Saturday, October 31, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E13: "Finale Part 1"

I've long wondered about how everyone feels towards the first part of the PR finale. Getting to see Tim meet contestants parents and loved ones is always fun, and there's a practicality to meeting with Tim and getting a critique on your collection, but does it really add much to the overall proceedings of the season? In the past, there were "challenges" in this episode whereby the contestants who made it this far were asked to show a mini-collection and the person with the lowest score would go home. It added a healthy level of drama and raised the stakes of the episode. Who can forget the year Chris March made it this far, showed off a collection featuring looks made of human hair (looks that I personally found beautiful and fascinating) only to get cut and miss out on showing at NYFW? But when that element is missing, what you're left with is an episode going through the motions and a runway that's more obligatory than organic and only exists for the judges to sure up the final product to be shown at NYFW.

On the one hand this makes sense. PR has become so big and such a staple on TV as well as within the fashion scene that making sure they're not putting a total shit show down one of the biggest runways and most important fashion events of the world is only natural. Far be it for them to allow the contestants to sully their good name. And NYFW is something that's bigger and goes far beyond Project Runway itself. But on the other hand, does it make for a compelling hour of TV? Or more importantly, as is the case for this episode, a compelling two hours of TV? I didn't realize the episode was a full 30 minutes longer than usual when I went to watch it after How to Get Away With Murder went off, and when I did realize it, instead of turning it off and going to bed like I should have, I stayed up to watch it all. So you can imagine how miserable my Friday was. So that's the question I want to try to answer here: was this episode worth the 120 minutes the producers thought we needed to invest in it?

First there's the beginning which happens exactly as we all knew it would. I found it funny, and ultimately anticlimactic, the way Tim hemmed and hawed around it for so long, milking the moment for every drop of drama there was before finally announcing he was saving Edmond and he'd get to show at NYFW after all. You're not fooling anyone. And since we all knew it was coming, it struck me as a scene that we could have fast forwarded through to save a bit more time. In other words, it felt like a waste of time. Even the other designers can't bother to feign surprise over it. Tim walks in and says something about expecting to see sadder faces, and everyone's just like "Yeah right, buddy!" I do, however, think that needing to use the save here in the final episode is yet more evidence of the lack of talent for this season.

The first moment truly worth the price of admission comes on the runway as Heidi tells the contestants they're getting $9,000 and seven weeks to design their ten look collection. It's $900 a look for any math challenged people out there (I used a calculator. As I've always said, I was an English major for a reason), and suggests an ability to make really expensive looking outfits. It's here that Heidi actually turns to Ashley and tells her that they're hoping she'll consider doing a plus-size collection. Tim affirms that they'll get her the models needed for such a thing, and Ashley is all over it. OK I want to get one small quibble out of the way early here: I don't think it's "fair" to dictate to a designer what you think their final collection should be. This is about them, and their creativity, and I'd hate to hear that Ashley felt at all pressured or hemmed in by this suggestion. With that out of the way I'd like to say I loved this moment. It's not often that Project Runway actually surprises me, but at this moment, my jaw dropped, my eyes went wide, and I got all kinds of excited. Not only were we getting the plus-sized collection we all hoped for, it was being sanctioned and supported by Heidi and Tim from the outset. I can't help but to feel like this is just huge!

Ashley is the first visit on Tim's trip, and it comes five weeks into the challenge. She says something about worrying about not having much on the rack to show Tim and I panicked a bit at the thought that she hadn't done much and only had two weeks left. But in her workspace, you can see she's actually got quite a bit completed. She says she's drawn from 1950s era Mexico City for her inspiration. While I don't know what that means in a practical sense as I never really thought of 1950s Mexico City as a hotbed of fashion trends, it at least means she's going to her roots and tapping into something that's important to her for her collection and that's meaningful.

I'm not in love with her color selection for her pieces, but I do love the fact that she hand dyed all of them. I think soft and pastel colors, or black, tend to be expected on plus-sized women, and I would have liked her to amend that and open it up to more colors and prints. But there's a beauty and a sophistication to what she's doing. This stands out all the more when you factor in her use of lace which always either looks too old and matronly or too young and precocious. I feel like she's hit a sweet spot with it that just works. Tim's impressed, I'm impressed, and he gives her some sound advice about including more deeper jewel tones to make the collection pop, and it's off to meet the family.

Ashley's family is ADORABLE! Her father is hilarious, her mother is sweet and endearing on a ridiculous level, and her abuela is just so special. They all clearly love her so much and are so proud of her that I defy anyone not to get teary eyed during their dinner. But more importantly, the issue of her designing a plus-size collection is brought up, and everyone says exactly the right thing. It's not often that Project Runway gets it "right" when it comes to normal women, but they are really nailing it here. Dare I say it? I'm actually quite proud of these moments, and horribly excited to see Ashley's collection.

Candice is next, and her kids are just too cute for words. They start with a meeting on the beach, and there's more talk about Candice's mother's drug addiction, which I had forgotten all about. But it makes for some compelling viewing. And all throughout it there's Candice's kids just being adorable.

At her studio, the first striking thing to notice it the use of color in the collection. Specifically, the use of red. I don't think she's got any colors other than red, but baby steps. So she's got a white, black, and red collection that she says is inspired by her continued time in New York and spending time in China Town and some Asian inspired exhibit she saw. Whereas Ashley went into her own roots to find inspiration, Candice looked outside of herself. I'm not saying one is better than the other, it's just two different and equally valid ways to find the spark of creativity.

For what it's worth, I love what we see from Candice here. It's big and bold and makes a statement, but it still feels like her. The wood pieces she's created to add volume and dimension to her collection feel innovative and look interesting. Her collection says "High Fashion" and "Theatricality" to me. Tim, however, thinks it's a bit too busy and heading into the realm of Drag Queen. Which I don't think has to be a bad thing, but I've been to more than my fair share of gay bars and drag shows and I know what goes into such things. Either way, he reminds her to be editorial.

Kelly is next, and there's no easy way to say this so I'll just say it: Kelly's collection is a hot fucking mess. I hate it on a level that I can't remember hating anything in quite sometime. She had $9000, and claims to have spent all of it, and yet her clothes all look cheap, simply designed, and right off the rack. They also look ugly, did I mention ugly? I should have mentioned ugly. There's fanny packs, for some fucking reason, a lot of shiny sparkly looks that come off more as $5 hooker wear than NYFW, and there's a decided lack of cohesion unless the cohesion is in how tacky it all looks.

Kelly's come on strong these last couple weeks. Need I remind you that she's won the last three challenges in a row? So how does she go from here, to here, and even here, to the things she's showing Tim? And for that matter, why does Tim not have stronger things to say about what he's seeing? First of all, her entire collection is done in all of five weeks depending on how long it took him to get to her from Ashley, and it clearly looks like it's been slapped together in no time at all. But he only uses the word cheap to talk about one of her looks when it could be used on all of them. Someone please point me in the direction of an outfit here that appears to have cost $900 to make.

Her family is fine if somewhat typical. It's all at least what I expected from Kelly's life. Her cousin, whom I suspect of being gay, is totally adorable. And her boyfriend looks exactly like what I always assumed and imagined her boyfriend would look like. The deli where she works creates a sub named for Tim and it's a cute moment, but none of this is as good as what came before it. Kelly's a sweet girl and I'm happy she's got a support system, but her section lacks the weight of Ashley's and the touching heartstrings of Candice's, and the talent found in the collections of both. This is a low point in the two hour slog that is this episode.

Edmond's got the least amount of work done on his collection at this point, and the work he has completed is the most quizzical. Not because it's not beautiful, though that can be said for a couple of the pieces, but because it feels the least like him. Say what you will about collections we've seen thus far, those designer's signatures were all over those pieces. That's not the best thing in Kelly's case, but still. Edmond's collection is elegant and well put together, but it's not Edmond. The word sexy gets thrown around a lot in relation to him, and there's no sex appeal to the pieces we're seeing. And to make matters worse, the silhouettes of those dresses do not look new, creative, or innovative at all. There's nothing really special here.

Edmond talks a lot about being happy Tim saved him and how hard he's going to work to be worthy of that save, but is he? Tim saving him was expected, but was it deserved? Based off of what we see of him in this episode, my gut is telling me no. It's not that the looks he's got now would make for a bad fashion show, it's just that nothing I'm seeing from him bespeaks "winner" to me, or is even at the level of his better looks from the season. He's also still got three looks to complete, so I guess I can reserve judgement for a bit, but I certainly think he can pick it up a notch.

