Friday, February 28, 2014

Under the Gunn S1 E7: "Steampunk chic"

Earlier this season, I said that Under the Gunn is more about the mechanics of mentoring than the design process. At the time, I was citing that most of the character arcs we've been watching has been the arcs of the three mentors: Nick, Anya, and Mondo. So far, it seems that this assessment hasn't been wrong.

Really, what do we know about most of the designers? Nicholas is a menswear designer who can't design for a woman. Shan is rather gay for a married man. Sam kind of only claimed to be sassy to try to catch more airtime, but hasn't lived up to his Sassy Sam nickname. Oscar is Spanish, a fast designer, and a leader. Um...Asha is a good designer who is also black? I don't really have much to say about ANY of the females. It's not for lack of watching. The only female who gained some screen time not related to her mentor or her designs in the past SIX episodes was eliminated two episodes ago. And, really, the men's stories were mostly givin in those first two premiere episodes.

Any enjoyment of Under the Gunn really depends on your tolerance of Mondo, Nick, and Anya and their personalities between the episodes. If you can take Nick and his gay daddyness, Anya and her rapidly changing mentor styles, and Mondo with his kindergarten teacher encouragement, then you will love Under the Gunn. If you like watching designers design, you will also find enjoyment. But, if you want to learn about what makes designers tick, then you will find the show wanting.

The reason I bring up that we know nothing about the designers is that this episode is one of those episodes that forces designers to shoehorn their vision into an aesthetic they may not be familiar with, or have downright animosity toward. This week, we have to deal with an Avant-Garde challenge, and a Steampunk challenge. Now, Project Runway already has a sketchy relationship with Avant-Garde, considering how traditional it likes it's avant-garde outfits (especially in the Lifetime years). But, slamming a Steampunk aesthetic on top of it also lends itself to be an exhibit that is more about outfits you'd find at sci-fi cons, goth clubs and Burning Man.

Steampunk is a specific aesthetic, and one that was all around the edges of Season 11 what with Portlandia being the winner who specialized in a darker goth/steampunk styled aesthetic. Some designers at the beginning already express problems with the episode. Shan is like, "huh, what the fuck is this? Don't you know that I don't care about this shit?" Natalia has dabbled in steampunk for four years. Blake is lost...because his aesthetic isn't futuretech.

The only designer that we actually get any insight into as a person, and not as a student designer, is Natalia whose lifetime insight is "I really like Steampunk." Not, "I experienced Steampunk when I was living in..." or "I went to --- where I first saw steampunk." Though, at the end of the episode, she does say "I am the child of two engineers." I love this girl.

In the absence of these larger world revelations, we're rewarded with more insights into the design process. Team Anya are all discouraged. For the first half of the episode, Shan is like, "I'm modern, bitches. In the 1800s, black people were slaves. Why would we idealize this shit?" This is also reflected in Asha's weird use of picnic blanket flannel for the majority of her outfit. Nicholas can't get his shit together to sew to a woman's body. Boobs? Hips? Hourglass Figures? Silhouettes that aren't big masculine blocks? These things are all foreign to Nicholas. Blake is like, "I'm too gay for steampunk. Why won't Anya tell me what to do?"

Team Nick has the most inspiration, outside of Nick. Oscar's ego is currently floating on air, where he's going overboard. Natalia is delving into her steampunk past to create an actually mechanical dress (which...I'm in love with her). absent for the most part.

And, Team Mondo is mainly coasting. Asha does a picnic blanket thing. Um...Sam exists to make bitchy comments. Michelle doesn't exist at all this week. Nobody cares about Michelle. Or, Mondo for that matter.

As the above paragraphs show, this is an Anya heavy episode. Please read that in the same tone as Lrr talking about Friends. Anya and Tim get heavy, heavy time with Anya's designers. Anya has to kick Shan's ass being like, "Bitch, I know that Steampunk may not be your aesthetic, but you have to send something that is Shan down the runway." Blake is lost, and remains lost, being the lost designer that he is.

But, the one who gets the most airtime is Nicholas. Last week, I made the error saying that Nicholas went home. I wasn't far off. After being repeatedly in the bottom, and not getting any help at all from Anya about how to design for women, he's now in a funk. I think, at this point, he knows he picked the wrong mentor. Did he not see Anya's season? She knows how to drape. He knows how to tailor. She cannot help him with learning how to tailor for women's bodies. At all. Ever. Period. She can send down a stylish easy sarong, but Nicholas is all about fitted fabrics.

If we remember, Nicholas made the hilarious mistake in the premiere episodes saying "what better than a woman to help me learn how to design for a woman's body?" HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! That was a good one.

