Sunday, January 31, 2016

Project Runway Junior: S1 E9 "Finale Part 1"

I've felt bad for the amount of time I've spent comparing PR JR to its predecessor. I've done my best to at least get away from speculation about the show's quality based on its similarities and differences from the original, but when the show is working so hard to be similar to, but also intelligently different from, Project Runway, it's hard not to spend time in comparison mode. Enter the ninth episode of  this freshman season, the first part of the standard two-part finale. It's the episode in which contestants head home to make collections and get visited by Tim Gunn for family fun and soppy stories.

The first difference of the episode comes in the fact that Tim won't be making visits to the contestants' homes while they work. There simply isn't time he says, and if the episode really is taking place in the month before NYFW, then we can imagine he kinds of things Tim is busy with. It opens questions about the timeframe of taping for this show versus when they might have been taping the last season of Project Runway. Clearly the kids are going to the same NYFW as the grownups, so it's very possible the two seasons were taped concurrently. If so, you have to respect Tim Gunn's dedication and stamina at being able to do both, and as it was clear that he was a bit better at mentoring the kids as he was the adults, it suggests he might have been plum tuckered out from the one by the time he got to the other.

But I digress, I was talking about the lack of home visits. Or more over, I was talking about the primary differences between this and the other show at this same moment. No home visits, and the kids are making six look collections instead of ten look collections. So they've scaled it back to make it easier, but also in so doing made it a bit harder. It's more difficult to make a cohesive collection in six looks that doesn't cross the line into being redundant. But that's the name of the game.

Because the there are no home visits, the kids will be returning to New York in three weeks to have their usual critiques. Since they only have four weeks to finish the collections, it would make more sense to give them three weeks at home, bring them back for the critique, and then just let them finish up in the workroom. Instead, it seems the plan is to send them home, fly them back in three weeks, and then send them home again for one more week to finish up. I'm not sure I see the point in all that, but so be it.

The kids make little vlogs while they're at home, and then in no time at all they're back. The visit back to Tim is an excuse to have a sit down with all of their parents and family's, so the show still gets to have it's family fun and soppy moments, but this time on Tim's turf instead of at their homes. There's nothing special about these visits. Tim plays ping pong with Peytie's crew, gets a lot of "we're so proud," and a number of stories about these kids playing with clothes since before they could walk. It's touching but not totally illuminating.

When everyone gets back in town, we learn just how much more work they all have to do on their collections before showing at NYFW. Samantha is the one that happens to be the farthest behind. She admits to still having pieces to work on for each of her six looks. Since everything she's doing is in separates, what you find is is that she's got coats and vests and the like all done, but no pants, shorts, or skirts to go with them. I found myself wishing I could be surprised by this, but I wasn't. Make a great coat, but skimp on everything else has been Samantha's MO since the first challenge. But I'm sure we'll get back around to that.

Fact of the matter is, there's a preview show on the runway featuring two looks from  each collection. Another difference between this show and the other one is that there isn't a last minute twist when the designers get back to New York needing them to make a new look. So everyone just has to choose two looks that exemplify their collections and will hopefully impress the judges--easy peasy. Or at least it is for the designers who actually have enough pieces finished to be able to choose two. Samantha is of course shit outta luck because this means she has to make two pairs of shorts before the runway. And wouldn't you know it, they're both crappy, slapdash, pieces of work that she has no interest in using beyond this particular runway.

The Runway:

Peytie 1: I just don’t feel like the top and bottom go together. There’s something seriously discordant about them when they’re paired together. I think they’re both nice looks individually, but together it all looks too busy. 

Peytie 2: No! Everything about this is bad. And I think she’s right that it looked better on the hanger than it does on the model, but I also think the same construction issues she had with it during the Tim visit are all still there. She said she chose her two weakest looks for this preview, and I think there’s something to be said for trying to get feedback on the weakest elements so you can make them stronger while allowing the stronger elements to speak for themselves. But if I were a judge, based on these two looks, I’d have no confidence in the rest of the collection. 

Maya 1: I think I’ll end up liking this more then most people will. I like the strange embroidery things on the bottom of that flowy textile in the skirt. And I like the movement of it all. And I think there’s a strength and a femininity to the black and white color pallet. I like this. 

