Sunday, January 31, 2016

Project Runway Junior: S1 E9 "Finale Part 1"

I've felt bad for the amount of time I've spent comparing PR JR to its predecessor. I've done my best to at least get away from speculation about the show's quality based on its similarities and differences from the original, but when the show is working so hard to be similar to, but also intelligently different from, Project Runway, it's hard not to spend time in comparison mode. Enter the ninth episode of  this freshman season, the first part of the standard two-part finale. It's the episode in which contestants head home to make collections and get visited by Tim Gunn for family fun and soppy stories.

The first difference of the episode comes in the fact that Tim won't be making visits to the contestants' homes while they work. There simply isn't time he says, and if the episode really is taking place in the month before NYFW, then we can imagine he kinds of things Tim is busy with. It opens questions about the timeframe of taping for this show versus when they might have been taping the last season of Project Runway. Clearly the kids are going to the same NYFW as the grownups, so it's very possible the two seasons were taped concurrently. If so, you have to respect Tim Gunn's dedication and stamina at being able to do both, and as it was clear that he was a bit better at mentoring the kids as he was the adults, it suggests he might have been plum tuckered out from the one by the time he got to the other.

But I digress, I was talking about the lack of home visits. Or more over, I was talking about the primary differences between this and the other show at this same moment. No home visits, and the kids are making six look collections instead of ten look collections. So they've scaled it back to make it easier, but also in so doing made it a bit harder. It's more difficult to make a cohesive collection in six looks that doesn't cross the line into being redundant. But that's the name of the game.

Because the there are no home visits, the kids will be returning to New York in three weeks to have their usual critiques. Since they only have four weeks to finish the collections, it would make more sense to give them three weeks at home, bring them back for the critique, and then just let them finish up in the workroom. Instead, it seems the plan is to send them home, fly them back in three weeks, and then send them home again for one more week to finish up. I'm not sure I see the point in all that, but so be it.

The kids make little vlogs while they're at home, and then in no time at all they're back. The visit back to Tim is an excuse to have a sit down with all of their parents and family's, so the show still gets to have it's family fun and soppy moments, but this time on Tim's turf instead of at their homes. There's nothing special about these visits. Tim plays ping pong with Peytie's crew, gets a lot of "we're so proud," and a number of stories about these kids playing with clothes since before they could walk. It's touching but not totally illuminating.

When everyone gets back in town, we learn just how much more work they all have to do on their collections before showing at NYFW. Samantha is the one that happens to be the farthest behind. She admits to still having pieces to work on for each of her six looks. Since everything she's doing is in separates, what you find is is that she's got coats and vests and the like all done, but no pants, shorts, or skirts to go with them. I found myself wishing I could be surprised by this, but I wasn't. Make a great coat, but skimp on everything else has been Samantha's MO since the first challenge. But I'm sure we'll get back around to that.

Fact of the matter is, there's a preview show on the runway featuring two looks from  each collection. Another difference between this show and the other one is that there isn't a last minute twist when the designers get back to New York needing them to make a new look. So everyone just has to choose two looks that exemplify their collections and will hopefully impress the judges--easy peasy. Or at least it is for the designers who actually have enough pieces finished to be able to choose two. Samantha is of course shit outta luck because this means she has to make two pairs of shorts before the runway. And wouldn't you know it, they're both crappy, slapdash, pieces of work that she has no interest in using beyond this particular runway.

The Runway:

Peytie 1: I just don’t feel like the top and bottom go together. There’s something seriously discordant about them when they’re paired together. I think they’re both nice looks individually, but together it all looks too busy. 

Peytie 2: No! Everything about this is bad. And I think she’s right that it looked better on the hanger than it does on the model, but I also think the same construction issues she had with it during the Tim visit are all still there. She said she chose her two weakest looks for this preview, and I think there’s something to be said for trying to get feedback on the weakest elements so you can make them stronger while allowing the stronger elements to speak for themselves. But if I were a judge, based on these two looks, I’d have no confidence in the rest of the collection. 

Maya 1: I think I’ll end up liking this more then most people will. I like the strange embroidery things on the bottom of that flowy textile in the skirt. And I like the movement of it all. And I think there’s a strength and a femininity to the black and white color pallet. I like this. 

Maya 2: I think the floral pattern is something that really stands out in a good way here. Her collection is in black and white until you get to these prints and there’s this pop of yellow. This is another look that moves and flows well, and she’s combined hard and soft in a way that really gets are her warrior woman theme. I love it. 

Samantha 1: I honestly don’t have an opinion about this, and that’s odd. I feel like it is what it is, it is what I’d expect from her, and I can’t really form a strong reaction for or against it. I’ve watched it walk down the runway three times and still can’t think of anything to say. Shrug, and move on. 

