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!


  1. Great recap! You're right; so many of the designers forgot about the editorial aspect of the challenge. Poor Gabby - she seemed to have a lot of ambitious ideas that would have made for an interesting decoy runway. While watching her meltdown, I remembered the casting show. Wasn't she first in her class and had the most impressive portfolio? Her dicey fabric choices based on poor textile knowledge and inability to think beyond a serger made me wonder what she actually learned at her school.

  2. You're too kind, donna. I think the fabric just sapped her energy and creativity. It happens--like a broken appliance can throw you off your housework.