Maya 2: I think the floral pattern is something that really stands out in a good way here. Her collection is in black and white until you get to these prints and there’s this pop of yellow. This is another look that moves and flows well, and she’s combined hard and soft in a way that really gets are her warrior woman theme. I love it. 

Samantha 1: I honestly don’t have an opinion about this, and that’s odd. I feel like it is what it is, it is what I’d expect from her, and I can’t really form a strong reaction for or against it. I’ve watched it walk down the runway three times and still can’t think of anything to say. Shrug, and move on. 

Samantha 2: Is the hem of the jacket meant to be asymmetrical? If not, it’s all I can really see and it’s seriously distracting. This is also right up Samantha’s alley: make a nice big coat and just skate by on the clothes underneath it. The top and pants don’t matter so long as the coat’s there. I feel like she’d do well designing coats for flashers. You’d seem them walking down the street in these beautiful big coats and be impressed, but then they’d open them up and flash their junk at you, and you’d feel a little disappointed. 

Zachary 1: I have to say, the pop of pink (maybe lavender?) that shines through in the lining of this dress honestly took my breath away. I was ready to be board by this, but then that little pop of color reinvigorated the look. I also like the pants. Unlike Samantha, I feel like Zachary thinks about each element of his design. Very smart. 

Zachary 2: The flowers on the bottom of this need to go all around or not be there at all. Just that little patch of them is weird and ugly and feels like an after thought. Something about them reminded my of Hitler’s mustache. The rest is OK at least, but the flowers bring the entire look down a few notches. 

The judges advice is pretty interesting. For his part, Christian seems to think everyone should go bigger and farther and more extreme. They all seem to butt heads a bit when it comes to Zachary's collection which some of them want to skew younger while the others recognize that just because he's a young person doesn't mean he has to design for young people. I felt like it was the kind of thing that put him in a strange position because I honestly don't see how Zach could keep his personal aesthetic while going the youthful route. He still has work to do, but we'll see how it turns out. 

Based on everything, it looks like Peytie and Maya are the forerunners to win it all at this point. The judges don't care much for Peytie's orange dress, no matter how much they love the colors, but they seem to like the first piece more than I did. So if she cleans up some of her construction, she should be good to go. Meanwhile, the reviews for Maya's work here is nothing short of glowing. They make mention of wanting to see more day looks and a general transition within her collection that tells a kind of morning to day to evening story for her girl. It's an interesting notion, and one I can totally get behind, but we'll see where it goes. 

They've got tougher words for Samantha, but the truth is they weren't nearly as tough as I would have been or as I wanted them to be. I haven't been shy about the fact that I don't think Samantha is quiet ready to be here. I think she has a unique point of view and a voice that deserves to be heard, and some part of me was curious and even excited about what she might do with a collection, but I've got to back track on that excitement in the face of what we've seen. A lot of what we've seen from Peytie in particular, and the others to an extent, has been in service to showing how much they've grown and changed over the course of the competition. Samantha hasn't. Some part of that is because her aesthetic is her aesthetic, and there's something to be commended in that. But to have reached the finale and still find yourself incapable of having even two outfits completed to show on the runway is deplorable. She had four weeks and couldn't manage to get more than half of the pieces for each of her six outfits done? And then she arrives back to the workroom thinking what? That she'd just get to coast on through to NYFW without an new challenges or hurdles being thrown her way while she worked on getting her pants and shorts done to perfection? At this point, is there really any reason to think the finished products she sends down fashion's biggest stage with be at all more polished and finished than the pieces we saw in this episode? She's got all the confidence in the world, and keeps saying she'll be ready by Friday, but we don't know what day of the week it is now. Does she have three days, or five to knock this out? 

Regardless of the answer, my main concern was in how no one felt the need to take her to task for her consistently lax attitude. Or for the fact that she's pretty much created the same look over and over again. Aya gets the closest when she points out that tom boy is not simply about cargo pockets and Bermuda shorts. But it all kind of stops there. They say that they want to see more color and an evening look for her, but they don't push too hard for it, and having seen the sketches, I'm guessing they won't be getting one. Kelly says that she doesn't want the small details to be what ruins this for her, so her finishing has to be impeccable, but it all tends to sound a bit like "We like what you do, do more of it and don't over tax yourself," and it bugs me. 

