Sunday, September 27, 2015

Project Runway: Season 14, Episode 8: Peter Panned!

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!!!!!

Everyone is familiar with Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie's story of the boy who never grew up. For the past 30 years, Broadway and Hollywood have taken turns telling the story behind the story of how Barrie came to write the classic.First it was a play in 1998. Then, in 2004, it became a movie. In 2012, it became a Broadway musical.

So what's the connection to Heidi Klum?

"I went to see 'Finding Neverland' with my kids!"

And in her spare time, shot a few promotional pictures.  Right....

The 2004 movie was released by Miramax, then owned by Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Sound familiar? Harvey Weinstein is the husband of designer, Georgina Chapman (Marchesa), frequently featured as a judge on Project Runway All-Stars. Harvey Weinstein produced Finding Neverland, The Musical. Harvey Weinstein produces Project Runway, too!

That's Harvey at Fashion Week.

So that's the complete connection from Broadway show to Runway show.  Toss in the promotion of the new prequel movie to Peter Pan, "Pan" (not produced by Weinstein) and you've got another cross-promotional episode.

Let's recap all this commerce, shall we?

Notice anything?

Ralphie knows!

Bills gotta get paid somehow and these cross promotions pay them, I guess. In a season chock full of promotions, however, what was the benefit from featuring a show that's been open on Broadway for half the year already?

"I swear I was inspired by it."

But the most exciting development this week was that THE DESIGNERS RETURNED TO MOOD!!!!!

"What took you so long?"

And it didn't help at all.

"Designers, this is what we call a 'fabric store.' You are free to remove the bolts from the shelves but you must ask an employee to cut the fabric for you."

Seriously, you keep them out of Mood all season long and expect them to find something in 30 minutes?

"Look at all these fabrics..."

"Fabrics, fabrics, fabrics..."

Confirming once and for all, whether producer-culled or designer-selected, the issues remain the same....

"Do I want this fabric?"
"Maybe I want this fabric."
"Or maybe these..."
"Oh no....this! This!"
"Nah...I'll just get this."
"Excuse me...does anyone know where the most expensive fabric in the store is?"
"Is this it? Right here?"

"I'll take exactly one yard."

And then...there's the allure of the ombré....

Even the Mood guy in the Pharrell hat isn't so sure about that ombré. In fact, he's ready to make a break for it just in case she changes her mind.

She could have asked Edmond, who watched every episode of Project Runway, and he would have told her that sometimes, ombré goes horribly wrong.

April Johnston's inky "bride of Frankenstein" dress...

Karen Batts' Glamping Challenge dress from Season 12. Zac said it looked like "runny eggs."

Still, it really was nice to see the designers back at Mood, making bad choices.

"Don't be strangers, ok?"

The judges....

Usually, I have a bunch of things to say about the guest judge. This week, it was the fabulous Coco Rocha, whom Heidi kept calling "Coo-coo!" Hmm... Twice during the episode, Heidi leaned over and asked, "And what do you think, Coo-coo?" Thing is, Coco's thoughts weren't that interesting.

Her strengths lie in the analysis of the modeling profession--how models are influenced, pressured and used. She is a dancer and understands movement. She is a chameleon--able to change her hair, face, and approach for whatever the campaign requires. To that end, her talents as a judge are much better suited to "America's Next Top Model" where she is frequently a judge, than she is to Runway. I don't think she spends a lot of time thinking about how clothes are constructed. 

Swapnil Shinde

This challenge, Swapnil decided to pull out all the stops. He was inspired by J.M. Barrie's Scottish heritage, which prompted him to go for some tartan.

Instead, he got a Glen plaid.

Technically, this isn't what we would think of as a Scottish tartan. It's certainly not associated with a Scottish clan. According to Wikipedia, the name came from a New Zealand-born, Scottish Countess. The then Duke of Windsor made it popular in the late 1920's. 

This outfit was safe, much to Swapnil's surprise. He must not have seen the other looks. A tartan would have made the look more dynamic.  As it was, the Glen plaid blended into grey. The contrast of hard and soft textures was interesting but the straight-line hem on the top overlay abruptly cut the piece in half. It wrecked any potential whimsey the garment could have had.  Swapnil has the goods. He sews quickly and skillfully and he has imaginative ideas. What he lacks, challenge after challenge, is attention to detail. At one point, Zac implied that Lindsey could benefit from some of Swapnil's imagination. I think Swapnil could similarly benefit from a dash of Joseph Charles Poli's attention to detail. 


