Sunday, September 11, 2011

Project Runway Season 9, Episode 7: Can't We All Just Get Along?

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

We're still sopping up things at Casa di Tirare le fila...  We've had a solid week of rain, courtesy of Tropical Storm Lee.  So as I scrape off the mold and mildew, let's get to work on this week's episode.

I think the title of the episode, "Can't We All Just Get Along?" says it all.  Namely, it says nothing about this week's challenge.  It is an admission by Bunim-Murray that Project Runway is all about the drama.  First, we get ANOTHER team challenge.  Second, we get Bert and Josh, two of the strongest personalities this season, on the same team.  Third, we reunite Becky with her abuser, Josh.  This was jury-rigged drama from the get-go.

I wonder if the designers realized they were being played.  There have been moments in Project Runway and other contest shows where contestants overcame such blatant adversarial would think out of spite for the producers.  But rather than rise up against their producer overlords, these designers held true to form and bickered throughout the show, to their demise.

This week's episode was a commercial for the Intel-HP TouchSmart ThinkPad Personal Computing Device.

"Designers, let's book a vacation on Expediocity, shall we?"

Designers were to use the TouchPad SmartThink device to compose a fabric pattern.  Then, they'd go to the HP PrintSmart Touch Devices to print out their fabrics.  Of the five looks, three of them had to use designer-made fabrics.  Then they'd go to the HP VideoSmart cameras and record and edit a background video for their runway show.  They also had to choose music.  In two days.  Easy.

But first, a burst of inspiration from a world-famous designer.

Betsey Johnson has been influencing popular culture since the 60's, when she hung out with Edie Sedgewick, Lou Reed, and Andy Warhol.  Her second runway collection was a flop, but now she boasts 45 stores throughout the world.  She survived breast cancer in 2002. But all you need to know is at the age of 69, she can still execute a cartwheel at the end of every runway show.

She talked to the designers about what goes into a good show and she showed the video from her latest runway show, filmed on the Brooklyn Bridge.

These little visits from fashion nobility are always full of hints.  Look at the fabulous print on Betsey's outfit.  I wonder if any of the designers focused on that.  It was a print of photographs superimposed on each other.  The scale was big enough for you to figure out what they were, but small enough to blend in at a distance and let the design stand out.  That should have been the balance to strive for in this challenge.

If that wasn't driven home, you had another outfit in the collection that should have made the point.

It was as if Betsey submitted her entry for this week's challenge.  She would have won, hands down.

Oh and for good measure, I'm throwing in the outfit that Josh Christensen should have designed last week.

Sorry Josh.

It's a good thing Betsey is a designer and not a surgeon.  Look at where the heart is!

When she left, the teams caucused to come up with their themes, motifs and fabric design.  Then they left to film their video and found a bit of time for a trip to Mood...yadda, yadda, yadda.

So this week's challenge is all about the easy-to-use technology from HP.  Only, Bert managed to demonstrate how un-user friendly the printer was to anyone over the age of 45.

"*&%#! @#*&$%' printer..."
Perhaps the Bunim-Murray producers forgot the color ink cartridges because all of the fabric designs were in black and white.

I could go on and on about the drama, but that's not why I watch Project Runway.  I watch if for the designs, so let's get straight to those.

Team "Nuts and Bolts"

Viewers could tell right away that the team of Josh, Laura, Becky, Kim and Bert was doomed to failure.  Josh was brooding over the fact that the teams would not have leaders, so he couldn't impose his ideas on the others by fiat--which is the only way he relates to people.  Laura wasn't being very serious.  Kim had checked out.  Bert, long ago figured out that cooperation gets you nowhere and Becky worried about how this dysfunctional crew would produce something fabulous.  She needn't have worried.  There was never any hope of that.

Team Nuts and Bolts came up with the "clocks" theme for their fabrics and video, mostly because every other idea, from "Female Village People" (thanks, Josh) and "Sexy Amoebas" (thanks, Laura) was a disaster.  Actually, I was rooting for the "Sexy Amoeba"s because then, Bert would have been challenged to operate the HP SmartMicroscope attachment.  Wouldn't you have loved to have seen that?

Anyway, they ran with clocks and chose clock, number, word and cog motifs.

Designers were allowed to supplement their fabric designs with other fabrics from Mood.  Kimberly, not desiring to use any of the designer fabric, chose a fabric that Tim described as looking like a "shiny poodle."