Either way, everyone leaves with a lot of work to do and very little time to do it. NYFW is neigh, and the only person with small notes is Maya. If things continue in this way, she should win and become the youngest person in PR history to get a win. Though that title would have gone to any one of these kids who got the W, it seems to mean more that Maya's the youngest contestant on the show as well. She's also my favorite at this point, so here's hoping. 

Loos Threads:

--There's something about eyeglasses needing to be used on one look that I didn't much pay attention to. It felt like the show went through the entire season before it realized it didn't have nearly as much product placement as it should have. They decided to cram it all into these last couple episodes. I'm guessing next week will be nothing more than a cycle of logos running in the bottom corner of the screen. 

--I've been impressed with the talent of these kids all season, but I certainly felt like something weird happened when the went home and were asked to keep the ball running. There are some nice pieces in these collections, but given four weeks, they all seemed to come back with things that needed a lot of finishing. And nothing I saw really struck me as strongly as some of what they put out through the competition. 

--Speaking of talented kids though, how great were Peytie's sister's paintings on her dresses?

--There's a lot of panic about having to show two looks to the judges, and it all made me roll my eyes and ask them "Haven't you watched the show before? You should have gotten back and been mentally prepared to have to make a new garment from scratch. Just showing two looks is child's play!"

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Project Runway Junior: S1 E8 "Make a Statement"

Late doesn't even begin to cover it with this one. So I really dropped the ball, I know it, and trust me no one can feel worse about it than I do. But for the sake of my sanity, let's just jump in. I'll write up this episode quickly, and then try to get on to the most recent episode before this weekend is over. Two for the price of one. The price being free of course since I'm still trying to be the hardest working man in unpaid, Project Runway blogging. But still. It's easy to wrap up "Make a Statement" quickly because it's honestly a pretty stock episode of the show up until the end. An end that wasn't anywhere near as shocking as the previous double elimination, but an ending that at least releases the episode from it's rather humdrum opening moments and makes it into something interesting.

The episode before the finale starts can often seem a bit preliminary. Sometimes, as I honestly think is the case here, you end up with four or five designers who all honestly deserve to go to NYFW, and that can make the final cut into something of a nail biter. But most of the time, there's only three or four people who truly deserve to go and the final cut is pretty obvious going into the episode. And in this place on Project Runway, when there's only four contestants left to begin with, the writing tends to be on the wall that no one is going home. PR has (unfortunately) had four contestants in the finale for how many seasons now? It's why no one was really worried about Edmond at the end of last season. Of course he was going to be saved and the four of them would compete at NYFW.

PR JR, however, doesn't necessarily have that going for it. This is the first season. And in a lot of ways it's similar to it's adult predecessor, but in a lot of ways, it's also different. So when two people are rushed home in the seventh episode, and the eighth episode rolls around with yet another elimination challenge, there's a very real possibility that someone could be leaving and we'd end up with a top three. PR JR is a smaller show and a younger show in more ways than one; a smaller finale would make sense and go a long way towards establishing this show on its own without much reference to its predecessor. Yes walking into this we all know Tim Gunn still hasn't used his save, but that doesn't necessarily have to mean anything, right? OK, we'll circle back around to all of this towards the end. For now, let's start at the beginning.

There's something powerful, but also a bit desolate, about the shot of the four remaining designers sitting at the runway to open this episode. It's empowering to think of all it took to get here, and sad to think of everyone lost in the process. But then there were four, and it's time to move it along. The designers are told that their last challenge before the finale is to use themselves as inspiration and to create a look that is uniquely them. They've got $400 and only one day to do this. There's something simple and elegant about this challenge that I love a lot. While I don't think any of the challenges were quite as wacky or out there as some of the PR challenges have been in the past, I think there's something to be said about reaching this moment and asking the contestants to remind us about who they are deep down, and perhaps even show us who they've become in the wake of the competition. Peytie in particular is someone who's aesthetic seems to have openly changed over the course of the competition, so her ability to create something unexpected is considerable.

There's some aspect of the challenge that has to do with irons and iron on prints or something, but beyond the good looking guy introducing it to us, I wasn't paying much attention. What follows is a long line of the kids talking about who they are, what their aesthetic is, and what they want to accomplish with this look. It's all rather interesting and engaging, but I wouldn't go so far as to call any of it drastically important. Everyone has an idea and a way forward except for Zachary who seems to be lost for inspiration or direction at the most important moment. It's not something we haven't seen before, but it's rather distressing to see here from someone so capable and talented.

