’re toddlers, 12 to 18 months old. There will be two winners: one boy outfit, and one girl outfit. Geez, the coddling continues; that means 1/3 of the designers will be winners. Welcome to Project Runway, the Trophy Kids edition. Heidi will supply all fabrics, trims, and notions from her line so everything fits in. Tim advises them to listen to the moms’ advice. The advice we hear is more about style than design, however.

Heidi tells them – with an evil grin – there’s a special surprise waiting for them back in the workroom. Elena: “it’s not a surprise, it’s something fucked up.” You know it, baby.

The special surprise is: babies! Not live babies, of course, but the doll variety they use in high school abstinence programs to convince kids not to have sex, or at least for God’s sake to use condoms. Twenty years ago, it was bags of flour; ten years ago Tamagotchi became a toy; now they’ve merged into a virtual baby that cries to be fed, rocked, or changed, and won’t tell you which. It’s a nightmare. It’s perfect. None of these designers will ever have sex again. At least, not in any conceivable way.

Dmitry names his baby (either Brandon or Random, I’m not sure). Elena: “I named my baby Asshole.” That was the moment when I fell in love with Elena.

Fabio starts talking to his baby: “I have to put you down for second but I’ll come back to you.” Dmitry: “The baby is not real, Fabio, leave the baby alone, the baby wants to sleep.” You know, I’m dictating this text using speech recognition software, and I’m laughing so hard, it can’t understand me.

They even take the stupid things home with them overnight, and in the morning, are gently awakened by babies squalling. No wonder Heidi was so nice last week; she was setting them up for this.

But the virtual babies aren’t the only twist: when Heidi does her walk-through with Tim, they find out they also have to create a companion look for the mother. Elena: “Someone please shoot me.” Tim makes it very clear that the baby outfit is the one that will be judged, and they shouldn’t think of the mother as a client they have to please; they just have to put something on her. This seems kind of stupid to me, an unnecessary complication. But they get an extra day (and on Day Two, Tim takes the babies off to day care in a little wagon), and I suppose any of them could turn out a basic outfit relatively quickly, since it doesn’t matter if it’s any good.

The guest judge is some actress who used to be famous when she was a teenager and now has a baby. I wish oh I wish it’d been Bristol Palin. Oh well, can’t have everything.

Goo-goo-tee-hee:

Fabio‘s mom is all about vintage, which is perfect for him (again, I wonder if the little tags have some kind of tactile symbol only Tim can feel). He’s thinking of a jumper with a flap in the back. He already feels like a winner. Uh oh. He loves the pockets and thinks it’s fun. Michael calls it a modern take on a nautical look. Heidi loves that it’s one piece but looks like two and has nice details, but thinks Mom looks momsy. Nina likes both outfits; the use of the print is adorable but not too cutesy like a little baby. Wow, Nina’s tough to please. Actress: “What Heidi said.” I think it’s the best thing up there. It looks like something someone might actually put on their kid. And Mom’s dress isn’t half bad, either. As much as I love him, I seldom “get” Fabio’s designs (as opposed to his own clothing, which I love), but this was a perfectly clear winner to me.

Sonjia wants to do a fusion of suit and sweatsuit for her mini-man, so she goes for a blazer in sweatshirt fabric. She thinks it’s a comfy fusion between dressy and casual. I think it’s awful. Mom’s in Ven’s Amish skirt from the t-shirt challenge. Heidi thinks the kid looks sharp and it’s really fun. Okay. Michael likes the sense of tailoring combined with sweats, it’s polished and modern, and loves the print tank underneath. I don’t think the tank print goes with the suit at all. What are they seeing? Nina says it’s perfect, sporty but well-dressed. This is a toddler they’re talking about, what’s wrong with these people? It’s going to have drool all over it an hour from now. Actress: “What Heidi said.”

Christopher‘s mom has some very specific requirements: a little denim jacket with three-quarter sleeves, like a baby Dior, white, no pockets. Christopher: “I need a drink.” Tim is surprised the client wants white; Heidi says, “Why not?” Because people who actually do their own laundry and can’t afford to replace outfits every two weeks don’t appreciate white baby clothes, Heidi. He’s not too pleased with his virtual baby: “Now I know why Judy went off the deep end with Liza.” Christopher, you do realize most women do this for a significant portion of their lives, and most have a lot fewer resources than Judy. For mom, he goes with the ever practical Oscar de la Renta silk dress. He doesn’t like the kid’s outfit; he likes the shape of mom’s dress, but it’s simplistic, and the print looks like a tablecloth. I actually think it’s pretty. The baby’s clothes look too complicated, though. But what do I know. Mom comes in for her fitting, and hates everything. Sonjia tells him not to worry about Mary J Blige, it’s Heidi’s line; good advice. Mom apologizes the next day. Christopher handled that really well; he could’ve gotten sulky, but he just took it in stride, ignored her, and it all straightened itself out. On the runway, he decides the baby dress is ok after all; it looks like Sunday brunch. That made me laugh, but Heidi said the same thing. Babies go to Sunday brunch? It’s pure white, what if she spills her Bloody Mary? Nina thinks it’s adorable, but not practical. Heidi loves it for dress-up. Michael doesn’t think the jacket works, but the special occasion dress is great, the headpiece is adorable, and the floral print sheath for mom is fabulous; those outfits would be worn to the same event. Wait, now babies go to brunch AND events? I need to get out more. Actress: “What Heidi said.”

Dmitry also has a fashion-conscious mom; she asks how he’s going to make it edgy or trendy or whatever he calls it. Walk-through doesn’t go well; Heidi thinks it looks like he’s carrying a backpack; she wants more cuter. Sonjia calls it a firefighter jumpsuit. On the runway, Dmitry worries because the baby is getting tired: “He has to sell my look.” Or he’ll never work in this town again. It’s a weird red Conehead thing with a hood that unzips and lays flat like a cape. Michael likes the graphic aspect, but it looks like a superhero costume. You know, he hit it right on the head, with the red and blue and the tight pants: it’s CarMan! Heidi and Nina assure him that kids love costumes. Michael: “It’s a trend?” Oh Michael, never change. Babies and lady wrestlers, they’re out of your comfort zone. Heidi thinks both looks are modern, maybe not as commercial, but lots of moms would like it. Actress: “What Heidi said.” They really need to brief these guest judges. In chat, Nina says he looks like a crayon. I was thinking of bloody grand wizard myself, but I’ll go with crayon.

WaaAAAaaahhHHHHH:

Elena asks mom how she usually dresses her kid. She’d love a blazer. What is this with blazers for babies? I thought they held off on blazers until first grade. She assures Tim there will be no shoulder pads; he applauds her discipline. Her blazer has ruffles on the lapels; Tim asks if that’s practical when it comes to cleaning (and we all know it isn’t). Elena asks Heidi what she thinks, and she asks like she’s really asking, not being snide, it’s quite impressive. Uh oh, Elena’s getting the redemption edit. You know what happened to Ven when he got the redemption edit. Heidi gives some gobbledygook about being practical but not basic; I’m interpreting this as, “No, it isn’t practical, but somebody has to go home.” Elena asks Sonjia if there’s a secret to draping dresses; Sonjia explains it; Elena: “That blows.” I’m no longer annoyed that Elena is leading in the Fan Favorite poll. Elena is happy with the look on the runway. I think it’s awfully complicated. Michael thinks it looks like a sample sale; he doesn’t get the connection between the pink tee, the green pants, and the ruffled jacket. Heidi thinks the jacket is a showstopper, but the pants are throwaways. Nina points out the jacket is not practical; two points Nina. It is her favorite mom’s outfit, though; unfortunately, it’s not a mom’s challenge. Actress: “What Heidi said.”

