Saturday, August 25, 2012

Project Runway, Season 10, Episode 6: Extreme Makeover: Deja Vu Edition

Art is like masturbation. It is selfish and introverted and done for you and you alone. Design is like sex. There is someone else involved, their needs are just as important as your own, and if everything goes right, both parties are happy in the end.
— Colin Wright

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

Every season of Project Runway after Season 1 has had some sort of version of a "real person challenge."

Yes, I know that the designers had to dress previous contestants of Project Runway--but that doesn't count, since they were already familiar with the design process.

What's wonderful about working with regular people outside the fashion industry is that the designers are forced to address real issues and problems that real people have.  Some of these issues are physical, some are emotional, and some are just a matter of taste and style.  As we learned from previous seasons with the mother-daughter prom and entering the workforce challenges, having an advocate for the client makes it a whole lot more challenging for the designer.  This season, those advocates were best friends--even better than a mother because their agenda is their friend's agenda, not their own.

And every season, a top designer struggles with the challenge.  This season is no different.

Meet Ven.  He's on to something....

"It isn't fair that some designers had plus-sized women and others had regular ones."
Ven is an excellent technician.  He can fold, pleat, dart and set a sleeve like no one else.  He can sculpt a garden of roses out of lowly polyester crepe de chine.  He's an award-winning designer.  He medaled in design at the Fashion Institute of Technology.  

Design is about making things good (and then better) and right (and fantastic) for the people who use and encounter them.
— Matt Beale
You see, Ven is on a reality contest show but I don't think he's quite realized that this is a manipulated experience.  Oh, he knows that the producers are manipulating the competition.  Not everyone gets "plus-sized" models, it is unclear how "randomly matched" the clients and designers were.... where's Heidi's beloved button bag?
But "the invisible hand" goes even further.  The Lord and Taylor Memorial Accessory Wall is mysteriously devoid of plus-sized belts.  I know for a fact that belts come in three sizes: Small, Large, and the only ones left on the rack when I go to look for a belt, so it is possible to get a belt for someone who is a Size 14 + in a regular department store.  It should have been available on the wall.  Oh, those mischievous producers!
Then, there's the whole business about "One or more of you will be out..."  It was just a ploy to leave Ven and Sonjia up there to get a proper "interview without coffee" as they would say in Great Britain.
So knowing the decks are stacked against you, why oh why do you resort to worst...mean best...indifferent to your client?  You could have chosen to be a solicitous suck-up, like Gunnar, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Yes, it was reminiscent of Jeffrey Sebelia, in Season 3.  He actually made Angela Kesslar's mother cry.
But in that exchange, Angela's mom told Jeffrey what she wanted, Jeffery told her what he wanted to make and the two agreed to disagree....disagreeably.  It was terse, maybe not so polite, but the animosity went both ways.
On the other hand, Terri, Ven's client, was nothing but nice.  But right from the get-go, Ven is doing all the talking and Terri doesn't get a word in edge-wise.  We don't learn until much later, and Ven was too busy talking to know,  that Terri is a busy working mom.  She has no use for fussy clothes.  What she could use is probably a gold-medal winning jacket and a sheath dress--two easy pieces that are versatile and....slimming....since that was so important to Ven.
"We'll do this part in black because black is slimming.  Note how slim I look in my fitted, black tee-shirt."
I've watched this episode a couple of times and it is pretty clear that Ven gave the producers plenty of material to cast him as the heavy (pun intended).  Even if he said just as many encouraging things to Terri that we didn't see, the point is that he said some devastating things that we did see.  Sometimes, all it takes is just one slight to send someone's confidence into a tailspin.
It's too bad the producers pit him up against a very shy, reserved Terri.  Ven needed to have a more aggressive demanding client....someone very familiar to Lifetime Networks....