So let's see how they did!

Josh came up with this outfit using the wordy fabric he designed.

Typical Josh, he tossed every gimmick known to man into this outfit.  Starting from the top:  
   - two-toned jacket with cog motif opening and back detail
   - cog detail on the sleeve cuffs.
   - pants with time referenced word fabric
   - cog detail on the pockets
   - tabs that hang down from the pant hem along the instep of the foot.

Frankly, the only thing he didn't do was line the jacket with his word fabric.

Kim completely checked out of the challenge.  

As a feeble attempt at cohesion, she used the same blue that Josh used in his top and created a cog belt.  The most interesting part of the outfit is the skirt.  Unfortunately, while it hung daintily on the static dress form, when a real, live model began walking in it, it crunched up almost all the way to her crotch.

Bert, managed to take the stiff, cotton fabric that bore the designers' patterns and managed to make an arresting dress.

It was just a tad too long.  Unfortunately, he used Becky's pattern.  Note the huge scale of the pattern.  Your eye is drawn to the cogs and doesn't notice the zipper treatment on the shoulder.  It didn't have to be this way.  Becky could have scaled this design smaller--like it came out of the HP printer.

Too bad, because the back of Bert's dress had some nice "walking away" details.  With a better print, this could have been amazing.

Laura did a jumpsuit with a cog-shaped waist treatment using Josh's fabric.

The zipper treatment at the front was interesting.

The back was sort of interesting, too.  It's hard to tell how well made this is.  I thought the fit on the model was a little slouchy and loose.

And Becky.

All we saw as viewers was the uninteresting, yellow top and a very simple skirt with words.  Michael Kors immediately saw the word "CANCELED" on the crotch and declared that "no woman wants to wear 'CANCELED' on her crotch."

It's not as if she didn't try.  She tried to do fancy elbow slash treatments on the jacket.

 I note that only two of the fabric designs were used.  Laura's numbers were rejected because they made Becky's skirt too schoolmarmish.  The skirt looked weird in her own cog fabric, too.  So everyone ended up using Josh's word fabric and it scuttled them.   If only their motifs had been one paid attention to Betsey Johnson.

So for her outfit of separates, two of which had designs that could have been found at any department store, Becky was given the Auf Wiedersehen this week.

Team "Chaos"
The team relied on Anthony Ryan's graphic artist training to both coalesce on a motif--Rorcharch (ink blot) tests and a theme-- chaos.  So with scribbles, lines and dots, they pulled together a cohesive show against a dynamic video backdrop that highlighted a busy New York City.

Anthony Ryan showcased his motif using plain fabric to which ink blots were applied.  

Bryce used the same lined fabric, along with scribble fabric and made a pair of killer shorts.

Too bad there wasn't more to that top, because those shorts were one of my favorite garments on the runway.

Olivier showed off his mad tailoring skills this week.

That jacket was pretty fabulous, no?

Even from behind.  However, the challenge focused on the print and in the end, it was a fabulous jacket dropped on top of a pair of mediocre print pants.

Viktor took Rorchach motif that was suitable for sportswear and created a sophisticated and chic evening gown.

But in the end, the judges rightly chose Anya's garment which blended the prints with an intricate and clever design.

Each tonal gradation is a different pattern.  The patterns emphasize the seaming and shaping of the dress.

Even the back was well done.  Anya paid attention to Betsey and she also has a keen eye for prints, as we saw last week.  Well done and well deserved.

Before we close, I wanted to note that this week is Fashion Week in New York.

Ten years ago, we watched helplessly as a group of religious extremists took over the nation of Afghanistan.  They beat women in the streets for wearing western fashions and forced them into burkas.  And on September, 11, they hijacked our nation's aviation system, sending planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, a field in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon.  

Fashion may seem like a frivolous luxury.  But fashion is life-changing.  A simple pair of pants liberated women all over the world and put them on par with men. The industry of fashion has turned women designers and models into international superstars and multi-millionaires.  

It is fitting that Fashion Week 2011 is happening amidst the backdrop of the events of 9/11.  Life goes on.  New York goes on.  And women still wear pants in Afghanistan.

This week, I leave you with the princess of prints, Diane von Furstenburg, who knows something about how to put prints together in an interesting way.  The theme and motif is worth wearing.

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