Friday, January 13, 2017

Project Runway Junior: S2 E4: "Step it Up From Day to Nightl"

Not long after writing the first review of this PRJR season, I'm about to say something that makes me feel a bit like a hypocrite: I won't be reviewing PRJR anymore this season after this week's episode. It's not that I don't still believe in the quality of this show or in the talent of these young designers because I do. Or well, I guess I believe in the talent more than I do the quality of the show. The challenges are solid, the kids are cool, but I'm currently of the opinion that the producers don't know what the hell they're doing. They don't know how to make an hour long episode that hits all the points it needs to hit, trims all of the fat, and strikes at the heart of what makes Project Runway compelling TV. The evidence for pretty much all of that can be found in this week's judgement category, but we'll get there soon enough.

The Challenge

This week, the designers are asked to create a fashionable day to evening look for a woman on the go. Since FitBit is the sponsor of the episode, it seemed to me like the daytime look should be active while the evening portion should be maybe more expensive and classy. But I think I was giving too much credit to this week's pointless product placement, and I should have known better.

Either way, the question on everyone's mind should have been does my look translate from day to night. Can it be reasonably worn in both atmospheres? Will my girl be just as at home in the office as she will be out to dinner or at the club in my look? Suffice it to say, a lot of the looks didn't capture that feeling to me, but what do I know?

This week is the first challenge to bypass a trip to Mood in favor of opening up Mini Mood. Think what you will of that, it doesn't really matter to me. The emerging of certain patterns in the workroom is more interesting to me. Along those lines, it seems we're seeing a pattern of Chelsea designing something with a strong story but not much else, and missing the crucial element of it until Tim comes it to give her the one piece of advice she needs to pull it all together. 

A couple designers are going out of their comfort zones in small ways this week. Izzy chose a print that she normally would avoid. Rene is designing something with an older woman in mind. It's still got aspects of his unique aesthetic, but he's aged the look intelligently. These are the kinds of edits that will either impress the judges or sink the contestants. 

The Runway

Allie: This look is cute. The fit on the pants isn't great, but I do like the color and I like the way they mesh with the textile of the top. I also think the little bow on the back is cute. Does it transition from day to night perfectly? I can see it being worn in either setting, so I guess that's more of a yes than a no, but I'd like for the day time aspects of the looks to be more active wear inspired.

Tieler: This is probably too simple of a look. While last week it looked like Tieler wasn't resting on his immunity to carry him through, this week it looks like he didn't try much. In his defense, this is pretty solid for someone phoning it in, but it's not anywhere near as great as it should be. And there's points at the sleeves where it looks like the textile isn't matching up properly. I can't take my eyes off of those moments and not in a good way.

A'kai: The details on the back of the dress are probably the most striking aspect of it, and I wish he could have brought that flare around to the front a bit more. But ultimately, I think it's the same kind of detailing we saw on his first look. Other than that, it's all boring. He chose the wrong color palette, and there's no great or innovative design to the dress. His "night" portion of the look appears to be an evening gown, not something you'd wear to dinner with your friends. It does transition, but it doesn't transition into the portion of the night that I think it should.

Chris: No aspect of this look says evening. It's more active wear than anything we've seen so far, which I respect, but it looks cheap and unfashionable. He missed major aspects of this challenge.

Cartier: I actually like this quite a bit. The way the gold fabric interplays with the black of the slip dress and makes it shine is impressive. The two pieces compliment each other well. And while I don't think changing the vest from black to gold totally transforms the look, I do think it adds a nice wow factor.

Molly: This grew on me the more I looked at it. I was ready to slam it for not being transitional enough, but there's something about the back of the blouse that just screams night, while the front of the outfit says day to me. And the finer details on that top are really quite stunning.

Izzy: This is the definition of clothes not fashion. It's a cute enough sundress, and good for her. But there's nothing special about it and nothing about it embodies this challenge.

Rene: Perhaps I'm too partial, but I love it. I do not love the fit of the skirt, which has some odd bunching up issues that I think he should have addressed, but I do love the rest of it. I think he's very smart about the way he keeps himself in this design and still creates something for a woman who's different than his typical woman. And I like the cool leather strap details, and the way the look changes when sh takes the jacket off is quite interesting.

Hawwaa: This is stunning and quite shocking really. It looks unique and even a bit expensive. If I have one complaint it's that I wish the blue panel went all the way across the front of the skirt. I think That would make the transition even better. Because unveiling that fun print makes it look like a cool party dress, but the solid blue makes it into something reasonable to wear to work. That little bit of pink showing throws it off from that vibe just a little though, so I'd rather it all be covered and then revealed. But that's just me.

Chelsea: It's a jumpsuit made out of neoprene, it's not special, and her story doesn't make it special. I need her to design just one stunning outfit without giving all of this thought to a backstory. Then we'll see if she's actually a good designer or if she's just a passable storyteller.


And this is where it all comes crashing down. Allie, Hawwaa, and Chelsea are in the top. Cartier, Izzy and Rene are in the bottom. 

I'm all for being disagreed with. Years of watching and writing about this show continues to inform me that I know little about fashion and about what the judges will and won't like. What I have no actual patience for is inconsistency. Project Runway has suffered through boring contestants, silly gimmicks, and pointless format changes to churn out a number of bad seasons, but for my money, the worst seasons in the history of the series were the ones in which the judging was inconsistent and nonsensical. 

Chelsea being in the top is nothing if not inconsistent. Because, and I quote from my review just last week: "Christian simply doesn't like jumpsuits. I can't disagree with his point that the jumpsuit might not be where fashion is going, but..." That's what I said last week because those were Christian's complaints about Rene and Chris' look last week. Flat and simple condemnation of the jumpsuit as a piece of fashion. And yet what did Chelsea make this week? A jumpsuit. And not only does that land her in the top three, it earns her a win. Why were jumpsuits verboten last week but lauded this week? 

Rene is sent home, and I can't help but to find that nonsensical. First off, his look is nowhere near as boring as A'kai or Tieler's, and it's not as sloppy as Chris'. You can't fall back on the excuse that he didn't get the day to night transition aspect of the challenge because none of them did. Instead, the judges complain that he's basically a one trick pony through four challenges. I'm sorry, but I simply don't think four challenges is a large enough sample size to claim that a designer only has one trick up their sleeve. How many challenges did Erin win at the beginning of last season employing the exact same techniques before we were all ready to call her on it? 

Rene has a unique and interesting aesthetic that's more mature than his age makes you think it should be. He's creating looks that are simultaneously tasteful and sexy in a way that I've continued to be impressed with. If we compare him to the designers who actually found themselves in the bottom with him, I think it's a very difficult task. I proclaimed all three of them as contestants to beat last week, and they've all put out dresses that were amazing. But I think this boils down to the question of bad ideas versus no ideas. Not that I think Cartier and Izzy have a lack of creativity, but I certainly think they both kind of phoned it in this challenge. I would have sent Izzy home this week. Rene tried, he thought of a way to design something for a woman who isn't his primary client and yet still kept his signature in it. Izzay pushed herself by picking a different fabric (which I'm not impressed by personally) and then folded when she couldn't think of anything unique to do with that fabric. In the end, she just made a boring dress. Rene's look is the one that had more design to it which I think should mean something in a design competition. 

But there you have it. On the one hand, the most undeserving contestant won, and on the other, the most undeserving contestant to be sent home was sent home. There's something about this that I simply cannot abide. It's not enough to make me stop watching this season, but it is enough to make me feel like I don't need to write about it any longer. 

Loose Threads

--There's one more aspect of the episode that left me feeling certain I don't need to keep writing up this show: the editing continues to be horrible. The runway at least hasn't been as bad as it was on the first episode, but the critique segment is really appalling. The music continues to be a distraction, and the way they're cutting those scenes leaves us with only enough time to get like one comment from each judge at best. So in the event that Christian even tried to offer up a "I know I said I hate jumpsuits, but..." kind of comment, we wouldn't know. Pure and simple, they don't know how to make an hour long episode. 

