Saturday, February 6, 2016

Project Runway Junior: S1 E10 "Finale Part 2"

10 episodes, 13 weeks, one winner. And with that, Project Runway Junior crowns 14 year old Maya as it's first winner. There's a poetry to the fact the she show's youngest contestant becomes its first champion. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ecstatic over this news, or that I was all that surprised by it; I've been calling for a Maya victory for months now, but there's still something magical about it. Maya had the skill, the vision, and, towards the end of the competition, the confidence to make for a solid choice of victor. Which isn't to take anything away from the others finalists who all truly deserved to have made it to this point in the competition. But Maya stated running away with this thing when she started earning multiple wins towards the end of the competition.

In truth, I was worried about the quality of the finale episode after watching last week's entry. Not that a lot of the family stuff wasn't interesting and compelling to watch. There's something innately special about seeing young LGBT kids (namely Zachary at the expense of making too bold an assumption) being loved and supported by their families. I don't know if anyone else is watching this season of American Crime, if you aren't you should be because it's been seriously amazing, but it's been a bit full of less than positive reactions to young people coming out as gay or questioning. On the one hand, it's a bit silly to think that this is still a problem in 2016, but on the other hand, it is a reality some people have to face, and it's sometimes hard to watch as a result. But that's not been the case on PRJR, and that's great.

But with that being said, the quality of the designs we saw in the workroom and on the runway simply wasn't up to snuff last time around. On top of that, there was an exceptional amount of work still to be done before the contestants would even be ready to show at NYFW. Even while watching this episode, I was struggling to remember a time when just this must scrambling and finishing was needed to get a complete collection to show. And that's with ten looks being shown, never mind the fact that these kids only had six. But they pulled it out, and I guess that's all that matter.

From the start, it was clear that Maya had the least amount of work to do to get her collection ready. She's worried about the judges' comments that maybe she should go a little harder on the yellow and add some more color to her collection, but by the time Tim is visiting later in the episode, he's assuring her that she needn't worry about that so much. It shows just how good she is at this stage of things.

Meanwhile, everyone else is scrambling to fix existing pieces and just create whole new pieces from scratch. To help them along with that, they're given an extra $250 each and a trip to Mood. This benefits the other designers much more than it does Maya who grabs some bright yellow fabric she'll end up not using. Samantha latches on to Christian's comment about needing more color, and seems to latch even more firmly onto the idea that that color should be red. She's got tunnel vision towards finding the right red fabric, and I couldn't help but to wonder if the exclusion of finding another color that could work just as well wouldn't be to the detriment of her collection. Meanwhile, Peytie and Zachary are each scraping looks and making drastic changes to other looks, so they're more in the market for fabric selection.

Back in the workroom, the only story worth really focusing on is the mountain of work ahead of Samantha. At multiple times, she checks in and lists off the sheer number of pieces she still has to complete. At one point in time, I think it was shorts, a dress, pants, and multiple crop tops in the red fabric she's only just acquired. And she's got to do all that in two days with model fittings and meeting with Tim at some point. I won't lie, I doubted she'd get it all done. I thought for sure that at multiple points in the collection she'd have no choice but to lessen her ambition and choose easier and quicker pieces to throw together.

Not to be out done, Zachary also has a number of pieces to finish and no idea how he'll go about accomplishing his task. Peytie's making changes, but other than scraping her orange and gold look for something totally new, her edits seem small and almost superficial. Maya is on a perfect pace until the model fitting when she finds that all of her models have exceptionally long midriffs and none of her shirts fit. The model fitting arrives on the last day before NYFW, so she spends all of her first day thinking she doesn't have much to do and then is hit with the reality that she's just as busy as the others by the time the second day comes around. It's a panic inducing moment, but to her credit, she keeps an even head and just moves forward with what she has to do.

By the time we're ready for the show, most everything is done and somehow they've all pulled it out. I maintain that some part of this is due to the fact that they seem to thrive under the pressure of the competition. When they go home and have time on their hands, they produce substandard work. When they're in the workroom with Tim looking over their shoulders and the other designers to hold them accountable for what they're doing, they seem to surge with energy. There's a lot of talk in this episode about how these kids represent just how strong the future of fashion is, and on the whole, I agree with that. But in the micro, I can't help but to wonder. These kids are talented as shit, but if this seeming lackadaisical attitude towards work you have to do when you have the relaxed time to do it is something that persists, should we maybe bee a bit more concerned? At the very least, their talent more than speaks for itself out on the runway.

The Runway:

Maya: WOW! Talk about a WOW factor and putting on a show. My jaw was on the floor. I think the first and fourth looks stand out the most as they aren’t in keeping with the traditional white and structured on top, black and flowy on bottom cut that she’s got throughout the collection. I love that for cohesion, but I do think I would have liked to see one look that was the inverse of it: black and structured on top, white and flowy on bottom. But with that being said, I think this collection showcases who she is, and details her theme and vision perfectly, and I love it. 

