Monday, September 15, 2014

Project Runway Season 13, Episode 7: On the Chopard Block

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!  

I'm a week behind because of my own personal sewing issues.  I was making a 1920s dress for a Great Gatsby picnic in the area and the construction ate away at my prime viewing and blogging time.  

Way too many ruffles! Ruffles for days! The vintage pattern called for picot edging, nearly impossible to do on modern machines. So I rolled and scalloped the hems instead. 
I'm a week behind and it's time to catch up!

This week's guest judge was Artistic Director and Co-President of Chopard, Caroline Scheufele. The designers had one day to create a red carpet/gala-worthy outfit inspired by a set of Chopard jewelry.

I imagine that Caroline spends a lot of her time with stylists and designers picking the perfect jewels to go with the expensive designer gowns they've picked up for their celebrity clients. She's probably perusing the latest fashion collections for inspiration for next season's jewelry designs. This challenge is the other way around: the dress is designed from the jewel. You would expect Caroline to go for the traditional gown, but she was very open-minded and imaginative--to the benefit of the designers.

By now, the designers are used to one-day challenges. But the producers always have to up the ante.  This week, they subtly added an "inspirational" visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Charles James exhibit.
Inspirational quickly becomes aspirational.

There's no way you're making that in a day. Don't even think about it.
See, the exhibition even shows you how complex the construction is. Don't be fooled!
You can't do this in a day. If you attempt this, it will look like this....


fäde is fading, I'm afraid.  He was inspired by a set of aquamarine, chandelier earrings, but the outfit he made was his most unnoticeable look thus far.  

He didn't want to upstage the jewelry.  He ended up putting himself backstage--safe.


Why is she still here?

She was clearly inspired by a draped dress at the James exhibit, so she knocked it off in red.

It wasn't bad, it just lacked a certain exuberance the judges were looking for.  The pearl necklace seemed to get lost in the dress, too. I'm not seeing her "rock and roll" aesthetic here. It's just another somewhat pretty, draped dress.  The front looks a little droopy and the hem is messed up.  I'm not fond of the styling. If you're showcasing a necklace, clear the hair out of the way.


Sandhya took a chance this week by making a cocktail look.  I'm not sure the guards that Chopard employs allow their jewels to be worn to the Vanity Fair after party.

But let's suspend disbelief for the sake of the runway.  Sandhya smartly gave the dress some interest at the neck, something she could do because she had earrings and a ring to showcase.

She was going for a solid safety this week.  This dress was not going to set anyone's world on fire.


Wait up. Didn't she get auffed last week?

"I've had the worst indigestion since you left. It's my conscience bothering me about telling you that I would have used my save if this had been a couple challenges from now.  I never should have said that and I won't rest at night until you come back."
"Hahahahaha!  No "Tim Gunn Save" for you!!!!"

 Kini said it best. Another dress with a peplum and a cut-out in the back.  zzzzzzz.... At least she found a way to keep the white dress from going full bridal.


Kini was clearly inspired by the James exhibit, particularly the structured garments with the diaphanous overlay.  He went with white so that he'd showcase his jewels.

But he chose neoprene for the underlay. Gosh. Remember when neoprene was revolutionary to use? Now everyone is using it all the time. Just because Mood carries it in every color, however, doesn't mean it's the fabric for every task.

After Kini's pants, the first thing you notice is the model's left breast. It's wrinkled and puckered.  It's as if someone punched a Charles James gown right in the bullet bra. Still, he styled it perfectly so that even Caroline could imagine Kim Kardashian wearing it. If the skirt were a bit shorter, that is.


Alexander chose the most stunning piece, in my opinion.

Now the logical thing to do would be to make a dress that matched the jewel. But that wouldn't be exciting.  I actually think his choice of color and a textile with a texture was inspiring.

His execution, however....

was a mess from the back

and every other angle as well.  About a foot above the heel...

was an exposed pin. 

Zac Posen pointed out that the neckline of the dress competed with the necklace itself. He tacked down the bodice of the dress and immediately improved it.  Caroline kept saying the color was wrong.  I disagree.  I think, had the design worked with the material instead of against it and had it displayed the neckline more prominently, it would have been a lovely contrast.