Back to New York where everyone is happy to see each other and eager to get back to work. Tim tells them they'll be showing a mini collection to the judges for some last minute remarks, and one of those looks has to be created today. This is where we get to the show trying to interject some drama into the proceedings. As I said earlier, this pretty much exists so the judges can offer feedback in the interest of ensuring the final product is up to snuff, but I don't understand the point in forcing everyone to make a new look. For someone like Kelly who has all of her looks done, why not give her the option to either make something new, or to just take the extra time and money to enhance what she's already got? If you've already got ten looks you spent seven weeks on, and are happy with, what are the chances that the one look you create in a day and with a $250 budget is going to be the one that makes it into your collection? It reeks of false and manufactured drama and I'm not a fan of it. On the other hand, Edmond still has three looks to make, and this strikes me as being a good excuse to use this time to just start on one of those three looks. It would mean he wouldn't have to sketch out something new since he already should have plans for those last three looks, and it would give him an extra bit of money and some supplemental fabric. I don't know that he used it that way, but that would have been his best course of action.

I'm not a fan of this particular development, and I feel like I've rattled on for more than enough of our time, so I'm going to move on to the runway. No guest judge because no one's going home.

The Runway:

Look 1: Why does it feel like we’ve seen more pants on this season than before? It’s a good thing whatever the reason. I think it’s interesting she started with her red look, I might have put it in the middle. It’s cute and well made as we come to expect from her, but I’m not blown away by it. 

Look 2: Who doesn’t love a fabulous church hat? Whereas the last one looks well made, this one looks like it was made in a day. Which is fine since that’s the challenge, but it stands out for all the wrong reasons from the rest of the collection. I'm not impressed with anything other than the hat. 

Look 3: Separates, separates, separates! That fucking jacket is to die for. There’s something about the lace and sheer aspect of it that I simply love. It’s clearly the statement piece of this outfit, but I like the rest of it too. 

Look 1: My oh my. I realize I might be in the minority here, and I also realize there’s a clear cut ready to wear aspect to what she did, but I fucking hate it. It looks simple, easy, and cheap to me. I can’t see much innovative design in it. It certainly feels like her in a lot of ways, and the long shirt / skirt look is certainly something, but I’m not impressed with this at all. 

Look 2: I’ll say this about it, I think the short shorts are more sexy than tasteless, which is a good line to walk. I don't think they're exceptionally well made, but still. As for the rest of it, I’m bored. And about the fanny packs, if Kelly’s dream is to dress a modern girl, then what young modern girl does she know who’s wearing fanny packs? If she’s looking to single handedly bring back the fanny pack, I’m out. 

Look 3: Those bell bottoms fit her like a glove. The back of the top is the one element that sets this look apart as something that I don’t think you could go to any store and buy right now. But the rest of the outfit just bores me. And cohesion in a collection is about more than just using the same fabric twice. 

Look 1: This I like. I think it’s sexy and sophisticated and expensive looking. It fits perfectly, and it at least whispers Edmond. It's sexy in a refined and toned down way instead of a bombshell way and I like that. I can’t get passed her styling though. Her makeup is way too noticeable and not in a good way. 

Look 2: I hate it. I can’t quite put my finger on why I hate it, but I hate it. Maybe the judges will hate it too and better explain to me why I hate it, but either way, I hate it. 

Look 3: I like this, but I don’t love it. There are little things about it that pull focus in an odd way for me. The details around the hemline are noticeable, but I don’t know if I like them. The way the bunching detail that trails down the dress isn’t connected to the body of the dress at the bottom looks cool but also looks like an odd afterthought. One thing I do like about these three looks is that they seem to go from sexy and showing more skin to being more covered up in a way that tells a story. I also think the same girl could be said to be wearing these looks, so there’s cohesion here, but I can’t say for sure that these three looks make me want to see more from him. 

Look 1: She’s worried about the bra being visible, and I don’t know what kind of bra she needs to make to be happy with this look, but in all actuality it’s the bra being visible that makes this look for me. Admittedly, I like the bar being seen through the lace a million times more than the bra strap in the back which looks a bit wonky, but still. Without that detail, it feels a bit matronly. But with it, with the amount of skin showing, there’s something youthful and sexy about it. There’s also something about that feels more like a celebration of her full figured girl. Whereas other people would want to cover up as much of their plus-sized model as possible, I respect that she’s going the other way. But that’s more political than anything else, the point is I like this look. 

Look 2: I love love love love this. I could do without the glimpse of panty under the skirt, but the rest of it is gorgeous. I hope that doesn’t make me a hypocrite. But I do think there’s a difference between some bra showing and some panty showing. I’d also point out that it doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of difference between the cut of this top and the top from the first look, but I’d have to see them more closely to know for sure. The color is fabulous though!

Look 3: Immediately, I hated it, but then I looked at it more and I realized that I like it a lot just not on this model. The fit is all wrong and it makes it look like the fabric is doing weird things. There are details in the top that are striking though when they catch your eye. She worked hard on this look and it shows. The skirt is just wonderful though. The fabric is perfection and I love the length a lot. It’s well designed and only the zipper leaves something to be desired. She just needs a bustier model to pull it off perfectly. 

The judges don't hold back in their critiques and it's a bit liberating. They complain about the lack of Edmond's signature sex appeal in his collection, and Heidi says she thinks three different girls are wearing his looks. We disagree on that last part, but it's not the first time I've disagreed with Heidi and it won't be the last. The constant complaints about the lack of sexy in his collection makes me wonder is the judges just expected him to send down ten Bombshell looks one after the other. I don't disagree that Edmond's collection doesn't really look like him, but I also don't think we want to see ten variations on the theme of sex appeal either. So while I can agree with their remarks, I also think they could tone it down a bit. 

Where Heidi and I are in more agreement is on her comments about Kelly's looks. And thank God someone said it because Tim didn't seem willing or able to. She points out that they all look like they could be store bought right now, and they all look like she created them in a day. Nina's remarks read like someone trying with all their might not to actually use the word "cheap" but clearly thinking that cheap is the only word to use here. Zac's got the most helpful advice when he points out that on this kind of ready to wear collection the tailoring either needs to be impeccable or the styling needs to be extreme and over the top. Kelly's looks have neither of those things going for them. 

They hound Ashley for construction issues that I admittedly missed initially. And Zac's points about making the exposed bra on the first look seem more purposeful is a good idea. I like the peaks of bra and skin on her looks because they are totally not what you expect from a plus-size collection. They also mention the fit issues and how perfect they have to be. This is accurate of course, but I also think Ashley might have been at the biggest disadvantage of everyone else. Did she meet her models and get their measurements before she started work on the collection? Was she able to design her looks with specific women in mind? If not, don't you think she's just kind of flapping in the wind and hoping she's got models who can fit each of her looks? The others can make clothes in standard model size and be sure that each of their girls will fit them, but Ashley's models are far more likely to be different sizes and she's more likely to need more information. 

The all seem to hate Candice's looks and I have to say I'm honestly shocked by that. While I wasn't as impressed by the three looks Candice selected for this mini collection, I still left it thinking I'd be interested in seeing more from here, which is always the core point of this episode. The judges on the other hand want her to scale way back and I'm left wondering, given how much work she's done and how little time she has left, is that really possible? Everything she's done seems to be so intricate and detailed that I don't see how she can parse it back without losing a lot of what she's trying to do.

Either way, that's her task. Given the comments, I think Kelly and Ashley have the least amount of tampering to do. Ashley can easily go back and clean up the construction on her zippers and hems and such, and Kelly can just change the styling on her models and have hit the main marks given to her. But I don't think that that automatically marks them as the favorites. Or at least not Kelly since I got the impression that even the judges viewed changing the styling of the models to be akin to arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. In the end, everyone has a lot of work to do, and I don't know that we learned anything new about any of the designers. I don't think the first part of the finale is a total waste, but I do think they could eliminate the "make a new look" challenge and just have them show off three of their pieces to the judges and shave off a solid 30 minutes. It was good, but the episode was still just way too long. 

Loose Threads: 

--Nina was on fire this week. Her and Heidi go back and forth about Ashley's flower crown things. Heidi likes them and Nina shoots off a quick "In the end, do you want people talking about the dresses or the flowers?" to Ashley and then has the most smug look on her face with Ashley says dresses. Nina's face says "Take that you skinny German bitch!" and I love it. 

