Saturday, November 22, 2014

Project Runway All-Stars S4 E4: Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeve

This important scene is missing from the episode.
I've been praising the first three episodes for feeling like classic Project Runway. The judges have been on point, Alyssa Milano has been warm and witty, Zanna Roberts Rassi has been intelligent and quick. The episode before a break is usually some sort of amazing episode that expands the universe or is somehow enough to power the audience over the week.

Project Runway All-Stars believes this too. This is the final episode for a week, because next week is Thanksgiving. As a result, the producers decide to pull out all the stops. The designers are taken to the Hearst building to meet up with Nina Garcia (classic!). They are shown a bunch of jewelry from a famous nationwide jewel manufacturer (pretty!). They are given a challenge that involves their personal life (drama!). There is a guest judge from last season's winner (history!). Yet, all this obvious manipulation adds up to the worst episode of the season. 

Right out of the gate, something is off. The opening scenes pull a Project Runway and combine way too many elements at once. We're in the Hearst building to meet Nina Garcia. OK, so it's the Nina challenge. But, she's standing next to a bunch of jewelry. So, it's also the Jewelry challenge? No, the jewelry man is there just to show off the jewelry and announce that they are giving a decent amount of money to the winner ($10k). 

But, this is neither the typical Nina challenge nor the jewelry challenge. Instead, it is the personal challenge. In a naked bid to get the designers to do something other than be pleasant to each other, this week's challenge is to make an outfit based on the designers' past, present, and future romantic relationships. Thus, everybody is sent into a whirlwind of emotion. High, if you're engaged. Low if you're married recently single. 

On top of that, it's also a mandated party dress challenge, which apparently is code for no all black or all white dresses. Obviously they were eyeing the already eliminated Alexandria, and Kate "bridal dress" Pankoke when they made this limitation. Ultimately, though, its just yet another twist in an episode fraught with twists.

The requirement of basing the design on your romantic life was engineered for maximum emotions. You can practically hear the producers off screen saying, "No, tell us your whole story, and this time with feeling. They may or may not be holding a gun to the designers' heads. If they do, that threat is only slightly off screen.

In fact, when Zanna comes around, she, not so nakedly, implores the designers to pour their hearts out on screen. With Helen, she starts out, "Someone's in love." "Well...was." "TELL ME." By the time she gets to Portland, all politeness is done. "TELL ME YOUR STORY," she commands. And, when we get to Fabio, we have discussions on open relationships, whose details she announces to all the nobody that is listening to her.

The best part of this episode was the Kubrickian/military camerawork that happens when she gives her final speech. As she finishes up her speech, she is standing in the center of the screen between two tables. Deathrage is to her right (our left), and to the right of the screen is a shoe and a bunch of fabric. Red is in the foreground, and blue is in the background, with the carpet and walls, starting immediately behind her. This creates both a Workers vs Leader story, and a Passion vs Judge story. Simultaneously, the iconography of the framing is stolen from so many motivational speeches in films, especially sports and military ones. 

When the camera finally flips, the camera is behind Zanna's head, where there was no camera before. 9 of the 11 remaining designers - not shown: Jay and Sonjia - are all carefully placed, so none of their faces are hidden from view. Deathrage has been repositioned farther right, so that the mannequin is on display, while Fabio is now moved to create a straight line with Dimitry and Benjamin. They're posing, and almost everybody is looking at Zanna...except Justin and Portland who are blankly looking off screen. Even without their participation, this is a really solid example of Triumph of the Will cinematography that places Zanna as the central power focus.

The final sequence is a bunch of closeups of the designers facing forward, mostly staring at Zanna, and nodding silently. If this isn't inspired by Triumph of the Will, I don't know what is. This is one of my favorite all time sequences in Project Runway's history, and should be hailed as a masterpiece of editing and filmmaking. However, it also noted the artifice of the sequence, and one wonders how long the designers had to participate in this bullshit. This sequence was only 22 seconds long, but in those 22 seconds, it brought down the final wall of Project Runway and announced it as a constructed game show instead of a reality show.

Anyways, only one interesting thing happens between Zanna and the runway, and that's Sonjia somehow magically finding a cobalt blue fabric. Now, I say magically, but Sonjia said "Yesterday, I saw this beautiful cobalt blue fabric..." This blue fabric almost comes out of nowhere, or may have been gifted by a designer that didn't use it. The fabric pops up periodically throughout the episode. The first time is at Mood, where it is crumpled on the cut table. Somebody chose it, and I suspect that Egg was the one who saw it. Later, the fabric is seen on Egg's work table. It's in their row along the windows, and on a table with black shoes on it. Later, during her Zanna critique, the blue fabric is at the bottom of the screen on the table while they're fawning over her ugly green dress. It shares a space with some Orange fabric and more green fabric. As the models leave, the big ball of blue fabric is still in front of Egg in the background. 

But, in the next cut, Sonjia is already cutting the cobalt blue fabric, and the cobalt blue fabric is no longer in Egg's pile.  This is most noticeable in the "next day" workroom pan, where the fabric is no longer on Egg's table, either having been covered up, or having been given to Sonjia. 

In a season where everybody is so focused on helping each other, this is not surprising, nor even offensive. Except, Sonjia made that statement "Yesterday I saw this fabric." Why they didn't spend time on the negotiation, or how Sonjia got her hands on it is beyond me. But, the way they tell the story, the blue fabric came magically out of her ass. But, it's there.

So, I spent wayyyyyy too much time poring over this element, and it's time for runway (in which we'll get into the relationships).


