Sunday, November 8, 2015

Project Runway, Season 14: Finale Part 2: Four on the Floor

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

Well, this is it!
I could cut straight to the chase and give you the runway shows, but then, we'd miss out on the great mysteries of life that form the context of the runway shows to come. Without them, we cannot fully understand the outcome.

Or something like that.

First mystery....what the hell happened to Tim Gunn?

"Here's the glitter I bought for you!"
And if that wasn't enough....

"I wish I could join you in glittering all the things!"
What was in the Milanese sandwich he got at Bob's? Perhaps the vapors from the spray adhesive started getting to him.

Then, there's this.

"Here's the print fabric that I purchased for you, Ashley."
Where? What did it look like? Why didn't she use it? 

Here's my theory. It was an elaborate prank by Tim Gunn. He bought a yard of every ugly print she ever used and left a note at the bottom of it that said:

Dear Ashley,
The prints you chose this season were ugly. Don't listen to the judges. They're crazy.
"I'm bringing sexy back."
For Edmond, it became a battle with the ruffles. To him, a runway show has always meant big, audacious dresses with tons of volume and fabric. But the judges responded most to his sexy, spare, body-conscious dresses.  At his studio visit five weeks in, Tim told him to concentrate on evening wear. Two days before the show, the judges told him to concentrate on the sexy. They give you seven weeks to put together a spectacular show. If, at the end of the seven, you miss the mark, the finale becomes yet another, impossible, time crunched challenge.

But the most heartbreaking of all was losing all the drama and amazement of what could have been Candice Cuoco's show.

So long big waist pannier thingy.
Good bye, dress cage.
Auf Wiedersehen to any passion or excitement that Candice's could have had.

At this point in the show it's clearly down to Ashley vs. Kelly.

Would it be the woman who sewed every garment up until the last minute of the runway?

Or would it be the woman who glittered everything in sight, including the models?
On with the show...

Wearing patriotic red, white, and blue for September 11, 2015...
Edmond Newton

The show started strong and bold with one of the best fitting dresses he ever made in competition.

This should have been a refreshing pop of color. Instead, it was a bewildering, floppy, sloppy, puckery dress.

Where have we seen this before?

Remember, Blake won a challenge with this dress!!!
OK, not exactly, but whatever possessed Edmond to attempt a balloon dress, particularly one with three tiers? 

I think it looks like a gathered Hefty bag. It was Heidi's favorite dress. Really? I'd love to see her wear it.

 Nina said she loved this one. I don't believe her for a minute. Carrie Underwood was probably giving her serious side eye every time she made a critical comment.

 No. Tell me this was one of the dresses he spit out in one day. I'd hate to think he spent more than one day on it.

Despite the withering critique from the judges about ruffles and flourishes, he kept this piece in. It is one of the strongest and it broke up the body conscious silhouette without sacrificing any sophistication.

Not a bad take on the high-low dress trend. The standard practice is to make the neck high if the hem is high and plunge the back where the hem goes to the floor. The back needed something more interesting.  The front strapping was a bit messy. 

Edmond's bright blue, avant garde-challenge, Muppet jacket made a comeback in black! The open back shows some design interest. I would have loved to see it in color, paired with a simple, black or white sheath. That would have added some much needed color as well as the feeling of layering color and texture.

The print is uninspiring, likely a holdover from his collection of daywear and separates he originally considered showing.

This next piece out-right defied the judges admonition to lose the ruffles. Zac, especially, sees these sorts of embellishments as attention-getting gimmicks. A good designer shouldn't have to resort to show-stopping schlock. 

But the biggest sin here is that the ruffles actually detract from the garment. They add unflattering bulk to the model's chest, stomach and hips. The trails at the end look mangled. This either needed to be even bigger or needed to be toned down in the bodice and through the midsection.
This is a more successful design in that he doesn't sacrifice the sexiness and fit for the ruffles. Had this been the only ruffled dress, he would have been fine. But with two, the judges could pick apart both. I'm not sure why he gave it a train. It also bustles unnecessarily in the back. 

The judges knew that Edmond was capable of beautiful fit and design. His idea of high fashion = fancy ruffles flew in the face of their desire to see some real design work. And with a  show that featured a few forgettable dresses, we knew that Edmond fell short. Now that he's been on the show, perhaps he'll have the confidence to design dresses that don't require all the gimmicky embellishments.

Candice Cuoco

I count eight different fabrics in this collection. And that's a problem.

The cherry blossom fabric made a triumphant return in the form of a simple, elegant dress. It was one of the most beautiful, soulful dresses that Candice made this season. The stuff of dreams is this dress, which looked as if it wandered in from someone else's show.... the next look catapulted us into Tackyville. Who is this woman and why would she wear this outfit when she also has that dress that just walked?  What's with the cropped bustier? Other than to show the world you can defy gravity, what purpose does it serve? Styling the pants with those shoes made it look like the pants had cuffs.

 Black leather, lace-up dress. Not bad looking, just not very innovative.