Melissa‘s mom likes feminine clothes for the baby; Melissa is afraid this means pink. “I haven’t worked with baby pink in… Never.” She starts out with a denim jacket with asymmetric collar, which is the very definition of femininity, right? Problem is, babies asymmetric their own collars pretty quick, so is an asymmetrical collar going to end up symmetrical? On walk-through, Heidi hates the leggings, so Melissa changes her course of action and goes for a denim shift dress. It turns out tighter than she wanted. Tighter? It’s a sheath. Pencil skirt for a kid who can’t hold a pencil. She still sewing mom’s dress when everyone leaves for the runway. On the runway the kid’s dress keeps riding up, and mom keeps tugging it down. It really is a mess; it looks like a baby straitjacket. Heidi loves the jacket, but not the dress; besides the bad fit, which exposes the diaper, there’s a zipper on the side which is iffy on baby skin. Actress: “What Heidi said.” Michael hates the fabric of the dress, but thinks the vest is fabulous, with charm and personality. Nina: “What Michael said.” And by the way, Mom looks like she made her clothes herself. Blindfolded. With one hand. Epic fail.

Who gets a cookie:

Sonjia wins Boy’s Division; it’s all yours for only $29.99. I still think it’s stupid-looking, and I still say the color of the print isn’t right for the suit. Fabio was robbed.

Christopher takes it for the Girls. But like the Emmy dress Ven designed for Kenley to modify, the dress morphed: it’s been redesigned in navy blue (so much for Heidi’s defense of white), and I have to say, it looks a lot better; I like the dress. But is that really the point of these challenges? To make a starting point? Couldn’t just about anything be fixed in the mix? Then again, he was up against train wrecks by Melissa and Elena in Girls’ Division; when I think about it that way, it’s a no-brainer.

And who’s sent to bed without any supper:

Elena and Melissa are the last two on the runway; Gee, I wonder which one they’ll send home. Surprise: Elena‘s out (I was only kidding about this surprise).

Tim gives her a sendoff to remember: “What are we going to do all day without bleep-bleep-bleep-bleep?”

Editorial:

What a great episode – even if they did get the winners and loser completely wrong. I certainly wasn’t expecting to fall in love with Elena. Too late, as it turns out. Has she been this funny all along, or did she just perk up after her mother came to visit (or once they turned the Redemption Cam on her)? I’ll have to watch the earlier episodes again to figure that out.

And here I was, my indignation prepped, expecting this to be a companion piece to the Season 3 “Dogs As Accessories” nonsense, but it didn’t feel that way at all. I know a lot of people – women mostly – who love looking at baby clothes. I’m not one of them (I confess: I hate babies. Yes, it’s un-American, and inhuman; I don’t wish them harm, just keep the smelly screaming things away from me), but there seems to be some kind of widespread appeal, so who am I to argue. The clothes aren’t outrageously priced; high-end, definitely, but not insane. So I was ready; I was even armed with a great quote:

…[B]abies are not status items to be used to argue the superiority of the lifestyle of their parents.
(She is reminded of an advertisement she once saw for a Beverly Hills clothing store for children, which sought to attract parents with the announcement, “Your children are part of your image.”)

Judith Martin as Miss Manners, Miss Manners’ Guide to the Turn of the Millenium

And I didn’t get to use it. Hey, PR – thanks! You can surprise me like this again any time.

Next: The Final Challenge: Avant-Garde. Oh, sure, they kick Elena out just before Avant Garde – that’s just mean. I guess they’re planning on sending two people home, unless they pull the old “two of you will duel to the death later” again. I figure my beloved Fabio is toast; I’m steeling myself for that. No idea who else. That’s what’s nice about this season: maybe there isn’t one Christian Siriano, but there’s more than one designer who knows what s/he is doing.

Project Runway Season 10 Episode 10: I Get A Kick Out Of Fashion

Dance Class:

The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes first performed in 1925 in St. Louis as the Missouri Rockets. Russell Markert created the precision team, originally sixteen dancers, after he was impressed by the John Tiller Girls in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1922. They, along with 17 other acts, were brought to RCMH when it opened in 1932 by Roxy Rothafel; they became a fixture as the Rockettes by the next year, and have been ever since. Markert staged and choreographed the group until 1971.

The Rockettes were invented in Missouri? Oh. Take that, New York City.

And by the way – the first black Rockette was hired in 1987. 1987. In Markert’s day, suntans weren’t even allowed because “it would make her look like a colored girl.”

So before we get carried away with the romanticism of the Rockettes and their mystique and history, let’s just pause for a few seconds to realize the Good Old Days, as late as 1987, weren’t all that good for some.

Thus endeth the lesson for today.

Bevel (hook-arms/toe-tip/knee-in):

(I didn’t say it would be the only lesson. You can learn how to dance like a Rockette from Dr. Oz of all people, and if that doesn’t sour you on the Rockettes, nothing will)

Fabio misses Gunnar so much, he slept in his bed. Fabio, I love ya, man, but that’s just weird.

Sonjia does a round-robin countdown of wins, ending with Elena, who has won… zero times. With Elena sitting right there. What are you doing, Sonjia?

Basic Kick (flick-step-flick-step):

They meet Tim at RCMH and watch Heidi and the Rockettes. Dmitry: “And the way she moves, oh, baby.” Really?

They are to design a Rockettes costume for use in a future show. I’m impressed, I’d figured the dancers were just there to intro a generic stage costume challenge. Director-choreographer Linda Haberman joins them and points them to some existing costumes for reference. Some of the things to keep in mind: They have to look spectacular from the first row and way back in the balcony; glitz and glamour of course, but a modern aesthetic. Some designers are thrilled, some not so much.

A couple of little twists in this episode. Like, after RCMH and Mood, they go back to the workroom but call it quits at 7:30 so they can go out to dinner; they’ll have the entire next day. I wonder if the early quits got some leeway built into the schedule, or if this was planned all along. I’m all for it, whatever it is, because I’d rather watch them actually work than see weeping and wailing borne of exhaustion. So good move, folks (I would say bravo, but that’s still a touchy point). It’s a warm and fuzzy dinner, with Elena apologizing to Dmitry for being a bitch, and Ven giving her a Mitt-Romney-style compliment afterwards: “I thought, maybe she is like that, but she’s also very talented.” He was the youngest sibling in his family, so he’s always been alone. What?

In another twist, Tim decides after his walkthrough on the second day that they need to go back to Mood to get more stuff, because they just aren’t doing that well. I’m not sure what that’s about, but it’s interesting that Sonjia said at the dinner she wished she had more time at Mood. Can they really just waltz into Mood at any time? Doesn’t that get disruptive to the usual business of the place, what with cameras and frantic time pressure to get stuff cut and eight people who all need help right now? I don’t know, but I think something’s fishy. Fabio, Ven, and Dmitry choose to stay in the workroom, since they feel they have enough materials and want the time more. Tim doesn’t argue.

Debra Messing is the guest judge. Wait – usually when they’re making something for actual use, the user is guest judge and presumably has final say on the winner, what’s going on here, where did Linda Haberman (or a wardrobe specialist or at least a Rockette) go? They’re going to trust Heidi? Are they nuts? Then again, a big pink disco ball is sort of the Rockettes’ aesthetic. But it’s still odd. Stage fright? Is someone behind the curtain doing thumbs-up-down? Or are they just confident they can massage the winning design until it’s something they can actually use? Maybe for a pro bono appearance at a nursing home, if necessary?

