Saturday, August 29, 2015

Project Runway Season 14, Episode 4: An Advertisement Spread in Marie Claire

A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one.  - Mary Kay Ash

Greetings, Project Runway Fans! 

This week's episode featured four things that make Project Runway great:

A spectacular New York City location...
sponsor promotion...
judging insanity...and...
an epic designer meltdown.
The chat room and social media erupted with a tsunami of WTFs.  

Give yourself something to work toward - constantly. - Mary Kay Ash

Let's take another look at the rules....and the prize. This is critical.

This week, designers were asked to put a "new spin on an old look." They were to take some inspiration from the iconic NYC skyline, viewed from Long Island City Park, as an homage to Mary Kay's new NYC line of cosmetics.

Got all that?  Now here's the thing...

The prize was $5,000 and something everyone missed because their minds fixated on cash money....

Their look would be featured in a Mary Kay advertisement spread in Marie Claire. 

OK, fans....what does Nina always say about magazine spreads?

"It has to be E-DI-TO-RI-AL!"
Let me translate publishing-speak. What Nina is saying is that the camera has to pick up the details so that a reader can see them on a printed page. What color is the hardest to pick up?

That's right! Black! A black garment has never won one of these magazine spread challenges. That doesn't mean a black outfit is never going to grace the cover of a magazine. It's just that when it does, you usually don't end up looking at the outfit.

Who cares about the dress? Hillary looked freakin' fantastic back in 1999!
I realize I just laid down the gauntlet to all the readers of this blog to prove me wrong. Go ahead. That doesn't change the results of THIS EPISODE does it?  The fact that they were using this look in a magazine ad puts a different focus on what constitutes a winning look.

Sandwich every bit of criticism between two layers of praise. - Mary Kay Ash

Before we explore this week's looks, I have to say that for those of us who watched Kiernan Shipka grow up on Mad Men, her appearance this week on Project Runway was poised, insightful and uplifting.

"I'm the only one on this panel who's not jaded and jaundiced from years in the fashion industry. So I'm going to say something nice and encouraging to each and every one of you!"
Because someday, she's going to need a dress for an award show and one of these designers just might hit it big.  She does have good taste and that dragonfly dress she wore was to die for.

Let's charge on....

For every failure, there's an alternative course of action. You just have to find it. When you come to a roadblock, take a detour. - Mary Kay Ash

Kelly Dempsey
Everybody's favorite street designer came up with a knock-out street look. Had this been a street challenge, I'd say, "winner, winner, chicken dinner." But it was an E-DI-TO-RI-AL challenge. The pocket square on the front made me laugh out loud! Way to hide a nip, Kelly! One quibble...I would have liked to have seen one more building on the back. Otherwise, it was a smart look for what it was. Just not this challenge. I like it and Kelly is on her way to delivering an interesting show at Fashion Week. I say this because I think in a challenge or two, everyone still standing gets to show either as a finalist or a decoy.

Ashley Nell Tipton

How do models walk in those shoes? She's practically on pointe...

I've been looking at dresses for a wedding reception I'll be attending in a few weeks. This is a de-rigeur "midi" look. I'm old enough to remember the midi from the 1970's. It was an alternative to the mini and the floor length dress--something halfway between.  Thing is, most dresses for the average woman over the age of 30 stop at or about the knee. The midi was always hard to proportion without making a regular woman look stumpy. It's a style for tall-thin people.

What makes this de-rigueur is the high neckline and open back. Dresses seem to be one or the other these days: (much to Heidi's chagrin, I think....) either high in the front and low in the back or low in the front and high in the back. The textiles were luxe. It was a solid safe. Remember, this has to go in a magazine spread....

Joseph Charles Poli

....when I tell you that this look had no hope of winning. "I hope they can see the fine seaming..." If you have to hope they can see it, chances are they can't. I'm sure tall, thin women of distinction would line up to wear this dress to....something distinctive. Just not a magazine spread for cosmetics.

Merline Labissiere

Her drawing was like a puzzle piece in the front. In execution, it looked more like a leather pelt. The circle in the back reminds me of the detail she begged Joseph to do last week. I like how the cape flows around the circle. The outfit underneath is a hot mess. The model didn't dare remove the jacket, lest she ruin Merline's shot at flying under the radar--which she successfully did.