Georgina Chapman is still absent, this time being replaced by her prime counterpart, Nina Garcia. We're also treated to a guest judge from Project Runway All Stars, Seth-Aaron Henderson. And, some fashion blogger.
  • Dimitry - So, I had a coworker who was obsessed with Italian style fashion. He was heterosexual, but he loved Ferraris, and eurotrash aesthetics. He also loved techno music. He would have loved this dress,w which is a great raver dress. But, it says nothing to me. It's very editorial, and thus very Nina. But, both the shape and the skirt are off-the-rack dullsville. Plus, the stiff bounce at the bottom looks cheap. Dimitry is single, not looking for love, not in love, nor wants to be. And, this dress shows it. It has no emotion in it, just cold hard flash.
  • Sonjia - This dress is so Sonjia. She took this gorgeous cutout lace fabric and crafted it into a one-piece hanging shirt. But, she cuts it very raw and jagged to match the overwrought, almost Gothic, patterning. Then she puts the afore-mentioned cobalt blue underneath it in a tight two piece which clashes so beautifully with the shirt that the shirt's shapelessness is ths given shape. It looks so easy and comfortable and free, yet it tells a story of intricacy and complication, and the layering of the blue gives a strong present to the intricate past. It's a gorgeous piece.
  • Benjamin - This dress is so fucking boring. It's a pretty dress in an ugly color with a crappy Handkerchief hemline...but a gorgeous back. What is with the season and having beautiful backs but ugly fronts? Anyways, Benjamin is single, and his breakup was bad, but that's all in the past now. Though, he hasn't put much interest into the present or future of his love life. Similarly, the shape and the front of the dress are boring, but the back is very precious and beautiful. 
  • Jay - I don't know if I love or hate this dress. Or, both. Jay uses a raspberry striped pattern to create chevrons and stripes in every imaginable angle, including horizontal and vertical. He outlines his pieces with a pink frosting ribbon. Nothing is symmetrical or centered. The outlines are also in such a way that the breast panel looks like it is popping out. Yet, it's really gorgeous and strange. It's complicated and chaotic, like his love life.
  • Fabio - He's in an open relationship. He sees life and love with a techno tribal fantasia. And, he found a fabric to make an OK dress out of it. But, then he layers it with light pink fabric vest panels that shouldn't go together, yet it does. And, in the back the panels are part of the dress. From the front it's two disparate pieces, but the back shows them all coming together as one. 
  • Kate - Married to her first love. Ready to settle down. So, she creates a Golden Girls outfit for Blanche. My grandmother would have loved this outfit, because she loved bing. But, the color is so old-fashioned and the slicked back blond hair and over done makeup makes the woman look like Jamie Lee Curtis from True Lies raided her grandma's closet. The slouchy back makes it look like it was made for a woman who was heftier than the model, and I don't even know what was going on with the single piece of fabric that was dangling. No.
  • Justin - He found the love of his life who learned ASL for him. So, he made a dress inspired by Alyssa's ladybug maternity dress from the beginning of the episode. It feels like a younger counterpart. He paints I Love You in sign forms, but he's safe so he doesn't get to explain that. Because, otherwise, it is just a very pretty party dress.
  • Portland - It's a very strange dress. She was married while on the show previously. Has gotten divorced. And is engaged now. Meanwhile, this dress is a raspberry lace in a usual silhouette. But, then she adds on poofs at the wrists and extra long sleeves, as well as copper strapping around the waist. Oh, right, she's a Steampunk girl. This is a steampunk inspired modern take on the old west. It's Portland.
  • Deathrage - He was just in a trainwreck breakup. And, his dress is a trainwreck. I could spend pages ripping it apart How nothing looks intentional, how the aymmetry does nothing for the silhouette or the body, how the slit up the dress is awful, how the weird way he did the waist is also asymmetrical and is counter to the bodice's asymmetry. But, knowing that he was in a trainwreck of a breakup and wanted to get that in dress form, then this dress is fucking perfect. It's an awful look, but it's solid for its intention.
  • Egg - It's a dress from the 1960s. 
  • Helen - She was put in the backburner. And, so, she made a dress that looks like it put the model in a bondage. The bust turned into a frown, and the arms looked strapped in at the side. It was emotionally sad and distraught. It was overworked.
The judging is so strange, but not incorrect. The judges go after Deathrage's chaos, but Deathrage doesn't sell his devastating relationship story to go with the dress. They correctly criticize everything, but the dress has an emotional story about a great relationship gone wrong. Nina criticizes Kate's dress comparing it to Dimitry's ultra-modern dress. Nina was so done with Kate. And, Kate's design really was boring.

The main story, however, is Nina gets her way no matter what. Much like we've been suspecting on the main Project Runway, Queen Nina is so forceful that her way is the primary way. Helen's tragic dress, which was a tragic masterpiece, was seconded to Sonjia's modern Gothic edginess. Which is sad, because Sonjia's was clearly the most innovative and the most radical.

In a season of Bravo-level Project Runway, the invasion of Lifetime Project Runway feels tragic. Suddenly, we have way too many elements, not enough time, producer manipulation, Queen Nina craziness, and terrible judging. Not to mention it had confusing product placement, and a weird story line that didn't make sense. Lame

Random Observations
  • Nina has the best sour but stern poker face. And, her flip of the hair is perfect.
  • Scott Davies, the jewelry dude, is amazingly stiff. Remember the gun being held off screen? I think this was also aimed at Mr. Davies. I expect these flat deliveries from the designers, but from the SVP of Marketing? Gorgeous.
  • Swatch is always sleeping. We need more active Swatch.
  • Interestingly, nobody gets free marketing at Project Runway. When Sonjia is joshing Kate about being married, she's drinking a Red Bull, whose logo has been covered by a post-it note.
  • Did I just compare Project Runway to a Nazi propagandist documentary? Yes, I did.
  • I know we haven't spent much time on sartorial choices, but what is with Deathrage's neckbeard? It's getting distracting again.
  • Alyssa looks like a disco ball in her runway outfit.
  • When Justin's model turns, you can see panties...
  • If you watched Project Runway: Threads, the winning kid also created the same neckline that Helen was so celebrated for.
  • "Whatever those relationship experiences were, at least you got a good dress out of it."

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?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Project Runway All Stars S4 E2: "The Art of Construction"

By the end of this episode, we will see some of the lowest moments of Project Runway. Lower than fawning over a Samsung refrigerator. This is right up there with Red Robin's remake an ugly suit challenge where we didn't even get to watch the designers run over and strip the models. And, yet, this season of All Stars is running almost like Bravo-era Project Runway.

This week is the much vaunted and feared Unconventional Challenge. We know its both vaunted and feared because Alyssa Milano tells us so, continuing Project Runway's running theme of celebrating themselves to the audience already watchingRO 2. Alyssa then runs through a bunch of previous unconventional challenges this year's All Stars had done, just in case you cared or forgot.

Construction is this week's theme, introduced by some B-roll of NYC construction workersRO 3. The construction site the designers are visiting is a warehouse stage used in Fashion week, with a bunch of construction site things sitting around, including a No Cell Phone sign and a couple of lumbersexual models wearing helmets and vests. Alyssa tells the designers they can strip the models, but then corrects herself that the can take the protective gear. So, no real taking of clothing. Dammit, Lifetime.