Eye-High Kicks:

Melissa has never made a dance costume, but she goes for the art deco shapes from the theater and ends up with eighteen pattern pieces plus hand beading. She calls it ambitious; Fabio calls it crazy. Tim suggests doing what she can to speed up the beading process. Christopher gives her $15 in Mood so she can get better sparkles. Just before moving to the runway, she breaks the zipper; everyone gathers ’round to help, which is always nice to see, but she ends up sewing the model into the dress. Can’t see it, though. And it isn’t because she doesn’t know how to put in a zipper. As her model walks down the runway, Melissa realizes she’s put a great big black spangled #1 on the bodice; it was just supposed to be shapes. It kind of reminds me of the “2” or “3” from the 2012 London Olympics font. Which is not a good thing, since it’s been called one of the ugliest fonts ever. But it’s also unreadable, so if she hadn’t mentioned it, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it. Heidi at first thought it was a showstopper, but then kept finding things wrong with it. Like the gigantic one, and the too-short length. Michael likes some things – it’s dramatic and graphic, the rhinestone edging is cool, he loves the hat and styling, but not the chopped-off-cocktail-dress effect, and the One is driving him crazy. Gee, maybe I would’ve noticed it. Nina loves the vibrancy and cigarette girl styling, but it’s a real miss. Wow, there’s a change in direction. Debra is confused, and isn’t sure about the awkward neckline, but loves the sparkles. Everybody loves a sequin.

Dmitry wants sex appeal and athleticism. He’s had lots of dance costume experience, since he was a ballroom dancer until he was 18. Tim loves the simple geometry and think it’s got wow factor. Christopher thinks it’s high school dance team. I like it a lot, and it’s dramatic enough to work at a distance but has great details up close. Heidi loves the edginess, the black and blue together. Michael’s excited; it’s polished, and he can tell Dmitry made it; it’s a modern take. Nina’s loving the color, the movement, and the modern chic. Debra worries it’s not G-rated enough (maybe not for Amish country or Iran, but what would the Rockettes be doing there anyway) but it’s glamorous and beautifully made.

Christopher goes for the NYC skyline. Tim worries about the super-short skirt being fringed, and suggests adding the stars at night on the top. The straight-on picture makes the model look like a Mac truck, but it’s actually very nice on the runway. I’m not sure about how it’d play at a distance, though, or in a dance. Too bad the models can’t do a few simple kicks to show how each costume moves. Several people around the blogosphere have suggested making the illusion fabric dark blue, to show off the skyline; that’s a great idea, wish I’d thought of it myself. Wish Christopher had thought of it. Maybe the Rockettes wardrober will think of it. Heidi loves the message and the thought of thirty-six dancers lined up with that costume. Michael calls it a Bob Mackie moment, especially the Empire State Building on the back. Debra: magnificent.

Ball-Change:

Fabio goes for see-through in a different tone from his dress. Tim tells him, “Bitch slap that bitch” in some context I don’t quite get. Tim, can I give you some advice? When you come out with the gutterisms once in a while, whether turtle poop or menstrual cycle, it’s unexpected and cute and funny. When you do it every week, it gets tiresome and cheap. Word to the wise, ok? I love the skirt and like most of the rest, but I wish the grey underfabric was nude illusion, because it’s awful. I’m always disappointed when Fabio’s safe, because I don’t see what he’s wearing. Some kind of netting over white. And a polo shirt and goofy hat. I don’t know how he pulls it together, but he does every time. On the “I’ll Be The Judge Of That” video on Lifetime, he says he was thinking of the 36 dancers lined up like Valkyries, an army of women. I love Fabio more each week. Dmitry’s adorable, but Fabio is mine.

Falling on their Asses:

Ven is crazy about beading; that’s a surprise. He’s going to do something modern. Ven, I do not think that word means what you think it means. The trick, he says, is to not over-embellish. Clean lines. No gluing stones all over. Tim loves the netted fabric over the solid, and suggests he do more of that. To his credit, Ven helps Melissa do some hand sewing. Plus his attempts at human warmth at dinner. The redemption arc in progress. But I’m afraid it’s too little, too late. As he watches his model walk the runway, he thinks the netting looks like glass. Heidi likes the fabric but there’s no design; it’s boring. She’s surprised he didn’t go back to Mood. Michael loves simplicity, but it turns into yawn and this looks like a chopped off evening dress; he wants to see more body. Nina wants more drama. Debra disagrees; she loves the movement and simplicity, but the hemline is uneven, which seems like an odd nit to pick. Ven explains the netting drags down, leading Heidi to wonder what would happen after several wearings.

Elena claims to have made dance costumes, which is a surprise. And she’s really, really happy to be working with sequins again. Yes, of course I’m kidding. If she never sees another sequin it’ll be too soon. She gets disoriented in Mood and doesn’t know what to get, then ends up way over her budget, and finally leaves with royal blue and yellow, or, as she puts it, high school marching band colors. So she makes a cheerleading uniform . She keeps kvetching about it, and Dmitry wonders, “Why are you making something you hate?” I really don’t think she’s doing it on purpose. She asks her model if knows how to throw a baton; in best Tyra fashion, the model says she’ll learn. To me, the biggest problem is the dipping of the skirt in the front; it looks like a snap has come undone. No, that’s only one of the biggest problems. The colors and the openwork are other problems just as big. It really is pretty bad. She defends it on the runway by saying she was thinking first of movement, then of impact from a distance. Debra thinks it’d work for the circus. Nina thinks fabric choice was biggest problem, plus she hates the styling. Heidi calls it cheesy. That’s an insult to Velveeta.

Sonjia is uninspired. Nothing in Mood makes sense. She ends up with lots of feathers, and a feather skirt that’s kind of nice, but that’s it. Tim tells her he can read her across the room, “you seem very disabled.” Dmitry does a chicken-bwaaawk. Eventually she manages to put fabric on the bodice and more feathers on the sleeves – she sees Black Swan, I see Kenley. But she’s worried she’s back to carhop. She should be so lucky. She’s having trouble getting the top onto her model, and Christopher warns her she’s going to break the model: “As long as I break her and not the clothes, it’s fine,” she says. See, if anyone else said that, Ven, for instance, he’d be slaughtered, but with Sonjia, it’s funny because… I don’t know, I guess we know she doesn’t really mean it? Some people earn more slack than others. But the dress really is pretty awful. Heidi thinks it’s too covered up, boxy, it’s not sexy. Heidi, I know your divorce has been rough, but please, go out and get yourself some action. It’s not attractive, what you’re doing. Nina worries that feathers are fragile, and Debra agrees; they fall off just walking. Michael sees no movement, and it’s more cocktail than costume. Michael, show me one woman wearing that to a cocktail party. Nina envisions 36 of them in a row: turkeyfest. That’s pretty amusing for Nina. Is Michael’s writer doing her lines now? Come on, Nina, you’ve always been the straight wo/man, don’t get sidetracked into the glamour side now.

Fan Kick Grand Finale:

Heidi gives an encouraging speech about how seriously they take judging, and how talented everyone is. No season has ever been so coddled. They should all send thank-you notes to Kooan and Andrea. While the judges chat, the designers dish; Elena’s convinced she’s going home, and Ven hugs her. Wow. Redemption arc in full swing.

The debate in Little Chat is about which is worse, boring or madness. Michael gives Ven the drag name of Origami Rose. And they finally notice he falls apart when he can’t do roses and pleats. Hey, I said that weeks ago, I’m glad they finally caught on. Then again, Elena did a Vegas twirler and Sonjia a disco turkey.

Christopher wins. And again, Dmitry is robbed. But I think I understand. Dmitry’s is just a little too modern. And the NYC skyline is just too juicy to pass up.

Elena and Ven are standing alone on the runway. When they announce Elena is safe, she cries. That’s the thing, she cares, she really does, and she’s trying to adapt.

