Saturday, March 31, 2012

Project Runway All-Stars Finale: Guess it's over, call it a day....

I had this song in my head all last week just thinking about the last episodes of Project Runway All-Stars.

What will I miss the most?

Will it be Joanna Coles' expressive face?

Perhaps it will be the ever acerbic, Isaac Mizrahi.

Or, perhaps the cool, calm, and collected Georgina Chapman.

Whatever I end up missing, it probably won't be the host, Angela Lindvall.

Oh, she tried...but in the end, she never could pronounce "embroider" correctly and I suspect she helped keep a couple of lackluster designers in the game way past the their time to be there.

In any case, for the FIRST TIME IN PROJECT RUNWAY HISTORY we had an all-male final group.    And the results were quite impressive, given that each had just four days to prepare six looks for the runway.  One of them had to use left over material from previous challenges.  That's the extent of a twist for this challenge.

Because of the time crunch, the designers had help.

Austin teamed up with Anthony.  He knows comedy gold when he see it.  First, teaming up with Santino and now, Anthony.   If fashion design doesn't work out, I think they should just form a gay, fashion version of Monty Python.   I'd watch.

Anthony straight-away, began critiquing Austin's designs.  "This looks like an old lady dress."  It really was a brilliant pairing for Austin.

Michael chose April.  April has solid sewing skills and is quite speedy, which helped Michael quite a bit.  She also likes to edit.  Michael needed her editing and focus for this challenge.  She was a good choice for him as well.

Dream Team
I didn't quite make it into the Blogging Project Runway chatroom in time to chat about this pick, but as I was logging in and watching the show, I was saying, "Pick Mila, pick Mila, pick Mila...."  First of all, their aesthetics are compatible.  Second, Mila is all business, no drama.  That's good for Mondo, since he's a drama factory.  Third, Mila's skills are off the charts.  Oh, they could have clashed over competing visions, but that goes back to #2: Mila is focused on the task, not on being the center of attention.  Perhaps the next All-stars should be a team competition with teams the whole way through.  That would be an interesting twist.

Mila and Mondo worked very well together...which is a good thing, because Mondo brought the drama.

"I am suffering for my art."
I don't know if Mondo's meltdown was important enough to dominate an entire episode, but Bunim-Murray milked it for all they could.  It was the inspiration for his final collection, "Therapy."  His brooding for an entire day meant the for him, the final challenge was a three-day challenge.  And, it provided the backdrop for the BEST DESIGNER PEPTALK IN PROJECT RUNWAY HISTORY.

Michael: "Nobody thinks I'm a good designer.  I have to prove myself."
Georgina: "How do you think I feel?  Everyone thinks I'm in this business because my husband bankrolled my line.  You just have to ignore the haters and go for it.
"Austin:  "Everything I'm making right now looks ugly to me.
"Georgina: "That happens to me all the time.  I get a good night's sleep and come back in the morning.  Sometimes, the next day, things can look amazing.  If they don't, I call in a good seamstress.  Let's hope you don't have that problem!
"Mondo:  "I'm borderline suicidal.
"Georgina:  "So am I!  It sure makes life interesting for my husband and my staff.  But keep this in mind, I designed some of my best clothes with a noose around my neck!"
There, there, isn't that comforting?

The guest judges were Ken Dowling, buyer from Neimann-Marcus,

and Tommy Hilfiger, fashion mogul.

Now, you'd think that two fashion power brokers could deliver some pointed and hard hitting critiques, but you'd be wrong.   Perhaps the panel was so impressed at how well the designers pulled a show together in just four days that they overlooked a lot of faults.

Oh well...

At least Georgina wore her yeti outfit.

Let's see how our designers did.

Austin Scarlett

Austin's theme was...I don't know...let's say "pink fablulousness."  I can't remember him saying what it was.  The collection didn't seem that cohesive to me.  He did do the one thing the other designers didn't do: he stepped out of his comfort varying degrees of success.

He opened up with a very edgy take on panniers matched up with a a black, sequined top.  The end result was a mash-up of folds and pleats that went every which way and didn't seem to have a focus.  I had less of a problem with the pannier itself.  It's a strong, attention getting look.  However, when you think about it, a designer should probably just exaggerate one body part at a time.  Austin's pants were just big in all directions.  Also, the hem and some of the stitching were wonky.