The meetings with Tim are stock standard and straight forward. Everyone's on a good path except for Zachary. Tim meets with him and spends a lot of time talking him up and making suggesting to get him headed where he needs to go. But I never quiet got the impression that he left that interaction feeling all that confident about what he was doing. On to the runway.

The Runway:

Peytie: The fringe looks like an after thought. I like the movement it adds, but I also think the piece moves well without it. So I’d be find if that were taken away. Other than that, this look is really a wow. The shape of it is fascinating, and when it turned the corner, something about ti screamed Peytie to me. That’s not even to mention the brilliant color. Great job. 

Samantha: Listen, this girl has a point of view that is all her own, and I respect her for it so very much. But for this to be the look she sends down the challenge before Fashion Week makes me think she should go home. Another (well-made) oversized jacket? It swallows the dress whole, and the sad part is I’m not totally sure that that isn’t a bad thing. From what I can see of the dress itself, I’m far more impressed with the idea of it than the execution. Her play on gender is a lot of fun and I want to see more of it in the world, but I do not like this outfit at all. 

Maya: The openness in the back and the clasp in the front take my breath away. Which isn’t to take away from the rest of the look which I love too. Maya uses words like strength, power, and confidence to describe what she’s going for here, and I think she captures all of that. In no small part because some aspect of this feels like a super hero costume or something. But that’s not a bad thing here because I think she knew just where to pull back and where to go big on it to make that apparent but not overpowering. 

Zachary: I think the back is way better than the front. In the front, it feels like he’s letting the fabric do most of the hard work. The true design of it is found in the back, and that’s breathtaking. It’s good, but I’m not ready to say it’s the best we’ve ever seen from him. 

The judges like Samantha's look more than I do, but we're in agreement that Zachary's look isn't strong enough. Kelly points out the fact that it’s impressive that Zach added these details to his look, but none of them shine through on the runway. I like Christian’s point about flipping the fabrics of the skirt so the one inside ended up outside. But I also like Aya’s point that he’s got the best use of the iron-on things. 

I don’t know that I agree with Hannah calling for something more feminine in Samantha’s look, but I also don’t agree with the judges overall praise of the outfit. I will say that I like the dress more when the jacket comes off of it, so I’ll retract my prior statement that the look being swallowed by the jacket is a good thing, but I’m still not impressed with it. I will also say I’d like it if the belt end looked more like dress shirt sleeves. But that could also be one element too many. 

Maya and Peytie's looks are loved universally. So they end up going straight through to the finale. Samantha and Zachary are the last two left, but as Zachary noted in the greenroom, his look was pretty much the only one they didn't really have positive things to say about. So Samantha gets the go ahead and Zachary gets a very teary good bye. 

But back in the greenroom, with everyone hugging and saying good bye, Tim comes in and uses the save. It's a complete repeat of what we saw with Edmund last season and the save being used in the final moments of the competition. One the one hand, I'm a bit disappointed that the show isn't going with a top three instead of a top four, but on the other hand, these four kids truly do all deserve to show at NYFW. Zachary truly stumbled here, but does that mean he should be out of the competition? I think there are people who might say yes, but I'm not really in that camp. I'm OK with this outcome, though I also recognize that it robs the end of the episode of much of its inherent drama. But so long as the outcome is right, it shouldn't matter. And Peytie, Maya, Samantha, and Zachary going to the finale is the right way to go. 

Loose Threads:

--Apparently the finale is going to be just what it is on PR. Tim gets home visits, there's a last notes runway, and then NYFW. I'll get on covering that episode as soon as I can.

--Sorry for the delay, but I was having work stuff, and lots of distractions and stress. It's all worked out, but it was a crazy couple of weeks. Should be pretty back on track now. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Project Runway Junior: S1 E7 "#OOTD"

I complained last week that PR JR chose the wrong episode to air after a hiatus. I stand by that observation more than ever after this week's episode. Because this week epitomizes what I think is brilliant about this show while also serving to raise the stakes even higher. It's those stakes, honestly high already, that have been the main selling point for PR JR thus far. I've mentioned multiple times before that the biggest difference between this show and it's adult predecessor is the manner in which everything feels heightened. We can feel more astutely for these kids than we tend to for the more jaded and cynical adults on the other show. Someone goes home here each week, and each week there are tears both by the person going home and by those they're leaving behind. This is because this competition just seems to matter more and to carry so much more weight than the other one.