Ven is out. His exit interview is back to the pre-redemption Ven: it was just this one dress that did him in, and it’s too bad someone with more talent is going home instead of someone with less talent, like Elena, who made the ugliest thing on the runway. So much for that redemption arc. Thing is… his origami roses are really beautiful, and, having seen pics of his finale collection, I think it’s gorgeous. But he really can’t do anything else. Maybe when he gets the roses out of his system – when everyone’s seen them and get tired of them and stop telling him how beautiful they are – he’ll learn another technique. Then he’ll be off to the races.

Tim makes a different kind of goodbye speech: “This is a wake-up call: look who’s going home. It’s a scenario none of you wrote.” Tim really looks shocked. But there’s no “We’ll miss you.” There’s no blathering about talent.

Preview of coming attractions

Hey, I called it last week – they have to design something for Heidi’s line of babywear. Elena is going to lose her mind. And Ven should be relieved he’s gone, because I’d hate to see what he’d come up with. Christopher: “Now I know why Judy went off the deep end with Liza.”

Project Runway Season 10 Episode 9: It’s All About Me

Yep, that's it.

Yep, that’s it.

It’s the Design-your-own-Fabric-Challenge-4.0.

Here’s what I wonder: why haven’t any of these people given any thought to this before? They seem lost. Even if they haven’t watched the show, haven’t they ever thought, wow, I’d love to do a fabric with this kind of design? Of course, they’re restricted to a pattern that will replicate, and to cotton fabric, but still, from the reactions, you’d think they had to design for professional wrestlers or surfers or based on a museum or something.

Mondo’s in the workroom to give a little pep talk about how this challenge changed his life. I still remember that night, the only time I’ve ever cried over reality TV. In retrospect, it was probably engineered to be more dramatic than it actually was, but boy did it ever work. He warns them not to make a national costume, and to “apply your truth to what you create.” Mondo designed a carrying case for the product-placement computer. “It’s about breaking away.” He was a little bitchy during All-Stars, but that’s ok, I love him all over again. At least until judging, when he gets bitchy again.

“Special guests” deliver the computers, pre-loaded with material to use as inspiration. We all were expecting the Mommie Parade and the Oh My God Chorus and Baby Picture Show and Tell, but the designers seem oblivious as people start walking through the door. Most are mothers, except for Fabio’s boyfriend, Ven’s sister, and Dmitry’s oldest and dearest friend. Do you ever imagine what would’ve happened, back when you were that age, if they tried to rope a member of your family into something like this? I do. It makes me sad.

Mondo and Anya are guest judges. The welcome for Anya is noticeably less enthusiastic than it was for Mondo.

I just realized (don’t worry, we’ll get to the menstrual cycle, I promise. And copulation. Be patient. Or skip ahead if you just can’t wait) this is the first season since Seth Aaron that I don’t get the sense that they’ve picked a winner before the season started. I’m not saying they haven’t, just that it doesn’t seem that way. Maybe they’re just getting better at hiding it. I also realized, looking back at some Season 8 and 9 Rate the Runway pics for some “oh, he’s channeling this” links, that the Season 10 designers are head and shoulders above most of what went on those two seasons. And one more thing: listening to Anya as a judge does not change my opinion about her talent one bit.

Some impress the judges…:

Sonjia thinks “wide trouser” which means it’s all about the fit of the pants. Her print is red, white, and blue, because she’s American, and black, because she’s black. We don’t get any insight into the print itself, however; to me, it looks like a stylized eagle head. But maybe that’s because just this morning I saw a photo of a reconstructed eagle beak. Her pants clearly channel Mondo; hey, if you’re going to channel someone, that’s not a bad way to go but isn’t it a little obvious? The top looks pretty simple, but the curved seams in the front and the beautiful drape in the back mimic the curve in the print. Me, I think the pants with the white background and multiple shape elements are too busy; they don’t work as well as Mondo’s more linear plus-signs on purple. But that’s me. The judges fall all over themselves loving the outfit. Nina loves the surprise of the draped back, and it’s – the magic words – young, cool, chic. Mondo thinks it’s one of the most successful. Of course he does, it’s his design, except he made a lined jacket to go with his draped top. Here’s where Michael slips in his “Pacman eating her crotch” quip, except it was edited in the promos: he actually says “With that print, if it isn’t right it would’ve looked like Pacman is eating her crotch.” Deceptive advertising, why am I not surprised. He loves the attention to detail and thinks it’s kind of perfect.

Dmitry comes from a family of artists, his father and grandfather. His “oldest and dearest friend” brings a video from his father in Belarus. Dmitry goes for an ornament used in traditional costumes. LetoileSole on TWoP pointed us to Belarusian decorative towels called ruchnik; yes, that looks like the inspiration for his print. There’s a pretty extensive Wikipedia entry on ruchnik, though Wikipedia is a pretty bizarre place that will not allow the subject of an article to correct an erroneous fact (Just ask Philip Roth) so take it with a grain of salt. Dmitry knows he must do separates or he’ll be in trouble. Tim thinks it’s a little prim, and it is, but it’s striking in the workroom. And it’s pretty cool on the runway, too. It’s the sort of thing you keep looking at to figure out, with unusual lapels and a geometrical layered effect. The skirt bothered me on the runway and in the picture, and the print itself is, as one of the designers said, a bandana. But the overall effect is professional. Guy can make separates, who knew? And it’s different. Michael loves it, with concept, execution, and wearability. Heidi loves the illusion of the jacket floating over the print; she’d buy it. Nina pronounces the jacket “phenomenal.” Only Mondo is a bit of a wet blanket; he calls the jacket a showstopper, and recognizes the ability, but thinks it’s overdesigned. I think Mondo is enjoying being on the other side of the runway. But I wish he’d stuff a sock in it.

Melissa designs her print to look like bloodlines converging. It’s a lot better than it sounds. Considering her comfort zone is black, she really went for it. I love the dress. It’s something I’d wear if I wore nice clothes. Psst… that’s not a good sign. The sleeves kind of remind me of Viktor’s Nina dress, except they need more interfacing or something to keep them from flopping over. Michael is surprised to see uptown Park Avenue from Melissa; it’s great, but it’s just a pretty dress. Heidi wishes for more Melissa Coolness. Nina seems most appreciative. Anya wishes she’d pushed more, because that’s what everyone else said.

…Some aren’t worth mentioning…:

Elena had a happy childhood in Ukraine. Then what’s all this talk about needing to be tough? I thought she was raised by wolves on the steppes the way she postures. Her mom is an older, blonder, mellower version of Elena, and Tough Girl turns into a happy brightly-colored butterfly dancing through Mood in a multicolored romper. I think they should let her mom stay for the rest of the show, it seems to have a wonderful effect on her disposition. She admits to Tim her garment looks like scrubs (her print is in the same palette as her romper, I think), and he’s glad she can see that for herself. Tim goes outside her cultural reference points by invoking Marlo Thomas on That Girl, which makes it hilarious when she claims it’s the most modern design on the runway. I don’t think Ann Marie would ever wear anything like that. I don’t get her print, either; I see a Russian Orthodox church, a ghost (or a neon KKK wizard) and maybe a purple Christmas tree. It still looks like scrubs, high collar and sunglasses notwithstanding. But well-made scrubs, I’ll give her that.

Fabio wants rhythm, movement, and conflict. What he sees when the fabric arrives are fallopian tubes, penises, and vaginas. Copulation happening. Genders clashing and colliding. I love Fabio at this moment more than I can say, but all I see are squiggly lines. He doesn’t mention the penises to Tim. He loves it on the runway, it’s moving perfectly. I love Fabio, but I hate the outfit, it’s too black, it’s too squared-off in front (the back is a little better) and the pants are too wide. The jacket is kind of interesting, but it’s too hard to see what it is since it’s black over black. I’m glad he’s safe – it’ll be a dark day for me when he goes home – but I’m sorry I don’t get to hear him explain the sexual organs to the judges.