--Nina to Candice: "Alexander McQueen can do Alexander McQueen, you cannot."

--On the trip to Mood for their last look, Edmond spends way more money than they were budgeted and has to do the totally embarrassing thing of putting stuff back instead of buying it. It's funny but also interesting that this is the only time this season that we've seen that happen. Given the scant trips to Mood, you'd think this would be a more common occurrence. 

--In the latest edition of Ashley vs the mean girls, Kelly gets a stain on her dress and Ashley offers to help her get it out and Kelly proceeds to treat her like shit and doubt her abilities. Really?

--Tim talks a lot about proportion in Ashley's and Kelly's looks this episode and it made me realize that that's a specific something my eye isn't really trained to notice. I'll do my best to catch it more often from now on and try to get it included in my reviews. Look at Tim Gunn helping make me a better reviewer for the show. If only he could actually help make the contestants better too.... (burn!)

--Still no word on Swatch! I am seriously about to write a strongly worded letter to Mood!

--I'm wondering if Ashley's ability, desire, and encouragement to do a plus-size collection doesn't maybe open the door for more unique collections in the future. For instance, if someone is more at home in menswear but makes it to the finale on the strength of their dresses, would they be able to request making a menswear, or better yet a gender mixed collection? Point being I'd like to see PR using this as a jump off point to keep pushing its own boundaries.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Project Runway: S14E12 "Roll Out the Red Carpet"

Not gonna lie, Runaways, I had a lot of thoughts ranging all over the place during this episode last night and I'm hoping that over the course of my tedious day I didn't lose all of them, but it's highly possible. In the interim, I'm left thinking that the fact that this episode had me kind of buzzing and inquisitive while it was on has to be a good thing right? I think this season has been a roller coaster ride for us fans, but not because of the fireworks on screen. Instead, we, or more particularly I, have felt pushed and pulled in all different directions by the inconsistent quality of this season. Remember back around the first episode when I triumphantly, and prematurely, declared that PR was back and probably better than ever? How quick did that devolve into questions about direction, editorial choices, and the overall talent and personality level of the contestants? But then those questions could just as easily be blasted away with another strong outing. This season of Project Runway has felt more like a scripted TV show than any season before it in the way that it's been able to vary in quality from episode to episode. Not only in quality, but also in certain "artistic" flourishes. For example, remember the unconventional materials challenge that had the designers rummaging through outdated electronics trash to get materials to make their looks? I made mention of the batman-like flashes of words on the screen denoting what each contestant was looking at in the dump. Guess what's back this week! Seriously, were these two episodes directed by the same person? And if so, how problematic is that? Should we ever be able to see the hand of any particular director on any particular episode of a reality show? My gut says no, but I'm not an authority on such matters.

Either way, the 12th episode of this season has us gearing up for the finale with one more challenge to whittle it down from four to three finalists. To make that call, the producers bring in the time tested "Red Carpet" challenge. The contestants are heading out to LA in order to be inspired by...well LA basically, and create a Red Carpet ready look. They've got, dare I even say it, $400 and two days to get it done. But since all of their work and construction is being done in LA, they don't have the benefit of a model fitting before the runway. So I guess there's that. I'm torn about something here: I'm pretty sure that in PR history, the challenges tended to go from more time and more money in the beginning to less time and money as the season went on. In other words, the challenges got harder instead of easier. Going from one day to two day challenges feels like the opposite of that and it bugs me. But on the other hand, the early one day challenges do a good job of culling dead weight and exposing some of the less capable designers quickly. So maybe that's a good thing? Furthermore, the fact of the matter is to make a solid Avant Garde or Red Carpet ready look, you need at least two days in PR time. But still, it feels backwards to me.

Everyone arrives in LA to be told that the winner of this challenge will also be rewarded with 100 free nights at any Best Western in the entire world. If you've ever stayed in a Best Western, then chances are, like me, you were wondering if this was a reward or a punishment. But everyone at least seems to be rather excited for it, so good for them, I guess.

There's a trip to LA's Mood where the camera was very fond of cutting to shots of their own dog who clearly was not Swatch and therefor not at all worthy of screen time. At Mood, Edmond comes across a very....let's say busy fabric that he likes but isn't sure he should take a chance on. Tim tells him to go for it because now isn't the time to play it safe. Last episode, I mentioned that I thought Ashley was getting a little extra help and attention from Tim. This week, I'm following that thought up by saying that I actively think Tim is trying to sabotage other contestants. This is more of a conspiracy theory than an actual belief, but hear me out.

So the designers get to their LA workrooms, and get to work. Kelly's got this brilliant and elaborate idea to create her own textile by cutting her fabric into triangles and then layer some other fabric on top of it, and just doing all this work that is clearly ambitious and stands to be a knockout if successful. Ashley's also got a shiny shimmering fabric and plans to push herself with this cool asymmetrical dress. Candice is doing this standard black dress (surprise surprise) that stands to be gorgeous anyway. And Edmond is doing nothing. Literally, he spends the entire first day staring at the crazy fabric Tim told him to buy and does nothing with it because he feels like it doesn't speak to him as a designer. With the day pretty much fully gone, he uses some of the supplemental fabric he's bought to start making a different dress.

Edmond works on said dress for pretty much all of the second day until Tim comes in for visits with around seven hours left before their work time is up. He offers very solid guidance to Candice. Actually, he does little more than stand there and allow her to say what they're both thinking and make the decisions she should have been making all along. It's a pretty wonderful moment if I'm being honest. But it's followed up by him meeting with Ashley and giving her so much advice that it almost feels like he's designing her dress for her. He also says, and I quote, “I don’t want you to be the one to not make it." He's referring to the fact that a slip up at this point in the competition after putting in so much hard work will be enough to keep her out of the finale. But my question is, if you don't want Ashley to not make the cut, then who is it that you honestly wouldn't mind being left behind at this point? As Mentor, shouldn't Tim be at the point where he's rooting for them all? Was that a bit of a slip up on his part admitting that Ashley's his favorite?

Well he moves on to Kelly who's doing that great stuff with creating her own textile and trying to work it into the dress part of her Red Carpet dress, but Tim asks her if she wouldn't rather be doing pants... Listen, there's no "dress" or "gown" type of requirement for a Red Carpet look. Indeed, a quick Google search returns a load of results of actual celebrities wearing pants on the Red Carpet. And if Kelly pulls it off, it has the ability to be a stunning and bold choice that will wow people, right? But when this happened in the moment, I was left thinking that this is not sound advice from the group's mentor. I can't say that I felt totally confident that Nina and Heidi, purists that they tend to be a lot of the time, would really go for a jumper on the Red Carpet.

Then it's back to Edmond who has the makings of a fine, albeit boring, dress in his simple supplemental fabric and a full untouched few yards of the more extreme fabric that Tim liked. And of course Tim tells him he's going to be so much better off using the crazy fabric than the other. A crazy fabric that he might have liked a little in Mood but that seriously is not inspiring him as a designer at all. And Tim's big advice is "Fuck it, use that fabric anyway, your intuition and inspiration be damned!" Again, I couldn't help but to wonder if this was good advice. Or at the very least, is it advice on par with what he's given Ashley?

This is all just speculation, so it's fine if no one agrees with it. To his credit, Tim does tell Edmond that his best bet with that fabric is to create something simple and form fitting and let the fabric itself be the wow factor the look needs. So in theory, all Edmond has to do is follow that advice and he'd be pretty good. But of course after a full day of no ideas, he finds himself a bit panicked and perhaps with too many ideas on the second day and he can't help but to continue hacking away at the perfectly suitable dress he made at first. He makes it shorter and shorter until it resembles nothing of its former shelf and also nothing anyone would ever want to wear. Or at least that was my thought in the workroom. I held out hope for the possibility that the dress would be better on the model and on the runway.

Everyone flies back to New York where they have limited time to have a quick fitting, get their models all done up and pretty and accessorized, and then rushed off to the runway. Seeing his look on his model, Edmond decides that it needs to be even shorter, which is the opposite of true, and Kelly has moment where she doesn't think she'll be able to zip her model up into the pants, but she does and it's no big deal. Off to the runway where Christian Siriano is our guest judge, and how great was it to see him again? He and Kelly Osbourne are easily the best guest judges we've had this season.

