Sunday, September 22, 2013

Project Runway, Season 12, Episode 10: For the Fans

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

This week's show is for you.  The contestants' tenth challenge was to dress and make over a fan of Project Runway.  I'm sure the fans were super excited and the designers were happy to see other people who understood what they must be going through, after watching 11 seasons.

Before I dive in, I have to say that this was a bad week for this particular episode.  There was drama involving Ken, Alexander and a hot iron which ended up in Ken's expulsion.  They made it look like he was voted off, but in reality, he was expelled.

I don't find the spectre and threat of violence very entertaining on what should be a show about creativity and skill.  On Monday, this happened just blocks from where I work.  This was not the week for me to watch someone blow up in a screaming fit of rage.

When Bunim-Murray took over Project Runway, I immediately became concerned that the show would turn into The Real World.  My fears are coming to fruition.  In my opinion, the production has FAILS if interpersonal drama trumps the design challenge, which it did again this week.

In any group of design contestants there will be trash talking and rudness.  Not everyone gets along, nor should they.  But this season, not one, but two contestants threatened and harassed the others repeatedly. Their combative temperments created a hostile work atmosphere, which I suspect, was Bunim-Murray's intention all along.  Not trusting the actual challenges to provide the drama, they resort to the cheapest tactic of all: making sure that difficult individuals are brought together so that the sparks can fly.  It's what they do best.

It was Real World San Francisco's Puck vs. Pedro Zamora all over again.  During that season, a ridiculous crazy person nearly derailed what should have been a very beautiful testament to the human spirit in the face of a terminal disease.  Likewise, this episode should have been a joyous celebration of a 12-year relationship between Project Runway and its fans.  Unfortunately, it was interrupted by a minstrel show.

Yes, a minstrel show. 

Another Project Runway blogger quit two episodes in after Ken's first tantrum.  She felt he was being stereotyped as an "angry Black man."  Did she know about this episode in advance?  Before this particular challenge got underway, Ken threw a fit about the other male contestants consolidating into his apartment.  Ken was wearing a white facial mask when his tantrum erupted.  He strutted about, yelling in the faces of the production staff, harrassing everyone in sight.

Minstrel show.
Lifetime showed that provocative image over and over and over again in previews this week.  Not cool.

After this display, it's going to take a lot of work on Ken's part to redeem his career.  I hope he has the courage and persistence to do it.  He is a talented designer.  His biggest mistake was not searching himself and his psyche more thoroughly before agreeing to be on the show.  Yes, we all have our free choices in life.  No one forced him to be on the show.  But sometimes, people make decisions to do things for which they aren't ready.  Sometimes, they bite off more than they can chew.

These folks end up becoming pawns on Bunim-Murray's chessboard.  No matter what happens to the contestants, Miramax, Weinstein, and Bunim-Murray will make their money.  Ken is left with nothing but his delusions that he had any control over the situation.

You see, while it looked like Ken was being eliminated for designing an ugly dress, in reality, he was being disqualified from the competition.  Fashion Week in New York was last week. Last week, during the runway production, he was still on the show and should have been one of the decoy designers.

He wasn't.  So, no, Ken, you didn't "throw the challenge."  Your die was cast the moment you started screaming at the production staff.  You should have just yelled at Alexander.  The producers might have kept you on another week.

There's no finger-wagging, self-satisfaction for me to watch someone who clearly can't handle the situation lose his composure.  There's no entertainment for me, either.

Sorry for the rant.  Sometimes it seems like I'm watching a fight and a fashion show breaks out.

So let's move on to the folks who should have been the stars of this week's show:  the superfans!

Hey there, lady.  Don't you know folks have been decapitated while standing up on the top of a doubled-decker, sightseeing bus? Please stay seated while the bus is in motion and do not stand up until it comes to a full and complete stop.

Tim took the ladies on a nice tour of the Parsons School of New Design studio and then told them they would be the models this week.

Overall, the contestants treated their clients wonderfully.  There were no shades of Ven this year.  No one was told she was too fat, short, tall, awkward...etc...  Designers struggled with body shape and coloring, as you'll see from the outfits.


Bradon's model was in shape and stylish.  The dress is beautifully fit and looks good, but that was no big task with this woman.  Safe, really.  He is capable of pushing the design further and he didn't, probably out of consideration of his client.