Merline chose spectacular beaded fabric for the dress and proceeded to drape something that looked like a Belle Epoch gown--very appropo for the musical, which was set in that era. Still, she sought to give it that "Merline Edge." The edgy boned sleeves were lopsided and messy and unfortunately dropped her into the safe zone.  While this was a beautiful dress, it was all about the fabric.  Had those sleeves been better engineered, it could have contended for the win. Merline's instincts were strong, but her execution was just a bit off.


Kelly had immunity this week and wisely chose that to showcase a more glamorous look. Again, fabric choice totally carried the day. The judges responded well, but I thought the fabric bordered on tacky. Sequined lace is exactly the sort of fabric I walk past at the fabric store. I also thought her black dress was poorly constructed. Heidi noticed right away that the seam was in the front.


Zac said the jacket looked like a muppet. Nina said the outfit needed the drama. After all, it was a challenge inspired by a Peter Pan musical, right? The top underneath the muppet jacket featured some appropriately theatrical.


Candice spent the first part of the episode outing her parents. 

"They were drug addicts."


Her goal with the outfit was to create something beautiful out of something horrible and evil. She certainly succeeded. And in an alternate rendition of Peter Pan, this would be the outfit if someone were to cast Captain Hook as a female character. Shiver me timbers! Extra points for the leggings from the wenches in the chatroom..

By the way...Sally Beauty, the chatroom is NOT impressed with your technique of making little braids to frizz out the model's hair. We look to you for innovative techniques, not the low-rent stuff we used to do in high school. 


Someone once told me never to love something that can't love you back. So when Ashley started lovingly caressing the fabric, I saw the trouble coming. She draped it, pinned it, ruched it,  and plaited it. Maybe she was trying to do too much. Tim worried about whether it could be tamed at the sewing machine. 

Nina said it was a "clichéd use of ombré." I actually think she meant to say it was a clichéd use of chiffon because just about every other bridesmaid or prom dress has this sort of ruching technique. 

I was intrigued with the attempt to meld a waist-gathered skirt with a horizontally ruched skirt. Unfortunately, the time she spent layering the dress on the dress form was time she couldn't sew and Ashley ran out of time to resolve all of the issues with the dress. She overlayered the bodice and it was too puffy. The gathers in the ruching were poorly stitched and came loose on the runway. The closure was hastily done.  It just wasn't her best work.


Challenge after challenge, Laurie has been churning out multiple garments to varying levels of taste. She, too, fell under the spell of some very fancy fabric.  Unfortunately, the fabric she purchased was not wide enough to cover the model's chest and Laurie failed to get any fabric to line the open material.

The model covered up with pasties and a strategy of never taking off the jacket. But that's not the problem here. The problem is one of proportions. Laurie seems enamoured with her drapey skort. This is the third time she's made one. She never seems to be able to make it long enough to cover the model's butt.  Thing is, why pair a short, puffy skort with a short, puffy jacket? Laurie was trying to evoke Tinkerbell's wings. She ended up with something that looked like a draped potato.  

The jacket isn't bad. It would have been better paired with Edmond's top and pants. And the top isn't a bad idea, either. I loved the circular fabric. It just needed a lining--even a shear lining would have helped with the fit and look. The skort? I'm not exactly a fan.


Lindsey's strategy for this challenge was to concentrate on a simple dress.

Simple dresses, however, have to be impeccably executed. The high top/low back bodice is very on trend. And we already know that the high front/low back skirt is all the rage. What kept Laurie from being safe this week was her attention to detail. 

Nina and Heidi complained about the high neck. With dresses like this that you see in the store, the neckline is finished close to the neck. This is just a square of fabric folded over and attached to the straps. It bunches awkwardly in the front and blouses out on the sides where the model probably gets no coverage.

I'm not sure what the point of the rear slit was. The skirt didn't need it. What I suspect was that the fabric was two narrow and she decided to piece it for the back. To avoid an obvious seam, she created a slit. Because I can't imagine that slit was intentional.

But the worst thing was the uneven hem. It's longer on the right than on the left. The front of the skirt is obviously tacked (and with this fabric, any bad seaming and tacking is obvious). 

It certainly wasn't the worst thing Lindsey did. It wasn't the worst outfit this season. But for this challenge, executing a simple dress poorly would not help her out of her tailspin.

And Lindsey is out.

Tim has hinted that this season was his least favorite. Usually, when asked, he says the designers this year just haven't lived up to their potential. But recently, he added that some inconsistent judging hasn't helped the situation! Next week, Lifetime hints that tempers fly from both Tim and Zac. Also, next week, I get to meet Tim in person!