 The styling on the model screams "west coast stoner chick" to me. Completely uninspiring.
If I'm not mistaken, this is now the third time we've seen the jacket with a sleeve that is not completely sewn together. You can see the hems of the open seams are finished. When did these "cape sleeves" become a thing? I don't like them. I want real sleeves! 

Other than that, this outfit could have used a pop of color in the bodice. (Didn't she make a bustier in the red, embossed leather?) The styling made it look like the model walked in from another show.

 This looks like one of the looks she churned out this week to replace some of the more exuberant outfits she had planned to show. It's a throw-away.
 Because everyone wants a flowy dress in leather, right?  Only I think we'd want a better fit in the bodice.
It's not a bad dress. In a better show, you would have seen the build up to the finish. She said that one of her inspirations was the "China Through the Looking Glass" show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I'm not seeing any Asian inspiration.
 Aside from the skirt that Candice wore to introduce the show, which was a re-visit of one of her competition designs, this was clearly another throw-back piece. This is what the avant garde challenge should have looked like, had Candice had more time and better materials.I would have liked to have seen her go even wider with the arches at the bottom.
This dress needed something more than what she gave it at the end. The hem was uneven at the bottom. I would have used the dress cage, just put a hack-saw to it and cut it down a bit. Or asked Tim run to Mood for some metal hoops. This needed some volume at the bottom to show off the gorgeous pattern and give it some interest.

In the end, I don't think the "McQueen-like" dresses sank her at all. Her show suffered from too many ideas that she desperately needed to edit.  She wisely took out the pannier and hat--both interesting ideas, but not if you're only going to use them once and so overwhelmingly. She should have gone a step further and edited down the fabrics as well.

The show also had no transition. It went from 0-60-180 mph, hurking and jerking along the way. She started off sweet then abruptly went edgy and finished with drama. It was like three different shows.

And finally, she repeated too many elements. Did the show need three cropped bustiers? Did it need two takes on a black, leather dress or two "mermaid" gowns? Candice has the skills. She just needs the focus.

Kelly Dempsey

Studio 54 for the hip hop generation.

Kelly already knew that the judges didn't think the looks she chose were anything special. So she needed to choose the best stuff she had, mix and match everything just right and pull out all the stops on the styling. Hair amped, lipstick and shoes glittered, her posse was ready to walk.

This was a strong opening. The pants fit beautifully. The legs flared out gracefully without being too overwhelming. The "bib" top was a fun pop of color and shine.
 I liked this look a lot as well. The bandeau stripe was fun and flirty. I liked the shiny fabric paired with the leather from the bridge dress.
 this is where the collection started to lose me. Kelly had two repeating motifs. This "corrugated metal" fabric print was one of them. I'm not keen on the trend of using the fancy fabric on one side and a plain fabric on the other. It seems like manufacturers just want to cut back on using premium fabrics to satisfy a profit margin. The tight band around the thighs seems like a gratuitous attempt to emphasize the butt. It also makes it difficult to walk.
 The shiny fabric returns again, paired with a cropped top made from the bridge leather. It's ok in a youthful, unsophisticated way.  and I know the model is leaning to one side but that skirt hem really seemed crooked.

Another garment with the fancy fabric on one side. This one is a top that's longer in front than in the back. The pants combine the two motif fabrics she's using: the corrugated metal print with the wood grain print. The fit on the pants is way too tight.

Also, if you're going to do interesting straps in the back, why cover them up with the model's hair?
This look features her wood grain motif fabric along with netting. Kelly is strongest when she is being whimsical. The whole long dress as short skirt is a clever way to combine two current trends. The wood grain fabric amps up the whimsy as does the matching fanny pack. This is one outfit where the fanny pack works as an accessory.
Nina called this the "skating outfit." My commentary last week is still valid. I don't understand why she felt the need to cut up expensive fabric and combine it with trim to make a new textile. That aside, this is another dress with the banding around the top of the thigh. The result in the back is just a little too vulgar, in my opinion. It's another dress with the fancy fabric in the front. Even though she's using motif fabric in the back, my same position stands. It seems cheap and throw-away just to do the luxe fabric in the front regardless of what other designers are putting out.
The bodice needed better fitting. Shiny fabric just makes that painfully obvious. 
Throughout the last two episodes, I believe she showed the top part of this outfit to Tim Gunn about five times. The top is pieced together with gold and silver metallic trim. Up close, it's a little bit of a mess. No problem here because no one is looking at this garment up close. It was her showstopping final piece and it did as advertised.
This shot is a little too dark, which is a shame because Carrie Underwood is visibly drooling.
And if you have to storm out of a post-modern discotheque, you might as well look fierce doing so.

I thought Tim did her a major disservice trying to talk her out of using the mesh. I thought the mesh pieces were her strongest and smartest. I like her take on positive and negative space--exposure and covering up. 

Using light colored fabrics meant there was no room for error on the fit of the pants. Unfortunately, a few of the garments were so tight that nothing was left to the imagination underneath.