Today's goal is to make the "masculine" materials into the most "feminine" outfit possible. Thus bringing into question the gender construct reinforcement of Project Runway. Society has deemed that construction work is not feminine and that sexy, curve fitting, clothing is feminine. By reappropriating construction materials for a feminine outfit, one could easily argue that Lifetime and Project Runway are making a political statement about women just playing dressup in order to participate in masculine behaviors such as construction. Or, that women shouldn't play with boys things because femininity. Either way, we're getting the social binaries completely reinforced with this episode, and we didn't even see any naked mens.

The usual rush for materials that comes with the unconventional challenge comes with an opportunity for the producers to try to create drama, but what it really does is mark Alexandria as either winner or loser. Alexandria goes all aggressive, has her back story (Camp Couture) reaffirmed, and she says she's still bitter about her previous loss. Be wary of her bitterness and aggression going into her dress.

The actual drama comes from Chris March and Dimitry. Chris starts on making a rope halter top, when Dimitry works on a rope dress. Chris's halter is unflattering and unimaginative in its construction from the start, while Dimitry is creating swirls, cups, and accentuating the female form with his. Chris gets bitter and starts bitching about how Dimitry steals his look, but doesn't actually do anything about it.

As per the rules of the unconventional materials challenge, there is a fair amount of struggle in figuring out how to make the materials into fabric. There is a fair amount of trying to manipulate tarp as if they're using cotton (Jay, Alexandria), and also the usual hot gluing materials onto muslin. The most successful of the designers use the material to create an illusion of fabric, while the least successful are the ones who can't think outside of the fabric box.

Last week, I didn't get to note how much I love Zanna Roberts Rassi. Much like I think All Stars' judging is more honest and compelling than Original Flavor, but I am getting to love Rassi even more than Tim Gunn (though I still think that Joanna Coles, the Ice Princess, was a great mentor). Zanna comes in and rips apart outfits with single words. She tells Portland, "Doesn't that feel a bit...sporty?" By which she means, "off the rack." But, Portland hears "sporty" as "sporty" and ignores her. She also constantly drills the idea of "feminine" into the designers. Rassi hits a lot of the correct criticisms, but people don't listen. The big problem is that she doesn't finish her mentoring until 7:30 (see the clock over her shoulder), and they only work until 10. How can you change your direction if you don't get a second eye until most of the way into the day? I thought I remembered Coles being done with her mentoring by like 5:30, giving them half the day.

Soon enough it's runway. Here is the main problem with modern day Project Runway. The main guest judges are fucking Snooki and J-Woww, aka Jersey Shore. Their 15 minutes should have been up years ago, and their ratings are down, but Lifetime insists on foisting them upon us. In the meantime, the other guest judge (yes, there were three guest judges this week) was the always insightful Elie Tahari. Elie Tahari is given the back seat for the Jersey Shore judges. If this doesn't encapsulate the problems with Project Runway, I don't know what does.


  • Jay - Here is an example of tarp being used as fabric. The silhouette is great, and what he did with the fraying is fantastic. But, it looks like tarp and nails. It feels like a costume more than fashion. The other bad thing is that Jay's styling is awful. The models hair and makeup don't scream strong warrior. And, the shoes don't really go well. For such a look, Jay needs to step up his styling.
  • Fabio - GORGEOUS. I mean, sure this is made from twine, but he quilted his own fabric. Like Jay, however, his styling is awful. This is practically a raver outfit, and the model looks like she stepped out for a quick run to the grocery store. The outfit is so strong it just needs finishing touches. But, it is totally Fabio, and it looks like it would belong in his Final collection.
  • Kate - She uses her materials to create the illusion of fabric. She uses pieces of plastic to create the illusion of having a white fluffy dress and netting to create the illusion of lace. The challenge is all about illusion and Kate nails it. 
  • Alexandria - Tarp used as fabric. It looks like tarp. The fencing looks like fencing. The trash bag underneath the fence looks like a trash bag. Plus, it's practically a high class hooker outfit, especially with the over the top jewels. The hair didn't help reduce the 80s vibe.
  • Portland - I would love this if it weren't so ugly. It's a sporty off the rack dress that has hideous colors. I love the graphic element, but think the color choices are atrocious.
  • Helen - It's hot glued, but it looks like fabric. It doesn't look like the material, but it doesn't stop me from thinking that it's just hot glued pieces onto fabric. It does look like its from a 90s video game though.
  • Benjamin - Drop Cloth used to create the illusion of fabric. It's kind of elegant and classy. I'm not sure about the party fringe on top, which was the unusual material (because a drop cloth dress would be against the spirit of the challenge). 
  • Deathrage - Tarp used as fabric. Here it works, for some reason. I actually loved this look, but it feels like the wrong challenge. They wanted something feminine and fashonable, and he gave them something that would be for the pop diva challenge. When he says he could see Beyonce in it, he means on stage not on the runway or red carpet.
  • Egg - I love the top. It feels like the ridiculous runway fashions that get put out year after year. But, the skirt is a snoozefest. Construction vest used as fabric? Zzzzzzzzz.
  • Dmitry - This walks the line between high fashion and eurotrash. The top is kind of fashionable, but the number of ropes (or lack there of) makes it fall straight into the eurotrash. And, the slicked back hair with the red lips doesn't help it at all. Plus, the back is a total trainwreck.
  • Chris - But, Chris' is just lazy. Other than removing the zip ties, I don't think he did anything more with the top since he started bitching about Dmitry's design. And, the bottom is just lazy. This is a pure amateur hour shitshow. And, as much as I love Chris, he should have gone home for this shit.
  • Sonjia - A woman was attacked by tape. 
  • Justin - This is a total Monet. From afar it is glittery and pretty. Up close, it's kind of dull and ugly. I don't respond to it like everybody else, I think because the cameras are too close to it. It looks like a bunch of zip ties that doesn't fall into an illusion for me. I'm not sure I get it.
The judging here isn't as trainwrecky as one would expect with the judges, but the fact that Elie gets a backseat in the editing really frustrates me. He generally has some great advice, but is edited down to primarily trying to say good things about the lowest rated designers. In the end, Alexandria goes home, in no small part due to her lack of creativity (using tarp as fabric and creating a boring dress with it...yawn. 

In the end, Alexandria goes home, and Justin wins (for the first time!).