This was a challenge that required a designer to be true to him or herself.  Anything less than that and there was simply not enough time to recover.  Samantha does not do glamourous gowns.  Her's is more of a rock and roll aesthetic.  She didn't choose last, either, so I don't understand why she went for the watch and ring, of all things.

The ring is very unusual.  The watch is an interesting contrast of leather and diamonds. This set was screaming for something luxurious--with an edge of menswear to it. Leather skirt.  Leather trim. Instead, Samantha played it safe and designed the dress that Alexander should have made using the same fabric that Sean picked. The results were pretty pedestrian.

It was a nice, solid, designer dress, but nothing to stop the presses over.  In fact, nothing she's done this entire competition stopped presses.   The biggest problem here was that a watch and ring are not enough for this dress, which needs a necklace. A suit jacket and skirt or pants would have been perfect for the watch and ring. But if you had to do a gown, this would have been the opportunity to do something interesting at the neck. Absent that, there was nothing compelling to keep Samantha on board for one more week.  Sorry you were booted off for a gown.  It's better than being booted off for something in which you specialize.


Amanda did an admirable job of pulling this one off at the last minute. First, Ms. Valentine picked the heart bracelet, which was full of whimsy.

A bracelet like this called for a lighthearted outfit and Amanda delivered. She just chose a poor material with which to make the jacket.

In the end, she benefited from being daring enough not to make a dress and skilled enough to make a good looking jumpsuit. Glass organza requires lots of patience and a special needle and presser foot for the machine.  Rolled seams are crazy hard to do. I'm having voile ruffle flashbacks.


Sean's been on a roll and if you asked him this week, he'd probably tell you that he should have still been rolling.  He picked the most audacious set of jewelry.

Coco Chanel was fond of saying that to look tasteful, a woman should take off one accessory. Here, we have a necklace, earrings and a ring. Each made of sapphires set in a camphor glass/silver filigree frame.  It's Belle Epoch glamour, straight out of the Downton Abbey collection...practically ripped off the neck of Lady Mary. Sean played it brilliantly.

When presented with an impossibly beautiful set of jewelry, you make an exquisite backdrop. That's exactly what this dress was.  The front allowed the piece to be displayed against the skin as well as smoothly against a strip of velvet. The velvet was repeated across the back, where it draped, echoing the back tab of the necklace. It was also repeated on the hem, grounding the dress and giving it a luxurious finish. This was absolute perfection. It was also the very thing Caroline expected to see.


Korina was right about one thing. Her design voice has been missing from this competition. That's why I was so glad she picked the most dramatic necklace from the collection.

Pay attention to that center piece.  You will see it again, just not as literally repeated.

I cheered when the producers put the roll of fabric out front at Mood  she wandered into the upholstery section and found a gorgeous, southwestern-styled velvet.

She took Tim's advice to be mindful of matching up the pattern.  That pattern turned out to an absolute perfect interpretation of the necklace itself.  Not to mention that the velvet jacket cut an impressive swath on the runway.

She took a risk putting a black necklace on top of a black dress.  I might have done grey underneath.  Then again, I would have wasted all my time trying to find a perfect match for the grey.  Perhaps black was better.  The black was matte, so the shiny necklace could still be seen.  She created the ultimate jewel box and totally upstaged Sean.  By being true to herself this week, Korina emerged a clear winner.

Next week, our designers face an avant garde challenge...with a watery twist.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Project Runway, Season 13, Episode 6: We Are Gathered Here Today

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

Tim is not happy.

"Due to budget cuts at the network, I regret to inform you that the intros for the rest of the season will be filmed in this garage in Queens.  To make matters even worse, the producers blew this season's meager budget on the cheesy lighting and backdrop you see behind me."
"This leaves just $200 for each of you to spend on a dress.  It's a real 'make it work' moment."
When I heard that the lovely and talented Dita Von Teese would be a guest judge this year, I got very excited.  The possibilities were endless...and fun!  I envisioned a real woman burlesque challenge, inspired by the burlesque revival that's sweeping the nation. Imagine the rip-away skirts and tops!  Fun, right?

Or how about designing an outfit inspired by Dita's fabulous lingerie line?  What?  Does only Heidi get to promote her items and no one else?

What did we get?  A wedding dress challenge.  Oh, Tim had some song and dance about how unconventional wedding dresses are all the rage with rockers these days.

