Monday, September 15, 2014

Project Runway: S13 E8: "The Rainway"

Ok, I have to start by apologizing for the lateness of getting this up for you guys. I came to work on Friday trying to remember what I had to watch that day and I couldn't remember to save my life. And then I went away for an amazing weekend to a beach house that didn't have internet, so I couldn't watch the episode until this morning. So for my horrible forgetfulness, I apologize.

Secondly, I watched this episode on Hulu, so I got the shortened hour long version instead of the longer version I'm used to. I loved the episode, so we'll get to that soon, but first I have a serious bone to pick with Project Runway editors: I honestly think they've forgotten how to create a good episode of reality TV in the course of one hour. I've lamented the show's poor use of it's extended run time a lot over the years. I've said many times that the show was better and less full of superfluous crap back when it was only an hour long. But here we are and the days of the show being only an hour are behind us so we have to make the best of what we've got. And yet, wait, there's an hour long version of each episode out there. The suggestion then is that maybe there's a better version of each episode available, right? Well no because the manner in which the editors seem to make the typically 90 minute episode last for 60 minutes it to rush through the best parts of the show. Tim's visit to the workroom flies by at a breakneck speed and I didn't see him talk to everyone. The judges critiques are so fast and empty that I honestly couldn't tell you what they really thought about each of the top and bottom looks beyond the most basic impressions. In the middle of the episode, in an effort to celebrate their first 2 day challenge, the designers head up to the roof to have drinks. What happened or didn't happen, what was said or unsaid, while up there? I have no clue because all I saw was the party train heading up to the roof with alcohol and then the episode cut back to the workroom. I haven't watched the longer version of the episode yet (and I may not do so, I can't decide), so it's possible that not much is different between the two versions. I'll need you guys to tell me what I missed due to editing in the comments. But the overall effect is the same: this episode felt breathless in a way I haven't felt Project Runway has been breathless in a long time, and I didn't like it. So it feels like there is no longer any great version of this show; either the longer episodes spend more time on useless filler (like the extended scene of Kini and Fade pimping out a fridge, which still somehow found its way into the shortened version of the episode), or the shorter episodes keep the filler and lose the heart of the best parts of the show. But allow me to say once and for all that if these are the two versions of the show I have to choose from, I'm throwing my lot in with the longer cut of the episodes, and I never thought the day would come when that would be said, but I think Project Runway has finally wore me down and broken me.

Ok, deep breath, shake it off, and let's move on because I honestly did think that this was an amazing episode in a lot of ways. First there's the Avant Garde challenge, which is another of my favorite PR staples. While I agree with most people that PR doesn't really know what Avant Garde means or looks like, I still love it when this challenge comes around because it's the perfect excuse for the designers to go big. I would also posit that Avant Garde for PR has been redefined to simply mean artistic and not necessarily wearable. So this is the one challenge a season where if I can't reasonably see a woman wanting to wear the looks on the runway, that's more than fine.

And this year's Avant Garde challenge is taking place on a "Rainway." I did a quick Google search for the term Rainway and for all I can see, Project Runway is the only place where it shows up, so I'm guessing this isn't a consistent thing in the fashion industry. But even if it isn't, I think it should be. The Rainway added an interesting element to the way the designers thought about what to make, and it added a fun element of drama to the runway itself, but we'll get to that. I also really agree with Amanda's point that the innovative runway style matches well to the Avant Garde nature of the challenge itself, but I would also say this could be an interesting element for the show to use on a regular challenge about making clothes for someone in like the Pacific Northwest where it's raining so often and fabric that holds up when it gets wet might be a bigger concern. Or even someone who lives here in Florida where it rains for a couple hours everyday in the summer and our daily rainstorms tend to look like the world is ending. Either way, I say thumbs up to this development.

As a result of the Rainway, the designers are left trying to figure out ways to either embrace or avoid the rain on the runway. Do you make a regular dress and cover it in a kind of raincoat? Do you make something waterproof? It's an Avant Garde challenge, so if there's ever a moment to take a big risk and hope it pays off, it's now.

I should also note that this challenge features the latest bit of PPP (Pointless Product Placement) in the form of Samsung's new TV which gives everyone a great seat and a great view of the screen because of something or other that I don't care about. So the final look is expected to be impressive from 360 degrees. This is as opposed to the other challenges where the designer's looks are only expected to look good from the front. This also doesn't take into consideration the fact that someone sitting behind the TV probably doesn't have a good view of the screen, so the TV itself isn't even perfect from 360 degrees, but I digress. The TV PPP leads a few of the designers to get inspired by the TV itself, which I don't think was actually the point. But I could be wrong.