Anya also doesn't help anything because, this episode, she suddenly turns into that bitchy woman from those awful pageant/dance shows that we keep getting advertising for. As a former pageant queen, its only natural for her to base her mentoring style from her mentors, practically turning into a cutting bitchy monster. Look at her body language on day 3 when she's talking to Nicholas. She's standing around him with her arms crossed, pointing, or hands on hip, breathing through her nose with teeth clenched and about ready to stab Nicholas. Then, she spends half of her episode bitching about how her self-centered, negative reinforcement, military-style approach to mentoring hasn't motivated her designers! "Why doesn't saying that they're an awful designer, and even suggesting that they didn't design the stuff in their portfolio, motivate anybody?! It's beyond my capacity for empathy!"

Now, I should say that not everybody should be Den Mother Mondo, who is all about gold stars and blind support. But, his designers are happier than Anya's, and actually putting out work that strongly emphasizes their point of view even if the designs ended up in the middle of the road this week and last. Nor, should anybody have been Helicopter Parent Nick, who I think is now starting to experience Empty Nest Syndrome, since at the end of every episode lately, he has the same revelation of "I should trust my designers more." Ugh. YES YOU SHOULD. TAKE YOUR OWN ADVICE!!!

Eventually, we somehow get to the runway. Nicholas is in the nick of time, because his design of a female's trench coat seems to be beyond his capacity, especially with Anya sitting on his ass the whole time. This week's guest judge is Georgina Chapman (whom you may remember from such achievements as Project Runway All Stars).

Team Mondo

  • Asha: No. She was lost. This is all avant garde, and no steampunk. Punk maybe, but not steampunk. It's not that great of avant garde either because there are far too many ideas going on. The only thing steampunky is the belt. Then there's a flannel thing. Then some avant garde paint pointy bodice thing that reminds me of a kindergartener's art project. Then some hideous 1800s esque pink lace shit pencil skirt. And a pale pink under shirt and skirt that doesn't match the deep purple bodice that doesn't match the red flannel. It's an eyesore that would have gone well in a Punk challenge, but not a Steampunk challenge. She obviously didn't get it.
  • Not-so-sassy Sam: This is a costume. I feel like this is more satire than anything. Eyeball goggles, mixed fabric baggy jacket. A piece of carpet hanging out her ass. Tights and boots. Sam seems to have gone the post-apocalyptic form of steampunk as opposed to the traditional form of classy steampunk.
  • Michelle: This is one of my favorite pieces of the runway. An impeccable brown jacket with a high collar and long trails. Plus, she added panels that reminds me of stained glass. Add in a hairpiece that looks straight out of some royal court in a steampunk universe, and this is a strange look that, to me, exudes steampunk and avant-garde.
Team Anya
  • Nicholas: A hastily thrown together simple dress of copper and wool with copper tuping that seem haphazardly added on. It's not a finished look at all, but it is classic steampunk. Just amateur style.
  • Blake: An outfit that is...something. It's lost. It has an interesting base, but then he lost track of what steampunk is. Steampunk is an alternate universe where mechanics have taken over. He decided to make an outfit that's the stylistic equivalent of a time-traveling steam trunk, where it has stickers from all of the eras it has been. This results in some Victor/Victoria stylings, and Hobby House bedazzling on the fabric. There is no marriage here, and it isn't a happy outfit.
  • Shan: He made a cool future-tech outfit that has a Steampunk edge. It's mildly avant-garde in its strange cutouts, and leather connections. But overall, it's just a really nice look.
Team Nick
  • Oscar: Nick said it best, "If there was a Broadway musical about steampunk, this would be the queen." It's over the top, has a giant fucking clock on it, and is very pageanty. But, it's a stylish slightly-over-the-top pageanty that borders costume silliness.
  • Stephanie: Snooooze. It's a nice dress in brown and copper materials with bedazzled washers on it.
  • Natalia: HOT. A cape, a dress that has a mechanism to roll the dress up and down to change its style, a metal framework with a chainmail collar. Unf. This dress was my favorite because it had the overt metal workings of steampunk integrated into the design of the outfit, that it also had a mechanism to change it made it super fantastic. 
The judging is strange. Team Mondo, collectively, is in the middle. Despite Michelle's fantastic outfit that exuded both avant garde and steampunk elements without being costume. Shan, Oscar and Natalia are in the top. I don't understand the love for Oscar's outfit because it is so costumey. But, whatever. Michelle got robbed for the spotlight. Shan somehow wins over Natalia. I don't understand it. Even without the mechanism gimmick, Natalia's was the best. *throws remote*

Nicholas, Blake and Stephanie were in the bottom. Anya gets to decide between Nicholas and Blake, and Nicholas FINALLY goes home, because he can't design for women. At all. She tells him that he needs to take this advice to heart, and he says, essentially, "If I actually had time, you know, I could pull off some great shit. DIAF"

Random Observations: 
  • Tim Gunn as the tattletale on Nicholas really struck me as a sour note. He basically told Anya that she needs to ride Nicholas' ass, instead of letting him actually eat his lunch.
  • Anya's runway necklace is incredibly awesome. 
  • Nicholas: "You can't run a car into a pothole and not expect to do maintenance on it." This is the basis of many many reality shows.
  • Nick actually helps Natalia a little by showing her a cowling technique to help her achieve HER vision. This is the type of help that designers sometimes need. See: Nicholas.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Under The Gunn S1 E6: Pompeii Team Challenge

Last week on Under the Gunn, Nick ran over Isabelle with the bus in front of his designers. And, by running her over, I mean, she was already knocked out by the judges, but he still felt like it was OK to tie her ass up and lay her in the middle of the lane, then get in the bus and drive over her.

