Saturday, July 26, 2014

Project Runway Season 13 Episode 1: The Lottery

In 2014, creativity is a scarce commodity.  The world was quickly becoming devoid of style.

Designers, everywhere were frustrated and sad, stymied by the absence of creativity.

A team of researchers set out on a nation-wide quest to find creative designers.

But all they found was despair.

One woman had the power to restore it again, giving hope to a desperate generation.

"I have developed a special serum of creativity."
But the team of researchers had other ideas:

"We've been out in the general population and I can assure you that the taste levels are questionable. If this serum were to be unleashed, the results could be....catastrophic!"
One man, a man of courage and conviction, had the answer.
"Designers, we'll be drawing names to see who can go into the test trials for this experimental creative serum." 

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!   Lifetime got the lucky 13th season of Project Runway off to quite a dystopian start.  Much like the movie they were touting all through the show, 18 designers were chosen but only 15 got the chance to participate in the first challenge.  This means that three people left us even before we got a chance to figure out how to pronounce their names.  It's just as well.  It's such a slog to keep track of all these designers in the early challenges anyway.

As starter challenges go, this was refreshingly straightforward.  Designers had a box with fabric.  It looked like there were, at most, six, maybe seven patterns and solids.  Each designer had four in his or her box and could trade with others, if they didn't like their patterns.  The brief was to create a look that would be indicative of an entire spring collection.  The judges would need to see design elements that could easily be translated into other types of garments in a collection.

Before we dive into the designer creations, I must point out the funniest moment of this week's episode.  Look at the following clip very closely.  Nina is talking to Heidi here.

"I agree with you, but....."
My momma always said that you can ignore everything said before the "but."  In college "Interpersonal Communication" class, I learned that non-verbal actions speak louder than words.  Put the two together and Nina really needs to use her....inside finger voice.  I'll be keenly looking for Heidi's response in future episodes.

Let's leave Nina and Heidi to work this out for themselves and see how our designers did.

Kristine Guico

I'm not sure I would have paired such a soft pink to go with that yellow trim.  The black espadrilles from the Aldo accessory wall contrast too much, even though they do reinforce the characterization of this outfit as sporty and casual.  You could see a collection of spring sportswear, with better shoes, one would hope.

Kini Zamora
If the theme of tonight's show was to show us your creativity, Kini bombed out.  This was off-the-rack, ready to wear clothing, if I ever saw it.  As illustrated in this picture, unless you pin the jacket to the model, she will never showcase it effectively.  So you can do two pieces in one day.  Hooray for you.  The last one we see on the runway better never be this boring again if you want to live to see Fashion Week, Kini!
Korina Emmerich

I like Korina quite a bit and I like how she generally weaves Native American and western elements into the design portfolio she showed the judges.  We're seeing none of that here, however.  She thought it was good enough for the win, but the judges, as you will see, were looking for a spark of creative personality that stood out from the rest.  That's how you win in the big challenges.

This is ok.  I think the pants are too wide and unwieldy in that fabric.  I like the idea of the partially hidden belt and the high neck in contrast to the open back.  Solid, but not a winner.

Samantha Plasencia

Can we say, "I'm going to do a safe outfit until I'm more used to these one-day challenges?"

Alexander Knox

Other than mixing two patterns here, where is the design?  

Hernan Lander

This dress pissed me off the most.  Hernan benefitted the most from the continuation of last season's "anonymous runway."  The judges do not know who designed which outfit until after they have scored the looks.  Had they known this was Hernan's outfit when it walked, they would have been pissed off, too.  Here's why: He previously showed at three fashion weeks!  He's one of the most experienced designers in the competition.  Can he not sew?  Does he need more than 24 hours to make something? Or is he just trying to fly under the radar so as not to burn all that creative energy too soon?  Who knows?  Those shoes look horrible with that outfit.  This is very uninspiring.  Hoping for better from Hernan.

fäde zu grau

Not a bad early start for fäde.  He created a pattern by mixing the floral with the black and white graphic.  Adding the fabrics under the arms was an interesting detail.  The design is basic, but the thought put into it indicates a very playful approach to color and pattern.  

Emily Payne

A lot of folks in the Blogging Project Runway chatroom thought this was in the running for the auf.  It's certainly not my favorite look, but it's ripped from today's runways.  She was going for an edgy, asymmetrical look.  With more time, she might have been able to produce something that didn't look so arbitrarily bunched up at the top with the slim chance that she could make this bodice/dress mashup look good.
Carrie Sleutskaya

There were some interesting design elements in this outfit, none of which show up in the Lifetime pictures, even using it at its full size.  There was a folded hip detail.  The neckline cut out and side cutouts were visually striking without being vulgar.  She's got a good eye.