The Runway:

Ashley: I like it. I wish she could have got the fit right without needing the strap, but I like the concept a lot and I think it’s pretty well executed honestly. I think the asymmetry and the split between the corset and the other side of the top is sexy and smart. I like the split in the skirt too. I think she's show the right amount of skin to be sexy without being trashy at all. I don’t know that it would make any best dressed lists, but I like it.

Kelly: The first moment that it turns the corner and she just stands there for a second, I love it! I think it looks chic, well made, it fits wonderfully, and she looks powerful. Kelly thought about this and that thought and planning shines through in something that I think is a bit of a wow moment. I do not, however, see Red Carpet anywhere on this look at all, and I can’t help but to think that a jumpsuit was the wrong way to go. She took a chance, and I respect that, but even though they look well made, I’m not feeling the pants. There's also a weird thing the top is doing when she walks where it peels away from her body in a stiff and flat movement that makes me think it's made of plastic or something. 

Candice: This is beautiful, and lovely, and elegant, and chic, and yet still feels horribly safe to me. It’s not edgy, or horribly innovative. It’s black, which I’m sick of seeing from Candice at this point, and it feels like a silhouette we’ve seen on the runway a million times before. But nothing detracts from how beautiful and well made and generally breathtaking I think it is. I think this could be on the Red Carpet right now and it would turn heads and make lists in all the best ways, but I don’t think we’d be talking about it so much as a day later. And all I keep thinking is how much better it would be if it were a shiny silver color instead of black. That train is fabulous though!

Edmond: I fucking hate this. I hate it so fucking much. Kill it with fire! It wouldn’t surprise me if Heidi likes it, sadly, but I fucking hate it. The sleeves are hideous, it’s way too short, and the darts in the front are so fucking distracting and sloppy looking. What Tim wanted him to do with this fabric was make a simple gown and let the fabric do all of the heavy lifting and make the statement. And he just couldn’t do that. I think what he had on the dress form at first just needed an open back and it would have been perfect. But this thing is the worst thing I think I’ve ever seen.

The judges like Kelly's look more than I expected, but more important than that, she does something on the runway that totally changes everything: When she's talking about her look she says "Katy Perry" and "The VMA's," and as if those are the magic words, my entire interaction with this look changed. It's another moment where you can see how much she thought about this look and made a plan and then executed it perfectly. It also makes a point that I had been thinking for most of the episode: Red Carpet is not some catchall term that is universally applicable. The Grammy's, Emmy's, and Oscar's all are different award shows with different requirements and expectations on what is acceptable to wear. How many times have you seen something make a worst dressed list for the Oscar's that would have been best dressed on the Grammy's? In specifying which carpet she was designing for, as well as which celebrity she had in him, Kelly made her entire look make a level of sense that I didn't think it had before. If I liked her look before she talked about it, I loved it afterwards!

The judges make mention of how safe Candice's dress is, so we're on the same page on that one. Heidi and Christian like Ashley's dress a bit more than Nina and Zac do. And one thing I thought about Ashley dress was what if she had purposely moved the fabric on the sleeveless side of the top so that it had that cool silver effect that the fabric was capable of having while trying to keep the rest of the dress in that gold color? I don't know if I'm explaining this well, but in my head, she had a way to make it at least seem like those two portions of the top were made of two different fabrics, which is what she wanted to begin with, without actually having to make it out of two different fabrics. I don't know if it would have held up in the long run, but it was an idea that I kept coming to. 

They hate Edmond's look though they're at least polite enough not to suggest taking it out back and burning it like I would have. Everyone acknowledges how much of a disappointment it is from him since they all know he's better than that, but it's clear that they really hate the look. 

After that rundown, the moment we all knew was coming arrives and the designers are asked why they should go to NYFW and who'd they take with them. In truth, I cringed when this came around because I was so ready for everyone to throw Ashley under the bus and have her be left as the only person no one thought should move forward. Luckily, Edmond saves us all from the latest version of Ashley and the Mean Girls by acknowledging he'd take her with him. So Kelly and Candice leave Ashley out of their own personal top three, and Edmond and Ashley leave Candice out, making Kelly and Edmond the only universally chosen designers. 

But of course, Edmond loses the challenge and is sent home. I mean, it's almost like the judges weren't even listening to the designers on this one. Kelly wins which makes this her third win in a row. if there's any such thing as momentum in Project Runway, Kelly has all of it and she's the designer Ashley and Candice have to beat. Or is she the designer Ashley, Candice, and Edmond have to beat? The show makes a big deal of Heidi talking to Edmond and explaining how disappointed they all are in him before she kisses him off. And then he goes back to the greenroom to say his goodbyes and the episode cuts out. The preview for next week is just about the three girls and Tim's standard home visits and such, there's no sign of Edmond in them, but the lack of Edmond feels too forced and purposeful. Tim doesn't send Edmond to clean out his space as is customary for the end of the episode, and we know he hasn't used his save yet, which I think can only mean that Edmond gets saved at the beginning of next week's episode and no amount of attempted misdirection can convince me otherwise. 

There's no rule that says Tim has to use his save if he doesn't want to. But the obvious break in tradition from a show that's as clearly steeped in their catch phrases and sayings as this one is too much of a red flag to be ignored. At this point, I'm hoping Tim doesn't save him and it's all just one big Gotcha! from the producers. It would be refreshing to be wrong in this case. But PR has had four final contestants for a long time now and I can't imagine they'd go back to three now. And I can't be upset by the probability of Tim using his save here either. The fact is all four of these designers are equally matched. All four of them would create unique and interesting collections for NYFW, and thusly all four of them honestly deserve to be there. Or at least, they deserve to be there in as much as contestants on the show deserve to be there. We've already covered how I don't think calling them all equally talented is necessarily a compliment. But if Tim does indeed use his save here, I think it's the right call all around. The judges are right to send Edmond home for what he put down the runway this week, and Tim would be right to save him given what we've seen him do over the course of the season. Also, given how Tim clearly sabotaged his efforts at every turn this week, saving him is the least the old man can do. 

Loose Threads:

--What annoys me about the probability that Tim will save Edmond is that I think the judges are counting on it to a certain extent. He's the only person they talk about during their deliberation, and they know Tim still has his save, and all of their talk is really about how disappointed they all are. I think if Tim had used his save earlier, they would have gone with a cop out "We aren't sending anyone home this week, but you're on the bubble and if we don't like what we see from a selection of your collection when you get back, then we will send you home!" 

--Speaking of Tim's save, would it make sense if they forced him to use it at a certain point in time? Like if there was a stipulation that he had up until the top six to use it or it's taken off the table, would that be better? It's just something I was thinking about. 

--When asked about the difficulty of Edmond's look, Christian points out that he could make that dress in 10 minutes. Can you imagine how much Christian would have wiped the floor with these contestants if he'd been on this season? I've droned on and on about the talent level this year, but just seeing Christian again made me realize just how great he was in comparison to these jokers. I didn't even love Christian that much during his season, but he's a giant by comparison. 

--I mentioned that Christian and Kelly were the best guest judges this season, and going based on the previews, it seems the two of them will also be judges on Project Runway Juniors. You all know I don't watch the PR spinoffs as a general rule, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about tuning in to this this. It also looks like Tim will be there at least for an episode if not all season.

--In LA, Ashley and Edmond get their own rooms instead of bunking up. Can someone explain to me what PR has against co-ed rooming situations? In a show where 98% of the male contestants are all gay, would it really matter if they shared a room with the girls? Granted, I don't think Edmond is gay (though I could be wrong), but even so, would it really be a huge deal for him and Ashley to share a room for a night or so in LA?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E11 "The Runway's in 3D"

I'm not going to lie, Runaways, I don't really know what to make of this. On the one hand, this has to
be the best episode we've had in quite some time, right? The challenge is engaging and inventive with unique elements added in to spice up something we've seen multiple times from the show. The looks are honestly all beautiful in their own way. And this is clearly the first challenge where you can see just how much dead weight has been cut from the show. There's no Swapnil here to pull focus, there's no out of left field type of edit. It's just an organic kind of episode that comes along in a drab season and reminds me of what I like about this show even after 14 long seasons. But on the other hand, there's the ending, and I honestly don't know if I want to commend them for it or chastise them. But I guess before I get to the end I should start with the beginning.

