Saturday, December 19, 2015

Project Runway Junior: S1 E5 "Race to the Red Carpet"

Did I promise to stop comparing PR JR to its predecessor? I lied. Or well, at least in this instance I won't be comparing the two shows on a functional level but in more of an intangible way. You see, last season of PR found us questioning the overall talent level of the contestants chosen to be on the show. Each runway left us struggling to pick out a solid top three looks and hoping for multiple eliminations. On PR JR, however, I have to say the opposite is more true: it's hard to honestly pick three bottom looks from week to week. Last episode had Jaxson, Jesse and Victoria in the bottom, and even though I didn't think Victoria's look encompassed the challenge, I did like it. So judging based on one's personal aesthetic appreciation leaves us with two bottom looks, and that's pretty standard for these first five episodes. So what are some of the effects of having a solid group of talent on a season of PR? Well for starters you can trust the contestants to be able to pull out stellar looks in next to no time flat.

This week's episode sees the contestants being greeted by actors from Finding Neverland. If that sounds familiar to you, it's probably because PR did the same thing back in its eighth episode of last season. Though, unlike the adults, we don't get to see the kids spending anytime watching the show, so for all we know they weren't granted the full on special treatment of their adult counterparts. The challenge is to work in teams of two to create a look worthy of the red carpet on a Broadway premiere. Each team will produce one look and they only have five hours to do it.

It seems a bit overwhelming, but with two people working on just one aspect of a look a piece, five hours seems like a life time. But when you throw a third helper into the mix and when that third helper is a past PR contestant, things look a lot more manageable. And so we welcome Samantha Black to work with Zach and Samantha; Amanda Valentine to work with Zachary and Matt; Fabio Costa for Maya and Peytie, and Sonjia Williams for Bridget and Jaxson. The kid's seemingly genuine excitement when they see their helpers is one thing that makes this episode so much fun. You watch these kids on the show and get the strict impression that they understand that they're a part of something bigger than just themselves and they're knowledgable about what's come before them.

Tim makes it clear that the alumni are only here to basically be seamstresses and won't be helping with any of the design process. There's no trip to Mood this episode, but Mini Mood is available for them to select from. Everyone gets to work and seems to move smoothly. Everyone except Bridget and Jaxson as the case may be who don't work together very well combining their respective aesthetics. But the two of them also don't have the worst kind of toxic chemistry that we've seen in pairs in the past. But their poor communication and lack of compromise lead to them having the worst Tim critique.

The colors they chose were all wrong and it's a bit ridiculous that they didn't see that sooner. Meanwhile, Peytie and Maya aren't faring much better with their interesting idea failing to come to life due (I think) to the limited kinds of fabric they have access to. Both cases see the previous PR contestants swooping in to offer the kind of help and guidance that they're there for. Bridget has a meltdown when they go back to pick out new fabric (with only three hours left in the day one might add), and Sonjia takes her by the hand and just calms her down. Her words aren't exceptionally gentle, but it's exactly the kind of firm hand and weathered experience that Bridget needed to get passed her emotional moment. And for Peytie and Maya, once they decide to ditch their white see through skirt and start looking at the ornate black fabric they have, Fabio suggests they use the reverse side of it for the skirt and that gives Maya the idea to go with a solid black but more flowing material when the time comes.

The Runway:

Zachary and Matt: I wish it was in a color other than red and I wish they had a bustier model to fill it out more. It seems like there's a lot going on here, but it could truthfully be great on a model of different proportions. The cut outs are sexy, and the movement is eye catching.

Samantha and Zach: OK. Good, not great. I don’t think they avoided having the jumpsuit be boring the way Tim said they needed to. The cape is a wow, and I even like the boxiness of the shoulders, and I love the print. But I think something needed to be different about the jumpsuit which feels swallowed up by the cape. 

Maya and Peytie: This I love. It’s bold and makes quite a statement. Going with the flowing fabric for the skirt was exactly the right way to go. I wish the detailing on the top was more photographable as I couldn’t make it out from the walk on the runway, but up close this is great. The openness on the front to show off those shorts is really killer. 

Bridget and Jaxson: The fit is great, the faux leather is really great and catches the eye exceptionally well. I like the color a lot too. It’s something that I think looks muted, but would really turn heads on a red carpet. All the right amount of sexy too. 

So with four looks on the runway, you'd expect a top and bottom two looks, but the judges seem to like everything except Zachary and Matt's look. Admittedly, they like Samantha and Zach's outfit a lot more than I did, but I can at least understand what drove them to their compliments. Oddly enough, Zachary and Matt's look is touted as being too ambitious. So it seems like this is one moment when too many ideas is going to bite someone in the ass, and that's mostly because there isn't really a boring or bad look on the runway. Everything, at least according to the judges, is so good that we're left with the unenviable task of punishing someone for trying too hard. 

There's no secret in the deliberation that one of the two of them has to go home. Matt's been in the bottom before. Indeed, just a couple episodes ago he was spared from going home in favor of not sending anyone home and having a double elimination to follow. So the fact that he's down here again suggests he's the most logical choice to be sent packing. But then there's Christian's (somewhat harsh) points about Zachary being the one who's actually let them down since the expectations on what he's capable of achieving are so high. Matt is clearly something of a favorite, though the jury's still out on whether or not his designs have earned him such a position, so it seemed very possible that Zachary could be going home here. 

But in the end, the judges do the smart thing and send Matt on his way. Peytie and Maya both share a much deserved win, incidentally. Matt's send off seems to be the saddest one yet as Hannah and Kelly both tear up a bit and Hannah tells him he was a favorite of hers and she was the one who fought to keep him around so hard the last time. I know I said before that sending these kids home each week would be very difficult for a long list of reasons, and I don't want to contradict that at all, but I'm thinking the fact that everyone here is so talented plays a contributing factor as well. If the judges couldn't see fit to place two pairs in the bottom and deliberate over the fate of four contestants instead of just two, then how can they hope to make this easy going forward? These kids seem to be getting stronger as the competition goes on, and everyone left has a world of potential within them. The high level of talent here means we should get harder and more satisfying challenges, but that the decision on who to say goodbye to will get harder and harder. 

Loose Threads:

--Peytie won the last immunity with the previous challenge. Knowing about that before this episode would have been nice, but beyond that eliminating immunity at the top eight seems a bit early, doesn't it?

--It's hard for me to believe that this is Maya's first win of the season, but there you have it. At this point, she's easily my favorite designer. (Jaxson is my favorite person, but that's another matter all together.) 

--Matt's the second person to go home and acknowledge that he's sad to leave the other contestants because he got closer to them quicker than he has anyone else from back home. Again I say this show stands to be really important. 

--Which only seven contestants left, who do you think deserves to make it to the top four? My money is on Maya, Zachary, Zach and Samantha. I think Jaxson isn't long for this world, sadly, and while I like Peytie and recognize she's the only one with double wins, I also think it would be easier for her to slip up one week and miss the cut given her particular aesthetic. Samantha has slipped from my good graces, but the judges still seem to love her, and she does have the most unique voice. I could be tempted to replace Zach with Bridget, but I'm wondering if we don't end up with an even split between the girls and the boys. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Project Runway Junior: S1 E4 "OMG! That's Michelle Obama"

OK there's only one thing to say about this episode: SWATCH IS BACK AND HE'S OK!!!!!! Well looking a little old and sluggish, but alive and OK all the same! So there, we can all go to bed now and feel relaxed; all is right with the world. Or is it? Because given our "no one goes home" decision of last episode, we're left with two people going home this week as everyone is ready to remind us time and time again. This means either that the show is going to chicken out from this monumental moment either by not sending two people home or by letting Tim save one of them, or it means one designer who probably isn't so deserving, who probably would be safe in a regular week, is going home. So the stage is set for a naturally dramatic episode of PR JR; probably the most dramatic episode we've seen thus far, but will the challenge and everything else deliver?

Well the challenge starts things off in the right way. The designers are tasked with creating a modern look for a fashionable "girl on the go." To give them a jolt, Michelle Obama shows up on the screen and, not going to lie, I knew it was coming and I still screamed like a little girl with excitement when I saw her. Because she's Michelle fucking Obama! No shame!

The lovely and resplendent (angelic too much? No, I'm going with angelic) First Lady talks to the designers about Let Girls Learn, a White House initiative that is really exactly what it sounds like. She also tells them that the winning designer will be given the opportunity to partner with Lands' End to create a backpack the proceeds of which will go towards Let Girls Learn. So this brings me to something else I'm enjoying about PR JR thus far: the rewards beyond immunity simply feel bigger, more interesting, and more important that the rewards for that other show I can't remember the name of at the moment. This is because the rewards here are less about giving the designers stupid swag and more about giving them a way to leave a serious impact on the world or the world of fashion with their young brands. If your look is getting produced and photographed, or the pattern you use is being mass marketed online for other designers, or you're getting a hand in creating something for a good cause, that's so much cooler and more important than getting a 3D Printer for your own personal use.

