Saturday, August 30, 2014

Project Runway, Season 13, Episode 6: We Are Gathered Here Today

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

Tim is not happy.

"Due to budget cuts at the network, I regret to inform you that the intros for the rest of the season will be filmed in this garage in Queens.  To make matters even worse, the producers blew this season's meager budget on the cheesy lighting and backdrop you see behind me."
"This leaves just $200 for each of you to spend on a dress.  It's a real 'make it work' moment."
When I heard that the lovely and talented Dita Von Teese would be a guest judge this year, I got very excited.  The possibilities were endless...and fun!  I envisioned a real woman burlesque challenge, inspired by the burlesque revival that's sweeping the nation. Imagine the rip-away skirts and tops!  Fun, right?

Or how about designing an outfit inspired by Dita's fabulous lingerie line?  What?  Does only Heidi get to promote her items and no one else?

What did we get?  A wedding dress challenge.  Oh, Tim had some song and dance about how unconventional wedding dresses are all the rage with rockers these days.

Are they really?  I know Vera Wang has added black and grey to her wedding dress line.

But the biggest "rock and roll" wedding of the year looked pretty traditional to me.

Has the concept of what you wear to get married changed that much?  I don't really think so.  So we have what is likely to be the biggest celebrity thus far this season, someone we've waited for a long time and designers are making cheap-o wedding dresses.

Even Swatch is pissed off and bored.
I'm forgetting something.

There was a twist.  There had to be a wedding look and a reception look because today's unconventional bride wants different outfits for different activities.

Kim sure did.  We'll revisit this later....
There was something else....

Tim brought out the producer manipulation prop button bag to pick the teams. 

What else am I forgetting?

The Blonde Salad
Seriously.  As only a native speaker of Italian can, Chiara Ferragni chose the most curious word combination in English to title her blog.  The blog was launched "in 2009, when blogs were not yet the today phenomenon."  "Blonde." "Salad."  I guess she's a vegan, or something. 

The site goes on to say, "She launched, to express herself and relate to 360°."  Can you say, "word salad?"

In any case, I'm declaring this THE YEAR OF THE BLOGGER on Project Runway.  At this rate, by 2016 or so, they should be asking yours truly to have a seat at the judge's panel.  

Or maybe it's the year of the blonde fashion photographer.  Or maybe it's the year that all the well-known fashion celebrities had something better to do than to guest judge an episode.

Let's dive in to the "fashion salad" with both forks.

Korina & Amanda

My husband was popping in and out of this week's episode.  Having not watched a single episode this year, he was having a heck of a time distinguishing Amanda from Korina. "Amanda has the mole," I said. "Korina rolls her eyes all the time."  That's how I tell them apart.  He asked me who the mean girl was.  "I think they're taking turns," I said.

Despite all the trumped-up, producer-stoked drama, these two were solidly safe.  The only thing left to say is that I'm getting sick of Amanda's two dress designs.  Also, this was the week when good team members helped their mates.

fäde & Emily

"Rocker" meets "Cool Intellectual."  Match made in heaven?  No.

You may say he's a dreamer.  But he's not the only one.  See what I did there?
The results were disastrous for Emily.

Somewhere between Goth, Italian widow and burkha is Emily's gown.

There's too much going on here.  She needed to pick a motif and stick with it.  Mixing a delicate lace with a strong geometric pattern in a sleep deprived state with only 10 good hours to sew it up is a recipe for disaster, as this was.

I generally don't associate such tight, geometric patterns with Goth and I think that's where she fell into trouble here. The open square fabric is high-tech and bold and would have been better suited for a more streamlined treatment.  It was too jarring juxtaposed with the lace.  

Goth ultimately has romantic undertones that are just not evident here.  A better treatment would have employed a more fuller, exuberant skirt.  See Vera Wang, above.

She also revisited her Ewok Hood, since it worked so well for her with the judges the first time. When she employed it as a veil, using the black lace, she ended up turning the bride into a widow. 

fäde was smarter and played to his strengths.

He took all the disparate fabric and made a textile that showcased the variety of patterns.

The resulting dress design was unremarkable, but he wanted something clean to showcase the fabric design.  Now THAT'S a Goth/rocker chick who's thrown off her widow's veil and wants to party!

Samantha and Alexander

Where did this go wrong?
"Let's face it. The appliqué aisle is never your friend."
Particularly when the appliqué is so haphazardly placed.  It looks like a fungus.  And Samantha continues to zzzzz.....

