Friday, August 28, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E4: "Fashion Flip"

I think we've all been around long enough to know that some of the worst seasons on PR have been doomed by uneven judging. Someone wins you don't expect or think deserves it, someone goes home that's just really odd, the judges like something they shouldn't or didn't like last week and probably won't like next week, it can all be a bit jarring. And while I don't think that the worst seasons of the show were as bad as they were solely because the judging was sporadic, I do know that that certainly doesn't help any. So my gut reaction here is to ask if we're dealing with that again this year, but before we can rightfully engage with that question, I think we have to take on the episode as a whole.

Remember when I praised last week's episode for its streamlined opening and doing away with the pointless opening segments of the show? No contestants waking up and recapping what happened in the last challenge, no Heidi sending them off with stupid cryptic messages to go meet Tim so he could make the challenge clear. Well guess what's back this week! Honestly, I don't mind the contestants waking up and chatting a bit because I enjoyed hearing what everyone thought after the team challenge. It seems, to quote Merline, that things have just got real in the PR house. Prior to being on teams, everyone for the most part liked each other, but now the gloves are off and everyone's remembering that this is a competition and friend's aren't in the offing. So that's nice. Less nice is Heidi's stupid message before sending them all off. Honestly, I understand you want to get the most out of Heidi as your host, but what real purpose does this moment serve other than to eat up time?

The designers go out to meet Tim on the waterfront, and are told that this is the Mary Kay challenge. Usually, unless I'm mistaken, that means that the designers are to get inspired by some new Mary Kay color scheme and go from there. But this time around it just means that they'll get an earlier makeup consultation and they have to be inspired by the New York skyline. It's a foggy and smoggy New York morning, so they basically have to imagine the skyline and then get inspired by it. And they have to take a classic design form and make it modern. It's all wide open to interpretation which I think is a good thing for this early in the competition as it gives the designers more time to shine while also allowing for bigger failures. Also, the winner of this challenge gets $5000 and their look in an editorial in Marie Clare. So it's a pretty big deal this early in the competition.

Once everyone's done sketching, it's off to the first trip to Mood, and I didn't realize just how much I missed Mood until this moment. I like the idea of Mood being the reward for designers sticking around long enough to earn it. Like the first three people to go home weren't even worthy to walk through the front doors. There's an extended cut of people running around, buying fabric for the first time, and talking about their thought process on which fabrics to buy. There's a lot of talking but very little substance, and not nearly enough Swatch for me, but oh well.

Back in the workroom we discover that Blake doesn't know how to tell time, or that he thinks it's cute and funny to pretend like he doesn't know how to tell time. What I find interesting about Blake's edit so far this season is that when they cut to the other designers for reaction shots to his antics, none of them look amused. They don't have very positive things to say and it's clear that they don't think his idiocy is appealing. So why does he keep it up? Are these the first people to find him annoying instead of endearing? If so, that would explain a lot, and it left me thinking that my main problem with Blake is that he clearly wasn't beaten up enough as a child. I don't like bullying, and I think it's a horrible problem facing kids, and especially gay kids, but someone should have shoved this little asshole in a locker a couple more times and maybe he would have learned his lesson.

Anyway, on to Tim's visit which happens to be the first visit of the season where I think he actually remembered that he's supposed to be helpful and mentor these guys instead of just giving funny soundbites to use later. He responds favorably to a lot of the looks, and offers some solid advice to Amanda and Gabrielle who both really need a pick-me-up. Gabrielle, at some point, decided that she was going to just stop working on her dress and wait around for Tim to show up, which I think is a horrible idea and had a lot to do with the unfinished quality of her final look, but more on that in a minute. Blake also doesn't have anything done and is trying to convince Tim that his bold vision is something that will totally work once he starts working on it. Here's a tip, Blake, if you at least have something, literally anything done by the time Tim gets there, he'll be better able to see where you're heading and what your vision is, and he can advise you accordingly. Presenting him with just the ideas in your head isn't going to get you anywhere.

Also of interest is the fact that Edmond has two dresses in the process of being made. This reminds me of last week when he just whipped up a new swimsuit out of nowhere and in seemingly no time at all. If he's constantly the guy that's working on two things at once before deciding which to concentrate on and send down the runway, that'll come back and bite him in his ass. I can't even begin to imagine how that approach will work when they get to the Couture challenge.

There was a Mary Kay consultation that I missed because it seemed like the perfect time for a bathroom break, and a model fitting where we learned that Laurie got a new and slightly opinionated model, but we don't find out why she needed the model change in the first place. And Blake still hasn't actually sewn anything together. He pins muslin on the model to get an idea of how the dress will sit. He might have learned how to tell time earlier but he certainly didn't learn how to manage it.