This week, the kids meet Tim and Aya at Mood to get ready for the Seventeen Magazine challenge. They're tasked with going out into the streets of New York and talk to people whose outfit inspires them to create their own editorial look fit for a spread in Seventeen Magazine. Obviously, the winning look will be featured in the magazine at some point. The hard part, of course, is getting jaded New Yorkers to talk to you. There was something fun about seeing the kids run around the streets trying, failing, and succeeding at talking to people. It was also a lot of fun to listen to their line of questioning to people they talked to. Finding out what factors were considered in the making of the decision on what to wear, and drawing inspiration from that was really fun to watch.

Samantha and Maya show themselves as best prepared to handle that aspect of the challenge. The edit shows each of them finding someone who's look inspires them and who is willing to talk to them almost right off. For Samantha, it's this manual laborer who's wearing stained and well worn cargo pants. The pants are clearly utilitarian in nature with pockets all over them, but Samantha sees beauty in them, and I can't blame her. Maya talks to a couple women in multi-layered looks, each of whom is heading to work. She quickly decides on a kind of new style look dedicated to someone who works in a non-traditional kind of office.

Jaxson, with his adorable nerdish outlook and mannerisms, doesn't fare too well. He finds women with styles he's interested in, but the edit focuses on how many people ignore him and walk right by before he finally finds someone who will agree to stop and hear him out. When he does finally find someone, he's impressed by the sleeves of her jacket, but he doesn't seem to have the same kind of fire and passion as the others do.

Back at Mood, Jaxson picks a faux fur and a loud yellow neoprene fabric. When Tim sees the two of them together, he urges Jaxson to get a supplemental plain white fabric just to be on the safe side. Meanwhile, Zachary has this idea to use necktie fabric to make his top, and it's something that sounds bold and interesting.

The workroom goes about as you'd expect. Some of them know what they're doing and get right to work, a few people scratch looks and start all over. Jaxson sees that his fur simply doesn't want to cooperate with his ideas and is thanking the gods that Tim convinced him to get the other fabric.

Tim comes in and is concerned for Jaxson's ideas, Peytie's pants, Zach's entire look, and how mature Zachary's look is for what is meant to be the Seventeen Magazine challenge. He's not wrong about that, but that's also too bad because I thought Zachary's look on the dressform was truly breathtaking. After seeing just how much Peytie and Jaxson are struggling with their fabric selection, Tim decides to open up Mini Mood for 15 minutes for anyone who wants it. They're the only two that do, but it's still a great decision that's made in the interest of ensuring these kids get to find their best selves in all of this instead of simply focusing on the competition of it all. PR JR is about so much more than the competition.

Peytie grabs everything she can get her hands on in an effort to find something better for her pants, while Jaxson looks specifically for something that will go well with his yellow fabric. They both leave Mini Mood feeling confident in their selections.

The Runway:

Maya: Love love love this! It moves, it’s classy, but also urban and unconventional. I think it captured exactly what she was going for, and I find it wonderfully editorial. I haven’t looked at a Seventeen magazine in…oh….ever. But my gut says this is more Marie Claire than Seventeen. I’m willing to be wrong though, because I love it.

Zachary: I think he figured this out wonderfully well. The openness of the top and the peak at the sport’s bra underneath is youthful and sexy to me, but still sophisticated. And I find the skirt to be intelligent and innovative in a way that I come to expect from him. His first look was great, but it wasn’t young enough, and somehow he figured out how to lose the aged elements of it without losing himself. I love it. 

Jaxson: I do not dislike this. I would say, like we said about Maya’s look last week, that it’s fine. I find it simple and a bit easy, though I do see a bit of innovation in the shape and construction of the jacket. I want to see the dress without the jacket on. And I think that the colors aren’t a match made in heaven, but I do think they go together better than Jaxson feels as though they do. At least I don’t think they clash. But yeah, I think it’s a little too simple and muted for this stage of the competition. 

Peytie: I didn’t hate the pants until the model turned around and I saw how wrinkled and bunched up they were. Yikes. It is totally just a fabric fail on these because the cut and design of them really is nice. It’s a better look with a better fabric choice for the pants. I like the top. 