I'll be in the fashion show part of a presentation at the National Archives on the Prohibition Era.  Tim Gunn is on the panel. You can watch the entire presentation on the National Archives live stream.  I'll be modelling a vintage piece from my own collection. Since I am not Coco Rocha, I just hope I don't slip, fall and make a total fool of myself!

Join us in the Blogging Project Runway next week at 9 pm, EDT. See you next week in the blog!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Project Runway Season 14, Episode 7: Dumpster Diving

 Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

I think the Project Runway Graphic Art division had the most fun with this episode.
So did the props crew.
With a tip of the (freecycled) Project Runway cap to Season 10's Fabio Costa, this year,  the unconventional materials challenge featured cast-off, vintage technology.

All those tubes and wires...
The Challenge

"Designers, you may have thought that we already did the unconventional materials challenge, but you'd be wrong. That was the 'special sponsor promotion' challenge. THIS is the unconventional materials challenge.
"The woman with the perfect posture standing next to me is Nina's boss, Anne Fulenwider, from Marie Claire. Despite her presence, this will not be a chance for your garment to appear in Marie Claire. We've done that twice this season. How much more must we do for you?"
Gratuitous shot of actual dumpster diving.
Project Runway over the years has had it's iconic moments. Santino mimicking Tim Gunn....Christian Siriano demonstrating the perfect runway walk, Laura Bennett and the turtle poop....To this list we can add the shopping cart parade. I even have a soundtrack for it. Turn it up...LET'S GO...

I'm doin' the shopping cart...I need this I need that...
Doin' the shopping cart...gimme this, gimme that....
I spread my feet apart and I bring the shopping cart....
Being New York City, I'm sure nobody batted an eyelash at the spectacle. Because THEY DO THIS EVERY YEAR IN THE WINTER.

Friends, let me introduce you to the NYC IDIOTAROD!

Yes, New Yorkers are cooler than you. In fact, they're down right freezing.
For the past ten years, about the same time as the Iditarod in Alaska, New Yorkers take to Queens and Manhattan in souped up shopping carts (some with real's cold out there!) and race across town. It's almost as crazy as a Project Runway unconventional materials challenge.

We're seven episodes in. In production time, its somewhere around a couple of weeks. At this point, some of life's hard truths are starting to sink in.

"I've got to change my 'mumsy' ways."
"Must use found muslin."
That is, for SOME PEOPLE.  Others...

"You see, Cahn-dees, I have a see-cret strategee. I will make safe garments...nothing too good, nothing too bad...Every week I will be safe and that's how I will get to Fashion Week."

"You see, Lind-see, I can sew faster than you so I cahn vait until the last minute to make my skirt. Until then, I will distract you from making yours, because you are so slow!"
One thing I was pleased to see this week....

Shop safety is always very important.
For a change, no one had to be rushed to the hospital.

Guest Judges

I'm going to tread delicately here. I've been accused in the past of being too critical of guest judges, particularly when they seemed so out of left field. Paula Patton was this week's guest judge. She's on every other television show and in all the popular movies. She was recently chosen to do a fashion spread for Ellen Tracy. So there's that.

"I'm just trying to keep it positive! Everyone tried their very best. Even the ones that utterly failed!" 
Such sweetness, light and generosity of spirit. Makes you wonder what Robin Thicke did to cause the divorce, right? Because you know it was his fault. He knows it was his fault.

Not many women get a mediocre album written about their starter marriage.

That was kind of petty, wasn't it? Listen, you give me guest judges who add nothing substantive to the mix but good posture, Nina's continued employment (you're not fooling us, Anne) and a 1,000 watt smile (seriously, Robin...what were you thinking?) I'm going to poke fun.

Let's move on to the outfits.

Laurie (Mouse Pad) Underwood

Perhaps the model walked too fast for the judges to get a good look at it. Perhaps the other dreadful outfits wore them down to a more charitable disposition. This was one of my least favorite things she did. In fact, it's my least favorite look of the night. (Yes, worse than the loser.) Even with a little paint slapped on here and there, it's a mouse pad dress.

By the way...when did mouse pads become "vintage technology"? I'm using one right now.

Candice Cuoco

Everyone raves and raves about Candice....I'm just not seeing it right now.

The dress is staring back at us in silent judgment.
This was a hot glue gun hot mess. Wires weren't fully glued on. They began to unstick and pop out in odd places. And then, there's the matter of the "eyelids." That is not a sophisticated white accent. It's not even a clever or compelling graphic statement.

Some in the chatroom began comparing this dress to Jillian's Twizzler dress in Season 4. Really?