At the top five, we've finally come to the PR staple of the Avant Garde challenge. I know how this often leads to so much speculation about what Avant Garde actually means such as it relates to fashion, but let's shelve that discussion once and for all. Because after so many years, I think it's clear what Avant Garde means to Project Runway. But this is also a rather special Avant Garde challenge as it's incorporating 3D printing into the look and stealing from that other PR staple: the design your own textile challenge. So the designers are to be inspired by one of the three iconic bridges in New York to create an Avant Garde look while also creating 3D elements to be printed on fabric and incorporated into those looks. They have $200 for a trip to Mood, and two days for the challenge. It's a lot to take in, but I can't help but to think it's all the right choice. Avant Garde looks require money and time and a unique perspective, and to their credit the producers gave the designers all of those things.

At Mood, we see Kelly choosing horrible fabric, but with a clear cut reason behind it, Ashley choosing beautiful fabric for the first time in weeks, and Candice finally not choosing black. Although she goes back for a little black at the end, and who can blame her? The most interesting thing here is Tim seeming to stick close to Ashley and remark about how much he likes her fabric selection. Again it's possible that he does this for other designers too and it just doesn't make the edit, but I was left wondering if there isn't some clear cut favoritism happening on Tim's part for Ashley. She got the extra time with her client last challenge when Swapnil didn't, and after two challenges in a row of choosing horrible fabric, she gets him over her shoulder here pointing out that she's making a good choice? It's highly possible I'm reading too much into it, but these shouldn't even be questions we have at this point, so who's fault is that?

In the workroom, everyone pretty much just gets to work and seems to know what direction they're heading in. It's the most efficient we've seen the group and it left me wondering if Swapnil's lack of motivation wasn't dragging the other designers down too. I don't know if that's the case, but I do know that this is one moment where they all seem to be on point and have solid things created by the end of the first day. Also there's a visit by the person who runs the 3D printing place so they can all go over what the techs created based on their previous sketches for the textile. I don't know why that last minute consultation before things started being printed was important to me, but something about making sure the designers could give a final OK before everything was printed and couldn't be taken back was nice.

Day two is as seamless as day one was, and it's moments like these that make my job here really hard. There's nothing to say, nothing to really talk about, no drama to speak of. Tim comes in and has way more positive things to say than negative. Ashley needs to work on better combining her two pieces so they look like the same outfit, and it sounds to me like he's convincing himself to like Kelly's look more so than actually liking it, but still. The highlight of Tim's visit for me is the time he spends with Merline. It's no secret that this should be Merline's challenge in the same way the last week's should have been Ashley's. Being inspired by pieces of architecture to create an architectural dress has Merline written all over it. I think Merline's first word as a baby was architecture. So everyone judges her a little more harshly because the bar is a bit higher. But when Tim comes over, he doesn't throw her design under the bus because the basis of it really is solid. However he does draw her attention to certain construction based issues that she's clearly too close to the dress to be able to see on her own. He points out the thin line between purposefully messy and mistake level messy and says that the shapes on the bottom of her dress are more the former. It's really the reason Tim Gunn is there, and it all just works out really well.

Ashley decides that she needs another element to her look to add a kind of wow factor and push it into the Avant Garde realm. She decides a poncho is the way to go. My immediate thought was that she wanted to take her look to the next level and so she decided to cover most of it up... thats just weird. But the poncho/cape thing actually works, kind of, so there's that. The hardest decision she's left with is how to use her 3D printed materials. Back when Laurie was still with us, I said that her biggest downfall was that she tended to have one idea and then when that didn't work, she was left floundering and trying to just throw something together. That's what I feel about Ashley here too. Where Edmond says that he doesn't know how he'll use his 3D design until he has it in his hands and something will come to him, Ashley just never seems to have an idea. She has an idea for her overall look, but not for how to use the 3D aspect of the challenge. And so she's left just staring at them for awhile-ostensibly thinking about what to do next. It feels like a look into how brain power and fresh ideas can often be a limited resource, and maybe Ashley's exhausted her tank and is just running on empty now.

The model fitting happens without a hitch, and you have to be a bit amazed by just how well everything fit. Considering how dependent on a tight fit Ashley, Edmond, and Candice's looks all are, it's wonderful that they hit that home run on the first time out. The model fitting is also the first time you can see the more sculpted aspect of Edmond's dress, and that's what takes it out of the realm of a simple black dress and puts it more into the Avant Garde. I wasn't in love with Edmond's look until I saw it in the model fitting, and then it took my breath away. But if I'm going to talk about the looks, we might as well head to the runway and get it over with.

The Runway:

Merline: I think it’s nice, but I also think it makes more sense in Merline’s head than it does in practice. I like the idea of shifting from two to three dimensions, but I think the presence of the 3d printed stuff on the top kind of negates that. I think if there could have been one portion of the dress that was totally 2d, it would have worked more. but the finished product is still nice. The color is great, I love the length of the skirt for some reason, and I think it looks well put together. I think some aspects of the skirt look more accidentally haphazard than purposeful, but still. 

Edmond: This is perfect on a level that’s just ridiculous. I think the smartest thing here is the fact that he doesn’t do the 3d printed aspects on both of the straps on the front. Putting them only on one was genius. And then all down the back was also genius. This dress fits her like it’s no one’s business, and the sculpted parts on the skirt are fantastic. And the vail he made is just to die for. You can always tell just how much he's thinking about his looks. I couldn’t love this more if I tried. 

Ashley: I think sticking with the 3d printed stuff on just the shoulders was the wrong way to go. If she could have brought them all the way around the back, that might have been better, but the placement is all wrong. I also think it would have been interesting to place them on the bottom of the poncho and give it a little more weight maybe. But other than that I like the look. I like the movement, and I think the two pieces under the poncho are great. I’d like to see her take it the poncho off while walking and let’s see the rest of the look, but still. 

Candice: Man oh man! The corset lacing in the back! The shine on that fabric! The fit of this dress! This is great! If I have a complaint, it’s that I’d like for the hem to maybe flair out more if possible into more of a firm hoop like shape, and I think the neck is odd. I know she planned on going with a more structured neckline, but I guess she tossed that idea for some reason. I love this so much!

Kelly: I like it. I’d like the 3d printed material to be a different color than the fabric she chose so it could stand out more. As is, I think those details get lost in the rest of the dress. But I think this is nice. She went literal, and it’s not the most overwhelming thing on the runway (which I think is saying something all things considered) but it also doesn’t feel like a costume to me. I like it. 

Nina's the harshest judge during the critiques, but it's pretty obvious the judges liked everything they saw tonight. Ashley's rightfully called out for the placement, as well as the design, of her 3D printed material. Heidi and Zac point out that Merline's look reminds them of Kini's umbrella dress from last year, and the look is a bit too safe for her, but it's still pretty. Nina doesn't care as much for Candice and Edmond's gowns as they don't scream Avant Garde to her, but the other's like them and they all agree that Candice has the best use of the 3D printed material out of everyone. Kelly's look pops for me on the runway when Nina gets the model to turn around and we see the lacing detail is on the side as well as the front. I hadn't noticed that before and it was a really nice surprise. 

Of course with Kelly taking the biggest risk and creating something that was so much more extreme than anyone else, she gets the win. Again, we know what Avant Garde means to Project Runway enough that anyone could have called that from a mile away. The slightly more surprising result is the decision to send Merline home. Not because her look wasn't the worst thing out there. Grading on the curve that is the overall brilliance of all the designs, I think it's fair to say that Merline's is the most underwhelming. And again, given who she's been all season long, the bar was maybe a bit higher for her this week. I'm honestly surprised that they sent anyone home at all. I'm equally surprised that Tim didn't use his save here. There's no talk of this being the episode that determines who's going to NYFW, so clearly they're ostensibly planning on a top three this year. It makes sense given how low the overall talent level was that you'd want to just bring three designers into the finale for the first time in a long long time. But this was also the first episode we've had where everything was honestly beautiful and worth sticking around over. 

This is a good thing for the show as it means we might finally be at a point where the remaining designers are taking this seriously and the talent level has finally been kicked up a notch. At this stage in the competition, everything we see should be great and the decision on who to send home should be harder and harder. That hasn't been the case until now. And so on the one hand, I want to commend the judges for doing their jobs and making the hard decision. On the other hand, as a fan of the show who has put up with the middling talent level of this season for 11 long episodes, I kind of want it to last a bit longer. So there was a part of me that was hoping the judges, or maybe just Tim Gunn, would say "You know what, you've all done too good a job to warrant sending anyone home today. Everyone's safe, and we'll go at it again next time." The interesting thing is that given Jake's choice to leave the competition a few episodes back, they should actually be ahead of schedule. That means they could afford to go one week without sending anyone home and it wouldn't be a big deal, right? But they don't do that here and it feels like another missed opportunity. Oh well, Merline is all smiles as she goes, and you can tell she was honestly fine with going home on something she truly believed in, and she was happy to have made it this far. And then there were four. It seems like next week will be for all the chips, I guess. 