Zach: I don’t care for this and I’m not 100% sure why. The colors work, the outfit is simple enough, but there’s something about it that I just don’t care for. Something about the cut of it says Sailor Costume to me, and I’m not sure what. Either way, not my fav. 

Samantha: OK this is the first look from Samantha in a long time that I’ve been head over heels for. She had a plan and she executed it perfectly. It’s smart and edgy, and it’s totally her without having to create yet another oversized coat. I can see her inspiration, but she wasn’t trapped or too beholden to that inspiration, so she still created something all her own. I respect this a lot.

Maya and Samantha are in the top while Jaxson and Zach are in the bottom. The judges are pretty split on both Peytie and Zachary, making the two of them safe in my mind. Aya points out that Jaxson tends to have a lot of ideas, but rarely does he execute them well. His dress is plain, and no one really seems to think it goes well with his dress. Hannah goes so far as to say that he appears to have dressed two different girls, and Christian says his girl looks like she might have gotten dressed in the dark. 

With Zach, they simply don't seem to think he maximized his potential with this challenge. They can't seem to place who his girl is or where she's going. And when Christian questions whether or not he thinks this is his best work, Zach seems to crumple and admits that it's not and apologizes for it. It's a moment made all the more touching when you remember that he's the guy who was dancing with his model on the runway in just the last challenge. Zach admits that he thought too much about trying to make the look young and lost himself in the process. Aya points out that his looks already have a youthfulness to them and all he needed to do was put his best self forward in the looks. 

On the other side of things,  both Maya and Samantha are praised for how well thought out their looks are. Maya's story about women going to work resonates with the judges a lot, while Samantha's ability to feminize cargo shorts is universally appreciated. Christian does, however, echo my sentiments towards Samantha when he says that he wants to see something like a dress from her so as to know that she can do more as well. At least she didn't do another oversized-coat this time around, but he still wants to know that she can do more too. 

It's the result that makes this episode such a standout moment in the season. The judges' closer looks and deliberation makes it clear that the winner is between Samantha and Maya and the choice of who's going home is between Jaxson and Zach. So when it's announced that both Maya and Samantha are getting the win, I think it should have been obvious that both Jaxson and Zach were going home. And yet somehow, I was still surprised by it. It's not the way these things ever really tend to happen. And given how hard it is each time they have to say good bye to someone, you never expect them to compound the issue by sending two people home when they don't have to. 

I thought at first that it might be a ploy to get Tim to save one of them, but then I thought about how horribly awkward it might be for Tim to go into the greenroom and tell one of these two that he was using his save on him while the other went home. And if there's one thing PR JR has excelled at, it's not putting these kids in horribly awkward situations. So indeed both Jaxson and Zach go home. And it's a strange choice when you think about it. Maya and Samantha both winning makes sense, they both deserved it. But Zach won the previous challenge while Zach saw his second consecutive challenge in the bottom. But on the other hand, in the face of Samantha, Maya and Zachary, do I think Zach had what it takes to win it all? Of course not. So in that sense, how upset can I be that Zach got sent home maybe one week earlier than he otherwise might have? The results of this episode are shocking, but I don't know that I disagree with them. There's a kind of cruel efficiency here, but one thing is for sure, the emotions of the good byes were well earned and strongly felt all around. And then there were four. 

Loose Threads:

--Hannah mentions in this episode that they'd two challenges away from choosing who will be in the finale. I think, if my math is right, that that should have meant they were planning on having 4 people show at NYFW. But I'm wondering if this seemingly unplanned double elimination means they'll just have three kids in the finale? Though that also could have been the plan all along, so who knows. 

--I like Peytie, and I especially enjoyed her critique this episode when the judges acknowledged that her aesthetic seems to have matured over the course of the competition. But with the consistent strength of Zachary and Maya, and Samantha's recent resurgence, it's hard for me to imagine she'll make it past this up coming week. 

--I've got to say, I'm very curious to see what the finale on this show looks like. I can't imagine they're going to send these kids home to make collections. But I wouldn't be surprised if they stuck around and maybe gave them a few days to make a collection. I'm guessing not a full ten looks, but who knows. 