Random Observations
  • Egg Samantha gets to speak at the beginning of the episode, and has a featured past outfit! She is barely heard from again.
  • What is the point of Project Runway celebrating themselves so damned much? I think we've noticed it, but it has never been a point of discussion. Neither Rupaul's Drag Race, nor The Amazing Race engage in such blatant acts of self-fellation. It's a very uncool thing to do. If you're the best, act like it. Don't go around vaunting your accolades to the audience who is already watching, go out and advertise yourself. Do you hear the cool kids saying, "I'm cool" or "I'm tough" or whatever? No. They just are. Stop it, Project Runway. You should be better than this.
  • With all the talk about street harassment, I had to wonder if Project Runway bothered getting the workers to sign releases for this, or if they stole the imagery for the show, filming in creepy cam.
  • Jay is really pushing for being a Reality Show Personality. I didn't remember him from his season, but he is shouting WOO and squealing with the same pitch as the air horn siren. 
  • Isaac: "I'm not one to kind of like something very sharp around someone's neck. I guess there's something dangerous, I guess that's why you like it, Alyssa. She likes dangerous clothes, right?"
    Alyssa: "Like my men."

Friday, October 31, 2014

Project Runway All Stars S4 E1: "Made in Manhattan"

"This competition is the Hunger Games of fashion." - Alexandria, Season 12

I'm going to stop right there, because I just want to say how this statement is completely true. Well, minus the popularity. Though, I'm sure if the producers had their way, they would be forcing us to watch Project Runway all year long.

While watching the reunion special, I couldn't help but flash back to the shallowness of the post-Games interview with Caesar Fleckman, and the year-long humiliation/victory tour of the winners that also functions as both self-promotion and suppression. Which brings us to the end of The Hunger Games part 1.

As we all know, the beginning of The Hunger Games is all about training the youth using winners of the past. See also Project Runway: Threads, where Christian Siriano is judging/"training" the future youth in order to have a pool to cull from in Season 22. With Project Runway All Stars, we get Chasing Fire, with the special 75th anniversary games that that trots out all of these previous winners (and other competitors) as fodder for the games.

The Hunger Games is ultimately not about what it is. Much like The Hunger Games is more about suppression than actually feeding the poor, Project Runway is really about numbing the audience rather than about fashion. Evidence for this: the regression of the accessory wall all the way back to QVC, and sponsors to Red Robin and Samsung.

With the most insanely accurate opening statement, so begins Project Runway All Stars Season 4! Actually, this year's All Stars aren't terrible, and their characters were entertainingly quirky.

  • Alexandria von Bromsson - Season 12, 2nd Place - Timid respite from the rageholic season
  • Justin LeBlanc - Season 12, 3rd Place - Sweet deaf guy who was first runner-up in my eyes. Though, he better not use the "I'm deaf" ploy this time around...
  • Helen Castillo - Season 12, E13 - Drama Who?
  • Kate Pankoke - Season 11, E7 and Season 12, E11 - Bubbly Dark Princess. Again. 
  • Michelle Lesniak - Season 11, Winner - Portland. *glower*
  • Samantha Black - Season 11, E9 - Who? What is it about Samanthas and being forgettable?
  • Benjamin Mach - Season 11, E6 - This was the guy who made a loom one episode, and made a great outfit with it. He also had severely bad taste otherwise.
  • Patricia Michaels - Season 11, 2nd place - CRAZY EYES!!!
  • Dmitry Sholokhov - Season 10, Winner - Meh
  • Fabio Costa - Season 10, 2nd Place - FREEGAN! He also had that fabulous apartment in New York, but nobody knew how or why...and we didn't want to ask.
  • Gunnar Deatherage - Season 10, E9 - Remember when his Neck Beard was totally macking on Christopher?
  • Sonja Williams - Season 10, E12 - This girl could design, she stumbled hardest when everybody in her season stumbled
  • Jay Sario - Season 7, E13 - I don't even remember this guy...he was competing with Anthony, Emilio, Mila, and Seth Aaron for screen time, so don't judge me.
  • Chris March - Season 4, ROBBED, and All Stars Original episode - OMG, I've been waiting for him to come back! Wasn't he the first to get kicked off in the episode before Fashion Week? He had made a kick ass collection but was ejected because the judges got squicked out by the human hair.
And, that's our roster. A pleasant mix of talent and personalities. Sure, Alexandria and Helen could have not come back, and I could use a year off from Kate (SERIOUSLY?!  THREE YEARS IN A ROW?? Are you an elementary school teacher trying to fill in your summer?!). But, this already seems more fun than the whole of the regular season we just finished. Especially with Chris Fucking Marsh, who helped design one of the series' most memorable looks with Siriano (judge of Threads).

"One Day...One...Day" - Chris March
The challenge is to design an outfit that is either uptown or downtown (depending on your "team") in a day. With one sentence, Chris March reminds us that one day challenges are recockulous and were not always the normal. They used to let the designers breathe. But, you have to pay the crew and the hotel, and the rental fees. Red Robin doesn't pay that much I guess.

The Hunger Games theme continues with the class warfare that also begins moving the goalposts of what rich and poor actually is. The girls get the uptown, and describe their girl as "Class, Rich, Sophisticated." and "champagne drinking" "New York socialite" "party girl" who "doesn't work." The downtown gets marked as the post-college working party girl. 

Benjamin doesn't want to design for the downtown girl, but his description is all about gentrification and/or slumming. His girl is "the uptown girl who has moved downtown." Which means that the rent is being driving up, and that she wants to be seen as edgy and frugal, though she has the money to sustain elsewhere.

What's amazing about PRAS is that, although it is 60 minutes, the editors get both design and drama. After visiting Mood, Freegan discovers that the fabric he bought is not around. He has to redesign around other people's looks. Freegan wants to make a jump suit, and ultimately shares fabrics with Benjamin, making their looks feel cohesive. 


