Friday, September 27, 2013

Project Runway S12 E11: "Next Generation..."

Alexander looking lost.
Phwoah.  I just...just...I'm speechless...almost.  I'll hint at the results with Tim's words of dismissal, "I have to tell you. I am quite shocked by this outcome."  And, I think that many of us here commenting on Project Runaways agree.  But, first...

Next Generation... is the dreaded-to-me, HP pattern making challenge.  This is the episode I always think is the most risky of all the episodes.  The first, and most obvious, hurdle is that making a good textile pattern is really hard.  Even as a graphic designer, one of the things I hate most is creating patterns that look good. It can be difficult, scale is hard to determine in larger formats, and what looks good on screen can look godawful in large.  There are a lot of graphic designers that agree with me (and there are others who completely excel at patterns). Scale is difficult. But, so is creating something that repeats nicely without looking cheap or student-y.

The other, less obvious, hurdle of this episode is the fabric.  It always looks like Project Runway uses one of the cheapest fabrics you can print on.  In the show, the print house that PR says they use is Dyenamix, a relatively high end custom print shop in New York.  One would suspect Dyenamix has a wide array of fabrics they could actually print on.  Silk, cotton, polyester, etc.  Nowadays, you can print with dye sublimation on a few different styles of fabric.  But, the fabric they use on Project Runway always looks like it has roughly the same texture as wet cardboard.

These two hurdles always perplex some of the designers on Project Runway.  Designers who hate patterns struggle, while some designers love patterns.  Even more than that, designers who haven't ever worked with stiff fabric struggle with the challenge, while those who know how to use a wider variety of fabrics survive.  One would think that, at this point, designers who have watched Project Runway would realize these two things and practice on textile creation, or with stiff as hell fabrics.  Alas, the same patterns repeat themselves.

As per usual, this is the HP challenge, and we're introduced to HP's new gigantic keyboardless computer.  It's kind of fug with a kickstand.  It's supposed to be a desktop separated from the desk, but that this looks far too gigantic to carry around the house.

We're also introduced to the inspiration - not clients or models, Tim says - for this challenge: innovators, the next generation.  These innovators range from a young female computer scientist (Kate's muse) to a BMX biker/mentor (Bradon's muse) to Miss USA (Justin's muse). Most of them are doing semi-altruistic projects, and then there's the cake maker (Alexander) and the artist (Helen).  Upon meeting the cake maker, Alexander foreshadows that he is worried about taking inspiration from a cake maker. "Especially coming from a costume designer, I could turn that and make it reeeaalllllyyy scary."  It should be noted that Alexander was not last to choose his inspiration (he was number 5).  Maybe he thought Thiago was hot.  I dunno.

I want to take a step out and highlight my favorite two entrepreneurs for various reasons.  Feel free to skip the next two non-vital paragraphs.  Feel free to comment on whatever in the comments.

The first entrepreneur I can't help but love is the 17-year-old girl coder.  As a former engineer (not computer science though), female geeks are close to my heart because they're rare (or, they were in the early '00s).  Female programmers have uphill battles from the surrounding geeks, many of whom are under-socialized and oversexualized.  There are whole hashtag movements in the tech world to inspire women to get into the tech industries despite the challenges.

The second is Miss USA.  Now, I'm sure she was a beauty pageant queen before she won in 2012, but I really like that she started a non-profit in African communities in 2006, a full 6 years before she won Miss USA.  That's really challenging the notions that Miss USA is just a beauty pageant where the looks is the best part of the queen.  Awesome.

Anyways, they go back and we have the usual challenges with the pattern making.  As a note on the following links: the Project Runway full dress site shows the fabric patterns in full size next to the dress.  So, I'm linking to the dresses both here at the fabric first looks and, again, at the dress analysis. They are the same links, so go for it.