So everyone's off to Mood where most of the designers run straight for the Vinyl and waterproof fabrics. Sandy seems to grab every bright primary colored fabric she can find, leaving Char to laugh over the presence of more Yellow and to wonder how this will turn out. She's clearly still not over Sandy's choice of the yellow fabric which led to her being out. The group heads back to the workroom with Tim reminds everyone not to step on Swatch who appears to have put on a few pounds, or is it just me? the design process, we spend a lot of time with Fade talking about how uninspired he is and the best he can come up with is playing off of the Play button on a remote control. Looking at the dress on the dress form, it was clear that nothing about what he was doing was going to fit in with the Avant Garde nature of the challenge, and I found his TV based inspiration to be suspect. Also inspired by TV is Sandy and she makes a jumper that's color blocked in a manner reminiscent of the end of the broadcast day. For anyway reading this or watching the episode who's too young to know what she's talking about, Sandy was inspired by this image. There's a part of me what want's to find that charming, but I don't know where that part of me is at the moment. I think he might have gone out for coffee or something because I look at this and I think, really? In the years and years of TV, this is what you choose to get inspired by? But again, I also don't think the TV element was meant to be an actual part of the challenge, so I find her inspiration stupid and I tend to think she didn't get the point of the challenge either. So there's that.

The award for inspiration and innovation clearly goes to Sean who has the brilliantly dangerous idea to sew powdered dye into his basic white dress so the color will run on the Rainway and create an experience and a fully unique textile. It'll either work and be brilliant, or it'll fail and maybe send him home. But it's the riskiest thing we see in the episode and maybe in the entire show's history, and you can't help but to root for him.

The second day in the workroom sees an interesting element of the two day challenge: Korina wakes up and realizes she hates everything about her design. She's doing something that's inspired by Thunderbirds and her sketch looks like little more than a Thunderbird costume. I love two day challenges for a lot of reasons, and this is one of them; when you only have one day, you don't necessarily have enough time to think yourself out of your original concept. But when you have a night to sleep on it and gain a new perspective, you can look at your design with new eyes the next morning and decide to change it. And you've still got a full day to make said changes unlike when someone tries to pull out something new after Tim's visit in a one day challenge. It's a fun way to add drama to an episode without having to force or manufacture it.

On to the Rainway because I simply cannot wait any longer!!!!

Char: I like this look. I love the little hat/veil thing, and I think the color is great. There’s something odd about the way the constructed sash portion of the look seems to separate away from the rest of the dress in the back, the movement of it looks odd and almost accidental to me. But other than that I like it.

Sandy: I don’t hate it. I think the swinging pinwheels on the front are the most interesting thing about it, but I don’t understand the “point” of it. She says she wants to capture the color block lines when the service goes dead on a TV, but what do the pinwheels have to do with that? Without the pinwheels, it’s a simple silhouette under a vinyl rain coat.

Emily: I like this one for a couple reasons. 1) It’s the first look we see that isn’t afraid to show some skin. There’s something about that to me that says she wasn’t shying away from the rain. You don’t have to be completely covered and your garment doesn’t have to be shielded, embrace the rain. 2) It’s really sleek and sexy in a way I find interesting. 3) Pockets! I’m curious about how those pockets didn’t just collect a little puddle of water in the bottom? Are they open so the rain slicks down her legs? Because that’s cool!

Alexander: It’s a rain coat with petals on it. No thank you!

Fade: It’s boring. I think the fabric holds together well in the rain, and that’s impressive, but nothing about this is innovative or avant garde, or really all that interesting. I like his model’s styling a lot, though I think if her hair were down instead of in the pigtails, it would have added a nice effect in the rain.

Korina: I neither like nor hate this. I think it’s just kind of there. The play on the light is interesting and fun, but that’s about it to me. It’s another look where I don’t see much of a “point” or an artistic perspective really.

Amanda: The best thing I can say about Amanda’s look is that if no one told me it was her's, I wouldn’t have known it. It looks very different from the other things she’s designed, and I appreciate that. But I’m not impressed with it. The fact that the “eyes” were falling off means she either underestimated the effect the rain would have on the fabric, or she didn’t finish the dress well enough to withstand it, which is problematic in a two day challenge.

Kini: I want to yell and scream and jump up and down about this look. Did he ever use the term umbrella when he was talking about it? Because I must have missed that if he did. And if he didn’t, that’s too bad because that’s exactly what it looks like. The protection offered by the hat, the way the dress looks like a closed umbrella. OMG I love it all!