But, Tim Gunn, let's be fair. You changed the whole format of the show in order to let Nick run over Isabelle. That was episode 5, and in the previous 4 episodes, at no point did the mentors get to come to the defense or criticize their designers. Instead, in that judging session, you allowed Nick to completely influence the judges. In essence, you handed Nick the keys to the bus and said, "run that bitch into the ground!"

And, Nick, your apology this week was less than genuine. "Isabelle, I'm sorry I ran you over and got you kicked off the show. I'm not that type of person. But, you're still gone, and that's a good thing. Please, I'm not letting you back on the show. Buh bye."

Meanwhile, his designers are all, "Well, if he threw one girl under the bus, why wouldn't he throw any of us under the bus?" Not that there wasn't going to be somebody from Nick's team that was going home this week. Because we had a team challenge that was coming up, and of course the producers were chomping at the bit to send somebody from Nick's team home. But, because he got the largely weaker team, and they were already eyeballing Isabelle from day 1, they waited until E5 in order to have balanced teams for this week.

Which brings us to this week's challenge: it's a team challenge, brought to you by Voltantor. Volcano/Titanic/Gladiator.  Now you don't have to sit through 7 hours of movie to get that combination, it comes in at a smooth 100 minutes! Set in Roman era, the goal of this week is to create three fashionable looks inspired by Roman times, but not costumes, making something fashion forward, and inspired by The Getty Villa, actually a Greco-Roman museum in LA (I'll plug the cool things that deserve plugging).

Since we're doing a team mini-collection, we can look closely at the three mentor's collection of their designers with a smaller scope.

Mondo chose a team that was relatively forward in their thinking, almost to the point of being future forward thinking. His team is quite progressive in their points of view, even if they come at the same challenge from completely different angles. He is seen saying that materials and flairs will keep his team cohesive, but otherwise he is mainly encouraging the team members to express themselves and help each other out.

Anya has a motley group, especially since she kicked out Brady to keep Nicholas, for some reason. So, she has the can't-design-for-women Nicholas (who chose her so she would help him design for women but she's taking a hands off approach), the completely fashion forward but in his own idiom Shan, and the overly-serious but may skew younger Blake (who created the tampon look last week). Anya is, of course, taking a hands-off approach because, what? Is she going to teach them how to cut and sew and do finishing??  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!  Damn, that was funny.

Nick has an even more motley group, of which only Oscar seems to have a singular point of view, and Natalia runs a close second. Having learned his lessons of being too hands-on in Episodes 1, 2, 3, and 4, Nick boldly and proudly asserts at the beginning that his team would benefit from having HANDS-ON NICK. This would benefit the whole team, he states. And, he dominates the sketch time. Because, of course he does.

At Mood, the teams all start to expose their strengths and weaknesses. Team Anya and Team Mondo are all about matching their fabrics before cutting, and working together. But, Team Nick is disoriented and Oscar is being completely independent and uncommunicative toward the other team members. Because he has a strong sense of view, but can't figure out how to work with anybody else without being the explicit leader.

The mentors, this week, actually take a huge step back from the show. Nick gets told by Tim Gunn that he has to step back and actually let the team figure out their own problems. Part of that was because he was so late in coming to them for the initial mentoring, but his team was melting down at that point because they wanted Nick to tell them what the fuck to do, since he had taken such a heavy-handed approach in 4 episodes, and at the beginning of this episode. Part of the problem of having a heavy-handed bitchy approach to your designers is that they eventually come to depend on your approval for their sense of self-worth as opposed to being strong in their own designs.

Mondo's team works well together, and Mondo tells them that they need to refine their dyed print. Then, he otherwise disappears for the episode, only making an appearance to say "I love you guys." NOOOOO!!!

Anya's team is all about compromising instead of critiquing. She tells them they need to not compromise their individual visions, then worries about Shen's compromised vision. She makes a second appearance to try to help Shen work out his vision. But, her worries amount to "I hope you figure it out."

Nick's team has a lot of their design elements developed, but couldn't figure out how to work together. They're looking to Nick for leadership, but Tim, who gave Nick the keys to the bus last week, tells Nick to let them drown if they can't figure out how to work together. He disappears from the episode, probably to get drunk. I think I saw him in the background during the model fittings.

