Sunday, November 16, 2014

Project Runway All-Stars S4 E3: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Stage show challenges are a favorite of Project Runway. It is understandable, considering the show is filmed in NYC in close proximity to Broadway. We've seen tie ins ranging from figure skating to the Rockettes to The Thunder Down Under. In fact, the Godspell challenge had a costume designed for the stage worn in the show. It is in this vei...

Wait...what? It seems that outside producers have figured out that one-day challenges suck. And, they don't want to commit to having to put a shitty outfit on stage sight unseen. They have good cause too, considering some of the lackluster designs that have come out. As a result, Project Runway All-Stars combined the stage show challenge with the avant-garde challenge, with the promise that the outfit would be in a window somewhere in the lobby.

The inspiration for this week is Wicked, the still-running musical about the Wicked Witch of the West. Wicked has been running for 11 years now, and is a Broadway juggernaut. I imagine that the ticket sales might be waning by now (especially with 2 different US tours also going around). There is no stopping Wicked, much like there's no stopping Project Runway.

The challenge this week pairs up the designers and pits them against each other. One side designs for Good, and the other designs for Wicked. The challenge runs two days, during which the All Stars must design a couture avant garde gown. The odd-on favorite of this is Chris March, who had designed one of Project Runway's all-time show stoppers with Christian Siriano (aka judge of Project Runway Threads). 

Obviously, the intent of this is to create drama and in-group animosity. Friends will become enemies, designers will fight with each other, ideas will be stolen, stress will be created. But, because Project Runway All Stars is running like the classic Project Runway, everybody is mainly bitter at having to compete one-on-one instead of at each other. The designers, and the editors, seem to be pointed against the producers for trying to generate drama instead of actually making good television.

On the other hand, we're actually getting a 2-day challenge for once. I imagine this is in no small part due to the late start they're probably getting. Unless Alyssa Milano woke up at like 3 am to get her makeup and hair done, fitted for her dress, and then harnessed on top of a moon, I imagine day one was a late start as day one was finished before the first commercial break. Which seems insane.

The two days allows for some of the most interesting failures. Helen, for instance, creates a big gorgeous ruffle fabric, which is immediately reminiscent of the afore-mentioned March and Siriano success. But, she doesn't know what to do with it, and just attaches it like a giant carpet or something. She had a great seedling of an idea, and was able to execute it...but didn't know what to do with that seedling. 

Fabio doesn't DO gowns, so elects to deconstruct the gown. Well, not so much as deconstruct, but construct the idea of a gown. Well, not so much as the idea of a gown, but a half-assed apron. He actually does two outfits, and puts the one that most people were criticizing, in a group think, on the runway. I'm not talking about confessional criticizing, but openly telling Fabio he's making a mistake. Still, he doesn't listen.

On the other hand, there are some interesting work arounds. Both Egg and Sonjia find fabrics where half of the work has already been done for them. Sonjia found a gorgeous edgy lace which doesn't look like the usual lace. It's a gorgeously constructed fabric with an intricate and unusual pattern cut into it. Egg finds a rhinestone fabric which glitters like the best of Broadway. It's a gorgeous fabric where you just have to put it into an interesting shape to make it look good.

Zanna comes around really early in the episode this week. In reality, she makes her appearance at 1:15pm on Day 2, which means that everybody has about half of a day to figure out how to make things better. This week, she's amazing. She has some great critiques. "Shower loofah." "Avoid every bone in your body." "Dullsville." "Get rid of anything that resembles crafty." Some people listen, and they're in the top. 

The best comment of the episode goes to Dimitry, who criticizes the afore-mentioned Fabio group think. According to Dimitry, the gang spends 30 minutes hemming and hawwing over Fabio's gown, and Dimitry is like "how the hell do you have the time for this?" Which, really? Although, Chris March, one of the guys in the group think, once took a nap in his original season.

The only detriment to these early episodes is that, in 60 minutes, the editors don't have any time to craft stories. Egg got some time this episode. Helen, so far, hasn't started any drama. The closest to a villain is Dimitry being periodically bitchy and self-absorbed. But, you know what? I'm not rooting against anybody this season. I'm rooting for Chris, because I absolutely loved his final collection and am still bitter I didn't get to see that in motion on tv. I really love Fabio's design. Justin is still a really sympathetic character who has great ideas that don't seem to get fully drawn out. Jay and Sonjia are edgy and fantastic. I mean, some people have tastes I don't like (*ahem* Portland *ahem*), but I'm not rooting against anybody this year. That's actually refreshing.