…And some are big mistakes:

Ven goes with the hibiscus from his religion (Hindu?) and uses it as an embellishment rather than as expected. Then he’s press-pleating flowers from the flowered fabric, as shown above. Tim sees an homage to a menstrual cycle. See, I told you we’d get there. It looks like cloths that have soaked up blood. Like maxi pads. He calls out to the workroom, “Am I the only one seeing this?” I have to hand it to Ven, he stays cool on the outside, even when he’s walking out on his interview with tears in his voice. I almost felt sorry for him. Almost. He changes his design, because he can’t have that comment in his head. And since Ven knows one thing, he goes back to the rose pleats. That’s the thing Ven doesn’t get: he has to do more than one thing. Even Diane Von Furstenberg had to make something besides a wrap dress. It’s not that bad a dress – it’s better than either of the safe designers – but Heidi sees Hawaiian airline hostess. Well, that’s a step up from homage to a menstrual cycle. Mondo has a really good specific critique: he acknowledges the obvious skill that went into it, but it’s disconnected, it’s a lot of info in one dress, and visually confuses him. During the Little Chat, the judges take the extraordinary step (remind me if they’ve done this before, a little cluster of brain cells is saying they have) of calling Tim out to verify he didn’t advise Ven to stop doing the roses. Tim gives them the menstrual cycle story. I think they just wanted him to say it again.

Gunnar listens to the Mondo Plus Sign story, and says, “If Mondo can make a statement like that then so can I.” Now I’m very nervous; is this going to turn into Dueling Personal Tragedies? The assignment, remember, is to reflect one’s cultural heritage. Gunnar decides being bullied in school is his cultural heritage. Now, like most people with two brain cells to rub together, I’m horrified by the bullying that routinely occurs everywhere. And I’m choosing to believe that Gunnar had only the best motivations. His print is a bird escaping two skeleton hands. I love that concept but the execution is lacking. He starts out with a black yoke, but Tim advises against it: “It looks like a don’t-bully-me suit of armor;” he wants light and airy, so he changes it. I almost like the back of the jacket. But… no. Heidi says it’s “not cool” which is the worst thing she can possibly say about anything. Michael thinks the print looks like a sheet of bird postage stamps, and the model is a suburban twirler. Nina sees sadness and struggle, not flight or freedom, and that’s the point Gunnar missed: Mondo’s pants were positive signs. Positive. Nina commented at the time how he made joy out of something so difficult. Anya can’t figure out if it’s TJ Maxx or not. Mondo finds the print chaotic, and doesn’t get the message; plus it’s a little junior. Ok, Mondo, lay off. Yeah, I know the judges gave you a hard time for all kinds of stuff, but they made up for it with All Stars, and Gunnar had nothing to do with it, so put away your claws. I’m just sayin’.

Christopher‘s grandmother died of a ladybug attack so he’s doing ladybugs. I don’t see ladybugs in his print, I see Atari Space Invaders ca. 1985, but maybe that’s the reproduction. It’s a nice dress. Everyone says it’s a nice dress. It’s just not a winning dress, and I guess they wanted to spank him for not doing more so they put him in the bottom. I sound like a broken record, but it’s better than the scrubs. Anya can’t see the print (because it’s covered with black organza) and the silhouette is a little prom, but the print is beautiful. Hey, I thought you couldn’t see the print. Nina thinks it’s his most disappointing creation.

The Bottom Line:

Dmitry finally FINALLY wins a challenge.
Gunnar‘s number is up. But hey, he’s 22, he outlasted a lot of more experienced designers, and he turned out to be a pretty sweet guy after a rough start. Christopher kind of bonded with him over the bullying thing, and he’s glad the wall between them finally came down.

Next week:

The Rockettes. I’m not sure what they’re going to do with The Rockettes – probably just watch them before Heidi gives them the “design a stage costume” challenge – but they’ve been plugging it all season and it’s finally here. Does anyone care about the Rockettes any more? My father used to tell me they all had to have exactly the same measurements. I don’t know if that was ever true (he had a lot of strange ideas like a hatred of paperback books and brownstones). I’m surprised there hasn’t been a challenge to design something for her line of babywear since she’s never been shy about reaping the benefits of PR designers’ labors before.

Project Runway Season 10 Episode 8: Starving Artist

Zelda?

Zelda?

Note: no starving artists were harmed in the making of this episode. No starving artists were even seen in the making of this episode. But if these designers had to survive on their T-shirt design skills, most of them would starve.

We all knew Alicia was going home before the episode even started – we knew it last week when she was safe, right? Don’t get me wrong, I love Alicia, but she’s been underperforming all season.

The Fake Challenge on the Way To The Actual Challenge:

They all find Tim waiting in the workroom, surrounded by little vials of glitter. Elena hates glitter. Why does that not surprise me? I’m not sure whose hare-brained idea it was to have them make t-shirts (Tyra did it one season; Heidi, the rule is, “steal from the best”) and sell them on the street for Mood money, but Tim tells them they can also offer fashion advice or anything else. Anything. Besides the obvious (come on, your mind went there, too), people could hire Elena to put a hit on someone. And I know whole bunch of fat women who’d pay to be alone with Ven for fifteen minutes.

We all know Tim has Magic Fingers: he can tell which button is Gunnar’s and which is Christopher’s, so he can put them on the same team; and he can tell which button is Dmitry’s and which is Elena’s, so they can kill each other, too. Maybe they serrate the edges. Maybe they sand both sides. But you know the game is rigged.

Elena’s sales pitch: “We’re trying to sell these crappy t-shirts that we made in three hours.” Never underestimate what people will pay to be on TV, even for a tenth of a second. Dmitry: ” Her team raises the least money: $500, exactly, which sounds to me like the producers decided that would be the minimum amount and they’d pitch in if a team didn’t make it. In spite of Fabio’s bizarre metaphor that selling t-shirts on the street is like selling umbrellas in the desert (call the parasols, duh – or even better, “personal shade devices”), they end up with $800.48, who knows what they did to earn it. And Christopher, who started having fun towards the end, raked in $684. This is clear evidence that the economy is not as bad as the Republicans think.

The Actual Challenge:

You realize we haven’t heard the actual challenge yet, right?

They have to make two looks for Fall, one of which includes outerwear. Why didn’t they just start there?

Swatch sighting at Mood:

He’s got a green toy. And he’s so cute, he gets a specific goodbye from Tim. Though it seemed edited to me. That’s okay, I’ll take Swatch anyway I can get him.

The Workroom:

The Dream Team – (Ven, Fabio, Melissa):

Yes, I’m being sarcastic, but they really should be the Dream Team, they’ve all had successes so far. During planning, Melissa points out that Ven’s style is sophisticated, she does edgy, and Fabio does street; they just have to figure out how to combine it. Ven’s making another “fan” skirt very much like the skirt he made for the first episode, but Tim’s worried it doesn’t go with the rest of the collection, so he starts over and makes an Amish skirt like the one he made for the fifth episode except longer and frumpier and greyer.

The Soviet Menace etc. (Dmitry, Elena, Alicia):

Guess what? Elena is hard to work with, and controlling. Christopher calls them Boris and Natasha. Come on, Boris and Natasha were fun. They’re doing the ever popular “shades of gray,” with Elena on coat, Dmitry on dress, and Alicia on pants. No surprises there. Tim asks how they’re doing, and gets mumbles in reply. It’s like asking a guilty kid if he ate a cookie before dinner when he’s still got crumbs on his shirt. Dmitry horrifies Tim by mentioning exposed darts; Korto tried that on Season Five, and it didn’t really work then either. Tim says they look like buttresses, but it is, for sure, a point of view. Elena is a riff on the word “sporty” that makes no sense at all. Maybe it means something else in Russian. Christopher wishes he had a horse tranquilizer. Elena’s trying to hide Alicia’s pants and top under the coat she’s making. It might have been better for Alicia if she’d been successful.

