Friday, October 24, 2014

Project Runway, Season 13: Decoy Collections: Emily Payne

Greetings, Project Runway fans!

Whew!  All this design blogging is exhausting.  In this edition, we are examining the decoy collection of Emily Payne, a designer that ran under the radar screen for longer than I would have predicted.  She was known for her edgy aesthetic.

And for her super awesome, Ewok hoodie!

As best as I can tell, there were no hoodies in this runway show, only edgy looks.

The show had a definite street vibe, all the way down to the shoes. I think the hair styling is a bit too spare and tight, however.  These pants are very wearable but the mini peplum in the top is too fussy and unnecessary, given everything else that is going on.

The wings on the collar of the outfit are stunning. Unfortunately, the rest of the seaming is not. The skirt is a horrible afterthought. I think the fabric choice and lack of execution time got the better of her idea here. I would have loved to see more pieces with a similar sculptural detail. Perhaps if she could spend more time on something like that, she might be able to come up with some memorable, signature looks. As it is, it looks like it belongs in another collection entirely.

The show featured two versions of this dress.  It makes everyone look pregnant and the fabric is incongruous with the rest of the collection. The jacket is interesting, but it doesn't elevate the dress and the dress doesn't accent the jacket.

This is where Emily loses me completely. A gathered "paper bag" waistline? Did you run out of time or did you mean to do this? Also, I'd kill the shiny fabric with fire. Did you really need to use shiny fabric for the final portion of a 10-look show that started off so street-edgy?

I'm sure when she sat back to watch this season on the TV, Emily said, "Whew! I guess it's a good thing I didn't make it to the final show because Nina would have skewered me for the sheer dress!" Not the most flattering sheer dress/shown underwear combination I've ever seen. The jacket, again, is way too fussy for everything that's going on in this outfit.

You can see her entire runway show on Blogging Project Runway. It appears that Emily has been wrapped up in her Project Runway experience and hasn't updated her blog or her DevonRose Etsy shop. Those are places to start if you like her designs or just want a super awesome Ewok hoodie for yourself. Winter's coming, after all!

Project Runway, Season 13, Decoy Collections: Sandhya Garg

Greetings, Project Runway fans!

As we plow our way to the finale, let's stop and take a look at the decoy collections that also showed at Fashion Week.  Up next is Sandhya Garg, a rather divisive contestant this season.

She was capable of great brilliance.

Sometimes, fun and playful.

But most of the time, quite puzzling.

There was always a story and a message. That was Sandhya's style. On the runway, the message sort of got lost, but now with sufficient time, we could see the design thought behind every piece.

Her first look was strong and elegant. "FEARLESS" is sewn in using shiny fabric in the same color. Each model's lip color reflects back on the color of the outfit. That sort of styling is a bit creepy, but designers use that sort of thing all the time to reinforce their color story.

Her show had the widest range of looks of any of the shows.  With just ten looks, cohesion becomes a problem if you're trying to show design range.

Still, these were some of the most visually arresting pieces in the entire Project Runway group of shows. It's rather sad that her competition pieces were so wildly inconsistent. 

 "LOVE" and "EXPLOSION" become an intricate print underneath an example of the intricate piecing that Sandhya loved to do in competition.

Perhaps this was the filmstrip dress she wished she could have made, had there been enough filmstrips in competition.

Every piece was a show stopper, but it looked as though she had three or four shows going on up there. Still, if you like what you see, visit her website.  There, you can see each look from Fashion week in detail, order a version for yourself, if you wish, or order something else.  She designs clothing and shoes and you may find her price points pretty reasonable (compared to other designers.)  THIS IS PROBABLY GOING TO BE FOR A LIMITED TIME, SO ACT NOW!

I also note that in past years, all runway collections were property of Project Runway.  I'm not sure what the current contract is, I'm only noting that after doing a handful of these, just about every designer website is featuring the runway looks and many of them allow you to order them custom-made.  I know of other past designers who do the same with their decoy and competition looks. So either that contract isn't air tight, there's an expiration clause, or it's not well enforced.

Which is good news, because, after all, these designers don't get paid.  If they get some recognition from Project Runway, they should be able to capitalize on it.  One more to go before the finales!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Project Runway Season 13, Korina Emmerich, Decoy Collection

Greetings, Project Runway fans!