But anyway, there's a big spinning gameshow wheel on the stage and the designers are spinning it to see what kind of girl they're designing for. Categories available are School, Work, Travel, and Party. And the breakdown of who gets what:
  • Maya: Sporty
  • Zachary: Party
  • Jesse: School
  • Victoria: School
  • Matt: Travel
  • Zach: Party
  • Samantha: Work
  • Peytie: Travel
  • Bridget: School
  • Jaxson: Sporty
First things first, "Travel" is a weird category. Or maybe it's just a weird one for young people to be given. Is there a specific look that you see someone wearing and say "Oh she must be traveling?" I know I don't, which makes me think from the start that Matt and Peytie are at an odd disadvantage here. Or maybe since they can literally interpret it to mean whatever they want it to, they have an advantage? We'll circle back around to this later.

Jaxson is the most worried about his category seeing as how he doesn't feel much like his design aesthetic is sporty in the slightest. He decides to do a kind of Jersey inspired dress which reminds me of something we've seen before but I don't feel like looking for it at the moment. At Mood he gets this stark white fabric the likes of which seems to be used on basketball jerseys. Sadly, he would have been better off with a kind of jersey knit fabric, but that's neither here nor there. Peytie finds a print that speaks to her typical hippie/tribal aesthetic. On the roll, this fabric is an eyesore and everything about it says stay away, but since it was Peytie grabbing it, I honestly didn't feel worried. 

Back in the workroom, Tim shows up with some chick from the Peace Corps, and I honestly have no idea why. She talks about the fact that there are girls working with the Peace Corps, which is a surprise to no one at all, and then she leaves. That's the kind of moment they should have had for the designers and then left on the cutting room floor since it adds nothing to our viewing experience. 

Early on in the design process, shots are fired from Zachary at Victoria when he comments that she constantly makes the same top over and over again. She takes offense and isn't shy about telling him he should worry about his own look and leave her's alone. Everything this season has been pretty copesetic between the designers often verging on lovey. And I've remarked multiple times that I like that about the show, but I'd be lying if I said this little exchange didn't make me giggle a bit. To his credit, I don't think Zachary's comments were meant to be mean-spirited so much as observant and maybe even constructive, but his statements lacked tact and hit at a worry Victoria was having anyway. 

Tim's visit a little bit later shows me what I've been missing in a Tim Gunn visit lately. He talks to Jaxson who is missing the mark, he tells him he's unimpressed, he questions why the look has to be a dress and Jaxson responds that he doesn't want it to be shorts. Tim returns with, "Are those the only two options?" at which point Jaxson's eyes light up and he says Romper like it's the magic word that will breath life into the entire look. Tim nods and points out that Jaxson was the one that said it as if to point out that the potential for the idea was there all along, and now he's got a road map going forward. And it's that back and forth that was missing last episode and from a lot of what we saw last season. "Mentor" is Tim's job title, and you can see him doing and being that most when we get to hear some of this back and forth. He's stern when he doesn't like something, but he sticks around and gently leads the designers to where they need to be. 

Or, as is the case with Victoria, maybe he does a bit too much and over plays his hand. Tim says, much like Zachary before him, that Victoria's becoming a bit of a One Way Money™ by making the same look over and over again. So the two of them stand there and he tells her to remove the skirt leaving the look with a pair of short shorts, and then tells her to use her other fabric on the top to make it pop. Zachery, away from Victoria's line of hearing, comments that Tim basically designed her look for her and now she's little more than a seamstress. I don't know why this intervention by Tim doesn't bother me, but it doesn't. I'm guessing if these weren't kids, it would bother me more, but in this situation, I'm honestly OK with it. Also, I don't feel like we've seen him doing this with only one designer in the way we saw him working with Ashley last season, so at least it's not favoritism. 

The only thing left is the model fitting and yet more of Jaxson working til the last minute to turn his look out and be runway ready. This portion of the show has become perfunctory and kind of pointless. Some contestants have looks to try on, some don't, and that's all there is to it. So I think from now on unless something important happens, I'll start to go right from Tim's critique to the runway. 

The Runway:

Samantha: I like it more on the runway than I did on the dressform. Does it scream “Work” to you? It says more “Travel” to me. It’s not professional attire, but it looks like the kind of perfect match for someone who might be traveling between two places with different weather. The looks underneath seem more warm/cool wear, and then you throw the coat on overtop of it all and you’re ready to go into somewhere a bit colder. It’s a long way of me saying that I like this look but I don’t know that it fits her category. 

Jesse: NO! I do think the skirt is too school uniform which can take this a bit costumey, except that those uniform skirts would never be paired with that top. I don’t like this, but I will say that I can see how someone might. To someone else, those two elements might not be as discordant as they are to me. But either way, I’m not a fan. 

Bridget: I love love love this. The fit is breathtaking, the flannel shirt tied around the waist is a kind of ingenious 90’s throwback but the fact that it isn’t actually just a shirt (or is it? I can’t fully tell) and is just a specially made tie is so smart and creative. I love the look and the styling so much. And it totally says “School” without being too obvious about it. 

Victoria: OK nothing at all about this says school. I don’t know what school Victoria is attending, but when I was a kid, this girl would have been sent home before she even got off the bus. With that being said, I like the look a lot. It fits like a glove, it’s super sexy, and it’s something different from her without feeling like she’s totally lost herself in the process. I like it, but it doesn’t fit all challenge parameters. 

Peytie: I like this a lot more from the back than I do the front which I find boring except for the print. And here we see the problem with the "Travel" category. Do you dress for where you’re going or where you’re leaving? It’s this weird liminal thing. But to those ends, Samantha’s look feels more like travel wear to me than this does. This feels more at home in “Party” if you ask me. It’s cute, but again not 100% what was asked for, but in this case I think that’s not her fault so much as the fault of the stupid category she had. 

Matt: Same thing here. This is beautiful beautiful beautiful. But no one is getting on a plane in a ball gown. I’m still blaming this on what is a stupid category, but I also don’t know which category this would go in. It can be “Party” if we’re talking about an after hours Oscar party. Maybe “Work” if you work as a fashion model for an elegant designer. But that’s it. I don’t want that to detract from what is easily the best thing we’ve seen from Matt thus far and totally serves as justification for keeping him around last week, but still. 

Jaxson: ……… I’m happy he likes it. I don’t hate it, but I can’t like it either. I do think there’s something “Sporty” about it in a lot of ways beyond just the type of fabric he used. But the cut of the neckline is really distracting, as are the seams in the romper. And the combination of the metallic fabric and the this spaghetti straps makes it almost look a little trashy. Maybe I do hate it a little bit.

Maya: Perfection! The top, the asymmetry, the zipper, the fit on the pants, all of it is just great. It does say “Sporty” and without screaming it in your face. My favorite so far. 

Zachary: Color and movement and the cut of the top and the train are gorgeous. This is a kid who really knows how to dress a woman’s body. I like the skin showing; it’s one of the only high waisted pants I’ve ever really liked. The neck reminds me a bit of Maya’s from last challenge in how stirking it is if not in the cut of it, but I like it all a lot. The seam on the back of the cape is a bit distracting, but that could be purposeful. “Party?” I guess…

Zach: I’ll praise the cut and the fit of this which I think works out well. That print is all wrong though. You walk into a party like that and you’ll get laughed out. The print is too busy for how designed the whole thing is. I don’t think he needed a flat color for it, but maybe two solid tones that complimented each other? Or at least just a quieter print or a simpler design.

The judges' critiques go quicker than last episode, but they're also highly informative. Zachery, Maya, and Peytie are in the top, Jesse, Jaxson, and Victoria are in the bottom. The key points I responded to were Aya's statement that Jaxson's look was more costume than fashion and Jesse's look was clothing and not fashion, and Kelly's point that seeing something different from Victoria almost exclusively means color at this point and not just the cut of an outfit. I thought, and still think, that the change in the cut of Victoria's outfit is enough to suggest the ability to present something else from her, and I liked that she was able to change that while at least keeping her usual (read: Black) aesthetic, but Kelly's point is valid too. 

Over on the top side, Christian has a lot of great things to say about Zachary's intelligence in creating something that could be either a cape or an overlay and yet it just works both ways. Kelly's compliment to Peytie that she chooses prints and works with them in a way that makes Kelly love her looks in spite of the fact that they go so much against her own typical tastes is really great. But the winner here for me is Maya since I didn't hear anything they said to her after I saw her zip up the zipper and transform her look into something else entirely. My jaw dropped at the turtleneck she created by zipping that zipper. They might as well have been two totally different outfits and both of them are breathtaking. 

And yet Peytie wins the challenge. I've been a bit more forgiving on the last three episodes' winners; I haven't agreed with many of them, but I've at least understood the decision. And to be honest, I love Peytie's look (from the back) and I can see how this would be a winning look in another challenge that doesn't feature Maya's outfit. The fact is that Maya's look is ready to be manufactured and sold right now. Girls everywhere would spend a lot of money on it, and rightfully so. Maybe the judges thought Peytie's backpack design for Lands' End would be stronger than Maya's were she to win, but getting to see the finished product of the bag at the end of the episode, I have to wonder at the wisdom behind that. Either way it's not the first time I've questioned the decision on the winning look, and I'm guessing it won't be the last. 

