Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E14 "Finale Part 2"

At one point in the beginning of the episode, Tim says "You're not only great designers, you're wonderful people." While I certainly agree with him, there's a part of me that's wondering whether or not that's the core problem with this season as a whole. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this season more than I disliked it. But it wasn't PR at its best, but I think we've seen worse seasons as well. If there was one consistent failing this season it was just how boring the contests were. Cornelius and Dexter had a little tat for awhile there, but nothing big came of it. I never thought I'd say this but maybe the season would have been a little better if everyone hadn't been such wonderful people.

But that lacking doesn't detract from the bigger problem from episode to episode: continued questionable format. It's more glaring here than even in past episode since this year's finale is kicked up to a full two hours instead of the requisite 90 minutes. And how do they fill that extra half hour? With retrospectives on everyone's PR journey. Their high points and low points, struggles and triumphs are all laid bare. It's cute and nostalgic to a certain point, but it never feels like more than what it is: a quick way to fill time.

Watching the entire episode made you realize just how much time they did need to fill though. Nothing dramatic happens prior to the runway. Everyone gets an extra $500 to spend at Mood, and the same amount of very little to no time. Some mixing and matching happens, a couple people turn out an entirely new look, but that's about it. Prior to the runway, a rip shows up in one of Laurence's dresses and one of Roberi's model chooses not to show up. Laurence sews up the rip and Roberi's replacement model doesn't stand out at all, so it doesn't seem to be any big deal.

The Runway

Rik: Rik's collection is good, and it progresses very well and seamlessly from one kind of look to the next and then into his final look which brings it back around in a fun way, but nothing about it is breathtaking. Well made, and a fun concept, sure, but did anything make you double take or jump out of your seat with excitement? He's a designer that deserves to be seen and shown and sold, but nothing he did here makes me think he's ready to win or put on a great show. His stand out pieces are probably the two swim suit pieces, and the bikini is easily better than anything we saw from him last time. Sexing it all up was the best way to go. It's cute and fun and cohesive but it's not a winner. 

Laurence: Did I expect a little more from her? Maybe. But I still think there's more good than bad here. I think the collection takes a dip when you get to the white pieces. The first isn't as strong as some of what came before. And while the second white look is still a standout, it's sadly not all up hill from there. However, that's not to say that there still weren't standout moments from this point in the collection as well. Her final look is one I think I might be in the minority on, but I love it! I think it's sexy and fun. Everything from her is impeccably well made and it all looks high end. Even the suspenders look that the judges hated has been edited in a manner that makes it look like high fashion. The dip in quality towards the middle is a mark against her, but there were some stunning moments in this collection that I can't help but to love. 

Roberi: Roberi's aesthetic has never been my favorite. He has a very unique point of view and I commend him for it, but I'm just not sure how it translates to fashion. In the end, I think he has some very nice clothes here, but very little in the way of impressive fashion. The looks that stood out to me did so because of how different they were from the rest. His collection ends up being cohesive, but I can't help but to wonder how much of that is because so much of it is nearly identical. It's all nice, but I think it could have been more impressive.

Erin: Wow! When she says that her collection is different from everyone else's, she isn't lying. It's really fun and youthful without being immature. And the suspender style straps on those first few dresses are to die for. There's something here that's innovative and you can see that she, more than any of the others, is thinking of ways to take common elements and flip them on their head and create something new and surprising out of them. I still hate the neoprene dress which I think looks lazy, but most of everything else in her collection was fun and interesting. I hate her, but good lord that was a great collection.


It's interesting to me just how much more the judges liked Rik's first look than I did. I thought it was fine, but it still felt like a simple black dress in a lot of ways to me. But Zac's comments about it being contemporary and powerful make sense. Zac wishes he had bedazzled the denim looks a little more and done something more memorable and I agree. The complaint I had that he didn't put on enough of a show seems to be what Zac is hinting about. Everyone commending his cohesion is spot on though. He really did find a way to pull it all together. 

Heidi says that she was more wowed by Roberi's collection. I certainly wasn't, but to each her own. She doesn't love his final look, and I agree. It didn't feel like it went as well. Nina liked his denim look which was also my favorite from his collection. The jackets are getting most of the love from the judges, and I can see why, but I did feel as though the jackets were lessened by the dresses I didn't love. 

Zac commends Erin's use of color but points out that certain elements of her collection are always a little lacking in their construction. Heidi points out how much fun the collection is, and Nina points out how feminine her collection is. It's interesting to me that Nina complains about the first dress, and yet I loved it. Not so much the skirt, which was just fine, but the top was breathtaking. 

The judges are not as impressed with Laurence's collection as I had hoped they would be. I think at the end of the day the general feeling is that in going away from a lot of what she did all season she lost something of herself. Her grand showmanship. I noted this last week when pointing out that she should have had at least one black look that was just classic Laurence. Here they wanted more wow moments and something to just push the envelope a little farther. Nina points to the pleated skirt as a low point for her and I couldn't agree more. The hard part is we all know she could have gone bigger and bolder and left you wowed, but she chose not to and it's hard to see. 

It's interesting that the top two collections end up being Erin and Roberi's, the two most colorful collections on the runway. Erin wins, and I can't complain about that after seeing all of the collections, but will she go down in the annals of PR history? I think she stood out in this season and from these final collections, but I don't think she's the best designer we've ever seen on the show. I don't think she's the best designer we saw this season, but Laurence over thought her final collection and paid the price for it. And so Project Runway's 15th season ends in a whimper more than a boom. I expect next year to be more of the same, but I'll be here nonetheless. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E13 "Finale Part 1"

Project Runway is good. It isn't great. It's not the kind of show that you feel the need to tell all of your friends to watch. No one who isn't watching it or who maybe gave up on it years back is missing anything, but it's still a good show. I have to assume you all agree with that or else you wouldn't still be watching, and certainly wouldn't be reading out reviews. And it doesn't seem like any of our Runaways are hate watching the show, so I feel confident in saying that it's good. But here's the thing: it could be better. Or at least I watch episodes like this one and I can't help but to think that it could be. I'm not certain what it needs to kick it all up a notch, but I suspect that it starts with casting and ends with production.

The Meetings

Everyone knows what this week brings us. It's the first part of the finale, so it's all about Tim meeting family members and loved ones and checking in with the designers towards the end of their six week time period to make a ten look collection. Barring last minute twists and challenges, week one of the finale is a pretty simple affair. And then Tim stops off at Laurence's house first, and everything I thought I knew about this episode flew out the window. 

I've complained about PR's long form storytelling before, but this is a bit of a triumph. We've heard bits and pieces of Laurence's story prior to now. The news that she never spoke to her father again after getting pregnant at 16 isn't news to anyone who's been watching. But the way she tells the story here, leaving no stone unturned, delving deeper into emotion than we've ever seen her, and wearing so much heart break that she can hardly seem to look Tim in the eye while she tells it is amazing. Something about it feels like the crowning moment of Laurence's time on the show, and she certainly won the episode for me. 

The problem with it is that while the groundwork was laid for this moment, it didn't feel like this moment is something the show has been heading towards all season long. This is the problem I continue to have with PR: this moment falls into their laps and they just count their lucky stars and run with it. To their credit, I don't think they do anything to over sell the moment. It isn't, I don't think, cut with sad music, and there aren't any overt editing tricks to make it a bigger deal than it is. Laurence has confessional scenes where she cries a bit more freely than she does with Tim in the workspace, but that's really it. And that's because they can't and shouldn't make this scene into a bigger deal than it is; it's a really big freaking deal without the tricks. As astounding as the moment is, the feeling it left me with in hindsight was one where I was a little disappointed in the show for not going harder on a Laurence narrative from the beginning. 

But Project Runway is first and foremost about the clothes. After her emotional story, Tim can't find anything to complain about in Laurence's collection. He's more impressed at this stage than I am. I'd commend her lack of black in the collection, but I'd also complain that it doesn't feel like her. Doing nothing but black leather coats would have been a mistake, but I equally think not having a single one is a mistake. I also don't love the color palette she's chosen. There are deep reds and blue on the rack behind her, but those apparently are for something else. She's dealing purely in olive greens and whites. I trust it to all come together, but in this early moments, I'm unimpressed. 

No one else's family visit stands out in anyway. Tim goes bowling with Rik and his family and it's as adorable as you'd expect. Tim's also either really good at bowling or the subject of a great edit. Rik's collection lacks cohesion from the jump. The interesting thing about this is that Rik brings that issue up first. Meaning he's thought about it, noticed the lack of cohesion, and excused it away. This is one of those moments where the number of looks he's completed works against him. If he had fewer looks, he could turn his focus over to making the new outfits into transitional pieces between the different segments of his show. But being nearly done means he's going to have to try and mix and match pieces to get the desired effect. 

