Monday, October 17, 2011

Project Runway Season 9, Episode 12: The Finale Countdown

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

All 12 of you that are left.

In this week's challenge, the judges chose whose Fashion Week shows would get the full budget and television coverage.

You do realize that nine designers showed at Mercedes Benz Fashion week, right?  That's over half of the designers--60% to be exact.  More about this in my next post.  

This week's challenge involved a visit to Governor's Island for inspiration.  The final collection was to be three pieces, show diversity, on a $700 with two days to sew.  That's a lot, so they brought out the BUTTON BAG so that each designer could choose from one of the last five designers for help.

These sorts of "bring back former contestant" challenges are tricky.  Ideally, you want to be paired with someone who can bring to the table some skills you might not have.  However, matched with the wrong partner, you could lose confidence in your designs or, worst of all, have your partner steer you in the wrong direction.  

These inspiration challenges are also quite tricky.  It seemed as if every other show this season was an inspiration challenge.   In fact THE LAST CHALLENGE WAS AN INSPIRATION CHALLENGE.    you think, by now, they'd know how the judges roll with inspiration.   

Before I dive in, I think I've come to some conclusions about why we are finding ourselves so disappointed with this season.

     1. The challenges have been poorly defined and usually wracked with twists and last minute changes.

This means that on any given week, drama can overcome even the best designer's skill.  We've had, in my opinion, two of the best designers booted off.  Both got to present at Fashion Week.  But even more than that, these confusing, sometimes ridiculous challenges are hard to watch.  I think the worst episode ever was the stilt challenge.  You had the weird twists of teams and an outdoor show but in the end, the stilts really didn't matter to the outcome.  The challenge with the Sheepdogs was cringeworthy.   I needed a scorecard to keep up with the rules of the bird challenge.  None of it produced stunning garments.
    2. I know this isn't Project Seamstress, but each contestant must be able to sew.

Bravo had a show where would-be designers were paired up with a professional sewer and that produced it's own level of drama.  The beauty of Project Runway is in its simplicity--designers taking materials and producing something greater than the sum of their parts.  This falls apart when a designer cannot sew.   This season, there was clearly some overt producer manipulation to keep someone who lacked sewing proficiency in the competition, particularly in the one challenge where the guest judge overruled the other judges and chose a second garment for production along with the winner.

   3.  This is not a strong cast.

The reason why this particular designer had to stay was because no other designers have emerged to dominate the competition.   Very few winning looks are completely innovative and flawless.  Very few are fitted and styled well.  In the Blogging Project Runway chatroom this week, we discussed whether the blog could even run a "best looks" poll.   Because few designers of excellence have emerged, every little character flaw gets over emphasized.  There's an awful lot of trash talk this season, but no one seems to be delivering.

    4. Project Runway is turning into the Real World.

This was my complaint about a third of the way into the season.  We've always had drama.  We've always had strong personalities.  But in the end, the designs carried forth.   We've always had weird challenges, but  someone would overcome.  One designer that probably should have been booted off half-way through the competition was likely kept on for the drama, not for any real, inspiring designs.   We've had producer manipulation in the past.  But this time, they aren't even pretending anymore.  It's just a matter of time before we start seeing people wearing head mikes and holding cameras in the Parsons work room.

"Don't be silly!  We don't look producer manipulated at all!"

Enough of my rant.   Let's get on with the show.

It's not a tumor!

Kimberly's inspiration was a Mark di Suvero sculpture, currently on exhibit at Governor's Island.

The designers went to Mood and chose fabric.  Among other things, Kimberly chose a silver, textured fabric that looked a bit like something with which you'd upholster a dining room chair. 

She paired up with Becky.

I've got wool flannel and silver upholstery.  You can sew that, right?
Laura Kathleen got off one of the best lines of the night when she called Kimberly's pleating detail on  her skirts "tumors."  They seemed to be plopped on with no thought as to how they would alter the silhouette.  

The end result, while colorful and showing range, seamed heavy, overworked and added pounds on the model.

And the fit was off, too.  The arms of the coat, for example, are just a bit too long.  The belt is just a bit too high.   The hem seems a bit off.  The scarf is too heavy and doesn't showcase the coat properly.

Michael Kors correctly pointed out that a woman wearing both the coat and this outfit would have to be leading two completely different lives.  Clearly, Kim thought about her color story, but gave no thought as to the type of woman who would wear these looks.

Since the third look was a cocktail dress with a similar gathering technique on the skirt, we were left to wonder why she created this second look.  We know she had to abandon a pair of pants that simply didn't fit.  But the skirt she pulled together was too dressy to be sportswear.  Still, for her presentation of a range of looks and her prowess at making something with sleeves, Kimberly heads to Fashion Week.

God, guns and gowns.

Josh's inspirations were all over the map.

You know the producers rooted through hours of footage to get this shot.
His brother is in the armed forces.

He likes stained glass.

And French evening gowns.

And apparently, while everyone else went to Mood, Josh managed to take a quick trip to the hardware store for mesh.

And another trip to the craft store for transparencies and paint....for stained glass.

Bryce was his partner.

"I had no idea they sold transparencies and paint at Mood."
Bryce managed to talk him out of trying to be the next Lewis Comfort Tiffany, but couldn't talk him out of metal studs or silver lamé.

"I'm fairly certain that I could find a woman with multiple personality disorder that could use these looks for her complete wardrobe."

This week's psyche out was when Heidi said, "One or more of you will be out."  It's quite an indictment of the show that I was actually hoping for two aufs this week.   Josh would have certainly been one of them.