--In all of my shock and outrage over the results I forgot to mention the fact that Hawwaa got completely screwed in the offing. She totally deserved to win this week, and any other outcome is just a travesty

--Since I'll still be watching, I'll leave the possibility open that I'll chime in on a particularly great episode, assuming one exists out there somewhere. But without that, I doubt you'll hear much more from me until next season of Project Runway. If someone else wants to take over reviewing duties of this show, you're more than welcome. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Project Runway Junior: S2 E3: "En Garde Avant Garde"

This is what Project Runway Junior has going for it: young, talented designers who don't get handled with kids gloves. I mentioned this last year while reviewing the show's first season. Dealing with kids automatically heightens the emotions of a thing. We're genetically programmed to further our species. This means we're genetically programmed to want to protect the young of our species. Reality competitions are hard. They're stressful and emotional powder kegs. Spending time with a group of people, growing close to that group, but always knowing that at the end of the day you're competing against one another is hard and stressful and confusing for an adult. You know it's harder for a teenager. So PRJR comes equipped with heightened emotions that PR simply can't match.

But there's more than just pathos in this show. The fact of the matter is PRJR wouldn't work if the kids they found weren't so damn talented. Project Runway has never not been about art and fashion. As such, you need great artists at its core for it to be compelling. This was never more on display than it was last season when everyone was pretty much equally (middlingly) talented. The complaint that would have quickly sank the PRJR ship would have been if the quality of the clothing produced had been significantly lesser than the quality of clothing on its parent show. Luckily, that's never been the case. I don't know if we're more impressed with the fashion on this show because we have lower expectations due to the youth of the contestants, or because it's genuinely masterful. All I do know is that I've never failed to be impressed with the fashion on this show.

And this season hasn't been any different. I've watched all three episodes even though I didn't review the first two. I needed a bit of a break in the wake of PR, but I have been impressed so far. Through three episodes, I would proclaim Tieler, Rene, Izzy, and Cartier, as the contestants to beat. I'll be keeping a close eye on Allie, Molly, and Chris as they interest me but I think they've been a little inconsistent thus far.

The Challenge

This week sees the remaining ten designers broken up into pairs and asked to create an Avant Garde look inspired by fencing gear and armor. It's an interesting way to introduce us all to the fact that Tim's taken up fencing in his old age. Most people celebrate a mid-life crisis with a sports car, Tim Gunn started learning a new sport with a phallic weapon. C'est la vie!

The button bag continues to be the decider of teams on PRJR. If I remember correctly, the show completely avoided any aspect of the school yard pick last season, and it seems like they're doing so again. When your contestant base is made up of a bunch of artsy, queer kids who have probably been on the harsh end of a school yard pick their whole lives, it makes sense to save them from that when you gather them together in doing something they all love.

From the start, the trouble team is Hawwaa and A'kai. As a quick aside, between those two, Cartier, and Tieler, we've got some of the most interesting names reality TV has ever seen, but I digress. Both Hawwaa and A'kai were in the bottom last week, and with good reason. Hawwaa points this out and makes it clear that they're the underdogs. But we've seen underdogs bounce back and be made stronger by their union on this show in the past.

And then they start working together and it's clear that this isn't going to be one of those stories. Team challenges are always hard, and communication is always the problem at the center of each poor team. Hawwaa and A'kai simply cannot communicate. Admittedly, A'kai's problems with clear communication were showcased all the way back to the first episode when he had the oddest exchange with a Mood employee that we've ever seen. He's also been shown to be a sensitive boy who cries under a very limited amount of stress. So he cries multiple times and always looks like he's mere seconds away from crying.

Then there's Hawwaa. As I was watching, I kept trying to figure out who came off worse in this episode. In the end, my money's on Hawwaa. At Mood, she goes on about how she has to be the leader because A'kai is younger than her. Then in the workroom, when he asks her for her input on sometime, she tells him to just go off and do it on his own. Then before the runway show, he makes a change without telling her and she goes off on him about not including her in the decision. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think you can have it three ways. Either you fall into the leadership role and you offer the guidance needed to accomplish the task, or you shirk that responsibility and just allow your team to sink or swim on its on accords. Either way, once you've chosen, you don't get to complain when the team makes a choice that's in accordance with your decision. The moment she said she didn't care anymore and A'kai just needed to finish the skirt however, was the moment she lost all right to be upset about him making a choice and not including her in it.

Everyone else seems to work together quite well and it shows in their final looks.

The Runway

Chelsea and Allie: Wow! Now that is one hell of a way to kick off a runway show. The neck line going so high up is stunning, the shoulders and those points are amazing, and the manner in which they employed the same technique on the pants is really smart. Love it.

Chris and Rene: Stunning! It's maybe just a little more wearable than I'd like for an Avant Garde challenge, but it's still exceptional and far out there. That jacket is to die for. The hood, the back of it, everywhere you look there's something stunning to behold. I like the jumpsuit a lot too. The way Rene loves showing skin continues to be impressive. At some point I wonder if his taste level might falter. It hasn't so far, and I love anticipating what he's sending down each week. But if this is the winning look, I think the win goes to that jacket!

A'kai and Hawwaa: It's poorly constructed, and the two pieces don't go together well, but it's not horrible. The top is striking, and there's a play on hard and soft that I can appreciate. It's not very good, and it may turn out to be the worst thing on the runway, but I've seen worse in PR history. 

Izzy and Cartier: I think this is beautiful, but I don't think it's very exciting. I think the poofy hips technique is an easy and lazy way to go when you do Avant Garde. But it's done well here. She says they have three pieces, but I thought I only saw two. 

Molly and Tieler: I love it. It's weird and out there, but wonderfully well constructed and thought out. I thought the back might be a little more open than it was, which would have been an interesting touch, but it all comes together wonderfully well. For someone with immunity, Tieler certainly didn't play it safe. 


Allie and Chelsea are in the top along with Molly and Tieler. Hawwaa and A'kai find themselves in the bottom with Chris and Rene. 

It's pretty obvious that Chris and Rene aren't in danger of going home against what A'kai and Hawwaa did, but I was surprised by just how much the judges didn't like their outfit. Admittedly, it's more wearable than an Avant Garde look should be, but that's the only complaint I had about it. Aya calls it safe, which I don't agree with, and Christian simply doesn't like jumpsuits. I can't disagree with his point that the jumpsuit might not be where fashion is going, but I don't know that I think a general prejudice against the idea means you don't get to engage with the look on its own merits. I neither love nor hate a jumpsuit, but this one was at least well made and interesting. Or at least I thought it was. And the jacket was the selling point of the outfit to begin with and simply doesn't get the attention I think it deserves. 

The two winning teams are commended for how well they worked together and collaborated on their different ideas to create a new whole. As anyone could have predicted, Hawwaa and A'kai implode on the runway. It doesn't take very much of them trying to explain how hard it was for the judges to get the picture and pretty much tell them to just stuff it. 

Tieler and Molly get the win, and since the jacket was the bigger deal, Tieler gets his second win in a row. After a really difficult deliberation, and with Kelly in tears, A'kai is sent home. But anyone who was watching the episode and knew enough about the show knew what was coming next. The moment A'kai went to Tim during the workroom segment of the show to confess his struggles with Hawwaa and to ask his advice was the moment that sealed it in stone. If A'kai was to be sent home this episode, Tim was going to use his save on him. And he did exactly that. 