Tim arrives to see Erin and finds that she doesn't have a single look completed. Her procrastination might be cute or endearing to some, but I'm a million percent over it. At a certain point in time it just feels like she's not taking this serious enough. Granted, I totally called it, but I at least expected she'd have two or three looks completed with a lot more work to go. With nothing but ideas and sketches to show Tim and 10 days to complete 10 looks, I'm honestly not interested in giving her the time of day. 

Roberi gets the harshest critique, but there's interesting about Roberi. This entire season he's been the guy who gets negative comments from Tim and just sticks with doing what he wants anyway. It's worked out for him thus far, obviously since he's made it to NYFW, but it's an odd tactic. As a general rule, I agree with Tim. Roberi's dresses are simple and the silhouette isn't unique enough to be a strong uniting factor. Tim harshly calls him a dressmaker instead of a designer, but it's not an unfair criticism. Roberi's individuality has gotten him this far, so I wouldn't want him to leave it all behind, but I certainly think it looks like his collection needs more of something. 

The Runway

Roberi Look 1: Yeah ok.

Look 2: This I like more. Mostly I think because I like the color of the skirt more. There's a cohesion between the first two, but I'd be lying if I said I thought they were high concept pieces.

Look 3: The waist of the pants and the waist of the previous skirt are the same, so more cohesion there. This is boring though. And sloppy. It's purposefully sloppy as if its meant to have the jumped out of bed and threw something on effect, but it doesn't work. I'm not a fan of this collection.

Erin Look 1: I hate this. It's certainly her, so I'll give her that much, but I hate it. I'll also compliment her on trying to do something with the sleeves, but I hate them. I hate what she did with the sleeves, I hate that the dress just looks like a sheet with a bunch of shit glued onto it, and I hate how immature and unsophistocated it all looks. There's a concept here, but it still feels like a look she threw together in a day on a PR challenge, because that's what it is. That's not what NYFW is meant to be.

Look 2: It's an alright sun dress. I hate the clutch.

Look 3: I was ready to hate that top when I saw it on the hanger, but seeing it on the model, I love it. It's hands down the best thing in her collection so far. And a lot of that is honestly because it pairs so well with that skirt which I think it stunning. This outfit stands out so much more than the two that came before, but there's still an aspect to it that makes me say it came from the same collection. But still, she only really scored on 1/3 looks in my opinion.

Laurence Look 1: This is simple, but also interesting. The small things she did with this look are impressive. The single stud on the leather strap in the front paired with the three studs on the back draws your eye. The way the straps extend down past the studs and out from the look feels new, and the length of the shorts is oddly sexy. I was just going to put this down as being boring and simple, but the more I look at it the more I like it.

Look 2: The pants are tight she says, and I can see it when the model turns around, but fuck me if they aren't impeccably made. I love them, and maybe she can put them on a smaller model to negate the tightness if that's a problem, but I hope not because I'm in love. I thought I hated the print of that jacket on the hanger, but on the model and paired with those pants, I love it. And the lack of a shirt underneath makes it crazy sexy.

Look 3: I screamed when this look turned around. It was indecent of me, and I regret nothing. I somehow forgot that the back was open like that. I love this top so much. I don't know if I love the cut off pants as much, or maybe I don't love them paired with the top. They feel too utilitarian, as if they're only there because the model needed pants, but the real star was always meant to the shirt. So they're an after thought, but the shirt is such a great first thought that I almost don't mind. This is the only collection I'd want to see more from thus far.

Rik Look 1: He's right that if he ditched the leggings the look would be sexier, but there's something wonderfully modern about the outfit as is. I think I'd rather him just keep it together. But I would like him to lose the glasses which I think are a stupid distraction.

Look 2: This is something I liked more on the hanger than I do on the model. On the model, it looks like an odd costume to me. I think it's cute, and I think it's well made, but something about it just feels childish.

Look 3: If you asked me if I thought the same girl is wearing all three of Rik's looks, I'd honestly have to say no. Or at least probably not. I might believe that all three girls know each other and travel in the same circles, but I don't think they're the same person. As far as this look goes...I just don't like it. I tried to stare it down until I started liking it, but it just didn't happen.


Given her televised introduction on the runway, Heidi is obviously away and has called in Michael Kors to be her stand in on the judging. Except she hasn't. Actually Michael is just there as a guest judge, so why he gets so much fanfare for being a guest judge is beyond me. One thing I do know for sure is that Michael has not been missed on this show. Not by me, and from the looks of it not by Nina or Zac either. But onto the judgement.

The word of the night is cohesion because, according the judges, no one has any. Having seen more of each collection than they have, I think it's more likely that the designers didn't choose three pieces that'd show off the cohesion of their collections, but that's a problem too. Rik is the biggest offender in this area, but as the judges complained about Laurence's collection I started questioning whether or not I saw cohesion in the line before now. Everything is so well made from her that it's hard to remember to look for cohesiveness.

No one comes out of the runway smelling like roses. But that tends to be the way these episodes go. The break the designers down to make up some manufactured drama going into the finale and then next week they'll be all compliments. Laurence's first look doesn't go with the other two, and no one but Heidi is all that impressed with it. Zac kind of likes it but mostly wants her to remember she's putting on a show and that piece might be too understated to be impressive.

None of them like Erin's sundress, and Michael points out how much he hates the clutch. Zac doesn't like the knit top, which kind of surprises me. It's the most showy-y piece she has, but as the camera zooms in over it, you can see the construction issues he's mentioning. It might look nice, but NYFW is not the place for poorly constructed clothes. Heidi doesn't like the proportions on the skirt for that outfit, but I think she's crazy.

They can't seem to come to agreement on what it is that Roberi's collection needs. Heidi predictably thinks it's sex appeal. Nina and Zac are quick to point out that it's not that since that's not him, but it does need something. Nina says more lux and polish, and better styling for the girls. His collection is all over the place and has too many messages and it just doesn't work.

So we leave the first part of the finale about where we always do: everyone has a lot of work to do and only two days in which to do. It's a PR staple and by now I think we all know it has no real bearing on what we'll see next week.

Loose Threads

--For starters a little programming note: obviously we all know the holidays are quickly approaching. Kudos to PR for not taking the Thursday before Christmas off, but I'm not sure I can say the same. As of now, my plan is to drive up to Atlanta to spend Christmas weekend with my mom. So I strongly doubt that I'll be home to watch PR until at least Monday. I'll get the final review up then if you guys don't mind waiting. Complicating matters a little is the fact that PR JR is also airing it's first episode right after the finale. I doubt I'll have the energy to write up both shows on Monday, so maybe I'll hold off on reviewing PR JR until it's second episode airs and I can just combine the two into one mega review. If anyone has any better ideas, I'm willing to listen. 

--A surprising lack of boyfriends on this episode. Roberi seems to be the only contestant who has one, and he's in Venezuela. 

--On the other hand, Rik not having a boyfriend means I've got a shot! 

--I felt like the episode was trying it's best to recapture some of the emotion of Laurence's story when they had Roberi talking about living in Venezuela, but it just didn't land. 

--Not to beat on a dead horse, but speaking of Laurence's story, I think one thing about it that I found impressive is that you might be used to, or come to expect, sad stories on PR to mostly be about young gay men being bullied and even kicked out of their homes and finding the strength to go on through fashion. But Laurence's story felt very much like something we haven't seen or heard on this show before and that was special. 

--Tim tip toeing down the lane is the single cutest thing I've ever seen. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E12 "An Unconventional Trip"

For starters, I owe you guys an apology. I'm late as a Catholic school girl on this one because I honestly forgot it was Thursday and I had an obligation. Being unemployed makes all of the days run together in an odd manner. But I did finally get around to watching the episode and I'm honestly very happy that I did.

The last really good episode of Project Runway that we had was only good because of the surprise double elimination ending. Tricks and surprises is always one solid way for this show to impress. But sometimes it's fun to be reminded that that's not the only thing PR has up its sleeve. Is this episode shocking in any way? Not really, there's one twist we'll get to later but nothing major. And yet there's something about it that's exciting and kind of stressful, and then a real relief once the end turns out just the way it should. But first:

The Challenge

This week has the designers heading to Austin, TX to get inspired by Austin's oddity. While I've never thought of Austin as weird, I can certainly see how someone would draw that conclusion. I was born in Houston, and I live in Florida, so I've spent most of my life in The South. As a gay black man, that hasn't always been easy, but that's neither here nor there. One thing you find being liberal in a place as conservative as The South is that people who are also liberal tend to congregate in pockets. Miami and Ft Lauderdale (pretty much all of South Florida really) are very liberal havens in an otherwise red state. Austin is viewed the same way by people in and out of Texas. But Austin is still in Texas. So while a lot of people commend it for being the best part of the state, it still can't escape some of the typical trappings that come along with living in TX. Hence, oddness ensues.

