Saturday, July 28, 2012

Project Runway Season 10, Episode 2: Sugar Rush

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

So many questions this few answers....

(1) What the heck was Elena wearing to the challenge introduction this week?

A half-burkha?  A hijab?  Some Ukrainian headgear to protect your brain from residual radiation from Chernobyl?

(2) Your dad is one of the richest people in the world and you could start any business you want and you choose a candy store?
That's Ralph Lauren's daughter getting a free plug on Project Runway.  She was this week's guest judge.  I shouldn't cast dispersions...she's been in business since 2001 and has locations in NYC, East Hampton and Houston.  If I started a candy company, I'd be lucky to get a location in a warehouse district in southwest Baltimore and it wouldn't be featured in any films or TV shows at all.

Sometimes, your best move in business is to be related to someone very famous.

And finally....
(3) What are you still doing here?

This week's challenge was a candy store challenge.  The contestants had 30 minutes to shop, way too much money to spend and one day to sew glue the outfit.  This is a throwback to Season 4's "Eye Candy" challenge.  In Season 4, the designers only had 5 minutes to choose their materials....and designers were body checking each other for candy, pillows and eventually, the posters that hung on the wall.  The store was stripped within minutes.

This season, designers had 30 luxurious minutes to peruse the different candies, helpfully displayed in rainbow colors.  They could muse over whether to pick twizzlers or rock candy.  What about the gummi animals?  Whole strips of gum and candy?  Sheets of candy buttons!  And yes, there were t-shirts, umbrellas and boots...because every candy store sells umbrellas and boots, right?

There's always the endless debate over whether or not to use the fabric materials or to devote yourself to only non-fabric ones.  Most designers will build a muslin base and tack materials on top of that.  Some ambitious designers will try and use just the found materials themselves.  In the end, it doesn't matter.  After eight years of Project Runway one decided pattern has emerged: if your garment is poorly constructed, you better have made an effort in the spirit of the competition, otherwise, you are out.

The judges will give you a pass for using fabric found in the store, provided that the outfit is impeccable, visually arresting and fun.

Right, Chris March?

So let's see how this season's designers did.

Christopher won the last challenge and had immunity for this one.  This was a solidly safe contribution of glued-on jelly beans, licorice.  The garment that resulted was not innovative or visually memorable in any way.


She used sheet licorice and round, black candies for this edgy outfit.  The silver accents were twisty ties.  the fit was not the most flattering and it's a look we've all seen before.  It keeps her safe for another week.


This season's "Mr. Chill" attempted to evoke a "modern Jackie O."  He decorated his garment with smashed candy--an approach that paid off for most designers.
Again, the look is a bit standard and the his design does not do anything to distract the eye from the fact that all that crushed candy adds volume.

I have to give her points for successfully managing to translate her vision with candy.  The candy stayed on, the silhouette was interesting and she used the candy as both surface decoration and in strings. I question whether her design vision has much mass appeal and whether this really deserved to be completely and totally safe.  At some point, she's going to have a face the judges and unless she shows some flexibility and versatility, it's not going to be pretty.


Kooan started off with an interesting twizzler technique.

But then he kept going...
and he didn't stop going.
And no, he didn't fix the ends.
Perhaps the judges were exhausted from picking on him last week.  Kooan could use some serious editing.


What the heck.  The candy weighs a damn ton.  Don't fight it.  Embrace the weight and cleverly design your outfit so that it's easy-on, easy-off.  Not a winner, but not an unpleasant entry at all.

Raul's outfit looked like one of those cute little outfits you'd find at the chi-chi boutique on the boardwalk....right down to the little flowers at the bottom.  He used striped gum sheets.  It didn't look like candy at all.  I thought it was one of the better outfits this week....from the front.

From the back, it looked more like he simply ran out of the materials he used on the front.  It's a different dress from the front and the back.  So he was safe.