Mind you, we're still focusing on 13 different people. Tim Gunn, the 3 mentors, and their 9 designers. So, there is little breathing room for the designers to assert their individual personality. The main characteristics we get in the first half are Shen compromises in a team, and Team Nick's designers are now paranoid.

In the morning, Oscar has already finished his look, and takes leadership to tell Natalia and Stephanie what the hell to do. Nick makes a cursory appearance, but he's been negated as a leader. Fuck off Nick. You're almost as shitty as Anya. Anya makes a cursory attempt to help with finishing, but it is totally cursory based on what comes out on the runway.

And then, it's runway time. Jen Rade, Zanna, and Rachel Roy are back. Our guest judge this week is Wendy Partridge, who worked on Voltantor.

Team Anya: I think, largely, her team was secretly taken over by children who can't sew. It's an incoherent collection of ugly pieces, that I think the judges were far too nice about.

  • Nicholas - If I take off my glasses, squint my eyes, and pause on a somewhat blurry frame from afar, I can see what he was going for. The tunic is still half finished, but the top has some nice patterns when blurred. Up close, it's all a fucking mess. The hard shorts with the sloppy safety-scissored top makes for a hideous up close experience in the discount junior department at Walmart. Plus the material mix for the pattern is fucking ugly. The one good thing the outfit has going for it is the low-slung back, which couldn't be worn with a bra.
  • Blake - Black witch. This is the best look of Anya's group, but it is borderline costume. It flows nicely, though, and the mantle/hoodie into a strong back with a sexy feminine front is gorgeous. The belt pushes it into costume territory, but it's not terrible.
  • Shen - What is with the white gauzy looks this season? Seriously, its another tampon look, only the gauze is on top of the applicator. Just stahhhp. The flat bustline is terrible, the gauze on the top is awful and not shorn well. The back is nice, and from the waist down it's a nice look. But the top needs a lot of help.

Team Nick: OMG, are we sure this isn't Team Anya? This is an excellent resort wear collection, with draping of summery prints. I think Anya actually designed 2 of the 3 looks.

  • Stephanie - A nice, summery, Roman beachy resort tunic look with a dreamy, watery print. With the hard blue shoulder accents and the white outlines, this look is stunning.
  • Natalia - the most costumey of the looks, but it is still a really nice roman column-based design. With a blocky column-esque top and a flowing blue skirt, it's a nice looking outfit, if a bit on the cheaper side compared to her two compatriots.
  • Oscar - Who are you and what have you done with Oscar? This is not an overdesigned look at all. It's clean, Roman inspired, strong, and sophisticated. It's open sides make it edgy, and it is pure awesome.

Team Mondo: It's a cohesive, younger look that actually feels most like a strong woman take on the Roman warrior woman.
  • Sam - With an oxblood leather/vinyl top and an interesting abstract red/print skirt, it is a bit on the easy breezy costumey side. It's still strong, but it isn't that modern.
  • Asha - Girl needs to edit. She used only the oxblood material to create a roman throwback take on her bitchy future-tech warrior girl. It's a blend that isn't harmonious, though I respect the point of view. Mondo put it best when he said "I want to love it, but it's not letting me love it. She needs to learn to edit."
  • Michelle - Another costume style outfit, which truly is more in the Roman vein. It feels like it could be in a movie, which is actually different from the challenge.
Team Nick, despite Nick's terrible mentoring, is the winning team. Team Anya, because of the finishing problems, is on the bottom. In the end, Oscar wins, and Nicholas goes home should have gone home, but somehow is saved because...who fucking knows at this point. *throws remote*

Random observations:
  • Mondo: "We need to take more risks." No, honey, you don't. Your team was a bit more costumey, and was out designed. But, your designs were good, they just weren't as sophisticated as Oscar's.
  • Nick: "I cannot take responsibility for this one. It is all theirs. Bravo." (though, he's secretly taking credit for letting them be their own designers)
  • Jen: "She's like a mummy. ... I'm just here to be honest." Jen, there's a line between honesty and brutality. You crossed it, but I like it when you crossed it. Just don't be apologetic.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Under The Gunn S1 E5: Hit the Stage

Everybody is watching The Nick and Isabelle Hour
Last week, we watched as Nick started to try to let go of everybody but Isabelle. He had a special focus on her, and ripped her dress up and down. Isabelle, as a result, when on the bottom, threw Nick under the bus.

This week opens with Nick taking umbrage at Isabelle rightfully throwing him under the bus, and being in complete denial at his own terrible attitude. Meanwhile, Isabelle is already complaining because she can't finish a dress in the way she wants to do it. This episode, from here on forward, should be called The Nick and Isabelle show.

