Sunday, August 28, 2011

Project Runway Season 9, Episode 5:

Hey there, Project Runway Fans!

Boy, has it been quite a week at Tirare le fila.  First, we had an earthquake...then we had a hurricane... It sort of reminds me of a song.

For the vast majority of you who have not had to worry about having Al Roker and Jim Cantore in your back yard, the Internets erupted over this week's episode.

Has Bunim-Murray taken Project Runway over the shark?

This is the search for the next big fashion designer... sixteen lucky contestants... were picked to live in the Atlas apartment building in New York together and have their lives taped... to find out what happens... when people stop being polite... and start getting critiqued...This is Project Runway!

Sure seems that way, doesn't it?

Did you notice that ever since Heidi got her fashion line with New Balance, we have the mandated episode to plug Heidi's line.  This year, it really went way over the top.

For instance, Heidi is slowing turning into Donna Karan, complete with her own version of Karan's DKNY:

Also, who knew that New Balance had a GYM IN NEW YORK CITY?  Really?  I guess if NYC ever gets the Olympic Games, it could use it as a venue for exciting events like designer races:

Look at that shot.  Almost worthy of ESPN.  Why don't more straight guys watch Project Runway with exciting action like this?

Then again, the winners of this race had to become team leaders--never good.  So it wasn't surprising when someone decided to throw the race.

Down goes Olivier Green!  Can't say that I blame him.

So the whole idea of the challenge was that the designers would work in teams (again!) to produce an outfit for Heidi's line that women could wear with the new sneakers that Heidi designed in a look that could take them from day to evening, using denim or suede or objects found in the gym locker room.  They had 12 hours unless Heidi changed her mind and gave them 14 hours, which didn't matter because the clocks were broken and extra time doesn't matter when no one really knows what the challenge is.

The extra time was for drama.  And all I can think of are hits from the 1980's....

Bert vs. Anthony Ryan, courtesy of the Human League...

You drawing's looking like a waitress in a cocktail bar.  That's all you do.
I picked you for my team cuz you were the last one left.  Not because we respect you.

Now five hours later on I see the same cocktail dress.  That pattern's been so easy for you.
But Laura and I are doing much different looks.  So Heidi will bid you adieu.

No, I don't like this.  You know I can't believe it when you say that this is fashion...

Yes, she's looking like a waitress in a cocktail bar.  That much is true.
At least she isn't wearing sloppy shorts that ride up - straight out of 1982.

We wasted five good hours trying to argue with Bert... The time just flew.

Perhaps if you had spent some time on your own work, I wouldn't have critiques for you!

Heidi vs. Cecilia, courtesy of Soft Cell...

Cecilia thinks that she should (bum bum) go away
She doesn't (bum bum) want to stay
She wants to leave the show and get out of here...

These boring clothes you're making
I see the toll this show is taking.
Pack your things, 
Auf Wiedersehen, that's all...

Becky vs. Josh M., courtesy of Boy George...

Becky: Do you really want to hurt me?  Do you really want to make me cry?
Josh: If my precious words have burned you, you're tired, you just need some shut-eye...

Josh:  I don't really want to hurt you.  I don't really want to make you cry.
Look, I'm standing in the girls' room!  Let's give this team another try...

I didn't say these were any good.  Frankly, nothing about this episode was very good.

OK, Viktor's leather jacket was very good, but I could spend the next 16 minutes capturing and uploading that picture.  Aw heck, go to and see for yourselves.  Even though I saw a lot of fug that would not look good with sneakers, somehow, Heidi thought there were two winners this week: the aforementioned Viktor and our friend, Josh.

No, there were not two aufs, although many of us would have loved to have seen that.  No, instead, the producers decided to replace Cecilia.   They asked the winners to choose who should come back and of course, Josh M. chose Josh C. (did Viktor even get a word in edgewise?) and the Joshes are reunited (and it feels so good...)  Why, then, was Josh M.* so mean to Becky?

Which leads me to the contestant that was auf this week....Danielle.  To me, she was Cecilia without the accent but now with more chiffon.

And this week, given that the parameters of the challenge involved denim and suede and had to be worn with tennis shoes, it's amazing that Danielle gave us this:

"Chiffon?  Again?"
"Maybe if I give it a black trim, Heidi will find it sporty."
"Last week it was chiffon.  The week before that it was chiffon.  I know it's hard to sew, but really, who wears chiffon with tennis shoes?"
"Clearly, my cocktail waitress's drunk friend with the flowy gym shorts that ride up and give her camel toe."

I dunno, peeps.  I gave up an hour and a half of precious hurricane prep time to watch this crazy show.  I could have been filling my bathtub with water, looking under my children's beds for working flashlights and battening down the hatches.   I sacrificed precious time with CNN meteorologist, Chad Meyers as he sat on a stool with his fancy touch maps!