This week, Georgina Chapman has been replaced by Betsey Johnson (can we keep her?). And, the main guest is Ariel Winters, from Modern Family.
  • Helen - So, remember when I said that she had a great idea and didn't know what to do with it. Remember when Zanna warned her that her giant ruffle thing could look like a shower loofah? Well, Helen decided to use the ruffles as a side attachment. It looks like a bath mat got stuck to the dress. Which matches the great sofa upholstry fabric she uses for the rest of the dress. Betsey later says it looks like a place to rest your drinks. It's really ridiculous and does seem like it should be for hiding something. Like, if you put a shelf into the dress you could have a bar at an awards ceremony ("would you like an old fashioned? Here, let me just get the mixers..."). The rest of the dress is an easy dress with black thingies sticking out of her shoulder for...some reason. Epic. Fail.
  • Benjamin - Helen's counterpart. He makes an outfit that could be worn in an 80s sex comedy where somebody makes a deal with the devil in order to become a lothario. Especially if it were in red. It's also remarkably undetailed, with his fabric doing all the work for him. I can't find any way it's couture or avant-garde. He better thank his lucky stars that Helen pushed the envelope and failed.
  • Deathrage - Here's one of those interesting failures. The fabric at the top is this white sik with a dark overlay that has been hand molded to create visual lines of dark and light. It looks like a purchased zebra fabric, but it isn't. It's gorgeous, but it doesn't do much for the dress itself. The feathers (what is with all the feathers this episode?!) are just attached at the top, and the bottom is dullsville. 
  • Dmitry - Gorgeous. It looks like it could be high fashion or a Broadway costume. What looked crafty at the time of Zanna's meeding has been beaded and feathered over to give the cutouts added texture. The back is amazingly constructed. It looks like a haunted, wicked, look, and the handwork is immediately obvious.
  • Sonjia - Here's a dress that I really don't get. The top is amazing. Sonjia lets the elaborate lace do a lot of the heavy lifting, and her Roman feather shoulders make for a great finish at the shoulders and even at the bottom of the skirt. But, then there's the dress, which looks like she took her boyfriend's trench coat and tied it around her waist for some reason. I don't see it as interesting, but just a dress. It looks cheap, and it ruins the bottom half for me.
  • Kate - Overworked. It looks like a Hot Topic Halloween costume. The fabric choice is terrible, the skirt overlay is too much, the shoulders are awful, and the whole thing just feels tortured.
  • Portland - It's a basic dress with a hidden vulva on her back. I feel like this is from Invasion of the Body Snatchers or something in order to show that you don't have an alien on your back. And, the vagina shape, complete with shin flaps, is just out O'Keefing Georgia. She got the avant-garde portion down, because...this is avant-garde to the max. But, the dress is boring and ill-constructed from the front and hilarious from the back.
  • Chris - This feels like he went more for the Broadway side of things. This dress is a total Monet. From afar, it has a stagey presence that would play to the backseats. The styling cements it as an 80s goth band dancer. But, up close, the dress looks cheap and store bought. I love the effect he created, but the finishing was awful. Except for the petticoat, which is fabulous.
  • Fabio - It's a sci-fi futuristic apron on a fabulous pair of pants. It doesn't create the idea of a gown. It is avant-garde, but I also don't see couture in it. It just is kind of out there and risky. Which, I can kind of get a way. Just not for this challenge.
  • Justin - Neither avant garde nor couture. It's a boring but pretty dress with some sparkles on it.
  • Jay - What? The reason I love this dress is because it made me go what? I hate this dress otherwise. His model is styled to look like a guy. The dress looks like it could be in the video for Army of Lovers' Crucified, and the's risky. Which is good. But, it's terrible. Much like Helen's dress.
  • Egg - The fabric does so much of the work for her. It's a pretty dress with sparkly fabric. The shape is kind of interesting in the jacket, but it looks like it's just meh.
The great dresses were generally up against really good dresses, and the bad dresses were up against other bad dresses. When Alyssa named the first three - Portland, Justin, Egg - I genuinely thought we were getting the losers of the group. Justin's is boring. Egg's is boring. Portland's is boring. But, then Sonjia was called, and I was like, "Wait, they thought Sonjia's was terrible? Maybe they didn't like the skirt too." Then, Benjamin and Dmitry. With Dmitry's being the only genuinely perfect outfit in the winners. Sonjia, Egg, and Dmitry are in the top. Chris, Fabio, and Helen are in the bottom. 

Chris designed right into Betsey Johnson's wheelhouse, but she seems excited by how awful it is. In fact, she seems to be having fun with all of the designers. She calls Chris' "Wonderfully wickedly wrong." She tells Helen that she liked the dress because she thought it was a place to rest your drink, or your arm, and laughs. She also tells Egg that her outfit is boring, which it is. 

That being said, the big toss up is between Helen and Chris. Helen's is a trainwreck from conception, but shows a lot of work. Chris is far more simplistic, and should have been able to at least shape the fishbone to the curves of a body. Chris went home because this was the second week in a row where his outfit was lazy and awful. While, Helen stays in.

Sonjia wins, but I still really don't get the dress wrap around.

Random Observations
  • What is with Benjamin being fascinated by the smoke machines??\
  • I miss the extended Handlebar Moustache Guy sequences.
  • Why don't the designers do any of the hair like in the International Conference video? This is the avant-garde challenge. Go Loud and Proud!
  • Apparently somebody just strapped a bolt of fabric to Alyssa Milano and called it good...
  • Betsey Johnson has the best giant lipstick. She doesn't give a fuck.
  • Why is Helen wearing a nurse's outfit on the stage?

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