  • Portland - She makes a Portland dress that I don't understand. She uses a perforated suede that seems like it would be used for trade show walls and that our pregnant hostess calls Car Seat Fabric. Her outfit is edgy, but then it has a keyhole above the belly but below the breasts, making the skirt seem super high waisted? Then the back is a weird three tone open back with white, green and brown. It's a mess. But, it's a mess that almost works.
  • Crazy Eyes - She made a Rosemary's Baby pregnancy dress. It almost looks Audrey Hepburn in its sleek sophistication, but the breasts are crumpled and weird. Plus, she ran out of time with her textile, so it's just a plain white dress with weird boobs. She loses, justifiably. 
  • Sonjia - I was really loving it until the back. The cut open back with no shirt underneath reminded me of a cadaver, where they cut open the clothes to put the body in, and sew it up at the neck. Plus, the double slit with the skirt is weird. The pointiness of the back slits really contrast with the boxy modest front next line and exposed midriff. I'm confused. And it does nothing flattering for the boobs.
  • Samantha - WHAT!? This is a joke, right? It's like a running outfit with a green leather breast plate on one boob and a knot that totally is a third misshapen chest area. Plus the giant running stripe?! 
  • Alexandria - Bohemian girl with a slutty top.
  • Drama Who? - I love this look. It's the first look I unabashedly love. It's kind of a rip-off of the style that started with Mondo's show stopper finale look with the elastic-ish front panel defined by the curves, but that look still works for a reason. This is the off-the-somewhat-expensive-rack version of that boutique look.
  • Princess - Oh god. Isn't that bonkers? Crazy Eyes went with a 1960s A-Line that is cut all wrong. Kate, here, does a weird take on a Bond girl with sea shell breasts (the first to accentuate the boobage, mind you). And, it's totally retro...but it's not sophisticated.
  • Chris March - He saw a crazy guy on the street with a trash kilt, and came up with the idea of doing an outfit like a flannel shirt that was wrapped around the waist. This was also the winning look of Episode 5 of Under the Gunn, when Asha designed for Zandaya. 90s are back baby!
  • Alexander - Um...what? Those shorts (or skirt) are hoochie, that top is insane. What the hell is this? I don't even know where to begin. Too many ideas, not enough execution.
  • Jay - Tank Girl. Very 90s. 
  • Neck Beard - I like this. It's simply, rack ready clothing that's rather stylish. I like that the strip down the center was transposed, and the width is quite nice. 
  • Benjamin - Gentrification in a dress. It's an uptown look that decided to go downtown. I really love it, but I find myself wanting to hate it. It feels like a great outfit for slumming.
  • Freegan - It's a nice pantsuit, but it continues his flowing ethereal nature, which he started in his last runway show. I kind of really like it. It's easy and yet it isn't. It is so Freegan.
  • Dmitry - It's a Eurotrashy suit. The plunging neck line would be best seen in a Joe Eszterhas fim, and that accessory...oy vey.
The judging, with hostess Alyssa Milano, Isaac Mizrahi, Georgina Chapman, and special guest Ivanka Trump, is actually sane. Even though they disagree, the judges actually make arguments that feel like they're looking at the outfits and taking their job seriously. Unlike the early episodes of regular flavor Project Runway, the judging doesn't seem like it has been maximized for most social media internet outrage.

When they pick apart the outfits, they have good arguments, but I do wonder why Portland was there, but Samantha wasn't. But, then, Egg is the one we all forget about. 

The winning design will be given to Ivanka Trump to wear, and Fabio wins. So, Ivanka Trump, a princess from Uptown, has elected to wear a look designed for Downtown by a dumpster-diving hippy Freegan. The economic story of the Hunger Games writes itself. Fabio won't win any money. He just gets his outfit to be worn for free by the 1%. Thus, the story of Hunger Games is complete.

The loser is Crazy Eyes, which makes me sad. She was eliminated on an outfit that totally wasn't her at all. I wanted to see some of her intricate and incomplete work, but she wasn't given the chance to fully display it. I consider her the Michael Winterbottom of Project Runway in that she used to create compelling work even if it wasn't fully satisfying. 

Stray Observations
  • Alyssa Milano is very pregnant, and I can't help but ponder her past comments about hoods in the bedroom.
  • The cry that Patricia gives out after losing is magnificent. No shade. I love this woman.
  • I'm really happy they're keeping Alyssa. She's fallen into her role wonderfully. Remember when she was stilted? I'm glad she lost that tension.
  • Zanna Roberts Rossi is fabulous as always, but she had no room this week. I promise to have more Zanna since there is less origin story next week.
  • Swatch snoozes

Project Runway S13 E15: "Reunion"

Can I just give it up for Adrian? He totally went through the season with grace, and didn't devolve into the bitchiness I would have. He did a great job.

Because, this was the most boring useless season of Project Runway we've seen. Tom and Lorenzo have sworn off Project Runway now that they have a modicum of fame (as if people go to their site for anything else). When two of your most famous recappers spend a whole recap giving almost all of your designers the one-word review, "Basic," something's wrong.

We all know what it is. Time. The challenges have shortened to one-day challenges so that we can knock off a season in just over a month, because we have another season to film in the same workroom before the summer is over. Project Runway has too many designers, and thus too many episodes, causing the quality of the show to falter. Reducing the number of designers and episodes would increase the time for the challenges, and quality of the clothes.

Because, for fucks sake, we're getting sponsored by Red Robin and Aldo. It's one thing for All Stars to get short shrifted by sponsors, but last year's All Stars looked like a class act next to Fade wowing over a fucking refrigerator and then being knocked out in the half-assed Samsung challenge ("try to be inspired by a curved TV that nobody really wants").

Nevertheless, there were the occasional wow moments, and the half-assed Samsung challenge was one of those because it was also the rainway and avant-garde challenge. This was the best avant-garde challenge in ages. Which contrasts with one of the most snooze-worthy finale episodes we've ever had. Yes, the best collection won (Sean), but if the finale collections weren't dull (Sean, Amanda), they were a freaking mess (Char, Kini). 

In the wake of the dullest season, we have to go through an hour of trying to rekindle the drama just so you remember the designers (in case they come back). In light of that, let's return to my original list of designers. Because, I know that some of you were like me with "Who the fuck was Jefferson?"

