Saturday, August 8, 2015

Project Runway Season 14: Back to the Garden


It's been way too long, hasn't it?  Once again, it's Project Runway season and it's time for me to fire up my long-neglected blog.

Why does Project Runway always seem to start when I'm on vacation in a place with limited cable TV and Internet coverage? Don't they know I have a blog to do?

Sixteen designers...these early challenges always overwhelm me. I make up names and mix people up every year until the competition gets down to about ten or so.

"We handled 17 contestants by splitting them into two groups according to polls."
We tip things off in Madison Square Garden, which is neither square nor a garden. Discuss amongst yourselves. I was hoping for a challenge where the contestants had to create garments from discarded NY Knicks uniforms....

We'd like to see your personal design vision rendered in NY Knicks blue and orange.
Instead, the crew scattered bolts of fabric from Mood throughout the stands and the designers scrambled for them.  I would have plowed through Lifetime Network footage just to find the perfect screenshots, but I have limited Internet bandwidth in my vacation rental. Anyway, why go through screenshots of scrambling designers when you can look at this instead?

"Heidi, I don't remember anyone standing in front of LeBron James posting shots to Instagram when he took his free throws."
Before we dive into this first episode, it's always nice to set the stage a bit.

Try, try again

This season features a large number of contestants that have tried to get into Project Runway before and a few that have made a sideline career of trying out for a spot. Edmund Newton has been trying since 2008. Amanda Perda was eliminated from the first episode of Season 9.  One could argue that the Project Runway producers keep returning to the same, dwindling pool of designers, but one could also argue that the designers who try out and fail come back much improved the next time.

It worked out for me!
The stakes are getting smaller...

From the Lifetime website:

The winner of "Project Runway" will receive $100,000 to launch his or her business and a Celebrity Cruises® modern luxury vacation for two to almost anywhere in the world.  Sally Beauty will supply a year’s worth of products and the opportunity to consult with Sally Beauty to create a limited edition “FingerPaints” nail color collection. Travel and hotel accommodations to inspiring destinations around the world will be provided by Best Western International and from Mary Kay, the winner will receive an entire year’s worth of beauty products for their fashion shows and professional makeup artist services for their debut show. The winner also receives a 2015 Lexus RC 350 and a complete sewing and crafting studio from Brother Sewing and Embroidery. The winning designer and model will also receive a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine.  

$100,000 free and clear sounds like a lot of money.  After taxes, however, it's far less.  Just keep this in mind, it was the same amount of money awarded to designers in the 2004 series premiere! Adjusting this amount for inflation, the prize should be about $133,000. Considering that PR 11 and 12 that ran in 2013 both offered $150,000, this amount is becoming small potatoes over time.

Are the contestants even paying attention?

Three designers showed up without tool kits. This means no scissors, measuring tape, rotary cutters, seam guides, french curve, ruler, thimble, hem marker, chalk, marking tape, pins....nothing. Two of them had baggage issues and one just flat-out misunderstood the rules. Fourteen seasons have passed and we have never a designer show up without tools. previous seasons, we had designers with inadequate tool kits--Michael Costello didn't bring a ruler, for example. This is the first time we've had multiple designers completely fail to prepare.

Swapnil Shinde, one of the kitless people, is left handed, for goodness sakes! Left handed people should never be separated from their scissors! I don't know if they will get a chance to purchase tools at Mood (depleting their fabric budget) or not. Who knows if Mood even carries left handed scissors. Other designers were willing to lend them tools for the first challenge....but will that generosity continue...especially since all three of them made it to the next round!

Kits are for amateurs.
Makes me wonder what's going to happen with one of those challenges that has convoluted details.

Also, even after eleven years and fourteen seasons, the producers have managed to find a few people who have never watched the show. This amazes me.

All this adds up to the question we ask perennially on many of these recap blogs....After 14 seasons, has Project Runway run out of gas?

Many of us hope not. We love the show and many of us follow ex-PR designers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We root for them and want them to do well. When someone wears a Bert Keeter, a Michael Costello Leanne Marshall or a Christian Siriano on the runway, we cheer. Entrepreneurs like Chloe Dao and Valerie Mahen are making it happen. We'll see if there's a future as season 14 unfolds.  But at the first sign of trouble, the sky is falling! You read it here first.

And now...the Outfits!

I don't have Fox News polls to tell me how to split up the group of 16, so I'll just put them in categories by my impression as I saw each outfit walk the runway. In each, some looks fail for me and others succeed.  In these early stages, competitors need only be good enough to make it past the judges' scrutiny, so there's no point in parsing out every critique. Why some designers take risks at this point is beyond me. Because the smart kids are playing it safe, it adds up to a whole lot of boring but nice outfits as everyone tries to stay with the herd.

I Can Buy This in the Store Now

Joseph Poli, I swear I could walk into a mall and buy this every outfit. And the skirt would fit better.
I can't believe Swapnil Shinde flew around the world without his scissors to design a dress I could buy at Macy's. 
Jake Wall, I think I went to a wedding recently where one of the guests was wearing this exact dress.
Lindsay Creel, this is hanging in H&M right now!
Gabriella Aruda, this is a Vogue pattern gone horribly wrong. In fact, I may have screwed up this very pattern myself!
You Tried Something Interesting....But....