Sure, there's a challenge. It's to make a stage outfit for some teeny-bopper, Zazzle?, though nobody knows who the hell this girl is...except oh-so-straight Shan who helpfully adds that his kid watches Disney right now. Oh, Shan. You so hetero.  And, really, this challenge would have been tailor-made for Brady...but Anya sent him home last week. *ironic sad trombone*

That's almost the sum total of anybody else's participation in The Nick and Isabelle Show. During the sketch moments, Nick is telling them such helpful hints as "this is a girl who takes selfies," while rambling, rambling, rambling. When Isabelle finally tells him to shut the fuck up and let them actually think for themselves, Nick is all "OOOOOO. Bitchtoldmeto...shut...up!" (in so many words). 

Accenting The Nick and Isabelle Hour is that, when we get to the work room, Isabelle is is mental thought in the green room, and everybody else is talking about Isabelle. "Isabelle can't time manage" "Hey, Isabelle, get your ass out here." Isabelle is all, "I needed to have somebody kick my ass." And its just about Isabelle.

But, Nick comes out with Tim to help his designers. Natalia is designing something, but she's not Isabelle so nobody cares. Oscar has created a great ice dance outfit. Stephanie is using waxed denim, for some reason, but there's no changing that. 

And, then we return to Isabelle! Because, it's been way too long since she's been on screen. It's The Nick and Isabelle Hour, not Nick and Friends. Nick bitches about Isabelle telling him to shut the fuck up. Isabelle asks Nick for some actual help, in which I think she actually created a problem in order to let Nick be helpful. And, Nick gets to be helpful. So, Nick and Isabelle actually leave happy!

Mondo gets to talk to a designer and is skimmed over since he is neither Nick nor Isabelle.

Anya talks to Blake, who created a drop pants diaper and is lost. She talks to Nicholas, who is designing something boring. And, finally, she talks to Shan if only to feature his fucking bad ass jacket.

Models come in for a fitting, and Stephanie complains about nothing fitting. Models leave in the same amount of time it took to type these sentences.

But, then its back to the Nick and Isabelle Hour. No, really. As soon as the models leave, Isabelle is loudly complaining about fucking up her outfit. We just can't cut her out, we have to watch her crash and burn in all her glory.

It's at this point that I wonder if the editors really wanted to document Isabelle's fall from grace in excruciating and exact detail. Even once we get back to the work room, on day 2, Isabelle is the focus immediately. The editors try to create some tension by having Blake be all frazzled. But, Isabelle is still obviously the focus of The Nick and Isabelle Hour. Even Handlebar Moustache Guy's extended time this season (thank you, editors!) has been cut short by Nick harassing Isabelle because her dress is still in pieces. And, she ends up sewing up to the last minute, being harassed by both Tim and Nick. Especially Nick.

And, finally, The Nick and Isabelle Hour pauses for the runway. Finally. You guys, this has been a trying episode. Judges are now only 3: Jen Rade, Zanna Roberts Rassi, and Zantax, the performer.

Team Mondo:
  • Michelle - It's a good mid-20s walking to the gym look as its a sporty catsuit with a really cute jacket. I'd walk to the gym in that. 
  • Asha - An interesting take on the leather and flannel look. Its a fresh top with a bare midriff, and a cute shorts with a flannel shirt tied around it (and sewed on). It is a cute ode to teen love. 
  • Sam - I get it from the front. I get it from the back. I don't get it from the front to the back. The front is a full covering cute shirt jacket type piece with a mini skirt. And the back has an open bare back, giving the longer in the front appearance, which I totally don't get at all. I'd like it as a teen junior mall store look if it was full back though.
Team Nick:
  • Natalia - Cute jersey with pants. Its modern and hip and feels like stuff I already see on the racks. 
  • Oscar - Oscar, Oscar, Oscar. What ARE we going to do with you. Trashy, trampy, high glitz Cher-by-Bob-Mackie-wannabe outfit. Its well done...for Cher, when she was 45. 
  • Stephanie - Boring Faux Gaga, and not well done either. It's like the spirit of Elena took over, but not the skill. It's awful.
  • Isabelle - Um...No. It...I...I...What can I say? I don't even know.
Team Anya:
  • Blake - Tampon in applicator.
  • Nicholas - Snooooooze. It's not dramatic. It's dull. It's old. It's boring.
  • Shan - I fucking love that leather jacket. I want a men's version of it. It's such a sexy jacket. The pants are well done as well, but that jacket is amazing. 
So, after the judges rip apart and praise as is the custom, we get a new segment where the mentors get to comment to influence the judging, you know because it is The Nick and Isabelle Hour. And, this time Nick throws Isabelle under the bus. As if she needed the extra push. Kick a girl while she's down. 

Isabelle loses, and Asha wins. But, the ultimate result is that Nick's designers now feel like they can't trust Nick as their mentor. Which will lead into the next episode which can't be The Nick and Isabelle Hour. Thank God.