We are now on our third decoy designer, Korina Emmerich. Her elimination seemed surprising to many viewers, but I suspect that if you asked the judges, the runoff she had with Charkeeta Glover would seem rather indicative of how they addressed her contribution this season.

Like Char, Korina seemed hamstrung by her personal style. As a Native American, she often wore her culture on her sleeve. But as a designer, she drew a less literal inspiration from that culture. Case in point was her design for the American Girl challenge.

The doll she was assigned was Mexican-American and one could argue that Mexican ethnicity is native American. She could have gone more literal with the cultural affectations we associate with native Mexican fashion: ruffles, bright colors, flouncy skirts, embroidered flowers, etc... Instead, she went with a more modern, updated design that honed in on the doll's backstory: a girl who kept a secret box of objects that reminded her of her mother.  In this way, Korina tapped into some very personal feelings and emotions in this design, while at the same time updating it for a modern girl.

But I think that complex point of view confused the judges.  From her as a person, they saw her culture.  From her as a designer, they saw someone who could make an incredible leather jacket.  Nina spent three challenges telling her that they didn't see her point of view.  Finally, when she did start to show it, the judges were more receptive...until they weren't.  I refuse to dwell on that grasping critique of her last challenge.  That was not the judges' final and most articulate hour.  I believe, if we are to give her runway show the critique it deserves, we have to step off from the above challenge, which I think expressed Korina's true designer sensibilities.  

Leather dominated the collection, as did jackets and pants.  This was a sportswear collection separates.

Her jackets feature clever detailing in the sleeves and pockets.

This outfit has one of my favorite quick and easy dress-up options: a tunic and pencil skirt.  If I had to quibble it would be that the sleeves are just a little too long and wide.

The color blocking and piecing are very smart and of the moment.

Thing is, with so much leather and suit after suit, the collection becomes kind of monotonous after a few looks.

The idea of this piece is more interesting than the execution.  The shirt is made from strips of material that are woven at the chest area.  How do you get through the day (or night) without snagging everything you walk past?

There was no dramatic arc. No "show" aspect. Could this have won? I think the judges would have had some strong things to say about her range, variety and dramatic impact. Some of the looks were awkward on the models. Still, I think it's very clear after this show how strongly she feels about her design vision.

There's no doubt that Korina has the technical skills to produce some high quality outfits. I'm sure her designs will be quite marketable and she has a bright future. Her website isn't equipped to sell pieces just yet, but that's certainly the goal.  You can visit her website to find out more about her collections (and see details of the looks) and you can see her entire Fashion Week runway collection at Blogging Project Runway.

Next up, Emily!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Project Runway, Season 13, The Decoy Collections: Alexander Knox

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

Alexander Knox is another of Season 13's Decoy Designers. These are the designers who show at Fashion Week so that the show attendees do not know who the finalists are among the designers still competing.

Knox is from Chicago, Illinois. He is currently studying at Columbia College. Since he's still a student, it was always a long shot that he'd make it to the finals. Still, he made it pretty far in the competition, which shows he has some real talent. His runway show featured very streamlined and simple designs in black, white and grey.

His show was low-key with a spare silhouette.

He plays around with informal, easy, cropped pants. He also showed a lot of bare midriffs in a variety of styles. 

The collection didn't feature anything complex like jackets or sleeves.  

The fabric choices and treatments were interesting. 

This runway show wasn't going to set the world on fire. It's too bad he can't repurpose this show as a senior project in design school! Maybe he negotiated for extra credit. I'd love to see that senior project down the road to see how much progress he makes after being on the show.

A visit to his web page shows he's interested in menswear, which would be an interesting route for him to take. With some experience and more technical skills, the future certainly looks bright. Visit his page here and you can see his entire runway show at Blogging Project Runway.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Project Runway Season 13 Decoy Collections - fade zu grau

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

As you know, having slogged through thirteen seasons of Project Runway, finalists get to show their collections at Fashion Week.  Trouble is, they've never been able to time the last show of the season with Fashion Week and still be able to give designers enough time to produce a full, ten-look runway show.

So this leaves us with extra designers, better known as "decoy designers" so that the Fashion Week attendees don't know who had left the competition.  fäde su grau was still on the show when people attended the runway show.  

fäde zu grau is originally from Germany and currently lives in Coral Gables, Florida.  His name appears to be play on words "fade to grey" in German, although there is no umlaut in the German "fade."  He's a well-studied and experienced graphic artist who has also made forays into interior design and furniture design.

fäde graced us all season with his cheeky t-shirts.