The looks of shock within the greenroom aren't without reason. It's the third episode of a long season, and already Tim Gunn has used his save. Here we go with yet another discussion about what the save is for; it seems like we touch on this every time he uses the damn thing. The truth of the matter is that A'kai isn't ready to be at this level of competition. He managed to escape the bottom three in the first episode on the sheer luck that there were three worse looks than his on the runway. Admittedly, three looks isn't a very large sample size, but what I can see for sure is that I have no real interest in seeing anything else from A'kai because I don't really think he has much more to show. He stumbled on the team challenge, but that's no more of a reason to save him than Lucas' failing on the unconventional materials challenge was basis to save him last week. Indeed, after Lucas' stunning dress in the first episode, there was more cause to save him last week than there was to save A'kai this week. 

But Tim liked him, and he asked Tim for help, and Tim helped him out about as much as it's within his power to do so. A'kai talks a big game about making sure everyone knows he was worth the save, but we'll see about that. Honestly, I don't expect him to make it to the midpoint of the season, but who knows. 

Loose Threads

--As much as I think Tim made the wrong choice in using his save, I did enjoy the scene between him and A'kai. Tim Gunn as mentor is one of the other things this show has going for it. Hannah is an alright host, but clearly she's no Heidi. Keeping Tim on and finding three really great judges is a choice that will keep this show afloat. 

--On thing this show has as a mark against it, however, is it's editing. The runway on the first episode was horrible. Each look was cut before you could get a good look at it. And there's something about the judgement sections that feels impossibly rushed and I've been noticing the music during them for some reason. Either the music needs to be lowered, or they need to pick something that adds tension but doesn't draw too much attention to itself. It's all rather disconcerting. And the makeup section of each episode needs to go away. The designers don't seem to get hair and makeup consultations, so why there's any time spent on that is beyond me. If it's the same set of producers behind this show as are behind PR, then this show really confirms that they've totally forgotten how to make a good hour long episode. 

--I mentioned Rene's aesthetic briefly but I must say, I'm really quite impressed with it. For a 17-year-old, it's really interesting how well he can make flattering, sexy clothes for a woman's body. With that being said, I feel odd looking at him with his many sleeveless, v-neck shirts and oddly short shorts. Put some damn clothes on that kid already so I don't have to feel like perv. 

--One thing I find interesting this season is the manner in which these kid's beliefs seem to matter to them and seep into their clothing. Allie and Hawwaa both admit that they come from religious and strict backgrounds, so neither of them really like to design revealing clothing. Allie's been able to do some interesting things without having to show much skin so far, and I'm curious to see if she can keep it up. Hawwaa made some comments about Rene's first dress that I'd like her to keep to herself from now on.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E14 "Finale Part 2"

At one point in the beginning of the episode, Tim says "You're not only great designers, you're wonderful people." While I certainly agree with him, there's a part of me that's wondering whether or not that's the core problem with this season as a whole. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this season more than I disliked it. But it wasn't PR at its best, but I think we've seen worse seasons as well. If there was one consistent failing this season it was just how boring the contests were. Cornelius and Dexter had a little tat for awhile there, but nothing big came of it. I never thought I'd say this but maybe the season would have been a little better if everyone hadn't been such wonderful people.

But that lacking doesn't detract from the bigger problem from episode to episode: continued questionable format. It's more glaring here than even in past episode since this year's finale is kicked up to a full two hours instead of the requisite 90 minutes. And how do they fill that extra half hour? With retrospectives on everyone's PR journey. Their high points and low points, struggles and triumphs are all laid bare. It's cute and nostalgic to a certain point, but it never feels like more than what it is: a quick way to fill time.

Watching the entire episode made you realize just how much time they did need to fill though. Nothing dramatic happens prior to the runway. Everyone gets an extra $500 to spend at Mood, and the same amount of very little to no time. Some mixing and matching happens, a couple people turn out an entirely new look, but that's about it. Prior to the runway, a rip shows up in one of Laurence's dresses and one of Roberi's model chooses not to show up. Laurence sews up the rip and Roberi's replacement model doesn't stand out at all, so it doesn't seem to be any big deal.

The Runway

Rik: Rik's collection is good, and it progresses very well and seamlessly from one kind of look to the next and then into his final look which brings it back around in a fun way, but nothing about it is breathtaking. Well made, and a fun concept, sure, but did anything make you double take or jump out of your seat with excitement? He's a designer that deserves to be seen and shown and sold, but nothing he did here makes me think he's ready to win or put on a great show. His stand out pieces are probably the two swim suit pieces, and the bikini is easily better than anything we saw from him last time. Sexing it all up was the best way to go. It's cute and fun and cohesive but it's not a winner. 

Laurence: Did I expect a little more from her? Maybe. But I still think there's more good than bad here. I think the collection takes a dip when you get to the white pieces. The first isn't as strong as some of what came before. And while the second white look is still a standout, it's sadly not all up hill from there. However, that's not to say that there still weren't standout moments from this point in the collection as well. Her final look is one I think I might be in the minority on, but I love it! I think it's sexy and fun. Everything from her is impeccably well made and it all looks high end. Even the suspenders look that the judges hated has been edited in a manner that makes it look like high fashion. The dip in quality towards the middle is a mark against her, but there were some stunning moments in this collection that I can't help but to love. 

Roberi: Roberi's aesthetic has never been my favorite. He has a very unique point of view and I commend him for it, but I'm just not sure how it translates to fashion. In the end, I think he has some very nice clothes here, but very little in the way of impressive fashion. The looks that stood out to me did so because of how different they were from the rest. His collection ends up being cohesive, but I can't help but to wonder how much of that is because so much of it is nearly identical. It's all nice, but I think it could have been more impressive.

Erin: Wow! When she says that her collection is different from everyone else's, she isn't lying. It's really fun and youthful without being immature. And the suspender style straps on those first few dresses are to die for. There's something here that's innovative and you can see that she, more than any of the others, is thinking of ways to take common elements and flip them on their head and create something new and surprising out of them. I still hate the neoprene dress which I think looks lazy, but most of everything else in her collection was fun and interesting. I hate her, but good lord that was a great collection.


It's interesting to me just how much more the judges liked Rik's first look than I did. I thought it was fine, but it still felt like a simple black dress in a lot of ways to me. But Zac's comments about it being contemporary and powerful make sense. Zac wishes he had bedazzled the denim looks a little more and done something more memorable and I agree. The complaint I had that he didn't put on enough of a show seems to be what Zac is hinting about. Everyone commending his cohesion is spot on though. He really did find a way to pull it all together. 

Heidi says that she was more wowed by Roberi's collection. I certainly wasn't, but to each her own. She doesn't love his final look, and I agree. It didn't feel like it went as well. Nina liked his denim look which was also my favorite from his collection. The jackets are getting most of the love from the judges, and I can see why, but I did feel as though the jackets were lessened by the dresses I didn't love. 

Zac commends Erin's use of color but points out that certain elements of her collection are always a little lacking in their construction. Heidi points out how much fun the collection is, and Nina points out how feminine her collection is. It's interesting to me that Nina complains about the first dress, and yet I loved it. Not so much the skirt, which was just fine, but the top was breathtaking. 

The judges are not as impressed with Laurence's collection as I had hoped they would be. I think at the end of the day the general feeling is that in going away from a lot of what she did all season she lost something of herself. Her grand showmanship. I noted this last week when pointing out that she should have had at least one black look that was just classic Laurence. Here they wanted more wow moments and something to just push the envelope a little farther. Nina points to the pleated skirt as a low point for her and I couldn't agree more. The hard part is we all know she could have gone bigger and bolder and left you wowed, but she chose not to and it's hard to see. 