The designers are sent there to be inspired because the challenge is to create a high end look out of unconventional materials found in a feed store and a BBQ restaurant. This brings the total of unconventional materials challenges up to three this season, two of them being back to back. I was left wondering what I thought about that fact. On the one hand, I like the idea of book-ending the season with unconventional materials challenges. The contestants had to prove something major right out of the gate, and then they had to bring it back around at the end. But putting two of these challenges back to back feels like the producers panicking over the lack of them throughout the season. The second one should have been at the midway point of the season and there would have been some good symmetry in that.

The designers return to New York and find out they've got two days for this challenge and everyone except me rejoices. The inconsistent time table on challenges has been something we've complained about with this show for awhile now. This challenge being a two day challenge reeks of the producers trying to give the contestants time to create the best looks they can for this final moment. But that's not how the competition should run. At this point, the heat should be on and we should be looking for the highest talent. Those contestants shouldn't need two days to make a single unconventional look.

That becomes even more evident as the first day draws to an end. Rik and Laurence meet the end of the day with a fairly complete first look. Erin has once again spent her entire first day making flowers out of mealworms and guitar picks. Beautiful though they were. Roberi and Cornelius are both banking on the second day to get their looks finished. Roberi at least has an idea and roughly half of his dress done, Cornelius doesn't even seem to know what he's doing by the end of the first day.

As Roberi talks about how happy he is to have a second day, Tim walks in to tell them about the twist. They're going to create a second look. This look also should be high end, it should compliment the first, and it will be made with conventional materials. Rik and Laurence pay some amount of lip service to being worried, but the truth is both of them are done enough with their first looks that this shouldn't be a problem. And thusly we see again just how much separation there is between the talent. Laurence and Rik have been lodged at the top for awhile now. Erin does not have any time management skills, but you at least trust her to pull something out in the 11th hour. Roberi and Cornelius seem to be the two left behind.

Since the first time I mentioned who might be in the finale, I've been pointing to Roberi as a wild card. He's been coming on strong in these last few weeks, but his aesthetic is hit or miss at best. The judges have liked him a lot more than I have even though I've liked his looks plenty. But where he'd fall by this point was always a mystery. So when we see him struggling to finish one look here, let alone two, it feels like the writing's on the wall for this elimination to be between him and Cornelius.

Cornelius on the other hand we've all known didn't have what it takes to make it much farther. But he does have the Tim Gunn Save as a mark in his favor. The question therefore becomes, does Tim's faith in him translate over to a spot in the finale while Roberi gets the short end of the stick? In the end, it simply all depends on the final looks.

But that all ignores one important aspect of this twist: it makes the two day time limit more understandable. The producers weren't trying to sure up their position with the contestants, they were luring them, and us, into a classic PR bait and switch. Being told they had two days gave everyone a false sense of security. It meant Roberi could try out something a lot more ambitious than he otherwise would have, and when the hammer comes down about the second look, there's automatically a source of drama attached to the question of whether or not the designers will even finish. I'm even more surprised by just how few twists have been on this season than I am by how few unconventional materials challenges we've had.

Most of the ideas for the second look are pretty simple. The unconventional looks are all going to carry the challenge on this one.

The Runway

Erin Look 1: I like this a lot. I guess Erin really is back on top after all. I think the worms are in a sweet spot between being understated enough to blend in, but eye catching enough to stand out, which is hard to pull off. The colors of this look are really wonderful. And it's all really cute together. High end fashion? Maybe not too much, but a really cute look all the same.

Look 2: This I don't like. The print isn't my favorite, but I also think it's maybe the most interesting thing about the outfit. And these two looks, beyond a color similarity, don't really say cohesive to me. And this doesn't feel like high fashion at all. It feels like something you could probably buy at Target right now.

Rik Look 1: I like this quite a bit. I think he's right that the materials aren't immediately obvious. Aside from the stiffness and just lack of movement of the top (which is the bane of unconventional materials usually), it just looks like a really nice dress. I don't love the placement of the dog leashes around the boobs, but I don't hate it either.

Look 2: His problem with this look was that it was too young and innocent. He distressed the fabric, which I actually like, but that one thing alone didn't mature the dress. It could stand to be a bit sexier, but it's not a bad look. His two dresses do seem to go together in a way I appreciate though.

Laurence Look 1: Ok I love it, obviously, but I'm going to nit pick something here: the waist area. Something about the ropes that separate the skirt from the bust looks weird. Like it did something funny to her shape. Everything else I love though. It's bird seeds, but something about this looks expensive.

Look 2: Is this look maybe a little too simple? Sure, but it's still really nice. There's still a place for simple and chic in high fashion. And if you're a little bored by the front, I think you have to be wowed by the back, right? I love it, but I'm willing to listen to complaints that she needed to go further.

Roberi Look 1: hm....The purple cord drawn throughout the dress and ending in that plug....Is that great or horrible? I think the pop of color is very nice, so it adds that, but the plug at the end screams of what the dress is actually made of which tends to be a down side in unconventional material challenges. I think I like it more than don't, but it is the sort of thing I feel a bit split on.

Look 2: This dress screams Roberi. The shape of it, the pattern mixing, it's all quintessential him. That's not a bad thing, it's just maybe a little predictable at this stage. I neither love nor hate this look, it just exists and is kind of forgettable.

Cornelius Look 1: It's good. I don't think it's good enough for this stage of the competition, but it is good. It's one of those unconventional material looks where a lot of stuff has been glued onto a muslin base, and that always bores me a bit. But in his defense, his cut outs are pretty and the placement appears to be well thought out.

Look 2: Pants are always good and fun, but this just isn't special enough at all. I don't even know what to say about it.


The big surprise might be how much all of the judges love Roberi's looks. The unconventional look was clearly going to be something they all loved, but I was surprised by how impressed with his conventional look they were. Nina's got the compliment that I can agree with most which is that both of his looks are very different but clearly come from the same person. All of the girls want to wear his conventional look, and no one has anything to say about the plug that I found to be so distracting. In the end, Roberi gets the highest praise on both of his looks of any designer.

The judges are split on Laurence. Nina compliments the hard and soft elements of her unconventional look and the back of her conventional look. But Zac and Heidi aren't as impressed. They both find her second dress to be boring, but everyone compliments her on taking a risk and presenting something they wouldn't have guessed came from her. We said last week that she'd be likely to branch out more in this challenge and that's exactly what she did.

The contestant with the fewest positive comments turns out to be Rik. Zac likes the top of his unconventional look but not the bottom. Nina starts out with something that I initially took to be a compliment when she says she couldn't tell which of the two were unconventional. But then she goes on to point out that the unconventional look isn't fun enough to signal it's unconventionality, and the conventional look is boring and distressed in a manner that makes it seem poorly made. The dog leashes on the bust of the dress are pointed out as being one element too many. Rik's in trouble.

So is Cornelius, but for the opposite reason. His unconventional look is the one that's lacking while his conventional look is the one that wows. They certainly make mention of the fact that his unconventional look is nothing more than shapes glued onto a muslin base and Zac points out that we've seen that many times before. The compliments for his jumpsuit are mostly along the lines of us not having seen anything like this from him before. Which is certainly a compliment but in my opinion not enough of one to warrant the amount of praise they level on it.

In the end, Roberi wins the challenge and Cornelius goes home (instead of Rik). Like I said, nothing too surprising. The winning of the challenge doesn't matter much. Roberi does get 50 nights free at any Best Western in the world, but I'm not sure if that's a prize or a punishment. The winning doesn't matter so much as the moving on to NYFW. I figured either Roberi or Cornelius would move on but not both of them, and that's what happened. Rik being seconds away from heading home might be the kick in the ass he needs to really jump into gear and produce a great collection. Either way, between Rik, Laurence, Erin, and Roberi, I can't help but to be excited for the show they'll all put on.

Loose Threads

--Swatch wishing the designers good luck was just everything! It also might have been manipulated audio, but I'm choosing to believe he really did bark in that moment. 

--The trips this year were to Orlando and Austin. Neither served much of a purpose as far as the episode was concerned, but either way I can't help but to think PR needs to increase its travel budget and actually take the designers somewhere nice.

--Am I the only person who got a bit excited over the prospect of Tim Gunn skinny dipping?

--Speaking of excited, if Gregory from Sally Beauty utters that fucking slogan one more time, I'm sticking something in his mouth to shut him up.