Char & Sandhya

"We chose yellow because it's such a happy color and a strong color and a strong woman would wear this and my tradition in India is that brides wear strong colors and....strong!"
More like "wrong!" The minute Heidi said "Big Bird and Tweety Bird" we knew someone was going home. Where did this go off the rails?  The inspiration was spot on.

Sandhya claimed to be inspired by her own wedding. Traditional gowns in India are magenta, red and pink. Bright colors.
So why in Vishnu did Sandhya choose this?

The caution tape yellow fabric prompted Char to choose this.

Along with some leather in the SAME COLOR.  How do you even find leather in that color?

Char started draping with the leather.  That didn't go well.

The problem here is that she tried to mash-up leather and lace which led to a cascade of errors. After a while she just gave up and started using the lace to cover up the leather, with no thought about shape and design at that point.

Meanwhile, Sandhya was braiding fabric for her bodice.  She spent so much time doing that, she just slapped together the skirt.

One color +  bad fabric - design vision - your original inspiration = disaster.

I was feeling pretty surly about this episode already, so I had no charity left.  I wanted another double auf.  Instead, just Char was given the boot.

Which leads me to my pet peeve of the week.

When the producers give the designers just a day to make a dress, the judges shouldn't be doing this

 and this.

Project Runway isn't a production line. It isn't even 24-Hour Catwalk, with it's team of professional sewers. Criticizing the quality of construction with just a day to produce a garment has nothing to do with good design technique. It serves no purpose but to demoralize designers about not being able to live up to a challenge that would defeat 99.9% of everyone everywhere. It's a cheap ploy for laughs and soundbites and it demeans the show. I wish it would stop, but after two seasons of it, someone at Bunim-Murray thinks the best designers are super human.  They don't need time, money or inspirational challenges to produce magic.

Well guess what?

Once again this week, no magic was produced.

Kini & Sean

Sean had immunity.  Kini was worried, but Sean was trying to go for the win.  Kini's premise, however, nearly ran them off the rails this week.

"Our bride is in a gay wedding, but she can't let go of her business suit.  Still, she wants to be a bride..."

"The idea of a "gay wedding" is so brilliant. Why didn't anyone else think of it?"
Um...Planet Earth to Zac Posen:  the challenge is two looks for one bride, so who cares if she's gay or straight?

But let's explore the "gay bride" notion for a minute.  Do women who prefer business suits or pants suits have to be pried out of them for a special occasion?  Maybe they do, but wouldn't the alternative suit look like an alternative suit, with pants, and not some embellished jacket and skirt number fresh from the set of Dallas?

In the second picture, you can see the two outfits together.  Nina was spot on when she said "flamenco dancer and bull fighter."  Had there been been their intention all along, I could have embraced this pair of outfits.

For me, what bothered me was the "gay wedding" premise. I've been to quite a few lesbian and gay weddings over the past few years.  These ceremonies have come pretty hard fought. The vast majority of these couples try to bring some tradition into their ceremony and attire. Marriage, for gays these days means normalcy. Legal marriage is the extension of the human tradition to a community too long on the outside. I'm not saying that no gay couple should ever take on the ceremony with playfulness and subversion. What I'm saying is that right now, in 2014, these unions tend to be the expression of tradition and acceptance. If you're inviting relatives who might not be 100% thrilled with your choice of partner the last thing you want to do is wear an outrageous outfit.

That's where Kini lost me. It's a fine design and high level of tailoring despite the time and money spent. It just didn't speak to me for his concept. Although I was amused at Heidi's valiant effort to convince the other judges that Kini should win. "It's a special occasion!" she said. And every special occasion needs sparkles and bows, right?

Let's take a closer look at Sean's winning outfit.

No doubt, the blouse was stunning.  The pants were well-fitted.  I wouldn't have cropped them so high, but that's not the biggest error.  

Looking back at the original design, Sean had gathers around he waist.  Tim suggested a cummerbund.  I think that would have elevated the look.  The waistline is just too unfinished for me.  Dita said it was an outfit "I'd wear on a Tuesday."  I didn't take that as the compliment everyone else did.  The blouse carried the entire festive nature of the outfit, but I think the pants, had they been better designed, could have carried its share as well.

The two brides at the last gay wedding I attended wore tops similar to this one only they were rendered in a lovely, floral, watercolor print.  The cape effect was not as long so they did not look like flying squirrel superheroes.

So the funny thing is, for me, Kini's vision was best reproduced by Sean: the sort of outfit a gay bride would want to wear.  Or Kim Kardashian, only without pants.