In reverse order of elimination:
  • Sean Kelly: New Zealander who designs androgynously, and New Order Replacement Star
        Reality Show Personality: The Brit
  • Amanda Valentine: Originally from Season 11, Sister of Maroon 5.
        Reality Show Personality: The Elder Statesman
  • Char Glover: Single Black Woman from Detroit
        Reality Show Personality: Sassy Black Woman
  • Kini Zamora: Hawaiian who designs in denim
        Reality Show Personality: Hawaiian (yes, it is a personality type unto itself)
  • Emily Payne: San Francisco punk mom with a kids line
        Reality Show Personality: The Mom
  • Korina Emmerich: White-looking American Indian from Eugene, OR who designs for NYC woman.
        Reality Show Personality: Wannabe Villain
  • Alexander Knox: The Tall Gay Guy with Hidden Style
        Reality Show Personality: The Affable One
  • Sandhya Garg: The Subversive Indian
        Reality Show Personality: The Oppressed One
  • Fade Zu Grau: The elder German who has a moment with Heidi
        Reality Show Personality: Dieter, Gay Edition
  • Samantha Plasencia: Texas Hipster not from Austin
        Reality Show Personality: The Hipster
  • Kristine Guico: Grey Haired woman?
        Reality Show Personality: The Soon-To-Be-Cut Quiet Type
  • Mitchell Perry: South Florida guy with bad clothes; Zac Posen might want to sleep with him
        Reality Show Personality: The Obnoxious Bitch Who Throws Shade Because He's Untalented
  • Hernan Lander: Spanish Guy who has previously shown at Fashion Week
        Reality Show Personality: The Hispanic
  • Angela Sum: Asian immigrant, Computer Engineer
        Reality Show Personality: The Quiet Nervous Talented One
  • Carrie Sleutskaya: Babygoth who can design
        Reality Show Personality: The Youngster
  • Jefferson Musanda: Black Male, Hip Hop Dancer.
        Reality Show Personality: The Eager Beaver
OMG, remember Carrie? I thought she had such promise, and was going to be in Emily's shadow for a while. And, Hernan, the Spanish guy with no taste? Or, Mitchell, the low rent Miami version of Big Gay Josh from Season 9. 

The funniest thing about this episode was that Egg Samantha, the designer that nobody could remember having ever existed, was not even at the Reunion (due to a mystery surgery). Did you know she was in six episodes? I mean, forgetting about Jefferson or Carrie is understandable because they were cut quickly, but Egg hung around for ages.

I totally called it with Korina. She was a wannabe villain who was really just a shade-throwing bitch. Sorry, but all she did was insult everybody, then throw a fit at her best friend because she lost. Even though a lot of people correctly observed that her elimination was in no small part due to producer manipulation, the fact that she aimed a lot of her wrath at Char was unseemly.

Sandhya never emerged from her The Oppressed One archetype, and continued with it in this episode's second most hilarious moment. "I feel ganged up on." "WE'RE NOT GANGING UP ON YOU! WE LIKE YOU!" And, also, Korina saying "had you asked me to me face, I would have told you I liked you" was the most hilarious of backstabbing bullshittery I have witnessed.

The only person who was really developed into a semi-multidimensional human being was Char. I think that was, in large part, due to the Tim Gunn Save. Since she really is a young designer in her mind (she hasn't been designing for long), her style wasn't aligned with fashion. She may be better in future All Stars where she'll either be fan favorite or a controversial WTH designer.

The big drama was from the obvious Producer manipulations. Korina being pissed off that she had to run off with Char. Based on her final dress, though, she deserved to be out (and I hated her ski chalet outfit that caused her to have to do the dramatic run off). They milked that for a good segment+. 

Overall, the drama for this season was almost as dull as the fashion. They had to fight to find moments to comment on. The reunion special didn't dwell on the positive. They didn't find the time to comment on Fade's awesome repertoire with Heidi, and throwing shade in a foreign language. 

That they went out to talk to people on the streets of New York in order to create filler for the reunion should tell you everything you need to know about the season. Ah well, it's on to On Stars!

Stray Observations
- Tim Gunn: "Tell me more." Translation: "Please, talk more about how good Project Runway is."
- Yes, bitch can be a Term of Endearment. Yes, bitch can be an insult. Hernan did not use it as a term of endearment. No sale.
- Did Mitchell really get any time this week? It seems like the characters got a backseat to the drama. Even the memorable craziness of Angela (in 2 episodes!) was given short shrift so we could ruminate for AGES on Sandhya's oppression and Korina's bitchiness.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Project Runway Threads S1E1: "Red Carpet"

Previously on Project Runway Behind the Scenes

Int. Lifetime Networks

Lifetime: What the hell is going on, Weinstein?

Weinstein: What do you mean? We won an Emmy!

Lifetime: You gave us Under the Gunn. That show was a bomb.

Weinstein: We admit, the ratings were a bit lackluster.

Lifetime: A BIT?! The finale had fewer viewers than reruns of Full House on Nickelodeon!

Weinstein: Well, that does have Dave Coulier, and those twins...

Lifetime: FULL HOUSE RERUNS. Fucking Pawn Stars was getting double our audience in the same damned time slot.

Weinstein: Thursdays are competitive.

Lifetime: We want something new, and we want it now.

Weinstein: Our flagship is...

Lifetime: Will we be getting more than one season this year?

Weinstein: Well...unfortunately, the Teutonic Goddess is still tied to Germany's Next Top Model...

Lifetime: When we originally signed up for this, we had agreed to year-round programming.

Weinstein: And you still have to obey our contracts.

Lifetime: *sigh* What do you have for us.

Weinstein: The cornerstone of Lifetime's reality programming is kids. Kids are HUGE in the reality programming market right now. From Dance Moms to Honey Boo Boo (*ed's note: cancelled this week*), America loves watching egotistical asshole kids butt heads with their parents.

Lifetime: Go on. I like what I'm hearing.

Weinstein: And, it's been fairly established that the best part of Project Runway is the drama...

Lifetime: And...

Weinstein: What if we knocked off Project Runway for kids! And, gave the kids assistants in the form of a parent!

Lifetime: Can kids really create fashion?

Weinstein: Please, Project Runway hasn't been about real fashion for years. Anybody who still watches this dreck watches for the drama. If we tell them something's fashion, it's fashion.

Lifetime: But, what about working laws?

Weinstein: We have to make the prize worth it, and we'll rotate out the kids so the labor laws won't get too sticky!

Lifetime: And the drama?

Weinstein: What could be jucier than watching hormonal teenagers try to work with the people they're rebelling against?

Lifetime: Brilliant! Genius!!


This week introduced us to the latest cash grab spin-off from the Project Runway empire, Project Runway: Threads. A short season of 8 episodes which combines the hormonal qualities of the various Dance Moms shows and the format of Project Runway. Each week, we're introduced to three new teenagers who are forced to compete for a weekly prize package they value at $25k for tax purposes.

The format of the first week has an introductory challenge (a la Top Chef) where the kids have to bring in an outfit from home. The winner gets an advantage, here it's the ability to steal an assistant from one of the other kids for 30 minutes. They then receive the challenge, which is, essentially, a 1-day challenge (unless they're working 15 hour days as well). There will be a twist in the middle of the episode. And, then a runway show in front of Christian Siriano, some YouTuber, host Vanessa Simmons, and a random guest judge.

