Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Project Runway: Sweet Season Sixteen: Episode 1: Here We Go Again!

I'm back!

I know I abandoned you all midway through Season 15 as my many activities caught up with me and overtook my freetime.  But this year, due to an illness, I've got nothing but free time. Time for Project Runway and time for you, the voracious Project Runway junkie.

Let's dive in!

After 16 seasons, there are things about Project Runway that will always make me giggle. I love how the designers dress to the nines on Runway Day. Sometimes, they dress better than the models they're sending out. If I were doing this show, you'd see me in the same thing every day: tee shirt and yoga pants. I'd bring a half dozen of them and rotate them. All solid colors. Who has time to doll up? I don't care if it's national TV.

I love how the designers are so bewildered with Mood the first time they walk in. You'd think they'd sneak up the NYC and scope the place out before going on the show, just once. We have a fancy pants fabric store in our area (well, we used to...it's really downsized over the years) and I figured out every square inch of it within a matter of minutes. Me? I'd head to the remnant table every time. I'm cheap.

This year, Bunim-Murray decided to face the diversity issue head on. The majority of contestants are minorities. We have our first, hijab-wearing, Muslim designer. Two menswear designers doing womens wear. If everyone brings their point of view to the runway, this season could be very interesting and innovative. I've been wanting to see real creativity for a long time, not just pretty dresses. This season promises that. I hope it delivers.

I like the behind-the-scenes touches. It brings a freshness to the show that's been needed for some time.

And let's talk about the real twist this show has needed: REAL WOMEN MODELS. Nina and Tim have been pretty vocal for some time about the need for the fashion industry to embrace women of all sizes. And it's not just wideness of size. Some of us have long torsos, others short. Some of us have long legs and some have short legs. Each of us has a set of proportions we have to deal with--even if we are the perfect weight for our size. Say, you start working out and all of a sudden your shoulders and biceps get big. Try finding a shirt! Or you just never lost that belly after the baby. It's not huge, but try finding jeans!

Randomly chosen models each runway will be a very interesting feature this season. I like the variety they offered up: tall, short, skinny, voluptuous, etc...  It will also be fascinating to hear their confessionals. I miss the models' point of view. My favorite season featured the models' aftershow.

As for strategy, designers should know that if they get a standard proportioned model, they need to step up their game, as at least Nina and Zac will consider their job to be easier from the start. Designers getting a larger proportioned model will have a bit more leeway, provided they respect the model's body and don't make her look completely ridiculous. That's how real woman challenges have worked in the past. Heidi and the guest judge will always add the emotional element into it. That's what makes it fun, right?

The twins are going to drive me batty!
Let's go straight to the runway. There are too many designers to talk about construction and design issues....

The challenge for this episode was to make a red carpet dress in one day (plus a little extra time on the runway day.) I didn't catch the budget here, but it seemed to be tight. No one really used very luxe materials.

The guest judge this week is Olivia Munn. She provided the wild card that got at least one designer to the final consideration that I found a bit questionable.

The safe group is pretty large, so I'll split them by what I consider to be hits and misses.


Ayana Ife
Ayana Ife is Project Runway's first hijab-wearing, Muslim designer. I don't know if all her presentations are going to be completely covered like this, but she did say she intended to address each challenge with modest clothing. Let's hope we don't have a WWE or drag queen-type challenge this year! Otherwise, Muslim women need everything non-Muslim women need: swimsuits, workout clothes, etc...

This gown was beautifully designed. I only have a couple of issues with it. I think the more modern (and practical) approach would have been to lose the train. The train, to me, adds nothing. I think the veil is too long in the back. I would have liked to see it drape in a more interesting shape. I also would have liked to see the veil in the back pick up some of the green in the front.

Kudzanai Karizda
This was never going to get scored in the top. I bet the judging was all over the map...Heidi wondering what red carpet this would walk on, while Zac admired the construction and Nina the strong point of view. This is very evocative of Mila Hermanovski (and she knows it and has commented...) It's a fresh, modern look and I'd like to see more.

That said, please use the J.C. Penney accessories wall THOUGHTFULLY. Do women carry shoulder bags on the runway? Because I don't recall ever seeing one that wasn't carried by a handler or press person.

