Saturday, October 10, 2015

Project Runway Season 14, Episode 10: Motley Crew

"If I die tomorrow
As the minutes fade away
I can't remember
Have I said all I can say?"  Mötley Crüe

Greetings, Project Runway fans!!!

Strap on your seatbelt. We're in for a LONG RIDE this week.  Let's get this out of the way right now.

Yes, I mean you.
Project Runway is a reality TV competition show. It is not a documentary on the fashion industry. It is not a public relations vehicle for individual designers. It is a 6-8 week crucible where designers compete in challenges with small time frames and budgets with equipment that may or may not work using materials that may or may not be fabric. If they get sleep every night, they wake to each new day cut off from family and friends where every minute a camera is stuck in their face.


They punch cameras. They throw their dry cleaning back at the show runners. 
"You will NEVER let me LIVE THAT DOWN will you?"

If a designer takes a smoke break every so often, IT'S ON CAMERA. 

If they goof off and tell stories instead of working on their outfit, IT'S ON CAMERA. There are hours upon hours of video in the hard drive and the editors have to decide WHAT STAYS IN. They don't have to create drama. They don't "edit scenes together to make it look like something it's not." It's there. It's ALL THERE.

Swapnil Shinde came into this competition with one of the most impressive portfolios the panel had seen. He had tried before to get into Project Runway, so I'm suspecting that he upped his design game in recent years to a level where he finally managed to capture their attention.

From Swapnil's audition portfolio.
Got your attention, now?

A dress like that cannot be done in 12 hours, HOWEVER....if you don't have what it takes to approach that level of creativity in each challenge, what's the point of going on Project Runway at all? As you look through the hit parade of his outfits, maybe one will go down as memorable from this season.

By his own admission, he was trying to "play it safe" and quite frankly, it showed.
Challenge 1: Madison Square Garden - Never in the running, but then again, a lot of folks were playing it safe.
Challenge 2: Hallmark - Barely missed the lead due to an outstanding look from Edmond. 
Challenge 3: Celebrity Cruises with Laurie - Not in the running...
But Ms. Ross had her moment with Swapnil's sari!
Challenge 4: Mary Kay eye shadow ad spread
This really wasn't a tremendously outstanding outfit, but in comparison to the others, it was far superior in construction and effect. It was beloved by Heidi and respected by Zac, yet lost out to this...

A dress so poorly made it almost fell apart on the runway. My theory: this really bothers him.

Challenge 5: Paintball, again, narrowly lost out to Edmond. 
Challenge 6: Heidi's Intimates - wowed Heidi but didn't fit the requirements of being easy to produce for mass market.
Challenge 7: Unconventional materials. Where Swapnil simply stopped caring.
Up until now, nobody had it out for Swapnil. From his perspective, however, when challenges are coming every other day, things can stick in a guy's craw. Like losing to some goofy, self-taught designer just because somebody (Nina?) thought his pinned-together look could sell some eye shadow. A morning spent dumpster diving and an afternoon spent rolling a cart through Queens can get a guy to thinking some very existential thoughts. Who am I and what am I doing with all of this coaxial cable?

If this outfit wasn't the ultimate middle finger to the judges, I don't know what is. All his feigned shock doesn't impress me. 

Challenge 8: Neverland, pulling out all the stops.
I still would have picked Candice's outfit for the win. A lot of folks thought that this could have been a close second. But once again, Edmond's piece, despite the Muppet vest, had some complexity to it and managed to capture more of the judge's attention. Usually there's room for three good looks, so Swapnil could have gotten the "atta boy" he wanted. But with so much disappointment on that runway, there was no room to even take his outfit into consideration. At this point, he begins to deflate and totally loses interest.

No stops pulled on this dress.
By the 9th challenge, Swapnil had no faith in the judges and the judges had no faith in him. When that happens, nothing good comes of it.


A tip of the hat to the conspiracy theorists.
Meanwhile, back at Bunim-Murray labs...
"Wasn't it your idea to put Kelly Osborne on the judges panel when the mean girls were picking on Ashley?"
"Sure was."

"OK, what are we going to do about Swapnil? He's slacking off and driving the judges batty."

"Let's bring in the girls from 'Un-Real.'"

"Can't we use another Lifetime show? Everyone will KNOW we're manipulating behind the scenes if we bring in two actresses who play people who manipulate reality TV shows!"

"Precisely! Fans are expecting it. Fuel the outrage and we get...more outrage! More website hits! I...smell...EMMY!"
"That's not Emmy you smell..."
"Oh, don't be silly. Have you seen our ratings? No one watches 'Un-Real'...yet, anyway."
If the audience for Un-Real doubles next week, that's some brilliant product placement.