Loose Threads:

--At the beginning of the episode, the designers talk about Swapnil going home and Candice and Kelly can't seem to fathom how someone could just give up like that. At each point that they make such a statement, the camera pans to Ashley for a reaction shot and I can't figure out why. She doesn't have any particular kind of expression on her face, and she's clearly not about to give up so there's no real subtext to it, so what the hell?

--When was the last time we saw Swatch? I'm getting worried!

--Did anyone else think they've been sitting on this 3D printing idea ever since Justin's final collection a couple years back?

--Candice points out that Kelly's really grown as a designer on this show, and I couldn't agree more. She didn't make any kind of impression on me at all until recently, and when she did, she started winning. It's a great transformation. And two wins back to back this close to the end bodes very well for her. 

--Speaking of Candice, guest judge Mel B asks if she can wear Candice's dress to an event she's got coming up. I mean, Kelly wins and gets a 3D printer (a 3d printer valued at $1000 I might add), but Candice gets her look worn by a celebrity on a red carpet somewhere! I don't know which is the bigger deal, but I'm leaning towards Candice. 

--There was a solid amount of time during the closer look where Zac just had his hand on Ashley's model's thigh. She's wearing very little fabric, and he's basically grouping her. Seriously, Zac, keep your hands to yourself. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E10 "Crew's All In"

In it's 14th season, it's safe to say that the "real woman" challenge has become a PR staple. But I think the truth is that the show's pretty much never really done it "right." Or maybe right isn't the best term here; suffice it to say I can't think of a "real woman" challenge that hasn't been at least slightly off putting. Which on one hand really isn't PR's fault. By it's very nature, these makeover based challenges have to be a bit problematic. You're taking real live people and telling them they need a makeover by a (pseudo) professional designer. There's really no way to do that gracefully or tactfully. But maybe that very makeover aspect of the challenge is the problem?

What I mean by that is there's an entire industry within fashion that's dedicated to "plus-size" models. Granted, in the modeling industry, "plus-size" can often just mean anything above a size zero or so, but still. If the core of these challenges is about seeing if the designers can both design a flattering look for someone not of typical model proportions, and can keep their vision while still serving a client, then why not hire models from these agencies, tell them they're the clients, and let the designers design for them?

The more important question is why, after 14 seasons, do I still have to try and fix Project Runway? I guess that's neither here nor there. This year, the designers are told they'll be making over one of the PR crew members. On the one hand, I'd love to know how the selection process for who would be getting the makeovers went. Was the crew asked who'd want to be a part of it and then offer their consent, were people randomly selected, or was it just a backstage bitch fest about who needs the makeover the most? But on the other hand, I'm sure the answer would make me lose even more faith in everything, so I'm best not knowing.

Swapnil and Merline get the clearest loser edits of the episode as from the start their meetings with their clients go horribly. Merline's client starts off by saying how much she didn't want to be paired with Merline, and how uninterested in Merline's "architectural" design aesthetic she is. Merline suggests making a coat in her typical fashion, the client shoots that idea down, Merline makes it anyway. In other words, they're off to a great start. Swapnil's client explains how simple and paired down she likes her looks to be, Swapnil says she should be more of a bombshell. She says that's not her, but he puts his fingers in his ears and basically yells "Lalala, I'm not listening, I know you better than you know yourself," and goes on to sketch up and design something she could never be happy in.

For this challenge, everyone is given $200, a trip to Mood, and two days. The Project Runway producers spare no expense when it comes to trying to make their frumpy employees into people they can stand to look at everyday. And good for them. But of course, like clockwork, as soon as two days are mentioned for the challenge, cue Swapnil doing nothing for long stretches of time and taking multiple smoke breaks. He neither utilizes his time well, nor creates something his client would want. It's really obvious by this point that it's time for him to go.

As if to make it even more obvious, Tim visits and meets with everyone. Everything is horrible in one way or another, and no one's client is truly happy. I'm going to take this moment to remind everyone that this is the tenth episode of the season; the contestants left comprise this season's top six. Ostensibly, these are the six best designers that tried out for and made it on to Project Runway's 14th season. Let that sink in for a bit before you then remember/realize that NONE of them managed to create a look in over a day (in more time than they usually have for any given challenge) that could impress either Tim or their client.

But I was talking about Swapnil's loser edit for the episode, so let's get back to that. Tim saves Swapnil for last in his critiques, and wouldn't you know it, multiple times the camera cuts to Swapnil standing around, listening to the other designer's critiques, and waiting for Tim to get to him. Eventually, while he's meeting with someone else, Tim looks over to Swapnil and asks him WTF he thinks he's doing. Swapnil says he's waiting, Tim says he needs to be working, and that's that. By the time Tim finally gets there, we see that Swapnil has created the exact opposite of what his client wants, and he hasn't even crafted it to such a point that it's ready to be tried on by said client. So all they can do is look at it on the dress form and question what the hell is wrong with this man. And so arrives the fabled Tim Gunn F-bomb of season 14. It comes after he calls Swapnil's excuses "bullshit" and then proceeds to ask him "What's the fucking point?"

After Swapnil sputters out a little more bullshit, Tim takes his client and leaves without giving them the chance to chat and recenter Swapnil on the best course. So here's where things get a little bit dicey to me. Swapnil clearly wasn't communicating with his client, and there's a good chance that no matter what she said, he wouldn't have heard her and wouldn't have produced something to her liking anyway. However, not five minutes earlier, after Ashley had yet another breakdown and her client wasn't happy, Tim makes it a point to say he's going to step away and leave them alone to come up with a course of action that suits them both. Ashley and her client come up with a new outfit in that span of time. Swapnil has been screwing himself in this challenge and has no one else to blame, but in the interest of fairness, doesn't he deserve the same opportunity that Ashley (and presumably the other designers too) got? In short: is it actually fair that Tim Gunn, the man who is meant to be their mentor and their guide through the competition, ushers Swapnil's client from the workroom after his harsh critique and leaves Swapnil to figure it all out on his own? I've been questioning Tim's tactics all season long, and while I understand that he's frustrated with the effort and the talent level this season, I can't say that I agree with this move. It may not have made a damn bit of difference, but I think he has to leave Swapnil and his client alone to talk it out a bit more. I wouldn't be saying that if we hadn't seen him do so for Ashley.

Tim comes back in right after the meetings, explains why he's being so tough on them all, and then promises they'll have a second fitting towards the end of the day. This gives them their whole second day to, in most cases, make entirely new looks and then have time for another fitting and a few more hours for final touches. All told, it's still more time than they generally get for anything else, so everything should come off without a hitch.

Swapnil starts work on a new look, the late night fitting comes around, and his client hates the new look as well. You could argue that she was being a bit inflexible, but more importantly she told him specfically what she didn't want, she told him this multiple times, and he proceeded to give her what she didn't want with two outfits in a row. So really, who can blame her for being upset about it? There's something to be said for compromise, but there's also a big difference between an actual compromise (where both parties give up a little something) and sheer capitulation, which is what Swapnil wants. With two and a half hours left in the day, he has to make a third look in the hopes that it's closer to what she wants. Spoiler alert: it isn't.

The Runway:

Ashley: I haven't even mentioned Ashley yet as Swapnil kind of floored me this entire episode, but this is a challenge everyone thinks Ashley should have in the bag, and then she sends this down the runway... It was clear from the moment she left Mood that the fabric choice was 100% wrong (the second challenge in a row that she's made that mistake), but then on top of everything else, the fit is unflattering, and the design is old and boring. We all wanted to know what would happen when Ashley got a "real woman" challenge, and now we do and still wish we didn't.

Candice: Yeah that happened. I'm sorry, but I'm seriously flabbergasted by this. I can't even begin to know what to say. My initial intention was just to write "Sigh" here and move on, but is that even possible? How could she ever have thought that this was an acceptable thing to do? Her taste level has just flown away in the night, and this is astonishingly bad.