Are they really?  I know Vera Wang has added black and grey to her wedding dress line.

But the biggest "rock and roll" wedding of the year looked pretty traditional to me.

Has the concept of what you wear to get married changed that much?  I don't really think so.  So we have what is likely to be the biggest celebrity thus far this season, someone we've waited for a long time and designers are making cheap-o wedding dresses.

Even Swatch is pissed off and bored.
I'm forgetting something.

There was a twist.  There had to be a wedding look and a reception look because today's unconventional bride wants different outfits for different activities.

Kim sure did.  We'll revisit this later....
There was something else....

Tim brought out the producer manipulation prop button bag to pick the teams. 

What else am I forgetting?

The Blonde Salad
Seriously.  As only a native speaker of Italian can, Chiara Ferragni chose the most curious word combination in English to title her blog.  The blog was launched "in 2009, when blogs were not yet the today phenomenon."  "Blonde." "Salad."  I guess she's a vegan, or something. 

The site goes on to say, "She launched, to express herself and relate to 360°."  Can you say, "word salad?"

In any case, I'm declaring this THE YEAR OF THE BLOGGER on Project Runway.  At this rate, by 2016 or so, they should be asking yours truly to have a seat at the judge's panel.  

Or maybe it's the year of the blonde fashion photographer.  Or maybe it's the year that all the well-known fashion celebrities had something better to do than to guest judge an episode.

Let's dive in to the "fashion salad" with both forks.

Korina & Amanda

My husband was popping in and out of this week's episode.  Having not watched a single episode this year, he was having a heck of a time distinguishing Amanda from Korina. "Amanda has the mole," I said. "Korina rolls her eyes all the time."  That's how I tell them apart.  He asked me who the mean girl was.  "I think they're taking turns," I said.

Despite all the trumped-up, producer-stoked drama, these two were solidly safe.  The only thing left to say is that I'm getting sick of Amanda's two dress designs.  Also, this was the week when good team members helped their mates.

fäde & Emily

"Rocker" meets "Cool Intellectual."  Match made in heaven?  No.

You may say he's a dreamer.  But he's not the only one.  See what I did there?
The results were disastrous for Emily.

Somewhere between Goth, Italian widow and burkha is Emily's gown.

There's too much going on here.  She needed to pick a motif and stick with it.  Mixing a delicate lace with a strong geometric pattern in a sleep deprived state with only 10 good hours to sew it up is a recipe for disaster, as this was.

I generally don't associate such tight, geometric patterns with Goth and I think that's where she fell into trouble here. The open square fabric is high-tech and bold and would have been better suited for a more streamlined treatment.  It was too jarring juxtaposed with the lace.  

Goth ultimately has romantic undertones that are just not evident here.  A better treatment would have employed a more fuller, exuberant skirt.  See Vera Wang, above.

She also revisited her Ewok Hood, since it worked so well for her with the judges the first time. When she employed it as a veil, using the black lace, she ended up turning the bride into a widow. 

fäde was smarter and played to his strengths.

He took all the disparate fabric and made a textile that showcased the variety of patterns.

The resulting dress design was unremarkable, but he wanted something clean to showcase the fabric design.  Now THAT'S a Goth/rocker chick who's thrown off her widow's veil and wants to party!

Samantha and Alexander

Where did this go wrong?
"Let's face it. The appliqué aisle is never your friend."
Particularly when the appliqué is so haphazardly placed.  It looks like a fungus.  And Samantha continues to zzzzz.....

Char & Sandhya

"We chose yellow because it's such a happy color and a strong color and a strong woman would wear this and my tradition in India is that brides wear strong colors and....strong!"
More like "wrong!" The minute Heidi said "Big Bird and Tweety Bird" we knew someone was going home. Where did this go off the rails?  The inspiration was spot on.

Sandhya claimed to be inspired by her own wedding. Traditional gowns in India are magenta, red and pink. Bright colors.
So why in Vishnu did Sandhya choose this?

The caution tape yellow fabric prompted Char to choose this.

Along with some leather in the SAME COLOR.  How do you even find leather in that color?

Char started draping with the leather.  That didn't go well.

The problem here is that she tried to mash-up leather and lace which led to a cascade of errors. After a while she just gave up and started using the lace to cover up the leather, with no thought about shape and design at that point.