Don't know who Vanessa Simmons is? Don't worry, neither did I. She's primarily known as the daughter of Rev Run from Run DMC, and was introduced to the world through Run's House. She also has a shoe line with her sister.

So, that's where we're at...hormonal tweenagers teamed with their parents, a reality show host, and a YouTuber judge. And Christian Siriano. No season-long contestants. No eliminations. Just here's the winner, here's the door. Goodbye!

The success of this show will rely on your ability to be amused by tweenagers (11-14) getting to boss their parents around, parents ranging from doting to not, and producer manipulation just to get more dwama out of the kids. Because, this isn't about fashion. As we've seen, adults can't design a great outfit in a day, nevertheless teenagers. Nevertheless two outfits in a one-day challenge. At best, this is about the process of creating, as there was a significant increase in the show's focus on the design process.

This week, we get a southern gay boy (talk about born this way) and his petulant stressed out mother who can't sew. We get a rich girl and her doting mother. And, we get a girl/father team where Dad is more just encouraging. The kids have to design a red carpet look, and then are surprised by having to design a street look.

The best part and the worst part is that the enjoyment comes from teenagers and parents. Mocking the teenager for breaking down in frustration when the producers surprise them with a twist is not nearly as fun as mocking an adult woman for hypocritically running to Tim when she feels a bit of adversity. On the other hand, the cattiness between Bradford and his mom is priceless. "I told you, I'm not a seamstress. I don't have time for that." "You don't have to be a seamstress. You just have to sew." I'd be lying if I said I couldn't relate more than a little to their back and forth.

That being said, I don't feel comfortable in critiquing the looks of teenagers who have gone on TV. Because, all of the looks have ideas that are lacking in execution, as to be expected from teenagers who are doing ONE DAY TWO-DRESS CHALLENGES!! And, apparently, the judges also don't like critiquing the designs in front of the designers, saving all their bitchiness for when the kids and their parents are safely in a green room. Not that the kids are too young to be critiqued, but because everything about this is cheap, knock-off and unfair.

I dunno, this isn't like laughing with the campy Lohanthony shaking his leg on Youtube calling "All You Basic Bitches." Or, mocking the self-made Lucas Cruikshank. Both of them were doing things their way, unlike this show where the kids are being manipulated by multi-millionaire producers for somebody else's gain. Threads feels more than a little sleazy compared to most kids game shows. But, maybe that's just me.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Project Runway: S13 E14: "Finale Part 2"

What's the ultimate "point" of Project Runway? I think this is an interesting question that PR can be asked that other reality competition shows don't have to. The "point" of Survivor is mostly entertainment these days since the more social experiment element of the show passed within the first few seasons. How people survive and interact within the confines of that game is a subject that's been exhausted. We really haven't seen a new way to play the game in a long time no matter how many new wrinkles the producers toss in to the rules. But Project Runway exists in a different kind of space. The winners have the ability to really effect the future of fashion in a manner that the winners of other shows simply don't. Can you name the title of a single album from an American Idol winner since Clarkson? Have you seen any of the dancers from So You Think You Can Dance anywhere? Chances are unless you're deeply into those worlds, you probably haven't, but one only need be aware on a basic level of the world around them to have seen something from Mondo or Christian Siriano around somewhere. So in that sense, PR is uniquely placed to seriously effect the general outcome or trajectory of the fashion industry as a whole. As such, do we watch PR thinking primarily that we need drastic amounts of entertainment, and the rest can be damned? Is it the show's job to find the next great fashion talent and reward them? Or maybe it's just the show's job to shine a light on aspects of the design process within the fashion industry? I'm not sure the answer is any one of these things. It's more likely that the show should be striving to hit each at some point in time, but I also think that this fact makes PR into something of a mixed bag from season to season. Specifically, since this show has the ability to do all of these things, it sometimes has identity issues because we can't be sure which of these aims we're watching at any given moment.

Along those lines, let me introduce this final competition episode of the 13th season. The first portion of this episode seems mostly dedicated to providing both drama (read entertainment) and something of an insight into the design process. Kini is still reeling from his horrible critique, and trying to figure out how to remake his entire collection in two days. Tim comes in to offer his notes on what just happened. He tells everyone what they should do, and his points to Kini are mostly about just mixing and matching pieces from the collection instead of redoing everything. I don't think Kini really was listening though. This sit down wraps up with another trip to Mood for anyone who wants to go and get fabric for another look.

Amanda stays and chooses to just edit her looks. Sean goes to buy some great orange fabric in order to get in one non-fringe based look. Kini and Char buy a lot of fabric in order to make a lot of looks, and the divide between the remaining designers is established. The amount of work that needs to be done on Char and Kini's collection seems to ensure that they won't be in the running. Or at least that Kini will rush through and pull a collection together in two days and achieve this Rocky style come back in the 11th hour that will make this the single most dramatic PR finale ever. Which is clearly what the judges and producers are hoping for. We'll see how well it plays out.

Everyone gets to work and Tim comes in to consult once more. When he's meeting with Kini, he says to him, “That’s already looking youthful.” And Kini responds with “And that’s what they want to see.”This brings up another possibility for what the show could (but certainly shouldn't) be, which is just a vehicle for the judges to get what they want to see and wear placed into collections and onto the runway at NYFW. The judges' comments to Kini weren't about trying to get him to create the best looks he was capable of within the scope of his own personal vision; they were about shifting his collection to fit a set of circumstances that they themselves would prefer. Or at least I think that that's true. The result is a collection that I don't feel as though he fully believes in. It's cute and sexy but some of the looks don't scream Kini to me. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Tim tells Char everything she does should be done in an hour. It reminds me of the one hour run off she had against Korina and I said much the same thing after that moment; she’s better off working in one hour than she is over the course of an entire challenge.And it's an accurate point as I think the two brand new looks are the best in the collection. They still seem to butt heads over some of the earlier looks that Tim thinks should be scraped all together and she ends up using one of them anyway because if she didn't, she wouldn't have a full collection. Not surprising since she doesn't really deserve to be here at this point, but hey. That ship is sailed, I guess. 