It's interesting that the top two collections end up being Erin and Roberi's, the two most colorful collections on the runway. Erin wins, and I can't complain about that after seeing all of the collections, but will she go down in the annals of PR history? I think she stood out in this season and from these final collections, but I don't think she's the best designer we've ever seen on the show. I don't think she's the best designer we saw this season, but Laurence over thought her final collection and paid the price for it. And so Project Runway's 15th season ends in a whimper more than a boom. I expect next year to be more of the same, but I'll be here nonetheless. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E13 "Finale Part 1"

Project Runway is good. It isn't great. It's not the kind of show that you feel the need to tell all of your friends to watch. No one who isn't watching it or who maybe gave up on it years back is missing anything, but it's still a good show. I have to assume you all agree with that or else you wouldn't still be watching, and certainly wouldn't be reading out reviews. And it doesn't seem like any of our Runaways are hate watching the show, so I feel confident in saying that it's good. But here's the thing: it could be better. Or at least I watch episodes like this one and I can't help but to think that it could be. I'm not certain what it needs to kick it all up a notch, but I suspect that it starts with casting and ends with production.

The Meetings

Everyone knows what this week brings us. It's the first part of the finale, so it's all about Tim meeting family members and loved ones and checking in with the designers towards the end of their six week time period to make a ten look collection. Barring last minute twists and challenges, week one of the finale is a pretty simple affair. And then Tim stops off at Laurence's house first, and everything I thought I knew about this episode flew out the window. 

I've complained about PR's long form storytelling before, but this is a bit of a triumph. We've heard bits and pieces of Laurence's story prior to now. The news that she never spoke to her father again after getting pregnant at 16 isn't news to anyone who's been watching. But the way she tells the story here, leaving no stone unturned, delving deeper into emotion than we've ever seen her, and wearing so much heart break that she can hardly seem to look Tim in the eye while she tells it is amazing. Something about it feels like the crowning moment of Laurence's time on the show, and she certainly won the episode for me. 

The problem with it is that while the groundwork was laid for this moment, it didn't feel like this moment is something the show has been heading towards all season long. This is the problem I continue to have with PR: this moment falls into their laps and they just count their lucky stars and run with it. To their credit, I don't think they do anything to over sell the moment. It isn't, I don't think, cut with sad music, and there aren't any overt editing tricks to make it a bigger deal than it is. Laurence has confessional scenes where she cries a bit more freely than she does with Tim in the workspace, but that's really it. And that's because they can't and shouldn't make this scene into a bigger deal than it is; it's a really big freaking deal without the tricks. As astounding as the moment is, the feeling it left me with in hindsight was one where I was a little disappointed in the show for not going harder on a Laurence narrative from the beginning. 

But Project Runway is first and foremost about the clothes. After her emotional story, Tim can't find anything to complain about in Laurence's collection. He's more impressed at this stage than I am. I'd commend her lack of black in the collection, but I'd also complain that it doesn't feel like her. Doing nothing but black leather coats would have been a mistake, but I equally think not having a single one is a mistake. I also don't love the color palette she's chosen. There are deep reds and blue on the rack behind her, but those apparently are for something else. She's dealing purely in olive greens and whites. I trust it to all come together, but in this early moments, I'm unimpressed. 

No one else's family visit stands out in anyway. Tim goes bowling with Rik and his family and it's as adorable as you'd expect. Tim's also either really good at bowling or the subject of a great edit. Rik's collection lacks cohesion from the jump. The interesting thing about this is that Rik brings that issue up first. Meaning he's thought about it, noticed the lack of cohesion, and excused it away. This is one of those moments where the number of looks he's completed works against him. If he had fewer looks, he could turn his focus over to making the new outfits into transitional pieces between the different segments of his show. But being nearly done means he's going to have to try and mix and match pieces to get the desired effect. 

Tim arrives to see Erin and finds that she doesn't have a single look completed. Her procrastination might be cute or endearing to some, but I'm a million percent over it. At a certain point in time it just feels like she's not taking this serious enough. Granted, I totally called it, but I at least expected she'd have two or three looks completed with a lot more work to go. With nothing but ideas and sketches to show Tim and 10 days to complete 10 looks, I'm honestly not interested in giving her the time of day. 

Roberi gets the harshest critique, but there's interesting about Roberi. This entire season he's been the guy who gets negative comments from Tim and just sticks with doing what he wants anyway. It's worked out for him thus far, obviously since he's made it to NYFW, but it's an odd tactic. As a general rule, I agree with Tim. Roberi's dresses are simple and the silhouette isn't unique enough to be a strong uniting factor. Tim harshly calls him a dressmaker instead of a designer, but it's not an unfair criticism. Roberi's individuality has gotten him this far, so I wouldn't want him to leave it all behind, but I certainly think it looks like his collection needs more of something. 

The Runway

Roberi Look 1: Yeah ok.

Look 2: This I like more. Mostly I think because I like the color of the skirt more. There's a cohesion between the first two, but I'd be lying if I said I thought they were high concept pieces.

Look 3: The waist of the pants and the waist of the previous skirt are the same, so more cohesion there. This is boring though. And sloppy. It's purposefully sloppy as if its meant to have the jumped out of bed and threw something on effect, but it doesn't work. I'm not a fan of this collection.

Erin Look 1: I hate this. It's certainly her, so I'll give her that much, but I hate it. I'll also compliment her on trying to do something with the sleeves, but I hate them. I hate what she did with the sleeves, I hate that the dress just looks like a sheet with a bunch of shit glued onto it, and I hate how immature and unsophistocated it all looks. There's a concept here, but it still feels like a look she threw together in a day on a PR challenge, because that's what it is. That's not what NYFW is meant to be.

Look 2: It's an alright sun dress. I hate the clutch.

Look 3: I was ready to hate that top when I saw it on the hanger, but seeing it on the model, I love it. It's hands down the best thing in her collection so far. And a lot of that is honestly because it pairs so well with that skirt which I think it stunning. This outfit stands out so much more than the two that came before, but there's still an aspect to it that makes me say it came from the same collection. But still, she only really scored on 1/3 looks in my opinion.

Laurence Look 1: This is simple, but also interesting. The small things she did with this look are impressive. The single stud on the leather strap in the front paired with the three studs on the back draws your eye. The way the straps extend down past the studs and out from the look feels new, and the length of the shorts is oddly sexy. I was just going to put this down as being boring and simple, but the more I look at it the more I like it.

Look 2: The pants are tight she says, and I can see it when the model turns around, but fuck me if they aren't impeccably made. I love them, and maybe she can put them on a smaller model to negate the tightness if that's a problem, but I hope not because I'm in love. I thought I hated the print of that jacket on the hanger, but on the model and paired with those pants, I love it. And the lack of a shirt underneath makes it crazy sexy.

Look 3: I screamed when this look turned around. It was indecent of me, and I regret nothing. I somehow forgot that the back was open like that. I love this top so much. I don't know if I love the cut off pants as much, or maybe I don't love them paired with the top. They feel too utilitarian, as if they're only there because the model needed pants, but the real star was always meant to the shirt. So they're an after thought, but the shirt is such a great first thought that I almost don't mind. This is the only collection I'd want to see more from thus far.

Rik Look 1: He's right that if he ditched the leggings the look would be sexier, but there's something wonderfully modern about the outfit as is. I think I'd rather him just keep it together. But I would like him to lose the glasses which I think are a stupid distraction.

Look 2: This is something I liked more on the hanger than I do on the model. On the model, it looks like an odd costume to me. I think it's cute, and I think it's well made, but something about it just feels childish.

Look 3: If you asked me if I thought the same girl is wearing all three of Rik's looks, I'd honestly have to say no. Or at least probably not. I might believe that all three girls know each other and travel in the same circles, but I don't think they're the same person. As far as this look goes...I just don't like it. I tried to stare it down until I started liking it, but it just didn't happen.


Given her televised introduction on the runway, Heidi is obviously away and has called in Michael Kors to be her stand in on the judging. Except she hasn't. Actually Michael is just there as a guest judge, so why he gets so much fanfare for being a guest judge is beyond me. One thing I do know for sure is that Michael has not been missed on this show. Not by me, and from the looks of it not by Nina or Zac either. But onto the judgement.