Sonjia and the Boys (Christopher, Gunnar, Sonjia):

Tim warns them about overdesigning. Gunnar’s worried Sonjia’s jacket looks like Zelda. Zelda? Oh, wait; apparently there’s a more contemporary Zelda. My bad. The boys seem to be playing nicely together.

The Runway :

Anna Sui plays visiting psychologist. You’d think she was Dr. Drew instead of a designer; she never says a word about fashion, only about who worked too well together, who worked poorly together, and who was juuuuuuuust right.

Ven, Fabio, Melissa:

First Look:
Ven likes the movement of the skirt , but worries that it looks inexpensive. Still, he thinks it’s SoHo chic, and youthful. That skirt says 1950s college girl to me; you know, I have a biography of Sylvia Plath with a picture of her wearing that skirt on the cover. Or it’s for an old lady who’s given up trying. That would be me. It’s the kind of skirt I wear. Me or Sylvia Plath – bad sign. Melissa’s iffy on the hem of the shirt; it should lay flat. But she loves her jacket. Of course she does: it has the same gigantic stand-up collar. No one ever calls her out on it, but face it, she’s got as much an obsession with hyperbolic necklines as Ven does for roses and fans.
Second look:
Fabio made a mohair coat, worn with the pants Melissa drafted and Ven sewed, and a top by Melissa. I finally understand what the judges mean when they say something looks sad.
Nina like the white jacket, and that’s about it. Michael does his usual clever quip about something else fitting in the crotch that a girl doesn’t have; “I can see why you hit it with the clutch.” Fabio’s coat looks like it should have Kleenex in the pocket. What, young rich stylish women never have the sniffles? He wonders where Ven is in all this; “none of this looks like anything you’d ever touch.” That’s what happens when you take away Ven’s rose motif; he really doesn’t know how to do anything else. I’ve been on his side so far, as a designer if not as person, but yeah, the one-way monkey is exposed clearly now. Anna Sui thinks they got along too well and were too nice to each other; they needed to challenge each other more.
When asked whose garments are the weakest, no one will answer at first. But they always do in the end. Ven picks Fabio’s coat, Melissa picks Fabio’s top, and Fabio chooses by affinity: he’s closer to Melissa so, sorry, Ven. I love Fabio. I think he’d drive me nuts if I had to work with him, and I probably wouldn’t be able to follow any conversation with him, but I love him on the show.

Alicia, Dmitry, Elena :

First look: Dmitry loves his shawl, which makes me wonder about Dmitry. I like the dress, but not the darts.
Second look: Elena is horrified that the collar of the coat is falling in, and that the finishing in front is horrible. It’s horrible; not just the finishing. Alicia’s worried that they can’t see her work at all. She should be so lucky. Both of her shirts have thumb holes in the sleeves, which always reminds me of either a wedding dress or something on a kindergartener.
Elena is in full-brat mode during the crit: it wasn’t fair, Dmitry took over, the work wasn’t divided evenly, she had to split a look with Alicia, Dmitry got his own look. Seriously, does this woman deal with people in the real world? They hate her coat. Then they go looking for Alicia; Michael is falling asleep over her boring pieces, and Heidi calls them throwaways. Michael thinks the pants fit nicely, but there’s no detailing; the cut in the top doesn’t change the shape of it, so it’s “intellectual with no purpose.” I love that phrase. I can’t believe Michael Kors just said something approaching genius. Dmitry and Elena continue to fight, and Anna points out the conversation is reflected in the clothes: “When expressing yourself, joy and love must come through, not anger.” What is this, Zen designing? When asked who should go home, predictably Dmitry and Elena pointed at each other; surprisingly, Alicia picks Dmitry to go home since overall she respects Elena more as a designer. I guess that isn’t so surprising. But I don’t think it matters who Alicia picks at this point; as much as I like her and enjoy her quiet responsibility, she just hasn’t done much all season.

Christopher, Gunnar, Sonjia :

Sonjia is thrilled with her jacket on the runway; it is really nice, and Heidi is smiling. Christopher loves his coat; it doesn’t appeal to me, but I can appreciate that it’s stylish. Gunnar is happy to show his two dresses, something they haven’t seen from him before. I guess thumb holes in sleeves must be in style this season, since they’ve got them, too.
Everything goes over well. Everyone loves Sonjia’s jacket; Heidi hasn’t seen anything like it before, Nina finds it well-tailored. Michael loves the elevated and luxurious sportswear vibe of Gunnar’s dresses, and credits Christopher with the time and thought he put into the camel hair coat. Anna plays psychologist again and asks how they worked together. Gunnar says they did quite well, wandering off on their own to work then reconvening so their ideas threaded together and they all got to show off their points of view. Anna pats them on the back for doing teams “juuuuuust right.”
They’re the winning team (obviously). When asked who should be the winning designer, Christopher makes a surprise move and gives it to Gunnar for making two bad-ass dresses. I think Christopher is very smart; it doesn’t cost him anything to do that hand-off (it’s a drama question, not an actual criteria for their decision), and earns him a few brownie points. I’m impressed. The other two pick themselves, but humbly. Nice.

The Decision:

Sonjia wins. I’m glad for her; she deserves it.

It comes down to Fabio and Alicia, and of course Alicia’s out. I love the jumpsuit she’s wearing; Huckleberry Chic. If she’d made stuff like that, it would’ve been a different story.

Next Week:

Mondo! Yay, Mondo! And it’s fabric design time. Tim: “I see an homage to a menstrual cycle.” Then Pacman eats someone’s crotch. I can’t wait. No, really – I’ve been waiting all my life to watch Pacman eat someone’s crotch.

Project Runway Season 10: Episode 7 – Oh My Lord and Taylor

Fabio was my favorite thing on the runway

Fabio was my favorite thing on the runway

Today’s theme is: You got your commerce into my art – No, you got your art into my commerce –

I’ve long thought about the similarities between what I’ve seen on this show and what I know (at the lowest levels) of writing for publication. Probably the same goes for visual art, music, and just about every creative activity out there. People are drawn to these fields because they want to create, and have some degree of ability. They may be formally trained or largely self-taught (though there’s usually some degree of training, even if just hanging out watching an experienced practitioner). But everyone wants to do what starts out in the soul, not what some marketing director (or publisher or agent or record company or gallery owner) tells them will sell. And there’s usually a division between “popular” (or commercial, or ready-to-wear, or genre, or 1-4-5-1=chord-4/4=beat-top-40) and “artistic” (or literary, or haute, or classical, or fine art).

Some artists are lucky; they just happen to want to create what’s popular, and are good at it. Others are so talented, so visionary, they lead the critics into admiration of new ideas and the market into wanting what they come up with, leaving the old school shaking its collective head wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that?” But that’s very rare, and most artists find they must compromise between making a living (if they’re lucky, by teaching or otherwise working in their field) and bringing to life their unique visions of art.

The problem is this: Just about everyone thinks he or she is the next Mozart, Van Gogh, Alexander McQueen, David Foster Wallace. And just about nobody is. Even for those that are – it’s a small marketplace. Most people want poems that rhyme, books that are fun and easy to read, music they can hum, paintings that match the living room couch – and pretty dresses that remind them of some other pretty dress they once wore.

No wonder creative sorts are so tortured.

Especially designers on Project Runway. Throw sleep deprivation and a dozen people competing for one pot of gold into the mix, and you’ve got a human pressure cooker.