Bumin-Murray, MAKE IT BETTER!  Soon!  Or else, my natural disaster-stricken life will be way more interesting than this show.  And that shouldn't be.

Until next week, come hell or high water (and we have plenty of both) perhaps we can finally sit back and enjoy an individual challenge for a change.  

*Corrections made!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Project Runway, Season 9, Episode 4: It's All About Nina!

Saludos, fan├íticos de Project Runway!

This week's challenge was to design a day-to-evening outfit for Project Runway Judge, Nina Garcia.

Nina.  Picky Nina--the judge that sees every bad hem, wonky seam and sloppy use of fabric glue.  She never fails to notice gynecologically short hems, bargain basement fabrics and poor fit.  She's the author of two books on fashion, former fashion editor of Elle Magazine and current fashion editor at Marie Claire.  

But this time, she gets to pick the outfit she wants to wear.  Could this be any more intimidating?

She gave the designers a raft of instructions on what she likes (clean lines, pants, jackets, separates, neutrals, although she's not afraid of color) and what she doesn't like (too much ornamentation, crazy prints...)

She thoughtfully met with each designer to go over their drawings and give them advice...and in the process, crushed their hopes, dreams and creativity.

"Hmm...jumpsuit.  Seems risky."  What's that color?  Mustard?  Do you have a 'Plan B'?"

"I don't like the jacket.  Do you have a 'Plan B'?"

She labeled so many things a risky or needing a 'Plan B' that the designers were wondering if they should bring in one of those risk mitigation firms that advertise during "Meet the Press."

"Let's be honest.  If I had gone over the Army Corps of Engineers' plan for the levees in New Orleans, the Katrina flooding would never have happened."

It was a nice prize for the challenge this week.  The winner got a spread in Marie Claire, an afternoon with Nina talking about fashion and a taxi ad.

Yes, a taxi ad.

Well...something a bit more tasteful, I'm sure.

Before we dive into the runway this week, let me get a little pet peeve of mine out of the way.

Where was Olivier?  He didn't make an appearance until about 30 minutes into the show and it was a fleeting one at that.  The high point of the episode was when the safe designers were sitting on the couch and Bert opines that Olivier probably had the winning design and he was sitting right next to him!

So I can only come to one conclusion.  Olivier has somehow acquired the superpower of invisibility.  Perhaps he got it from fake Superman in Times Square when he passed by him a few days earlier during the first challenge.  Olivier was wearing nothing but a bed sheet and perhaps fake Superman thought he needed a cloak...of invisibility.
"I haven't found a way to make the hair invisible."

As we look at some of the more interesting outfits on the runway this week let's pay tribute to the many Ninaisms that we've enjoyed during the past 9 seasons of Project Runway.

The "I question your taste level" award goes to Josh McKinley

Oh, not for that side....

but for THIS SIDE.  In Josh's world, Nina should dress more like Brittany Spears.

The "that is not impeccably sewn" award goes to Bryce Black, who, had it not been for some other questionable looks this week, would have been on the chopping block with this.

The "Plan B" award goes to Anya Ayoung-Chee for her "risky mustard jumpsuit!" 

Again, I'm clueless as to how this won the praises of the judges.  I can see why Nina was pleased.  Anya solved the problem of the mustard colored fabric by dying it darker (it looked more like a dark coffee on the runway.)  The belt at the waist helps too.  But...

Really?  To quote you, Nina, "I would like to see YOU wear that outfit."  I do not believe Nina wears plunging backs to work without covering up with a jacket.

And that goes for you, too, Heidi!  You're queen of the "that looks home sewn" comment.  This looks like a professional job, the way the cropped pant rides the legs and the sloppy neckline gap at the top?

The "unfortunate fabric choice" goes to Danielle Everine, who, at Nina's request, tried to recreate last week's stilt walker outfit.

The fabric was too heavy to drape and flow the way Nina wanted.  The shoulders were too severe for Michael Kors, who remarked, "This is something you wear to a Joan Crawford Halloween Party!"

"I would hope that any blouse you would wear to my Halloween party would be neatly sewn at the collar!"

The "black isn't very editorial" award goes to 

Viktor Luna.  The capped sleeves were architectural, as was the skirt, but you couldn't see them because they were black!  Once again, a designer forgets that he's designing for a spread in a magazine as well as an outfit that Nina would like to wear.  So, while he passed the day to night test, he failed the editorial test.  Shame about it, Viktor.  

The "I'm bored" award goes to Cecilia Motwani for this.