While it just seems like a simple, black dress with an embroidery design element on it, how many of us have been interested in a simple top or dress with a strong graphic statement?  I think the instincts were right here, but I would have gone bolder with the embroidery piece and simpler with the dress.  As it is, the gathers make her a little frumpy.  I think the waist is too high.  The embroidery gets lost in the folds.  He managed to produce a dress that was comfortable and safe for this fan to wear yet allows her to make an interesting design statement.


He started off on the right track--a separate top and skirt make it easier to fit a difficult body.  A little, strategic color blocking fools the eye in a critical place.  The result wasn't bad.

I think it would have looked even better had he taken a lighter shade of the grey into the skirt.  Also, the seaming seems a bit wonky.  Still, it was a very thoughtful design.


This, too, was another thoughtful design.  Alexandra's client does not have a challenging body, so she had an easier time of it.  She produced three looks and the fit is great.  However, the three-quarter length sleeves and short jacket seem to cut her off and make her look even shorter than she is.  With better proportions, this could have been a winner.


Kate put on her best poker face this week.  Her client is certainly not a standard size.  As one of the stronger designers, she could have been up to the challenge.  Fabric and design choices, however, took her down a weird path.

I'm all for a tunic top over skinny pants, but this handkerchief hem trend is starting to creep into everything.  This is a good illustration of one instance in which it doesn't work.  The delicate sheer material looked lovely on the top, but a straight hem would have kept her from looking like one of Robin Hood's band of merry men.


Dom was another big disappointment this week.  You're dressing a client in an impossibly short period of time and for once the client is well aware that your time is impossibly short!  You have time enough to design a simple dress with the print or design a complex dress with a solid, but you don't have time for both.

Dom probably should have chosen a print with a lot less beige and taupe in it.  The colors are incredibly matronly.  If she was deliberately making a high waist, the skirt should not have been as full.

The mullet jacket is an interesting piece and one that would be popular with a lot of woman.  I would have liked to see it in the blue or maybe a darker shade of taupe.  In the beige, it totally fades into the background.


Remember, Ken claims to have "thrown the challenge because he wanted to leave."

He was not crazy about the green, although it looked lovely on his client.

The dress really could have been a winner if the fit had been better.  Had he some good will with the judges, believe it or not, this could have been in the running because it really flatters her.  Dom might have been shown the door this week.  I think Ken knew the fix was in for him.  I wonder if he was surprised about not being included in Fashion Week?


She looks like Timothy's sister!

Go back and forth between the two pictures for a minute.  Now, you understand why Helen won the challenge.  She remembered the MAKEOVER part of it.  She managed to transform her fan model into something she was not: a stylish woman ready for the red carpet.  It's really every Project Runway fan's dream--to experience a one-on-one relationship with a designer and have a dress made to fit that makes you look like a million bucks.  Helen presented it on a platter.

Yes, this continues the real woman challenge pattern of having the woman with a model's body win.  This week, that could have been either Bradon or Helen.  But I still maintain that if someone could thoughtfully design for a fuller figure, they'd be the winner.  In that aspect, a lot of designers fell short.

Both Ken's garment and this episode had so much potential, but fell way flat in the execution.  

EDITED-- I removed the references to Ken being expelled from the competition because it turns out that he wasn't.  It also turns out that he is does not, still have his emotions in control.  He was at Fashion Week as one of the decoy designers.  He had a meltdown moments before the runway show and refused to show his garments.  The full story is here.

Again, Ken's appearance on Project Runway this season has been very disturbing.


  1. I'm going to defend the show a bit. Ken is who he is and I think the silly tantrum at The Refinery was but a mere distraction.

    I loved this episode in spite of that side show because all of the designers treated their superfan clients with respect and gave their best efforts to make their clients look great.

    A little inside skinny on Fashion Week. Ken was offered the opportunity to show a decoy collection and given the full amount of money for materials. He showed up with his garment bags but never opened them. He refused to show. Why? Who knows. Bottom line is that he threw away the chance to show a collection at NYFW when someone else was picking up the tab. Good luck trying to get that chance again.

  2. I knew Ken was out when Tim announced that he would be given his own room. He was costing the production company money, and I knew that would be the kiss of death. Not that I'm complaining - I think they should have removed him from the show after he threatened Helen. Plus, I thought his design was the worst on two previous occasions.