Amy Bond
Amy teaches design. She could make anything with her hands tied behind her back...however, this is Project Runway and Project Runway has rules.
  1. Black is not "editorial." It doesn't get picked up by the camera. It is why, back in the day, Michael Kors always wore it. That way, he could gain or lose weight and we would never be the wiser.
  2. Judges (and the Lifetime photographers) don't care that your skirt started out as a coat. It's kinda gimmicky and other designers have done it.

Thus and still, in a different fabric, say something sheer, you could totally see Rihanna wearing something like this. Heidi would still ask what use a jacket that turns into a skirt has on a runway...and that would be a very good question.

Michael Brambila
This cold shoulder outfit practically screams "2017!" I thought the neckline was totally cheesy, as was the fuzzy fabric. In execution, however, it works. The slits in the pants are just right. The back of the outfit gives you that "I'm about to slip out of my bathrobe" vibe and the front is all 2017 cold shoulder business. Kind of an interesting runway look. You want to look good walking away, no?


Gosh darn it, there were a lot of looks that I thought missed the mark or were just really pedestrian.

Aaron Myers
One of the menswear designers in the group, his angle was to reverse the tuxedo: make the pant the top and the shirt the bottom. It came off as kind of cheesy. Here are my issues... He only reversed the fabrics and the design didn't call out "pants on top, shirt on bottom." The top doesn't reflect any of the details you would see in a pant. It tooks too much like a collar and tie. The pants are a hot mess. The fit in the front looks like a bad sailor pant and the back is all bunchy. And what's with the seam at the bottom 12 inches of the pant? It looks like he realized she was taller than he remembered and he tried to add on length. Long on gimmick, short on execution. But safe.

Margarita Alvarez
Here's the thing...had this been a larger model, this would have been a genius look. On a standard size model, palazzo pants look no different than a skirt. And those pink pot scrubber pads on the shoulders.... Next time Margarita wishes to add some "Margarita," try putting the magenta in the sash instead of in puff balls on the shoulders. Puff balls bring down the level of sophistication.

Sentell McDonald
He was clearly going for an avant garde look. Hey, if you've got a standard sized model, why not swing for the fences. But this was a swing and a miss. First off, that fabric he chose is unforgiving and every bad seam and pucker is going to be seen for miles away. The back is horrible. If we could get a closer look at the shoulders, I bet they're horrible, too.

Flappy sleeves always seem like a good idea on paper. Someone tried them last year to the same, flappy, pointless effect. Finally, the shoulders just aren't exuberant enough to warrant a potato sack shape for the rest of the dress.

Who knew Avon stylists could do hair like that? Did anyone catch the product that made her hair stay like that? Your Aunt Rhoda, who sells Avon on the side, would not be amused if you asked her.

Samantha Rei
Can't this model already buy this dress somewhere? Where's the design? If it's there, we can't see it BECAUSE IT IS BLACK. Oh, yeah, there are pockets. You can't get pockets in dresses at any price point unless you have something custom made.

Who are you wearing?  "I had this dress made for me by Christian Siriano because I needed pockets and everything Versace had available required me to carry a handbag."

Claire Buitendorp
One half of my "favorite" duo....Claire serves up a dollop of peach and orange sorbet. I would have loved to see this long and full. Somehow, the shorter skirt robs it of its potential drama. The pouf in the front reminds me of Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke. Oh, most of you are probably too young to remember Gunsmoke. Look it up on YouTube and Google. I don't know what I'd do with the dress. Lose the pouf...play with a high/low skirt length, maybe? It's all kind of safe and expected.

Kentaro Kemeyama
More 2017 "cold shoulder" action going on here. There's a layered look to the skirt that flows nicely. 

I'll be very happy when this droopy top phase finally leaves us, once and for all.

Ever notice, that your neighbors and friends and prom goers have all embraced this "off-the-shoulder" look, but you rarely see it on the red carpet? No one wants to look all droopy on the red carpet. Save that top for your cousin Kaylee's bachelorette party.

Judges' Focus

Brandon Kee
When first we saw this look it was a peach skirt paired with a muslin top worn by the model in her first fitting. The top was way too pedestrian and the look was extremely matronly. Brandon, perhaps over-leading with his excessive lack of confidence, took great care in fitting and styling the top.