The word of the night is cohesion because, according the judges, no one has any. Having seen more of each collection than they have, I think it's more likely that the designers didn't choose three pieces that'd show off the cohesion of their collections, but that's a problem too. Rik is the biggest offender in this area, but as the judges complained about Laurence's collection I started questioning whether or not I saw cohesion in the line before now. Everything is so well made from her that it's hard to remember to look for cohesiveness.

No one comes out of the runway smelling like roses. But that tends to be the way these episodes go. The break the designers down to make up some manufactured drama going into the finale and then next week they'll be all compliments. Laurence's first look doesn't go with the other two, and no one but Heidi is all that impressed with it. Zac kind of likes it but mostly wants her to remember she's putting on a show and that piece might be too understated to be impressive.

None of them like Erin's sundress, and Michael points out how much he hates the clutch. Zac doesn't like the knit top, which kind of surprises me. It's the most showy-y piece she has, but as the camera zooms in over it, you can see the construction issues he's mentioning. It might look nice, but NYFW is not the place for poorly constructed clothes. Heidi doesn't like the proportions on the skirt for that outfit, but I think she's crazy.

They can't seem to come to agreement on what it is that Roberi's collection needs. Heidi predictably thinks it's sex appeal. Nina and Zac are quick to point out that it's not that since that's not him, but it does need something. Nina says more lux and polish, and better styling for the girls. His collection is all over the place and has too many messages and it just doesn't work.

So we leave the first part of the finale about where we always do: everyone has a lot of work to do and only two days in which to do. It's a PR staple and by now I think we all know it has no real bearing on what we'll see next week.

Loose Threads

--For starters a little programming note: obviously we all know the holidays are quickly approaching. Kudos to PR for not taking the Thursday before Christmas off, but I'm not sure I can say the same. As of now, my plan is to drive up to Atlanta to spend Christmas weekend with my mom. So I strongly doubt that I'll be home to watch PR until at least Monday. I'll get the final review up then if you guys don't mind waiting. Complicating matters a little is the fact that PR JR is also airing it's first episode right after the finale. I doubt I'll have the energy to write up both shows on Monday, so maybe I'll hold off on reviewing PR JR until it's second episode airs and I can just combine the two into one mega review. If anyone has any better ideas, I'm willing to listen. 

--A surprising lack of boyfriends on this episode. Roberi seems to be the only contestant who has one, and he's in Venezuela. 

--On the other hand, Rik not having a boyfriend means I've got a shot! 

--I felt like the episode was trying it's best to recapture some of the emotion of Laurence's story when they had Roberi talking about living in Venezuela, but it just didn't land. 

--Not to beat on a dead horse, but speaking of Laurence's story, I think one thing about it that I found impressive is that you might be used to, or come to expect, sad stories on PR to mostly be about young gay men being bullied and even kicked out of their homes and finding the strength to go on through fashion. But Laurence's story felt very much like something we haven't seen or heard on this show before and that was special. 

--Tim tip toeing down the lane is the single cutest thing I've ever seen. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E12 "An Unconventional Trip"

For starters, I owe you guys an apology. I'm late as a Catholic school girl on this one because I honestly forgot it was Thursday and I had an obligation. Being unemployed makes all of the days run together in an odd manner. But I did finally get around to watching the episode and I'm honestly very happy that I did.

The last really good episode of Project Runway that we had was only good because of the surprise double elimination ending. Tricks and surprises is always one solid way for this show to impress. But sometimes it's fun to be reminded that that's not the only thing PR has up its sleeve. Is this episode shocking in any way? Not really, there's one twist we'll get to later but nothing major. And yet there's something about it that's exciting and kind of stressful, and then a real relief once the end turns out just the way it should. But first:

The Challenge

This week has the designers heading to Austin, TX to get inspired by Austin's oddity. While I've never thought of Austin as weird, I can certainly see how someone would draw that conclusion. I was born in Houston, and I live in Florida, so I've spent most of my life in The South. As a gay black man, that hasn't always been easy, but that's neither here nor there. One thing you find being liberal in a place as conservative as The South is that people who are also liberal tend to congregate in pockets. Miami and Ft Lauderdale (pretty much all of South Florida really) are very liberal havens in an otherwise red state. Austin is viewed the same way by people in and out of Texas. But Austin is still in Texas. So while a lot of people commend it for being the best part of the state, it still can't escape some of the typical trappings that come along with living in TX. Hence, oddness ensues.

The designers are sent there to be inspired because the challenge is to create a high end look out of unconventional materials found in a feed store and a BBQ restaurant. This brings the total of unconventional materials challenges up to three this season, two of them being back to back. I was left wondering what I thought about that fact. On the one hand, I like the idea of book-ending the season with unconventional materials challenges. The contestants had to prove something major right out of the gate, and then they had to bring it back around at the end. But putting two of these challenges back to back feels like the producers panicking over the lack of them throughout the season. The second one should have been at the midway point of the season and there would have been some good symmetry in that.

The designers return to New York and find out they've got two days for this challenge and everyone except me rejoices. The inconsistent time table on challenges has been something we've complained about with this show for awhile now. This challenge being a two day challenge reeks of the producers trying to give the contestants time to create the best looks they can for this final moment. But that's not how the competition should run. At this point, the heat should be on and we should be looking for the highest talent. Those contestants shouldn't need two days to make a single unconventional look.

That becomes even more evident as the first day draws to an end. Rik and Laurence meet the end of the day with a fairly complete first look. Erin has once again spent her entire first day making flowers out of mealworms and guitar picks. Beautiful though they were. Roberi and Cornelius are both banking on the second day to get their looks finished. Roberi at least has an idea and roughly half of his dress done, Cornelius doesn't even seem to know what he's doing by the end of the first day.

As Roberi talks about how happy he is to have a second day, Tim walks in to tell them about the twist. They're going to create a second look. This look also should be high end, it should compliment the first, and it will be made with conventional materials. Rik and Laurence pay some amount of lip service to being worried, but the truth is both of them are done enough with their first looks that this shouldn't be a problem. And thusly we see again just how much separation there is between the talent. Laurence and Rik have been lodged at the top for awhile now. Erin does not have any time management skills, but you at least trust her to pull something out in the 11th hour. Roberi and Cornelius seem to be the two left behind.

Since the first time I mentioned who might be in the finale, I've been pointing to Roberi as a wild card. He's been coming on strong in these last few weeks, but his aesthetic is hit or miss at best. The judges have liked him a lot more than I have even though I've liked his looks plenty. But where he'd fall by this point was always a mystery. So when we see him struggling to finish one look here, let alone two, it feels like the writing's on the wall for this elimination to be between him and Cornelius.

Cornelius on the other hand we've all known didn't have what it takes to make it much farther. But he does have the Tim Gunn Save as a mark in his favor. The question therefore becomes, does Tim's faith in him translate over to a spot in the finale while Roberi gets the short end of the stick? In the end, it simply all depends on the final looks.

But that all ignores one important aspect of this twist: it makes the two day time limit more understandable. The producers weren't trying to sure up their position with the contestants, they were luring them, and us, into a classic PR bait and switch. Being told they had two days gave everyone a false sense of security. It meant Roberi could try out something a lot more ambitious than he otherwise would have, and when the hammer comes down about the second look, there's automatically a source of drama attached to the question of whether or not the designers will even finish. I'm even more surprised by just how few twists have been on this season than I am by how few unconventional materials challenges we've had.

Most of the ideas for the second look are pretty simple. The unconventional looks are all going to carry the challenge on this one.

The Runway

Erin Look 1: I like this a lot. I guess Erin really is back on top after all. I think the worms are in a sweet spot between being understated enough to blend in, but eye catching enough to stand out, which is hard to pull off. The colors of this look are really wonderful. And it's all really cute together. High end fashion? Maybe not too much, but a really cute look all the same.

