Thursday, December 19, 2013

Project Runway All-Stars S3 E7 : "As Sewn on TV"

Hello Runaways,

You might know me as MediaGrrl in the comments section, but for the first time, I'm filling in for the wonderful Julius as he is off opening his one man revival show, Christian? Sorry? Oh, no!  I will do my best to keep the Project Runaways mood of serious frivolity going, and I look forward to your comments as well. On to the recap we go!

This week is brought to you by the letters Q, V and C, who are sponsoring The Wall this season. Please use it thoughtfully, or not, as Tim is not here to remind us.

This episode starts with a bang-- no shots of sleepy designers waking up to the site of a grizzled cameraman from IATSE Local 600 hovering over their twin beds this season. Instead we are at a helicopter pad, somewhere adjacent to Manhattan. Alyssa is there to tell the final six that they will be designing something for QVC and they're going to meet the famous Lisa Robertson, program host (for hours of QVC sales are called "programs", not streams of endless pitches of a overly caffeinated auctioneers. It's less wordy.) and "Style Authority," a title that sounds both dubious and menacing.

The designers have yet to put two and two together to understand why they are standing in front of helicopters-- as no one really knows where the Batcave QVC HQ is located, they don't realize they will be crossing state lines to visit Westchester, Pennysylvania. I assume this quiet berg of 18,000, home to Dave Barry and coach Muffet McGraw, has rarely incited squeals on the level of Elena's excitement, nor been host to an off-her-meds Ukrainian neon enthusiast and a crew this motley.  Bubbly Elena and the girls get in and away they go. Irina is pleased!

The men also load in to their helicopter, and as you've seen a million times in dude movies like Black Hawn Down and Blue Thunder, they immediately begin putting makeup on. We also get a fan-flick and a bon mot or two from Zinger, who is acting like his normal hilarious and in-need-of-air self. Please note that. He's just fine and dandy at this stage.

The designers arrive at QVC and enter a cavernous, clean lobby that looks like a smart hotel that would be attached to an airport in the 1970s. They look with wonder at the pale marble and oooh over the flatscreens showing the International versions of QVC. We even get a not-at-all forced soundbite from Seth Aaron, marvelling at the fact that QVC is on in, like, Germany. Way to sell it, crew.

Uh, oh, is that Lee Meriwether descending the staircase from the Delta Sky Lounge? Nope, it is Lisa Robertson, product of the pageant system, winner of the cheekbone lottery and a student of the "chin on the chest shows gravitas" school of media training. She informs us that she is lucky enough to reveal this week's challenge - designing a gown for she herself  to wear at (or near, or around, or close to, or while at home thinking about) the QVC Oscars-related "star-studded gala", where she will be working the red carpet. She mentions this is a live broadcast, so please, no designs that must be touched up in post-production or CGI'd in later. This gown must also look good in photographs, and later we'll see that this is part of the judging, one of those parts that the judges seem to ignore if it doesn't go along with their auf'ing plans.

As I had never heard of the barnacle to the Oscars boat that is the "Star-Studded QVC Live Broadcast", I checked the roster of "A listers" from last year. They had Jennifer Hudson, fair enough, and her personal career cautionary tale, Marisa Tomei, the ubiquitous Lisa Rinna, an always-welcome dash of Jane Seymour and an up and coming model from Germany, one Miss Heidi Klum, if I'm spelling that right. Pretty girl, I assume she was just happy to have been invited.

Lisa Robertson is not just a Style Authority, she is a damn good tour guide, showing off the studios and inviting them to try their hands at on-camera (but not live, thank goodness) program hosting. She forgets to point out her chin technique, as if they'd master that in a day. I must agree with the giddy, hairflipping, nervous Elena, "It's not as easy as it looks". Nope, and that is why we have laboratories that create lisarobertsonbots. The six are then led into Isaac Mizrahi's own studio, which Seth Aaron claims that they all recognize, ya know, from watching it on QVC. Barring a hospital stay, the only person less likely than Seth Aaron to watch QVC is Isaac himself, who pops in to say hello, in a shot that seems like a third take ("that's great, Isaac, can we just do one more shot of you entering, more excitement this time, have fun with it").