I think that's what the judges saw, too.  It speaks to the casual elegance that many people strive for when dressing up for special occasions these days.  Life is so complicated and hectic.  Why do your outfits have to be?  This design can be dressed up or dressed down, as needed.  It would compliment a wide range of bodies.  

So unconventional outfit in thought and design, rather than motif, wins the challenge.

Next week, the designers have a jewelry challenge

and what looks to be some sort of surprise.

Maybe the surprise will be good outfits for a change!

See you next week or in the Blogging Project Runway chatroom at 9 pm EST next Thursday.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Project Runway Season 13, Episode 5: Fringe Benefits

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

If I could sum up this week in one picture, this would be it.

Seriously, huh?
Once upon a time, there was a woman named Heidi who lived in New York City.  She was a very, famous model who hosted a TV show.  One year, the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences decided to add a new award category for "Reality Television Show."  This was good news for Heidi. It meant that Heidi would get an invitation to the big ball*! Every year, Heidi worried about what to wear. The dress had to be perfect.

Well, perfect for Heidi.  You see...Heidi's taste level fluctuates.

Sometimes she's elegant.

Sometimes, she's in a leg mood. 

And then, there's whatever this is.
* It's not really the "Big Ball," which would be the actual Emmy Awards but the Creative Arts Emmys, where they give awards for all those categories nobody wants to watch at the real Emmys.  It's a step up from the Daytime Emmys.

So you know going in, that any challenge to dress Heidi will be ripe with land mines.  Do you dress the Elegant Heidi?  Sexy Heidi?  Or Weird Heidi?  When you only have one day and $200 for materials, most of the time, you're just trying to do the best you can.

Curiously, after 13 seasons of the show, Heidi parading in front of them twice a day and a book of everything Heidi has ever worn to the Creative Arts Emmys many designers had no idea of Heidi's style.  Are contestants so caught up in competition that they don't even notice the host?  

With this crew, I actually think the more interesting challenge would have been to dress Tim. They'd have him wearing cut-off denim shorts and fringed biker jackets in no time flat.  

Let's get this out of the way, since Heidi did.

Sean Kelly won the challenge this week.
She didn't even leave the runway before spilling the beans to US Magazine.

Project Runway used to mean something.  There used to be respect for the drama of the show.  I guess after 13 years, there really are no surprises.  In fact, the producers couldn't even keep their traps shut about the double "auf" this week.  They splashed it all over the previews.  

Regarding the double auf, the odds were good but the goods were odd this week.  Our clueless designers were missing the mark left and right.  As far as I'm concerned, there could have been a triple auf this week.  It was hard narrowing it down to just two.  

"Seriously, Tim.  I think they all hate me.  Why would they want to dress me in such ugly gowns?"
"Come on, people.  Its not the real Emmys, it's the 'Schmemmys.' You don't need to wear a gown."
Kathy Griffin is right.  The Creative Arts Emmys have so many technical people attending, that it's a blessing that most people dress up at all.  So the designers had a lot of leeway with this challenge.  Even pants, as Nina suggested to one contestant.  Like pants are the easiest thing to whip up in one day!


I'm going to get her out of the way because she bores me so much.

And look at her.  Trying so hard not to be boring.  Short dress with side train. Interesting back.  Heidi loved the work on the bodice and told her not to be to boring with the bottom.  She wasn't.  But this was black.  Black is not Heidi's go-too color.  Once again, Samantha is good enough to be safe.  Never good enough to be good.  She's not getting useful critiques and insights into what the judges love and hate.  In a color, Heidi might have noticed.  Maybe.

Oh, and if you're going to make an interesting back, PUT THE HAIR UP.  I know you're styling the model, but you're also showcasing the dress.  Who cares if Heidi wears her hair down most of the time.


With the first $200 Sandhya was given, she bought pre-beaded fabric, fabric paint and feathers and a dream of Bollywood nights.

I actually think this was an interesting dress.  Heidi wouldn't have loved it, but I think it would have gotten points for being interesting.  There was no need for Sandhya to freak out and scoop up extra money when Tim and Heidi gave the designers another shot at going to Mood.  The designers who didn't need to go could give their money to someone else and Sandhya made sure that someone was her.

The dress, for $400 is nice.  It's also black, despite all the painting Sandhya did up top.  And all that freaking out got her nothing but safe. Because it was safe, we didn't get to hear the nice story she cooked up about the sort of woman who would wear this dress.