Look 2: This I don't like. The print isn't my favorite, but I also think it's maybe the most interesting thing about the outfit. And these two looks, beyond a color similarity, don't really say cohesive to me. And this doesn't feel like high fashion at all. It feels like something you could probably buy at Target right now.

Rik Look 1: I like this quite a bit. I think he's right that the materials aren't immediately obvious. Aside from the stiffness and just lack of movement of the top (which is the bane of unconventional materials usually), it just looks like a really nice dress. I don't love the placement of the dog leashes around the boobs, but I don't hate it either.

Look 2: His problem with this look was that it was too young and innocent. He distressed the fabric, which I actually like, but that one thing alone didn't mature the dress. It could stand to be a bit sexier, but it's not a bad look. His two dresses do seem to go together in a way I appreciate though.

Laurence Look 1: Ok I love it, obviously, but I'm going to nit pick something here: the waist area. Something about the ropes that separate the skirt from the bust looks weird. Like it did something funny to her shape. Everything else I love though. It's bird seeds, but something about this looks expensive.

Look 2: Is this look maybe a little too simple? Sure, but it's still really nice. There's still a place for simple and chic in high fashion. And if you're a little bored by the front, I think you have to be wowed by the back, right? I love it, but I'm willing to listen to complaints that she needed to go further.

Roberi Look 1: hm....The purple cord drawn throughout the dress and ending in that plug....Is that great or horrible? I think the pop of color is very nice, so it adds that, but the plug at the end screams of what the dress is actually made of which tends to be a down side in unconventional material challenges. I think I like it more than don't, but it is the sort of thing I feel a bit split on.

Look 2: This dress screams Roberi. The shape of it, the pattern mixing, it's all quintessential him. That's not a bad thing, it's just maybe a little predictable at this stage. I neither love nor hate this look, it just exists and is kind of forgettable.

Cornelius Look 1: It's good. I don't think it's good enough for this stage of the competition, but it is good. It's one of those unconventional material looks where a lot of stuff has been glued onto a muslin base, and that always bores me a bit. But in his defense, his cut outs are pretty and the placement appears to be well thought out.

Look 2: Pants are always good and fun, but this just isn't special enough at all. I don't even know what to say about it.


The big surprise might be how much all of the judges love Roberi's looks. The unconventional look was clearly going to be something they all loved, but I was surprised by how impressed with his conventional look they were. Nina's got the compliment that I can agree with most which is that both of his looks are very different but clearly come from the same person. All of the girls want to wear his conventional look, and no one has anything to say about the plug that I found to be so distracting. In the end, Roberi gets the highest praise on both of his looks of any designer.

The judges are split on Laurence. Nina compliments the hard and soft elements of her unconventional look and the back of her conventional look. But Zac and Heidi aren't as impressed. They both find her second dress to be boring, but everyone compliments her on taking a risk and presenting something they wouldn't have guessed came from her. We said last week that she'd be likely to branch out more in this challenge and that's exactly what she did.

The contestant with the fewest positive comments turns out to be Rik. Zac likes the top of his unconventional look but not the bottom. Nina starts out with something that I initially took to be a compliment when she says she couldn't tell which of the two were unconventional. But then she goes on to point out that the unconventional look isn't fun enough to signal it's unconventionality, and the conventional look is boring and distressed in a manner that makes it seem poorly made. The dog leashes on the bust of the dress are pointed out as being one element too many. Rik's in trouble.

So is Cornelius, but for the opposite reason. His unconventional look is the one that's lacking while his conventional look is the one that wows. They certainly make mention of the fact that his unconventional look is nothing more than shapes glued onto a muslin base and Zac points out that we've seen that many times before. The compliments for his jumpsuit are mostly along the lines of us not having seen anything like this from him before. Which is certainly a compliment but in my opinion not enough of one to warrant the amount of praise they level on it.

In the end, Roberi wins the challenge and Cornelius goes home (instead of Rik). Like I said, nothing too surprising. The winning of the challenge doesn't matter much. Roberi does get 50 nights free at any Best Western in the world, but I'm not sure if that's a prize or a punishment. The winning doesn't matter so much as the moving on to NYFW. I figured either Roberi or Cornelius would move on but not both of them, and that's what happened. Rik being seconds away from heading home might be the kick in the ass he needs to really jump into gear and produce a great collection. Either way, between Rik, Laurence, Erin, and Roberi, I can't help but to be excited for the show they'll all put on.

Loose Threads

--Swatch wishing the designers good luck was just everything! It also might have been manipulated audio, but I'm choosing to believe he really did bark in that moment. 

--The trips this year were to Orlando and Austin. Neither served much of a purpose as far as the episode was concerned, but either way I can't help but to think PR needs to increase its travel budget and actually take the designers somewhere nice.

--Am I the only person who got a bit excited over the prospect of Tim Gunn skinny dipping?

--Speaking of excited, if Gregory from Sally Beauty utters that fucking slogan one more time, I'm sticking something in his mouth to shut him up.

--After Cornelius was Auf'd, I would have liked Tim to make mention of the fact that he saved him. Unless I'm mistaken, everyone he's used the save on thus far at least made it to the finale except Cornelius. This would have been a good time to acknowledge why he used the save on him in the first place and just how much he stands by that decision. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E11 "Bold Innovation"

While Forest Gump's mother was explaining to him about chocolates, my mother was expressing to me  the importance of not fixing something that ain't broke. If one thing's clear after 15 seasons, Project Runway has taken that advice and run with it. Here's a show that's so in love with its own formula that it won't even try and shake things up after a week's hiatus. And rightfully so since its a formula that tends to work more than not, but it doesn't make for exceptionally exciting viewing.

The last time we were together, I was complaining about this very thing: the lack of personality, the lack of story being told. But last time the episode had that surprising ending to rely on. This week we aren't so lucky.

The Challenge

In the episode's defense, this week they were planning on the challenge itself bringing all of the drama needed. It's the typical avant garde challenge for Project Runway, but this year they've added the twist of using unconventional materials.

Remember all of those times towards the front of the season when I complained about them trying to cram way too much into each challenge. Well here they go again with that. First off, it's a problem that our second unconventional materials challenge comes in the 11th episode. Unconventional materials is as integral to the PR fabric as actual fabric is, so why skimp on those challenges this go around? Secondly, isn't the avant garde challenge generally big enough and exciting enough not to need the bump of unconventional materials?

I'll give the producers this much credit: the avant garde challenge shouldn't ever come any earlier or later than the top six. Generally speaking, I don't think the talent level is paired down enough before this point to have a really good runway show. After the top 6, the stakes are just too high, and you risk forming your top four on a fluke gimmick challenge. So kudos on the placement of the episode, but they could have had better execution on the finer points.

The rest of the episode is about what you'd expect. The longer run time mixed with the smaller group number means we spend more than enough time with each designer talking about their concepts. We see them working with the metal in unique ways, but since they have two days for this challenge, nothing really comes together until the second day.

There is an example of solid and consistent storytelling here. Erin wastes her first day on creating these weird applique things. Mah-Jing tells her she's using the wrong glue and it's not going to do what she wants when it dries, but she ignores him. The next day he's proven right, her flower things are unusable, and she looks screwed. It's solid storytelling because we've seen this tendency from her multiple times before. The way she'll spend all of her time on one little thing and the rest of the look will suffer because of it. But if you expected this to translate to something major down the road, we'll circle back around to it at the end.

Since there's nothing particularly exciting in this episode, allow me to take the time to talk about something PR has always done and that I've never really cared for. All of the confessional moments in which the contestants talk about the other designs. I've never cared one bit about what these people think about the competition's work. Very rarely, if ever, are their comments reflected by the judges. Most often their positions are colored by general dislike of one another or the sheer fact that they're in competition with each other. So why do we have to spend so much time listening to them dis on each other's looks? This is one of those moments where the time could better be spent elsewhere. But I digress.