Sean Kelly

This was easily one of the chatroom favorites for the win.  I think the dress is a little too long.  Still, Sean had the presence of mind to take the nasty fabrics they gave him and piece together a strong graphic element, even if it does remind me of some sort of alien cult symbol.

Angela Sum

During her pre-show portfolio review, the judges told Angela she needed to turn up the volume on her designs.  She took that to mean she should toss every design idea she had into one outfit.  The pants weren't as nasty as everyone said they were.  I actually liked the idea of the cut-outs at the hip.  Cutouts are all the rage these days and you can totally see Rihanna rocking those pants.  What spelled disaster for her was the fact that the pants were low on the hips.  The top, on the other hand, is way, way, way too fussy for no good reason.  It is not visually stunning.  It doesn't showcase good workmanship.  Still, I'm amused that the meekest contestant this season managed to produce such a provocative outfit.

Mitchell Perry

It was the best of shorts, it was the worst of shorts.  These were the shorts that tried men's souls.  I watched this episode and I still don't know if the top was attached to the shorts or not.  The whole design of the top is sloppy.  What was the point of the insert of floral fabrics at the arms?   This would have been my candidate for the auf.

Jefferson Musanda

Jefferson's biggest sin was making a pair of high-waisted shorts.  They have never been in style nor is the world crying out for them.  Funny thing...he was so concerned about the length of the shorts that he never stepped back to even see how high the waist was.  On top, he plopped yet another, poorly-conceived top.  It was barely sewn together, with a flap on the front that could pop open with the slightest breeze.  The poor construction only amplified how unflattering it was on the model.  All of a sudden, this poor girl, who probably hasn't eaten a square meal in months, looks like she's thick in the waist.  

And I liked Jefferson, too.  I would have kept him on the hope that he could deliver some of the exciting things we saw in his portfolio.  Instead, the hip hop hopped away and we were left with a hastily constructed craft project.  Not the best showcase for him.  I bet he's thinking that maybe he should have joined the Big Brother house, instead.  I wish him luck and hopes he sticks with the hip hop and never constructs a pair of high-waisted shorts ever again.

Charketa Glover

I hope by the end of the season, Lifetime figures out what to call Ms. Glover.  On the website, it's "Char."  Heidi calls her "Charketa" and it shows "Charketa" in the title.  I'm going with the full name.  She can talk a good game, that's for sure.  With this first challenge, she delivered an eye catching outfit. This top started off in grandma land and somehow, with the open back and crop in the front, ended up not so grandma after all.  Still, I'm not sure we needed the full sleeves with the full skirt, no matter how many times Zac Posen asked the model to spin.  The judges loved this outfit way more than I did.

Amanda Valentine 

I could have easily seen Amanda win this challenge if it were something other than a "make us something that indicates a spring collection" challenge.  This outfit doesn't exactly scream out "hello spring!" to me.  The pants are very, very well made and the diamond design elements were striking.  If there was one strange thread that ran through this challenge, it was the curse of the weird top.  It's not an unattractive top at all.  It just does nothing to showcase the pants.  Still, the top and the pants are well made and interesting.  Amanda got off to a very good start.

Sandhya Garg

I watch WAY too many reality competition shows.  I have to admit that every time someone says Sandhya's name, I think of this...

So excuse me for hoping that Ms. Garg appropriates a fauxhawk at some point in the competition.  

Sandhya had one of the most complex portfolios in terms of symbolism and inspiration, including a middle finger fabric print that Nina would love.  So we knew going in that she was going to think "out of the box" about the fabric in the box.  She knew that several other designers were using the fabric, so if she was going to use it, it had to be memorable.  

So she dyed the top and ripped the sleeves away from the armscye (fancy sewing word for armhole.)  Because this was a stiff cotton, it looked sculptural.  With a flimsier fabric, this would have been a disaster.  She added trim and embroidery, so it was clear that the effect was completely intentional. 

What resulted was the tension between the sweetness of the floral print and the roughness of the treatment.  Nina dived in.
When Nina grabs her glasses, you know she means business.
All of a sudden, it was a love fest.

 Oh look!  Stitching!  She stitched the garment!  Trim!  Oh look!  She finished this seam! wasn't the best garment ever.  In fact, I think it had a lot of flaws.  For starters, if you're going to do princess seams on the front, the fabric needs to match better.  Second, if you're going to fray the bottom hem, fray it evenly.  That hem was all over the place.

Still, it really was the most creative idea on the runway on a day when Heidi just wanted to spread a little creativity to a world in desperate need.