Andrea saw the candy drops on the paper and thought she hit designer gold.  Just sew them up into a simple apron....done and done!

Tim: "It looks sort of simple."
Andrea: "Have you been paying attention?  I'm going to attach all sorts of crap to the back."
Tim: "I'm dubious."
Andrea: "Seriously. Look at the disaster on Lantie's dress form.  I'm so safe this week, it isn't even funny."
Well, that's how the conversation should have gone.  Here's the dress.

Does everything Andrea designs have to have an in-your-face, artistic visual statement?  Moving on....

She tried...she really, really tried.  Here's an example of someone who tried to embrace the materials, carefully weaving twizzlers for the bodice...but ultimately running out of time and having to simply embellish a fabric skirt.  She wanted the dress to move and I don't think she ever intended to cover every square inch of the skirt, so she was pretty close to her vision.

Unfortunately, her vision gave Nina an ice-cream headache, there were a few too many accessories, the bodice was bunchy and the skirt was a mess.  It had Heidi mumbling something incoherent about "taste issues."  Buffi, next challenge, the bull's eye is right on you.


Note that the judges went on and on and on about how Buffi and later, Lantie, used too much fabric and not enough candy.  Remember Chris March?  You can use as much fabric as you like as long as your final look is impeccable, as this was.  The candy strings moved beautifully.  I think Dmitry could have come closer to winning this challenge had he not been so obsessed with whether the model would fit into the garment after the candy was applied.  He could have strung some candy at the neckline and a bit on the bodice for greater effect.  He played it safe, however.


The piña colada is a delightful mixture of rum, coconut and pineapple as well as a earworm by Rupert Holmes that will take permanent residence in your brain.  Elena is now sick of the smell of piña colada and if Andrea were really cruel, she'd download the Rupert Holmes song on her iPhone and play it for Elena every morning.  It will make her thankful that English is not her native language.

She produced a garment that was faithful to her vision.  But the twizzlers began to fall off, exposing the fabric underneath and completely ruining the illusion that this was anything but a dress made out of laptop cover foam and twizzlers.

Michael Kors labeled it "Mad Max Rigatoni" but I didn't think it was the most egregious outfit to walk the runway.  However, Elena is presenting herself to be very inflexible.  "I only work in monotones" is not a way to ingratiate yourself with the judges.  The upshot is that most designers saw the candy challenge as an opportunity to have a bit of fun with design.  Elena wandered through Ms. Lauren's store looking for materials with which to construct her warrior princess outfit.


Peplum.  It's such a fine line between a lovely embellishment and a dowdy apron.
It's a cute dress and a well-executed pattern...then you get to the peplum that sticks straight out and sits too high on the waist.  The candy was too stiff for the job.  Gunnar's extremely annoying demeanor aside, it was a disappointment that he didn't manage to perfectly execute his original vision.


If you're going to take umbrellas, cut them up, slap candy on them and stuff your model's feet into cut-up rain boots....well...things better look better than this.  Lantie identified herself as an embellisher of fabric, so this was completely expected.  But after one challenge and two looks, she solidified herself as someone with no sense of taste or style.  This outfit made Nina and Heidi take turns being queasy.  It made Dylan Lauren laugh.  It made Michael Kors call her a decorator.

In the words of Top Design's Jonathan Adler, "See you later, decorator."


This was my personal favorite, once again.
She shape was flattering and innovative.  The colors visually slimmed the model down, not that she needed it.

The back was as good as the front.
Dylan Lauren was pleased that she used multiple colors and many kinds of candy.  It would have been my win for the week, but short, shiny and tight won the day.


Ven won four medals once.

No, not for anything silly like swimming.  He won his medals......for fashion!  He graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and won all four medals for which students are eligible.

I'm sure he was also the most beloved among his fellow students, too.

His inspiration was to take the licorice twizzlers and use them like the lead in stained glass, filling the voids with crushed candy.  It was a perfect technique.