Edmond: This is another case, for me, of two great pieces from Edmond that just don't go together. I'm upset that the photoset Lifetime has uploaded doesn't show the actual coat because without it on, it's impossible to see 1) how nice it is, and 2) just where this outfit fails, which is in the pairing of the two. There also appears to be some fit issues on the skirt, and the top doesn't photograph in a manner that shows off just how brilliant it is, but his client looks strong and capable and happy in her look, and I can see a real person being interested in buying that dress. I think fewer people would be interested in the coat by itself, but that's not to say that I don't like it.

Kelly: Kelly was lucky that the only real problem with her first look was a fit and tailoring problem. All she really had to do was lower the waist and create the vest and she was good to go, and good for her too as this finished product is pretty great. I don't know how much it embodies the makeover aspect of the challenge since it's pretty much just a higher end version of what her client would be wearing on her own, but the outfit is killer nonetheless. And it looks great on her.

Merline: This is my personal favorite look of the night. It's also the look the best embodies compromise. Her client specifically said she didn't want the jacket that Merline created at first, and so what does she do? She refashions it into a killer vest. Paired with the two pieces underneath it, which are both just smokin' hot and super sophisticated, and you've got a seriously winning combination. And her client fully owned it on the runway. This was a woman you could tell was happy and feeling sexy in her skin because of what Merline did for her. I love this to no end.

Swapnil: I honestly don't know what to say about this. I think the final piece that he sends down the runway is not the most horrible thing I've ever seen on the show, but I do think it's stupid conceptually, and a bit boring. Though I don't hate the skirt, and I probably wouldn't hate the top without that stupid cape attachment. The main problem with it is how unhappy his client is, and it's impossible to separate what I think about the overall design of the thing and what she clearly feels about it. He gets an F for working with his client, and a C- on construction and design.

Swapnil, Ashley and Candice are in the bottom, and as has been the case for awhile now, the judges have both good and bad, though perhaps more good than bad, things to say about Edmond, Kelly, and Merline'e looks. To his credit, Swapnil says all the right things on the runway yet again. He talks about his poor time management, and his inability to really deliver on what his client actually wanted. He doesn't come out and say that he was trying to get her to see something in herself that he saw in her, but that's probably for the best as no amount of seeming altruism could save him on that front. Zac, who's been over Swapnil for quite some time now, admits that he's bored with Swapnil's one trick pony routine, but they all believe in his talent level.

They also come down pretty hard on Ashley who should have rocked this and yet failed horribly. They're all a bit sick of the crying and the self doubt, and I honestly don't know what to say about all of it. I love Ashley, and I probably always will on some level, and I don't want to make light of how she's struggling to have the kind of confidence that her success on the show thus far demands of her. But I do also understand the desire to grab her by her shoulders and shake her a bit. She's won multiple challenges, she's made it to the top five, she's about a step away from making it to the finale, what on earth has to happen before she finally gets out of her own way and accepts that she's here because she deserves to be?

During the closer look at the designs, the judges tease the possibility of a double elimination, but it was obvious they wouldn't pull the trigger on it. First off, they've gone to that well too often for the threat to hold any real meaning; secondly, I can't imagine that this late in the competition they'd allow the top four to be decided with a swooping double elimination. However, there's a very simple reason why they should have gone with a double auf: The Tim Gunn save would have been put into play to save the second designer. Obviously Swapnil goes home here (Kelly wins incidentally), but that leaves Ashley and Candice both sweating it out on the runway in Swapnil's wake. Given what we've seen from her lately, it seems clear that Candice is a lock to make it to NYFW and she could even win the whole thing. Shocking since back when we were all calling for multiple eliminations to cull the dead weight, she was easily on my chopping block. Ashley has faltered a bit these last couple weeks, but the judges do believe in her and it's also clear she's set for the finale assuming she can right the ship and ride it out. So there's no way that Tim would let either of them go here. It's the most dramatic move possible, not because they'd send two people home, but because it would require Tim, after his profanity laden outburst from earlier, to stand in the greenroom and look Swapnil in the eye and tell him he's sending him to the workroom to clean up his space after he'd told either Candice or Ashley that he thought they were worth saving.

I don't generally argue for drama for drama's sake on this show, but this is one moment where it could have been worth it. Also, let's say Ashley was the designer they decided to send home with Swapnil. Maybe Tim using his save on her would have been just the jolt she needed to kick it in gear and really solidify her place amongst the designers. And if it had been Candice, I think it would have been the proper punishment for what she sent down the runway this week.

It doesn't happen, so it's a moot point either way, but what a missed opportunity. In any event, here we are. We've got our top five designers, and we should be about a week away from deciding who will be making collections to show at NYFW. After so many years of the top four all making it to the finale, I can't help but to assume four of these five people will be going as well. It's too bad because they really are all equally talented and by that logic should all make it to the finale. But even if they did, I can't think of a group of collections I'd be less excited for than these.

Loose Threads:

--There was an extended hair consultation for this challenge and I really couldn't tell you what was said in it. Not because I wasn't paying attention, as is my custom during these things, but just because I couldn't take my eyes off the hair guy (I learned here that his name is Greg). The dirty dirty things I'd like to do to that man.

--I think these last few episodes have solidified my thoughts about a general season long edit and how useful it could be. Swapnil's smoking habit and generally lax attitude towards work would have been seriously useful information to have earlier than we had it, and since it led to his ultimate downfall, it could have been a strong story to follow all the way through.

--There's a great, and obviously staged, shot in this episode of Swapnil re-sketching his look. He's sitting on the couch in the background, and a pack of cigarettes is sitting on the coffee table in the foreground. It's obvious and on the nose, but I loved it in spite of myself and wish I had had the presence of mind to screenshot it and use it as the image for this recap.

--Has Tim ever sent someone home in as chilly a manner as he did this week, or was it just me?

--Speaking of Tim, at this point, should we assume he just won't end up using the save at all? If he doesn't, would we consider that to be more of a good thing or a bad thing for the show?

--Merline seems like the odd woman out for the top four to me, but I also think she has the ability to turn it on at the right moment. I also think Ashley and Candice have the ability to slip up at the wrong moment and screw themselves out of a place in the top four. So I guess that means that Kelly and Edmond are the only two I think are a lock to move on. Though I think the most shocking thing that could happen at all would be Tim uses his save next week, and they somehow have to figure out a way to let five people show in the finale, or at least send them all off to make collections with the promise that one of them will go home before NYFW anyway.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E9 "Make it Sell"

And then there were six. They were the right six at least, though I still miss my ginger teddy bear from the first episode. But given what we've seen in these last few weeks since most of the dead weight has been cut from the show, can anyone truly deny that these are the best six contestants this season has to offer? I don't think you can, but I also think that that says more about the talent level of this season than it does about the contestants as a whole. Because after this episode, I'm also left wondering if we've ever seen such a lackluster challenge to determine the top six. And that statement is as much an indictment of what came down the runway as it is of the challenge itself.

Everything opens up on something about school and learning and a classroom setup. The challenge is to create a look that's inspired by one of the "personas" of a Just Fab shopper. Now I'll be the first to admit I've never been on the Just Fab site, but are we really supposed to believe that all those feminine stereotypes shops there. I say stereotypes, but I think I should also point out that I've never heard of "Femme Nouveau" before and think they made that up. But my main question about this segment of the episode is Why? Why the classroom setup? Why the blackboard? Why the stupid hints about classroom stuff and all the confessionals about how much the designers hate school? What did any of this have to do with the actual challenge? If the designers had been contracted to design a new school uniform for some stupid New York prep school, that'd be fine. But otherwise it's stupid and pointless and took me out of that portion of the episode.

Moving on. Candice won last week and has immunity and gets to pick which stereotype she wants to design for. Kelly talks about how much she wants Trendy, then Candice picks Trendy off the bat, and Kelly's world ends. Candice, as last weeks winner, also gets to pick stereotypes for all the other designers. This happened last season too with Sandy picking everyone's fabrics in the "A Suitable Twist" episode. You can check back and see that I bemoaned the decision as being unfair to the other designers and offering Sandy a ridiculous advantage. That was my first thought when I heard them doing it again here, but I relented a bit for a couple reasons. First, I think there's a huge difference between choosing a vague stereotype to design for and choosing specific fabric to design with. Second, at the top seven, everyone left should be able to design something nice for each of those stereotypes; it's not the same as doing this for 13 contestants as they did last year. Not to mention at 13, the designers still don't know each other well enough to know who'd do well with what fabric whereas at seven Candice is better able to choose something based on who she knows her fellow designers to be. And that's just what she does. There's no shady attempt to sabotage anyone, she legitimately picks things she thinks her competitors can do well and would maybe even pick for themselves.

