Saturday, October 31, 2015

Project Runway Season 14: The Decoy Collections: Swapnil Shinde

Greetings Project Runway Fans!

This year, Project Runway showed a pared down runway show at Fashion Week. Only six designers showed collections.  People who attended said that the shows came out in no particular order, nor were they identified.

When this one came out, however, everyone knew the designer.

Swapnil Shinde

The kurta-wearing, blue-eyed Indian heartthrob stole the show and stole our hearts.

With some smooth Bollywood dance moves...

And mad design skills.

He wowed Tracee Ellis Ross with his sari.

But his "play it safe" strategy backfired after a couple of mishaps on the runway and next thing you know...

Sacred cow patties were flying out of Tim's mouth.

Why all the drama? Perhaps the producers were hoping for a catalyst that would bring out the best in the rest of the designers to greater heights in what has been a very lackluster season. Swapnil wasn't playing that game, however. He was more interested in having fun with his experience, while slowly raising the heat of competition on his own terms.

It's no use rehashing what was or musing over what might have been. Let's just dive into this confection, shall we? 

Swapnil's woman is the star of her own Bollywood movie. The show should have broken out into one of those signature dance scenes at the end. So just imagine some cool music in the background as these walk....

You can't see the jacket, but I'm sure it's spectacular. The sunburst beading is something of a signature motif for him, based on his portfolio looks. He never employed it in competition, however. 

I appreciate his take on the choli, that short, cropped top that traditionally goes under the sari. Paired with the jacket and skirt, it's a mash up of east meets west. Starting off with the light green indicates that we'll be seeing color, but not the typical colors you expect from India. These are sophisticated and subtle hues. He's designing for the world.

Now onto the minuses. The Granny panties seem like one detail too many. You see them so much on the red carpet these days that they no longer provocative. The divided skirt tails seem weirdly complicated and chaotic.

The overall effect, however, is pretty attention getting. You're on the edge of your seat. This is going to be a good movie...
Our heroine is dressed for action. Maybe there's a firearm inside that jacket. Maybe she just zip lined onto the runway.

I'd need to see more details to declare this an absolute win. The jacket, clearly, is to die for. Don't know if that's a belt buckle or a detonation device dangling from the left side and does it really matter? Maybe not.

It's a shame, however, to have to ruin the fantasy and discuss the skirt, but I'm going to. There appears to be a pencil skirt underneath all the flowing chiffon. Why is that? It's as if a business suit were struggling to break free from an evening gown. The only thing keeping it in place is a weird black belt. Maybe our heroine has a black belt in karate.

I think if he had removed the chiffon and simply teamed the top and jacket up with a black or soft peach leather pencil skirt this could have broadened out the collection...and made zip lining a little easier.

She meets the arch enemy at a night club. Will she be kidnapped by the mob before she gets the thumb drive that contains the secret message that will save her brother? 

Paired with the crop top, that short skirt seems a bit trashy. There's an attempt at a luxe vest with some sort of trailing scarf piece. It's hard to tell from the picture. That's not enough to elevate what is the most pedestrian outfit in the collection.

Our heroine visits her brother's casino in Mumbai. Her brother is a traditionalist, so as a nod to him she dons her sequinned take on a kurta and a long, leather jacket. It's unique and fresh while being relaxed and comfortable. This would be a flattering look for a wide range of body types. I can't tell from the picture whether this is a churidar/palazzo pant of some sort or a skirt. The full pant would make this a very interesting and complex take on traditional, ethnic dress accessible to a wide range of people.

Ok...flashback to our heroine's teenage know, that part of the movie where the script veers off into some wild flight of fancy. I've lost track.

Once again, we have the choli paired with a shorter skirt--a little reminiscent of the Hallmark challenge. I don't know why the jacket bothers me in this look. It's too soft and girly. I would have appreciated another hard jacket to make the hard/soft contrast a little more consistent in the show. You'll see one on the second to last look that I think would have been perfect with this outfit. It looked like Swapnil was trying to show some range here.

Ah...the plot is back on track. Our heroine is at a party where she meets the love of her life. Wearing a look like this, he should know that she isn't some simple, traditional girl. She's a cosmopolitan woman of sophistication. She's a handful. We hope he can handle her.

This top is a wink and a nod to a traditional kurta and the wispy skirt underneath is just the right amount of femininity. It's flirty and sexy without being garish (despite all those sequins!) The woman who wears this makes an entrance and burns herself into everyone's memory.

Cue the music, please. We need a dance scene.

Love means never having to sew your sari.

Oh, come were thinking it too.

It's half dupetta, (sari sash) half sherwani (jacket) or half gown, half sari. Or half east, half west. This is a spare and sophisticated piece. This isn't meant to be dramatic. It's a quiet statement about the complexities of how Swapnil sees his country, his aesthetic and his fashion. The only dissonance is the light blue leather belt around the waist. It disrupts the flow and looks like something she grabbed off the Just Fab wall at the last minute in order to hold up the skirt. I don't think that was his intention. We saw that belt two looks ago. Perhaps he just wanted to repeat an element, but it doesn't work for me.

So after I remove that belt, I going to declare this the most important piece in the show. It's certainly the one that reveals his potential and vision. This is a root outfit that can branch into a number of directions....feminine, androgynous, flirty, or modest.

I'm sorry...the movie. Her casino owning brother is getting married and she's attending the wedding. Indian weddings go on for days. This is an understated outfit that says family loyalty comes first.

Wedding, day two. Asymmetrical hems are all the rage. The work well when textiles are mixed. The wrap dress adds body and the wispy skirt adds the movement and some sheer drama (because everyone loves that subtle exposure...) Lovely and delicate, without being lewd.

We're wrapping up to the big finish. It's a bombastic, high fashion gown paired with a biker jacket. There's a ton of things going on with the skirt and once again, I'm a bit overwhelmed. Too many details and you can't appreciate any of them. Those flowy skirt tails are distracting. I'm not sure we needed them.

I can understand what he's doing, I just wish he had put that jacket on a different outfit so that I could appreciate it on its own terms and we could admire the work in the bodice.
Our heroine is going to make it and the movie glides into its happy ending. This gown is luxe, full of drama and pizzazz. Somehow, Swapnil manages to make a bustier top and keep it classy. This could easily have gone completely into the trashy range, but the color is sophisticated and the fan design keeps it modest and more like a bejeweled breastplate. A very strong look.

Swapnil has arrived and he has so many exciting places to take us.

Could this have won?

Well...I'm not exactly sure. In the past, we've had lovely collections of evening wear go out only to have the designer hear that he or she was "one note" and there was "no range." It didn't look like there was a real pair of pants in the whole collection, for example. It was basically one evening look after another, with a day look thrown in for good measure.

But he pulled out all the stops (maybe too many stops) and gave us the show we wanted to see.  And so he doesn't get seed money for his next collection. He's already cast on another show in India, so maybe there will be some money in that.

What he can do is play the next year of his life and career on his terms, without an "opportunity to consult" for nail polish. He'll just have to call his own Uber if he wants to drive out and about and buy his own sewing machine. Something tells me he'll have no trouble doing that at all.


  1. I'm awarding Swapnil the "Pantalone Prize!" The fourth look did feature pants. Bravo!

  2. His attention to detail is amazing ...dramatic, classy and unique. Should have won.