For you see, these designers had the serum all along, coursing through their veins.  They just don't realize it.  See you next week when we'll see who discovers their inner creativity and who just discovers the drama.  And if you can't wait that long, join us in the Blogging Project Runway chatroom at 8:30 pm EDT next Thursday.  Watch the show, type your comments and read everyone else's.  You be the judge, bring the funny, or just snark on all design drama. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Project Runway: Season 12: Finale Show

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

Season 12 was certainly something else.  We went from the ridiculous

to the sublime.

What a journey it's been!

I can't recall a season where all four finalists were so evenly matched in talent, creativity and skill.  It was, indeed, a hard decision for the judges to make.  Let's see the show.


Throughout this season of Project Runway, Bradon was the man to beat.  He was a master of a variety of techniques and seemed to be able to pull together the perfect outfit for most of the challenges.  But when it came to the runway show, although he pulled out all the stops, there were too many themes and no, clear consistent vision.

Painted fabric motifs

Gorgeous dress.  Real high point, but fabric choices were a bit disjointed.

Stunning shorts, but in this outfit, the hand painted top is lost.

Each of these dresses featured the same hand printed fabric and while that adds some cohesion, it just wasn't enough to tell an interesting design story.  The last of these was just a standard slip.  Nothing should be standard in a runway show that is supposed to be your winning shot.

Colorful prints

I loved the print of the pant.  Very evocative of art nouveau.  The top, however, seemed a bit disjointed.  It was as if he was trying to throw metallics in just because they were in this year.  Or perhaps looking to find something that could go with the pant, cause excitement on its own, yet not compete.  

Again, another stunning print.  The dress showcases the print nicely, but there's no real innovation.

This print is way more subtle. Considering these were the only two outfits with it, tossing them in here seemed more like "here's some fabric I really liked" rather than "here's another chapter to the story."  It was a real missed opportunity.  The pouf on the sleeve of the gown ruined the easy line and added unnecessary bulk.

Let's throw these in there for good measure....

Both of these belong somewhere else and not in Bradon's Project Runway finale runway show.

During the season, Bradon more than proved that he is an exquisite technician and keen problem solver when it comes to answering a design or client brief.  What he lacks is good editing skill and real focus. That will come with more experience.  He was one of the strongest designers and best competitors this year.  Should he have another opportunity to show at Fashion Week, let's hope he's fueled by a very strong vision.


Justin endeared himself to the fans this season with his sweet nature and fierce determination. Overcoming deafness is challenging.  Deciding to re-enter the world of the hearing with a cochlear implant is incredibly risky and disorienting.  This was the story that Justin told in his collection.  What resulted was completely unexpected as he had not shown this level of design focus during the competition.  

The Waves

Every dress featured some sort of wave detail around the neck or waistline.  These were produced by a 3-D printer and represented visually the sound waves he couldn't hear.  The visual representation of something not heard was incredibly clever and instantly understandable by the audience.  The 3-D printing was extremely innovative.  He educated and communicated in one fell swoop.  Unfortunately, he had too many of these simple and forgettable dresses.

The Dissonance

Sound is part perception of the wave and part interpretation.  It's common for cochlear implant patients to hear nothing but noise and static until they learn to recognize what each sound means.  This process will take years.  While a normal hearing person will occasionally question what a certain sound will be, a recent hearing-acquired person will do it quite frequently.  The wave print and the splatters represent the dissonance.

 Beautiful dress, indeed.  Clever use of the 3-D piece at the waist.  It would have been an nice, unifying element had another outfit had a waist piece.

 This was my favorite of the three.  It would have been nice to see a 3-D belt instead of the fabric belt.  The 3-D neckpiece is lost at the top.

The cute vest was totally ruined by the 3-D element.  It would have been better at the waist.  The wave print would have been more effective on the back of the vest. 

Had Justin sent these out in order (and you can see the order from the garment in the background) this series would have made more sense.  The one dress without the splatters should have come out third to show the evolution of the understanding of sound.

Still, I question how effective the wave print and splatters were, visually.  The splatters were really distracting and to me, seemed like one visual element too many.  Also, only the sheath dress in the middle effectively used the wave print.  On the other two outfits, it seemed like an after thought.


While not telling the sound story in any overt way, Justin did use layering quite effectively.  Layering is very on trend, but most of the time, it's just putting one garment over another.  As someone whose primary sense is seeing, Justin created layered garments that played eye tricks with the viewers.  To me, this was the strongest part of his show.  Had every design featured this element, it would have been more cohesive, more effective and he would have made the judge's final decision even harder.  The world needs to see more of this from him.

Those aren't cut out circles.  Those are the result of an arch shape over a U shape.  They come together to form the O.  I thought the second outfit was way more effective than the first.  There is so much play with positive and negative space.  I could look at that outfit all day.  It should have been his muse piece.

The Exquisite Joke

Most designers sent out stunning, visually arresting unconventional materials pieces.  Justn's was the only one that caught our attention by sound.

