Thursday, January 9, 2014

Project Runway All-Stars S3 E9 : "Fashion Cents" 

Good people, we now pause, put down our shears, our remotes, our lacy fans, and remember for a moment our fallen comrades. The Project Runway game is a tough'n, and the hardest and most painful part of the course is that last challenge, not getting eliminated before Fashion Week/the Final Collections.

So we fondly remember the two designers that fell at the final hurdle, Kenley Collins, charm school graduate and lone wolf, who couldn't line up a print at the seams, and Joshua McKinley, who interpreted couture as heavy black lace and twee pop-bright flowers. So, so close to a return trip to the final runway, they would soon be joined by another designer that tasted the nectar of Bryant Park/reasonable facsimile, only to have the second sip rudely taken away.

But who would it be? We are left with Seth Aaron, Pansear, Korto and Elena, the only remaining designer who has not made the finals before. Since we are fiercely stomping down memory lane, I'll remind you that Elena landed in 6th place in a season that was deservedly won by her nemesis, the Boris to her Natasha, Dmitry.

But that was then and this is now, and in fashion, I once heard, one day you are in and the next day you are out. I did not, however, hear this from our current host, Alyssa Milano, who prefers to start her runway days off with some light gushing over guest judges, some contractually obligated declarations of Georgina's beauty and telling the safely seated designers to "break a leg".

But all of that for later, as we kick off this episode with the announcement of the challenge, that Pansear confidentially whispers to us that he'd like to win. Alyssa comes out to taunt SA about his lack of challenge wins, wearing a messy co-ed ponytail and a quasi-retro Rosemary Clooney-does-the-walk-of-shame-from-Sinatra's-house all white ensemble, with souvenir shack up-prize man's bowtie slung about her neck.

She tells the designers that since last week they came face-to-face with real customers (referencing the grounded-in-reality bloggers whose makeup-application skills landed them a guest-spot on PR:AS), this week they are going to dip their beringed toes into the pond of ready-to-wear sales. The final four nod and all make the appropriately polite noises of people who have been earning their crust doing just that for a combined 20+ years but are too nice to say anything. They will be designing a sellable, price-controlled look for the NY-produced fashion house Milly, with the proceeds from the sales going to "Save the Garment District".

The producers have done this challenge for each of the PR:AS seasons and I think it is my favorite. Instead of flights of fancy at Mood, we get the strict, real-life limitations of working with certain custom fabrics, design ethos and most-importantly, price points. In this episode we don't get shown quite the amount of detail about things like, for example, exactly how much trim one is allowed to use (okay that's one quarter yard of purple rick-rack at 16.99 per yard... divide by four... carry the two...) but again we see the compromise that comes with having to work within "perimeters", as Korto calls them: to use chosen Milly fabrics, fulfil the brief of "urban tribal, feminine with an edge", keep it under 400 dollars retail, and get it all approved by the Milly president and Phil Mickelson golf buddy, Andrew Oshrin.

Elena and Pansear are told that if they stick to their designs, they will make the price point and are approved. SA is told to use a less expensive zipper, which he is happy about in that it does not compromise his vision, but Korto is called out for choosing matching (clashing) expensive fabrics in a pastel tribal print and wanting to use a lot of it to create her maxi-dress. As she puts it, she has champagne tastes and lemonade pockets. She doesn't mention that she has similar-looking designs featured on her website, with abundant fabric in the skirt, that she retails for 320 dollars (on sale for 260). So, she knows this design could be done, but remains committed to the more expensive tribal chiffon and cuts a few inches off of her look to get signed off from Oshrin.

In the workroom she cuts very carefully, using every inch to squeeze out a racer-back almost-maxi. Elena goes for white leather, white raw-edged mesh, and yellow neon, which she describes as her "favorite color" - neon, that is, not yellow. Note: my favourite color is plaid. Seth Aaron is also using the white mesh, some black and some color to make a sleeveless girly dress, and Pansear goes for a vegan leather, tight black and white dress, with a sarong skirt.

And here's where all of those rules, rules, man! start to pinch. As Korto measures thrice before cutting once and keeps Oshrin's words of wisdom in her head, Pansear starts to go slightly off the reservation, making changes -- he muses on making his dress into separates and using a second zipper. Uncle Seth tries to set our boy straight, pointing out the added costs of additional hardware. Elena concurs, so Pansear starts thinking of tweaking the design. Now before you think that Elena is all commonsense this week, she dispenses advice and then starts a second dress of her own with different, less elephant-eared sleeves. Auntie Korto doesn't like this. Do you know who also changed their design from the pre-approved one? Kenley, and we all know how that turned out. Glinda the Good floats in to check on the designers, with Milly's own Michelle Smith in tow, and they confirm all of this-- stick to what was approved, and all shall be well in the kingdom.