Laurie Underwood

Laurie made an exuberant, three-piece garment. Girl can SEW. That's for sure. Can she EDIT? Not so sure of that. One or two things needed to be dialed back. The bow....I think it needs to go. and that slit....if this is a work look, that slit is insane. I love the back of the jacket. But all that white and black.... E-DI-TO-RI-AL.

Edmond Newton

Edmond is like one of those sweatshop workers in the third world. He can whip out garments in no time. Notice how when Tim walked in, he had two options? Way to show off, Edmond.

Anyway, he had this kicking around before he abandoned it....

....and fell in love with this striped fabric at Mood. Yes, the triangle in the back still remains, but what is going on with that peek-a-boo front? The collar is a wonky mess. And where did those sleeve flaps come from?  In a less crowded field, this would have gotten a Nina hand wave or finger point for sure.

And not in a good way.

Jake Wall

It's hard to read the fine print, so I'll write it out for you. "Put a new spin on Tom Ford by only putting one number on the dress."

And making the number in black because when Tim mentioned Tom Ford, you realized that what you thought was a "new spin" could be interpreted as "too referential." Who remembers the halftime show at the Superbowl in 2013 anyway? It was the Harbaugh brothers battling it out in a very close match that was won by 2 pts.

Got me lookin' so crazy right now...
 Candice Cuoco

I loved the look from the front.

But the back looks like she's got up from the table with a napkin stuck to her belt. Anyway, the jacket is everything because without it, it's just a black dress and that doesn't cut it when you're trying to be E-DI-TO-RI-AL.  Even with all that shine. Yes, the dress was spectacular, but just not as effective in a magazine spread. The jacket does very little to add to it. I couldn't figure out all of Nina's praise for it.

Swapnil Shinde

This was easily, one of my favorite looks of the episode. It could have looked stunning in a spread with the right lighting...uplighting and lighting from behind--as you can see on the runway.  But...we're trying to sell makeup here...not a little black dress. It's a fun piece. I could almost hear Heidi say she wanted one in every color.

Blake Patterson

When he said, "new look" I said, "What are you talking about?" This is straight from the great bubble skirt craze of 2005.

So I Googled "Dior's New Look" and came up with this number from 1947...

You win this round, Blake.
Then, I looked at his drawing.

There's no bubble here. Where did the bubble come from?
This is what walked the runway...

Blake wins "most effective use of the 'Just Fab' accessory wall.
He cut off the neckline when he cut himself and bled all over it....which I think is a total lie. He cut himself and bled all over a neckline that was never properly finished in the first place. So he covered everything with a huge necklace.

I think the whole thing looks ridiculous...and so did Zac.

"I'm the magazine creative director here. He doesn't know anything about publishing..."
"I'm a fashion creative designer. I prefer my clothes to be properly finished and constructed. She can't wear this outside of a photo studio."
So, just put down your flaming pitchforks. This wasn't a look for a runway, a street or a cocktail party. It was a look for a fashion spread. Some strategic use of fans, stuff some crinoline in that pouf, and the model can look like a peacock. All the better to sell that new line of blue eyeshadow.

But I'll leave you with this....the ultimate homage to the NYC straphanger....

I hope the strap doesn't break during the photo session!
Notice how even though they gave us 90 minutes of show, not 2 minutes of it could be spared to show us how the ad shoot went. Maybe the strap did break!

Criticize the act, not the person. - Mary Kay Ash

Lindsey Creel

Lindsey put a lot of thought into this garment.

She didn't put a lot of thought into the fabric choice.

I don't think the coat went as long as she had wanted to make it. At that length, it looked like something from Dorothy Zbornak's closet.

Also, the upholstery fabric underneath looked like something from the early 1960s. I'm surprised that Kiernan didn't say something about that.

Amanda Perna

You know the expression, "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging?" The Project Runway corollary to that is if it takes you more than 30 seconds to explain your design, stop explaining.

Lindsey is still explaining her design.
It's simple. She tried to do a wrap dress with mixed materials. One side was leather and the other side was some sort of stretch material.  The two materials didn't play nice and were as cohesive as Edmond and Hanmiao during the last challenge.  Kiernan was right. The belt needed to be lower--at the model's natural waist. You wear a wrap dress so that you can cinch your natural waist. A wrap dress in a "baby doll" style just doesn't make sense and throws the whole look off.  I think that's why the judges were reading "maternity."

Because the belt is so high and in one color, most judges didn't even know it was a wrap dress.  Also, the uneven hem is a total mess.  One of the things about a wrap dress that makes it wearable is that where the overlap occurs, the hem is matched so it doesn't look too layered.