Then why did everyone else get sound people, camera people, the model wrangler, some chick who's interning for the summer and Swapnil got this crewmember?
OK. You win. I'll grant that was intentional.

But so what if the producers dangled Swapnil like a puppet on a string? 

If only he hadn't left his scissors back in India!
This is a reality TV competition. It's part of the deal. You play by their rules--just like you do in a casino. It's TeeVee, not something REAL like the US House of Representatives or anything....or maybe it is....

"Let me tell you a thing or two about being set up for a position only to have everyone stab you in the back!"

But...Tim used a bad word

Won't somebody PLEASE think of the CHILDREN?
"This is bull$h!t!"
"It's unprofessional from a teacher and a mentor." 

Really? Aren't they all adults? 

I remember college and I've hung out with more than my fair share of college professors and to a prof, they all cuss. Some of them to their students, if they deserve it. All of them to the dean at one time another! My language profs cussed in several different languages, which was cool. Well, maybe they don't cuss at Bible colleges...but at state schools? You betcha.

I once worked with a very notable, tenured Harvard professor and you should have heard the mouth on that guy! Sailors would blush! It didn't stop him from attaining a very influential professional position. Several, as a matter of fact.

"Tim was inconsiderate to Swapnil. None of these designers are getting paid and they're not there to put up with verbal abuse."

They can leave at any time...and a few of them have. No one is keeping them there. They don't have to put up with anything. Speaking of inconsideration....

What was Swapnil being to his client (one of the producers) when, after an entire day to work, he had nothing for her to try on?

What was he being when seeing his client's trepidation about his design direction, interrupted her and talked over her?

The fact of the matter is that he never listened to what the client wanted. He wanted to turn her into a bombshell and he was confident she would love his design. I think he wanted to run out the clock so he could avoid all emotional confrontation and she'd have to live with whatever he produced. 

Tim was pin-spitting mad that Swapnil had nothing for her to try on. It's ok when it's just you that has to live with your actions, but his client (again, a producer) also has to wear this on TV.

Reminiscent of Ven Budhu. And that didn't turn out too well, either.

If this were the first time Tim tried to talk to Swapnil, I would have been shocked. It wasn't the first time. It was the third time. If this were some designer fresh out of fashion school, I'd be shocked. But this is one of the most successful contemporary designers in India. He designs costumes for Bollywood movies. I rather doubt that he's never had anyone swear at him before. 

And yes, Tim has a lot invested in the show. So do the judges. So do the fake reality show judges, who said it all in one phrase that wrapped up the whole night.

"Isn't it a dream come true just to be here?"

If it isn't, in the words of Tim Gunn, "Why the f@#* are you here?"

And for those of you who have put Tim Gunn on such a high pedestal that you will never have the same respect for him again, quit projecting and being so self righteous. Everyone is human. Everyone has a breaking point. They could have edited the entire row out. Now wouldn't THAT have been producer manipulation?

Boy, those crew members were MEAN!

So what? Edmond, who's watched every single episode, wasn't surprised at all. No one should have been surprised. In fact, I think they should go to Danbury Federal Penitentiary for the next "real woman" challenge.

Think about you. What would you have done? I'm actually fairly picky about what I wear. I'm not always FASHIONABLE, but I'm picky. There are things about me that I'm not satisfied with. There are styles I go out of my way to avoid. I spent two weeks trying to shop for a dress to wear for a wedding. TWO WEEKS. So if you're not the kind of person who would walk into a store, pick out the first thing you see and feel great about it, then you cannot criticize these women. And you certainly shouldn't criticize them in defense of any of the designers at this point. We're down to six and they're all going to Fashion Week.

"Could we just get to the designs already? Please?

The designs...

Edmond Newton
"Do you ever notice how sweaty your hands get when you're on the other side of the camera?"
Edmond started off with what could have been a cute, SPORTY look. Desiree bikes to work everyday (yay, Desiree!) and suggested a biking outfit. Edmond ended up trying to go HIGH FASHION and he failed. Unnecessarily. He completely misunderstood Tim when he said that he didn't see any "runway" in the outfit. Tim was simply saying that the raincoat needed to fit and it needed some pizazz. By swapping out the bike pants for a dress, he completely befuddled the judges.

There's a lot to like here. I love the top. I like how the rain jacket is short in the front and long in the back. Perfect for someone on a bike. I wish the jacket could have fit her better--particularly the hood, which didn't fit even after he adjusted it. Paired with some cool pants (and come on...Edmond could have made those pants fit.) it would have been genius.

Seriously, Zac?
Candice Cuoco
"I wonder if they're still going to make me wrangle my colleagues,since they're the models this week." 

