Saturday, September 5, 2015

Project Runway Season 14, Episode 5: Firing Squad

Greetings, Project Runway Fans.

Take a good look at this promo.
Heidi and Tim are surrounded in pigment dust. It's the kind of thing that gets thrown at you on one of those color runs that are so popular everywhere these days.

Lifetime also showed paintball challenge in the previews.  So this episode was supposed to be a BIG DEAL.

Paintball is all about teams, so this became a team challenge. The designers got to pick their own teams, too. So, naturally, the strongest designers gravitated toward one team. Not exactly. Let's break this down.

The Teams:

Ashley, one of the strongest designers, was picked last.

Girls on one side, boys (and Merline) on the other. Girls have not been killing it. This is not a strategic move.
You know what? I take back everything I ever said about that producer-rigged button bag. Leaving this batch of designers to their own devices turned into a sub-plot for Mean Girls. Somehow, Candice, feeling sorry for Amanda, chose her first. Amanda...the one in the bottom of the pack, week after week.  "I wanted to lift her up," explained Candice.


But I can't just blame the girls here. The boys could have been more strategic as well. Merline? Really? Why leave the other designer who WON A TEAM CHALLENGE unpicked? The whole thing totally, I can't even..... as the kids would say.

Joke's on you, designers. Turns out, Ashley trained up at some paintball bootcamp. She could qualify as an Army sharpshooter.
The Gimmick: 

The producers lovingly approximated a gigantic mash-up of Battleship with Clash of the Clans in Central Park.

I hope they left this up all summer for New Yorkers to enjoy...
At this point in the episode, I begin to call bullshit on the whole enterprise. Tim makes up some convoluted rules about how the designers are supposed to get the material for their challenge and the other team is going to try to keep them from it by pelting them with paintballs.


Season 14 is going to go down in the history books as the season of unconventional materials. I didn't need a "Tim Gunn twist." I knew this the minute the guns came out.

So who was the producer that had the bright idea to do paintball? Because--news flash--the bruises on the designers bodies were darker than the paint on their coveralls.

Don't feel so smart about not participating now, do you, Blake? Hell, no one looks like they participated.
They look like Easter eggs, which will come back to haunt them.
Compare that to how how color runners look.
For the past few years, I've done a 32-mile walk around the rim of Manhattan known as The Great Saunter. It's one of the best ways to see New York and to get the strangest messages from your Fitbit. This year's walk coincided with The Color Run-NYC. Let me tell you, these runners wear their colors like badges of honor. All day. They don't care how ridiculous they look. They're going to walk around with color smeared all over their bodies and faces like post-modern tribal warriors because they just ran 5K and you didn't.

The Saunterers, on the other hand, wore their badges of honor....blisters on both feet, in my case... in pained silence. We staggered home quietly to nurse our wounds. We'll brag about it in a week or so, after our toes stop throbbing.

I'm digressing here. What I mean to say was that if paintball was to have provided any inspiration in this challenge, it laid a big, fat, goose egg. 

The challenge: 

So the "supplemental material" they risked their dignities on was a "use it at your own risk" ruse. Being limited to only the coveralls, however, was a complete crock. Back in the workroom, they got large sheets of white material they could modify to supplement.  Again....what was the point of the paintball?

If it was to build team cohesiveness, that didn't exactly work either.

So the guys strategically splatter blue in various shades....

....Meanwhile, on the red team, Kelly is trying to become the next Jackson interpreted by a fastidious, teenage girl.
"We totally can't use this. Ser-sly...what were you thinking?" "I know. I hate it almost as much as I hate Ashley." "Let's give it to Ashley and see what she could do with it!" "What? And like make her lose so she can drag the whole team down?"

The "blue team" immediately began strategizing for the win. Everyone would help with the designs. Each designer played to his (or her) own strengths. Blake would paint pretty flowers on everything and Joe would help everyone with finishing.

As the boys and Merline went about their merry work singing Kumbaya....

"Ser-sly...we can't come up with any ideas we all agree with. Let's just each do our own thing."
Even a Tim Gunn pep talk couldn't whip the girls into shape.

The Controversy:

This episode deteriorated into a parody of itself.  Ashley obsessed about being picked last. Goaded by Laurie, Ashley begins to believe she is being "thrown under the bus."
You realize, the Project Runway bus is locked permanently in place by the bodies of designers that have been thrown under it. The NYPD tickets it for illegal parking every day. The fines are one of the reasons why the prize package hasn't grown over the years.