Random Observations:

- Asha: "I don't think that people get who Xanadu is as an artist..."

- Best moment of the night was Oscar's model dancing like Cher in her Cher spangled outfit.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Under the Gunn S1 E4: "Unconventional Vampire"

This is a show that is as much about perfecting mentoring as it is about perfecting design skills. Last week, we watched as both Mondo and Anya set their egos and personality aside in order to help their designers realize their vision. We also watched as Nick. V. reallytookover other...people's...deSIGN, and hisss designers failed. This is not a trap that Tim Gunn ever fell into.

This week...Well, you'll see.

This week's product placement is a movie that nobody bothered to see this weekend, Vampire Academy. In no small part because it went up against The Lego Movie. To set up the atmosphere, the producers make the designers stand outside, at night, with an overpumped fog machine, front lit by blue highlights and shadowy red low-lights and with a bright white backlight. It sounds a lot like a club scene from an early 2000s movie (American Psycho, Vanilla Sky, etc). 

The designers are forced to watch the trailer for the movie they're never going to see before they get 10 minutes to go through "Vampire Land" where they can pull up to FIVE FUCKING BOLTS OF FABRIC and any and as many unconventional materials they find. So, this isn't really an unconventional challenge. This is a half-assed unconventional challenge, for a reportedly half-assed movie (that wasn't screened for critics). 

The problem with a half-assed unconventional challenge is that it throws everybody for a loop. The designers, the mentors, and even, as we'll see, the judges. The designers start out with a mix of ability to deal with unconventional materials, but find their directions.

But, before we even get there, Tim Gunn sets the theme for the day. He chops off Nick V's ego by telling him to back off. He boosts Anya's ego by telling her to stay the course. And, he undercuts Mondo's strength by telling him that he needs to be more critical than emotionally supportive.

In the first round of critiques, when faced with strong designers, Mondo actually becomes timid and isn't able to balance his need to please Tim with his desire to support the designers and an ability to provide a critical eye. This week, all of his designers have strong viewpoints. Michelle has a great design place to start. Asha will always have a forceful point of view (even if it sometimes needs taste issues). And, Sam is one of the stronger designers.

Anya, on the other hand, now has a huge fucking ego. Sometimes she says something smart, but most of the time it is also so self-unaware. She tells Brady, whose taste is a young punk aesthetic that, like Mondo, pushes Junior, that he needs to stop pushing Junior. Which sends Brady into a tailspin that has him designing for an old person. Then she supports Nicholas who is creating a weird chainy taupey boring thing. 

Nick V, released from being a hands-on mother hen, now becomes a critical queen who demands everything to fit his aesthetic. When it comes to Oscar, its OK, because Nick knows Oscar needs editing. But, then Nick fights tooth and nail with Isabelle. He starts changing her design at every stage. Later, he says "You can do whatever you want to do. I'm just here to suggest...I love your point of view, I just want this ... I don't want you to lose you." Jesus, he is the Queen of Mixed Messages. Do this. No, do what you want to do, but do this anyways. Dating him seems like it would be impossibibble. Can you imagine?  This is coming from somebody who really liked Nick when he would make his appearances as a judge or a talking head. 

Isabelle, also, isn't a great communicator. Partially because English isn't her first language, I imagine. She always seems to be searching for words. And, with Nick's weird speech patterns, I'm sure it throws her for loops. So, she gets lost in the whirlwind of Nick, who seems to have been edited to be focusing strongly on Isabelle. Especially since Nick's other designers are completely ignored for the majority of the episode. Who were they again? 

In the end, for the most part it is a conventional challenge. Lacey-like fabric gets used as lacey-like fabric. Teeth are sewn to lapels. Chains are covered in fabric to hide their unconventionality. Necklaces are torn apart so that beats can be glued onto dresses of traditional fabric. It's not really all that hybrid. And, nobody really calls anybody out for that. Not Tim Gunn, not the mentors, and barely the judges. 

So, runway time. Apparently Jen Rade, Zanna Roberts Rossi, and Rachel Ray are supposed to be the permanent judges. But, Rachel Ray is out today, giving us Trina Turk. And, we also get Zoey Deutch, a 19-year-old actress who has been in the business for almost 4 years, starting on Disney, where I'm sure she had stylists helping her out.