One of my favorite looks from this season was the lovely dress that fäde made for the Heidi Goes to the Schmemmys challenge.

So you know he can go glamourous if he wants to.

He didn't want to.  At this point, he knew he was no longer in contention so, what the heck.  Just put out what you want people to see.  Play to your strengths.

Here's a sample of the show:

A subtle commentary on his experience? No, actually, it's one of his catch phrases.

I'm always looking for a new turn on the old suit. This is fantastic.

Love the shorts. The shirt is another one of his catch phrases.

The top is pieced together in an intricate pattern. The colors are rich and fantastic. It's a lovely work of art.

The jacket is lovely.The shorts and boots work well together.
He presented comfortable clothes with an edge. There was nothing fussy or too dressy. It was squarely in fäde's wheelhouse.

You can see the whole collection on Blogging Project Runway.

You can also visit fäde su grau's website to look at more of his designs.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Project Runway, Season 13, Runway Finale Part 1: vini, vidi, vesti.

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

We're in the home stretch and this week, we're smelling the jet fuel.  The final four designers set off for Rome, Italy. What should have been a highlight of the season turned into an afterthought that was tacked on to an already action-packed episode.

Time for a cat nap!
So our four designers, plus a few decoys, as it turns out, got to go to Rome, Italy for some inspiration and a fabric shopping spree.

The tour was practically drive by.

"And on your left is the coliseum..."
Well, perhaps I'm exaggerating a bit.  Tim Gunn was giving a walking, guided tour to some of the highlights of the city.

After his Project Runway stint is over, Tim should look into running a travel tour operation. He's a font of knowledge about art and history.
It reminded me of my first trip to Rome when two sets of cousins took me on two sets of tours of Rome. Any Roman worth his sal knows the top sites: the Coliseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, the Vatican...and they hit all of them. A visitor really needs time to explore the soul of the city, however. There are wonderful markets, shops...every church seems to have a hidden gem of art or architecture. Every neighborhood has it's own flavor. One afternoon, my cousins lead the way on a brisk march through the streets of Rome from their apartment near the Vatican to the Coliseum. They were arguing the entire time. It was hilarious. They're both athletes and I wanted to slow them down because we were walking down some back streets near the fashion district. We sped past the workshops of fledgling designers. A shoe maker studio on one side.  Ateliers on the other. The garage doors were open and the views inside was tantalizing. Someday, I'll return and see Rome on my terms, without speeding relatives. I hope the designers get to do the same.

By the way, Lifetime has some extras from the Rome visit that you might want to see. 

The designers paid a visit to Salvatore Ferragamo.
Char said it best: "Italians do a lot with a little." She went on to describe the little plates of food at dinner and the little cups of espresso. It's so true. Good Italian food, like good Italian fashion and how they live in general is all about balancing the little flavors, colors, shapes and activities that make up life.

And speaking of Char.  I've got a theory.

 Tim "went there" in Italy, OVER DINNER. Gee, Tim, that's so American of you, to talk about uncomfortable topics at dinner. Italians save that talk for after dinner, over shots of grappa.

"How does it feel to be the ONLY FINALIST IN PROJECT RUNWAY HISTORY not to win a challenge?"

I would have spit out my pasta.

Later, Char turned the tables asked Tim why he gave her the save.  

"Your voice needs to be heard," Tim replied.

So here's my theory.

Season after season, Project Runway had been criticized for booting off designers of color. 
"Wait...I was the winner of Season 12. Remember?"
No, Dom. After 12-13 seasons, no one remembers. I'm convinced the judges and producers also forgot. Anyway, does one African-American winner make up for so many others being passed over?  The topic is hot. Observers are questioning whether the fashion industry was writing off people of color. Last year, a major designer showed his collection with all white models. And where are the African-American high fashion designers? I mean, not even Kanye West can catch a break!

So, no, one win by Dom Streater doesn't set this whole thing right. Just like one African-American guy in the White House can't undo centuries of racism in this country. It's not that simple. 

Enter the Tim Gunn Save. In his heartfelt desire to make sure that Charketa Glover's voice got to be heard, did he really do her any favors? To catapult her to the finals only to have her hopes dashed? Cast her on the pile with Korto Momolu and Emilo Sosa. Only thing... Momolu and Sosa actually won challenges! 