The designers sit and sketch, captured by the smooth tracking shots and brighter lighting that give these past few episodes a different, more stylish and less rough reality show feel.

We see Lisa will have a wide variety of looks to choose from:
Pansear is thinking semi-strapless, fitted, a mermaid shape.
Viktor is going form fitting, stylish, flared out at the bottom in a mermaid silhouette.
Irina is taking Isaac's advice to go dramatic and "pull out all of the stops", and so to differentiate herself, designs an almost bridal look, assuming the bride wanted a strapless, fitted, mermaid gown. 
So lots of options for Lisa.

It is then the next day, and we can tell that as everyone has changed clothes:  Elena has reapplied eyeliner over yesterday's, and Viktor has changed into a yellow polo shirt. What - a yellow polo? No costumey corduroy bowtie and kid's birthday hat? How mundane. Is there something wrong with little Zinger? No, he seems fine, but stay tuned, gentle reader! After a trip to Mood, the remaining six have about 11 hours to pull off a gown. "A GOWN", frets Pansear, blocking out the fact that he has done at least three gowns this season. He decides to whip out his fabric feathering technique, which the judges loved during his season.

Irina is also fretting, as she has concerns about completing her complicated design in the allotted time. No one made you put 18 panels into your dress, Irina. Still, she has always been an efficient worker, so surely she can whip up all of those seams, perfectly, then top stitch each, and add boning, and reinforce the skirt, and then applique her dress before deadline? I am tired just typing all of that, but godspeed Irina. She doesn't seem pleased.

And in a constant state of fret-itude is Elena, or Pikachu, as Viktor calls her, who confesses that she is worried that she doesn't "know the techniques for evening wear" (also should be noted, she made a silky smooth red gown last week that looked very evening),and speaks for the audience when she wonders aloud if she will freak out. Is it better or worse, mental heath-wise, if she is aware that she is losing her marbles during challenges?

But Elena will only have a supporting role in today's big story, for, noticing the vaccuum of drama and sensing there is airtime up for grabs, Viktor takes a turn for the sad. Is something wrong with Zinger? Has he lost his... zing? The first and biggest clue that a Big Moment is coming is the postprodution insertion of Lifetime's Emotional Confession Music. The camer a captures a sigh as he cuts fabric. Zinger, with brow delicately furrowed, claims that he has something on his mind, a thing that has been bothering him so much, something that makes him afraid of how other people will treat him, and he needs to talk about it, confess it to the world, because he just "wants to be free".

Oh the drama! Mr. MediaGrrl and I paused the tv-- intrigued. What was it? What was troubling our hero? What had he done? Had he killed a hobo? Worn white after Labor Day?

We would find out along with Zinger's two closest friends, Elena and... Seth Aaron? who knew?, whom he thoughtfully interrupts as they diligently work to finish their complex red carpet gowns. Zinger steers them into the break room, takes a deep breath and -- and Elena, jumping out of her skin, shrieks "what the fuck, dude, tell me what's wrong!"

Mr. MediaGrrl had guessed testicular cancer. I had guessed bankruptcy. Turns out, Viktor is HIV positive. He has known for ages, but only his partner has been told. His family will possibly find out on tv. Dare I say Elena and Seth Aaron look relieved? Editorially, I want to add, what a good place to be in, from a public health standpoint, when HIV positive status, while not great, is not received as a death sentence. I remember the 80s, when not only my crush Mark Harmon's sexy doctor character on St. Elsewhere was dealt that card, and that meant he was a goner, but in the years that followed many people I knew in what we call "real life" were affected. Modern medicine is a wonderful thing. HIV is not, then or now.

So, back to Viktor's big reveal. His friends, mulling over this news, must not have given Zinger the gasp, the snap of the fan, if you will, that he was looking for, so he mewls "I just didn't want you to treat me differently", and looks sad, forcing them to get up and defend their respect and fondness for him with hugs. Elena even offers a backrub. Manipulative little so-and-so. Seriously, I do not get the motivation for the timing of this kind of announcement, especially when we see who is sitting on the judging panel this week.

