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.