This outfit gave the impression that this would be an edgy, very un-Austin collection.  However, neither of the individual parts were that earth-shattering.....well, save one....

Here comes Peter Cotton tail...hopping down the bunny trail...
Is something stuck to her skirt or is a tulle puffball trying to make a break for the exits?

The dress was made out of some sort of lacquered lace.  The flounce in the front looked like some sort of docking station.  It flopped about rather awkwardly.  I don't think it added anything to the dress that improved it in any way.  If he meant it to transition from edgy to glamorous, he shouldn't have followed up with this...

Tell me about it, stud....
At this point, I'm wondering who is up there pretending to be Austin.  All the while. they cut to shots of Austin standing there with Joanna saying, "This is really me. "  Really? we're talking....although this had a weird topiary effect as it walked down the runway.

Again with the weird folds and ruffles that add nothing but volume.

Then, Austin went for the completely expected.

That is a stunning dress, from all angles...although I could have done without the origami in the bodice.  I think he was trying to be cohesive by styling the dress with black gloves, belt and veil, but try as he might, it still looked like a dress from another collection altogether.

This left Tommy Hilfiger in a very confused state.  I counted at least five times that he uttered, "he was trying to show a rock and roll look..."  In the end, I appreciate that Austin stepped out of his comfort zone and took a small stroll on the wild side.

Michael Costello

I'm clearly going in the order I think the win should have been.  Mind you, I did not see the clothes up close, as the judges did.  And I did not have the benefit of Tommy Hilfiger and Ken Dowling endlessly debating the concept of "saleability."  But to me, Michael  Costello wasn't just the most improved of the lot, he really presented a compelling, cohesive collection.

His theme was "safari" and he clothes transported the wearer and the viewer.

He mentioned that this looked like a jumpsuit but was really separates.  The pants walked well, but I think he would have been better served with material that had a bit more body.  I could have done without all the sloppy necklaces hanging from the model's neck.  They reminded me of ID tags.

This look model totally pissed me off.  I wanted to see the jacket, but we got only a brief glimpse.  She never put it back on!  Maybe it didn't fit well.  The dress was constructed beautifully, but the print got in the way of all the detailed seaming.  In any case, I think showcasing the jacket would have given him a better edge.

Are you allergic to silver jackets?
If the judges mentioned the jacket at all, it was edited out.  We'll never know how they felt....but you know how I feel!

This was a more subtle print with the same theme.  Wearable and commercial.  I'm sure Ken Dowling was salivating.

Look at those pants!  Another beautiful outfit.

And here's the outfit done with the leftovers, which was a challenge twist, this being All-Stars and all...

I could have done without the of the judges, I can't remember who, actually loved the vest. Also, I think the necklace is much to casual for the look.

So I know what you're thinking.  Can Joanna Coles wear a "brar" with this gown?

Well, maybe one of those specialty "brars" that Macy's doesn't carry anymore.  Thanks for styling the models' hair so we can't see the detailing on the dress, dude.

Mondo Guerra

Mondo played it completely safe and stayed in his comfort zone.  His theme was "Therapy."  He styled the models as if they were mental patients and somehow, we are to believe that each outfit represents some sort of treatment option.  By staying in the zone, however, he was able to showcase his very strong design aesthetic.

This was Mondo's first look and at once, you get the whole story in one picture: Mondo's signature mismatched prints, a strong graphic focus, and strategic pops of color.

I don't know what treatment this is supposed to be.  Perhaps there's a sort of herringbone therapy I'm unaware of.   Tommy Hilfiger couldn't get past the huge "cartoon pockets" and gigantic, satellite dish buttons.  But I like those features.  That's pure Mondo.  It's a young, fresh, cheeky look.

So right off the bat, two looks walk out that are very spare silhouettes.  This is a big change from the flouncy, pleaty stuff Mondo sent down the runway in his season of Project Runway.  This collection had the look of a more mature designer--even though he had but a fraction of the time.

Another mix of prints.  I tried to get a shot of the side detailing in the leggings.  A very nice serve-up to Mila, who I'm sure helped him out with this look.  It's got a lot of her influence blended in.