The mood is immediately lightened by a glistening pink bubble that floats in and bursts to reveal Glinda, the GiggleWitch of the South, aka Zanna Roberts Rassi, here to shut down the design munchkins with a lilt in her voice and a shake of her blonde curls. Today Glinda has forsaken her sparkly gown for a matchy two- piece flowered outfit that wouldn't  look out of place at an English gardening club meeting. She gets right to work dispensing advice, some of it good (Korto's orange ruffles look cheap, Irina's is too bridal) some bad (tells Pansear "keep adding" to his look) and some intriguing (people do not like green). She is not very pleased with what she sees.

Runway Day:
The models march in wearing matching black tanks, as Korto gives us the Freak Out Update. She's freaking out because after viewing her test photos, she sees her orange super-gathered dress is a neon mess, and starts over completely. According to Korto, Christopher's freaking out, Viktor's freaking out, Irina is ice cold, Elena, duh, and Seth Aaron is running around like crazy. She herself, well, girl is "twisted", which I think is the DefCon 5 of freak outs.

Irina should be worried - in putting the dress over her model's head, she experiences the first of quite a few rips of the 18 pieces of delicate fabric she has worked so hard to piece together. Zinger thinks that this may be due to her stiffening the fabric with buckram, a cotton which is used a lot in hat making. He says it can tear easily. Irina is not pleased. Aside from that, and some ass-measurement issues from Pansear and Elena, we are off to the runway.

Sitting next to Isaac today in place of The Beautiful Georgina Chapman® is Mondo Guerra. You might remember him from his tearful HIV positive confession during Season 8, the one that seemed organic, real and heartfelt. Also, you might recall that he wore crazy little outfits that included shorts with suspenders, pins and necklaces, a style that that seemed organic, (sur)real and heartfelt. Mondo is his own man. Viktor is not.
When Mondo's name is mentioned by Alyssa, there is a quick cut to Viktor, who looks down. Wild coincidence that Mondo is visiting this week?

Lisa Robertson is there, natch, and the end chair is occupied by the lovely Elisabeth Moss, one of the "greatest acting  talents of her generation", according to the lovely actress Alyssa Milano, who, despite what you think of Charmed,  is not.

Pansear:  I love midnight blue and black together, but damn does this dress have a lot going on. Feathered technique on a fabric that has a tiny bit of sparkle, leather trim on the boobs and a full leather shoulder piece, a belt and a poofy tulle train. The ethereal model doesn't sell it so much, and during judging, standing still, the dress makes her boobs look like Good  'n Plentys, but somehow it all comes together.

Zinger:  Who doesn't love olive green? Guest judge Elisabeth Moss, as it happens. I like it on redheads and ashey blondes like Viktor's model, but the color is not the biggest problem here, it's the gores and the ruffles and the fins and the train. This dress is busier than a tornado at a trailer park, a theme carried through by the model's messy styling. It's okay. Not for anyone above a size two, or with Lisa's fantastic figure.

Seth Aaron:  Full disclosure here: much like Emilio Sosa  declared when he designed his own fabric, MediaGrrl  hearts Seth Aaron. From his positive attitude to his cool cartoon-y sketching style, excepting his current eyebrow situation, I just adore him, and I think Alyssa feels the same way. In fact, Seth seemed to give her quite the glance when she walked out tonight. Hmmm.  His sparkling, non strapless, non mermaid gown is one of my favourites, even with the Cadillac fin'd bum.

Korto:  There is a fine line between effortless and lazy, and Korto's is right there. Not sure how my buddy SA got knuckle-rapped for a basic drapey gown last week when Korto's maxidressey simple gown is seen as comfortable and flowy.  The skirt is made of various levels of left-over orange chiffon, and has pockets, which always get the female judges squealing. The top is made of taupe fabric, twisted into a sort of halter. I'm thinking that drab color will not look as nice on the pale skinned QVC host as it does on Korto's darker-skinned model,  and I predict it will be changed when the actual dress is made.

