Saturday, October 31, 2015

Project Runway Season 14 Decoy Collections - Merline Labissiere

 Greetings, Project Runway Fans!!!

Most every season, Project Runway films its Fashion Week show while the season's challenges are still being aired. Being a finalist showing a collection at Fashion Week used to be one of the big perks of making it to the last few challenges of Project Runway. Whoever was on the show that aired the same week as Fashion Week was in the show. If you weren't in the running for the prize package, at least you got a runway show on someone else's dime, to an audience of fashion editors, bloggers and other designers. You were bound to come out of the experience with at least someone's business card, if not a job offer or an opportunity to show to a buyer...or something.

For the past two years, the runway show at Fashion Week has been completely anonymous--both decoys and finalists.  Since it is anonymous, six designers showed collections. Now, what is it when you walk to the audience anonymously? I'm assuming even the finalists are presented anonymously so that no one is really praised or contacted until after the show is over. And everyone forgets. So much for exposure.

So it's the very least your friendly blogger can do to present the decoy shows so that you, the fans, can see and appreciate them.

Merline Labissiere

Merline, I never really understood you.

Her portfolio promised to take us to a strange and unusual world.

But her performance in competition, with its impossible time frames for planning and production, never quite got us there.

And the impossible time frames continued, post competition, when the decoy designers were given just a few weeks to produce a ten-look show. Merline tamed her creative beast and limited herself to just a handful of ideas: tabard-style tops in combo with skirts, jackets, uneven hems, and a predominantly neutral palette.  It was an accessible collection but not a very wide ranging one. You could hear Nina say "One note!"

It was as if she was communicating subliminally that she was over the entire experience. 

Did Project Runway break her spirit? Or was she trying to show a commercial collection? At least we still have the iconic red hat.

Opening the collection is a crisp, white, tabard style top with a brown skirt. It appears to be trimmed in the same material as the top. Very wearable by a wide range of body types. Very fresh. Would translate easily to an international market. With pants, could very easily be androgynous.

A rare pop of color in a deep red-orange, she exchanges the iconic red hat for a straw one.  This features the same tabard-style top over a slim fitting skirt.

Crisp shirt with tails in the back and a short flap in the front. There's some interesting seaming on the front of the shirt, which appears to be a contoured front flap sewn on to the sides of the blouse. 

In real life, I question the practicality of those long, rear flaps. But playing with lengths and shapes of the tail and front shows some promise. Merline has the capability of playing with the standard uniform of the modern office worker. I would love to see her take on the suit in all its incarnations.

Four looks in, and it's becoming clear that she had neither the time nor the interest to sew sleeves. Maybe Tim's admonishment to work on her sewing had a ring of truth to it. Who, exactly, sewed the pieces in her portfolio collection? Did she get construction help? While there's no harm in that, a designer, particularly one who graduated from SCAD, needs to know that the parameters of Project Runway, and often the realities of presenting a collection to a potential buyer or client, mean that you are often a one-man band. She totally punted on sleeves.

With sleeves, this would have been a soulful take on the standard jacket-- short in the back and long in the front. Something you can easily sit in and not get wrinkled but still have some flow and movement when walking.

At this point, the audience is checking their cell phones.

We saw this one already, didn't we?  Oh...this one is long in the front.

She's playing with hem shapes here, but I'm not sure it's working. Do women of the world need a curved skirt bottom that binds their thighs together? Do we need a curved flap that points to the crotch? Not sure on either of these.

Paired back, this blouse is certainly more successful. But it also exposes something that bothers me about her skirts. Pockets are nice and all, but do they have to flare out angrily at the hips when the model is walking?  It looks like a mistake in fitting.

This was unfortunate styling. That vest does nothing for the outfit. Why is it on the one skirt that has some interesting color blocking to it? Could we pair that skirt with the blouse that went before this look?  

Whatever she is doing with the pockets in this skirt verges on a marsupial pouch. And while I realize that the tabard overlay is her thing, on top of a dress, it looks like a bib or some sort of weird religious vestment.

I can only shake my fist at the Project Runway gods and damn them all to some sort of fashion hell for what has become of Merline!  Was she only given a week and a half to produce ten garments? Did she have to sew these by hand? Did they tie one hand behind her back? What happened to result in such a watered-down, milquetoast show?


I want the crazy lady in the red hat who makes magician coats with impossible tails and puzzle piece fronts and arms her models with staffs made out of PVC pipe. Until I get her back, I weep. I weep for Merline and I weep for us all.

Watch this space for her triumphant return.