--After Cornelius was Auf'd, I would have liked Tim to make mention of the fact that he saved him. Unless I'm mistaken, everyone he's used the save on thus far at least made it to the finale except Cornelius. This would have been a good time to acknowledge why he used the save on him in the first place and just how much he stands by that decision. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E11 "Bold Innovation"

While Forest Gump's mother was explaining to him about chocolates, my mother was expressing to me  the importance of not fixing something that ain't broke. If one thing's clear after 15 seasons, Project Runway has taken that advice and run with it. Here's a show that's so in love with its own formula that it won't even try and shake things up after a week's hiatus. And rightfully so since its a formula that tends to work more than not, but it doesn't make for exceptionally exciting viewing.

The last time we were together, I was complaining about this very thing: the lack of personality, the lack of story being told. But last time the episode had that surprising ending to rely on. This week we aren't so lucky.

The Challenge

In the episode's defense, this week they were planning on the challenge itself bringing all of the drama needed. It's the typical avant garde challenge for Project Runway, but this year they've added the twist of using unconventional materials.

Remember all of those times towards the front of the season when I complained about them trying to cram way too much into each challenge. Well here they go again with that. First off, it's a problem that our second unconventional materials challenge comes in the 11th episode. Unconventional materials is as integral to the PR fabric as actual fabric is, so why skimp on those challenges this go around? Secondly, isn't the avant garde challenge generally big enough and exciting enough not to need the bump of unconventional materials?

I'll give the producers this much credit: the avant garde challenge shouldn't ever come any earlier or later than the top six. Generally speaking, I don't think the talent level is paired down enough before this point to have a really good runway show. After the top 6, the stakes are just too high, and you risk forming your top four on a fluke gimmick challenge. So kudos on the placement of the episode, but they could have had better execution on the finer points.

The rest of the episode is about what you'd expect. The longer run time mixed with the smaller group number means we spend more than enough time with each designer talking about their concepts. We see them working with the metal in unique ways, but since they have two days for this challenge, nothing really comes together until the second day.

There is an example of solid and consistent storytelling here. Erin wastes her first day on creating these weird applique things. Mah-Jing tells her she's using the wrong glue and it's not going to do what she wants when it dries, but she ignores him. The next day he's proven right, her flower things are unusable, and she looks screwed. It's solid storytelling because we've seen this tendency from her multiple times before. The way she'll spend all of her time on one little thing and the rest of the look will suffer because of it. But if you expected this to translate to something major down the road, we'll circle back around to it at the end.

Since there's nothing particularly exciting in this episode, allow me to take the time to talk about something PR has always done and that I've never really cared for. All of the confessional moments in which the contestants talk about the other designs. I've never cared one bit about what these people think about the competition's work. Very rarely, if ever, are their comments reflected by the judges. Most often their positions are colored by general dislike of one another or the sheer fact that they're in competition with each other. So why do we have to spend so much time listening to them dis on each other's looks? This is one of those moments where the time could better be spent elsewhere. But I digress.

The Runway

Cornelius: I've got to say, I'm impressed with the finished product. I think the tube placement is a little suspect to be sure, but there's something to look at. The color is a great addition, and the fabric he chose is very chic. It conveys his vision well, so I think he pulled this out. 

Mah-Jing: I think I hate it, but at the very least I certainly don't get it. It looks like a simple dress on to which he glued, or sewed a lot of wire crap. The asymmetry of the wire pieces on the back may have been purposeful, but it certainly doesn't look like it. And it's so obvious she can't walk without her hands holding the damn dress up. No good. 

Rik: I love this and it's totally wrong for this challenge. To be fair, I love it more from the front than from the back. The metal piece on the back looks like a weird cape or reverse bib thing. From the front it's chic and cool, and it's like he said: wearable. But how wearable should an avant garde look be? If this were just an unconventional materials challenge, I'd have him down for the win, but as an avant garde challenge, it just doesn't go far enough. 

Erin: Yeah ok. I like it. But I hate her, so it's hard for me to like it. The top is the only thing about it that's unconventional, but the entire top is unconventional, so I think that's a good mix. It's risky and certainly out there in a way that I think says avant garde. And I'll commend her for making pants instead of a dress. All in all I'm more impressed than I wish I was. 

Laurence: I don't think the length is really the problem here, the problem is she created a lovely little black dress, but that's it. She needed to take this way farther. Is it beautiful? Yes. Is it well made? Certainly, Is it right for this challenge? Not even remotely. 

Roberi: I think the statement piece of the mask sales this for me. It puts the entire thing over the top, but I wonder if the judges will think it makes it all too costume-y. I hope not because I love this. It's shape and sleekness, it's all way more sexy than sheets of metal should be.  


The judges are at least all in agreement that there was something to enjoy about each of the pieces on the runway. Which is exactly why you save this challenge for the top six. Ultimately, it's Roberi, Rik, and Erin in the top, Mah-Jing and Cornelius in the bottom, and Laurence just kind of oddly in the middle. 

Mostly the judges think Laurence should have worked in some color other than black this time around. They like what she does, and that's understandable, but they're ready to see a little more from her. For my money, I thought the same thing on this challenge but not about the color. I thought she could have made her typical shoulders but then just made them bigger and more exaggerated and that would have been a fun way to go. Either way it seems like she hears the criticism and we can expect new things from her in the last challenge before NYFW.

One clear theme of the judging is how well incorporated the materials are. Rik and Roberi are commended because their metals and their fabric blend so well together. Rik in particular isn't hit nearly enough for the look being subtle. Heidi points out that avant garde doesn't have to mean unwearable, so that goes to show you how much I know. 

Mah-Jing and Cornelius on the other hand, not so much. About Mah-Jing's look, Nina says his unconventional materals aren't anything more than decoration. They're more split on Cornelius' look which they certainly find disturbing, which is what he was going for. But again the issue of incorporation is brought up and Nina thinks it's a rather cliche vision of the future. Heidi seems to like it more than the others and claims that fashion should be provocative. 

Erin's look they love. The color pops on a muted runway, they like it that she made pants, Heidi of course loves the amount of skin shown, and they all think her top is interesting. Zac points out that she should have thought about what it would look like from the back a little more, but that's really the only negative comment. So for all of the groundwork laid earlier in the episode about her poor time management, Erin actually ends up the winner of the challenge. I guess there's an arc there to be noticed, but the foundation was one where you expected her to crash and burn. You expected her to waste time for the last time and pay the price, but that wasn't the story at all. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing, but I do know that PR could really take some time to sure up its storylines a little more. But then again, I think I've been saying that for years now. 

Mah-Jing loses and it's honestly the only realistic choice. He hasn't been long for this world for awhile now, but as everyone's quick to point out, it's kind of amazing he even made it this far so cheers. It's been pointed out in the comments that it's hard to really be excited for the talent level this season. Of the five contestants left, the only person who consistently makes you get up out of your seat is Laurence. While, on the one hand, I think that makes her a shoe in for the win this season, it also makes for an interesting situation in which everyone else is pretty evenly matched. Whether that makes you excited for the show at NYFW or just bored with it is a personal choice. For my money, I'm assuming there won't necessarily be a bad collection this year, and that's kind of exciting. 

Loose Threads

--I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving! I celebrated it with friends in Italy (a few days in Rome and then the last bit, including the holiday, in Florence) and it was fantastic! Trying to cobble together Thanksgiving day ingredients from Italian markets when you don't speak the language was a lot of fun, and dinner actually turned out perfect. I wish I had just stayed there, but here I am, ready to keep writing for you guys. 

--Allow me to be clear when I say I don't think there will be a bad collection at NYFW it's because I expect Cornelius to go home next week. I may not love Erin and Roberi's aesthetics, but I do trust them to put out solid and interesting collections. 

--The Mood section of the episode is heavy on the Swatch and that's always the right choice. I like it when he's all rambunctious and adorable. 

--Mah-Jing is a sweetheart, but I couldn't have been the only person thinking they wished he'd just shut the fuck up and go home already. He has more to say on the runway and in the greenroom after being auf'd than anyone in the history of the show.

--I think I saw the first preview of Project Runway JR this week, and I couldn't be more excited. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E10 "A Power Trip"

After a couple years of writing these reviews, I'm going to take this moment to try and get a little personal information out of you guys. Namely, I want to know how many of you smoke pot? More specifically, how many of you smoke pot while watching Project Runway? Does it make the experience better? I do not smoke pot often, I certainly don't smoke it while watching and reviewing this show, but this week's episode made me really rethink that particular life choice.

While I don't think that this season's failings are as horrible as some of the show's lowest low points in the past, I do still think this season is failing overall. Some part of it is the sheer lack of personality. We've been complaining about that all season long, and there's certainly nothing that can be done about it this late in the game. But on an episode like this, the problem isn't actually with the contestants, its with the editors knowing nothing about telling a long form story.