Of course he's left scrambling the next morning before the runway. Gabrielle joins him in the race to the finish since she put all her energy and effort into her jacket and seemingly forgot that the dress underneath it was just as important. So it's off to the runway where we're joined by guest judge Kiernan Shipka from Mad Men. She's young and cute and very polite with nice things to say about all the designers and no real bark or bite. I found her boring, but I love Sally Draper, so hey.

The Runway:

Blake: I hate it. The sides around the legs remind me of what I hated about his look last week, the pinned up back is weird and not intriguing and it reminds me of a girl who got her hair trapped in an unopened parachute or something. Nothing about the look is wearable at all, and the construction is horribly sloppy and haphazard. He needs to learn that if he wants to do all that work, he needs more time. 

Kelly: I actually really like this. I think it embodies the challenge well. It’s a nice new take on a standard white t-shirt and I can see the New York skyline influence. I think it was a very smart choice to pair it with those cute and simple black pants too. And I like her model’s styling, good job all around. 

Joseph: The split and the open back makes it look younger than his usual fare, but that's about all the good I can say about it. The top stitching would show better on a different fabric or a different colored fabric. Without being able to see that detail it looks a bit like a breastplate. The seams around the neckline and the arms were showing and looked messy and unfinished, and the whole thing looks a bit boring and simple. 

Linsey: I hate it. I can’t be certain why I hate it other than the fact that I hate the color of the jacket and the textile on the outfit underneath, and I think the proportions are all wrong, and it’s a bit simple, so OK I actually do know why I hate it, and I still hate it. 

Ashley: What if instead of the open back there was a keyhole cut out in the front? Would that be cute, or make it a bit trashy? I can’t be sure, but I do think it’d make me like the dress a little more. I don’t hate it as is, but I do think the colors are oddly muted and uninteresting. The tule overlay on it all is an interesting touch, but I don’t think it gives the dress any element of actual wearability. And I can’t decide who I think would honestly wear it. I don’t think I’d put her in the bottom just yet, but it’s not my favorite.

Laurie: I want the black leather-looking fabric on the top gone, and that bow aspect just toned down a little bit and then I’d love it. I like the skirt a lot, and I like the idea of the top a lot more than I like the execution of it. But I think the black fabric is a distraction and not an enhancement and it makes the top look a bit too busy.

Jake: I hate it, but oddly enough what I hate about most is that the number on it is in black and doesn’t pop out enough from the rest of the dress. I get what he was going for, and I’ll actually give him credit for the attempt, but had he done the number in white or in a different color that stood out but still complimented the pink of the dress, I’d like it a lot more. I don’t mind the length as much as I thought I would. 

Amanda: Ok I guess. I neither like it nor hate it, it’s just kind of there. I wish the white half of the top had been done differently somehow, but I can’t tell how. 

Swapnil: Oh Swapnil, I love you, but I so wish the front had looked a bit more purposeful. There’s something about it that I think looks thrown together and haphazard in a way that I don’t find appealing. I like the back, and I like the overall effect of her turning around and seeing that back in such a manner, but I really am not a fan of the front. 

Merline: There’s a lot going on in this design and while I think she maybe could have done one less thing to it, I like it a lot. It feels to me like the kind of high fashion look Blake wanted to create but didn’t have the time to pull together. Comparatively, this look is finished and polished and eye catching in a way that I appreciate. I like it a lot the more I think about it. 

Gabrielle: There’s a weird fit issue with the dress, right? Or is it just me? Again, I don’t hate it or anything, but I don’t like it much either. I don’t know. I’d probably at least say safe, but we’ll see. 

Candice: Yes please and thank you. I don’t like to throw the word fierce around too much, but I can’t think of any other word to describe this look. The fit on this dress is just fucking to die for. Her woman looks strong, sexy, and in control in a way that's just ridiculous. I wish I could have seen it with the jacket on for a little while longer, but the effect of taking that off and just having the dress there was amazing. Loved it!

Edmond: I want it to be like maybe an inch or so longer (that’s what she said) and then I’d love it. The rest of it I like a lot, and I like the architectural aspect of it. I think it’s a really nice look that’s just a little bit too short. 

Now for the judging; Candice, Swapnil, and Blake are in the top. Yes, Blake is in the top. And Amanda, Gabrielle, and Lindsey are in the bottom. I'm a lot less confused by who's in the bottom than I am by who's in the top. Or specifically by Blake's being in the top. If you wanted to make him safe and send him off with a "Blake, we actually really liked your look and you just missed the top three by a hair," I'd think you were crazy but I'd go with it. Putting him in the top seems ridiculous to me. But then the judges started critiquing and I actually understood their thinking even while not really agreeing with it. 