This week, we begin with Dmitry ironing his nipple. Christopher is sad that Nathan’s gone, but hopes he’ll have the apartment all to himself really soon. Sonjia: “Men design clothes they want women to wear, and women design clothes they want to wear.” Alicia: “One chiffonie at a time.” Ven: “Men are usually stronger designers while woman are a little more practical.” Because maybe he didn’t alienate the entire world last week; wouldn’t want to miss anyone.

The Challenge:

Heidi sends them to Lord & Taylor where Tim and L&T President Bonnie Brooks (is that her married name, or did her mother and father really name her that?) shows them the Project Runway Collection (thank you, TLo). Me, I’m distinctly underwhelmed. Chris, Jay, Bert (Bert? Really?), Nick, Mondo, what is wrong with you guys? On the other hand, congratulations Gordana and Korto. Seth and Uli, nice effort but not what I’d expect; more like what the L&T customer wants. This is art in the marketplace.

Here’s the metaquestion: why is the model so depressed? Is she a tortured artist too (I wanted to walk the runways of Paris in Dior and all I got was this stupid website gig for L&T)? Or is she just tired after changing into nine different dresses?

The winning look in this challenge will be added to the collection and assume its rightful place in the L&T flagship store, the online store, and the flagship window. The winning look must fit in the collection, and it must also hit a retail price of $200 to $300. There is no Mood; the fabric is supplied by the manufacturer and presumably priced so they can gauge cost, add production cost, and hit the mark. I have no idea how that’s done; does a sleeve cost X and a lined jacket Y? So much per seam? Per dart? I wish they’d explain it. I get that “simple” is cheaper, but I’d like more details.

Bonnie informs them the L&T customer is sophisticated and stylish, with good taste (do you suppose there’s a store that describes its customers as tacky and shlubby? Most litmags ask for “your best work” but there was one, I don’t remember which, that said something like, “Forget your best work; confuse us, scare us, show us something that we’ve never seen before.” That isn’t the case here. I think the designers would be happier if it were). She will be Guest Judge. I would imagine she has final say for the winner.

The designers hang around L&T and sketch, then go back to Parsons where the fabric awaits them. It’s the freakout challenge for Melissa, Sonjie, and Elena. Then again, every challenge is freakout challenge for Elena. Except last week. Maybe they should bring in a “real” woman for her to comfort, get her mind off herself. It’s hilarious when the runway show starts, and the same weepy crazy people are suddenly calm and collected in their voice-overs and love their looks. It’s as if in the ten minutes between Sonjia tearfully breaking down on Tim and her model walking down the runway, she’s had a good night’s sleep. Like, hmm, the voice-overs were filmed the next day. Or at least after the elimination was announced.

For me, one of the highlights of this season (besides Swatch sightings; no Mood, no Swatch) has become what Fabio is wearing on Runway Day. This time, it’s a floral hair wreath with pretty standard casual chic. What’s amazing to me is that he always looks so right. He’s damn interesting folk.

The Work: I should say at the start I hated a lot of the fabrics being used. Sometimes they looked like lightweight presumably fake leather; other times, like the “wet look” I so hated in the late 60s and early 70s. Or, in some extremely unfortunate cases, overpressed polyester. Doubleknit polyester. Another evil of the 60s. It might be they’re just shot through with metallic, and that’s creating the shine and stiffness. But I hated half of what walked down the runway just because of the fabric.

Hits:

Melissa struggles; she chooses a brocade because no one else is using it. Tim points out her fabric will show any mistakes, so darts and seams have to be perfect; she’s kind of stuck because she needs the stiffness of the brocade to pull off the design she’s chosen, but she decides to start over again then goes back to her original. Kind of like watching a car crash, says Gunnar. But on the runway she loves it. Michael loves the bronze; the neckline is surprising “and in the evening half of the battle is from the waist up.” I love that statement. The “battle”? Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the fashion industry, designers think of getting dressed as a battle. And if half the battle is from the waist up, that means half is from the waist down, so… half the battle is half the dress? And this is worthy of note? Yeah, I know, it was an off-the-cuff remark, but it was so banal and said with such earnestness and taken so seriously, I had to pounce on it. L&T loves that it’s strapless but not the asymmetrical hem, which, as Michael says, just needs a bell on the tip. Oooh, Michael, how you talk. There’s got to be some boning to that bodice, but she says it’s the heft of the fabric making it stand up. Here’s my thing: this dress takes a lot of trust. You have to trust there will be no wind. That you won’t drop anything and have to bend over to pick it up. You have to trust some smart-ass isn’t going to say, “Wow, what’s holding your dress up?” and pull it down to find out. This is a runway dress, not a retail dress. It’s dramatic (if you ignore the side boob), but like the sugar showpieces in pastry competitions, it’s not for actual consumption. Art without commerce. I’m going to assume she’s in the top because the art is so very striking.

Christopher does the math: in the existing collection, seven cocktail dresses and two gown, so he figures a gown gives him better odds. “It’ll be the best gown ever. I don’t know, I sound like a tool.” Actually, you sound like and adorable honey-pumpkin. But I’m a softie for a kid with a dream. Except… he’s using the shredding technique again on the “ballet pink” fabric of the bodice (I never knew “ballet pink” was an official color, like “sky blue” or “emerald green”). He gets some sneers from Gunnar, Elena and Alicia for re-using the shredding thing. I would think it’s more of a cost issue than a one-way-monkey thing for this particular challenge. He describes the process, which I appreciate: two pieces of fabrics are layered and sewn, opaque on transparent, and the opaque is cut and shredded. It’s really nice, but it’s not for mass-production. He knows it’s a risk to re-use the technique for the third time, but “if I win, I want to be known for this.” He loves it coming down the runway; it’s detailed, expensive, a showstopper. I’m not sure it’s all that, but I do like it. The judges love it, too; there’s some discussion of the bodice color washing people out, but they think it’ll work. They also hint he might want to knock off this shredding thing before it’s too late. L&T likes the lightness; she admits it wouldn’t sell “hundreds” of units – wow, that’s the scale we’re talking about? Hundreds? All this fuss for a few hundred dresses? – and Nina agrees it wouldn’t work on everyone, but it does bring something different to the collection. I’m surprised this was in the top; it’s pretty, but it doesn’t seem like extraordinary art and L&T doesn’t seem to think it’s a winner commercially.

Elena thinks the world is ganging up on her: She does Romulan fencing uniforms, not simple, classic, mass-production, “this flowy shit”: That is not what she does! Don’t they understand? The judges don’t understand her, don’t recognize her talent, her aesthetic! She’s an avant garde artist, she can’t edit that down to L&T level! I understand, Elena; you want to write a backwards second-person out-of-sequence story with shifting narrators and POVs and your agent wants the five-step plot arc with a love interest that could be played by Ryan Gossling if it makes it to Hollywood. Thing is, this is a contest, and it requires doing different things; that’s why they’re called challenges. Gunnar is very encouraging to her, it’s kind of sweet. Didn’t Gunnar used to be a jerk? Elena notices the girls aren’t doing so well. But as her model walks down the runway, Elena’s pleased though she’s not sure it’s right for the challenge. I think it looks like a butcher’s apron, but that’s probably mostly due to the fabric looking like leather. The pleats and gathers look stiff; her boobs are bouncing which was a fatal flaw at one point but doesn’t seem to matter now. I have a feeling there’s some ego-salving going on here, since Elena’s been whining all episode that the judges never notice her and don’t appreciate her aesthetic. Please, Tim Gunn, don’t lie to me any more about the judges not knowing what goes on in the workroom; between last week and this week, I don’t believe it. Maybe they’re afraid of having more designers quit. And while they could help matters greatly by allowing an extra day now and then for rest, that would cost money, and they don’t care about it that much, so phony runways will have to suffice. It’s ok, I’m putting away my tin foil hat now. But this dress is ugly, and unlike some of Elena’s work, it’s just ugly, not ugly-beautiful. Elena cries when she learns she’s in the top. Heidi thinks this is sellable; the harness makes it flirty and fun. Yeah, when I think flirty and fun, I think harness. Nina loves the back where the harness is more noticeable. L&T sees it as fun and edgy, for a very specific customer but that customer exists. Singular. Michael blathers about the conflict between art and commerce and credits her with a nice but nasty look. I’ll agree with half that. Nina too gives the pep talk about balance. Nonsense. This is the ugliest thing Elena’s made, the macaroni dress included. No wonder she’s in the top. It’s pure Art and they need to give her an ego boost.