Ack! The skirt is too tight. The top is too trashy...Candice struggles from time to time with the delicate line between edgy and trashy. This challenge, she toppled over into trashy. I think her first mistake was insisting on the corset top with a client who clearly wasn't comfortable in one. She can make killer jackets. Her client would have loved a killer jacket. But she can't make a jacket when she spends time trying to make her client love a corset top. First come the straps, then the neckline shape, then, you build up the fabric so she isn't so exposed... and before you know it, you've spent so much time on a top that doesn't suit the client, that you have no time left to make anything else that fits.


"I spend all day carrying a camera around. I already have linebacker shoulders. I don't need to wear an outfit with big shoulders.
And thus, Merline had to bury her dream of putting Katie into a magician's coat, complete with tails. Yet, another designer that couldn't switch gears when the original look wasn't working out.

Now Katie was a real spitfire. She had a lot of out-of-the-box ideas. She agreed to cut her hair and shave her head. She also thought the under side of the coat was cooler than the outside. 

Merline should have listened in the beginning instead of charging ahead full speed. Because she spent so much time (and material) on the coat that Katie clearly didn't want, she had no time left to make an equally memorable look underneath what could have been a memorable vest--or even a soft jacket. Had she made a fitted, soft jacket in the first place, she could have put some greater effort into the other pieces. She should have won this, lead pipe cinch.

Kelly Dempsey

Score another win for Kelly from the Deli! Her no-nonsense approach to the challenge was exactly what was needed. She had no intention of moving her client out of her comfort zone.

"So I like overalls. Deal with it. You're not paying me enough to dress in designer clothes, anyway. And if you think I'm going to run and get sandwiches wearing Gucci, you can forget about it."

It's a great look. I think the tank top is a bit of a throw-away and the vest was completely unnecessary. Even so, if the challenge was to make the client happy and look good, Kelly nailed it. By listening to her client.

Ashley Nell Tipton
"My designer looks like me, so she'll understand why I need to have sleeves."
For all of Ashley's tears...and there were many, none seemed to be shed over her client's arms. Ashley had no intention of making a dress with sleeves. Her first dress had a sweetheart neckline, wide straps and was a total dud.

Hmm...where did we see this before...

The Sally Beauty gal!
Despite all that, I think Ashley was on the right track with the second look. All this needed was some tweaking.

I have a dress from the late 1930s that's very similar to this one only in softer fabric with a fuller skirt. She just needed to cut back the peplum in the front and lengthen it in the back. Maybe cut it back to just one layer. Leave a little of the patterned fabric at the hem and maybe even a bit on the bodice. By making most of it solid, her body fades away. Now, the back could an issue but perhaps bringing a stripe of the solid color in at the bottom of the peplum would have solved that.

Would it have won?  I don't think so. At this point, Ashley is sending out variations on the same thing. Winning would have required pairing the sheath with a fantastic jacket. But that's not what the client wanted. Although had Ashley suggested a jacket, I bet Nicole would have been totally supportive.

Swapnil Shinde

OK...this just pisses me off.

What we got and what could have been.

First of all, even on a two-day challenge, why the heck are you trying to create a dress out of leather? Why???? While I'm not wild about the color of the fabric he took from Ashley (I think...or was it Merline? Maybe it was Candice...) he should have been working with that TYPE of fabric from the start.

It's all about the line of the skirt and the line of the jacket, don't you think? That's what my eye is drawn to and I'm IN LOVE!  However, he frittered time away making the top in leather (again...bad choice!) and had no time left to even consider the jacket.

Why the skirt ruffle? It just destroys the line that the skirt should have had.

And the cape.  Please. If that isn't a huge Bronx salute to the judges and Tim and the production coordinator and everyone who was ever mean to him in life, I don't know what is.

You hate me? Don't want to wear a leather top I fussed over for about an hour or two while Tim was walking around the workroom? Why don't I just make you look ridiculous on national TV and see how you like that?

I wanted to see the drawing come to life. I KNOW Swapnil could have made that drawing come to life. And you know what? Jennifer, the Production Coordinator would have seen to it that he won the challenge. 

Zac tries some producer manipulation of his own.
Wait...look at that raw hem on the sleeve!

Swapnil Shinde has already moved on to fabulousness in real life. He's incredibly successful in India. I would say that it's a shame that he squandered his time on Project Runway, but I bet he would say that he didn't waste his time at all. He made friends with the other designers, had Diana Ross's daughter try on a sari, and developed a huge international fan base. All big wins. He got to show his stuff at Fashion week. This isn't losing. Not even remotely close. Keep being his fans, please. He's hella talented and has places to go.