Without a doubt, this was a gorgeous dress.  It was flattering to the model and perfectly executed.
You could argue, however, that it had no soul.  Not one ounce of fun...and wasn't fun the whole point of this challenge?  Ven is perfect in every way and he knows it.  But will his come-down be a challenge that demands some whimsey and personality?  We'll see.

Next week, the designers team up.  See you then! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Project Runway, Season 10, Back to (Times) Square One

Welcome back, designers.  We've missed you.

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!  I've missed you.  Yes, I promised to blog after Project Runway All-Stars, but the summer has been so busy.  I never got any of my sewing projects finished, so I know that personally, I have no business being on Project Runway.  But that doesn't mean I can't be a critic.

This blog finds me up at 2 am with a bout of some intestinal nastiness, the details of which I will spare you.  I'm snacking on some delicious ice chips right now and have to say that it's the best stuff I've eaten in a long time.

Many of us long-time fans of Project Runway approached this season with great trepidation.  I was very disappointed in the outcomes of the last two regular seasons.  Mondo was robbed the win in Season 8 and Viktor Luna was robbed in Season 9.  The regular judges took turns being missing from the panel in Season 8, which lead to some inconsistent judging.  Last season, the challenges were frantic and incoherent.  So were many of the outfits, as well.  So let's cautiously tiptoe through this season together.  I'd invite you to hold my hand, but I don't want you to catch whatever it is that I've got.

Um...don't toast that 10th Anniversary just yet.
I would like to make one thing clear from the start: THIS IS NOT PROJECT RUNWAY'S TENTH ANNIVERSARY.  THIS IS THE TENTH SEASON.   Season 1 aired December 1, 2004.  The word "anniversary" is peppered all over the Lifetime site.  Perhaps they don't know what "anniversary" means.  If this show should make it to 2014, will they remember they've been on for 10 years?  What will they call that achievement?

I always bemoan the first few episodes of Project Runway as I attempt to wade through all the designers. This year's "Road to the Runway" show helped me sort everyone out a bit however, the first challenge was a complete overload.  Each designer had to bring to Parsons a piece that demonstrated their point of view.  Once at Parsons, Tim informed them that they were to produce a companion piece and both pieces would walk the runway.  This means that with 16 designers, I have 32 looks to critique.  That's way too much.

"So last season I was kicked off right away.  That's not going to happen this year.  I'm going to stay and be a big jerk about it and everyone will remember me!
That's all you need to know about Gunnar.

"Oh crap.  They warned me about the sewing..."
That's all you need to know about Beatrice.

And then...there's Kooan.

Kooan's style is zany and crazy and comes from the streets of Harajuku in Tokyo.  Will it translate in the US?  With Nina?  What do you think?

So how do you celebrate a tenth AnniSeasonerversary?  With THE BIGGEST RUNWAY SHOW IN PROJECT RUNWAY HISTORY.  Times Square, baby!

I've been to Times Square and my first impression of the place was that it was actually a lot smaller than it looks on TV.  But it is an amazing backdrop and they can cram thousands of folks into the space.

Let's start the show.  It's a marathon post, so you may want to grab a bag of snacks.  Me, I have my ice chips.

Alicia Hardesty

Her style is lesbian, tomboy street chic.  The first look was a stylish take on a hoodie and the second look was an easy pair of separates.  The cut of the pant is not flattering on anyone but a very trim woman.  But kudos to her for some unusual cuts and designs.  These were not ordinary separates.

Andrea Katz

Self described as a "crazy old cat lady, Andrea considers herself as much an artist as a designer.

It was a risk showing something this audacious in the first show

but she was playing to the cheap seats, like any native New Yorker with "brass balls" would.  Considering the other looks that walked that night, there were no worries she would not advance to the next round.

Beatrice Guapo

Condolences to the 15 straight guys out there who watch the show.  I heard from a few of you Thursday night how upset you were that the cutest gal on the show got kicked off.  She described herself as a knitwear designer, but admitted that she doesn't sew very well.  The garment she made ahead of time took weeks for her to sew.  She was doomed from the start.