Elena:  She's gone all Patricia and made her own textile, black overlaid onto purplish brocade, cut out to create an effect of scales. It's cool. The judges seem to have more of a problem with the design of the dress than the fabric, pointing out the "dowdy" bateau neckline and some weird seaming in the back. Elena's warming up for her self-predicted meltdown, not thrilled with her dress, saying "I'm just praying that the judges don't execute me for it". That says a lot about design school discipline in the Ukraine.

Irina:  a gown for the perfectly postured, impossibly thin, showin' off the A-cups bride who will be married in a church with no steps and no modesty code. The mermaid skirt maintains its stiffness and does look beautiful, but I found the faux-leather and pearl flower appliques strewn about it a little heavy-handed. The model can't quite make it on and off of the runway without giving us another nice rip.  Of the dress, I mean.

Personalities abound and opinions differ on the runway tonight.
By the time all of the models are brought out for the judging, the seam split has grown to about 6 inches. Irina is not pleased. Isaac is blaming the fabric, Irina is blaming te model, and as she is questioned about this catastrophe, Irina softly snarls, "yeah, she RIPPED it". Her model does not have the mobility to kick her for this.

Seth Aaron announces, without prompting, that "he is back!" which delights Alyssa, annoys Isaac and prompts a flirty "no, you are Schmoopie" back-and-forth with Elisabeth Moss on the merits of sparkle. (Turns out they both like it. Awwww.) Style Authority Lisa Robertson feels the gown is "too close to home" and by home she means where her vagina would be, if such a thing was allowed on QVC. Silly Lisa, lady parts are known around here as "the good china". It is agreed by the judging panel that the widening of one's bottom is not a good thing. SA is in the bottom three.

Isaac says Pansear "had him at navy tulle". I looked it up - thinking the Navy Tulle might be a military event that the two attended, and we were getting our second confession of the episode. Nope, he just loved the train, and Pansear's feathering technique, which, sadly, is also nothing sexual.

Zinger  gets shut down, multiple times, for his choice of color, by a blonder than I've seen her Elisabeth, who actually would look lovely in that shade. Alyssa says she's disappointed, she expects more of Viktor, and why can't he be more like Mondo? (Well, she doesn't go that far.) He is in the bottom three.

Elena's is called a "good dress", making her gasp and smile, but also "dowdy" and unflattering, making her have the sads. She's in the bottom three.

Korto's tangerine/cafe au lait concoction gets mostly positive reviews, "a fresh idea", "very wearable", with lone dissent coming from Lisa, who doubts the glamour factor will outshine Lisa Rinna and some leftovers from The Hills. In fact, for a moment Lisa is leaning towards the drama of Irina's structured gown, but is hip-checked into sanity by Elisabeth and Mondo. As I may have tipped off earlier, Korto is the winner, and Lisa will wear her dress. No way does that taupe stay taupe - we shall see.

But someone has to go home, and it comes down to Elena and Irina. Elena is terrified, and she wells up. Which will it be: a near miss that the designer didn't really sell to the judges, or a beautiful failure that was not completely suited to the occasion? If Elena goes, surely this is the meltdown we've been waiting all episode for...

Nah. Irina goes home, with the "no Heidi kiss kiss" send off seeming colder than usual. Although she says she would have liked to have won, we hear the sigh in her voice, and as she goes and cleans up her space, she makes it clear she doesn't really need this All-Stars business. Irina is not pleased.

I'll be with you again next week, and hope to have the recap up a little sooner.

- Martina

Stray Observations:

Isaac's perfume is called Fabulous. Was Divine taken?

"The bonus puts you in so many homes - it's an amazing prize," says Irina. ask Joan Rivers how much money she has made from QVC. So designers, would you rather be in front of millions of shopping housewives or be the toast of Paris Fashion Week?

Elena has never been on a helicopter. Or, one presumes, in one.

Viktor spreads his fabric on the floor to cut - this has always weirded me out when the designers do this. How clean is that floor?

Irina sure wore a lot more makeup, shorter skirts and higher heels during All-Stars. It brings to mind Althea and SweetPea, who both must have looked at their original seasons and thought they could do a little better in the styling department.

Apparently there was a rumor circulating that Lisa Robertson had died. She is the Abe Vigoda of tv shopping.

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