This what was left from the drawing above after she ditched the 1980's Dynasty jacket.  Note in the drawing above that the colors were supposed to be lavender and yellow, not grey and beige. Mood, apparently, uses high efficiency CFL bulbs and Parsons School of New Design does not...or vice versa.  Otherwise, I have no idea how fabric could look one way in one location and totally different in another.

Unless, along with her confidence, that consultation with Nina also sapped her ability to see colors, which would put her on par with Anthony Ryan Auld, who really IS color blind!

The "the problem is in the execution" award goes to Julia Tierney for this look:

It's an interesting attempt.  For day, with a lighter fabric, it could have been an interesting take on the coat dress.  But, unfortunately, Julie chose too heavy a twill and the outfit had no drape.  The poorly designed collar creates gaps and bunches at the top which leads one to assume that the asymmetrical hem on the bottom was accidental.  To be safe, this would have had to be perfectly constructed in lighter weight fabric.  But with that much beige, it would have been resigned to being just a day look.
"I don't know if it's a dress or a coat.  It's a 'droat'!"

Congratulations to the winner of this week's challenge,  Kimberly Goldson, who lived up to her last name, crafting a very shiny gold top to go with a pair of flawless, navy pants.

Well done, Kim!  And yes, Nina did wear the outfit and looked marvelous in it!

Kim has immunity for next week and she's going to need it because it's another team challenge and....
a double elimination!

Should be fun.

And I leave you with a little bit of Mazel Tov this week for Michael Kors and his partner husband, Lance LePere.  They married each other this week in a beach ceremony on Southhampton Beach.  Southampton Mayor Mark Epley officiated.

And if you get the opportunity to vote for a gay marriage referendum, know that you are not just doing it for the would-be spouses, you area also doing it for nice, Jewish mothers out there like Joan Kors.

"I'm just another Jewish mother who would like to see her son walk down the aisle.  Is that too much to ask?"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Project Runway Season 9, Episode 3: Go Big Or Go Home!

Greetings, Project Runway fans!  This week's challenge is all about proportion.

What is proportion, anyway?  Philosophers and esthetes have defined it as "Golden Ratio."

In brief, if the ratio between the long segment and the whole line is equal to the ratio between the long segment and the short segment, the division is in proportion.

Yikes! math!  

Does that make sense?  No?  Imagine this turned on its side.

The blue line shows the golden ratio at the waistline.  This model is perfectly in proportion. That's why those of us who have shorter legs or longer torsos struggle with the length of jackets, the placement of belts and waistlines, etc....

Now imagine you took the model and lengthened her legs...put her on stilts.  You get the drift of this week's challenge: dress a model on stilts.

OK...I visit the chat rooms.  I read the blogs...the Internets have been abuzz with complaints about this challenge.  

"Worst challenge ever!"  

"Why would you ever need to dress a model on stilts?"
"This is Project Runway, not Project Circus."

Poppycock!  The whole idea of a design challenge is to push the designers with various materials, inspirations, treatments and customers so that we can see who is best at solving design problems.  So to me, there is nothing wrong with this challenge.

However, I do agree with the chattering classes that every designer failed this challenge.  And it has nothing to do with the materials they chose, famous designers they referenced or whether or not they could figure out the direction of the grain of the fabric.

Every designer failed to consider the golden ratio.   May the wrath of Pythagoras be upon them all!

"The arguments between teammates were not the only things blown out of proportion!"

Let's start the show.

Team LaurAnthony

(Laura Kathleen + Anthony Ryan Auld)


Perhaps the judges were taken by the drama of red chiffon in the wind.  Perhaps they fell in love with Laura and Anthony Ryan's cute southern drawls.  Whatever their reasons, this was the winning look.

Hideous hair and make-up aside, there is very little to the proportion of this dress.  Sure, there's a slit somewhere around where you would want to break up the line, but it's not much.  In fact, the dark and the cutoff at the natural waistline makes it look like a gargantuan red letter "i."  The top of the model fades away and you're left with this huge skirt.

Here's another thing to consider.  The judges and audience are looking up at the model.  There's a reason why sculptors of big statues give their subjects tiny feet and big heads.  From the street level perspective, the proportions will be correct.

Once again, Nina drama ended up on the Lifetime cutting room floor.  In this Internet age, however, their are no secrets.  Nina mentioned the Gucci dress Jennifer Lopez wore to the 2011 Met Gala.  But this dress looks to me more like the Gucci dress Selma Hayak wore to one of the premieres of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Yes, there are differences.  In the stilt dress, the shoulder interest is produced with fabric petals that are attached to illusion netting (or some sort of sheer fabric).  It's not a separate piece.  And the back is much more interesting than the Gucci dress/shrug combination.  Anyway, the producers decided that it wasn't important.

