Sunday, October 4, 2015

Project Runway Season 14, Episode 9: Just (Not) Fab

Greetings, Project Runway fans!

This week featured yet another sponsor-focused challenge. I think we're up to 80% sponsor-focused challenges this season. This one made some sense as the winning look would be featured on the site and available for purchase.

Now, usually when it comes to these sorts of challenges, I like to provide a link so that you and go see it and, perhaps purchase it. Usually, though, by the time blogs like mine are posted, the site is long sold out.

I'm not going to do it this time because when it comes to JustFab, I'm not a fan.

JustFab is part of a new trend in online commerce known as subscription commerce. In order to get the 20% discount, they ask users to sign up for a MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION. According to JustFab, about 45% of their subscribers buy something each month. What they don't say is that 100% of their subscribers pay to use the site each month. Oh, and about that monthly subscription....
You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave....
Before you can start perusing the site, you must first answer a few questions about your personal style so they can program their algorithms to custom pick what you should see.
JustFab's algorithm steers its customers to exactly what they want to buy.
I've never been past the JustFab homepage because I refuse to take the silly "personal style survey." If I just want to see your selection of black pumps in 8 1/2, why do you need to know my "personal style?" Let ME figure that out.

Before I dive into the episode, my favorite part was this AWESOME 1980's throwback....
 Twenty minutes into the future....

The brief couldn't have been any clearer.
It says so, right in the caption.
And in case you didn't get it, let Ashley explain.
"We're making something for the website that supplied us with the crappy shoes and accessories that we're using this season. It has to be easy to reproduce out of cheap materials so that people will still buy it with a 150% mark-up and there will still be enough to pull a profit."
Let's break this down for a minute. The designers are making something for JustFab to sell.  So maybe the key to winning this challenge is to make the final product as simple as possible. Keep that in mind when you're looking at the runway.
"Ahem. You forgot to mention the five design personas that were developed using sophisticated algorithmic analysis of our customers. Of course, having never taken our survey, you have no idea which persona you are, do you?"
It's like you know me.
"Listen, Suzq, you're not going to find 'aging mother of two and part time fashion-blogger' on the board. The very least you could do is rally around theme of this challenge."
By the way, maybe Ms. Mao should shop for a new pair of jeans on JustFab. The ones she's wearing are looking a little worse for the wear...but I digress...

Candice, who won the last challenge and had immunity this week, got to pick the personas for each designer. At this point, let's give the personas a rest. They didn't really factor into the outcome of the challenge, despite how much each designer ruminated over them.

Once again, this week, the designers shopped at Mood for just 30 minutes, but only with $100. 
"Where's the cheap fabric?"
They made better choices. For the most part...
"In Mumbai, our 'bombshells' wear animal print."
There was also a "twist." Each designer was to come up with a brand and a logo in order to "pitch" their design to Yuchin Mao. In the end, that twist was pretty meaningless because each look rose and fell on its own merits. It's only purpose, I think, was to show the designers wearing silly tee-shirts. Strong branding wasn't as important as a clear tie the outfit to one of the design personas. Because algorithms.

The guest judge this week was singer, actress and model, Ciara. Well, actually, Ciara Princess Harris. Most models start off in modelling and branch off into other things. Ciara started off as a singer, actress and then signed a modelling contract in 2009. She attempted, unsuccessfully, to launch a fashion line. That's a very interesting perspective to have as a judge. It would have been nice to hear some of that come out in the judging, but this was another lackluster runway, overall.

So let's begin!


Let's start here since we just saw his fabric choice. Swapnil had big plans for his bombshell dress.

It looks like he intended to do some banding around the waist and binding (at least I think it's binding...) in the back along with a sleeveless jacket.
She's not carrying a tall, kitchen garbage bag. It's a "sleeveless jacket" otherwise known as a "vest."
Swapnil had "zipper issues" so he slapped some sort of shiny panel on the model's rear end. The hem puddles awkwardly and wasn't finished. On the plus side, the strapping in the back enhances the fit while adding visual interest. The "sleeveless jacket" on the other hand, was a horrible, cocoon-like mess.


1987 is one the phone and wants its fabric back!