When they said they wanted a new twist on a classic look, they never said it had to be practical or wearable, just that it had to be new. Heidi praises Blake for producing a silhouette they've never seen on the show before, and Nina and Zac praise him for being original and thinking outside of the box while not fully losing the look of his inspiration. No one really mentions the poor construction, but oh well I guess. 

They have nice things to say about Swapnil's dress, but are clearly blown away by Candice's look. They even have an extended moment with her as she talks about how hard it is to be away from her kids, but how happy she is to know her family supports her and has her back. There's no mention of the fact that she has immunity and still turns out a look that fabulous, but I can't help but to think it's implied. The writing for her win is on the wall and the rest just seems like a formality. 

Amanda spent a lot of time in this episode lamenting the fact that she's been in the bottom three for the last two challenges and she doesn't know what the judges want to see from her. So she tried to go out of her way to give them what she thought they wanted and went with something a bit more simple and paired down and then of course was smashed on the runway for how simple and paired down her look was. She admits that she wanted less crazy since she's been criticized for going crazy in the past, but the judges all pretty much tell her more crazy, go full on crazy, dye your fabric in human feces type crazy. I get the impression she'll try and take that advice next week and get sent home. We've seen her type on the show before, and the fact of the matter is that designers who try so hard to give the judges what they want instead of just trusting in their own abilities and unique vision don't do well on this show. Is Amanda capable of creating something like what Candice or Kelly created in this challenge? The truth is that I doubt it because she doesn't seem to have that kind of strong unique vision, but so long as she's fishing for a compliment from the judges and trying to conform to some kind of secret formula for winning the challenges, we'll never know for sure. 

Gabrielle's outfit is just a total mess. From the moment she mentioned adding a pop of pink to the dress and Zac pointed out that they couldn't see any pink at all until she took off the jacket, you knew she was doomed. If it doesn't show up on the runway, keep that kind of shit to yourself, baby girl. I hate to give him credit for anything, but notice how Blake didn't say a damn word about what he did to the neckline of his dress until Zac caught a sneak peak of it and asked him what the necklace was hiding? That's what Gabrielle should have done about that little bit of pink on that dress. 

Either way, Gabrielle goes home and Blake wins the challenge. Yes, that's right, Blake wins. For a second, let's ignore the fact that I hate him and often fantasize about punching him in the mouth in an attempt to shut him up. Let's ignore the fact that I hate the dress he sent down the runway no matter what the judges might have thought about it. Let's focus on one thing and one thing only: The winning look is going to be photographed and laid out in a spread in Marie Clare magazine. If you can convince me that Blake's look will photograph better and be more interesting on the page than either Candice or Swapnil's looks, then I won't complain about this decision anymore. But the truth of the matter is that you can't convince me of that because it isn't fucking true. Maybe with a little more time to actually finish the dress so it isn't being held together with pins and tape, and maybe with a better styled model and something different going on with the razor back, maybe it'll be ready to photograph. But if it needs that much work to be worthy of the magazine, then did it really deserve to win? You can take Candice's look and her model right from the runway to the fashion shoot and that look is ready to go. The same cannot be said for this winning look and I'm honestly a bit floored by that. I don't think this is the worst and most inconsistent judging we've seen from the show, but this is certainly the first time that I can't wrap my head around the winning look at all, and that worries me at least a little bit. 

Loose Threads:

--Interestingly enough the designers all really like Gabrielle and are seriously sad to see her go. It's not that I'm surprised by this as she seems likable enough, but I didn't think we'd gotten much chance to really get to know her one way or the other, so it was interesting to see. Tim's also sad and seemingly a bit surprised to see her go, but not surprised enough to save her. So there's that. 

--Swapnil solidified himself as my favorite with his confusion over the setting of Breakfast at Tiffany's and his silly excitement over finally getting to go to Mood. He's just too adorable for words. 

--Speaking of Swapnil, this is also the third challenge in a row that he's been in the top three. I don't think he really deserved the win this week like he has in the past, but he's putting together a consistently strong showing. I'd honestly say he's looking better right now than Ashley is even with her two wins under her belt. 

--Luckily for Candice, winning last week didn't land her in the bottom or being complained about save for her immunity this week. Ashley may not have been in the top, but there was at least no indication that her being safe was only due to her immunity, so that's a step in the right direction. 

--Has anyone else noticed that Zac seems nicer and gentler with the gay guys than he does with the ladies? I first noticed this back in the first episode when he seemed to go a bit out of his way to say something nice about Duncan and Blake's looks even though they were in the bottom though he didn't extend that same kindness to Han. And now this week there seemed to be even more gentleness towards Blake as he talked about the neckline of the dress and didn't bash him for how unfinished it all was. Unfair double standard, man!

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