Sean: OH MY FUCKING EVERLOVING MERCIFUL GOD! How crazy perfect was that? This was a risk that paid off in the best way possible. I kid you not, I gasped when I saw it start to change color. This literally took my breath away. I was thinking he’ll need his model to do more than just walk if the dye in the bottom is going to work, and that moment when she stopped and spun around and the rest of it ran! Oh man, this is just amazing. If I have a criticism, it’s that I’d like to have seen a different color than the yellow on the top. But that’s really it. Man I love it!

 Kini, Sean, and Sandy are in the top, Fade, Emily, and Korina are in the bottom. In his explanation of the dress, Kini does indeed say that he was thinking of Umbrellas when he designed it. I don't know if that word was used by him at any point prior to the runway because I didn't hear it in my episode. I either missed it, or it was edited out if it happened at all, but the fact that that intentionality came through even without having to be told is pretty prefect to be honest. I don't have much to say about the judging this week because I didn't get to see much of it. It all went by so fast that I couldn't latch onto much. I will say however that the judges don't seem to have much positive to say about Sandy's look, so she seems to be more safe than in the top, but it continues the seeming trend of one person making the top three simply to round out the numbers. If anything, this episode really does prove that this season is a battle between Sean and Kini and it's just a matter of time between everyone else gets weeded out. I'm wondering if there will be 3 or 4 people showing at NYFW this year? Because if it's only 3, my guess is that this model of 2 people in the top and one person just barely scraping in will be found in the final runway too. 

Along those lines, Kini and Sean both win this challenge. The elimination of immunity gives the judges the ability to give the double win. But it's Sean's third win and Kini's first, and I can't help but to wonder if Kini finally winning isn't cheapened a bit by the fact that he has to share that win with Sean? Sean is brilliant, and Nina's point about loving the way his brain works is spot on, but is he really so much better than Kini that he's deserved 3 wins to Kini's 1? Keeping in mind that even Sandy and Amanda have each won at least twice. I'm not sure about the answer to that, but what I do know is that both Sean and Kini deserved to win this week because they were both amazing. 

Fade goes home, and I'm sad because I love him, but I'm not capable of disagreeing with that decision. I think the other point proven by this episode is that the judges just don't like Fade and Emily's aesthetics as much as I do. But Fade going home here brings us back to the issue of the Tim Gunn Save. Char has been safe on each challenge since she was brought back (and rightfully so), and Fade is one of the designers we mentioned in comments would have been more worth the save. But would/should Tim have used it here? The look Fade sends down the runway is not at all in keeping with the intention of the challenge, nor is it very impressive in its own right. But I do like his aesthetic more than Char's. It's a moot point because the Save is off the table, but it's something to think about. Also interesting to think about: this is the second episode in a row that's felt, at least to me, like classic Project Runway. I realize I might be wrong about that as I didn't see the longer version I'm guessing some of you guys saw, so feel free to disagree with me in the comments, but I think I might officially be ready to say that Project Runway is back. In as far as this show is capable of being back with its continued formatting problems.

Rain Washed Thoughts:

--Barring a huge misstep by either of them, I think the writing is on the wall that Sean and Kini are going all the way this year. Which designer(s) do you think will join them? 

--Has anyone else noticed Alexander's almost constant look of comic befuddlement? It's most noticeable on the Runway when each of his reaction shots are more like non-reaction shots. I swear it looks like no one's home in that boy's head most of the time. 

--The main elements of the shortened episode, I think, have to come from Tim's visit and the judging. So my question to anyone who watched the longer episode is did Tim meet with each of the designers? And also did each of the judges get a chance to say something about each of the top and bottom looks? Because the only looks I heard each judge check in with were Sean, Kini, and Korina's. 

--Speaking of which, Zac's increased silliness this season is starting to bug me. His pantomime of rain dancing and of boxing with Heidi were just too much for me, and not very charming. 

--One other concern I have for Sean's look is that I didn't care for the finished product. I think the majority of the appeal of this look was the entertainment factor as it walked down the rainway. When I saw it standing next to him when all was said and done, I couldn't help but to think the finished product wasn't very pretty. But that's to take nothing away from the pleasure of watching it walk down the rainway and the level of how impressed I am with him that he even though to do what he did.

--When I say that Sean gets the award for most innovative, I feel the need to point out that Kini gets the award for best construction. So it'll be interesting to see how this plays out in their collections at the end. 

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