Ashley had "girl next door" and nailed the concept but fell short on the total look. I think we can safely say that we all want that jacket and we want it RIGHT NOW. What I don't want is to see that skirt EVER AGAIN. Every week, it's some variation on a gathered skirt. I'm over it.

The judges were a little divided over the crop top.
"What kind of woman wears a crop top like that?"
"According to our algorithms, approximately 38% of our customers would love this crop top."

Two words need never be uttered ever again on Project Runway or anywhere else for that matter.
"Removable Peplum."
If a peplum is removable, for the sake of everything we hold dear...remove it! First of all, it's not exactly a peplum at all. A peplum is attached to the top, not to the bottom. This is a...skirt ruffle? And it's competing for attention with a lapel scarf. The lapel scarf was an interesting idea. Too bad it competed with a bare midriff and the removable "peplum". Candice is an amazing designer but the details she obsesses over are sometimes puzzling. 


Leave it to the guy who's watched every episode of Project Runway to understand how to handle a challenge where the prize is a garment to be sold on a website.

It's tight, sexy, and easy to produce. The back is latticed like the front, but because a sexy look requires the model to wear her hair down, we can't see it. Just as was rather sloppy. But no matter. This thing has dollar signs all over it. It's practically begging to be produced in some Chinese factory.


She had some good ideas going on here. I like them all. One thing these all have in common is a consistent skirt length. Keeping the hemline straight allows the eye to travel to the layering and folding.

But once Merline got started, she became carried away.  The asymmetrical hem was one detail too much. This would be a difficult dress for most women to wear. The length is awkward and the peplum wings out at the hip. It's a bad silhouette. Furthermore, all of this fussy piece work took time away from refining the fit and finish. It was a mess.


What is it with Laurie and boobs? 
"The model was supposed to wear a backless bra."
"There's such a thing as a 'backless bra?'"
But besides that....there's absolutely nothing to this outfit. The top is one of those DIY scarf blouses that you see on YouTube videos. The skirt is completely standard.  


Kelly had "trendsetter." A trendsetter stays one step ahead of the fashion.The look Kelly produced was two steps behind with an eclectic mix. "Eclectic Mix" was not one of the design personas on the list. It's not a bad look, overall, but it looks more like something that belongs on JustFabeletics, which is Kate Hudson's athletics line on JustFab, than it does on the parent site.  

"I seriously can't even with the muppet vest"
So where does that leave us?

"I'm want me to pick from these looks for my website? Are you serious?"
After much debate amongst the judges, the result was very clear. While Ashley's jacket would have been popular, Edmond's piece was most easily produced look. The loser was harder to pick. It boiled down to Merline, who took a bold risk in a challenge to make saleable clothing vs. Laurie who couldn't even design a too simple ready-to-wear outfit.

So Laurie is out. Edmond doesn't have immunity next week, despite his third win. And next week, Tim Gunn loses his cool!

Let's see what happens then! Until next week, join us in our weekly group therapy session in the Blogging Project Runway chatroom!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Project Runway: Season 14, Episode 8: Peter Panned!

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!!!!!

Everyone is familiar with Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie's story of the boy who never grew up. For the past 30 years, Broadway and Hollywood have taken turns telling the story behind the story of how Barrie came to write the classic.First it was a play in 1998. Then, in 2004, it became a movie. In 2012, it became a Broadway musical.

So what's the connection to Heidi Klum?

"I went to see 'Finding Neverland' with my kids!"

And in her spare time, shot a few promotional pictures.  Right....

The 2004 movie was released by Miramax, then owned by Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Sound familiar? Harvey Weinstein is the husband of designer, Georgina Chapman (Marchesa), frequently featured as a judge on Project Runway All-Stars. Harvey Weinstein produced Finding Neverland, The Musical. Harvey Weinstein produces Project Runway, too!

That's Harvey at Fashion Week.

So that's the complete connection from Broadway show to Runway show.  Toss in the promotion of the new prequel movie to Peter Pan, "Pan" (not produced by Weinstein) and you've got another cross-promotional episode.

Let's recap all this commerce, shall we?

Notice anything?

Ralphie knows!