I just want people to stop talking about how he was robbed. No one is entitled to win Project Runway no matter how talented you are. One of the most talented designers in Project Runway history, Malan Breton, lost after the second challenge in his season. Perhaps the most talented designer ever to grace this competition-- Christian Siriano--nearly lost the "real woman" challenge. When you stop trying to win, pretty soon after that you're going to stop being in the competition.

And now...a palate cleanser.

Last week, I got to meet Tim Gunn. I was part of a fashion show at the National Archives of clothes from the Prohibition era with a number of collectors of 1920's fashions. Tim was the moderator, along with the curator of the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Costume Designer for Boardwalk Empire. The discussion and the fashion show are worth seeing. The National Archives posts all of their presentations on YouTube. You can find this one here. The discussion is very entertaining and enlightening.

Now, all Tim had to do was read the script that was developed for him for the fashion show. But he insisted on coming backstage, meeting every single one of us and asking copious questions about every detail of the outfit. Was it hand sewn? What was the material? How do you keep it so well preserved? How did you come to own this outfit? Every piece has a story and he wanted to know them. It was like having our own, mini "close-up look" moment...without any groping from Zac Posen!

Meeting Tim was such a delight. He was very friendly to everyone and so appreciative of the hard work (all volunteer, by the way) that everyone put into the evening.
The 1920's Marcel curls, which I did myself with some finishing help from volunteers backstage, was courtesy, in part, to several products and devices purchased at Sally Beauty Supply. The dress is an early 1920's day dress from my own collection.
Next up is the Avant Garde challenge. Designers are to be inspired, once again, by New York City. Yet again, we have another season where the most potentially provocative designer leaves before the avant garde challenge. But the previews promise some wild designs and I can't wait to see them. Should be Merline's to win, no? Maybe she'll get to finally make her magician's coat.

See you next week. And remember next Thursday to join us in our weekly group therapy, mob comment chat room on Blogging Project Runway


  1. Was anyone listening to Swapnil? He was hoping for constructive feedback to move forward. Instead he was chastised. Also, UnREAL is between seasons, so no doubling of ratings for them next week.

    1. I believe he was chastised by Tim not for wanting more feedback, but for wasting time in three challenges and flaunting the rules on one. If you are talking about the interactions with Jennifer, I recall one instance where he talked over her and interrupted her. That kind of behavior would shut me down from further communication, as I'm sure it did her.
      Anyway, there's a long and storied history of designers getting next to no feedback on the real person challenge. Half the Sheepdogs were non-communicative. The prom girls were a total ice cream headache. Hedda Lettuce was....well... and then there was Angela's poor, put-upon mom.

    2. you got me perfect would Swapnil have been in the Drag Queen challenge??? I can just see him flashing his baby blues at Hedda Lettuce (who would die) and saying, "How would you like to be a Bollywood Princess?" Hedda would have had to do the runway on a stretcher.

  2. I do agree that Swapnil's outfit was terrible. I'm not defending him but it seemed that he was not given a win when he deserved it. Zac was extremely critical of him in previous challenges and appeared to have it out for him. Ashley's dress wasn't flattering in the least, but there's a still photo of the first dress she made which didn't make it into the show that is very cute. Unfortunately it was sleeveless. I don't know why she changed the whole thing. I don't think Kelly designed anything new. She basically changed the fabric and altered the fit of her client's everyday look. The whole episode was underwhelming. Let's hope they're all over the hump and we'll start to see designs worthy of Project Runway finalists.

    1. I'd have been royally pissed off at the eye shadow challenge, had I been Swapnil. I understood why the judges (Nina) preferred Blake's blue balloon dress. It was a pop of color that could reflect the color in the eye shadow...blah blah blah....
      But properly lit, Swapnil's outfit could have showcased all the colors. I could totally envision a spread like that. Anyway, most eye makeup ads feature only the face. Those that do feature an outfit, often feature a black one, since the eye shadow is the start.
      Zac has taken his nasty pills this season on a bunch of designers, not just Swapnil. And he criticizes weird things, time and again. He seems disconnected from the rest of the panel. Nina keeps trying to aim for the unusual and then when someone (Merline) really brings it, she pillories her. The judging has been weird and Tim blamed the judging, in part, for the trainwreck that was this season.

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  4. Amen, thanks for saying what I was thinking. Frankly, aside from Kelly, I thought they were all pretty bad this week. I'm starting to think that Ashley has no idea what flatters a plus size. She had such an adorable model and made her look so frumpy. And, Edmond, have you ever tried to ride a bike while wearing a narrow skirt? Had you made some cute pants to go with that great raincoat you would have had a fantastic outfit.