Gabrielle Arruda

Sometimes a setback just sets you back. Gabrielle was struggling with the fabrics she chose for the challenge.

The jacket turned out ok. She was able to serge all the edges quickly and move on.  She was able to do this quickly, because she didn't finish the underneath of the sleeves, so they were more like sleeve flaps.  You have to turn it inside out and sew it to properly finish off those sleeves...but I digress.

"Come on...what woman needs a jacket with sleeve flaps?"
No one I know, Zac.

That she rendered it in black totally put her out of the running. That she couldn't make sleeves all the way, completely lost Zac.  Lost me, too.

What happened next to Gabby is something I can understand and relate to, but can't believe she couldn't overcome.  The serger had black thread in it and she couldn't figure out how to change the thread to white.


That's the part I don't understand.

She originally designed a racer back with a pop of pink at the sleeves. What she ended up doing was cutting out regular sleeves and a hem unfinished because she couldn't serge the seams.  She could have turned them all under and sewed them straight on the machine. Add in the "pop of color" as an accent over the hem and you're done.  The pop of color should have been reflected in the shoes for a total look. The best she could have been this week was safe. No way could she have won.

Zac likes to talk about finishing, but this week all of that got thrown out the window. Impeccably finished clothes lost out to some crazy, exuberant idea.

A "mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm" if you will.

And if you will, please join us at Blogging Project Runway for this week's chat room. We open up live on Thursday at 9 pm, EDT for real time commentary.  It's fun!

See you next week, when the designers go....ballistic!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Project Runway Season 14, Episode 3: Overboard!

Ooo whee baby, ooo whee...won't you let me take you on a sea cruise?

Greetings, Project Runway fans!

Our product placement parade marches on. This week, it's Celebrity Cruises. Take it away, cruise lady!

"Cruises are for people who like to eat, gamble and lounge about by the pool while they travel to their destination."
There's fourteen still in the competition...
And seven bags, which means...
Tim Gunn employed the fake-o button bag two create teams of two.
Why do I call it a fake-o button bag? Because season after season, we've watched Tim and sometimes, Heidi, reach into the bag, read the name and result in teams that sound anything but random. What were the chances of the guy with immunity being teamed up with our "happy nut" Hanmiao?

100%, as it turns out.

Persnickety Joseph Charles was paired up with everybody's favorite Haitian kookala, Merline. Boston Kelly was paired up with LA Blake....what could possibly go wrong?

Producer manipulation? You betcha! They're not even bothering to show each button being pulled from the bag anymore. Who cares? We all know the jig is up! Can't fool us!


There was a lot of after competition discussion about the rules and whether the judges really knew about them.

Each team was given a roller case that had fabric influenced by the destination.  There was a 'mini Mood' in the back of the room with solid fabrics (some stretch.)

Teams were encouraged to utilize both, but there was no REQUIREMENT to use both.

Yet, the judges kept remarking about the "richness" of the textiles and textile "choice" as if the contestants were able to walk through Mood. I'm sure that if I pulled a judge aside I'd get a song and dance about how even if you are given textiles, you must choose wisely the sort of garment you can make....yadda, yadda.... Seriously, though, the judging seemed completely divorced from the actual rules of the competition. The judges should have admitted that its favorable consideration of Hong Kong was totally dependent upon the beautiful fabrics the team was given.

Teams were given about an hour or two on the ship to sketch out designs. It seems as though some teams were more interested in the food than in working out some good sketches....


I hate team challenges because they do not measure a designer's talent. They are simply another, unnecessary stressor. Worst season ever? "Project Runway Teams." Downright unwatchable and they had to abandon the teams when they got to the last few challenges anyway...because teams do not measure a designer's talent. You know I'm right about this.

Oh, I know what some of you are saying. "Designers collaborate all the time in the industry." Yes they do and when they do, they have more than two hours to develop the concept and eight hours to produce the design. They have time to produce a number of designs and to pick the best one. If they fail to produce something good the first go-round, there's usually another opportunity to try another idea. They are usually working with prototype fabric and not necessarily diving into print and color choices right off the bat.  Personality differences can be handled through distance and/or limited time together.

None of this is possible in a Project Runway team challenge.

We've seen it over and over again. Weak designers skirting through a challenge on a strong designer's coattails....Two strong designers with strong personalities cancel each other out because they don't have time to work out their disagreements....Designers who need time to think and work out problems have that time eaten away by their partner's periodic critiques....