Bills gotta get paid somehow and these cross promotions pay them, I guess. In a season chock full of promotions, however, what was the benefit from featuring a show that's been open on Broadway for half the year already?

"I swear I was inspired by it."

But the most exciting development this week was that THE DESIGNERS RETURNED TO MOOD!!!!!

"What took you so long?"

And it didn't help at all.

"Designers, this is what we call a 'fabric store.' You are free to remove the bolts from the shelves but you must ask an employee to cut the fabric for you."

Seriously, you keep them out of Mood all season long and expect them to find something in 30 minutes?

"Look at all these fabrics..."

"Fabrics, fabrics, fabrics..."

Confirming once and for all, whether producer-culled or designer-selected, the issues remain the same....

"Do I want this fabric?"
"Maybe I want this fabric."
"Or maybe these..."
"Oh no....this! This!"
"Nah...I'll just get this."
"Excuse me...does anyone know where the most expensive fabric in the store is?"
"Is this it? Right here?"

"I'll take exactly one yard."

And then...there's the allure of the ombré....

Even the Mood guy in the Pharrell hat isn't so sure about that ombré. In fact, he's ready to make a break for it just in case she changes her mind.

She could have asked Edmond, who watched every episode of Project Runway, and he would have told her that sometimes, ombré goes horribly wrong.

April Johnston's inky "bride of Frankenstein" dress...

Karen Batts' Glamping Challenge dress from Season 12. Zac said it looked like "runny eggs."

Still, it really was nice to see the designers back at Mood, making bad choices.

"Don't be strangers, ok?"

The judges....

Usually, I have a bunch of things to say about the guest judge. This week, it was the fabulous Coco Rocha, whom Heidi kept calling "Coo-coo!" Hmm... Twice during the episode, Heidi leaned over and asked, "And what do you think, Coo-coo?" Thing is, Coco's thoughts weren't that interesting.

Her strengths lie in the analysis of the modeling profession--how models are influenced, pressured and used. She is a dancer and understands movement. She is a chameleon--able to change her hair, face, and approach for whatever the campaign requires. To that end, her talents as a judge are much better suited to "America's Next Top Model" where she is frequently a judge, than she is to Runway. I don't think she spends a lot of time thinking about how clothes are constructed. 

Swapnil Shinde

This challenge, Swapnil decided to pull out all the stops. He was inspired by J.M. Barrie's Scottish heritage, which prompted him to go for some tartan.

Instead, he got a Glen plaid.

Technically, this isn't what we would think of as a Scottish tartan. It's certainly not associated with a Scottish clan. According to Wikipedia, the name came from a New Zealand-born, Scottish Countess. The then Duke of Windsor made it popular in the late 1920's. 

This outfit was safe, much to Swapnil's surprise. He must not have seen the other looks. A tartan would have made the look more dynamic.  As it was, the Glen plaid blended into grey. The contrast of hard and soft textures was interesting but the straight-line hem on the top overlay abruptly cut the piece in half. It wrecked any potential whimsey the garment could have had.  Swapnil has the goods. He sews quickly and skillfully and he has imaginative ideas. What he lacks, challenge after challenge, is attention to detail. At one point, Zac implied that Lindsey could benefit from some of Swapnil's imagination. I think Swapnil could similarly benefit from a dash of Joseph Charles Poli's attention to detail. 


Merline chose spectacular beaded fabric for the dress and proceeded to drape something that looked like a Belle Epoch gown--very appropo for the musical, which was set in that era. Still, she sought to give it that "Merline Edge." The edgy boned sleeves were lopsided and messy and unfortunately dropped her into the safe zone.  While this was a beautiful dress, it was all about the fabric.  Had those sleeves been better engineered, it could have contended for the win. Merline's instincts were strong, but her execution was just a bit off.


Kelly had immunity this week and wisely chose that to showcase a more glamorous look. Again, fabric choice totally carried the day. The judges responded well, but I thought the fabric bordered on tacky. Sequined lace is exactly the sort of fabric I walk past at the fabric store. I also thought her black dress was poorly constructed. Heidi noticed right away that the seam was in the front.