The Runway

Cornelius: I've got to say, I'm impressed with the finished product. I think the tube placement is a little suspect to be sure, but there's something to look at. The color is a great addition, and the fabric he chose is very chic. It conveys his vision well, so I think he pulled this out. 

Mah-Jing: I think I hate it, but at the very least I certainly don't get it. It looks like a simple dress on to which he glued, or sewed a lot of wire crap. The asymmetry of the wire pieces on the back may have been purposeful, but it certainly doesn't look like it. And it's so obvious she can't walk without her hands holding the damn dress up. No good. 

Rik: I love this and it's totally wrong for this challenge. To be fair, I love it more from the front than from the back. The metal piece on the back looks like a weird cape or reverse bib thing. From the front it's chic and cool, and it's like he said: wearable. But how wearable should an avant garde look be? If this were just an unconventional materials challenge, I'd have him down for the win, but as an avant garde challenge, it just doesn't go far enough. 

Erin: Yeah ok. I like it. But I hate her, so it's hard for me to like it. The top is the only thing about it that's unconventional, but the entire top is unconventional, so I think that's a good mix. It's risky and certainly out there in a way that I think says avant garde. And I'll commend her for making pants instead of a dress. All in all I'm more impressed than I wish I was. 

Laurence: I don't think the length is really the problem here, the problem is she created a lovely little black dress, but that's it. She needed to take this way farther. Is it beautiful? Yes. Is it well made? Certainly, Is it right for this challenge? Not even remotely. 

Roberi: I think the statement piece of the mask sales this for me. It puts the entire thing over the top, but I wonder if the judges will think it makes it all too costume-y. I hope not because I love this. It's shape and sleekness, it's all way more sexy than sheets of metal should be.  


The judges are at least all in agreement that there was something to enjoy about each of the pieces on the runway. Which is exactly why you save this challenge for the top six. Ultimately, it's Roberi, Rik, and Erin in the top, Mah-Jing and Cornelius in the bottom, and Laurence just kind of oddly in the middle. 

Mostly the judges think Laurence should have worked in some color other than black this time around. They like what she does, and that's understandable, but they're ready to see a little more from her. For my money, I thought the same thing on this challenge but not about the color. I thought she could have made her typical shoulders but then just made them bigger and more exaggerated and that would have been a fun way to go. Either way it seems like she hears the criticism and we can expect new things from her in the last challenge before NYFW.

One clear theme of the judging is how well incorporated the materials are. Rik and Roberi are commended because their metals and their fabric blend so well together. Rik in particular isn't hit nearly enough for the look being subtle. Heidi points out that avant garde doesn't have to mean unwearable, so that goes to show you how much I know. 

Mah-Jing and Cornelius on the other hand, not so much. About Mah-Jing's look, Nina says his unconventional materals aren't anything more than decoration. They're more split on Cornelius' look which they certainly find disturbing, which is what he was going for. But again the issue of incorporation is brought up and Nina thinks it's a rather cliche vision of the future. Heidi seems to like it more than the others and claims that fashion should be provocative. 

Erin's look they love. The color pops on a muted runway, they like it that she made pants, Heidi of course loves the amount of skin shown, and they all think her top is interesting. Zac points out that she should have thought about what it would look like from the back a little more, but that's really the only negative comment. So for all of the groundwork laid earlier in the episode about her poor time management, Erin actually ends up the winner of the challenge. I guess there's an arc there to be noticed, but the foundation was one where you expected her to crash and burn. You expected her to waste time for the last time and pay the price, but that wasn't the story at all. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing, but I do know that PR could really take some time to sure up its storylines a little more. But then again, I think I've been saying that for years now. 

Mah-Jing loses and it's honestly the only realistic choice. He hasn't been long for this world for awhile now, but as everyone's quick to point out, it's kind of amazing he even made it this far so cheers. It's been pointed out in the comments that it's hard to really be excited for the talent level this season. Of the five contestants left, the only person who consistently makes you get up out of your seat is Laurence. While, on the one hand, I think that makes her a shoe in for the win this season, it also makes for an interesting situation in which everyone else is pretty evenly matched. Whether that makes you excited for the show at NYFW or just bored with it is a personal choice. For my money, I'm assuming there won't necessarily be a bad collection this year, and that's kind of exciting. 

Loose Threads

--I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving! I celebrated it with friends in Italy (a few days in Rome and then the last bit, including the holiday, in Florence) and it was fantastic! Trying to cobble together Thanksgiving day ingredients from Italian markets when you don't speak the language was a lot of fun, and dinner actually turned out perfect. I wish I had just stayed there, but here I am, ready to keep writing for you guys. 

--Allow me to be clear when I say I don't think there will be a bad collection at NYFW it's because I expect Cornelius to go home next week. I may not love Erin and Roberi's aesthetics, but I do trust them to put out solid and interesting collections. 

--The Mood section of the episode is heavy on the Swatch and that's always the right choice. I like it when he's all rambunctious and adorable. 

--Mah-Jing is a sweetheart, but I couldn't have been the only person thinking they wished he'd just shut the fuck up and go home already. He has more to say on the runway and in the greenroom after being auf'd than anyone in the history of the show.

--I think I saw the first preview of Project Runway JR this week, and I couldn't be more excited. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E10 "A Power Trip"

After a couple years of writing these reviews, I'm going to take this moment to try and get a little personal information out of you guys. Namely, I want to know how many of you smoke pot? More specifically, how many of you smoke pot while watching Project Runway? Does it make the experience better? I do not smoke pot often, I certainly don't smoke it while watching and reviewing this show, but this week's episode made me really rethink that particular life choice.

While I don't think that this season's failings are as horrible as some of the show's lowest low points in the past, I do still think this season is failing overall. Some part of it is the sheer lack of personality. We've been complaining about that all season long, and there's certainly nothing that can be done about it this late in the game. But on an episode like this, the problem isn't actually with the contestants, its with the editors knowing nothing about telling a long form story.

The Challenge

First the particulars: this week sees the Marie Claire challenge. Dexter is quick to point out that he's already won a Marie Claire fashion shoot, so I fail to see what makes this challenge special. It's about designing an editorial look for a powerful woman. To get in the mood, everyone gets a helicopter ride over New York, but let's be honest, that didn't matter in the slightest. 

So where'd this episode ultimately fail? It was pretty much meant to be the story of Nathalia's breakdown. From the start, it's pretty clear Nathalia is getting the main edit. Savvy viewers know that that typically means she's either going to win or go home. That fact isn't really a problem, it's been the way of things since the beginning of time on this show. But so much of Nat's unraveling is viewed through the lens of "Jenni is gone, and now Nathalia doesn't know what to do."

I'll be the first to admit that even with weekly viewings and writeups of this show, I miss things. I watch with such a fine toothed comb looking to tease out major moments and themes that sometimes the smaller things can fall by the wayside. But can someone honestly tell me about one time in the past ten episodes that we saw this particular relationship playing out?

This has been something I've complained about with PR in the past. If you know you've got a full season to edit, and I can't help but to assume that a lot of the editing takes place well after most of the season has been shot, then how can you not start crafting narratives sooner? So often it feels like the editors are grasping at straws on what will or won't pan out in the future. So we get extended segments about Jenni's laugh, but nothing ever comes from it other than people repeating that they find it charming. Instead, they could have focused on her relationship with Nathalia and all of this would have had more weight. Imagine how much more stressful last week's elimination would have been if we'd known about their dynamic. For that fact, imagine if it had been Nat and Cornelius up there in the bottom two. While their friendship hasn't been as front and center as Erin and Dexter's has, the fact that they have a relationship is obvious and has been talked about in the past.

All in all, this was a swing and a miss for PR. They built the episode on a faulty foundation. A foundation that's only faulty because they did nothing at all to stabilize it prior to putting it into effect. And just when I was ready to throw the entire episode out with the bath water, the ending happened. 