Very rarely do we see two designers with differing viewpoints blend those styles together in harmony. When we do, I can almost guarantee that team had more than one day to work things about.

Now that I've gotten all that off my chest, let's dive in to the pool on the Lido Deck, shall we?  But before we do, I need to say this.

As far as I'm concerned, Diana's daughter, Tracee Ellis Ross, could be the permanent guest judge. If she wasn't so crazy busy as a big shot network TV star....
Hong Kong - Jake Wall and Lindsey Creel

Chinese Christmas Cruise!
If any future Edmund Newtons are watching out there, should you be in a team challenge, it would pay big dividends to get to know your fellow team members. Don't be like Lindsey "Let's Make a Kimono" Creel and assume you know everything about the East, lest you break the spirit of your collaborator, Jake, who actually lived in Hong Kong.

Lindsey, it was your idea to make the shorts, which were inexplicable to Tracy and Nina.  Our cruise gal will hang out on the deck in her shiny halter top and stretch twill shorts, then retire to the casino with her fancy vest and sarong....while her cruise mates pretend they don't know this crazy person.

Venice - Ashley Tipton and Candice Cuoco

If you're going to wear this, you must keep walking in order for it to look good. That cowl in the back doubles as a flotation device, should you end up in a canal.
Here's the thing, no one looked at it from the back with the jacket on.

Staring at it from the front....looks ok.
I've been to Venice. No one really sits down for dinner. In fact, you skip dinner because you've been stuck in a crowd of tourists at the Grand Canal all day.
Seriously, this outfit was a traveling circus.

I love a wide legged pant as much as the next gal....but a wide leg pant with an inverted pleat? Who wears that? Not even Amal Alamuddin Clooney could wear that.

And by the way, when I thought of the Venice challenge, she immediately popped into mind. What would Amal wear? Not this, I can assure you. Although if she did, she'd rock it. And change clothes before dinner.

Greek Isles - Blake Patterson and Kelly Dempsey

Sometimes those meddling producers get completely fooled.

You guys were supposed to be the "Odd Couple!"
Blake "Catholic School, LA kid" Patterson, meet Kelly "Blue Collar Massachusetts" Dempsey. You're not supposed to get along. Blake, you be condescending to Kelly and Kelly, tell him to put his attitude where the sun don't shine.

But they didn't. They got along just fine...all because of that drop dead gorgeous fabric that screamed "WE'RE GOING TO THE GREEK ISLES" lying on the table before them. Blake bullied all the stretch white twill from Mini Mood using techniques of intimidation Kelly thought could only be found in South Boston. A bi-coastal partnership for the ages was formed that day.

Try some wide leg pants without inverted pleats for a change...Opa!
I know what you're thinking. You've said as much on the Facebook threads and in the blogs...


This was one of my favorite looks....except for my personal problems with wearing white (which I ALWAYS get dirty), my dislike of jumpsuits (I'm not a toddler who gets help at potty time), and the fact that I don't really need a cape trailing behind me that's attached to the jumper pants.  Those were the reasons I would have given it a lower score.

This outfit LOOKS SPECTACULAR, but could only be worn by Amal Alamuddin Clooney, who I know can wear white pants without spilling anything on them.  For the fit of the pant alone, this should have scored higher than the Venice circus.

India - Swapnil Shinde and Laurie Underwood

There was one little disagreement that spelled the difference between success and failure with this design. I wonder if anyone noticed it.

Swapnil wanted the fabric draped across the top of the bolts to be the sari. Laurie talked him out of it and Tim agreed with her choice. Laurie saved your hide, Swapnil!
I'm sorry, Lifetime. This picture is a big fail. The Sari is part of the outfit and instead, we get to see it dragged down the runway in the official picture. 
Actually, this forced me to watch the episode over again on the website, which means I have the lyrics to the Oreo commercial completely memorized.

Still isn't going to make me buy any.  Take marketing geniuses. In reality, I already knew I was going to have to plow through the Lifetime streamed re-run just to get this....

Swapnil, this is your finest hour. I'd blow this up and hang it on my wall. Yes, that's Diana Ross's wildly successful TV Star daughter wearing your sari. Also, Zac knows his way around a sari.
Ms. Ross knows she looks fierce.
That's it. Drop the mic, Swapnil.

Alright....the pants were so-so with a droopy crotch. But Miss Venice had droopy crotch pants too, so that's not a huge misfire. This reminded me of something you could pick up at a little boutique in Mumbai and take home to wear to all sorts of special occasions.  And about the fifth time I wore it (because that's what I'd do...) my friends would start to complain that this was a fashion excuse for sari.