Zac said the jacket looked like a muppet. Nina said the outfit needed the drama. After all, it was a challenge inspired by a Peter Pan musical, right? The top underneath the muppet jacket featured some appropriately theatrical.


Candice spent the first part of the episode outing her parents. 

"They were drug addicts."


Her goal with the outfit was to create something beautiful out of something horrible and evil. She certainly succeeded. And in an alternate rendition of Peter Pan, this would be the outfit if someone were to cast Captain Hook as a female character. Shiver me timbers! Extra points for the leggings from the wenches in the chatroom..

By the way...Sally Beauty, the chatroom is NOT impressed with your technique of making little braids to frizz out the model's hair. We look to you for innovative techniques, not the low-rent stuff we used to do in high school. 


Someone once told me never to love something that can't love you back. So when Ashley started lovingly caressing the fabric, I saw the trouble coming. She draped it, pinned it, ruched it,  and plaited it. Maybe she was trying to do too much. Tim worried about whether it could be tamed at the sewing machine. 

Nina said it was a "clichéd use of ombré." I actually think she meant to say it was a clichéd use of chiffon because just about every other bridesmaid or prom dress has this sort of ruching technique. 

I was intrigued with the attempt to meld a waist-gathered skirt with a horizontally ruched skirt. Unfortunately, the time she spent layering the dress on the dress form was time she couldn't sew and Ashley ran out of time to resolve all of the issues with the dress. She overlayered the bodice and it was too puffy. The gathers in the ruching were poorly stitched and came loose on the runway. The closure was hastily done.  It just wasn't her best work.


Challenge after challenge, Laurie has been churning out multiple garments to varying levels of taste. She, too, fell under the spell of some very fancy fabric.  Unfortunately, the fabric she purchased was not wide enough to cover the model's chest and Laurie failed to get any fabric to line the open material.

The model covered up with pasties and a strategy of never taking off the jacket. But that's not the problem here. The problem is one of proportions. Laurie seems enamoured with her drapey skort. This is the third time she's made one. She never seems to be able to make it long enough to cover the model's butt.  Thing is, why pair a short, puffy skort with a short, puffy jacket? Laurie was trying to evoke Tinkerbell's wings. She ended up with something that looked like a draped potato.  

The jacket isn't bad. It would have been better paired with Edmond's top and pants. And the top isn't a bad idea, either. I loved the circular fabric. It just needed a lining--even a shear lining would have helped with the fit and look. The skort? I'm not exactly a fan.


Lindsey's strategy for this challenge was to concentrate on a simple dress.

Simple dresses, however, have to be impeccably executed. The high top/low back bodice is very on trend. And we already know that the high front/low back skirt is all the rage. What kept Laurie from being safe this week was her attention to detail. 

Nina and Heidi complained about the high neck. With dresses like this that you see in the store, the neckline is finished close to the neck. This is just a square of fabric folded over and attached to the straps. It bunches awkwardly in the front and blouses out on the sides where the model probably gets no coverage.

I'm not sure what the point of the rear slit was. The skirt didn't need it. What I suspect was that the fabric was two narrow and she decided to piece it for the back. To avoid an obvious seam, she created a slit. Because I can't imagine that slit was intentional.

But the worst thing was the uneven hem. It's longer on the right than on the left. The front of the skirt is obviously tacked (and with this fabric, any bad seaming and tacking is obvious). 

It certainly wasn't the worst thing Lindsey did. It wasn't the worst outfit this season. But for this challenge, executing a simple dress poorly would not help her out of her tailspin.

And Lindsey is out.

Tim has hinted that this season was his least favorite. Usually, when asked, he says the designers this year just haven't lived up to their potential. But recently, he added that some inconsistent judging hasn't helped the situation! Next week, Lifetime hints that tempers fly from both Tim and Zac. Also, next week, I get to meet Tim in person!

I'll be in the fashion show part of a presentation at the National Archives on the Prohibition Era.  Tim Gunn is on the panel. You can watch the entire presentation on the National Archives live stream.  I'll be modelling a vintage piece from my own collection. Since I am not Coco Rocha, I just hope I don't slip, fall and make a total fool of myself!

Join us in the Blogging Project Runway next week at 9 pm, EDT. See you next week in the blog!