Abby Lee Miller.
"I like color, comfort...I'm a dance teacher and I need to move around a lot.  I teach kids, so I bend down a lot, too."
"I've got this blue here...but I'm not sure I have enough.  You're not exactly a model size."
"Listen here, Ven...EVERYONE is replaceable and EVERYONE wants to see you fail!"
Who designs a slit-zippered dress for a working mother?  That top is way too fussy and it cuts her off in the middle.  Listen, the world knows that pleating and fabric sculpture is Ven's trademark, but award-winning designers usually know how to design clothes to put a body back into proportion and hide figure flaws that we all have.   This is down right horrible.  It deserved an auf this week, if it hadn't been for....
We're always surprised he's still in the competition.
“Designers need to be mavericks, because the best way to design a successful object is to pretend that either it never existed or that people will be able to have a new behavior with it.” 
— Paola Antonelli
I was too busy soaking up all the information about Nathan's life that he shared with us...because the producers gave us very little to go on thus notice that he was totally getting the "loser's edit."  
"My mother was a classical musician and I used to design her outfits, so I know something about designing outfits for musicians.
Here's the thing...Nathan's client was a budding R&B artist and considered herself something of a diva. She wanted a short, tight dress with a bare midriff.  Clearly, she had taste issues.  Reminds me of someone else who was so very demanding of her designer....
Remember Christian Siriano's Prom Challenge client?  Whew!  What a handful she was.  Not even a can of Tresemme hairspray and fabric glue could help that situation.
So in the end, Nathan took as much of the list his client gave him and crafted a shiny, satin dress with black, illusion sleeves.  There was some sort of lycra striping down the that it was extra tight.  Instead of being well fit, it hugged her like a gift wrapping awkwardly taped around a bottle of wine.  What sort of behavior did Nathan think she was going to engage in this outfit?   Ice skating at a gentleman's club?
"Black, illusion sleeves? That's something Betty White would wear."
Actually, Michael, Betty White wouldn't get caught dead in black, illusion sleeves.  Helen Mirren, however, has been known to wear them, so, we get your point.
It was sad to see Nathan go...just as I was getting to know him a little better.
Not getting the point this week was my gal,
She let her design aesthetic get in the way of the brief.
Her client was short and needed a way to elongate her body and draw the eye upward, away from her hips.  The knot, in this case, was not.  Sonjia, who is just an inch taller than her client, knows how to elongate her body but doesn't use that same know-how on her client.   Struggling with the opposite of know-how was
Her client wanted a pink dress.  Alicia designs the antithesis of a cute, pink dresses, so she struggled for a while at Parsons.  What emerged was the antithesis of a cute dress, in pink and Alicia remained safe again this week.
Come to think of it, perhaps Nathan and Alicia should have switched clients behind the producers' backs.  Alicia's client looks like an R&B singer in that dress.  By the way, those triangles are not cut-outs, but fabric panels--kind of a trademark of Alicia's and a technique Nathan could have used on his client's outfit.  
Melissa is lucky she had immunity this week.
This was awful and unremarkable.
Poor Christopher!
He designed a very nice jacket to go with the stylish dress he made....
And his model took it off immediately and wadded it up into a ball!!!
"Sorry.  I forgot to tell Chris that I'm allergic to jackets.  My bad!"

"I think dress, hairstyle and make-up are the crucial factors in projecting an attractive persona and give one the chance to enhance one’s best physical features."

— Vivienne Westwood
Dmitry once again designed the perfect dress that every woman wants to wear.
The pleats in the bodice were a nice detail.  The fit was impeccable.  However, this was not the week to simply design a pretty dress for a pretty girl.  If everyone else makes a mockery of their plus-sized, or awkward clients, then, the judges can simply award the pretty.  But that was not the case this week.
Even Elena stepped up to the plate.
Her model didn't need to be a warrior princess, so Elena backed off.  In fact, this week, with her client, she seemed relaxed...even ebullient.  Perhaps she was just grateful to be working on her own again.
The top shows her signature tailoring.  She was safe this week but could have been in the running with slightly longer pants and a slightly longer peplum in the front.

"One is never over-dressed or underdressed with a Little Black Dress."