Meanwhile, Jesse and Victoria are the two designers sent home, and true to their word, the show allows them both to go. No backing out, no Tim Gunn save, just a quick and sad goodbye to them both. Jaxson gets the save because again bad ideas, or even good ideas executed poorly, are better than no ideas. And Victoria seems to only have one trick while Jesse decided to make clothes instead of fashion. I don't know how much I agree with this decision so I'll leave the conjecture on it to others. My biggest take away actually has more to do with the decision from last episode in connection to the decision from this week. 

Roll with me for a minute here; these were the looks that were in the bottom two but were saved from elimination last episode:

Now look again at Victoria and Jesse's looks from this week which were sent home. Now, I'm not saying that Jesse's look specifically isn't bad enough to be in the bottom and even sent home this week, but is it really worse than the two from last week? Couple that with Jesse's exceptional unconventional materials look and you've got one misstep in an otherwise strong body of work. Conversely, this week is the first time we've seen something "strong" from Matt, and yet it doesn't really fit in with the girl he was given and it was ultimately only safe--not in the top. And Samantha's look this week was a lot better than last week (in my opinion) but it's also not something that's wholly unique from her; certainly no moreso than Victoria's look is. So as much as I'd hate to bring up the "f" word, is it really fair that we lose Jesse and Victoria this week when we could have lost Matt and/or Samantha last week and avoided this? It was unavoidable that someone undeserving would be going home. Or at least someone who otherwise wouldn't have gone home had we just been getting rid of one contestant. But it's looking to me like we might have lost two contestants who may not have deserved to go. Couple that with the fact that I think Jaxson's look really is the worst of the three (impressive innovation not withstanding) and you've got a bit of a quagmire here. But I guess time will tell and that should be a conversation for another week. 

Loose Threads:

--So clearly these reviews are coming later than the regular PR reviews did, and I apologize for that, but this week there was at least a better reason for it than usual: I was all set to write the review on Friday after work, but my day at work ended with me losing my job along with a few of my friends in an unexpected layoff. So as you can imagine, my weekend was a lot more stressful and hectic than originally planned, and that's why I didn't get around to watching the episode and writing it up until tonight. My days for the foreseeable future will be spent applying for every job I can find in order to get back up on my feet as quickly as possible, but it's safe to assume that reviews will be late on a regular basis from now on. That's assuming my roommate and I don't have to cut out the cable all together and I start missing the episodes. Fingers crossed everything's OK soon. 

--This episode saw Maya's 14th birthday and that was cute and sweet. I was wondering if they didn't give her the win specifically to avoid looking like they were giving her a b-day gift in the form of immunity. Either way, wrong decision.

--I feel like this was the most colorful episode we've seen thus far, but I could be wrong about that. It felt like they ask them to design for a young girl and out comes the color. 

--Jaxson dominates this episode in a way that made me feel sure he was going home. Meanwhile, Jesse and Victoria are there but not as much focus as Jaxson got. It was a nice little misdirect on the part of the producers. 

--Seriously though, Sundaynightaddict, did you see Swatch was back?!?!?!! I literally screamed and cheered at that moment. 

--Back to my thoughts about the elimination this week: I feel like I should say that I don't think given everything we've seen that Jesse or Victoria honestly had a shot to win the whole thing, so I don't think losing them but keeping Samantha and Matt is a huge loss for the show as a whole. But on the other hand, I don't think Matt realistically has a shot to win either and the more I see from Samantha, the more one note I find her to be. She plays her note well, but it's still the same note over and over again and I'm bored with it. I don't want her to lose her aesthetic as I think it's beautiful and important in a world with complicated gender politics to begin with, but I do want to know that she can do something other than questionably made oversized coats. And if she can't, I'm going to get more and more upset over the fact that she didn't go home last week. </rant>

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Project Runway Junior: S1 E3 "Teamwork is Hard"

Is PR JR getting better with each passing episode? I ask this honestly, because I can hardly express how good I thought this episode was. We'll talk extensively about the ending and how that's either a mark against the hour or a point in its favor depending on where you stand, but everything prior to that felt like a kind of culmination of three episodes worth of toil. The progress of this season isn't surprising to anyone who watches PR on a regular basis. There's been an introductory episode, an unconventional materials challenge, and now a team challenge. Honestly, if we got a Heidi as client episode and a Real Woman episode in the next two, I'd say we'd have hit all of the PR staples in the first four hours. But there's something special here that we just don't get from PR anymore. And I'm sure everyone's tired of hearing me say this by now, so I promise I'll try and make the next review less about comparing this show to its predecessor, but it still rings true. These challenges are smarter, simpler, and thusly more entertaining than what we see on the other show. The quality of the finished designs might not be on the same level, but that's a given and a small enough consideration when you're dealing with contestants in their teens.

Take this week's challenge. The first thing we find out is that it's a team challenge. Fair enough. Hannah comes out with the button-bag-o-doom. She tells everyone Zachery has immunity for this challenge, but stops there because his win last challenge doesn't give him any other kind of leg up in this one. He doesn't get to pick a team, or start off a school-yard pick. No, PR JR is actually concerned enough for the mental wellbeing of its contestants that it doesn't put them through the potential hurt and embarrassment of a school-yard pick. Gone is also the "Who should win? Who should go home?" questioning we usually see on the runway, but we'll get there.

From the early going, it looks like one team is stacked and the other is the underdog. A team that features Matt, Samantha, Maya, Jesse, and Peytie simply feels stronger than one featuring Zach, Zachary, Bridget, Victoria, and Jaxson. Not horribly stronger, but the trio of Samantha, Jesse, and Maya sees contestants who have been consistently great to this point. Whereas Zachary and Jaxson are probably the strongest on their team with the others having been mostly safe, or even in the bottom as was the case with Zach in the first episode. But the picking was totally random, so there's no complaints to be made.

From there, it's off to see Tim where the designers are told that their being given three fashion eras to choose from (the 40s, 50s, or 60s, though I don't see why you don't replace the 40s with the flappers in the roaring 20s, but that's just me), and they're to be inspired by those eras to create a five piece cohesive collection. They're also told that only two people from each team will be going to Mood so the other three can stay behind and get to work. They'll be in communication with the workroom through FaceTime. I have to say, I like this as well. It shows a dedication to making sure there's time enough to get to work on the product, and also gets into the core of teamwork: having to trust members of your team to have your back and not screw you over when you aren't there to guide their hand.

One team picks the 40s, the other the 60s, and it's off the sketch and come up with a plan. From the start, it looks like Team 1940s has stronger communication and a more democratic kind of leadership while on Team 1960s, Samantha steps up and takes the leadership role almost by force. Matt comments that her consistent spot in the top three makes him confident in her abilities as a leader, so they're in good hands. The team seems to go through the motions of gaining consent, but there's something in the way that Samantha kind of (I say kind of because we've seen much worse) steam rolls people, and makes a "suggestion" and asks if everyone agrees that suggests she's not really looking for consent so much as expecting the others to just agree with her superior idea. Either way, everyone knows what they want to do, Maya is pretty set on her idea to make a vest, and it's off to Mood. Samantha and Peytie are going for Team 1960s and Zachary and Bridget head out for the 40s.

If Samantha's steps toward leadership in the workroom were tentative (and I'm not even sure that they were), then her actions in Mood are nothing but overt. It becomes clear that this is the Samantha show and everyone else on her team is just going to have to get in line. While she and Peytie are looking for fabric for Maya's vest, she blatantly says "I don't think we really need the vest, right? She can do something else." and after something of a beat, Peytie agrees. She either agrees or capitulates, I'm not certain which, but it's a problem either way. They have phones, they have the ability to call in to their team and check with them about these things instead of making unilateral decisions and declarations about what the people back at the workroom will do.

This isn't without its pratfalls, of course. Zachary FaceTimes his team and has a great conversation with Jaxson without a problem. But when Peytie tries to contact Jesse, they have a bad connection and lose the call. One of the things I loved about the idea of having the kids call back to the workroom to communicate fabric choices was that it seemed to fit in perfectly with this our 2015 world. These kids are probably on their phones constantly anyway (as are the rest of us to be fair), so this felt like a way to get at them on their own level to a certain extent. But of course when you rely on technology to such an extent, the option for that tech to crap out on you is always there looming over everything you do. Who hasn't had a meeting or an interview scheduled over Skype just to have your internet go down or Skype decide it just doesn't want to work today? But even so, I can't be the only one to think that Peytie could have tried a little harder. If Zachary can have a clear conversation with his team, there's clearly a sweet spot in Mood that she could have gotten to and got stronger reception.