I know, Kenley.  If only your Alexander McQueen knock-off had been on stilts!

Moving on...

Team KimBecky

(Kimberly Goldson and Becky Ross)

This was my favorite look.  This also rated highly with the judges.  If only the top had been a little longer to meet that golden ratio....  If only the collar had been more exuberant.  I know, Nina thought the collar was tacky, but she could have been silenced with a proper explanation about proportion and how, from the bottom, the collar would look just fine.

At first, I thought they were taking a risk exposing the model's tattoo.  But when I saw the finished product, I agreed with Michael Kors, "It had to be done.  You have to see that tattoo."  They clearly drew inspiration from their model.

Where they went wrong with me was by making the legs so wide at the bottom.   Again, all you see is the big flare and everything above it tends to fade off.   Close, but not quite.

Team OlivAnya

(Olivier Green and Anya Ayoung-Chee)

Dubbed the "Dream Team" by Tim Gunn, each having previously won a challenge, they delivered a surprisingly subdued, risk-free outfit.

This would have been a stunning dress had it been for a regular woman, with a different print.  The top featured grey fabric that was intricately worked with printed fabric.  The one thing they had going for them was that up close, this print was pretty hideous.  From far away, it blended in very nicely.  But there was nothing tremendously remarkable about this dress, so they were safe.

Team Joshulia

(Joshua McKinley and Julia Tierney)

I'll leave it to others to describe the unique, forced partnership between the gay guy and the sporty, tomboy girl.  In the end, she was only able to tone down his exuberance just a bit, and the wrong bits at that.

You either love or hate this look.  I want to love it.  The pants are amazing.  I'm all for the bold print.  It looks as if he lined them in red on the inside!  Nice touch.  But the TOP IS WAY TOO SHORT.  Again, failure to abide by the golden ratio!   Also, the you can't see the intricate details of the top up that far.  Had I been Julia, I would have begged Josh to put away the Beadazzler, simplify the top and make it longer.  Let the drama come out in the shape, rather than the details.

There were a lot of criticisms about this looking like a circus.  Nothing in Tim's instructions to the designers said this had to be a red carpet look.  In fact, the designers were encouraged to be bold.

Next up, my favorite team....

Team Bertktor

(Bert Keetor and Viktor Luna)

Remember, Bert came here to relive the glory of his days at Halston.  He really hates the oddball challenges.  And Viktor wants to show the world his wondrous techniques.  

Of all the stilt walkers that day, this model had the most fun with her dress.  Look at her work that skirt!

Golden ratio, boys!  The top is too short!  

When there is such a simple design before them, the judges start to nitpick all sorts of silly things.  In this case, they focused on the velvet brocade.   Michael and Nina have been at this game for a long time, now, and they know that all fabric stores, including Mood, have an interior decorator section and an apparel section.  Any designer that wanders into the upholstery aisle does so at his or her own risk.  

You risk is that Michael Kors will deliver a one-liner and compare it to drapery, which happened.  What nobody could have predicted was that Kim Kardashian managed to deliver a proper coup-de-gras with this movie reference...

Team Dancelia

(Danielle Everine and Cecelia Motwani)

Interesting something conventional and structured, but in chiffon so that it flows nicely.  Again, the top is too short!  Golden ratio!  The sleeves are nice and dramatic....but

that hair!

That's not it....

There you go!

Are we finished yet?  


Team Brycelene

(Bryce Black + Fallene Wells)

"I'm a trained dancer, see?  this is my interpretive 'Black Swan' dance."
Poor Bryce.  He's a woud-be visionary stylista paired up with a self-trained designer who can't sew.  What to do?  What to do?

First of all, let's get the Golden ratio out of the way.  The pouf is too long, believe it or not.  If you're going to go long, make it a bit longer so that the shorter segment is on the bottom.  This makes her look like she has a huge tulle tumor in her midsection.

Second, crumpling up tulle and sewing seems like phoning it in, to me.  Most of that sewing is by hand, isn't it?  Why he didn't let Fallene do that while he did the top is beyond me.  Perhaps it was beyond Fallene too.

In the end, they took inspiration from their dancer/model and it came out all wrong.  As a result, we say good-bye to Fallene, the designer who is intimidated by the industrial sewing machine.  She says she's from Denver, but I suspect she's secretly from Utah!

So what have we learned this week, Project Runway, fans?  We learned a little math, didn't we?  But most of all, we learned that if you're a stilt walker, you really don't need a fancy designer for your outfit.  Just browse some of the many Burning Man photo albums out there on the web.

They're much more interesting.

See you next week when our designers attempt to dress Nina Garcia!