I thought you should at least see the dress she made ahead of time without the "ugly Aztec cape" as Michael Kors put it.  

The cape added nothing and the second outfit was very poorly constructed.  I don't think they were the worst looks to walk, but they were pretty close.  It was just a matter of time before Bea would have been out of the competition.  Sorry Bea.  Sorry guys.  I would have kept her for another week, but that's just me.

Buffi Jashamal

She was born in London, she's half Australian and half Indian, and grew up in Dubai.  She's exotic, but very inspired by the club scene and frankly, anything tacky.  The designers don't know who the guest judge is going to be, usually.  Had she known that Patricia Fields, stylist and designer for Sex in the City was going to be there, she might have stepped it up a bit.

In all sincerity...who puts a belt on the front of a top

and not in the back?  What does that accomplish?  What design problem does that solve?  It seemed to be like a gimmick without a purpose.  The other dress was a complete throwaway.

She was safe this week.  We'll have plenty of opportunities to question her taste level in the weeks to come.

Dmitry Sholokhov

Dmitry, born in Moscow, left the girly world of modeling for the manly world of ballroom dancing and fashion design.  He has amazing talent when he has all time time in the world, evidenced by the dress above.

When he's in a hurry, he can still make it interesting, but the proportions seem a little off to me.  In any case, he's very talented and should be one to watch.

Elena Slivnyak

Elena was born in the Ukraine and grew up very poor.  Her style is futuristic, very reminiscent of Irina Shabayeva from Season 6 with more of an avant garde edge.

We are clearly in the post-Alexander McQueen era.  Designers are not afraid to push the envelopes of proportion and body shape.  But McQueen was not on a reality show where designers were pressed for time and resources in unusual ways.  He was also an impeccable tailor who studied for years.  You can clearly see Elena's vision and talent but what's missing is the fit and proportion--which often falls by the wayside when you have one day or less to construct a garment.  She's one to watch as well.

Fabio Costa

He's this season's "Mr. Chill" in the tradition of Jerell Scott (S. 5) and Epperson (S. 6).  

He brought a black dress that had an asymmetrical sleeve treatment and cut but it just didn't show up well on the runway.  The studio designed hints at his design aesthetic, but seems a bit disjointed.

Nathan Paul

Oh, Miss Model, don't look so disgusted.  It's not that bad a dress.
Oh, I see. You wish you were wearing this one.
I know what you're thinking....he does nothing but drape.  Give the guy a's just the first challenge.  Although I suspect you're right.
Melissa Fleis

She's kind of goth.  Loves to work in black...which is usually the kiss of death on this show, eventually.  The jacket is well constructed, but the fit is just a little loose.  The asymmetrical dress (walking away) fits well.  She's got skills, but will we see them for the black fabric?

Raul Osorio

His pre-made piece was a suit which was fairly well tailored and featured a lacy blouse underneath.  He's got an obsession with lace.  While the combination of formal and frilly provided contrast, it was not the best designed suit/blouse combination I ever saw.  Furthermore, the bow in the front evokes  the standard professional suit blouse cliché. 

This dress is evidence that Raul's lace fetich has the potential to undo him.  The machine kept rejecting the fabric, but he refused to take the hint.  He did pair down the silhouette, thank goodness.  The more streamlined shape kept this from being a total disaster.

Sonjia Williams

Sonjia produced the one look in the entire show that I crave.

Seeing the jacket from the front...I want it....

but from behind, it's even more spectacular.  Love it.  I even love the gathered, drape pants.

This was her in-studio produced look.  I appreciate how it ties in with the other look but I just can't get past how the patterned fabric just looks stuffed in there.  She has some clever ideas and I hope we get to see a lot of them.

Gunnar Deatherage

He can sew.  He can design.  I'm seeing a lot of Josh McKinley here.  