Everyone gets back to the workroom and, surprise surprise, Team 1940s is happy with the fabric choice and already had a considerable amount marked out with muslin. Conversely, Samantha walks into the workroom and starts everything off with a "Here's how's it's going to go down" pronouncement, and everyone's miserable, Maya is especially upset about having to come up with an entirely different design since her vest was the focal point of what she was doing before and that idea got scraped without her knowledge. So when they do finally get fabric, almost everyone on the 60s team has to start their designs over from scratch because none of them got what they wanted.

Tim comes in and has one of the least effective visits of this short season. Gone is the harsh-but-ultimately-helpful Tim Gunn we've been seeing so far, and back is the mostly condescending and insulting Tim Gunn we saw in last season of Project Runway. He doesn't like much of what's happening with any of Team 1940s looks, or at least not the ones we hear him talking about. He thinks Jaxson's stark white top is horribly discordant to the rest of the collection, but he doesn't remark on the cut of it, so there's no telling if simply changing the color would be the way to go. He doesn't have anything overly negative to say about Zachary's look except that using the zippers as the hem of the pants is the wrong idea. And this is where I was most confused. While I agree with him about not using the zippers, where was the compliment to how great the top was on its own? Probably left on the cutting room floor, but still.

But that's nothing compared to Team 1960s critique. He likes Maya's dress, but hates the neckline of it and then spends all of his time talking about that one element. He's also not a fan of Matt's hunter green look, which I thought was the best thing the team had created. And he hates the tope colored fabric most of the looks are using. He also doesn't like Samantha's jacket, but it's the sole piece she's got going for her, and she likes it so she isn't changing it. Everyone else, however, scraps their looks and starts over yet again! Everyone except Maya who just reworks her neckline. I don't think we've ever seen this many start overs bode well for someone, and there's no reason to assume it'll all work out here.

The Runway:

Peytie: I’m not so concerned with how short it is, minus the fact that this is the 60s and there should be a little more modesty, but I am concerned with the way the print seems to carry the dress more so than anything else. It doesn’t look innovatively designed so much as just a simple dress with a cool print. I’m not impressed. 

Jesse: Not a fan of this either. The color blocking at least feels 60s inspired, but the dress is simple, and the cut of the hem looks sloppy and uneven to me. The addition of the pink at least pops and doing it in black and white would have been a massive failure, but I’m still not impressed. 

Matt: That head scarf has got to go. I don’t see Jackie O in that at all. There’s no way in hell this simple and basic look is better than the green dress we saw during Tim’s visit. All in all, this collection looks like exactly what it is: looks thrown together at the last minute. 

Maya: This is the best look so far. The color is perfect, the shine and the movement of the fabric is great, and the details along the neckline are fabulous. Does it say 60s to you, though? I’m still unsure. I love the swooping open back, and it’s pretty sexy, but there’s something about it all that I feel is a bit too edgy for the 60s. Still, this is great!

Samantha: The white dress gathers and bunches up in a way that’s horribly distracting, the coat still has those eyesore flyaway threads that makes it look messy and unfinished, and on top of all of that, it’s all horribly boring too. This is a massive failure from Samantha. 

Victoria: I’m going to say that I’d like to see something from her in colors other than blue and black. But with that being said, I still like this a lot. I think the pop of blue catches you off guard when you do see it. I think the peak-a-boo slit in the back of the top is really striking. And I think it’s all very tastefully done. 

Zachary: I love love love love this. The slits in the front showing off those spectacular pants! Another keyhole open back! The cut of the neckline! It’s all so sexy and sophisticated, and I like it that he says it’s modern because that’s what I think of it too. Idk that it screams 40s, but I also don’t know enough about the fashion of the 40s to be able to say one way or the other. What I do know is that it’s a great look!

Jaxson: I like this look. My complaints are in the messy construction of the top, and in the fact that the ribbon detailing on the top is black instead of in the same navy color of the dress. But other than that, it’s OK. His back isn’t open in the same way as the first two, which I think throws off that one element of cohesion, but we’ll see about the rest of the collection. 

Zach: I echo Kelly’s WOW on this one. That jacket is crazy great. The whole thing is streamlined and elegant and professional looking. It looks expensive. The neckline is sexy as hell too. I’m a fan of this!

Bridget: OK I like this a lot, I honestly do, but does it look a bit bath robe, or like a nightgown to you? Something about it takes it out of the glam I think she was going for and puts it more in the bedroom. It’s still nice, and the fabric and movement are great. I just don’t know that she achieved what she was specifically going for. 

No one's surprised to find that Team 1940s is in the top and Team 1960s is in the bottom, though Hannah is quick to point out that it's not that the 60s looks are bad so much as the 40s looks are really great. She can play lip-service to that idea all she likes, those 60s looks are pretty horrible. They talk to the 40s team first, and spend most of their time focused on Zach and Bridget. I love it that Aya is so quick to point out the evening gown quality of Bridget's look that I thought I might be alone in noticing. But as they point out, the collection goes from day to night, so Bridget's look works even better than I think she actually anticipated. But Zach's look is my favorite. They compliment the fit of the pants, and the impeccable tailoring of the whole thing. I think Zachary is short served with no one pointing out how great his look is and how impressive it is that he could pull this out even when he already had immunity. 

Maya gets the lions share of the compliments for the 60s team as her neckline and the open back are stellar aspects of the look. For some reason I simply don't understand, they seem to like Samantha's jacket (though I don't think we really hear from Aya about it), and then when she's asked to take the jacket off, everyone collectively gasps at the sight of the horrible and unfinished dress underneath. Kelly seems to like the frayed edges of the jacket itself, but to me it makes Samantha's clothes look cheap and it never feels purposeful or strategic. So when you couple that with the cheap and unfinished aspect of the dress she paired it with, you've got this consistent problem of Samantha putting cheap and unfinished looks down the runway. I forgave it in the first challenge since it was the first challenge and I figured they'd all need some time to adjust. Plus the design of that first look was strong enough to surpass any construction issues. That's not the case here though, and I find everything about this outfit to be a horrible problem. 

We don't get a closer look at the dresses in this challenge, but we do get a fairly extended conversation between the judges about who should win and who should go, and I honestly would love to see more of this in the future. It's clear that the decision on who to lose is between Samantha and Matt, and if you're anything like me, you assumed it was time for Matt to go since he's been safe-bottom-bottom through the first three challenges while Samantha has been win-top-bottom. But the judges explanation for each were really fascinating. Hearing Christian almost excuse Samantha's crappy dress in favor of the jacket they all like, and the intelligence to at least leave the jacket on to hide the horrible dress is fascinating. Couple that with Kelly's vehement anger over the state of Samantha's dress, and you can see that there's a really solid case for sending this girl home. 

Bridget wins which I can't be upset over though I like Zach's look more. Everyone is dismissed from the runway except for Samantha and Matt, and the looks on their faces say it all. Samantha is told that she's in, and she breaths a clear sigh of relief and starts to walk off the stage before anyone tells her to. Hannah stops her and sends her back to her spot before saying that Matt is safe too. No one is going home, but there will be a double elimination next week. 

Here's why I think this decision doesn't work so well: a lot of what we've been noticing thus far has seemed to be in favor of coddling these kids to an extent. A lot of what I pointed out in this episode alone suggests they're playing with kid gloves in certain places. One place where I'd like to see them not really do that is in the eliminations. I know I complain each week that these eliminations are harder to watch than the eliminations on PR, but they're still needed both to keep things moving and to perhaps teach these designers something. You can't have an off week and still be successful here. Plus, while I like Matt a lot, I don't think we've seen anything from him yet that automatically suggests we need him to stick around. Not sending anyone home here feels like a bit of a cop out. 

Here's why I think this decision works perfectly: if we take Hannah's statement that they really did like both teams looks, and didn't feel as though either team truly deserved to be in the bottom, and the arguing back and forth through the judging certainly seems to suggest that was the case, then why should anyone have to go home? I don't think they should make a habit of this by any means, but if there was ever a moment when it makes a level of sense, it's this one. Also, the conversation between the judges seems to suggest the biggest problem for the 60s team was a lack of inspiration. They bring up multiple times that it's odd that they didn't go psychedelic, Woodstock, hippy wear for this one. And while I can understand wanting to, I don't know that you can fully justify sending one person home for what is ultimately a failure on the part of the whole team. 

Either way, whether you agree with the decision or not, this is where we are. No one goes home, and yet we have a double elimination next week meaning no one except Bridget is safe. If they cop out again and only send home one person, or if they send home two and Tim saves one, that could be a problem and shed an even more negative light on this development. But if they stick with it, it could be the most stressful and dramatic episode thus far. 

Loose Threads:

--I forgot to mention that the winning look with have its pattern produced on which is a site I'd never heard of before. It's for this reason that I certainly think Zach should have won since I thought his design had a little more thought and complexity to it than Bridget's did and fit in with that aspect of the challenge more. 

--Once again Zach is the only person upset by the outcome of no one going home. He seems to be the only person going hard on the competition aspect of the show. He's not wrong, but I maintain that he makes for a blight on the otherwise cute and friendly nature of the show that I've enjoyed so much. 