Team Nick
  • Natalia - A red take on the Morticia Adams dress, only with too much fabric on top. With a bunch of netting thrown on at the waist in a sad attempt at an unconventional corset.
  • Stephanie - A white power suit dress with some beads glues on and some black netting sloppily thrown on as a collar.
  • Isabelle - A sloppy navy blue dress that looks interesting with a whirlwind of red netting weaved around her. It's at least unconventional.
  • Oscar - This is the first outfit that embraces the challenge. It's a slick, creepy, dress that weaves fabric with the red netting in a seamless fashion. It's slick, and only actual parts of the dress look gratuitous instead of whole materials themselves. Namely, the shoulder pads, which...what? It would have been perfect without those. They give off costume. 
Team Anya
  • Brady - Totally lost his way when Anya told him to not go so junior. So, he created a junior shift dress from a conventional fabric. And, threw an ill-fitting blue blazer on top of it. With his only unconventional material being the tiny little vampire teeth he sewn onto his lapels. So boring. 
  • Shan - Made a chic Racer Badass outfit using unconventional materials as accents. But, at least it looks OK. 
  • Nicholas - A sloppy brown dress with sad brown hoses attached to it. It's sort of like a female version of Jacob Marley fell into the mud.
  • Blake - A little black dress with black netting sloppily thrown onto it at the waist.
Team Mondo
  • Sam - Here's something new. An unconventional top of black netting over white fabric that looks like cheap black cut outs, but with a conventional bottom, and a belt made out of plastic Halloween decoration fence posts. The unconventional/conventional challenge is hard hammered together for a hard/soft, but the top is still hideous.
  • Michelle - A stunning snakey dress, with a dramatic wood nymph collar. While its almost getting into Stephanie territory, especially with sloppiness, it at least seems like she thought about the transition of the bust with the collar so it doesn't seem as jarring. Especially since the collar netting comes down to form the whole back of Michelle's dress, which is slick and hot.
  • Asha - Power Voodoo Priestess. The unconventional material is used as the skirt. Which adds an edge and also looks very witchy.
Since Oscar was actively helping other designers (namely Nicholas) with their designs, the makeup people awarded Oscar with a free $1k. Sometimes it pays to be a good guy. I like that. Yay Under the Gunn!!

Oscar, Michelle and Asha are in the top for obvious reasons. Brady, Isabelle, and Nicholas are in the bottom...again for obvious reasons. Brady and Isabelle suffered at the hands of their egotistical designers. Nicholas suffered from not enough attention. In the end, Anya has to make the final elimination decision between Brady the Junior Designer, or Nicholas the Menswear Designer. Somehow, she chooses to eliminate Brady, who should be here because he knows women. Nicholas, though, has less of a clue on how to design for women. His inexperience shows. Also, Michelle wins.

Random Observations
  • Sorry about the delay. I caught a good fever starting on Wednesday that wasn't even close to being done with me until yesterday, and I still felt like shit yesterday. Apologies
  • Zoey is so cute when she is disappointed. Nooo! Considering actresses can play high school into their mid-20s she potentially has a career for awhile. 
  • Why Anya, WHY?!?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Under the Gunn S1 E3: "Red Carpet Showdown"

Welcome to the regular season!

After our 2-episode 3-hour-total premiere, we're now down to one-hour competitions, only in a new format. But, the big question before even watching the episode is "what the hell is the new format going to be? And, is it going to be as crazy as the first 2 episodes?"

I'm excited to say that the new format is just a tweaked version of our traditional Project Runway. There is a competition that comes with a silly time crunch. There are 12 designers who have to do a design is inspired by this week's sponsor, and they get to be mentored during the show. There are still cutaway confessionals. The tweak comes with having 3 mentors instead of just one. Since each mentor is dedicated to only 4 designers, the mentors have the option to spend more time with their designers. This also allows Project Runway to add in cutaways of Tim or the mentors bitching about the other mentors. It folds in somewhat seamlessly.

This week, Project Runway is having the designers make a red carpet look inspired by Hollywood, with the sponsor being one of the double decker bus tours that you see tooling around LA all the time. Some designers are all "OMG, Red Carpet?!" Camila is inspired by art deco. Michelle is inspired by jewels. But, the interesting part is that the mentors are around for the sketching period. In all other iterations of Project Runway, the sketching was done solely by the designers. The one exception used to be if the designers had a commercial project where they had to fit within some manufacturer's price point.

In Under the Gunn, suddenly the designers are given advice by the mentors beginning with the sketch period. So, if the designers can be all panicky, the mentors can try to shake them out of their dead spaces. Later in the show, this may be something like the designer falls into a black hole and the mentor shakes them out of it. Both Anya and Mondo give generic advice like "it isn't necessarily a ball gown." But, Nick V, being a professional educator, gets hands on in an effort to show what he thinks works best. Including sketching, on the bus.

This overprotective behavior extends throughout the episode. He starts out by telling them what he wants to see in his dresses, techniques that work, flourishes that have been used in the past, and an overall sense of following the rules. Later, Nick moves on to resketching for his designers, laying out educational pattern making, tracing and cutting material, draping material, and all but doing the foundations for his designer's dresses. To be fair, for the most part, Nick did get some of the weaker designers, with Isabelle and Natalia being the ones of the premiere episode that I wanted to see more of, but they had construction issues.