Another moment in trying to bring the best NYFW runway that they can is found in Kini and Char having to have new consultations with hair and makeup. Don't get me wrong, I think this would have been an element either way, but when Tim tells the group that they're doing so, he specifies that Char and Kini will need this because of how unhappy the judges were with their styling. So it left me wondering if this is more about PR trying to protect its brand than it is about getting these designers' visions out there in a pure form. If that was really what the show wanted to be about, they'd allow the first time the judges see any of the clothes to be during the NYFW runway. So you get to the point where you see that after 13 seasons, PR is used to putting on good shows at fashion week and they aren't going to risk that streak by putting down a collection they haven't vetted first. I'm not a fan of this. 

So onto Fashion Week where the point of the show tends to be about the chaos of putting on a show like this. It's about shining a light on the dark aspects of the fashion industry and the kinds of drama that happen in the background. We've seen it all at this point, so the major drama of one of Amanda's models having changed shoes on her own rings a bit light. No one spills anything on a dress, no article of clothing is lost, the best they could come up with is a model wearing different shoes. It turns out the shoes Amanda gave her to wear were too small and she just went with her own. After a quick swap with a pair that fits, the crisis is averted and we're back to being a bit bored. In a lot of ways, this is the perfect microcosm of the season as a whole: when there's nothing there from the designers to give us drama, we'll make something small and basic into something huge and melodramatic. So good job on that one guys. 

New York Fashion Week:

Amanda's Collection: I will say that the only look where I think the jewelry is front and center and really noticeable is the last one. But that doesn’t take anything away from the rest of the collection. Perfectly cohesive, the use of color is jaw dropping, the cut outs and the amount of skin is always tasteful and sexy and worth it, and the pattern looks are all great as well. It feels original and beautiful. The looks I don’t care for are the shorts looks. Although I recognize that it’s good to mix things up and not have dresses or skirts on everything, the shorts just didn’t work for me much. Everything else is just great. 

Char’s Collection: Her third look is great. I like the forth look too. Both of these are the looks she threw together last minute. The last look is something I think rides the line. It’s almost tasteless, but it’s also almost elegant. I want to like it, but I don't. Overall I think we can see the cohesion better in the full collection than we could in the mini collection she sent down last time, but it’s still not very good. And the look that she calls the most “Char” is really simple and right-off-the-rack-boring. She shouldn’t be here, but what more can we say that hasn’t been said thus far? Also each look with that expensive Rome fabric was horrible. 

Kini’s Collection: I want to like the second look so much, but I hate it. The open back details are nice and the cut of them is unique. The shoulder pads look is way way better in this version than it was with the coat. But overall, I do not like this collection. And he used the umbrella cut of his rainway skirt a lot more often here to mixed results. The one look that had it on the top was really just…no I hated it. I’m not a fan of this.

Sean’s Collection: I don’t know what to say about this. To start off with that stark white look which is so crisp and clean and just wonderful, the transitions are just perfect, the dart of fringe on the back of that white look that I didn’t like in the mini collection out of context works so much better here as you see it transition into the the full orange look. I still don’t care for the first fringed black pants look, but there’s a much better version of that dress later on in the collection that has fringe all around instead of just on the front. The full orange look that he created after going to Mood is just sheer perfection; it perfectly matches the wonderfully draped white look from earlier. And the final look is breathtaking and perfect. It is still a lot of fringe, but I’m not going to fault him for that. Sean’s my clear winner after these collections. 

 Emily Rossum is my all time favorite guest judge on this show, and she actually has the remark that gets at the heart of what I think the show should be about. She says, in talking about why she thinks Sean should win, that for her this show is about finding the next great voice in fashion. So you should be looking for someone innovative and unique. The judges comments make it pretty clear that this is between Amanda and Sean. The judges compliment him on his fun and unique vision, and they compliment her for her brand ambitions. To those ends, I do think Amanda is great for that. If we've ever seen anyone with an aesthetic that could be brand marketing ready, it's Amanda.

The judges have polite things to say about Char's use of color and how fun her own personal style is, and by extension how fun her clothes can be when she brings that personal style into her designs. They praise the hoodie and black and white looks as the two best in the collection, reaffirming the way she seems to thrive under the pressure of time constraints, but that's about it. 

As for Kini, they are at least happy with how much sexier the collection is, and everyone's impressed with how quickly he pulled these looks together, but they're still split on a lot of the looks. They seem to think he's not editorial enough and allows his designs to get away from him. Emily at least likes the coffee filter top look, but no matter how much she compliments it, I hate it. The key comments that I responded to here were about how much he needs an editing eye. I think if they had said that during the mini collection more than "It isn't sexy enough" I would have been on their side a little bit more. 

So the debate after the designers leave the runway is about does the Brand Ready designer get the win, or does the designer with the most refreshing and interesting voice get the win? And the fun part about it to me was that there wasn't really a wrong answer. If you're judging based on these collections, Sean and Amanda both equally deserve to win. If we judge by the competition as a whole, then I think it's more between Sean and Kini, but that's neither here nor there. In the end, Sean is crowned the champ of PR season 13, and I'm happy with it. Granted I'm happy because I think he's cute and I'm far more interested in jumping his bones after he wins than after he comes in second place, I mean who wants to sleep with a loser, amirite? But this was one season where I honestly think PR did well to leave themselves in a position where either outcome could have been celebrated. This won't go down as the best season in Runway history. There was a serious lack of talent that we talked about often enough in these threads. But I do think that the three most talented people from the season found themselves in the finale, and I think the winner was chosen with an emphasis on effecting the future of fashion and the design world, and that's certainly something I think we can all be proud of. 

Final Thoughts:

--In case anyone was wondering, I won't be watching the reunion episode. i never do and have no interest in starting now with these boring people. If anyone else wants to do so and wants to writeup a review of it, I'd say let Julius know and that could be worked out? 

--Speaking of things that won't be watched, we had a discussion about PR Threads last week, where did everyone fall on that? Will you watch it, won't you? If you do watch it, is it something we should should be reviewed on here? I haven't fully decided yet, but I'm thinking I might at least check out the first episode. Maybe we can write it up and see what kind of response it gets to determine if we keep going?

--The Mood cashier asks Sean, “No fringe today, huh?” He really has become Fringe Man hasn’t he? In my Mood based fanfiction, there's a constant office pool going on each day about how much fringe Sean is going to but during his next visit. 

--Within the episode there were a lot of contestant retrospectives as they looked back over their time on the show. It all felt like a cheap way to fill out the time. 

--The overall theme from Heidi's responses to everyone was "I liked some things, but didn't like some others." I was like, yeah, no shit, it's a 10 piece collection. When was the expectation that every single piece would be loved start, because I don't recall that ever really happening.