Meanwhile, Sandhya was braiding fabric for her bodice.  She spent so much time doing that, she just slapped together the skirt.

One color +  bad fabric - design vision - your original inspiration = disaster.

I was feeling pretty surly about this episode already, so I had no charity left.  I wanted another double auf.  Instead, just Char was given the boot.

Which leads me to my pet peeve of the week.

When the producers give the designers just a day to make a dress, the judges shouldn't be doing this

 and this.

Project Runway isn't a production line. It isn't even 24-Hour Catwalk, with it's team of professional sewers. Criticizing the quality of construction with just a day to produce a garment has nothing to do with good design technique. It serves no purpose but to demoralize designers about not being able to live up to a challenge that would defeat 99.9% of everyone everywhere. It's a cheap ploy for laughs and soundbites and it demeans the show. I wish it would stop, but after two seasons of it, someone at Bunim-Murray thinks the best designers are super human.  They don't need time, money or inspirational challenges to produce magic.

Well guess what?

Once again this week, no magic was produced.

Kini & Sean

Sean had immunity.  Kini was worried, but Sean was trying to go for the win.  Kini's premise, however, nearly ran them off the rails this week.

"Our bride is in a gay wedding, but she can't let go of her business suit.  Still, she wants to be a bride..."

"The idea of a "gay wedding" is so brilliant. Why didn't anyone else think of it?"
Um...Planet Earth to Zac Posen:  the challenge is two looks for one bride, so who cares if she's gay or straight?

But let's explore the "gay bride" notion for a minute.  Do women who prefer business suits or pants suits have to be pried out of them for a special occasion?  Maybe they do, but wouldn't the alternative suit look like an alternative suit, with pants, and not some embellished jacket and skirt number fresh from the set of Dallas?

In the second picture, you can see the two outfits together.  Nina was spot on when she said "flamenco dancer and bull fighter."  Had there been been their intention all along, I could have embraced this pair of outfits.

For me, what bothered me was the "gay wedding" premise. I've been to quite a few lesbian and gay weddings over the past few years.  These ceremonies have come pretty hard fought. The vast majority of these couples try to bring some tradition into their ceremony and attire. Marriage, for gays these days means normalcy. Legal marriage is the extension of the human tradition to a community too long on the outside. I'm not saying that no gay couple should ever take on the ceremony with playfulness and subversion. What I'm saying is that right now, in 2014, these unions tend to be the expression of tradition and acceptance. If you're inviting relatives who might not be 100% thrilled with your choice of partner the last thing you want to do is wear an outrageous outfit.

That's where Kini lost me. It's a fine design and high level of tailoring despite the time and money spent. It just didn't speak to me for his concept. Although I was amused at Heidi's valiant effort to convince the other judges that Kini should win. "It's a special occasion!" she said. And every special occasion needs sparkles and bows, right?

Let's take a closer look at Sean's winning outfit.

No doubt, the blouse was stunning.  The pants were well-fitted.  I wouldn't have cropped them so high, but that's not the biggest error.  

Looking back at the original design, Sean had gathers around he waist.  Tim suggested a cummerbund.  I think that would have elevated the look.  The waistline is just too unfinished for me.  Dita said it was an outfit "I'd wear on a Tuesday."  I didn't take that as the compliment everyone else did.  The blouse carried the entire festive nature of the outfit, but I think the pants, had they been better designed, could have carried its share as well.

The two brides at the last gay wedding I attended wore tops similar to this one only they were rendered in a lovely, floral, watercolor print.  The cape effect was not as long so they did not look like flying squirrel superheroes.

So the funny thing is, for me, Kini's vision was best reproduced by Sean: the sort of outfit a gay bride would want to wear.  Or Kim Kardashian, only without pants.

I think that's what the judges saw, too.  It speaks to the casual elegance that many people strive for when dressing up for special occasions these days.  Life is so complicated and hectic.  Why do your outfits have to be?  This design can be dressed up or dressed down, as needed.  It would compliment a wide range of bodies.  

So unconventional outfit in thought and design, rather than motif, wins the challenge.

Next week, the designers have a jewelry challenge

and what looks to be some sort of surprise.

Maybe the surprise will be good outfits for a change!

See you next week or in the Blogging Project Runway chatroom at 9 pm EST next Thursday.