--Kelly about Zachary's look: “You looked at the modern day business man and turned that into a chic beautiful woman.” I'm surprised the judges still didn't think this look was young enough. I guess some part of that is that they didn't see the first look he'd created; because with that in mind, I can't see how anyone would think this look was too old. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Project Runway Junior: S1 E6 "Superstar Clients"

PR JR must have known it's season would take them into the holidays. They must have known that
they would be contending with a two-week long hiatus in the middle of their first season. So then why didn't they try to create a better episode for that return? Don't get me wrong, as I discussed so many times during the last season of PR, you can only ever work with what the contestants and judges give you to work with. But that's not to say that they're totally helpless. They can't control who's going home when, and they can't control what the designer's create on an episode to episode basis, but what they could have done was make sure that the challenge for their sixth episode was better and more entertaining than this one turned out to be. The last time we saw this show, they were giving the contestants, in teams of two, five hours to make an elegant red carpet gown, and they were bringing in past contestants to help with the time crunch. There were tears, some sage wisdom from the grownups who'd been here before, genuine excitement from the contestants over being able to work with PR alums, and a collection of great (or at least interesting) looks. Now we're back two weeks later and PR JR doesn't build on that episode at all; instead, they return from a hiatus and take a step backwards.

The doom of the episode is clear from the opening moments when Hannah announces that the Knicks City Dancers would be the kids' clients for this episode and each and every single one of their faces fell in despair. Granted, the fear was that they'd have to create a dancing/performance outfit. There's a sigh of relief when they're told they're actually just designing whatever the client wants, but their obvious lack of interest in working with these women wasn't overlooked.

The sad thing is putting every contestant out of their comfort zone by having them design some kind of activewear--dance uniform might have produced a more interesting episode. Instead, most of the clients want something more akin to ready-wear. They each have a special story about where they're going and what they're doing, but ultimately it all boils down to normal activities performed by normal people who want normal clothes. It's not that this can't be interesting, indeed the streetwear episodes, and "real women" episodes have long been great; designers having to tone down their high fashion sensibilities while still creating something that you couldn't buy on a table at Old Navy is interesting. Moreover, the client-based challenges are an important PR staple. But this episode needed something to push it over the edge. More difficult clients would have been nice, but I can understand not wanting to put the kids in that kind of acidic position. Excepting that, I'd have saved the client episode for somewhere later in the season and put another unconventional material challenge in this spot.

If the confines of the challenge aren't willing to bring the drama, then you've got to hope that the consistently high talent level of these kids will help to elevate the hour. But by the time Tim's coming in to visit, everyone is doubting themselves, feel out of their comfort zones, and nothing is really standing out as being great. Tim is worried about the construction of Jaxson's top, so he goes with him to Mini Mood and finds a better fabric in the same color as the first. He points out multiple construction issues with the designers and a couple of looks are boring. He's impressed with Samantha's look, but I certainly wasn't. Or to be more specific, the fact that she's making yet another oversized coat left me felling flat. I loved Samantha at first, but she's quickly become horribly one note to me, and I won't really be able to sing her praises until she can prove that she's able to do something else.

Nothing more happens before the runway except that there's a weird kind of pre-runway Q&A session between Hannah and the contestants. I can imagine that this is something that happens each challenge, but given the show's hour long runtime and their constantly being pressed for time, perhaps we just haven't seen it prior to this point. With that being said, this being cut from each episode is the way to go. There's more time available the fewer contestants we have left, and I would hate to see that time being occupied by this uselessness. Nothing is earned, learned, or gained by the conversation.

The Runway:

Samantha: I could take this time to continue complaining about her seeming inability to create a new or different silhouette, but the fact of the matter is this isn’t horrible. The skirt is a simple and boring, and even poorly constructed denim skirt, but the colors go well together, and the fabric choice on the jacket is bold and new. So I like it in spite of myself, but I don’t want her winning challenges until she can prove to me that she can do something else. 

Maya: There’s no hiding that Maya is one of my favs, but this is pretty off-the-rack simple. It’s adorable, and I love the corset laces on the back of the top, and the pants fit wonderfully well, but other than that it’s a pretty boring look. 

Zach: Nice open back, and I think adding the dark fabric to the hemline was smart. I like it. I don’t think it’ll turn heads, but it’s nice. 

Jaxson: I hate the fabric of the skirt. I didn’t hate it in the workroom, but there’s something about the shine to it on the runway that I hate. And the movement of it is stiff and unforgiving. But the back is gorgeous, and the top as a whole is really nice. So no complaints there, and since she did want a summer dress, I do like the color. 