Alexander creates the beginnings of a warm chocolatey print, but can't figure out the reflect tool, and so the curves and the chocolatey-ness spirals gets broken up by these hard lines in the repetition.  This is exactly what I fear with patterns.  It becomes less fluid, and more obvious...and it really doesn't work.

Helen creates a weird starry pattern that looks very disparate as a pure fabric pattern.  It's this weirdly hipstery twee starry pattern.  She bitches and cries and struggles when she sees the print, and has no idea on how to work it.

Dom creates this bold print of white, navy and pure magenta.  It is a cross between thick zebra and Keith Haring.  It's impossible to imagine, and it's kind of amazing yet awful.  I both love and hate it on the roll.

Bradon creates a plaid pattern that feels like the plaid that Eyebrows used in the modern southern challenge had sex with a deconstructed version of Mondrian.  It's city and dancy and...its gorgeous.

Kate makes...shit.  Baby blue shit.  I don't even know.

Justin makes a cool print that is like a demonic Rorschach test  I see devil horns where it is supposed to be I Love You.  Alexander sees aliens.  Justin sees x-rays.  I really really love the fabric, but you can go so wrong with it.  It's brooding and goth.  And, if you fight that darkness rather than embrace it, you're in trouble.

Alexandria makes the most boring print of this grey off-grey pattern that is like it got dirty.  This embodies Alexandria struggles as a designer.  She had this brown ugly pattern when she was meeting with her inspiration (some woman who rehabilitates places after disasters, or something).  Then it went into a faded grey dirty print.

By the time we get to Tim's critique, Helen is having a full-on breakdown.  But, the two worst are Alexander's chocolate-cake-inspired nunnery outfit and Kate's baby-blue what-the-fuck-I-don't-even. Alexander's look is already looking tortured in the fabric, like he's fighting the stiffness and losing, plus he chooses to use the white edges of the printed fabric to create this cross right in the middle of the chest. Kate is making some sort of blue southern retro thing with a shirt where she has inverted the hidden pleats and put them on the outside.  Tim reacts in horror to both.  Neither of them listen.

The designers continue with their work and the designers who listen to Tim actually manage to transform their outfits into something that works.  And the ones who ignore Tim suffer.  Then, before we know it, it's runway time.  The inspiration muses are going to sit with the designers, but then they get shuffled off before the judges hear whether they like the outfits.  They're not designers, clients or gone, peasants!!!  The guest judge this week is Peter Som, who is actually one of the most insightful and witty guest judges I think I've seen this season.

The looks:

Bradon: He has an edgy as hell fabric.  Once he figured out that the fabric doesn't flow, he created a chic bomber jacket (which are supposed to be rather stiff) out of this modern print with a cyan lining.  Mind you, this fabric, used like this, also looks like it would make a high end carpet pattern, but I love it anyways.  The dress he makes below the bomber jacket is streetwise, simple, and chic as well.

Justin: Sooooo close, but so far.  I love LOVE the top of this dress.  LOVE.  I cannot express how much I love the corset of this dress.  But, then he didn't know what to do with the bottom.  He went with this pagenty-two layered grey-on-the-outside softly-draped dress that he basically glues to this hard-edge modern corset.  Then, he glues it on the outside, with a transparent fabric that only adheres to the bottom of the corset.  This bottom turns a lovely corset into a trainwreck.

Kate: What. The. Fuck. Kate.  Your first problem is your baby-blue wallpaper fabric that might be good in a hotel therapist office.  It has roses and some sort of hard lined busyness and then there is this dot pattern in the middle, and then there is a white line at every repetition, but the line does't meet, so there is a break right in the center.  Ugh.  And then, the dress comes out, and it's like this woman has air filters attached to her dress.  The top half of Kate's look was this baby blue top that is covered with dust that comes up to her neck.  In the end, this is a dress that has so many damned elements, none of which have anything to do with anything else.  It's schizo.  It's awful.