I'll just leave that there.

South of France - Amanda Perra and Gabrielle Arruda

Ah...the French Riviera. James Bond, starlets at the Cannes Film Festival. And a bunch of overweight travellers on a Celebrity Cruise.

This isn't going to work...

I'm going to bat the crowds out of the way with my side cape!
There were a couple of things going in their favor. These were, far and away, the best pants on the runway. Whoever made those pants needs to make them all the time. Also, the team wisely kept that red, white, and blue fabric to an absolute minimum.


That top was completely wonky in the front. You could say they went a bit...overboard...with the side sash. The top gave Zac another excuse to do this....

Don't give Zac an excuse to check under the hood.
I never got to see what he was looking at, either. Was it the colored top that connected to the back and formed the lining? Was it a bra-let of some sort?  I want to know what he was looking at! Maybe it was a post-it note with "What the hell are you looking at, Zac?" scrawled on it.

Could someone do that sometime this season? Please?

St. Petersburg - Joseph Poli and Merline Labissiere

Who cruises to St. Petersburg?

Rich, old people, that's who. People who studied art history in college and made a killing in the international oil and gas markets. People who like Faberge eggs.

So Joseph was right on track....however....

Say you're a filthy rich woman who is cruising with your husband and you know you're going to St. Petersburg. You married the old coot before those Russian mail order Internet sites hit it big. Now you're going to the land where all those ladies from the Internet sites live.

Their rich boyfriends buy them Gucci and Prada to wear. You don't want the hubs ogling gorgeous Russian women dressed to kill. Besides, you don't want Vladmir Putin to think that all Americans are slobs.

Cruisers got to represent, no?

JCP, I'm pinning this one all on you, pal.
You dictated Merline's every move. You didn't take any of her ideas. You gave her the throw-away cape that Nina ruefully nicknamed "a sidebib."

This is a fail and the fail is on you, Mr. Poli. Squarely on you.  You lived to see another challenge only because it was constructed fairly well and fit the brief. Still, you missed HUGE opportunities to transfer some low scores to team Chinese Christmas.

You were so FIXATED on your "trademark" "perfect seaming" that you forgot you only had 8 hours to sew a dress.  Even in that time allotted, apart from some asymmetrical neckline details (that ruined the fit of the bodice...) there was nothing innovative about the look at all.

Merline wanted to put a cut-out in the back.  That might have generated some interest, but you nixed it. The cape was a total compromise and afterthought and should have been the highlight of this look.

Just because Merline drives you crazy and seems unfocused doesn't mean she doesn't have good ideas. If you can't or don't care to discover those good ideas, you will be stuck with your stale ones. This week, that almost cost you, JCP.  I still have my eye on you.

Caribbean Islands - Edmond Newton and Hanmiao Yang

"Listen, Hanmiao...I've watched every season of Project Runway and I can recognize the producer heave-ho when I see it."
Knowing Hanmiao was the sacrificial lamb this week, Edmond proceeded to suggest a swimsuit, knowing full well that Hanmiao doesn't do swimsuits.

Then, he designed the cover up.

At some point, Hanmiao decided to produce the swim suit and Edmond was stuck with the skirt bottom. As a last minute desperation pass, he wrapped some straps around the model.

"I can't believe I'm wasting my fierce modelling skills on crap like this."
Hanmiao could have designed a wondrous, architectural, sophisticated cover-up, but didn't. Edmond could have, instead, focused on the swim suit, which was his idea, but he didn't. No, the hastily constructed one at the end doesn't count. That would have been a disaster, too.

Instead, the person in charge of the swim suit couldn't make one and the person who did the cover-up didn't finish it.

Edmond is lucky he had immunity this week. As a result, we lost our happy peanut.  The runway got a little less kooky and that is not a good thing.

Ok...let's revisit the Greek Isle look that was safe.  Why was this safe and Chinese Christmas had a high score?

Let's assume that each judge can rank each look against other looks using each ranking only once. This week, there were seven garments. The rating was 1-7 and judges could only distribute each score to one design. One possible scenario works out this way:

In my scenario, it was possible for Chinese Christmas to beat out the caped Greek jumper by just one point.  I'm putting the onus on Heidi, assuming she liked that Chinese vest a bit more than the jumpsuit.

And that's how the Greek suit ended up safe.