--With that being said, it's to his credit that he doesn't complain about not getting the win that I think he deserved. Even Bridget on the runway said she thought Zach was going to win, and he just holds his tongue. Gotta respect that. 

--Tim tell Jaxson that he doesn't like his top, and that leads to him changing it, but once again we see Jaxson's time management issue come up. Even when the team was talking about going to Mood, it was pointed out that Jaxson needed to stay in the workroom because he's constantly pressed for time. I'm happy to see them acknowledging this, but I'd like to see him get better. I'm hoping Jaxson sticks around for a long time. 

--Christian seems to be the main judge taking these kids to task on the runway. he doesn't seem to hold back much in his comments. There's one moment here where he says something and we catch the briefest shot of Kelly's "OMG! I can't believe you said that!" face before the show moves on. Kelly is quick to point out that Samantha's dress looks like shit, but she waits until everyone's in the greenroom before saying so. I've been fascinated with the judging thus far. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Project Runway Junior: S1 E2 "An Unconventional Carwash"

After two episodes, I can't tell if I think PR JR is finding a rhythm or if I think I'm becoming used to its hectic fast pace. In a lot of ways, I think PR JR is a purer more distilled version of it's senior partner. There's significantly less product placement and wasteful filler interludes. Gone are the extended hair and makeup consultations for every designer. Gone are the long scenes of designers eating lunch so we can make sure the sponsor's fridge is somewhere in the frame. And since the kids are all adorable and seem to love each other with the reckless abandon that only kids tend to find in these cases, gone is the silly manufactured drama and squabbles that tend to crop up. At least that's the case so far, maybe after teams are formed next episode we'll be seeing a different side of everyone. But for now, PR JR is relying on the genuine wonder and talent of these young contestants (and a very natural and organic kind of pathos that comes of simply working with young people) in a way that makes me feel like this is PR at it's best. The scant amount of time we get to spend with Tim's visits and on the runway not withstanding.

This week's challenge hits the ground running with the contestants being told to get ready for a limo ride the following morning. No telling where, or for what, but everyone gets dolled up for a fun and unique experience. And here's the wonder I mentioned before. These kids are honestly excited and interested in being in this large limo. And that's without the aspect of a limo that we adults like most: getting wasted while someone else drives you around! There's a fun and a beauty in watching them get wide eyed at something as simple as being in a limo. It's a reaction that extends to them going through a carwash, and admittedly that can feel a bit put on in ways, but still. They're cute and precocious, and it seems like the producers understand that that fact alone is enough to carry a portion of an episode. I enjoy it.

Thus begins the group's first unconventional material's challenge. It's a PR staple, but something about it feels all the more daunting because you just know that it's going to be so far outside of these kid's wheelhouses. Granted, I don't think contestants on PR Senior spend much time working with Hallmark Greeting Cards, or Outdated Technology Hardware, but you tend to assume that they've worked with multiple different kinds of fabric and materials in their time and they have years of experience and creativity under their belts. So you assume a PR contestant should be prepared for anything that gets thrown at them while maybe a 15 year old will be significantly more out of their depth. Either way, they have a small span of time to grab as much stuff from the car wash as they can and then just create a look from it. It's pretty standard, and for all of the "I want to grab stuff so no one else can" talk, the materials snatch is pretty simple and everyone seems to leave with much of what they wanted.

In the workroom, my concerns about everyone being out of their depth came up again as we see a lot of people creating looks that mostly consist of materials being glued to the muslin base. It's something that maybe we can give these kids a pass on, and the looks they end up with are still pretty stellar, but it's something that could never fly on Project Runway.

Tim doesn't mention it on his visit, which suggests that it's something they're more than willing to overlook here. Instead, Tim steps into his role as mentor in a way that I feel like we rarely saw him do in this last season of PR. When he meets with Bridget, it's clear that both he and her have reservations about her look. Tim expresses them, but then after a commercial break is quick to offer the kind of guidance and advice that pulls her look together and gives her a path forward with it. Same goes for him telling Matt to cut the tubing he's using for his skirt in order to make it more cooperative.

The next big event is of course the model fitting, and I have to say I was very unimpressed with seeing these looks on the models. There were still a couple hours left in the challenge, and clearly the time they'd have before the runway, but everything we saw being fitted seemed to be horribly underdone. Samantha's dress was a good idea, but the way the orange crept up onto the shoulders made it look like she was wearing an orange cape. Of everything we see during the fitting, Jesse's is the only one close to being worth it. Which leaves us in a position where they'll all have to pull it together and in some cases (such as Jaxson's) actually finish their looks before the runway.

The Runway:

Zachery: On the one hand, this is just pinwheels glued onto a muslin base, so I don’t want to get too excited over it, but it’s also really freaking gorgeous. The movement is nice, the use of the floor mats is really intelligent and well done, and the color on the top pairs well with the silver and black of the skirt. 

Peytie: Kelly’s reaction to seeing this walk is close to my reaction too. That movement is stunning, and the top is so well made and intricately wrought that you can’t help but to be wowed by it. I do think the top is better than the bottom which she clearly didn’t have time for and amounts to little more than mops hanging from the model’s waist, but still. The two of them together work. It’s enough to make you wish she had a little more time for the bottom. 

Victoria: There’s something about this the moment it turns the corner that’s stunning. I think the black and blue go super well together, I love the length of the skirt, and I love what the belt (tie?) is doing in the back. I do not, however, like the cut of the bust. The material she used is unforgiving, and so I think on the top, less would have been more. Maybe a V neck kind of cut would have hidden the inflexibility of the material more? Or at least it would have been sexier. But still I like this more than I dislike it. 

Ysabel: The first thing I notice as she’s walking is the way the back of the skirt flares out like a little ducktail. It’s horribly distracting, and the rest of the look is seriously unflattering. Her materials are not the best, but even so, the color combination strikes an odd note to me, and the top isn’t something anyone would want to wear. This look is neither wearable nor fashionable.

Bridget: I honestly love this. Not so much the red, white, and blue color scheme, but I like the tiled top a lot, and I think the skirt is cute when you ignore the way the material stiffens and doesn’t really move properly. But I find that to be a material problem and not a construction problem, so there’s no big deal there. I like the black tiles on the back of the top, but the back of the skirt is a bit of a problem. Too much muslin showing through. 

Maya: I think I want to like the cut of the top more than I actually do. But I also don’t think it detracts from the rest of the look at all. The skirt is fun and really fabulous. Maybe a little too short? But I don’t mind it. And I do think the stark contrast of the business of the skirt and the simpleness of the top works very well. So I’m a fan. Maybe pair it with a necklace? (Addendum: I didn't see the back of it when I watched the episode, because again they aren't showing the looks turning around on the runway, but having seen it now I can say it makes me like the top a lot more!)

Matt: She can’t walk in it, and the back of the skirt where you can see so much muslin is really bad. With that being said, I like the top. You can tell he thought about this and had a plan and then the materials didn’t behave like he thought they would. 

Jaxson: I love him, but this is a miss for me. The skirt I like a lot, and the top I think could have worked if it weren’t so ambitious, but as is I’m not impressed. The top just looks messy and haphazard. If he got rid of the strips hanging down, it would be a lot better, but it doesn’t look purposeful. The shorts are cute though. 

Zach: I like this. It’s a massive improvement from his previous look. And this is one of the few that doesn’t seem to have relied too heavily on a muslin base, which I’ll always appreciate. I also think the necklace he chose was 100% the way to go, so great styling. I could do without the clutch, but I’m generally not a fan of clutches so hey. 

Samantha: I like this mostly because I think it’s a vast improvement over what we saw during the model fitting. Scaling the shoulder’s back the way she did was the right way to go. I still think bringing the orange around makes it look a bit like she’s wearing an orange cape from the front, but the mostly monochrome front paired with the color blocked back is a win for me. The specific colors she chose go wonderfully together.

Jesse: Sheer perfection. Constructed well, the key chain bits on the arm add movement that attracts the eye, and you can tell that the placement of each of the colors is well thought out. And that’s not even to mention the beauty of the rest of the outfit. That open back! Oh man! I love everything about this.

The judges are so impressed that they say there are four tops (Peytie, Samantha, Zachery, and Jesse) and only two bottoms (Matt and Ysabel). Typically when this happens it's easy to see where there's at least one look in the top that they are just lukewarm about and could probably have been safe in favor of putting another look in the bottom. But here, I don't think that's the case. The judges honestly have solid compliments for all of the top designers and really it would be hard to pick one of the safe looks that would be honestly deserving of bottom three honors. To be fair, once the closer looks happen, it's clear that the win is between Zachery and Jesse, so the stratification of this episode is really just about two really bad looks, two really great looks, and a bunch of looks that are mostly in the middle. 

