Saturday, October 6, 2012

Project Runway, Season 10, Episode 12: Avant Grrrrrr!

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

This week, I only caught the last half of the show.  As far as I was concerned, that's the only half I really needed to watch.  The judging on this show and the ultimate results infuriated me to the point where I had no desire to go back and watch the rest.  So if my theories on what happened seem a bit hackneyed, so be it.

This week was a return of the avant garde challenge.  Project Runway has done this before and just about every single time, I get frustrated beyond belief.

Avant garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard."  The term was first applied to art in a French essay written in 1825. There have been many avant garde movements in visual art, literature, theatre, and music over the centuries.  The term most often describes art for art's sake, applications of form over function, or any artistic expression that challenges conventions.

Sophie Tauber-Arp, 1920's
Alexander McQueen - Fall 2008, Maxi dress with cape

And on Project Runway, it usually means "design the most outlandish thing you can make in one day...."  unless it doesn't.  Let's take a stroll down memory lane.

Remember this Chris March/Christian Siriano dress from season 4?  The designers were in teams and had to create an outfit based on their model's hairdo.  This was the only challenge that was vague enough to allow the designers a complete flight of fancy.  The challenge occurred late enough in the season so that the strongest designers were left.  The results, as you can see above, were spectacular.  Even the runner-up, designed by Victorya and Jillian (in a much argued decision) was top notch.

But then...Project Runway started fiddling around with themes and this is where things started going downhill for this challenge.  Remember the Zodiac challenge in Season 5?

Blaine's...outfit still gives me nightmares!

Next year, they tried it again...only on the beach this time.  Most viewers would have picked Chris and Logan's outfit for the win.

But Nina Garcia fell in love with a little neoprene dress that was dyed in the toilet.

We're STILL scratching our heads over this one.  Perhaps reeling from that outlandish result, the Project Runway producers retired this challenge until last year, when the designers were teamed up with students from the Harlem School of Art.  The designs were to be based on artwork on which the designer and artist worked together.

We can argue forever whether Anthony Ryan's dress is really avant garde, but it did successfully follow the brief of taking inspiration from the artwork without becoming too literal or costume-like.

And last year's All Stars did an avant garde challenge using lights.  The results were underwhelming, given that the throw-away "24-Hour Catwalk" did a one-day light challenge with three looks and a runway show that was way more spectacular.

Austin Scarlett's winning gown.
Which leads me to my four rules about Project Runway avant garde challenges:

1. If you give designers too much specific inspiration, they will concentrate more on the inspiration than they will on making something avant garde.

2. If you run this challenge too early in the season, the designers will just give you garbage.

3. If you don't give your designers enough resources in time and materials you will get garbage.

4. The judges need to have an intelligent definition of "avant garde" and not just judge how pretty or wearable something is.

So since none of that occurred, kindly toss discard everything I've written thus far.  Let's just get this week over with.


Dmitry concentrated on the cockamamie story that producers gave the designers about designing for some sort of queen.  Really, I'm not making this up.  The contestants were to design an avant garde outfit for a queen.  Whatever.

What would you, dear reader and Project Runway fan, have criticized about this outfit?

It's too safe, don't you think?  Except for some teeny tiny details that you cannot see BECAUSE THE DRESS IS BLACK, there is very little that says "avant garde" to me.

So I settled in to hear the judging. Michael Kors said that the collar and the shoulders were not exaggerated enough overdone.  Wait...overdone?  I will agree with everyone that this suit is impeccably made and the details are exquisite....but this outfit is in no away avant garde, except for the collar...maybe.


I guess on Project Runway, avant garde = exaggerated collar.  It's the only thing that propels this look forward.  That's about it.  I thought the skirt was something of a mess.  Yes, she works miracles with leather and the outfit was well made, but the challenge was avant garde, in case anyone remembers or cares.


Apparently, feathers = avant garde, too.


Someone should have told Kim in Season 9!
My point here is that a treatment that the judges thought was like a costume in Season 9 was not a costume in Season 10.  Yes, it was another beautifully designed outfit, but the challenge was to push the envelope and I don't think it was avant garde...but by now, it should be clear to you that avant garde is not the subject if this challenge.


At some point during the judging, Michael Kors remembered that this was an avant garde challenge and when the other judges started piling on Fabio's outfit, he reminded them that Fabio actually followed the brief.

Fabio designed a polymorphic jacket.

Yay!  Polymorphic outfits rule!

This is the jacket flipped over.  While it was a nice gimmick, was it the entire outfit avant garde?  Look at Fabio.  He knows how to dress himself in a style that defies convention.  Why can't he translate that to a queen female model?


Sonjia suffered some kind of producer-manipulated fabric loss textile malfunction this week.  Because I refuse to go back and watch this episode, I cannot venture a guess as to whether this effected the outcome of the garment.

Michael Kors hated the green and the wrinkly, flesh colored material underneath.

Nina and Heidi debated whether her queen would wear green.  Because I refuse to go back and watch the first half of the show, their argument will forever remain one of the silliest judging exchanges I've ever watched.

It's a shame that she created an entire bodice from the light-weight illusion fabric.  That stuff really bunches up.  It would have been enough just use a little to hold the pieces in place.  It's also a shame that the back of the dress is so conventional.  Had she played with the shapes below the waist in some way to make it look like the entire dress was just folded fabric in strategic places, perhaps it would have been interesting enough for the judges.

So you know where I'm going with this.  Sonjia was given the boot this week.  Not only that, for some reason ONLY Sonjia was given the boot, so now the other four designers go to Fashion Week with another elimination to face.

Thing is, the judges agreed with me.  None of these looks really fulfilled the brief.  But no one really collapsed this week, either.  It was a five-way draw.  So the judges turned to the guest judge, Zoe Saldana and told her that it was nice that she joined them for the week, but they would proceed to judge the designers on past work.

After talking endlessly about what the designers did to date, they came back to the folded illusion on Sonjia's outfit.  Why the retrospective when it didn't really mean anything toward the outcome?  What would have been the problem with sending five to Fashion Week with two eliminations or giving both Sonjia and Fabio the......come to think of it, the optics of sending two designers of color home in the same week look pretty bad.

So there goes my favorite designer, Sonjia, from the competition.

Until next week's elimination before the Fashion Week show....

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