Made from hundreds of little, glass laboratory pipets, it tinkled softly down the runway.  Despite the music blaring, everyone could hear the sound of the dress.  Every pipet caught the light so beautifully, too.  The effect looked like the most luxurious fringe you've ever seen.  It was a dangerous dress to wear with bare hands and sandaled feet.  The model presented it beautifully.

Justin was thrown a softball and he knocked out it out of the park.  While his show had its shortcomings, it's strengths were overwhelming and memorable, which is the very least you want to do with your shot at Fashion Week.  Justin LeBlanc has arrived, he has a voice and the world can hear it.


After her season on Project Runway, we expected nothing less than a very cerebral collection from Alexandria and she didn't disappoint.

In the tradition of paper dresses that have walked the runway before, Alexandria's phone book dress had sass and style.  She even made a hat, for cohesiveness.  But in contrast (clearly intentional) to the rest of the show, it was an extravagance the other garments didn't have.
The Layers

Alexandria's collection also featured layered garments.  The shapes and proportions were constantly in play.

 This was her muse piece.  The pants were slightly dropped at the crotch.  The effect is easy and looks incredibly comfortable.  This is modern sportswear.

 Again, another easy-to-wear pant.  While the gathers might not look great on a wider waist, they look good on the model.  The jacket is very flattering and could be worn by a wide range of people.

Wrapped Pant

I'm obsessed with wrapped pants.  A tied version of the wrap was popular in the 1930's as beachwear. Alexandria's is more tailored.

I would have liked to have seen a full length, straight legged version of this with a shorter jacket, just to show a wider range of options with this pant. I'm convinced that a wider waisted gal could wear this, with the correct proportions.  But Alexandria was too wrapped up in her specific vision to experiment with the pants.  I do think, however, that if she put some time into this, she may have a real innovation for the future.  She's got the technical prowess to do it.

Modern Separates

The black outfits seemed completely out of place in the shades of cream, white and grey.   However, the design elements were very consistent.

Less Successful Dresses

Unlike her unconventional dress, these two dresses really had nothing to communicate.

Yes, they had some edginess to them, but it was had to imagine the same woman who enjoyed the easy, casual nature of the daytime pieces suddenly opting for such fussiness at night.

It's clear that Alexandria has incredible technical and design skill.  She should take a handful of her ideas with pants and layering and dive into those with gusto.  There are certain catalogue companies that have made a cool fortune selling too-simple, over priced, under designed clothes for women who don't want to fuss.  They end up looking like vagabonds.  Alexandria takes the notion of comfortable, easy clothes and gives it a thoughtfulness and tailoring you rarely see.  These are separates that could easily fit into the workplace of the future, as we become more casual, yet find new ways to communicate competence and professionalism.

So I recommend that Alexandria move beyond the "punk" and the "cool" (because, let's face it, it's easy to dress very young women) and give some thought to the future of working women everywhere. More and more, they are entering non-traditional fields.  They are collaborators and networkers.  Designs for these ladies need to be comfortable, welcoming, a bit androgynous, but always interesting.  Alexandria has the intelligence to do this and make a real, lasting name for herself.


As I was fond of saying all season that Dom was a solid sender.  Challenge after challenge, if she didn't win it, at least she was highly successful.  She rarely stumbled and presented herself as one of the most consistent designers.  She did it with a warm and friendly attitude.  How she stayed so positive throughout the competition is beyond me.  She must have nerves of steel.

Wizard of Prints

 This was my least favorite of the looks.  I loved the jacket, however.  I think she knew that dress underneath was not the best and that by pairing it with the jacket, she'd save it from complete attack.

Mixed, matched, mismatched, or on their own, her prints stood out and made for an extremely lively show.

Negative Space

Dom also had some fun with negative space, both with fabric choices and design choices.

The judges raved about the sheer plastic detailing.  It was an inspired element as it added silhouette interest without adding bulk.

The judges didn't really appreciate the bathing suit.  I think Dom missed an opportunity to showcase some more of the clear plastic fabric, which would have provided a more sporty contrast to the formal garments in the show.

Design Elegance

Dom thoughtfully integrated her unconventional materials piece, which was made from screening and door hinges, with her show by creating a very elegant sheath dress.

This show wasn't perfect either.  I would have liked to have seen another pant.  We know that Dom can make them.  I would have liked to see separates.  We know she can do that, too.  Still, she completely played to her strengths, kept it interesting and presented a snapshot of a modern woman from the South, which is what Belk Department Store wanted all along, was it not?

So Dom is the winner of this season's Project Runway.

I'm going to take a blog vacation from Project Runway All-Stars during which I'm going to expand the subject matter of my blog.  I'll return for the next regular Runway season.  Until then, pop in sometime to see what I'm up to!