Samantha 2: Is the hem of the jacket meant to be asymmetrical? If not, it’s all I can really see and it’s seriously distracting. This is also right up Samantha’s alley: make a nice big coat and just skate by on the clothes underneath it. The top and pants don’t matter so long as the coat’s there. I feel like she’d do well designing coats for flashers. You’d seem them walking down the street in these beautiful big coats and be impressed, but then they’d open them up and flash their junk at you, and you’d feel a little disappointed. 

Zachary 1: I have to say, the pop of pink (maybe lavender?) that shines through in the lining of this dress honestly took my breath away. I was ready to be board by this, but then that little pop of color reinvigorated the look. I also like the pants. Unlike Samantha, I feel like Zachary thinks about each element of his design. Very smart. 

Zachary 2: The flowers on the bottom of this need to go all around or not be there at all. Just that little patch of them is weird and ugly and feels like an after thought. Something about them reminded my of Hitler’s mustache. The rest is OK at least, but the flowers bring the entire look down a few notches. 

The judges advice is pretty interesting. For his part, Christian seems to think everyone should go bigger and farther and more extreme. They all seem to butt heads a bit when it comes to Zachary's collection which some of them want to skew younger while the others recognize that just because he's a young person doesn't mean he has to design for young people. I felt like it was the kind of thing that put him in a strange position because I honestly don't see how Zach could keep his personal aesthetic while going the youthful route. He still has work to do, but we'll see how it turns out. 

Based on everything, it looks like Peytie and Maya are the forerunners to win it all at this point. The judges don't care much for Peytie's orange dress, no matter how much they love the colors, but they seem to like the first piece more than I did. So if she cleans up some of her construction, she should be good to go. Meanwhile, the reviews for Maya's work here is nothing short of glowing. They make mention of wanting to see more day looks and a general transition within her collection that tells a kind of morning to day to evening story for her girl. It's an interesting notion, and one I can totally get behind, but we'll see where it goes. 

They've got tougher words for Samantha, but the truth is they weren't nearly as tough as I would have been or as I wanted them to be. I haven't been shy about the fact that I don't think Samantha is quiet ready to be here. I think she has a unique point of view and a voice that deserves to be heard, and some part of me was curious and even excited about what she might do with a collection, but I've got to back track on that excitement in the face of what we've seen. A lot of what we've seen from Peytie in particular, and the others to an extent, has been in service to showing how much they've grown and changed over the course of the competition. Samantha hasn't. Some part of that is because her aesthetic is her aesthetic, and there's something to be commended in that. But to have reached the finale and still find yourself incapable of having even two outfits completed to show on the runway is deplorable. She had four weeks and couldn't manage to get more than half of the pieces for each of her six outfits done? And then she arrives back to the workroom thinking what? That she'd just get to coast on through to NYFW without an new challenges or hurdles being thrown her way while she worked on getting her pants and shorts done to perfection? At this point, is there really any reason to think the finished products she sends down fashion's biggest stage with be at all more polished and finished than the pieces we saw in this episode? She's got all the confidence in the world, and keeps saying she'll be ready by Friday, but we don't know what day of the week it is now. Does she have three days, or five to knock this out? 

Regardless of the answer, my main concern was in how no one felt the need to take her to task for her consistently lax attitude. Or for the fact that she's pretty much created the same look over and over again. Aya gets the closest when she points out that tom boy is not simply about cargo pockets and Bermuda shorts. But it all kind of stops there. They say that they want to see more color and an evening look for her, but they don't push too hard for it, and having seen the sketches, I'm guessing they won't be getting one. Kelly says that she doesn't want the small details to be what ruins this for her, so her finishing has to be impeccable, but it all tends to sound a bit like "We like what you do, do more of it and don't over tax yourself," and it bugs me. 

Either way, everyone leaves with a lot of work to do and very little time to do it. NYFW is neigh, and the only person with small notes is Maya. If things continue in this way, she should win and become the youngest person in PR history to get a win. Though that title would have gone to any one of these kids who got the W, it seems to mean more that Maya's the youngest contestant on the show as well. She's also my favorite at this point, so here's hoping. 

Loos Threads:

--There's something about eyeglasses needing to be used on one look that I didn't much pay attention to. It felt like the show went through the entire season before it realized it didn't have nearly as much product placement as it should have. They decided to cram it all into these last couple episodes. I'm guessing next week will be nothing more than a cycle of logos running in the bottom corner of the screen. 

--I've been impressed with the talent of these kids all season, but I certainly felt like something weird happened when the went home and were asked to keep the ball running. There are some nice pieces in these collections, but given four weeks, they all seemed to come back with things that needed a lot of finishing. And nothing I saw really struck me as strongly as some of what they put out through the competition. 

--Speaking of talented kids though, how great were Peytie's sister's paintings on her dresses?

--There's a lot of panic about having to show two looks to the judges, and it all made me roll my eyes and ask them "Haven't you watched the show before? You should have gotten back and been mentally prepared to have to make a new garment from scratch. Just showing two looks is child's play!"

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