Note the darts at the bottom of the blouse. This keeps the blouse from flaring out and it hugs her curves. The ties on the left sleeve pick up the color of the skirt.

I'm torn about the combination of the camo with the peach. It's unexpected. The easy thing to do would have been to make a darker skirt--I would have been tempted to do that. He very smartly picked a bright color that would pop on the runway, but in real life, I wonder if this would look really tacky. 

OK...I'll admit it: I TOTALLY HATE THE SKIRT. Sorry. The top is inspired but if I saw that skirt on a hanger, I'd walk right past it. But I understand completely all the fuss that was paid over this look.

Kenya Freeman
IT'S A GOWN...WITH POCKETS! Very elegant. A triumph of construction over the tyranny of time and materials. I mean....SHE MADE BONING! It's very elegant...but expected on a standard-sized model. We knew Kenya wasn't going to win this, didn't we?

Deyonte Weather
The pure genius of this gown is that right now, looking at it, you'd swear you were looking at a standard size model.

OK, maybe Deyonte is really, really short...but I don't think so. This model towered over the other ladies as well. She has broad shoulders and realistic proportions. Deyonte went bold and bright. He carefully and thoughtfully placed the print on the bias so that the petals of the flowers opened up into her midsection. The gown is actually two pieces--a top and a skirt. It was all cleverly designed and constructed.
The judges totally read "Michelle Obama" and the styling of the model's hair--as well as her confident, graceful, but not too fierce walk, very cleverly played into it. The red carpet she's standing on is in front of the White House.  A winner all the way and one I wouldn't dispute.

Shawn Buitendorp
You just knew Nina was going to ask exactly what sort of red carpet this woman would walk down. "Video Music Awards" is such a cop out for trying to jam a poorly constructed "street look" into a red carpet challenge. This is styled to make us believe that Solange Knowles would actually wear this.

Yeah, the top is interesting, but those shorts are just ridiculous. However, Olivia Munn had the quote of the night for this look: "This is the sort of outfit I'd want to wear and I'd try on and hate the way I look in it. Then, I'd see someone else wearing it and looking fabulous."  It's a kind way of saying that some outfits are easy and comfortable to wear and other outfits take a lot of work to look good. Good design shouldn't take a lot of work.

Batani Khalfani
I didn't just hate this look....this whole outfit and Batani's approach just down right made me angry. First, she took the challenge too literally: red carpet = flowy gown.  She chose fabric, embellishments and a design that were totally expected. There are no surprises here. No innovative design. It's like she's pretending to be a very bad version of Georgina Chapman.

What the hell is going on with the magenta stripe?

Those appliques are simply cheap and bring the whole look down.

Why a fishtail? Is that in the least bit flattering to the model?

Now, I don't mind what she was trying to do with the panel in the front, but had it been constructed as part of the top (like Deyonte did...) it would have been way more flattering. Batani was hell-bent on cinching in this model's midsection rather than letting the design of the dress emphasize it.

As it is, the back and the front of this dress do not belong together.

I won't even get into the construction issues, of which there were many. 

Here's my theory, Batani tried too hard to go very glam, which isn't her wheelhouse. Look at her own personal style. Wouldn't it be exciting to see more of that reflected in her designs? Nina wants to see more of Batani in her designs. I want to see that, too. Let's hope she brings it because she was given another chance.

However, when it comes to reflecting one's personal style, it is possible to go too far. ChaCha embraces a sort of Hello Kitty/Harajuku, tongue-in-cheek childlike style. Katy Perry gets away with stuff like this because she very carefully considers design, fit and styling.

None of that was taken into consideration here. The sleeves are too long and sloppy. The dress is poorly constructed. The ruffles are just a bunchy, puckery mess.

He wanted to make this look fun. Clowns are fun, no? Yes they are, but the clown top is designed for a performer. It's a uniform, of a sort and the performer is what makes the top fun. I think ChaCha needed to take an entirely different approach to this challenge if he wanted to bring some fun to the runway. But it's probably a big waste of time to expound on that.

It was painfully clear to the judges that ChaCha's style was not going to go far in a season with a diverse set of models. So, we must say goodbye to ChaCha. You can follow him on Instagram.

Until next week!

Photos courtesy of Lifetime Network


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