I wasn't a big fan of that dress, but at least it's not staring back at me.

Merline "Birdie" Labissiere

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy wires be tacked and tethered, thou,” I said, “art sure not feathered,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the East River shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s fierce Runway shore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Merline was safe, although those teal panties are playing peek-a-boo!

Edmond "Fringe Benefits" Newton

This one looked better the further away from it you were. In close-ups, you could see the glue. Edmond took a close look at his matierals and realized that the underside of the keyboard keys was shiny and had an interesting texture. He assumed (correctly) that others would use the right side of the key. Black on black, the right side wasn't as interesting as the reverse. Instead of covering the whole dress, he used it to make a pattern. Smart use of materials.  Once again, however, the model's hair is in the way of the most interesting part of the dress.

This wasn't one of my favorite looks. The front looked better than the back. The only real interest is in the strapping. The back of the skirt is an afterthought and the fringe thing, from the back, looks like a set of hockey shoulder pads.

Swapnil "The Guru of Goofing Off" Shinde

It's all very interesting, isn't it? Up close, however, the wires were tied together with duct tape, sticking out all over the rhyme or reason. He basically tied a nest of wires onto a muslin skirt.

"I'm pretty sure that looks like something I saw on 'This Old House'."

"I could have sworn this was the 'Angie's List' Challenge!"
Let's set aside all the shenanigans associated with Swapnil's multiple smoke breaks, strategy of mediocrity, and holding back. My theory is that he thought that an avant garde gimmick would get him by. Remember, he went for the "wow" factor in the last challenge knowing full well his look would not be easily mass produced--the whole point of the challenge. The junkyard challenge might not have been the best time to employ that approach. Let's hope for Swapnil's sake that there isn't a real avant garde challenge in his future. He may have shot his wad on this.

Lindsey "Indecisive" Creel

Throughout this competition, Lindsey has been unsure of her designs, her textiles, her approaches, etc... Even when she is sure, she's easily tripped up by a setback.  She made a beautiful bodice covered with keyboard came dangerously close to just being keys glued onto muslin--keys as decoration, not keys used as a textile substitute. The difference is subtle. She clearly ran out of time and material and turned to the CD dust sleeves to make the skirt. An obvious choice, but way too much like a textile. I actually liked the effect of the skirt. BUT....the skirt and bodice don't seem to go together.  And the little silver belt and doodad at the neckline don't really help, either.

"It's like the bathroom tile on top and the shower curtain on the bottom."
Zac took his harsh pills for this challenge.

Joseph Charles "Mumsy" Poli

It's the worst thing he's ever made. Up until now, his designs and workmanship have been unimpeachable. They've also been uninspired. Too safe. Too conventional. Too...matronly (because lord knows, old women are conventional and safe....) Now, if I had to pick between the two mousepad dresses, I'd choose Joseph's. Sorry, Laurie. I have to say it was the least matronly thing he made. Why the auf? Well, for one thing, he barely manipulated the pads at all. For another, there hasn't been a challenge he's really come out ahead on, let alone won.

"You know, I had some encouraging words from Paula...a kiss from Heidi....that's more than Robin Thicke got this year."
So true.

Ashley "Flare Skirt" Tipton

Ashley had Polaroid pictures.


The smeared color developing chemicals made a lovely effect. So she gathered them all together and made a lovely print dress.

"It's like a dress made of memories."
It's gorgeous. Almost got her the win. It was easily my favorite look of the night.  It was a beautifully executed look for this challenge. 

Is the lack of confidence an act for for real?  If it's an act...well done. Way to promote that story line. If it's for real, it's understandable, but she wouldn't be the first designer or the only designer driven by her need for acceptance. I suspect many of them are filled with self doubt. It compels them to be successful.

Kelly "From the Deli" Dempsey

She took aluminum tubing, stretched it out and sewed (or glued...) it in alternate layers to make an interesting textured pattern.

Kelly's "street" aesthetic finally fit the challenge perfectly. The dress was loose on the model, so at the last minute, she added the back and side straps. Brilliant fix, which totally fixed the fit.

Well deserved win!


It seems that every season, the outside world breaks through to remind the designers that there is more to life than competition and personal ambitions. Jake learned that his dog would need to be put down and decided to leave the competition so that he could be by his side at the end. Sure, Jake could have continued. But this was the dog that was with him when his parents died. It speaks to his character that things like loyalty and companionship are important to him.

Wasn't it fortunate, in hindsight, that Jake included his dog in his audition videos? 

Until next week...see you in the Blogging Project Runway chat room!