Kelly has a lot of potential, not all of which was showcased effectively in this final runway show. On her own time and her own terms, I think we're going to see amazing things. I'm pretty sure there's going to be a "help wanted" sign at Bob's to go with the "As Seen on Project Runway" and "Former Home of Kelly Dempsey" sign.

What should the Kelly Dempsey sandwich contain? I'm sure Bob is working on one right now.

Ashley Nell Tipton
Dangerous curves ahead.

The show started strong with a two-toned, body conscious sheath paired with a lacy top. The pops of color are fun and the looks is feminine, yet sophisticated. The lace is completely on trend. The hem could have stood to be taken up just an inch.

This was a breathtaking way to address the latest sheer panel trend for a fuller figured woman or even an older woman who wants to be fashionable but not vulgar. The design basics that we've come to expect from Ashley are there but the fabric choices are smart and refreshing. A little bit of fringe and the patterned mesh just add to the beauty of the piece.
Unfortunately, some of Ashley's models were not the strongest runway walkers. This model should have given them all lessons. She twirled that skirt to within an inch of its life. That twirl was everything.  I'm still not a fan of the quilted fabric for this look. It's not as delicate as the look before it and as you can see, the skirt had a tendency to roll below the belly in the front and bunch up over the butt in the back. On a  more positive note, Ashley fixed the problem with the fit in the bodice, so our model can twirl away with abandon and maintain her dignity up top.
Ashley listened to Nina's advice and used the flower halos sporadically. Here, we have a simple tunic, so the elaborate head piece wouldn't compete with it. I'm not fond of this look, myself. It would be cute with leggings. Only a women with legs that look as good as this model's could wear this dress. The color reminds me of a hospital gown.
I totally dig the idea of this outfit but the fit is still problematic  The bodice bunches up in the front and along the sides. The pants are fitted too tightly in front. But other designers had the same fit problems with their more conventional models. Ashley's degree of difficulty was exponentially higher.
This outfit is a clever take on the peek-a-boo sheer garments we see on runways everywhere, all the time. The halter and panty underneath are absolutely perfect. The bottom of the hem is so interesting that your eye doesn't land on the crotch as it would with some of these sheers. 
This is another garment that I like the idea of and wish the execution were just a little better. The front of the shorts pouches out and the legs are riding up in the middle. I put shorts back on the rack when they do that to me. This reminds me that i wanted to see more jackets in this collection. I'm glad she featured them. 
I'm a little ambivalent about this outfit. The idea of a long overblouse is a good one, but I'm not sure I like the color combination. The  fringe hits the model at a weird spot. From the back, it looks a little like a night gown. I think I would have preferred the long overblouse in the white sheer fabric, instead. The pants fit well. 
The aubergine gown made a triumphant comeback, this time with matching undergarments. The effect was spectacular, for the most part. I think the panty could have been a touch lower in the back.
For the flowery finale, Ashley left off the headpiece. This has an "Infant of Prague" look to it. The flowers are very evocative of Mexico City. Unfortunately, she admitted to gluing the flowers on. Others have observed that it would have been next to no trouble sewing the flowers on and the garment would have had more permanence. The halter top is beautifully fitted. The effect adds volume and drama without adding bulk.

Should Ashley have won? I ask you this, which other collection offered up as high a level of construction and design consistency? Which other collection reflected a personal inspiration as successfully? Which other collection solved a design problem?

This season, the most technically proficient designers were sunk by their lack of cohesion. One moment they go sexy and another moment they go dramatic with no place in between. Designers relied on too many gimmicks: fancy fabrics, embellishments, prints, beading...

Ashley took garments that would be hard for some "model-size" women to wear and made them work on larger models. She proved her hypothesis that you can push the design envelope for a wider variety of sizes. Were the fittings perfect? No. But no finalist flawlessly fit their models.

In many ways, as others have observed, once Swapnil left the scene, this season was Ashley's to lose. She didn't. The judges and producers didn't need to steer things her way. You could see it in the drawing that they showed during Tim's visit. She had a strong vision of what she wanted to see and she accomplished it. She compromised where it made sense and where it didn't, she stuck to her guns. Her last moments were spent fitting models--and rightfully so. She didn't need extra glitter or another tweak to a garment. 

Is she the best designer?

You can win the competition and end up not being the most successful designer. You can win and not be the best designer (as we have seen in past seasons.) I don't think this season is as glaring an example of that as a couple of the past seasons have been. Ashley is technically very, very good. She is capable of pulling out some incredible stops once given the time and materials. She played Project Runway very strategically through he competitions. However, when it came to the final show, she went for broke. This win is well deserved, in my opinion.

And another season of Project Runway comes to an end. Thanks for taking the journey with me. Join us on Thursday in the Blogging Project Runway chatroom as we relieve the drama of this past season with the reunion. And join me as I blog Project Runway JR starting in a couple of weeks.


  1. Great and well thought out post. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

  2. Great recap! So refreshing to read a thoughtful analysis.

  3. Great recap. I really enjoyed reading it.