The Challenge

First the particulars: this week sees the Marie Claire challenge. Dexter is quick to point out that he's already won a Marie Claire fashion shoot, so I fail to see what makes this challenge special. It's about designing an editorial look for a powerful woman. To get in the mood, everyone gets a helicopter ride over New York, but let's be honest, that didn't matter in the slightest. 

So where'd this episode ultimately fail? It was pretty much meant to be the story of Nathalia's breakdown. From the start, it's pretty clear Nathalia is getting the main edit. Savvy viewers know that that typically means she's either going to win or go home. That fact isn't really a problem, it's been the way of things since the beginning of time on this show. But so much of Nat's unraveling is viewed through the lens of "Jenni is gone, and now Nathalia doesn't know what to do."

I'll be the first to admit that even with weekly viewings and writeups of this show, I miss things. I watch with such a fine toothed comb looking to tease out major moments and themes that sometimes the smaller things can fall by the wayside. But can someone honestly tell me about one time in the past ten episodes that we saw this particular relationship playing out?

This has been something I've complained about with PR in the past. If you know you've got a full season to edit, and I can't help but to assume that a lot of the editing takes place well after most of the season has been shot, then how can you not start crafting narratives sooner? So often it feels like the editors are grasping at straws on what will or won't pan out in the future. So we get extended segments about Jenni's laugh, but nothing ever comes from it other than people repeating that they find it charming. Instead, they could have focused on her relationship with Nathalia and all of this would have had more weight. Imagine how much more stressful last week's elimination would have been if we'd known about their dynamic. For that fact, imagine if it had been Nat and Cornelius up there in the bottom two. While their friendship hasn't been as front and center as Erin and Dexter's has, the fact that they have a relationship is obvious and has been talked about in the past.

All in all, this was a swing and a miss for PR. They built the episode on a faulty foundation. A foundation that's only faulty because they did nothing at all to stabilize it prior to putting it into effect. And just when I was ready to throw the entire episode out with the bath water, the ending happened. 

The Runway

Dexter: Again, do I hate this or do I just hate him? I honestly can't tell anymore. It's the same damn shoulders we've seen from him before, and they're even less flattering this time. I guess the look says powerful woman in the "Mysterious lady of the evening" way, but I don't think that's ever what the Marie Claire challenge is looking for. All in all, I simply don't see the point of this. 

Nathalia: I don't want to be too hard on this because it's actually not as bad as I expected it to be on the dress form. However, that doesn't mean it isn't bad. I think the biggest problem here is that it seems like it wants to be a costume, but it didn't go far enough to actually be a costume. It reminds me of a super hero who is trying to change out of their business wear and into their costume but got stuck halfway. 

Roberi: Remember what I said last week about hating mixing patterns? Forget it because I was clearly insane. I don't love this or anything, but this strikes me as the way to mix patterns successfully. That whole thing looks like it goes together, and the movement is really spectacular. Roberi continues to be squarely in the middle for me: I neither love nor hate the things he produces, but I totally understand why others would praise him. 

Mah-Jing: When the look stands at the end of the runway and all we get is that long shot of it, I hate it. It looks messy and haphazard, but when the camera zooms in and we can see it in more detail, I actually really like it. I wonder if there are more subtle construction issues with some of those denim cutouts, but if not, then kudos to him. It's two weeks in a row that I've enjoyed Mah-Jing's looks. 

Cornelius: I'll say this for it: I really love the concept. I think the construction is spoton. I like the pop of color patches, but I think they're the wrong colors. And I think the one on the butt cheek looks silly and out of place. I think if he could rethink the color palette of the entire outfit, it would be a lot better. But with that being said, I don't think it's horrible. 

Laurence: Last week I complained that Laurence's look for her daughter didn't show enough skin, and what do we get this week? Open back! And it's perfect. This is also a departure for Laurence. She still uses leather, but there's no jacket, and she uses a print on the skirt, and all of it really works for me. It's all a little too distressed in places to feel like something someone would really wear to work, but it does look editorial. Love it!

Erin: Cute is the word for this. And Cute is a good word, I don't want to knock cute, but cute is not the word that should be used for looks in this challenge. While this is surely a step up from what she had in the workroom, in the end it's just a cute (and really simple and under-designed) dress with a lot of sparkle. 

Rik: Someone, I think it was Dexter, pointed out that the back of Rik's dress shouldn't have just been simple white, and I'm going to agree with him. The dress is really striking and unique when you watch it walk, but then she turns around and it put me in mind of a very cumbersome smock an artist would wear while she's painting. Sadly, that brings the entire look down a few notches. If he'd just done the entire look in a kind of wrap in that fabric, I think it would have been much better. 


Here's an odd thing about the blind runway show: I wonder if the judges had known before hand that Laurence's look belonged to her, would they have kept her around to talk to her more? This is one point in which her departure meant that she should have been either complimented or chastised for going away from what she knows and does best, but on the simple merits of the dress alone, they didn't love it or hate it enough to keep it on the runway. That's interesting. 

The top and bottom is a bit of a mixed bag this week. Mah-Jing, Cornelius, and Erin are in the top, but the judges are lukewarm on Erin. Dexter, Nathalia, and Rik are in the bottom, but Rik is about even too. They like the front of his dress but ultimately think the entire thing is unfinished because the back is such a let down. That's everyone except the editor of Marie Claire who loves the entire thing and admits it's her favorite. 

The real surprise, at least for me, is how much they love Cornelius' dress. It's probably the best thing he's done in awhile, but only one of the judges points out that it's not as editorial as some of the other looks. Heidi loves it and wants to wear it. Nina calls it powerful, which I honestly don't see. They all love how well constructed it is, and that at least makes sense to me. I may not love it as much as they do, but I can't fault them either. 

Dexter's look they hate though. The shoulder pads are called gimmicks, and Heidi and Nina are quick to point out that we've seen them before. Nina in particular says that the only manner in which they worked last time, to the extent that they can be said to have worked at all, is due to the element of surprise. But now that he's spent that, it's just a bore. The shoulders also aren't as well constructed as they were before, and Heidi points out that he didn't get a good review the last time he sent them down, so why send them down again? Dexter tries to sell it as "Well some of the other designers have also tried to establish their own aesthetic" but no one's dumb enough to buy that. 

The strong edit for Nathalia is revealed to be a bottom edit. The word costume is thrown around multiple times, and while Heidi likes the fit of the pants, Zac takes issue with the overall poor construction. 

After the closer look, which we'll talk about a little more in a minute, Heidi issues the dreaded pronouncement that "one or more of you will be out." The double elimination isn't really automatic after the Tim Gunn save. I tend to think that they budget for it in overall season length when planning everything out. So unlike other shows where a lack of an elimination means the only choice is to get rid of two contestants to stay on schedule, PR seems to be able to work around it. But the double elimination is always a fun and shocking tool, and I wish they'd use it more often. 

Cornelius racks up his first win of the season and seems to justify Tim saving him. From there, it's a quick offering of safety for Rik, and an out for Nathalia, but Dexter hangs around on the runway. If you're anything like me, then you noticed that before naming a winner, Heidi said one or more of you, but after ushering off the top three looks, she said "one of you." I was very disappointed at this point and assumed the double elimination was off the table. And when Rik was named safe, I thought that that proved my suspicions. So when Dexter is the last person on the runway, I thought the judges were just going to scold him some more. I thought that because of the closer look at the garments, 

You see, it's brought to light while the judges are looking over the clothes that Dexter didn't even design the undies his model is wearing. So in truth, if it hadn't been for her own contribution, he would have sent a naked model down the runway in a boring lace dress and an ugly jacket. I thought he'd get a stern talking to for being so lazy. But instead, Heidi just looks at him and says, "You're out!" and I honestly gasped and did a happy dance. 

While I don't think the simple lace dress he designed was ugly, I do think Dexter deserved to be out here. There's no design element to that lace dress; the fabric does all the heavy lifting. And not giving her something to wear underneath it smacks of laziness. This is not an acceptable point in the competition to be lazy and under-design a look. All of that is my way of saying that I think Dexter was going to make it through this week until the moment Tim told the judges he had nothing to do with the lingerie. The knowledge that he was only a step away from sending a naked woman down the runway sealed his fate. And then there were six. 

Loose Threads

--In my One Way Monkey write up, I admitted how sweet it would be if Laurence won on the challenge when Erin is sent home, but I have to admit that Cornelius getting his first win when Dexter gets Auf is equally awesome. 

--Also, while I don't love Cornelius, kudos to him for being more gracious in victory than Dexter was the week Tim had to save him. I never thought I'd call Cornelius the bigger man, but here we are. 

--While I am happy for Dexter to be going home, I will say it's quite surprising in that Nathalia feels like a legit culling of dead weight, but Dexter feels more like a surprise or dramatic shakeup kind of Auf.