Making a three-piece ensemble in-studio was a gutsy move.  He pulled it off, despite the struggles he had with the fabric.  If he minds his fabric choices and doesn't manage to alienate everyone else, he might redeem himself from when he was kicked off during the first challenge last season.

Ven Budhu

Ven has skills, that's for sure.

The look on the left was the one he produced pre-show.   He took every tool in his tool kit and laid it out there for the judges.  So why didn't he win?  I would have loved to see some more critique here, which I suspect was edited out.  The judges had to have commented about how much volume his pants suit added to the model's body.  As dramatic as the rose bodice was, it probably should have been the only exuberant thing, rather than have full pleated pants, plus a flowing jacket.  The pleated dress is well done, but it is not very well fitted.  It puckers in some areas and bunches in others.  The model loses her shape a bit here too.

Christopher Pala

Clearly, this did not impress the judges.

Here's where it dawned on me that had this challenge only been about the in-studio produced garment, Chris would have been in the bottom.  Speaking of bottoms.... That is one bunched up zipper.  How do you make a dress that is too small around the waist for that model?

So in a way, this challenge was a PROJECT RUNWAY FIRST in that the judges got a mini preview of what this designer could do if they sent him or her home for a few weeks and a decent budget to produce a Fashion Week show.  To that end....

This dress was produced using strips of fabric over a sheer fabric underlay.  The dress itself flowed but each little strip caught the wind as well.  The effect was completely ethereal.  The shape and design echoed the 1930's but not faithfully.   A thirties bodice wouldn't be that cut out around the sides and that slit would  have been scandalous.   Nevertheless, the bias fabric flow was there and it was Chris for the win.

I know what you're thinking.  Who would have won this challenge had the in-studio produced pieces been weighted more?  That's a good one.  I can't tell you.  All I know is it wouldn't have been any of the next designers.  Yes, there are more.  You might want to take a potty break and come back.  

Kooan Kosuke

Welcome back.  And now, a special edition of The Kooan Show!
"Hello, I am Kooan and I am here to entertain you...with fashion!"

This Japanese street style known as "Decora" involves lots of bright colors and way too many accessories.  It is one of the many street styles you can see in the Japanese style magazine, FRUiTS.  This is legitimate stuff going on right now with one of the biggest clothes-buying, fashion obsessed populations around.  So I found it a bit culturally insulting that Nina kept asking if this was a joke.  Did she ask if Madonna was a joke?  Does she consider Gwen Stefani a joke?  Both of these ladies are heavily influenced by street style.  Heck, Patricia Fields was sitting there.  She more than anyone should have recognized where this came from.  I was quite disappointed in that aspect of their judging.  Still....

this was shapeless and pointless.  Not exactly "teletubbie" as Michael Kors observed, but 

even the Harajuku girls would laugh at a mylar sailor collar.  He's not going to make it to the end, but he's this year's Ping.  You might not think he's serious, but in some cultures, fashion isn't serious business.

Lantie Foster

I saved my worst for last.  Lantie elicited one of the funniest judging moments this week.

"So, do all your clothes have bibs?"
"Bibs? What bibs?"
Lantie is all about decoration and embellishment.  The white dress was the one she brought to Parsons and IT WASN'T EVEN DESIGNED BY HER.  It was a vintage dress that was....redone.  The crafters at Etsy call this "upscaled" but I see very little upscaled here.  She added a snake skin belt to the white dress and made a snake skin bib embellishment to her cream dress.  She also put black tulle on top of the cream make it more...embellished.  Her model looks 10 times heavier than she is and that's before the sister wife hairstyle.

Lantie, you're delightfully ditsy and you remind me of Chelsea Handler, but I think your days on this show are numbered.

Whew.  That's it.  I'm done.  The show ran so long that they didn't even have time to preview what was happening next week.  I guess we'll all have to tune in to find out.  Until then....