Samantha: This collection is odd to me. It starts off ridiculously strong, and then starts to fall apart with the fourth look--which I don't hate outright, but I certainly don't think it fits in with the collection at all. The same girl isn't wearing this dress as the one wearing the significantly better one before it. The fifth look isn’t bad, but it doesn’t stand out enough to rebound from the let down that the fourth look was, and I don’t find her final look to be as strong as what came before it. I think the red works wonders to break up the color palette and make it all pop more. And I think her styling is the best we'll see. That third look she sent down is 100% what I’ve been looking for from her all season long, and she whipped it out at just the right time. But I think she put her looks in the wrong order. If she had just reversed it and went from back to front, it would have been a much better show. 

Zachary: In a contrast to Samantha’s collection, I do think that Zachary’s elevates as things go on. I find his first looks to be pretty but a little simple and not really eye popping. But the more you go on, the more that changes. Until you hit the third look which is nothing if not interesting, the fourth look which is beautiful, and the fifth look which is the best of the collection (maybe of all the collections) and the one thing that truly took my breath away. But back to the third look for a minute; this is where you see the problem with the eye glasses addition thing. On everyone before this girl, the glasses were either so natural that they didn’t stand out at all, as with Maya’s collection, or the most perfect addition to the collection, as with Samantha’s. On Zachary’s girl, they feel horribly discordant and out of place and, thusly, were too noticeable. He either needed to choose different frames, or put them on a different model. As a whole, I don’t think his collection was as strong as it could have been, but the standout pieces really do stand out in all the best ways. 

Peytie: I think the very best thing you can say about Peytie’s collection is that it’s 100% her. She and Samantha both have voices that are totally unique and particular to themselves. I don’t love this because it doesn’t fit my personal aesthetic, but I’m so very happy it exists. I do love the choice to cut up the pieces of leather her sister drew on to make the fringe; that was a smart way to make those two pieces pop while still being cohesive. I like the beaded pieces more here than I did on the last runway. I also think she chose the right piece to end on, and her fifth piece was amazing as well.

In the post runway interviews, which if I'm being honest have always been one of my favorite aspects of the finale since they seem to have such an easy time finding someone to remark on how much they favored each collection, I think it's Jaxson that says the decision is really between Maya and Samantha, and I couldn't agree with him more. Peytie and Zachary make a nice showing from themselves, but the truth is that neither of their collections are as strong as Maya and Samantha's ended up being. 

The section of the episode that was the judges and contestants chatting pales in comparison to the judge's deliberation. They talk about each collection in depth and you can see just how tough of a decision this is going to be. Hannah's redundant points about how much younger Zachary's collection ended up being annoy me. But to be honest, I find Hannah to be the most useless judge in this one. She doesn't like Maya's capes, she says this is the first time she's seen stuff from Samantha that she'd actually wear, and isn't a big fan of Peytie's aesthetic. Clearly, Hannah has very particular tastes and can't see beyond them. In the same way Heidi's constantly judging pieces by whether she'd wear them or not annoys me, Hannah's remarks annoy me here. 

Everyone else seems to get at the heart of the issues. The debates about Samantha's versatility and Maya's lack of actual yellow are fairly interesting. Pointing out that we've seen that jacket from Samantha ten times this season is what I'd been waiting for them to say all season long. It's fine since it's a nice coat and she clearly has a very specific point of view with it, but seriously, you have to have more in your arsenal than that. I'm less in agreement about the general lack of yellow in Maya's collection and feeling like her insistence on her theme of "Warrior woman in yellow flowers" somehow detracts from what the collection is, but I can at least understand what they're saying. 

In the end, Zachary goes and is quickly followed by Peytie, leaving the only real top two based on the collections. And Maya gets the well deserved victory. As I mentioned earlier, there's a lot of talk about how bright the future of fashion is based on these kids, but more importantly, I think the future of PR JR might be equally weird. This first season showcased more talent than I think anyone could have expected from the show. It showed that teenagers are mentally and physically capable of handling the stress that tends to come with this show. And it created the very best group of judges and hosts that it could. Keeping Tim Gunn on as mentor proved to be the best decision and I think will be the quintessential aspect of the show's success going forward. I think you can either take Hannah Davis or leave her, but there's something special about the combination of Kelly, Christian, and Aya that I think the other PR spinoffs simply haven't been able to tap into. If they can manage to find another group of young designers this talented and with this much personality, I don't see why this can't be the first of many seasons for Project Runway Junior.

Loose Threads:

--Tim says bye to Swatch when they leave Mood, but we don't get a shot of everyone's favorite fashion pup. Either way, at this point each mention of Swatch is a gift. 

--During the runway, the camera seemed to keep cutting to two really cute guys in the audience. One seemed to be there with Sonjia (maybe her boyfriend?) and the other was sitting next to Sean (maybe his boyfriend?) Either way, I didn't recognize them, but I couldn't help but to wonder if the camera person didn't have something of a crush on them. 

--Thanks for sitting through my blathering about this show all season to those of you that did. It turned out to be a lot more fun than I anticipated. I'll admit to low expectations heading in to this season since I've never been able to get more than an episode into a PR spinoff without wanting to shoot myself, but this turned out to be great. I won't be covering PR All Stars, so baring someone else wanting to tackle that, I'll see you all back here later this year for another season of Project Runway.