—  Karl Lagerfeld
Gunnar started out like a fashion-designer version of Richard Simmons.
"There, there...let Gunnar take are of everything for you!"
My favorite part of that picture is the camera man and the sound guy right in back of Gunnar's elbow.  Great shot blocking, Bunim-Murray!  
Despite all his insipid cheerleading, Gunnar won me over this week.  It is one thing to design something to hide figure flaws.  It is quite another to do that and pour your design aesthetic into it.  Taking a page from Christopher's playbook, he created a sheer, ruffled overlay dress that went over a black shell.  It was ethereal, so there was no added bulk, but it was also fitted, so it didn't look sloppy.  She was a woman transformed in that dress.  Well done!

you hold your pencil like a second grader.

“Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.”

-Yves Saint Laurent

Fabio figured it out.

His client, Ko-Rely, had the style, grace and wardrobe of a lumberjack.

You were as old as the baby on the cover of Nirvana's "Nevermind" album when the Seattle grunge look was popular!

Ko-Rely had a strong aversion to dresses and "girly" looks.  She was a hip artist, but preferred to be androgynous.  Leave it to an androgynous designer to find the inner girl in the Grunge Grrl.

Reminds me of another androgynous designer named Jerrell, who managed to nail the "Get a Job" challenge, where designers had to make a work outfit for the daughter of a client.

Michael Kors is right.  Sometimes, you have to go to the guy wearing a dress to get over your aversion to wearing a dress.

And if a designer like Fabio, who wears dresses as a means of artistic expression, can't design a dress for an artist who wants to be more edgy than pretty--and still make her look pretty-- who can?

The belt is a distraction and the booties just make her calves look heavy, which they are not.

She still walks like a linebacker and has all the grace of a train engineer...but when she's standing still, she looks fabulous.

Perhaps our designers could take on one more real woman this week....

Yikes!  Could somebody dress Heidi in something decent?  It's becoming pretty clear that she can't dress herself.

See you next week, when some sort of challenge sends our fragile Elena completely off the deep end.

Several blogs have referenced the Tweet-a-thon that Ven engaged in last Thursday night when this episode aired.  Referencing back to my first quote, it would appear that Ven considers himself something of an artist.  He is not a good designer, however.  Think about a recent fashion designer whose artistry no one would question.
Alexander McQueen.
Yes, McQueen designed for plus-sized one more plus-sized physically or personality-wise than Beth Ditto.
And she looked like a work of art.

Oh, and by the way, pleats and folds can look fabulous on a plus-sized woman....perhaps one of the richest plus-sized women in the world, who can afford to wear the best designers, like Victoria Beckham.
Let's all have a round of applause for a belt that fits!
And what if, somehow, Ven miraculously manages to win Project Runway and the hottest actress of the day wants to wear one of his dresses....will he be as successful as Christian Siriano was with Christina Hendricks?
Something tells  
By the way, Ven, did you think you'd have Heidi's sympathy this week?  Have you ever heard of Karl Lagerfeld?  I quoted him above.  He's not one of Heidi Klum's favorite people.  He had the audacity to call her "too fat for the runway."
Ven, don't go blaming the client or the producers or anyone else but yourself for the fix that you're in.  You're just digging a deeper hole for yourself.


  1. A fantastic recap, and I especially LOVE your opening quote! That's the difference between design and art....and I think some of these "designers" Still Don't Get It.

  2. Thanks, TC. It's always a pleasure hanging in the chat room with you on Thursday.

  3. Wow Suzq! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I had forgotten about Christian's "client." That was a close call... And Jerell's client refused to wear the hat he made for her, so he wore it himself! OXOX

  4. OMG! I'd pay real money to have Ven forced to design for Abby Lee Miller! He'd never be able to complain that she gave him no information or feedback. And she's three times Terri's size!

  5. Jerell and his hats....Fabio and his turbans....

  6. Good one, Suz! Thumbs up for pointing out OPRAH, too....

  7. BTW, Mila likes that striped dress of Heidi's....she said so in her recap!

  8. Of course Mila would love that dresss. It has black and white stripes. Tom and Lorenzo love the dress, too, but hate the belt. I dunno...I think she looks clownish...perhaps it's the make-up.