What's a designer got to do to get noticed around here?  It's a beautiful shade of blue. It's got all that pleating and folding that everybody loves in front and a dramatic train in the back. What's not to love?

Well, for starters, all those pleats and folds add inches to the waist.  The model looks like she's holding up the dress because she has to, otherwise it will fall apart.  It's too bad.  It was the best fabric.  But Char is solidly safe this week.


Emily missed the part about how Heidi wasn't attending the MTV Video Music Awards.


This was the dress that Alexander should have made for the "future of fashion" editorial for Marie Clare, a couple of challenges ago.  You see, with the increasing influence of religious fundamentalists around the world, models like Heidi will need bullet proof protection on the runway.  This dress offers just that.  And from the back, you can still give your detractors the "two cheek" salute.  Best of both worlds.


Now this just pisses me off.  This is a gorgeous statement dress that does all the things that Samantha wanted to do with the bottom but does it better.  Instead of doing a half-train, fäde gives us a three-quarter train so that walking away, the dress billows out instead of just drags off to the side.  His play with prints continues to delight.  Why he was safe instead of called out as one of the best is beyond me.  

I blame it on the cult of Amanda. 

"Look deeply into my eyes.  Now look at intricate hand beading that I did on this dress..."
Just don't look too closely...

"We are putty in your hands, oh great and wondrous Amanda..."
On the bright side, Pier 1 is on the phone and would like to give Amanda a contract to design table runners.


The side seaming was very eye-catching.  The dress was perfectly made.

The back took the "Heidi plunge."  Biggest problem: it was black.  I think Kini needs to get colorful in order to jump from "bridesmaid" to "bride" and win one of these challenges.


"It's not just any kind of fringe.  I gave it a 'haircut' so you wouldn't see rows of fringe."
I don't know why that's important because when Heidi began to spin, well...

"Those cars never seem to stop comin'.  Keep those lines and machines hummin'...."
But hey, it's colorful and fun and Sean's the big winner.

Now for the big losers.  Each of them had to scrap their original designs and start from scratch.


We've seen this story line before.  Small town girl, big city.  Designer who just doesn't do evening wear.  Her idea of elegance was a one-sleeved gown made out of forest green jersey.  She needed the big "Mood freak-out."  What she really needed was for Sandhya to show her where the pre-beaded fabric was and to give her some cash.  That stuff is expensive!  

But poor thing, she didn't know.  She thought "gown= satin" and for most people, it does. In fact, as I type this, I sit next to a pile of satin pieces I have sewn together for parts of a 1930's gown. Why are they in a pile and not on a hanger as a dress?  Because I need to rip out some puckered seams.  VERY CAREFULLY.  I started this dress last Spring and it is a source of soul-crushing dismay every time I look at it.

She was spared the auf this week still need people for the competition.


We knew Kristine was in trouble right off the bat.

"This looks like a bed sheet."
A white dress isn't necessarily a bad idea, but it must be carefully designed with the right material.  Kristine bought a ton of white material and had no other fall-back when Heidi came in to critique her dress.  I believe she was one of the reasons why the designers were given extra money and another trip to Mood.

The top of this dress simply defies gravity while still obeying the laws of physics.  As a result, the viewers missed out on seeing pixellated breasts, but poor Zac Posen got a full frontal from the side.

Kristine has been all over the place this competition--almost winning, almost losing. She's had as much much time with the judges as Amanda.  Somehow, she hasn't managed to beguile the judges as much as Amanda has.  That's one reason she was given the boot this week.  The other is that there is nothing well designed about this dress.


Zac Posen put his finger on the problem during the auditions.  Mitchell just doesn't have the maturity level right now to win the competition.  This was never more evident than this week, when he simply crashed and burned on the challenge.  His first idea wasn't completely bad.

Heidi saw "devil horns."  The thing is, his design wasn't dependent upon that exact bodice.  He should have been able to figure out how to re-work it.  Instead, he scrapped the entire thing and fell into a complete mental block, wasting valuable time.

And he simply didn't have enough time to make a decent garment.  The over reaction was a rookie mistake.  Kini had a similar scathing critique and quietly took his garment apart and reworked it.

If you're not tracking with Heidi, you're not going to win the challenge.  Plain and simple.  Your only strategy left is to make the best dress you can possibly make, knowing that Heidi won't like it.  But maybe the other judges will and you'll live to see another day of competition.  Had Mitchell kept his cool, he might have been able to stay.

Next week, Dita Von Tease is the guest judge, which should make things exciting.  She is very exacting about design and style.

See you next week or in the chatroom on Thursday!