Bridget: I hate this. It’s boring and uninspired, and the kimono doesn’t look like any kimono I’ve ever seen. I can see how this robe like thing could be considered to be inspired by a kimono, but capturing the sleeve shape isn’t all that’s needed to consider this to be an actual kimono. Which is too bad to me because I do think putting a full kimono over that boring ass thing she designed would have saved this look. 

Zachary: Another nice open back. I think the hemline still looks a bit messy and is way too high, but I do like this look. I agree with his points about the flowy nature of the pants matched with the structured nature of the top. The colors feel a bit muted to me, but that’s a small quibble. 

Peytie: Messy is the first word that comes to mind. I love the color and I love the movement of it, but the proportions on the back (where that razorback design meets the rest of the fabric) is all off, and the hem looks messy and haphazard. I think that was purposeful, but it doesn’t feel as purposeful as it should. And the back just looks like a mistake. It’s a shame because that fabric in a better constructed dress could have been a wow moment. 

Samantha, Zach, and Zachary are in the top, Bridget, Maya, and Jaxson are in the bottom. This is where I'd like to see the show slow down and take it's time. I don't need pre-runway Q&As, but more time with the judges would be highly appreciated. Zach is praised for understanding and thinking about his client's body in an impressive way. It's clearly the best thing we've seen from him thus far in the competition. 

It's said, multiple times, that "Samantha is back!" with this look, but Kelly is at least willing to admit that the skirt is a problem. But that doesn't stop her from loving the rest of the look and acknowledging that Samantha pulls those fabrics and those colors together in a way that she wouldn't expect anyone to be capable of. 

Zachary is commended for his continued elegance and intelligence when it comes to dressing a woman's body. The hemline is all wrong on his pants, and everyone knows it, but it's the only real complaint about the otherwise stellar look. Kelly commends him for using the olive color on the pants (which I initially didn't love) and he points out that it's the same color as his model's eyes and I fell a bit more in love with him. This kid is smart and talented and he knows what he's doing. 

On another show, or maybe just another version of this show, Aya's question to Maya about whether she thinks this is some of her best work or not might seem a bit rude. But there's something about the way Aya asks, and about the way their complaints about Maya's look are all couched in the fact that they have such high expectations for her that makes it feel more kindly prodding. But the fact of the matter is Maya's look isn't bad, it's just not strong enough. The judges keep using the word "fine" to describe it, and never has that felt more like a slap in the face than it does when they say it. 

Jaxson and Bridget are in way more trouble than Maya is and I think they know it. The judges have nothing positive to say about Bridget's look, and they like Jaxson's top but hate the stiffness of the fabric he choose for the skirt. Christian makes a great point about the skirt wanting to be "sexy but still covered," and the discordant note that causes. 

In the end, Zach wins and Bridget loses. The sheer fact that the judges couldn't find a single thing to compliment about Bridget's look while they liked Jaxson's top means this was an easy call to make. Some part of me wondered if Tim would save her since she'd shown her talent in the past and has won challenges before; maybe she shouldn't be so punished for what amounts to an off day. But Tim seems to agree with the judges' decision, and Bridget goes home. 

Loose Threads:

--So PR online doesn't have the final looks photo album up and running by the time I'm writing this, so I'll check back later and try to get the links up for the runway. But if you're wondering why they aren't there this time, it's PR's fault and not mine. 

--And then there were six. I'm guessing we're gearing down for the end here. Will ther ebe three or four people showing at NYFW?

--Tim says how much he loves this group of contestants a number of times this episode. It's cute and sweet, and I loved it. But it also could have been creepy. 

--I know you guys aren't really sports fans like I am, but dancers and cheerleaders are the lowest of the low to some of us who are. My good friend has been a football fan for a long time, and he went to a game with his young niece and some of his extended family before. And when the child (she couldn't have been more than five or so) said she might want to be a cheerleader, he told her "I'd rather you just be a stripper, that's way more noble." So you can imagine how I felt seeing the Knicks Dancers in this episode. 

--One of the things I did like about this challenge was the way that, even though they were all dressing the same kind of woman, they weren't all designing for the same situation. The ability to have that many varied types of outfits on the runway is better than a bunch of different dance uniforms.