Kelly Dempsey, I like your style and attention to detail. This just didn't wow the judges enough, but I want to see more.
Laurie Underwood...that slit is insane. The whole thing's too tight.
David Giampiccolo, I love what you were trying to do with the patterns, but the shape was completely shapeless. David has an eye for patterns. Can he translate that to a garment that is flattering?

Merline Labissiere is from Haiti, so I was expecting something ethnocentric. Way to show me something. She delivered a very smart, sophisticated design. The seams are amazing. In better fabric, this would be fresh and modern. She's driving Laurie Underwood crazy and everyone underestimates her. That's a good place to be.

Hanmaio Yang, your personal style is androgynous and there's nothing wrong with that. When you realized you only had one day for the first challenge, you should have cut the jacket differently so that you didn't have to fit the sleeves. The minute you cut armscyes (and isn't that a wonderful word, armcye?)this outfit was headed straight to Dorothy Zbornak-ville. You don't even know who that is!

Candice Cuoco, there's a lot going on here, so I'm going to blow it up larger.  The fit is solid, even with the weird trim work in the bodice. If you had been able to maintain a consistent width in the detailing (instead of the wide piece through the middle) it might have worked better. The peplum looks like a half-executed idea. Perhaps the left section should have been wider and continued just a bit farther up the waist.

Edmund Newton, you thought of everything. Short, tight dress for Heidi, long billowy train for Nina Garcia, pop of color for the guest judge. You forgot to add something for Zac an actual style idea! We've seen this before, Edmund.
The Gathering

Ashley Tipton, I'm not a fan of the "paper bag waist" mostly because my waist is thicker than it used to be. Without the contrasting print in the top and the open back, this would have been a standard look. After Tim's withering critique and a few, cathartic tears, you rallied to the finish.
Blake Patterson, you've got to back up that self-confidence with some substance and this isn't that substance. I don't think the canary yellow fabric pairs well with the print. Also, a busy pattern isn't the best thing to drape and gather all over the place. It looks like instead of actually cutting the dress to fit the model, you just gathered it here and there to define a waistline. The front looks like she's hiking it up and she isn't.

Duncan Chambers, you broke our hearts. I'm not blaming the judges. I'm not even blaming Tim Gunn for encouraging you to continue with the drape. I'm blaming you for picking the peach charmeuse in the first place. You're a menswear designer from New Zealand making your first woman's outfit and you pick the peach charmeuse? Charmeuse is evil. You can't sew it without puckered seams. If you start draping it, you can fall under the spell of the drape monster. Soon, your garment looks like the inside of a cheap coffin. And when it looks that way, perhaps you'd maybe take out a drape or two...if you dare risk the fabric snagging and running....
In short, you're doomed.
"Duncan Chambers, was God speaking to you when you picked that peach charmeuse? Because God is speaking to me through that outfit right now and it he isn't saying anything nice..."
That Megyn Kelly...always so harsh! So it's back to New Zealand for Duncan, where, no doubt, where he'll make happy buckled pants for hipster rugby players and never lay his hands on charmeuse of any color ever again.

Ashley's the winner and has immunity next week. 

Merline can keep annoying Laurie...

Hanmaio can keep being a "happy nut" and

Swapnil can keep looking for left handed scissors.

Next week is the 


In that spirit, let's give our competitors some Hallmark style encouragement....

Until next week!

All Project Runway photos are from the Lifetime website.  Fox News photos are from the Fox News website.


  1. Hi suz.

    I must have missed that, did he say he needed a left-handed scissors? Just because you're left-handed, of course, doesn't mean that you need a left-handed scissors. I am left-handed and I've never used one. A lot of lefties adapt to what they have that is available, and that was always right-handed scissors. It would never occur to me to use anything else. Same with guitars and golf clubs and some other things I'm not thinking of right now.

    1. I think that was him. As I told you, I'm mixing all of them up. He's making do, whoever needs those left-handed scissors. Actually, if you're truly left handed, using right handed scissors will give you a little pain in the top of your thumb. When I use the wrong scissors, that's what happens to me. You're doing something to compensate for that. With very sharp scissors, that might not be a problem.

  2. Great to see you back, SuzyQ! Agree with everything you said, excpt that Swapnil's outfit at least showed some interesting technique in the bodice. Thought it was funny that the two garments that all the other designers were envious of, Duncan's and Blake's, were on the bottom.

    1. Yes, interesting, but not innovative. We're not going to see innovation at this point, though. Everyone just wants to get through the challenge.

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  4. I just came across your blog and I must say I am very impressed. I found your comments refreshing and interesting without being overly critical, and I also agreed with most everything you said. I will definitely be dropping in each week to see what your take is on things. (Maybe next time I will comment on what is actually happening on the show. I was just so excited to find a blog that I found interesting :))