Sure, the white dress is nice, but come on.  She's wearing the sort of screen fabric you staple to the inside of your Home Depot gazebo when the mosquitos get really bad.

This month on Lifetime, Lindsay Lohan is the Statue of Liberty.
So Josh's woman would rush home from work, take off the itchy white dress with the black mesh and slip into this draped number for that night on the town.  And on weekends, she turns into an evil cheerleader.

Seriously, one of the ugliest outfits up there.
But for some reason (cue producer manipulation) despite weeks of saying otherwise, Michael Kors thought the stud accents on the top were "cute."  And with that, Josh goes to Fashion Week.

These streets will inspire you...

Viktor didn't get caught up in any of the silly island inspiration games and instead, looked to the horizon for inspiration--the skyline of Manhattan. 

Actually, this bow tie was the inspiration for this week's ensemble.  Whether or not he wins Project Runway, Viktor really should go into the business of making these ties.

He chose sophsticated fabrics in a black/white/grey pallete.  He chose Oliv(i)er as his partner. 

"Viktor, I love these fabrics.  Then again, I am no longer in the running, so that should tell you something."

 When Oliv(i)er is suggesting you need to up the excitement factor, perhaps you should listen.  Still, Viktor's ensemble was exceptional.

My invisible Magic Eight Ball says that I'm going to Fashion Week! 
Michael Kors said that his collection "was the most commerical."  Project Runway is still a design challenge.  And although these looks are impeccable, they are nothing you couldn't already get in a mall today.  How many times have we seen that little black dress this season?  Then again, the $20 K carrot to keep things interesting was dangled last week.  Viktor knew full well that all he had to do was deliver a solid, diverse collection and he'd be in.  Frankly, why pull all of your innovation cookies out at this stage of the game?  You're tired and you just spent the last two days working with Oliv(i)er.  In fact, playing it safe may have been the best strategy for Viktor to take.  He got a the benefit of a full round of criticism and advice from the judges on stepping it up for the runway with none of the concern that he'd be off. 
Will it go round in circles...
Sometimes the worst thing a designer can have is a strong visual inspiration.

Because she took off with such strong ideas, I bet you were thinking she had this one totally in the can.  I did, too, until I saw her in Mood....once the drapery aisle.

If this was "Top Design" you'd be going for a win.  That would make some very cool window treatments!
But I still held out hope, because she chose the same fabric in white and I thought she'd do an interesting negative/positive treatment with them.

But when she got to the register, she didn't have enough money to pay for it all.  The white cut-out was jetissoned.

But this fabric remained.

The last time I saw that pattern, I was pretreating it with an enzymatic cleaner designed to remove biological stains.
You can also see from the clip above, the sheer challenge of applying the drapery fabric to an underlayer.  The two fabrics were not going to have the same drape.

Her partner, Anthony Ryan, was also unconvinced.

"Whatever you do, don't put the boobs in the circles."
 If it's anything the judges hate, it's an inspiration that is too literal.  And if it's anything the judges really hate, it's an inspiration that is too literal and too poorly executed.

So you have two dresses and a skirt suit.  Two of the outfits feature a very bold motif.  What would look stunning on the drapery rods at a chi-chi resort hotel simply overwhelms the models.  You can't see the design of the outfit for the pattern.  The third dress does not belong to the other two. I get what she was trying to do--she was trying to deconstruct the motif to it's bare bones, which would be a thoughtful thing to attempt.  Had she been a little more spare with circles on the jacket, we would have seen a progression.

But there were other problems.  The second dress was made with wrinkly fabric and it did not look like it belonged with the other two pieces, rendered crisply in black and white.  I would question how diverse this collection really is.  You have a day time work look, an evening look and a third look that defies description altogether.  It was too much for the judges and, unfortunately for Laura Kathleen, it meant an auf wiedersehen from Heidi.

Dream Team.

Sometimes, help from a friend is no help at all.  Laura found that out this week.  Sometimes, the best partner to have is a coach that is full of knowledge and wisdom.  A guru.  Someone who knows the ropes.  Someone who knows how to sew....but I digress... So Anya, fresh from last week's $20 K win, chose first, chose well, and chose Bert.

Bert is better than Tim Gunn.  He has all the sensibilities plus, he'll help you set those seems just how you want them.  Curiously, though, despite all the talk of "diversity," Anya decided not to make any sleeves for this challenge.  She did, however, make pants, so points for that.  She was also banking on her designs being fresh enough to capture the judges attention without having to break her neck on sleeves or collars or anything that required precise detail. 

Before pairing with Bert, her trip to Mood garnered very plain, flowy fabrics.  No prints.  She wanted to concentrate on the silhouette without any distractions getting in the way.  The final result was pretty stunning.

She had a white evening gown, clearly her weakest look, but good enough.  She also had a black cocktail dress that was effortless, flattering and modest.  I think Nina found it quite refreshing to have a designer run something down the runway that an older woman could wear without looking like grandma or like a desparate cougar.  Michelle Obama could wear this to an official function and not look ridiculous.   Princess Kate could wear this and still look young and hip.

The third look is interesting.  The pants make it casual enough for resort wear but still flowy and elegant for a nice evening out.  Where this outfit would excel is at one of those movie premieres where the starlets seem to be dressing to the nines and the male stars show up in jeans and a tee shirt.  The grommet is edgy.  It's the strongest outfit of the entire challenge and it got Anya the win and a trip to Fashion Week.

Well, that's it for Episode 12.  The next episode will feature Tim's visits to the winning designers.  It's always an opportunity to poke fun at Tim, get to know the designers a little better and get a preview of their collections.  But in the interim, I'll be reviewing the runway shows of the designers that will not be televised. 

Until later!

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