Alexander: In a race for the bottom with Kate, Alexander's dress looks like he fought with the fabric, and the fabric won.  It's tortured, and stiff.  It's crinkles and wrinkles.  He has this hideous cross that is going up to her neck.  And, the neck line is all the way past her shoulders, with long sleeves, looking like the dress is on backwards. But the back of the dress is wide open from the small strap going across the shoulder blades to the small of her back. And, really, the whole outfit was one big tortured look.  Did I say it was tortured?

Dom: In a fit of juxtaposition, we go from tortured to astounding.  It is completely reminiscent of Mondo's showstopper in his first runway (that Heidi would wear to the Black Swan premiere).  Only more street, urban, and cruder in the print (due to Dom not being a textile designer).  It looks like it was made from a stretch fabric, and the fit is impeccable rather than tortured. The fabric is stunning and the whole dress is edgy and young.

Alexandria: You guys, I think I've figured out Alexandria's aesthetic. It's like a bored cyberpunk aesthetic. The drop pants she was hooked on for a while were once popular in cyberpunk. The torn and ratty jacket with the bunchy asymmetrical neckline was once cyberpunky.  The black on black on grey monochrome is cyberpunky.  But, Alexandria always does it in a very boring and dull and depressive manner that.  This bland ripped outfit is no exception.

Helen: Dear readers, I hate this look.  I can see why people might like it.  It is a bit of old retro patriotic almost-costumey.  So help me, it's boring, and I hate the starry pattern.  The dress in ivory and white seem a little too classic.  The top is nice in its halter proportions, though.  But, the combination just don't work for me.  Feel free to argue.

Tonight, Heidi says "one...or more of you will be out."  Uh oh.  That's not good.  Dom wins the challenge.  I'm kind of surprised that Bradon didn't win it, because his look was amazing as well.  But, he gets an "amazing job" on his dismissal.  Since, this challenge didn't come with rewards, I'm fine with it.

Alexander is the first to go.  Goodbye Eyebrows.  I thought you might have had a chance, but this was a severe stumble.  And, really, your work hasn't been stunning enough to bring you back. All Heidi sees is tape and the cross.  And, its terrible.

But, then we get the surprise that Kate, who I think all of us had put in the front running, is eliminated.  Not unfairly, because that dress is fucking hideous.  Nina's first response, "Oh god..."  And then, "there are too many elements and none of them are working well."  Zac Posen, "There is so much wrong with this dress..."  Heidi: "It's ugly."  Peter Som: "It looks like she fell in a box of Kleenex."  Really, you can't say enough bad about this dress.  It's not boring, though.  But, it is a significant WTF moment and not in a good way.

So, now there are 5.  We're down to Justin (?!), Alexandria (?!), Dom, Bradon, and Helen.  It's not like Justin has been overlooked.  He was rescued and hasn't stepped up his game.  Alexandria is also just...ugh.  So, our final three are Dom, Bradon or Helen?  Or will one of them also fuck up hard enough to drop out?  Kate failing so hard was a surprise this week, so...that's where we're at readers.  I'm still mildly in shock.  Much like Tim.

Stray Observations
- "Just because your last name is Pope doesn't mean you have to make Priest costumes.  Just because my name is McDonald, I don't make dresses out of french fries." - Bradon on Alexander

- "You're stronger than this." = Stop crying, shut the fuck up, and do your damn work.

- "It's Courtney Love.  In a good way.  Not a cocaine way." Eh, Dom...Courtney Love = Heroin and probably Oxys.

- Ironic statement of the week: "It's bold. But then I like bold." - Alexandria

- Unfair statement of the week: "And, I really wish the print had continued on the dress  Because, there's nothing more fun than seeing a print dance on chiffon or georgette." - Zac Posen, as if the designers had that option.  Asshole.

- "Cake... When I think about cake...and the possibilities about cake..." - Heidi, who is obviously fantasizing, probably inappropriately, about eating cake.

- I just noticed that my DVR has been saying this is season 14.  All Stars messed up that numbering system...

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