And if she wins, all the times Tim and the judges bent over backwards makes it look like a form of affirmative action--the sort your crazy, Fox News-watching uncle rails against at Thanksgiving dinner. It's the sort of break that seemed to elude designers of color in past seasons with a really fresh, different and modern voice, like Jerell Scott. 

I agree with Nina on Char. The reason why Char never won a challenge this season is because her runway entries never completely reflected her personal style. She often wore something way more interesting than the garment she showed on the runway. So if you're a judge and willing to be charitable about a designer's style voice, when you give them six weeks, $9,000 and an inspiring trip to Italy, you expect to see something fantastic. This is where her design vision should finally be revealed.

This week, during Tim's visit, we learned that Char's mom died when she was young and her father was in prison. She was raised by her grandmother. The family wasn't so pleased when she decided to abandon her career as a hairdresser and begin pursuing fashion design. She had a few high profile clients and then began her own clothing line in Detroit. The risk is finally paying off.

@chargrelscouture on Instagram
Behind the scenes, things are continuing to look up for Char. She dressed the BET Hip Hop Award trophy girls for the second time in a row. She also designs for artists like Keisha Cole. We'll see if she brings the fly style to the runway.
Tim visited Kini in Hawaii and revealed that he can't hula. It was an incredible Tim Gunn moment. His interactions with the families are always a highlight of the show, but as usual, in their efforts to jam pack each episode with moments, these were given the short shrift.

When the designers returned to New York, the judges asked for a preview of the final show so that they could critique it. They've done this a time or two in the past and when they have, the final collections improve immensely-- even though the designers have only a day or two left.


During Tim's visit, he said that Sean should show a cohesive collection that reflected his voice. Sean speaks "fringe" apparently, so fringe is peppered throughout. Of the four, Sean was the most inspired by the history of Rome, particularly the betrayal of Caesar, who was strangled by Brutus with a strand of fringe (a little-known fact!) The fringe sliced his neck clean open and rivulets of blood spilled down--the inspiration for the white dress with the orange-red fringe. All of Roman history in one outfit! Oh, and a toga-dress! The judges received his preview quite well, so he got the least constructive of the critiques. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?


The judges told Char to lose the middle look and try to address the missing piece with more of her own, personal style. The middle look does look a bit out of place. Nina hated the placement of the sheer fabric...and let's face it...she's sick of the sheer. And get off her lawn, already! The look on the right features wild and garish fabric she bought in Rome for $100 a yard. Thing is, that crazy print really does reflect her style. So the judges are hoping to see more of that on the runway. They also wanted her to tweak the styling into something less severe. 


The hippy, bohemian love affair continues....

Look closely. You can almost see the graffiti and architecture that pepper the Roman streets Amanda claims to be her inspiration. Thing is, there are women in Rome who would dress like this. Cosmopolitan, urban Italians, more than anyone else, will dress their personal style. But unless Tim managed to take her to some exclusive night club or a dinner party with venture capitalists, I'm not seeing the Italian flair. This is "Amanda goes to Italy." The judges did have some constructive feedback.  Amanda had some jewelry made for the collection but only showed it on one piece in the preview. The judges loved the jewelry and the styling in general. They wanted her to try and lighten up the final collection. There are too many maxi dresses. She should show some more variety.


Kini proved he could show exquisitely made clothes but I always worried he would showcase his construction technique and nothing but that.

He completely fell into that trap. There's the coat everyone loved but didn't need to see again. There's the fussy skirt that almost scuttled his last competitive entry. There's the denim fringe that everyone loved as a trim now being used as a major detail. It all looks so overbearing.

And that's just what he sewed.

The Mary Kay make-up team conjured up some sort of denim-shaded, smokey eye that made the models look like they were appearing in one of those "stop domestic abuse" film-shoots. Kini also managed to find the most matronly purse on the Aldo accessory wall. Aldo probably doesn't even know it sells that purse. The list of judges' recommendations constitutes an overhaul. Kini sews fast and well but my constant critique of him this year is that he never uses the extra time remaining to address the details. Now, after six weeks and $9,000, I have questions about his design vision and (as Nina would say) taste level. If anyone has the chops to overhaul a collection, Kini does. Previews of next week's show, however, show that this critique broke down his spirit. We'll see if he manages to overcome.

This week, I'm going to be posting the collections of the "decoy" designers that showed at Fashion week. So do check back!  Until next week!