--Other people are claiming that Erin's righted the ship, but I'll personally believe that when I see it. If she's not out on the next episode, I'd be a little surprised.

--At one point during her meltdown, Nathalia remarks "I didn't think that the competition would be this difficult." Bitch, this is Project Runway, what the fuck did you expect? A walk through the fucking park?

--After this week, my top four would be Laurence, Rik, Mah-Jing, and Roberi. But the truth is that I don't know what anyone will do going forward. Tim having saved Cornelius throws things off because I do tend to think that the judges are loath to get rid of someone after Tim's saved them. And Mah-Jing and Roberi can't be seen as anything other than wild cards. Mah-Jing's come on in the last two challenges, and that feels like a "getting hot at the right time" story, but if he regresses to the mean next challenge, I think he could easily be off. And if I'm wrong and Erin really has course corrected, then she'll sail right into the finale. It's not often that I say this and mean it in regards to PR, but I think it really is anyone's ball game. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E9 "Life is Full of Surprises"

I've been watching and writing about this show for a long time. It's not often that an episode leaves me not knowing what to say. I know what I want to say going forward, but I don't know where to start--how to really sum up the major point of the episode or remark on its ultimate place in the grand scheme of the show. That's just a long way of saying that this week's episode isn't as good or interesting as last week's. In the wake of Cornelius' save and Dexter and Erin's evil, you'd think we'd see more fireworks, but aside from the opening moments which check in with all three of those designers, the episode is free of anger. It's not lite on emotion though.

The Challenge

The pathos comes from the reveal that loved ones are playing a part in this challenge. The AARP challenge sees the designers' mothers, friends, and family serving as clients and models. In what has become the norm for this season, this challenge just piles it all on. There's family, designing for a real woman, clients, and $50,000 in prize money. The winning designer and their loved one each get $25,000 from AARP. It's a staggering amount, and it adds an interesting element to the everyday woman challenge. 

PR has gotten this challenge wrong in so many ways for so long. With designers either openly or covertly calling their clients fat, telling regular women that they need makeovers, and just generally being shitty to people. The moment mothers made their way into the workroom, I can't be the only one to have been transported to a cringing moment in Season 3 with eventual winner Jeffery making another contestant's mother cry, right? But if there's one thing I feel somewhat confident in saying about this show it's that they do tend to learn from their mistakes. So this time around designers are paired with their own loved ones to avoid those kinds of hurt feelings, and to top it all off the loved ones have a shot at winning $25,000 just to sooth any potential pain and suffering that could occur. I'll commend the show for this. 

Now onto the two things I want to talk about this time around. It's time to bring up a topic that's been present on Project Runway for many years now but it didn't get it's proper name until Dmitry coined it back in season 10: The One-Way Monkey. For any new readers, the OWM is a fabled creature specific to Project Runway. He's like a one-trick pony, but more fashionable. He's only got one tool in his toolbox, but he uses it to grand and flashy effect. At least he does at first. The OWM is so elusive specifically because of how long it takes to draw him out. It can, and often does, take weeks to expose a designer for being the OWM, but once they are exposed, you'll never be able to unsee it. 

Here's where things might be a little tricky this season: I think we've got two One-Way Monkeys on our hands. However, the two of them make up a kind of fascinating study of contrasts. On the one hand, there's Laurence. We all agree that she's brilliant. She hasn't been in the bottom yet all season (remind me to double check that for accuracy), and she already feels like a shoe in for NYFW. She put her stamp on the season early on. It took no time for Nina to start pointing out that seeing her signature leather coat was an easy tip off as to who's look it was. But for Laurence, that's a good thing. She sends looks down the runway that are always clean, well tailored, interesting and chic. Do 90% of her looks feature a new take on the same old leather jacket? Maybe. But seeing them each week feels like a breath of fresh air. Laurence is a good kind of OWM.

And then there's Erin. She bounded out of the gate with two of the first 3 wins of the season (interestingly enough it was Laurence who took the second win, though Erin was in the top for that challenge too). Her future looked bright and she had all of the makings of one of the contestants to beat in those early weeks. And then she was exposed as a OWM and she fell. After what appeared to be a stumble in episode six, even I expected she'd figure out a way to right the ship and get back to her winning ways. But Erin's found herself in the bottom three every week since that sixth episode. Why is that? Because once the novelty of her embroidery and big jacket aesthetic wore off, it became clear that she doesn't have anything else up her sleeve. 

So what's the difference between Erin and Laurence? If I had to guess, I'd say it's construction and vision. Erin has a trick, and for awhile she employed that trick well and dazzled us and the judges into thinking there was more talent there than there actually is. But what she lacks is a clear vision of who her woman is. Laurence on the other hand knows exactly who she's designing for. At some point I think it would be a good exercise to look back over all of her designs and see if the same woman could be seen wearing each of her looks. My gut tells me she is. And in a season that's already seen cocktail dresses, ready-to-wear, and swimsuits, it's quite a feat to find looks in all of those genres that are just so fit for the same woman. Laurence has the vision to be able to pin down who she's designing for, and she has the tailoring skill to pull it off each time. Erin doesn't. They might both be One-Way Monkeys, but one of them will be going far and the other shouldn't be long for this world. 

The Runway

Roberi: That’s OK. Cute, not great, but OK.

Jenni: Get the fuck away from me! The fit on those pants is horrible, the jacket is just wrong on so many levels, and I’m guessing it’s a blessing you can’t see more of the shirt, because how could it be any better? I really hate the cuffs on that jacket. It feels like a nitpick kind of a thing, but the cuffs are immature and unfashionable and somehow just don’t go with the rest of the jacket. 

Dexter: This is a look that I hate purely because I hate Dexter. It’s not bad, and I’m sure the judges will fawn all over it, but I think it’s every bit as boring as Tim said it was in the workroom, and the little gold studs he added do nothing to make it less boring. I do like the little glove like things on the hands though, that’s cool. 

Rik: I’m in love with this. The black and white of it, and maybe something about the pattern of the jacket, reminds me of his swimsuit look from earlier in the season. Everywhere there’s a pop of red makes this entire outfit sing. It’s adorable and fun but also age appropriate. I love it. 

Erin: I honestly don’t know what to say. The color of the blue dress is pretty. That’s all I got. I hate it and I hate her and I want her gone. 

Cornelius: hm…If you got rid of the rope pattern on the fabric, I think I might like this more. Although the burnt orange stripe thing doesn’t really speak to me nearly as much it should. I don’t really see this look and think of travel or jet-setting, which I think should have been more in line with his inspiration. It’s not great, but it’s not horrible either. 

Laurence: This look is cute, but it does seem to be a little bit undersized and it feels a little too much like a mother designing for her daughter. The tightness of the outfit not withstanding, I thought it felt like an attempt to keep her more covered than is needed. I thought the look would have been cuter with like a little keyhole cutout at the cleavage area, but what mother is going to design something like that for their daughter? It’s nice and well put together, but it’s not great. Also, why does it look like a safety pin is holding the jacket together?

Mah-Jing: The pop of purple at the boot was really nice. I like this jacket a lot but I thought some part of his design was supposed to be about transformation and unfolding. Should she have taken the jacket off? Or did that element get scrapped because he took too long on the jacket? I guess if I’m just looking at what we saw as she walked, I like the cut of the jacket a lot, but a part of me thinks he took the ninja thing a little too literally. There's something very special about the sleeves of the shirt he designed though. 

Nathalia: The jacket is cute but it isn’t age appropriate and it doesn’t feel like it goes with the outfit underneath it. Ultimately, I find this look to be confusing. Those pants aren’t special, in fact they look like weird ill-fitting bell bottoms. And you only get a quick glimpse of the blouse when she forces the jacket open, but it does look like it’s probably cute. She might have been better off killing the jacket and just going with the blouse and pants. 


Mah-Jing, Rik, and Roberi are in the top. Erin, Jenni, and Nathalia are in the bottom. I have to say the more I heard about Roberi's dress the more I liked it. The moment he said it was intended for a cocktail party, I fell in love. It's a far more interesting take on the cocktail dress than his last cocktail dress. And to be clear, I liked that dress but didn't love it. This is fun and cute and fits his client's personality and her body exceptionally well. Nina is quick to praise the silhouette and the fit. The judges like the pattern matching a little bit more than I do, but I do agree with them that he matched them up nicely. I just tend to think mixing patterns is always a little jarring. 

The judges can't stop gushing over Rik's dress. The actual cooing that happens when he reveals that little heart on the inside is too much. But it's all deserved, this look is perfect. It looks expensive and new and fashionable, and it fits his mother like a glove. She looks confident and powerful in it, and it's fairly obvious he's running away with this one. 