A suit!  Mondo is an excellent tailor, so this is not a huge stretch of his abilities.  It bothered Tommy that the pants were too slim on the top and flared out at the hip.  He wanted a fuller cut from the top of the hip, not the bottom.  I think the pants flared out too much, but that's just me.

And the pockets really bothered Mr. Hilfiger.   Still, the pants fit beautifully and even my mom, who would have never gotten caught wearing two different tweed patterns, would have liked this outfit.

If I'm not mistaken, a Rorschach test is a diagnostic tool, not a treatment.  Regardless, the dress is very well fitted and styled.  The print is stunning.

Everyone says that gowns aren't Mondo's strong suit.  But I love the way the overlay flows over the dress and catches the light.  It was a nice formal interpretation of his design aesthetic.

So there you have it.  Mondo wins.  He's vindicated from his season and all is right with the world, yes?

Well, I'm not so sure.  In the land of Project Runway, under the reign of Bunim-Murray, fashion is beginning to take a back seat.  There were a couple of inspired challenges this season--the business of fashion and the light show spring to mind--but the drama and impossible time crunches took front and center.

I find it interesting to note that "televised fashion contests" are now all over the map.

NBC's Fashion Star, produced by Project Runway's original producers, Magic Elves, is a hot mess of weird dance numbers, nebulous instructions, mysteriously produced designs, a strange relationship between mentors and buyers, and an unknown final prize.  It gives me an ice-cream headache.

Lifetime's 24 Hour Catwalk, much like Bravo's The Fashion Show before it (RIP), features designers working with professional sewers.  And while the sewers bring a lot to the table (I adore Just Raymona...and I was quite fond of Merle...) I think it's kind of hard to follow that sort of team work.  An excellent, experienced sewer an salvage a bad design, to a point, which is what I suspect is happening an awful lot with some of these celebrity design lines.   But the wrong production shop could also scuttle a good designer's vision, too.  It goes both ways.

So, we're left with Project Runway, the original design contest.   I have a bit of a theory.  Starting with either the third or fourth season, Project Runway has been nominated for an Emmy.  It would really be cool to win an Emmy, but they have almost always lost out to "The Amazing Race."  It's hard to compete with a show that offers human drama, an impossible contest, and breathtaking scenery.

Ever since those Emmy nominations, whoever was at the helm of PR has tried to play around with the editing of the sewing and the runway show to make it look more exciting.  What we've lost is a sense of the creative process itself and a full accounting of the result.   The producers also have amped up the drama-- last minute twists, impossible time challenges, etc... that destroy any chance a designer might have had to complete the challenge in an innovative way.

To illustrate what happens, let's compare the finale of 24 Hour Catwalk, which featured lights incorporated into the designs to the penultimate, pre-finale challenge on Project Runway All-Stars, which also featured lights.  The Catwalk folks had three sewers each, save one who was fired.  But they also had less than 24 hours, working all night, to produce three designs each.   The All-Stars only had to produce one each with about 24 hours over two days. Perhaps the Catwalk folks had a better budget than the All-Stars.  Who knows?  All I know is that the 24 Hour Catwalk runway designs were more innovative and clever than the All Stars'.  That really caused me to take pause.  How could three Project Runway All-Stars not surpass two designers who have never been in a design challenge before?

I certainly do not have all the answers, but if I were the folks at Bunim-Murray, I would take a long look at what Project Runway has become.  They are casting now for a new season.  Perhaps it's time to re-think the nature of the challenges, the clarity of the rules and the time and resources given to each designer so that the design process again becomes the star and not just the drama.

Perhaps, it's also time to go back to not manipulating the outcome to fit a story line and let the chips fall where they may.

I look forward to the next season, this summer, with a wary eye.  Until then, I've got some sewing of my own to do!

1 comment:

  1. Your comment: "Perhaps, it's also time to go back to not manipulating the outcome to fit a story line and let the chips fall where they may" is EXACTLY what I've been wanting to say ALL SEASON on PR: AS. It was a "lost cause" for ANYONE OTHER THAN Mondo to win this, Shall we say: "Shoe-in????" Ugh!!!