In the end, Zachery wins, which I can understand but I also think Jesse's look is overall better than Zachery's, and Ysabel loses. It's this decision that brings in the natural pathos I was talking about earlier. These kids have honestly connected in a way that their adult counterparts tend not to. We've seen friendships develop on this show before, and even outpouring of emotions over a designer getting sent home (who can forget Jeffery Sebelia crying when his friend was auf'd?), but there's something about it here that's heightened. And it's clear that some large part of this is because everything is heightened when you're a teenage, but also because you can think of these relationships a lot like summer camp relationships. These kids met and within a day or two became really good friends because that's what kids do. Anyone who's spent any kind of time around young people, or who remembers being a young person themselves, knows that this is the case. And these relationships hit hard and come on fast. 

But there's another part of it as well: Ysabel mentions in her last confessional that she's said to being going back home because there it's just her and her sewing machine, but here she got to be surrounded by a group of cool and likeminded peers. This is an experience that most of these kids have never had before. They're passion isn't the passion of their contemporaries. Even amongst other young artists, their interests are probably unique. It's been a long time since I was in high school, but my guess is that kids who are into painting, drawing, photography, or sculpting will easily be able to find people at their schools who are into the same, and even clubs that cater to those interests, but will the kids who are into fashion design? And so we see that this is important to these contestants in a way that it doesn't often feel like it's important to the adults on Project Runway. There's a good chance that most of the people on PR have already gone to design school, or fell in with a crowd of likeminded people when they were in their 20s or so. This is the first such experience for these contestants and so when someone goes home and everyone cries and hugs them goodbye, it feels genuine and we understand it in a way that I haven't felt it in the other show. On the one hand this could get taxing after too long; someone should be going home each week until we've got a final three or four finalists. But on the other hand, PR JR brings an emotion and a pathos that PR has long been lacking in its dealings with jaded, cynical, and overly competitive adults, and that's enough to set it apart in a good way. 

Loose Threads:

--Jesse’s statements in the carwash about how the other kids need to get a grip were pretty on point really. 

--One other aspect of Ysabel going home that hurts so much is just how kind and perky and just all around good she is. She was smiling and happy throughout her critique and just a ball of sunshine, and seeing her face crumple as she falls into tears upon hearing that she's out was just heartbreaking. 

--Also in the great personality category is Samantha. She's so personable and quirky when they come to her on the runway that it brought a smile to my face. That girl is going to go far in life and hopefully this competition. 

--It's only been two episodes but I'm still wondering about the overall collection of talent here. Don't get me wrong, I think all of these kids are good; as evidenced by two weeks of pretty glowing reviews on their final looks. But I'm wondering if it isn't that a select few (Samantha, Jaxson, Jesse, Maya, and Zachery) aren't lightyears ahead of the rest of the pack. 

--Though to be fair, Jaxson's stumble here might call into question his placement on this list. I think he was just a bit too ambitious, and I do think it would have been great if he'd been able to finish it all properly, but I think the others have been more consistently good through this small sampling. 

--In keeping with my comments about how close these kids are, Maya finishes her look early and offers to help Jaxson finish his as well. It's adorable! Zach points out that he wasn't going to help because it's a competition, and his points aren't incorrect, and they're what we'd expect to hear from an adult on the other show, but something about them here felt discordant to me. Maya's far more the example I'd like others to follow since it gives me a higher esteem for this show than for PR.

--Sorry for the extreme delay in getting this up, the truth is I totally forgot it was even on last Thursday, and by the time I remembered it this week, I was already busy with holiday plans and such. But here, my Thanksgiving gift to you. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Project Runway Junior: S1 E1 "Welcome to New York"

I have not watched a single PR spinoff since the very first All Stars. If I'm remembering correctly, it wasn't a season, but like a one-off episode where some of the previous loser got to come on and try to get a kind of gratis win? The only thing I remember is that Korto was on it and I really wanted her to win because I thought she got shafted in her own season (the fifth) and I wanted her to finally get her due. She didn't, and I never watched another PR Spin-off again. Mostly, this is because I don't feel like the shows ever really justify their existence. I'm not a big fan of people coming back and competing again on a reality show. Contestants getting a second chance at Survivor has always been a pet peeve of mine. And I think that the judges, Heidi as the host, and Tim Gunn are seriously important elements to the show. Clearly, these things can change for the better (getting rid of Michael Kors in favor of Zac has proven to be a massive upgrade for the show), but the consistency is important to me. After watching the first episode of Project Runway Junior however, I'm a bit on the fence but leaning way more over into the plus side than the negative.

There's a fairly straight forward and simple reason for that: These kids are way more talented than they have any right to be! But let's get to that later. I want to start with the first thing about this episode that leaves me feeling more ambivalent than I thought it would. PR JR is working with an hour long runtime. If you guys have been following us for awhile, you know I tend to lament PR's current 90 minute timeframe, and I always hate it when the show crosses into the two hour mark. I've written ad nauseam about how well and poorly the producers have used their ever fluctuating, but generally increasing, runtimes over the years. So the assumption would be that I'd unreservedly  praise the shorter time here. But I'm not so sure. On the one hand, the episode is clipped and sparse and taken down to its bare essentials in storytelling. We get brief introductions to some of, not all of, the designers. This works in part because PR grownups has worked to introduce these kids to us a bit during commercial breaks in the last couple episodes of its previous season. But even if you hadn't been paying attention to those, it's fine because you get everything you need to know in this episode and the rest will come later. When PR edits a first episode to only showcase a handful of designers, namely the ones likely to be in the top or bottom of that particular episode, it stands heads and shoulders above an episode trying to introduce you to everyone.

But then there's Tim's mentoring, the runway, and the final judging which crack through at a breakneck pace. I was taking notes, so it makes sense that I had to pause and rewind multiple times just to get an impression of the looks coming down the runway, and I didn't even try to remember what all the judges were saying about the top and bottom looks. I can't imagine if you watched it in real time that you got the ability to have a lot of that portion of the show stick to your bones. I don't want to blame the hour long runtime for this because bad editing is bad editing, but the producers have to find a better place to shave time than in the final moments of the show. We didn't even get to the see the backs of most of the dresses because the catwalk was edited so it was one look walking towards the camera and then a jump cut to the next look walking towards us. At least give us a quick glimpse of the turn around, guys!

This blends in with another problem I had (the execution of the first challenge) to make me wonder how invested the PR producers are into this show and, by extension, how invested they want us to be. So the first challenge is a simple introductory challenge. The kids are brought up onto a roof top in Manhattan(?) and told to get inspired by New York to create a look that tells the judges who they are as a designer. It's fine, and it's not the first time PR has pulled out this kind of challenge, but they don't actually give the kids an opportunity to get inspired by New York city so much as being inspired by this one particular skyline view of this one particular place in New York city. And if you rewatch the episode, please don't take a shot for every time one of the kids says the skyline because you'll die of alcohol poisoning in no time flat. Don't get me wrong, the skyline is a very important and iconic aspect of NYC, but if the title of the episode is "Welcome to New York" and the point of the challenge is to be inspired by New York, then maybe (just maybe) you should take them around to actually see New York? To her credit, Sami looks down instead of up or just out and she sees the taxi's all in a row and is inspired by that, but pretty much everyone else just sees the tops of buildings, and makes a go of it.

But that's enough about the bad or the uncertain. The majority of the episode was fun and enjoyable so I'd rather talk about that. They're given one day and $200 to spend at Mood, and seeing these kids be overwhelmed by Mood, which again is a freaking warehouse of fabrics, is so touching. I think I've gotten so jaded by seeing designers just kind of in Mood like they own the place that there was something refreshing about this shopping trip. Zach remarks that $200 sounds like a lot of money, but at the end of the day it really isn't. Which as anyone who has bills to pay can tell you, is totally true, but ultimately not everything in Mood is $50 a yard like the fabric we saw him looking at, and the truth is it would be easy to find something more or less equivalent to it but at a lower price.

Jaxson, who is just cute as a fucking button, goes straight for the neoprene and I cringed. It's a great fabric as it has a very specific weight and texture to it, but I had no faith at all that he'd be able to work it into the flattering shapes he'd need it to be. It's not the only time I doubted these kids abilities given their ages and I doubt it'll be the last time this season, but I think these potentially low expectations are something the show has going in its favor. It'll allow us, or at least me, to be blown away more regularly each episode.

Tim's visit shoots by in a blur, but I was really happy to see he wasn't pulling his punches with these kids. His critique of Victoria's look isn't as mean and ugly as we've seen him get in the past, but neither is it the sugar coated gentle letdown I was worried it might be. He tells her in no uncertain terms that the leather strips are too much, need to be paired down or at least look way more purposeful, and then leaves her to her devices. Personally, I'd like to trade in the multitude of checkins we see here for just a handful of more in depth meetings with Tim, but again the editing is something they'll have to figure out as the season rolls on, or not at all, what do I know?

There's a cute moment the morning of the runway where Tim tell Zach who's scrambling around to get his dress finished that the look would give him a lot less trouble is the dress were shorter. I think whether or not this feels like favoritism is a point that will be uniquely subjective, but it was fine for me. It felt like a kind moment where a mentor simply provides the small push and a shift in perspective that someone would need to get their look over the hump. Not that it would make the look either better or worse, just that it would ensure something finished went down the runway. I loved it.