Runway time.


Alyssa is happy to tell us that The Beautiful Georgina Chapman® is back, and if we were wondering where she had gone (and our thoughts didn't drift off to the horrific idea of her at home in bed with Harvey Weinstein), we get one of those awkward "added in post production" sales things about her new perfume or something. Isaac is there, of course, and the guest judges:

Winner of all of our hearts, the delighted and delightful head on a stick, Kristin Chenoweth

Actor, host, comedian and rapper, now "with his own line of male accessories", which is appropriate because he himself is one, Nick Cannon.

Worldwide cult-leader owner of a label that has a "world-wide cult following", Michelle Smith.

The Looks:

Seth Aaron - Very graphic with a black and white chevroned top with a neon-coral grosgrain trim down the front and a flared circle skirt in white with black trim. He also customized his model's shoes, making a patterned ankle strap out of fabric. There is a lot going on, and not only is the level of "tribal" debatable, but the judges are split on loving or hating the neon accent, but all in all they like it a lot, I like it a lot and SA gets his first win of the season.

Elena - again, not so tribal, unless you come from a frozen planet of big-shouldered women, ruled by Robert Palmer's soul and lost in a time vortex of the 1980s and 2080s . The judges love her big swirly-sleeved, white leather/mesh/neoprene (if it was there at Milly, she found it) laid over the screaming yellow neon in a way that tones it down to a muted chartreuse. Like SA's look,  there is a zipper running up the front, but Georgina feels Elena's is a little forced and would have preferred a matte white zipper over the silver. This dress is so, so tight that I found myself imagining how little fabric was required to cover the model's torso, but this gets Elena into the finale.

Pansear - A black and white vegan leather (that term inexplicably makes me laugh) hard warrior dress that softens up with a semi-attached tribal-print sarong skirt in silk georgette. As complicated as this is - it counts as one piece. The judges don't like the fact that the top doesn't lie smoothly on the model's chest (it's not meant to), and Georgina just doesn't know "who" Christopher is, but I think this is a brief-fulfilling dress that makes good use of Michelle's print, and I really like it on Christopher's redheaded model.

Korto - She managed to get enough fabric to make it neither maxi nor mini, and it is a striking combo of prints that she has chosen. Mr. MediaGrrl hated the prints both alone and put together. I liked them separately, but felt together (one print belts the other) they started to look busy. The dress doesn't do any favors for the model's front, but looks sharp from the back. Not bad at all, but is this enough to keep Korto in the running?

Yes. Yes and no. After SA and Elena are sent off to the greenroom, the deadlocked judges pull out an old-fashioned All Star sew-off. Korto and Pansear are givin three of their previous ensembles to gut and reassemble, in a hour, right there on the runway, while a fidgety SA and Elena unknowingly wait. Korto's new look, her Bonnie and Clyde challenge pants edited into a skirt, paired with a drapey top, seems like a new look, and is stylish. Pansear makes a Frankendress out of his shredded fabric gown, Georgina describes it as "pretty" and the judges pretend to like more than they do.

Doing nothing to improve his usual slightly put-upon demeanor, Pansear is out.

Well guys, Julius should be back for next week, taking you through the big Finale, where once again the PR:All Stars production team tries to make the United Nations relevant to fashion. Come on, people, that hasn't worked since Benetton.

I look forward to your comments!


Stray Observations:

- Nick Cannon brings up what I've pointed out before -  want to impress the female judges? Sneak pockets into your design.

- Seth Aaron, can you make this look retail for under 400 AND pay tribute to a fallen comrade at the same time?  SNAP!  "done!" SA is the new VL.

- Is color-blocking "in the seams" different from just color-blocking? Isn't that easier anyway? Someone call Mila and ask.

- Elena wears a LBD tank dress to the runway, and girl has got the body for it.

- In looking up who were the 4th place finishers in the All Star seasons (okay, I did know that by heart but wanted to see who else was involved), I noticed that only five people did better the second time around. Mondo, obviously, and also Austin Scarlett (4th to Runner Up), Michael Costello (an emotional 4th to 3rd), Casanova (10th to 7th) and Ivy Higa (8th to 5th).

- "when I got close, did I see... nipple?" asks Alyssa hopefully.

- Remember the All-Star Challenge? The precursor to PR:AS, it was a two hour, one challenge special that saw a miserable Korto complain about coming in second again, first to LeeAnn Marshall, then to Daniel Vosivic. Next week should be interesting.

-Nick Cannon's favorite part of the dress? "the easy access"


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