Mah-Jing's mother, whose name I will not attempt to butcher here, takes the cake for confident and powerful though. Mah-Jing is not a contestant that I think has what it takes to win or go too much farther in this competition, but this is easily the best thing we've seen from him. The judges mostly compliment how great his mother looks in the outfit, and how perfectly he seems to have created something that's all her. Mah-Jing mastered that tough part of the client challenge where he gave her what she wanted while still producing something interesting and fashionable. Rik's dress might be more realistically wearable (which is important in a real woman challenge), but I honestly think Mah-Jing's would be at home on a runway in Milan.

Conversely, Jenni butchers the task of giving the client what she wants but still being fashionable and practical. She said early on in the challenge "At the end of the day, the challenge is to make something for the client," and while she was right, I think we've all heard those words uttered on this show during this challenge before, and they almost always spell doom. Her mother didn't really know what she wanted, so it was up to Jenni to decide for her and give her something that was great but that she maybe didn't even know she wanted until she had it. Instead she tries too hard to give her everything she wants, and then on top of that she constructs it poorly. The judges say, multiple times, that they simply can't take this woman seriously. For a director of a preschool, there's nothing professional or directorial about her and it's a problem. 

Nathalia's mother is drowning in that huge ass jacket and it's tragic. The saddest part is that when she takes the jacket off, everything underneath it is just as tragic. Heidi points out that there's simply no excuse for her outfit to be so unfinished after two days, but I'll get back to that point later. 

One-Way-Monkey Erin doesn't actually get blasted for making the same damn Jacket once again. She does however get criticized for creating what amounts to two different looks. Zac says that the jacket is deep winter but the dress underneath is summer. And that's not even taking into consideration just how juvenile the dress is. The color of it matched with that stupid lace just screams little girl's church dress. In the end, Heidi points out that it looks like Erin designed something she'd want to wear but not something her mom would want to wear. So she also missed the point of the challenge. 

And yet, Jenni goes home instead of Erin. In fact, Erin isn't even in the bottom two this go around. Let's get practical for a moment: are Jenni and Nathalia's looks worse than Erin's? Yes. So the bottom two does make sense, but the fact still remains that this is Erin's fourth consecutive time in the bottom three. And yet has she even been in the bottom two once? Not that I can remember. So they keep scoring her low, getting to the point where they see that she created this bad look, and then backing off and giving her a pass. Should she have gone home before now? No, but she does need to be held more accountable for her consistent failings. She might have won early on, but that was too long ago and her failings have already outnumbered her successes to such a point that I think the judges need to be sterner with her. But that's just me. 

Rik wins the challenge and all of the money. The question before the court now is who's likely to join him and Laurence at NYFW? I thought I was more sure of who'd be there a couple weeks ago, but now I'm less certain. 

Loose Threads

--As I mentioned briefly, this is the season's first two day challenge. I can't help but to think this is a massive mistake on the show's part. It comes nine episodes in with a top nine group who shouldn't need two days to do anything other than maybe the Haute Couture challenge if that happens. The show was seriously better when they started with two days to weed out the talent and then scaled back to one day challenges. Now you've got an issue where the contestants haven't seen a two day challenge and they don't know what to do when they get one. The amount of scrambling around at the end to get looks finished is simply unacceptable at this stage. Especially when you factor in that no one seemed to need to start all the way over on their design. 

--I was really hoping Laurence would be in the top in this challenge so as to better justify my One-Way Monkey narrative. The best payoff would have been a Laurence win and an Erin loss, but the fates weren't so kind. If Laurence does win on the episode when Erin finally loses, I'm going to be so happy and so full of myself. 

--How silent do you think the green room was with only Cornelius, Laurence, and Dexter in it? 

--I honestly don't think Tim likes Erin or Dexter very much. His critiques with both of them compared to his conversation with Cornelius was interesting. And likewise to the general split in the workroom. Every time you see either Erin or Dexter consulting another designer, they're only ever talking to each other. 

--Bonus points to Mah-Jing at the beginning of the episode as he listens to Dexter complain about Cornelius and just kind of rolls his eyes like "Yeah OK, bitch!"

--With two top three appearances in a row, I'm starting to think Roberi might find himself in the finale. I named him as a wild card a couple weeks back, and now it's starting to look like he's getting hot at just the right moment. I may not love his particular aesthetic, but I am curious to see how his collection might possibly play off of Laurence's and Rik's. 

--A little housekeeping notice, next week Friday I'll be leaving to spend a week in Italy! I'm super excited as I need a serious boost after the month I've been having. I lost my job last month, looking for a replacement has been really quite taxing, and then the election happened and I just kind of want to die, so getting far away for a week with my friends is much much needed. With that being said, I intend to watch next Thursday's episode and I'm going to try and get the review up before my flight, but no promises. Preparing for a flight out of the country can be time consuming. Furthermore, I won't be back home until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I'm guessing the show will take a week off during the holiday, but if I'm wrong and there is an episode on Thanksgiving day, I won't be in a position to even watch it until I get back. So if someone else wants to tackle reviewing that episode, that's doable, or if you guys don't mind waiting a while, that'll be cool too. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E8 "Project Pop Up"

I said it during the last team challenge on this show: Project Runway's take on the group challenge is often crass, manipulative, dirty, and it totally freaking works. I mentioned last week that I thought there might be a lack of personality on this season. So much of these episodes have been boring and lackluster, and this episode was no different. While Tim was in the workroom, my notes read thus: I'm going to need someone to blow up or have some kind of meltdown because I'm just sick of these people. Someone heard me because by the end of the episode, we got exactly that. And it was the shot in the arm that this season has needed.

The Challenge

This week sees the designers divided into three teams of three to create three-look fall collections inspired by color pallets from Sally Beauty. The colors are Red, Blue, and Neutral. Neutral seems to be at an early disadvantage because who's ever been inspired by neutral? But whatever, the groups are split up and Dexter and Erin are immediately paired together with Cornelius tacked on...so that's a thing. Jenni and Nathalia are grouped with Mah-Jing who once again complains about being the odd man out. And Laurence, Rik, and Roberi all join forces without any complaint. 

Each collection will be displayed at a Project Runway Sally Beauty Store Pop Up in SoHo where regular people will vote on their favorite collection. The collection that wins the vote will get a 20% bump in the final judging. 

During the work, there are two main sources of drama. First there's Mah-Jing who is complaining in confessional moments again about being grouped in with a couple friends who will surely throw him under the bus at their first chance. Remember this song and dance from the last team challenge? Remember how it ended with him complimenting his team on making him feel welcomed? 

OK, I'm just going to say it, I think Mah-Jing is either insane or somehow predisposed to feeling like the odd man out. Let me explain: far be it for me to play the race card, but there are certain times when it just seems to fit. Mah-Jing came clean a few weeks back on his heritage and upbringing. His father is of Asian-American descent; his mother is black. Ultimately, he looks more black than mixed, which leads to him automatically being seen as a black man with an oddly Chinese name. This could easily be the kind of thing that would put him on his heels throughout life. Where might he have fit in? Other black kids would think his name was strange and would possibly disrespect his Asiatic background, and Asian-American people might just view him as black. 

Being a minority is hard in this country. And speaking as someone who grew up black and gay, being a double minority is a lot harder. The idea that you don't fit in with mainstream culture nor do you fit in with either of the minority groups to which you belong can have an odd effect on someone. So enter Mah-Jing who, every time he's asked to work within a group setting, automatically starts complaining that he won't fit in, they won't accept him, and at any given moment he'll be thrown under the bus. After two team challenges, his fears have proven to be completely fabricated, but that's not to say that there isn't a seed for them in his history and upbringing. All of this is conjecture on my part, but it wouldn't surprise me at all to find out this is the real reasoning for his paranoia. 

The other source of drama of course comes from Team Red. Over here, Cornelius actually is the odd man out. All of his complaints and criticisms fall on deaf ears, Erin and Dexter are seen constantly paling around and not working while Cornelius works to get all of their looks cleaned up and finished, and no matter how many times he says there's too much red in their looks, no one seems to hear him. 

But Team Red's problems don't stop at construction and conceptual issues. At one point, Cornelius sees that he has a $9.99 sticker on his butt, and when he complains about it, Dexter and Erin laugh and make fun of him for not seeing it sooner. What we're supposed to take away from this moment is that Dexter or Erin played a prank of some sort on Cornelius and put that sticker on him as if to say he's only worth $9.99. And when he finds it, as opposed to being at all shamed or even just playing it cool, Dexter makes a snide and mean-spirited comment about Cornelius' worth. And then on the second day, as everyone files into the workroom, Dexter seems to purposefully let the door close in Cornelius' faces and then offers a snickering half-hearted apology. It's a very mean, nasty, and childish display that I simply can't understand. 