Despite building each other up, Candice, Kelly and Amanda proceeded to produce the worst garments they've ever made. They make every mistake in the textbook. I can't believe Edmond wasn't yelling out "They tried using the supplemental fabric to make a collection cohesive in Season 9 and 12 and it was a huge disaster!"

But that's not the saddest thing. The saddest thing is that I have no time to talk about the product placement! Sorry Sally Beauty! They've got a new Finger Paint nail polish line. "The opportunity to consult" on it is part of the prize package.  With all the drama, the Sally Beauty Nail Bus also got thrown under the bus. This product placement was the biggest casualty of Great Paintball War of 2015. Let's have a moment of manicured silence please.

The Judges:

Lisa Perry and Kelly Osbourne joined the judges this week. Both are fashion designers. Kelly is more of a fashion personality at this point. I popped in on her website for a bit. It's like Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP if GOOP drank 15 cans of Red Bull. I managed to find a couple of things on it that I'm going to explore further and I won't feel like an over privileged twit doing it.

Lisa Perry start collecting vintage 1960's couture and ended up designing it for a new era.  She has a flagship store on Madison Ave. Her kicky, urban mod style would be perfect for many of the designers on the show this season. Unfortunately, she didn't get to see their best work. In fact, I'm sure she was bored stiff.

Kelly saw through a lot of the crap regarding Team Mean Girls and Ashley. I'm sure hearts sank as they slowly realized that the formerly fat girl with the lavender hair wasn't buying that the weakest designer was the fat girl with the lavender hair. While I would like to think that the producers, upon seeing the drama before them scrambled to the horn to get Kelly Osbourne to the set (I would have done that...) I'm sure her appearance was merely a well-timed coincidence.

Sometimes, shows like this inexplicably end up producing some of the most beloved garments of the season. Not this week. As Heidi would say, "I have to say, designers, for this challenge you really disappointed me."

The outfits:

Blue Team

Blake Patterson

Blake cheekily alluded to his lack of participation in the challenge by producing a dress using just the splattered-on material, nearly almost white. It's a nice, solid, safe start for the show.

Joseph Charles Poli

Another, safe, pedestrian dress. This week, it was surprising teamwork that stood out, even though he was working with Merline again. This time, he allowed designers to do their thing, while offering advice and assistance as needed.

Jake Wall

Jake wins the "most improved" designer award this week. It was, quite simply, the most creative outfit he's produced in the competition thus far. The world doesn't need another caped, crop top. Paired with those clam diggers, however, the look is fresh and fun.

Merline Labissiere

As a friend of mine likes to say, "you just keep being you." Merline is better at being Merline than anyone else. Don't try to be Merline at home, kids. She's a trained professional!

I'm not a fan of the mash-up/"Franken-dress" trend that hit the runway hard about three years ago. When she started to mock it up on the dress form, I was prepared to hate everything about it. Instead, I only hated the bodice. The blouson effect is dowdy and frumpy, particularly with the stiff fabric. I usually hate the skirts on these dresses. Merline managed to redeem it by allowing the back to gradually lengthen from the short to the long side. This added a flowiness to the dress that would have been lost had she kept the skirt short all the way around.

Swapnil Shinde

I hate the shirt draped around the waist that serves a a pocket. There, I said it. And I'm over bubble skirts. I also think the shoes look ridiculous with it and I don't care that everyone painted them so that they matched. The judges, however, loved the look and you have to admit, you can't take your eye off it. They went mad for the corset lacing on the back and how he recycled the shoes they wore. He must have recycled Blake's shoes because the laces are pristine. It's well executed. I'll give him that.

Edmond Newton

How the heck did Edmond take cotton duck and come up with that gown? The top is clearly cobbled from the coverall. It's another bubble skirt, but the bubble is so subtle here that it just adds fullness. It's Newtonian Physics! You can appreciate the hand painting that Blake did and even the splatter/dye job that Jake did. Edmond deserved the win for using both the challenge materials and showcasing the talents of his team in a stunning conclusion piece.