Fabio latches onto Uli’s look with the back exposed zipper – because, that’s such a rare thing he’s never seen it before, sheesh. Tim questions the cost of production, but Fabio soldiers on. Gunnar wants to make him a dress when they get home. He says that sweetly, not snidely, but can’t Fabio make his own dresses? Fabio, too, notes the boys are calmer than the girls. He sends out a perfectly nice LBD. Art be damned, this is commerce, and great commerce. The symmetrical hem is nice. I like the sheer overlay. The back has an interesting starburst quality, but it’s still your basic LBD. Heidi thinks it’s versatile. Meaning it’s so bland it can be anything, like tofu. Michael often doubts asymmetrical hems but this one works, and he likes the backwards halter. The zipper he could do without, but it’s well cut and fitted. L&T would wear it; he followed the brief perfectly. Nina likes it for work (here we go again; only a NY Fashion Magazine Editor would look at this and think: work dress) or a party; it’s got “lots of legs.”

Empty space:

Sonjia starts off nervous since she was in the bottom last week, and goes downhill from there. Tim tells her, “If you’re trying to channel those judges, you’re going to work yourself into a psychotic breakdown.” As Tim announces the ten-minute warning, she makes good on that; the dress is too tight on her model. I have no idea how she and Elena finally got it on the model; it wasn’t going anywhere. Tim thinks it all looks good once it’s on its way to the runway, so he doesn’t understand her distress; seems she hand-sewed the zipper and the hem isn’t done. A hand-sewn zipper? Hey, at least she knows how to sew a zipper. Tim tells her to fake it on the runway: “Channel your inner winner.” Tim should start a line of greeting cards. But she’s happy when she sees it on the runway; it’s exactly the silhouette she wanted, though she can see all the imperfections. Still, she’s worried, and so she’s delighted to find she’s safe. I’m not a fan of the contrasting peplum, but I think in a different fabric I might like this; in that wet leather crap, again it looks stiff.

Dmitry explains to us that they’re not designing for one client, but for the whole United States. That’s right, from the redwood forests to the gulfstream isl… you get the idea. He does a simple, sleek silhouette, which means it’s harder to hide mistakes. Gunnar likes it enough to worry about his competition. I like it, too. This could be the week… Or not. I love it; the fabric isn’t my favorite, though this time it looks like metal flecks instead of wet leather which is at least a step in the right direction. Still, the design is pretty; I’m particularly taken with the tiny belt in the front. I’m thinking he got caught in the teeth of production costs. Still, gotta say it: Dmitry wuz robbed. Backstage, he thinks so, too.

Ven has worked with factories one-on-one and knows all about pricing, which is why he prices himself right out of the competition with another rose motif carved into the chest of his model. Christopher thinks a thirteen-year-old might wear it for Christmas. What kind of thirteen-year-olds has Christopher been hanging out with? It’s a nice dress, completely ordinary except for the rose element, which I love (sorry, I do) but of course it can’t be mass-produced in a Chinese sweatshop. Brilliant, Ven. Sadly, Ven’s use of the leatherish fabric is the only one that works for me; he used it to carve out his rose, making good use of the stiffness, then made the skirt of the other flecked-metallic. It’s nowhere near Ven’s best work (and as much as he disgusted me last week, I still admire his clothes), but it’s not bad. I wish I could hear L&T ‘s honest reaction to it: as in, “How does he expect us to make that bodice?” And it’s the only element of interest to the dress. Mr. One-Way-Monkey. Art is not memorizing one brushstroke and putting it on every canvas. That’s Bob Ross territory. Entertaining as hell, and very sweet, but not art.

Misses:

Alicia goes for a vintage Chanel look, which is interesting; a tomboy who likes Chanel? Tim thinks it’s a little Joan of Arc, a little Armor. Christian won with Joan of Arc, IIRC, and Jillian did a damn fine job with fifteenth century armor. That was then, this is now, and now is L&T and L&T don’t do Joan of Arc or armor. But Alicia loves the comparison, and doesn’t care that the judges are going to hate it; it’s better than a princess dress. Not so much, love. I think the collar would work better in a crisper fabric, maybe with interfacing or boning. It’s kind of a meh dress – the pleats don’t bother me, and yeah, I get the Chanel vibe – but the fabric turns it into a horror. Alicia’s excited about it, even with the mismatching halves in the back. She tells the judges she doesn’t do feminine or girly. Heidi thinks the dress is pretty (really? Maybe the fabric looks different in person) but doesn’t like what she just said about not doing feminine: “Don’t you guys think you can do anything and put your twist to it?” She wants the neckline dropped a little lower to give it some sexiness. L&T thinks it’s lost somewhere between the office and cocktail hour. Nina says the collar and dropped waist are too mature so it’s dowdy. Michael calls it a field hockey uniform. I see what he means, the johnny collar. A pleather uniform.

Gunnar likes this challenge; he understands L&T. Of course he does, his self-described target client is the older Southern woman. Elena’s jealous of the challenges breaking in his direction. He likes his fabric so much it hurts. Easy there, Gunnar. Tim loves the dress just walking up to the mannekin. Gunnar asks for reassurance that it’s not “an old casino dress;” I’m not sure what that is, but it seems he’s concerned about going gaudy and matador–y if he covers the whole dress in the sequined lacy fabric. Tim asks, “What does your gut say?” Oh, for heaven’s sake, Tim, what do you think his gut says? His gut says sequin the shit out of that sucker and add flashing lights and glitter pom-poms. Tim agrees. With covering the whole dress in sequin lace, not the lights and pom-poms. On the runway, he loves the chic, tasteful look; she could walk into any cocktail party. Who are these people who go to so many cocktail parties they need an endless supply of cocktail dresses made by aspiring designers? I hate the lace – too shiny – but the overall design is nice. Nina is bored with another sequined dress, even one as beautifully done as this. Michael scolds him for using the oldest trick in the evening dress book, sheer over dark. Wait – didn’t Fabio do the same thing and land in the top? L&T finds the lace stiff and lacking fluidity. Gunnar politely appreciates their feedback; backstage he admits he’s mad he’s in the bottom. See, now that’s how it should work.

Results

Christopher wins. His gown – in polyester! – is on the L&T website. All that shredding he wants to be known for? I could be wrong (anyone in the know, please correct me) but it looks like they turned that into simple stitch-pleating. Enjoying your fame, Christopher? This is what happens when art meets commerce; commerce wins every time.

So we have Gunnar and Alicia in the bottom. You know they aren’t going to send Gunnar home, especially when a couple of judges called his dress beautiful. But… Alicia is in, and she must feel really good when she goes back to the lounge and everyone’s shocked to see she survived. Does that mean… but…wait…. remember Kooan? Aw, who could forget never-replaced Kooan. Still making his presence felt, because Gunnar is in, too. The judges felt everyone met the bar of this challenge so they are all staying in.

And, oh yeah, because next week they need three teams of three to go begging on the street for fabric, causing Dmitry to ask plaintively, “What did I ever do to deserve this?”