The Runway:

Bridget, 15: Ok, it’s simple, and maybe a bit boring, but I think it works for here. I’d make it safe. 

Peytie, 15: She made that print work a lot better than I expected it to. I’m impressed. It’s still a fairly simple dress though. 

Zach, 15: Making the dress shorter took this out of being elegant and into being cute. But with that being said, I think it’s cute. The free-standing top is nice, but I think it could be sexier. The whole thing, except the belt which I hate, is cute to me, and I can’t tell if that’s good or bad.

Victoria, 17: This is the first solid miss for me. The strips on the bottom never really were incorporated into the design as a whole. The fact that they don’t even go all the way around the skirt is a problem and looks tacky. And there’s something about the zipper in the back that I find horribly distracting. The top is at least OK, but I’m worried about the proportion here. I feel like the skirt comes up too high and the top doesn’t come down low enough so it makes her midriff look all wrong. 

Ysabel, 17: That top is to die for really. Those darts look good, but there’s some puckering on the right side that I don’t think is purposeful. The back took my breath away. I love this. I think the skirt is a bit more simple and paired down, though her fabric choice adds a lot to it all. But yeah, this is all wonderful to me. 

Matt, 17: The movement of the gold chain in the back sells this for me a lot more than anything else. I don’t think the velvet adds much to the overall look, though I can understand it adding a lux element to the design. And the gold on the front is something I find tacked on and distracting. The black velvet doesn’t photograph well so I can’t see anything special in the cut of the dress itself, which makes me think the selling point is the fabric and the gold chain, which isn’t enough for me. I like it, but I can’t love it. 

Samantha, 16: YES! A million times yes! Esp when you take into consideration the fact that she had to remake the pants in the 11th hour. The tie in the front is a very unique and innovative detail, the neckline on the top is just fascinating, I can’t stop looking at it, and there’s something wonderful about the baggy fit of the pants that I love. And she kept the color scheme simple in a way that makes this feel elegant to me. This is the most innovative and well thought out design so far, I think. There are some fly-aways on the waistline of both the top and the skirt, sadly, but that can be forgiven. 

Jesse, 16: The first thing I notice is how clean his lines are. I respect that. And the little details at the neck are a nice touch to set this just to the right of “simple little black dress.” I also like the slit in the skirt which is tasteful. But this whole thing isn’t wowing me. 

Sami, 16: Hm…. I like the fabric. The simple truth here is I like the top, and I respect what she went for with the back, but I don’t like the skirt. I think the skirt is both poorly constructed and conceived, but I’d need to see an example of that kind of skirt done well to know for sure. 

Maya, 13: I think the color, the movement, and the back are all fabulous on this one. I don’t like the detail on the belt. I think it would stand out more if it was only done on the back instead of on both. The belt just looks messy to me. But other than that I love this. 

Jaxson, 15: This is the other really smartly designed look out there. I was worried about him working with that fabric, but clearly he knew what he was doing. It’s got a weight to it that works, and the flatness of the color is really remarkable. And I think the cutouts on the bottom, both in front and back, are striking. I’m impressed. 

Zachary, 16: This is great too. I like the two fabrics and the transition from the heavier one into the lighter more flowing fabric on the bottom. I also think the amount of skin showing is perfect. it’s not a sexy look, but the cutouts go a long way towards making it one of the sexier things we’ve seen. 

Ok so Sami, Zach, and Victoria are on the bottom, while Jaxson, Samantha, and Maya are on the top. I don't recall the judging as clearly as I should because, like I said, it went by way too quickly. After all the pausing and rewinding I had to do just to get something to write down about each look on the runway, I was too tired to keep up the trend for the judging. But from what I remember the judges chastise Zach for poofiness of his skirt making his model's butt and hips look big. They say the same thing to Sami while also pointing out that her look is poorly constructed, but they don't hate the taxicab influence. Victoria is told that the strips are tacked on and lazy since they don't go all the way around the skirt. 

For the top looks, they compliment Maya on the color and the movement and the guts it took to make a jumpsuit like that. The truth is I had forgotten she'd made pants when I watched it on the runway; the fabric moved so well that I thought it was a dress. They do call Samantha out on her poor finishing of the hemlines on her garments (though I think Christian mentioned liking those elements), but ultimately can't limit the amount of good things they have to say. Kelly hits on the intended androgyny behind the whole thing, and there was something refreshing about it being noticed. Christian's points about the belt being big but not functional, and great because of all that were also really nice to hear as I loved that belt. They also all love Jaxson's look and the amount of thought that went into it. Someone points out that he didn't really intend to use the grey fabric on the front until he saw the back of the colored neoprene he bought and realized how well it would work, and how you can still see some of the color just peaking out on the front adds dimension to it all, and it pointed out just how much this kid was thinking in the moment to be able to create that look. 

In the end, Samantha wins and Sami goes home. Personally, I would have sent Zach home this week because I think Sami's look at least told us a bit more about who she is as a designer and I tend to think that the holding of ideas is better than no ideas, and that's the difference to me between these two looks. But I think Tim might have saved Zach with his comments to the judges that he whipped out that skirt in like an hour. It wasn't a good skirt, but he was at least capable of doing it quickly, so maybe that was worth keeping him around for another week. But either way, my main impression of PR JR is that it stands to be able to justify it's existence in a way that no other PR spin off has. Certainly, it's still Lifetime trying to squeeze every dime out of this series that it can. But these kids are all adorable and talented. They're personalities are bigger than the contestants we just spent the last couple of months watching, and the show has kept enough of the strong PR elements that the transition shouldn't be jarring. In short, I'm watching this until it gives me a reason to stop, and I'd love it if you guys watched along with me. 

Loose Threads:

--Let's get this out of the way early: Hannah Davis does not have Heidi's stage presence at all. She's beautiful, and she at least delivers her line as well as can be expected, but she's not charismatic or compelling. I don't remember having a problem with her criticisms at least, so she might make a better judge than host. But still, she might be the weakest link of the show. 

--I'm curious to see what the biggest flaw and drop off is between this show and the regular PR. My early guess is in construction issues. The number of darts that were off center and Samantha's messy hemlines were some of the early warning signs, but we'll see. 

--What I don't expect these kids to have a problem with is a lack of ideas and creativity, but we'll see about that too. A lot of these first looks were fairly simple and straight forward dresses and silhouettes we've seen before. I'm hoping that has more to do with first challenge jitters than anything else.

--If this isn't just jitters though, I think there's a big gulf between the talent levels here. Seeing how Jaxson and Samantha seriously thought out their designs and executed them well compared to just about everyone else's simple dresses was striking. 

--The winner will get a full scholarship to FIDM and $25k! Not to mention a spread in Seventeen magizine and some sewing stuff. It's a great prize since it's age appropriate, has the ability to seriously change these kid's lives, and shouldn't lead to nearly as much stupid product placement. 

--Samantha spent like $40 on her entire look! I'm seriously impressed by that. I said it looked elegant to me, and I stand by that even though I wish she had cleaned up the hems. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E14 "Finale Part 2"

I honestly can't wait to hear what everyone thinks about this episode. I'm tempted to just say "Ok, Ashley won, Now go!" and have that serve as the review. Not that I don't have thoughts of my own, because I do, but because I honestly think the discussion over these last couple episodes has been stellar and I can't wait to get to it on this final episode. Because honestly is there a more rote and simple episode in Project Runway's run than the final episode? Here is where you do away with typical drama and challenges and get to the meat of it all. It's the closest thing to an all runway all the time episode that we get, and I don't know if that improves or decreases the overall appeal of the thing.

If there's one thing I feel is totally true here, it's that this final episode is honestly a solid encapsulation of what this season was, for better or worse. There's no big drama, no big personality, and the outcome isn't even surprising. The talent seen in the final collections is on par with the talent level we've seen all season, and somehow that's both gratifying and a bit sad at this stage in the competition. I think what most viewers want is a situation wherein the final collections blow us all away. This is supposed to be the best of the best. If you'll allow me to make yet another one of my patented sports analogies: the Pros of any sport is meant to be a distillation of the best talent available. Colleges and minor leagues feature a bunch of players who, ostensibly, aren't good enough for the Pros. The people who end up drafted to the Pro level tend to be the top 2% of the talent available. Thusly, they tend to turn out a better product than their lower level counterparts. Likewise, that's what we expect for the finale of PR. I've said it before and I'll say it again, these are the four best and most talented designers this season had to offer. So isn't it fair to expect that every look of each collection will be a WOW? Even if they aren't looks you'd want to wear or buy, they should be looks that move you and allow you to see why they're worthy of being at this point.

I don't think it'll surprise anyone when I say that I don't think these collections do that, but I also don't think it was possible for them to given what we know about these designers. At the end of the episode during the judges' deliberation, Nina says something that reconceptualizes the season for me. She says that this feels like a season about identity. The question for these final collections, therefore, is who kept their identity and who lost it?