Mondo and Anya, however, don't have that educator background. They take more of the Tim Gunn approach, telling their designers something is not working, sloppy, trashy, or otherwise needs to be edited or rethought. Mondo has more of an eye towards sewing perfection, while Anya has more of an eye towards taste level. Their designers, in turn, flourish under the hands-offy advice which allows the designers to speak through their clothing.

The interesting dynamic that happens through the different structure of Under the Gunn is that the designers are actually relatively nice to each other, and they spend their time helping within their smaller group. Even though Under the Gunn is ultimately judged in the same manner as Project Runway (non-teams editions), with every designer being judged on their own, the tying into groups by way of mentor creates tighter bonds between the designers. They aren't enemies to the other groups, but they do help each other in the groups.

Soon enough, it is time for the runway. Under the Gunn has a constant award to the winners of the runway, where each week the winner receives a flat $5000, plus whatever extra rewards may be involved in the sponsorship. The extra reward this week is a promise that the winning design will be in Marie Claire and worn by a as-yet-to-be-named celebrity.

This week's judges are: Zanna Roberts Rossi, Jen Rade (a celebrity stylist), and semi-staple Rachel Roy. I don't know if all three judges are temporary, or if any are permanent. I suspect that there are no permanent judges since we're in L.A.


Team Anya:

  • Brady - NOT RED CARPET. Sorry, but as much as I like this crazy-ass high fashion look, it is capri pants with a tank and a bare midriff. While I support the idea of comfortable clothing (or at least comfortable looking clothing) at an event like this, I think that this would be better as a sort of beach wear. I guess. Maybe to a cool Miami bar in the middle of summer? I like it, but its not appropriate. Anya says the major problem is finishing.
  • Blake - A gorgeous watercolor hard pastel print dress that makes me think the model just took a painting and ripped out the canvas to make a dress. It even has the rough finishes at the sides and the neck to make it look like a found dress. My only dislike are the two seams on the dress that carry the intentional sloppiness down the dress, but also breakup the smoothness of the print. Anya likes.
  • Nicholas - a little black dress with fringe. It's cute and edgy, and would fit in a red carpet. It is a bit safe since it is just a simple dress with a bunch of extra long fringe, but it is a fun dress.
  • Shan - POWER SUIT. Zomg. If I were a hot skinny woman, I'd want this outfit. Powerful print, great lapel, black panels down the side of the legs. It kind of falls apart in the back when Shen has the jacket split open from the neck down held together by a strap. This may have been a way to accommodate for the model's bigger-than-expected chest, but it looks finished and almost intentional. 
Team Mondo:
  • Sassy Sam - A glitter jumpsuit that's like intentionally punky trashy. It might be great on a stage, or at Burning Man, or a high-end street art gallery opening. I'm not a big fan of it on the red carpet though.
  • Asha - A great space-age design that is in the most brittle awful fabric ever. The lines are sleek and asymmetrical, but the fabric ruins the whole look by being a huge crinkled mess.
  • Michelle - Harlequin. Or, should I say Harley Quinn. Sure the look isn't red and black, but the over use of diamonds and facets with the different materials makes it look like a circus outfit. And then there's the diamond over her hoo-haa. Needed severe editing, and a bit more skill refinement.
  • Camila - Two looks sandwiched together. From the front, it's 1960s Italian easy, and from the back it is poorly-constructed hard-edged nightclub. Literally its day outfit from the front, and evening from the back. It's a huge Frankendress, and needed more editing.
Team Nick
  • Isabelle - Rough choice of materials to create a strange but already common chest area that hides the woman's boobs. It's like somebody took a punky look and tried to make it red carpet. Stylistically, its a Frankendress.
  • Natalia - Yawn. Too simple. Been done. It's not bad. But, it's just so...common.
  • Stephanie - It's a head of lettuce. The green fabric is tortured as hell. Folded in all the wrong spots. Tortured. Wrinkled. Tortured. Bad finishing. Tortured. ZOMG. It's terrible. Bad Nick.
  • Oscar - Simple Asian inspired green dress that's totally expected.
In the end, the lowest dresses are Stephanie, Michelle and Camila. The highest dresses are Shen, Sassy Sam, and Blake. Weirdly, Sassy Sam's jumpsuit wins, even though it seems the least red carpet of the three top dresses. Also, strangely, Camila is the one who goes home, despite being up against 2 tortured dresses. 

Random Observations
  • The lighting on the runway still sucks. It's shadowed in weird places, and the dresses aren't featured like they should. Somebody needs to fix this shit.
  • The emotional goodbyes are handled by the mentors. Tim Gunn is actually less gentile than Heidi is. It's strange to see Tim so reserved.
  • Is this a sign that the judging is going to be strange? The judges were actually on point with their critiques, but the results seemed totally bonkers.
  • Did anybody else think Camila went home because she was all drama at Mood?
  • Oscar is cute, but he's no Swatch.