Red Team

Realizing that they had no cohesion in their show and that their fabric was too pastel, the team decided to use the only fabric they had left that they could agree on: purple. As a result, the supplemental fabric stood out over the paintball fabric.

Ashley Nell Tipton

Lisa Perry nailed it. Ashley spent so much time pleating the top and the vest that she just threw the skirt together as an afterthought. On second thought, why do a top AND a vest when the vest has all the visual interest and you don't have sleeves anyway?

In this case, extra time wouldn't have helped. She just would have used it to conjure up more paranoia about Candice, Kelly and Lindsey. Thing is, the world is filled with people who have no idea what you do and no firm basis on which to critique what you do and the are in a position to make it hard for you to do what you do. These people approve loans, buy for stores, hell, they write stupid blogs.

Despite all the Sturm und Drang of the challenge, Ashley was able to prevail. It wasn't her finest design, but it was good enough. Strong ideas can overpower weak opinions.

Laurie Underwood

When Laurie wasn't busy whipping up Ashley's paranoia, she produced this cullotte/backless top combo. She seemed really satisfied with the slightly longer back on the culottes, which, I must admit, does give it an almost skirt-like flow.  If I wore them, my butt would look gigantic. They look good on the model.

Pay attention to the model in the background. That's Leslie Creel's model. Once again, the Lifetime site failed to give us a decent picture of the outfit with the jacket, so keep this in mind.

Lindsey Creel

What in heaven's name is going on with the front of those pants? She paired them with an uninspired top under an uninspired smock-like jacket. The whole thing was boring. She was paired up with Jake for the last team challenge and managed to make him look like he was completely useless. Left to their own devices--and neither of them were messed with during this challenge--Jake did way more with his opportunity than she did.

Candice Cuoco

What you can't see from this angle is that the top layered piece sticks out a couple of inches. In fact, scroll up and look at how different the dress looks as the model is walking from when the model poses. The layered top is flopping and migrating around. "Overdone" is a word that Nina likes to use. This is a classic case of "overdone." The skirt is fantastic. It sort of belongs with Ashley's top, had she been able to use the paintball fabric. As you can see both looks together, it isn't clear whether Candice or Kelly used the paintball fabric at all. And that was part of the problem here.

Kelly Dempsey

I had a hard time deciding between Kelly and Amanda for the auf this week. I hated everything about this dress. To blend a "street" aesthetic with an evening gown look, everything about it has to be impeccable. So a migrating left sleeve undermines everything Kelly is trying to do here. The bandeau underlay looks cheap. The mermaid skirt is crying out to be paired with something more elegant. Had she done the front like the back, I think she could have had a very stunning, edgy piece.  As it is, I just want to walk up to the model and adjust that errant strap.  

Amanda Perna
The model deserves an award for working this outfit.
Ashley spent the entire episode in a funk because she was being frozen out of Team Loser. I'm not sure it even dawned on her that none of Candice's coddling helped Amanda and may have cost her a slot at Fashion Week.

Amanda's look went LAST. Last. Last in a fashion show is reserved for the most stunning piece...the fashion gown, the wedding dress, explosions, flaming headpieces...whatever passes for runway excitement these days.

Amanda's outfit was not runway excitement despite all the hard work the model did with that skirt.

Sending Amanda last just put the exclamation point on the fact that she's sent out variations of the same outfit, week after week. It highlighted the lack of cohesion in the collection and did nothing to tell us about the woman who would wear it. Furthermore, this is neither a dress nor a gown. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Oh, and by now, everyone in the world is sick of that shoe. We've seen it every week in every collection and this week with too many outfits.

There's no doubt in my mind that even with two guest judges brought in cold, this outfit was sending Amanda home. No amount of Heidi asking teammates who they think should go home would change that. In fact, Heidi asked the teammates who should go home SO THEY WOULD TELL THE WORLD THEY HATED ASHLEY.  That was a producer prompted question.

And once again, we have an episode where interpersonal relationships get more time than design dilemmas.  And somewhere, the creative director for Sally Beauty weeps.

Next week Project Product Placement marches on as Heidi promotes her lingerie line. Ooo...we haven't seen a lingerie challenge in a while and there's good reason for that.

Here's hoping Lifetime resurrects the "modesty box" next week!

Until next blog, join us for our group therapy session in the Blogging Project Runway chatroom, Thursday at 9 pm EDT.  

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