There's never been any love loss between Cornelius and Dexter. Early in the season, Cornelius made some comments after Dexter found himself in the top, and Dexter has hated him since then. It was surely childish and shadey AF for Cornelius to do that, but it seems like Dexter's reaction to it now is to become even more childish in his actions towards Cornelius. And even that might be something that you could forgive or overlook if these two weren't on the same team. But instead, they seem uninterested in working together at all. Or to be more specific, Dexter and Erin seem totally uninterested in working with Cornelius. Anyone who's watched this show before knows this is all going to come to a head on the runway. 

The Runway

Team Red

Look 1: Poor construction on the top not matching up. The skirt is...off. Is it asymmetrical? If so, it doesn’t really work for me. If not, then there’s something else odd about it. 

Look 2: There’s a way to read this as being like a robe, and the woman in the voting is right that there’s no realistic wearability to it, but I still think it’s really sexy and cute. I like the sleeves, and the open front, and the shortness of the skirt which I find to be tasteful and titillating. 

Look 3: Those pockets can go get fucked. But it seems like a weird kind of Erin thing that the judges will like more than I do. Maybe if they were just a different color I’d like them more. I do actually like the way Cornelius’ skirt goes with the jacket, but I do not like it paired with the top as much. I don’t hate this outfit as a whole but I don’t love it either. 

Team Neutral

Look 1: I like this a lot more than I expected. The fit and tailoring are quite impeccable, those pants are great and I love the little cut out at the knees. The jacket is really quite cute and the turtle neck isn’t bad. I don’t love the fabric around the neck, it looks itchy, but that’s ok. I’m guessing the high level of realistic wearability of this collection is why it played so well with the crowd. 

Look 2: Oh those are pants? Hm…. I want to like this more than I actually do. The popcorn shit is distracting and I hate it. I don’t hate that she tried to do something to make the sweater a little more impressive, but I don’t think this was the right choice. I do, however, like the lighter colored cuff on the sleeves, and the pants are certainly interesting. There are elements here that I want to love a lot but I’m left just kind of liking them.

Look 3: I honestly love the jacket. I think it’s cut well, those slits in it are great, and there’s something chic and special about it. The rest of the look falls apart for me though. I think it’s a good thing she doesn’t take the jacket off while walking because I don’t think anything underneath it would really withstand scrutiny. 

Team Blue

Look 1: Yeah I don’t know about this. I think the skirt is cute and fun and smart. It combines Roberi’s aesthetic with Laurence’s leather in a way that I think is smart. But I was never a fan of what he was doing with the top and I don’t think the weird patches are in any way a step up from the weird shapes he was rocking earlier. 

Look 2: This is also just a little off. There appears to be some issues with the construction, and I don’t understand the point of the cape like thing in the back. The slip dress is simple on purpose, and I get that, but I don’t know that it’s a good thing. He wanted the jacket to be the major selling point here, and I certainly think it's special and a lot of fun to look at, but I'd love it so much more if it was better constructed. All of those little flyaway strings are distracting the hell out of me. 

Look 3: I love love love the jacket tail in the back of this one. It’s special and unique. It’s clearly a Laurence look with those shoulders again. I like the pants too, though those aren’t as good as the jacket. It’s good, but not her most standout piece of the season. 


First things first, Team Neutral won the the 20% bump from the pop up voting earlier in the episode. It's easy to see why when you factor in how rack-ready all of their pieces are. There's more here to appeal to a real woman than there is in the other two collections which feel more fashion forward. But while that factor will appeal to the people on the street, it doesn't really fly with the judges. In spite of their 20% lead, Team Neutral is safe, leaving Blue in the top and Red in the bottom. 

And this is when the gloves come off. For starters, the judges are quick to point out that there isn't really a bad collection out there. Red is just the lesser of the three. They're mostly complimentary of the looks, but they clearly don't like Cornelius' pleated skirt. Kelly Osbourne, who you know is my all time favorite guest judge, is quick to point out that Dexter's claims of punk rock as their inspiration is complete bullshit. Nina points out that there's way too much red and they needed something to break it up a bit. Cornelius says he wanted less red, but he should have spoken up louder. They don't have anything clearly negative to say about Dexter's samurai robe look, and they love Erin's jacket, but Cornelius' admission that it's his skirt on her model gives them some pause.

And then comes the point we all knew had to happen. Heidi asks who should go home from this team and almost without missing a beat Dexter and Erin say Cornelius. Erin's reasoning is something I have a serious problem with. She simply says that she and Dexter work well together, and it feels like a total cop out. Neither of them can really point to a particular design element that leads to Cornelius being the person to go. Their outlooks both break down to "We're friends, and we like each other, so get rid of him."

What can't be ignored is the fact that Cornelius' pleated skirt is the worst look of the collection. When asked who concepted the skirt, Cornelius points to Erin. It was her idea, but his execution, so who's fault is it? And it's only necessary because he offered to give up his skirt to serve her look to begin with. All things being equal, Erin should have been responsible for contributing the skirt to Cornelius' look, right? Without him, her model would have been walking out bareassed. But to what extent does that matter in the long run? Cornelius created the skirt, the skirt was ugly; in a design competition, that's all that matters, right?

The judges ultimately seem to think so no matter how much Kelly argues against the kind of bullying towards Cornelius that they saw. In the end, it's between him and Dexter for the loss, and he gets the short straw. The moment I heard the judges talking about who to send home between the two of them, I knew they'd pick Cornelius and that Tim would use his save on him. We've pointed out before that Heidi's speech about Tim Gunn's save has been spotty at best this season, but it gets a spotlight this episode. That was the first hint that it would be used here. But more than that is the fact that Tim Gunn is quick to point out that Erin and Dexter were just mean girls to Cornelius for this entire challenge. He doesn't have much to say during the closer look inspection of the outfits this episode, but he's quick to say that as he comes to Cornelius' defense. 

So of course when Tim says Cornelius isn't going anywhere, I wasn't surprised in the slightest. Even so, I think it was an acceptable call. In this case, it's not a statement about Cornelius' abilities so much as it's an indictment of Erin and Dexter's behavior in this challenge. If I have one complaint it's that I don't think Tim went far enough to shame them to their faces for their actions. The problem is Tim Gunn is everyone's mentor equally, so complaining about Dexter and Erin's less than kind and totally unprofessional actions isn't really his place. But I say to hell with that. Either way, the show of emotion and the open hostility of this episode was exactly what this season needed. The Dexter/Cornelius rivalry could add a spark to a powder keg of tension and make the next few episodes quite interesting. 

Loose Threads

--Roberi gets his first win of the season here. I probably should have made time to mention that before now, but Team Blue simply wasn't as interesting.

--Speaking of Team Blue, it's interesting and telling that most of their complements have to do with their use of black and white to break up a lot of the blue in their collection. In a lot of ways, they're the inverse of Team Red.

--Another aspect of the feud between Dexter and Cornelius is their friendships with Erin and Nathalia respectively. Nathalia pointing out that she knew Dexter and Erin would throw Cornelius under the bus because of their friendship with each other was yet another snide moment of shade from her directed at Erin. 

--Speaking of which, Erin's bullshit hug to Cornelius at the end and her happy "I didn't want you to go home" simply didn't sell to me. I'll give Dexter this much, at least he didn't pretend to be happy that Tim used his save. 

--This doesn't happen often, but I'm starting to rethink my ranking from the last couple weeks. It's not that I think Cornelius being saved means he'll stick around much longer, but I'm starting to wonder just how fed up with Erin and Dexter the judges are getting. They haven't been as strong lately, and yet their confidence continues to be through the roof, and it doesn't seem like they're doing much to take in the criticism. If they don't settle down and stop walking into each challenge like it's already in the bag, both of them will be out of here sooner rather than later. And after what I saw this week, I honestly would like for that to happen. 

--I don't think Tim would have saved Dexter had the judges decided to get rid of him. And there's an interesting point here when Kelly points out that Dexter is trying to present himself as being all punk rock and yet he isn't that at all. Dexter has been claiming to be weird, strange, out there, and punk rock all season, but he doesn't actually design that way. I think it might be time for someone to point out that some portion of his problem might be that he doesn't actually know himself as well as he thinks he does. 

--As for the people voting aspect of this challenge, I actually kind of liked it in execution. It mattered without being strong enough to sway the entire outcome, and it was fun seeing what regular people are likely to think about the designs. Often I think a part of the problem with reviewing the runway on this show is that I'm not a high fashion guy, and so all I can talk about is whether I like the clothing from a practical standpoint or not. Seeing a bunch of people voting based on those lines as well was a lot of fun. 

--We're eight episodes in and we've only had one unconventional materials challenge: the first one. I'm just going to leave that fact there and let you do with it what you will.