Kelly get's Trendy like she wants, so there's a crisis averted. Swapnil and Edmond get Bombshell. Ashley gets Girl Next Door, Laurie gets Modern Classic, and Merline gets the made up Femme Nouveau. Everyone except Merline and Edmond seem to be pretty happy with their assignments, and I think that's a testament to Candice's good job at picking for them. So no complaints there.

The looks are to be produced and sold on Just Fab, so they have to be inexpensive, and thusly everyone has $100 to spend at Mood. It's the third (or fourth?) trip to Mood this season, and we don't even get to see Swatch, so I don't feel the need to comment on it really except to say that Ashley buys some of the ugliest fabric on this side of creation. She doesn't even seem all the jazzed about it in the first place but somehow resigned to using it. There's still time, she can keep shopping and find something else that works, but instead she settles. I felt like there was a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy at work here whereby she'd pick a fabric that she didn't like and that way she could justify being in the bottom by blaming the fabric, and then she could sure up her continued feelings of worthlessness and not deserving to be here. Which, by the time you've made it all the way to the top seven, should really not be an issue anymore. I know it's easier said than done to just develop a sense of worth over a couple weeks, but still. At the very least, pick a fabric you like and if you go home on something you believe in, all the better.

But I digress. Back to the workroom where people work and get some things done before Tim comes in. Edmond's chosen a fabric that he loves, and that I love too I might add, but he can't figure out what to do with it and hot to get it to bunch and drape the way he wants. Tim let's him have it for not encompassing his stereotype more. Swapnil already has his dress done by the time Tim comes in, and it's about as Bombshell as it can be. Leopard print, tight and short with an open back, and available in just about every store with a Hooker-Chic section that has ever existed. Tim calls him out for not producing something unique and then chides him when Swapnil says he gave 200% last challenge and was only safe. Tim seems to think that Swapnil didn't give that much effort and stands to give more. Which...I don't know. On the one hand, sure; it's a mentor's job to push you and to see more in you than you maybe see in yourself. On the other hand, who are you to tell someone else that they didn't give the effort they think they did? Is this based on something Tim saw that we didn't see, or is it only based on the final product that Swapnil sent down the runway last week? A final product that was, I think, better than the judges seemed to think it was. Either way, questions about Swapnil's effort level continue into this week, and it's a storyline I think we're all tired of.

Tim doesn't really like much of anything he sees except for Kelly's look which is my least favorite at this point, but I think there's an interesting dichotomy setup here that I'd like to talk about, and it's between Edmond and Laurie. Laurie has an idea at the start of everything and she buys fabric to support that idea. Tim doesn't really like where she's going, but she tends to stick to her guns a bit. We've seen this from her before, and some of the other designers have talked about how she doesn't take critique all that well. Similarly, Edmond has an idea, and sets out to achieve it, but is criticized by Tim as well. They both move forward a bit only to find their looks truly crashing around the time the models come in for their fitting. Edmond still can't get his dress to do what he wants it to, and Laurie can't get the fabric to fit right on her top. This is where the two of them diverge. Edmond has a small amount of a second fabric and he decides to scrap his first idea and just go with making a little red dress. Meanwhile, Laurie flaps in the breeze unsure about what to do next. She ends up borrowing some organza from Candice and throwing a new top together slapdash. They're two totally different designers: Edmond has an idea, it doesn't work, and he scraps it for something else, something better, and creates a new look in hours. Laurie has an idea and holds on to it for dear life and when it fails, she's stuck and lost without being able to come up with something new. Neither approach should work; how many times have we seen designers in the past scrap a look after Tim's visit only to go home for the quickly slapped together outfit they sent down the runway? But that's not the case here, and hasn't been the case for Edmond all season, but for more on that let's head to the runway.

The Runway:

Swapnil: A few weeks ago when I was clamoring for Swapnil to get his first win, I never thought I’d be saying this, but I’m ready for him to go home. This half assing it each week thing simply isn’t going to cut it. I find this look boring. The shawl, which EVERYONE told him to ditch, keeps it from being “Bombshell” to me. The gold butt tassel thing is weird. I don’t like the odd bunched up fit around the neck. I don’t hate the back, but I don’t like it either.

Kelly: No one in their right mind would be caught dead in that vest. I hate it. Other than that, the rest of the look is OK. It certainly screams her, so there’s that. The problem with the pants is I keep thinking about the pants Edmond made last challenge and how perfect they were in every way, and these don’t measure up to those, so it’s a distraction. I also don’t like the print, but I do understand that there are people who would, so that’s just subjective. I don’t think the whole look is horrible, but it’s also not my favorite. 

Merline: Oh dear God. The fit of the top is horrible. The back of the top is all loose and poorly fitted and an eyesore. And whatever she had in mind for the skirt was a total failure. Bad bad bad.

Candice: I hate the the second layer to the skirt. I hate the way it looks tacked on at the last minute. She had a vision and I respect that, but the skirt doesn’t work for me. The good things about this look are that 1) I can at least see how this could all be something people would be interested in, so it embodies Trendsetter more than Kelly’s does. 2) I really like the rest of the outfit. I think the top is really adorable.

Ashley: I’ll admit I’ve never been on Just Fab’s website, so I don’t know anything about their particular aesthetic, but something about this outfit does seem like what I would expect to find on there at least. I still hate the fabric for the two pieces under the jacket, but I do like those two pieces, and I do like all three of the pieces together. 

Laurie: She lost the bra and just left her model’s tits all out again. It’s not a horrible look except that two challenges in a row she’s sent an exposed model down the runway, and it's boring. I like the fabric on the skirt, and I wish she could have made it work on the top too, or at least bought a supplemental fabric to use. The neckline is the worst part about it to me. 

Edmond: YES YES YES YES YES!!!! The lacing detail is perfect. I can’t tell on the runway itself, but he did that on the back too right? If so then the biggest problem with this look is that he didn’t style his model in a way that would have shown that off, and he should have because it really makes the dress for me. But to know that he pulled this off in the amount of time he did, and it actually screams bombshell, really sells me on this look. Easily my favorite of the night. 

So given their two approaches, Edmond succeeds in creating something great, and Laurie fails, as mirrored in the two of them winning and losing the challenge respectively. The judges aren't unanimously in love or hate with any of the looks, and I think some part of that has to do with Ciara (who honestly isn't relevant anymore, is she?) being there and offering her pointless and lukewarm responses to everyone, but her tastes also seem to align more with Heidi's, which I'm sure throws everything off a bit. Without Heidi being outvoted by cooler heads like Nina and Zac, things can get out of hand.

Zac makes the same point about Candice's skirt that I made saying it's just poorly placed, which made me think maybe if it had been moved up a couple inches, I'd have liked it more. Nina doesn't like the over sized lapels, but I think they're a nice touch. Either way they're split. They don't like the fabric Ashley chose for her top and skirt, but they do love the jacket, they hate the vest Kelly made, but like the rest of it mostly, they think Swapnil did too much and they hate the shawl, and they love Edmond's look except for Zac who thinks it's not innovative enough. So many mixed reviews and most of them negative. Though the biggest complaint for everyone is that their looks aren't actually producible or sellable for Just Fab. The only things that could be put on the site and sold right now are Edmond's and Ashley's outfits. So on top of no one producing anything that's all that great, they also didn't follow the confines of the challenge. 

Again I'm left to ask what's up with the casting this season? Is this the worst and most scattered top seven we've ever seen? And are they also the least talented? It sucks to think so, but this entire thing was a bit of a cluster fuck of an episode. I never really thought that this show required big personalities to shine, but now I'm starting to think differently. In the mad dash to the finish, I find myself no longer really in love with anyone left. 

Loose Thread:

--There's a twist to this challenge that the designers have to create a label for themselves and print it out on a shirt to wear and explain on the runway. It has NOTHING at all to do with the looks they're creating for their models. It doesn't have to go with or compliment those looks in anyway, it doesn't have to even take all that much time to create and the printer does all the hard work. In other words it serves no point or purpose of any kind beyond being a plug for the printer itself. It's also probably important for the looks that do get put up on the web somehow, but it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of the episode. Project Runway isn't even trying anymore, and it's sad.