The Runway

Dexter: Again, do I hate this or do I just hate him? I honestly can't tell anymore. It's the same damn shoulders we've seen from him before, and they're even less flattering this time. I guess the look says powerful woman in the "Mysterious lady of the evening" way, but I don't think that's ever what the Marie Claire challenge is looking for. All in all, I simply don't see the point of this. 

Nathalia: I don't want to be too hard on this because it's actually not as bad as I expected it to be on the dress form. However, that doesn't mean it isn't bad. I think the biggest problem here is that it seems like it wants to be a costume, but it didn't go far enough to actually be a costume. It reminds me of a super hero who is trying to change out of their business wear and into their costume but got stuck halfway. 

Roberi: Remember what I said last week about hating mixing patterns? Forget it because I was clearly insane. I don't love this or anything, but this strikes me as the way to mix patterns successfully. That whole thing looks like it goes together, and the movement is really spectacular. Roberi continues to be squarely in the middle for me: I neither love nor hate the things he produces, but I totally understand why others would praise him. 

Mah-Jing: When the look stands at the end of the runway and all we get is that long shot of it, I hate it. It looks messy and haphazard, but when the camera zooms in and we can see it in more detail, I actually really like it. I wonder if there are more subtle construction issues with some of those denim cutouts, but if not, then kudos to him. It's two weeks in a row that I've enjoyed Mah-Jing's looks. 

Cornelius: I'll say this for it: I really love the concept. I think the construction is spoton. I like the pop of color patches, but I think they're the wrong colors. And I think the one on the butt cheek looks silly and out of place. I think if he could rethink the color palette of the entire outfit, it would be a lot better. But with that being said, I don't think it's horrible. 

Laurence: Last week I complained that Laurence's look for her daughter didn't show enough skin, and what do we get this week? Open back! And it's perfect. This is also a departure for Laurence. She still uses leather, but there's no jacket, and she uses a print on the skirt, and all of it really works for me. It's all a little too distressed in places to feel like something someone would really wear to work, but it does look editorial. Love it!

Erin: Cute is the word for this. And Cute is a good word, I don't want to knock cute, but cute is not the word that should be used for looks in this challenge. While this is surely a step up from what she had in the workroom, in the end it's just a cute (and really simple and under-designed) dress with a lot of sparkle. 

Rik: Someone, I think it was Dexter, pointed out that the back of Rik's dress shouldn't have just been simple white, and I'm going to agree with him. The dress is really striking and unique when you watch it walk, but then she turns around and it put me in mind of a very cumbersome smock an artist would wear while she's painting. Sadly, that brings the entire look down a few notches. If he'd just done the entire look in a kind of wrap in that fabric, I think it would have been much better. 


Here's an odd thing about the blind runway show: I wonder if the judges had known before hand that Laurence's look belonged to her, would they have kept her around to talk to her more? This is one point in which her departure meant that she should have been either complimented or chastised for going away from what she knows and does best, but on the simple merits of the dress alone, they didn't love it or hate it enough to keep it on the runway. That's interesting. 

The top and bottom is a bit of a mixed bag this week. Mah-Jing, Cornelius, and Erin are in the top, but the judges are lukewarm on Erin. Dexter, Nathalia, and Rik are in the bottom, but Rik is about even too. They like the front of his dress but ultimately think the entire thing is unfinished because the back is such a let down. That's everyone except the editor of Marie Claire who loves the entire thing and admits it's her favorite. 

The real surprise, at least for me, is how much they love Cornelius' dress. It's probably the best thing he's done in awhile, but only one of the judges points out that it's not as editorial as some of the other looks. Heidi loves it and wants to wear it. Nina calls it powerful, which I honestly don't see. They all love how well constructed it is, and that at least makes sense to me. I may not love it as much as they do, but I can't fault them either. 

Dexter's look they hate though. The shoulder pads are called gimmicks, and Heidi and Nina are quick to point out that we've seen them before. Nina in particular says that the only manner in which they worked last time, to the extent that they can be said to have worked at all, is due to the element of surprise. But now that he's spent that, it's just a bore. The shoulders also aren't as well constructed as they were before, and Heidi points out that he didn't get a good review the last time he sent them down, so why send them down again? Dexter tries to sell it as "Well some of the other designers have also tried to establish their own aesthetic" but no one's dumb enough to buy that. 

The strong edit for Nathalia is revealed to be a bottom edit. The word costume is thrown around multiple times, and while Heidi likes the fit of the pants, Zac takes issue with the overall poor construction. 

After the closer look, which we'll talk about a little more in a minute, Heidi issues the dreaded pronouncement that "one or more of you will be out." The double elimination isn't really automatic after the Tim Gunn save. I tend to think that they budget for it in overall season length when planning everything out. So unlike other shows where a lack of an elimination means the only choice is to get rid of two contestants to stay on schedule, PR seems to be able to work around it. But the double elimination is always a fun and shocking tool, and I wish they'd use it more often. 

Cornelius racks up his first win of the season and seems to justify Tim saving him. From there, it's a quick offering of safety for Rik, and an out for Nathalia, but Dexter hangs around on the runway. If you're anything like me, then you noticed that before naming a winner, Heidi said one or more of you, but after ushering off the top three looks, she said "one of you." I was very disappointed at this point and assumed the double elimination was off the table. And when Rik was named safe, I thought that that proved my suspicions. So when Dexter is the last person on the runway, I thought the judges were just going to scold him some more. I thought that because of the closer look at the garments, 

You see, it's brought to light while the judges are looking over the clothes that Dexter didn't even design the undies his model is wearing. So in truth, if it hadn't been for her own contribution, he would have sent a naked model down the runway in a boring lace dress and an ugly jacket. I thought he'd get a stern talking to for being so lazy. But instead, Heidi just looks at him and says, "You're out!" and I honestly gasped and did a happy dance. 

While I don't think the simple lace dress he designed was ugly, I do think Dexter deserved to be out here. There's no design element to that lace dress; the fabric does all the heavy lifting. And not giving her something to wear underneath it smacks of laziness. This is not an acceptable point in the competition to be lazy and under-design a look. All of that is my way of saying that I think Dexter was going to make it through this week until the moment Tim told the judges he had nothing to do with the lingerie. The knowledge that he was only a step away from sending a naked woman down the runway sealed his fate. And then there were six. 

Loose Threads

--In my One Way Monkey write up, I admitted how sweet it would be if Laurence won on the challenge when Erin is sent home, but I have to admit that Cornelius getting his first win when Dexter gets Auf is equally awesome. 

--Also, while I don't love Cornelius, kudos to him for being more gracious in victory than Dexter was the week Tim had to save him. I never thought I'd call Cornelius the bigger man, but here we are. 

--While I am happy for Dexter to be going home, I will say it's quite surprising in that Nathalia feels like a legit culling of dead weight, but Dexter feels more like a surprise or dramatic shakeup kind of Auf.

--Other people are claiming that Erin's righted the ship, but I'll personally believe that when I see it. If she's not out on the next episode, I'd be a little surprised.

--At one point during her meltdown, Nathalia remarks "I didn't think that the competition would be this difficult." Bitch, this is Project Runway, what the fuck did you expect? A walk through the fucking park?

--After this week, my top four would be Laurence, Rik, Mah-Jing, and Roberi. But the truth is that I don't know what anyone will do going forward. Tim having saved Cornelius throws things off because I do tend to think that the judges are loath to get rid of someone after Tim's saved them. And Mah-Jing and Roberi can't be seen as anything other than wild cards. Mah-Jing's come on in the last two challenges, and that feels like a "getting hot at the right time" story, but if he regresses to the mean next challenge, I think he could easily be off. And if I'm wrong and Erin really has course corrected, then she'll sail right into the finale. It's not often that I say this and mean it in regards to PR, but I think it really is anyone's ball game.