So we start where we left off with Ashley and Kelly having very small and easy things to do based on the remarks from the judges, and Candice and Edmond needing to rework most of their collections at this point. They have about two days, but also a lot of consultations and fittings to get in there as well. Tim asks everyone if they want another Mood trip. Ashley and Kelly are the only ones who bite, but both say they'd only get small things, so Tim offers to go to Mood for them and let them keep working. I was only half listening when this happened and had to rewind to see what I had missed because when Tim offered to go shopping for Kelly and Ashley I nearly jumped out of my seat and yelled about favoritism. But no, it all seems fair and on the up and up, so we can move on.

The major take away from these last couple days of work is that Candice seems to be handling her critique and tasks better than Edmond is. They're both changing a lot and creating new looks, but by the time Tim comes in to meet with them, Candice at least looks like she has a direction carved out while Edmond is still waffling on major decisions. We know he can sew like the dickens, but still. When Tim tells him these choices on where he's going should have been made already, he's right and a sense of doom encapsulates all.

I have a confession to make, Runaways: the pre-runway scramble before NYFW is one of my very favorite aspects of the show. I don't tend to like it much before each individual runway, but there's something about it on this episode that I love. We've had models showing up late, people spilling coffee on dresses, and all kinds of drama happen here. It's hardly ever very long lasting, and most often something happens off camera to resolve it, but I love it anyway. Such is the case when Ashley busts a zipper while dressing one of her models. I didn't think it was going to stop or delay her from showing, and indeed since she showed last that wasn't really an option, but it was still a remarkable moment. And the only moment of drama before the runway that we got, so I guess let's move on. Carrie Underwood was the guest judge this week, and apparently she just released her own fashion line, so good on her.

The Runway:

Kelly: Is it just me or does this look a million times better than what she showed in the last challenge? Is it just that the sparkle factor has been kicked up a few notches? I was worried it’d make a cheap collection look even cheaper, but I don’t think that’s been the outcome. I think Kelly has a very unique and specific perspective and point of view and it comes through well in her designs here. I still think the full wood panel look is a bit off. And there’s a more elegant look towards the end that strikes a discordant note too, but for the first time I can say that I fully see who she is as a designer and I can accept that there’s a legit place for her in the market. I’m far more impressed than I expected. 

Edmond: “Failure” is the only word that comes to mind here. The first look is a simple and boring black dress. And the ruffles are indeed overdone. The ninth look reminds me of toilet papered house, and the last look is nice but I felt like it was diminished by all the ruffle looks that came before it. It could have stood out and been more of a statement piece if he had allowed it to be unique. The second look in the collection becomes a silhouette that we see in the collection over and over again and it gets boring. Or maybe it's just bad in general as I hate all three of those looks. There are some stand out pieces here, but I am ultimately unimpressed. 

Candice: Good, not great. I think they did Candice a disservice by telling her to pair it down, the collection needed volume and drama. The first three or four looks I found boring and forgettable, but I think it picks up more towards the middle starting with that great jacket which I still love. The red leather look and the dress with the sparkly red skirt with all the right amounts of skin showing are statement pieces. And I like the final looks as well, though it's easy to argue they're dressing two different women. The collection reads like her in the sense of bringing her own personal style to the runway, so that’s good, but I think it’s a shame that she lost all of the bigger standout pieces which spoke more to her design aesthetic.  

Ashley: The thing to me about Ashley’s collection is that the lows are really low and I don’t know that I think the highs are quite high enough to circumvent that. There’s a full teal look that feels last minute and thrown together and way too covered up. And I don’t know what I think about the last look which is pretty and moves well, but also looks a little arts and crafts to me. But the purple look we saw last week is still really good, and the pieces that show some skin in this collection are always the best. The fact of the collection and the importance of it is never lost on me, but I’m not sure where I fall on the execution of it. 

So as is expected, the collections are too close to really call and none of them offer any kind of standout from the pack pieces that we've seen before. Compare this to last season's finale when I couldn't stop gushing over all of Sean's looks while everyone else's except Amanda's left me a bit stagnant. Granted, I was biased towards Sean for awhile, and PR has taken last season's pics down so the links in that review are dead and I don't feel like looking up all of their respective collections, but still. The fact remains that we've seen collections in the past that were clear statements about who deserved the win. We don't really have that here and I don't think we expected to. 

The judging goes along those lines we've been used to for the last few weeks. They loved some things from each contestant, and hated some things from each as well. Everyone compliments Kelly's voice and point of view and justify her place in the fashion world. This is something I agree with fully as I can totally see a number of girls excited to wear her looks. I don't think her's is a name we'll hear on red carpets too often, but her strength is clearly ready to wear, and that's where she can make an impact. 

They also commend Ashley's bravery for creating a collection that was so her. I've said it multiple times, but the sheer existence of this collection on this show is super important. And Ashley's ability and willingness to helm this ship is great and says a lot about her. Heidi points out that the dresses look expensive, and Zac points out that her girls all looked really happy and comfortable in her looks, and those things go a long way for me. In short, Kelly and Ashley are praised for keeping their identity within the challenge. 

Conversely, Candice and Edmond are chided for not doing so. Candice admits later on that she allowed the judges to strip her identity out of the collection in an effort to give them what she thought (and what they said) they wanted. Meanwhile, Edmond is kind of scrambling to explain that what he wanted to convey with some of his looks, the toilet paper dress for example, which Heidi hates as much as I do, is that he wants you to feel something when you see it. Whether that something is love or hate doesn't matter to him so long as he's brought on a response. I want to say that I think that ideology is perfectly valid for a piece of art that might hang on a wall or sit on a pedestal; it is not, however, acceptable for a piece of fashion that an amateur (because let's be honest, that's what PR contestants are) designer is going to send down the runway at NYFW. There's been a lot of talk about whether you should keep the identity you've had all season long to this point, or ditch it and show the judges something new, but I think what most of us should be able to agree with is that you don't send something down you know people might hate and be OK with the fact that they might hate it. That's not winning anyone the PR crown. 

I like Nina's statements about this season being about identity because they harken back to the very first episode to me. Remember my cute Ginger Bear and that draped gown he sent down the runway? I loved it, but the judges sent it home because they felt it didn't tell them anything about who he was as a designer. When they questioned him, he didn't seem to have much of an answer about who he was yet, and said he's still trying to figure it out. Nina's statements pull us back to that moment and to the possibility of a season long arc for these contestants. Kelly found a strong identity and point of view in the later weeks and rode that to more wins than anyone else, as Heidi points out. Candice and Edmond found some amount of success and then lost their identities at the end either because the judges didn't like what they saw in their mini-collections, or because they tried to get too artsy and lost an essential part of themselves. 

But Ashley's is the story of a girl who starts out with an identity and a point of view that she maybe doesn't know she has, or at least doesn't fully know if she believes in. It's there though, and it propels her to a win in the first episode with this breathtaking look. She gets another win later on before she starts to falter and lose faith in herself in the face of some Mean Girls bullshit from the other designers. But then she rallies, finds herself again, and turns out a collection that marks a great first for Project Runway, and earns her the ultimate win. I don't think the entire season was edited in such a way that it could get at the heart of this story, or this theme of identity. Indeed, every season of Project Runway can be said to be about identity in some way or another. But I think this season featured the least talented group of designers we've seen in awhile, and therefore it lends itself to this reading more than past seasons might. These people had to go about finding themselves over the course of this competition, and acknowledging that journey and the stumbles along the way (and the stumbles at the end here) somehow makes this entire season feel a lot more purposeful and generally better than it felt in the middle of it. 

Loose Threads:

--OK I've been holding this in for a long time but I have to say it: Guys, I'm REALLY REALLY excited for PR Junior. I'll detail all the reasons why in the first comment, but yeah, I'm in!

--Kelly's tears and disappointment at the end make perfect sense as she made it to the top two and really wanted to win. She even says that she's happy for Ashley and these are mostly happy tears. But given the Mean Girls behavior from her all the way up until the last freaking episode, I'm calling bull shit. I think she was mad that Ashley, whom she has no faith in, beat her. Prior to the episode, I said I'd be happy with any win other than Kelly, then I saw her collection and changed my mind, and then I saw her reaction to losing and changed it back. Sorry, but Kelly can go fuck herself!

--Looking at Candice's pieces all laid out at the beginning of the episode as she decided what to keep, scrap, and edit, was heart braking to me. 

--Thanks to everyone for joining in for another year with Project Runaways. It's be a pleasure writing up these episodes and engaging with you guys in the comments as always. I might actually watch the reunion episode this year, which I don't generally do. But if I do, I doubt I'll write it up for the blog. Instead, if you watch it, and want to say something about it, feel free to come back to this post and leave a comment and we can get a thread started there. Other than that, I'm thinking we'll certainly be back next year for another season, so be sure to check back in, and I might even keep going and writing up PR JR when that get's started, so maybe we can spend even more time together.