Friday, January 13, 2017

Project Runway Junior: S2 E4: "Step it Up From Day to Nightl"

Not long after writing the first review of this PRJR season, I'm about to say something that makes me feel a bit like a hypocrite: I won't be reviewing PRJR anymore this season after this week's episode. It's not that I don't still believe in the quality of this show or in the talent of these young designers because I do. Or well, I guess I believe in the talent more than I do the quality of the show. The challenges are solid, the kids are cool, but I'm currently of the opinion that the producers don't know what the hell they're doing. They don't know how to make an hour long episode that hits all the points it needs to hit, trims all of the fat, and strikes at the heart of what makes Project Runway compelling TV. The evidence for pretty much all of that can be found in this week's judgement category, but we'll get there soon enough.

The Challenge

This week, the designers are asked to create a fashionable day to evening look for a woman on the go. Since FitBit is the sponsor of the episode, it seemed to me like the daytime look should be active while the evening portion should be maybe more expensive and classy. But I think I was giving too much credit to this week's pointless product placement, and I should have known better.

Either way, the question on everyone's mind should have been does my look translate from day to night. Can it be reasonably worn in both atmospheres? Will my girl be just as at home in the office as she will be out to dinner or at the club in my look? Suffice it to say, a lot of the looks didn't capture that feeling to me, but what do I know?

This week is the first challenge to bypass a trip to Mood in favor of opening up Mini Mood. Think what you will of that, it doesn't really matter to me. The emerging of certain patterns in the workroom is more interesting to me. Along those lines, it seems we're seeing a pattern of Chelsea designing something with a strong story but not much else, and missing the crucial element of it until Tim comes it to give her the one piece of advice she needs to pull it all together. 

A couple designers are going out of their comfort zones in small ways this week. Izzy chose a print that she normally would avoid. Rene is designing something with an older woman in mind. It's still got aspects of his unique aesthetic, but he's aged the look intelligently. These are the kinds of edits that will either impress the judges or sink the contestants. 

The Runway

Allie: This look is cute. The fit on the pants isn't great, but I do like the color and I like the way they mesh with the textile of the top. I also think the little bow on the back is cute. Does it transition from day to night perfectly? I can see it being worn in either setting, so I guess that's more of a yes than a no, but I'd like for the day time aspects of the looks to be more active wear inspired.

Tieler: This is probably too simple of a look. While last week it looked like Tieler wasn't resting on his immunity to carry him through, this week it looks like he didn't try much. In his defense, this is pretty solid for someone phoning it in, but it's not anywhere near as great as it should be. And there's points at the sleeves where it looks like the textile isn't matching up properly. I can't take my eyes off of those moments and not in a good way.

A'kai: The details on the back of the dress are probably the most striking aspect of it, and I wish he could have brought that flare around to the front a bit more. But ultimately, I think it's the same kind of detailing we saw on his first look. Other than that, it's all boring. He chose the wrong color palette, and there's no great or innovative design to the dress. His "night" portion of the look appears to be an evening gown, not something you'd wear to dinner with your friends. It does transition, but it doesn't transition into the portion of the night that I think it should.

Chris: No aspect of this look says evening. It's more active wear than anything we've seen so far, which I respect, but it looks cheap and unfashionable. He missed major aspects of this challenge.

Cartier: I actually like this quite a bit. The way the gold fabric interplays with the black of the slip dress and makes it shine is impressive. The two pieces compliment each other well. And while I don't think changing the vest from black to gold totally transforms the look, I do think it adds a nice wow factor.

Molly: This grew on me the more I looked at it. I was ready to slam it for not being transitional enough, but there's something about the back of the blouse that just screams night, while the front of the outfit says day to me. And the finer details on that top are really quite stunning.

Izzy: This is the definition of clothes not fashion. It's a cute enough sundress, and good for her. But there's nothing special about it and nothing about it embodies this challenge.

Rene: Perhaps I'm too partial, but I love it. I do not love the fit of the skirt, which has some odd bunching up issues that I think he should have addressed, but I do love the rest of it. I think he's very smart about the way he keeps himself in this design and still creates something for a woman who's different than his typical woman. And I like the cool leather strap details, and the way the look changes when sh takes the jacket off is quite interesting.

Hawwaa: This is stunning and quite shocking really. It looks unique and even a bit expensive. If I have one complaint it's that I wish the blue panel went all the way across the front of the skirt. I think That would make the transition even better. Because unveiling that fun print makes it look like a cool party dress, but the solid blue makes it into something reasonable to wear to work. That little bit of pink showing throws it off from that vibe just a little though, so I'd rather it all be covered and then revealed. But that's just me.

Chelsea: It's a jumpsuit made out of neoprene, it's not special, and her story doesn't make it special. I need her to design just one stunning outfit without giving all of this thought to a backstory. Then we'll see if she's actually a good designer or if she's just a passable storyteller.


And this is where it all comes crashing down. Allie, Hawwaa, and Chelsea are in the top. Cartier, Izzy and Rene are in the bottom. 

I'm all for being disagreed with. Years of watching and writing about this show continues to inform me that I know little about fashion and about what the judges will and won't like. What I have no actual patience for is inconsistency. Project Runway has suffered through boring contestants, silly gimmicks, and pointless format changes to churn out a number of bad seasons, but for my money, the worst seasons in the history of the series were the ones in which the judging was inconsistent and nonsensical. 

Chelsea being in the top is nothing if not inconsistent. Because, and I quote from my review just last week: "Christian simply doesn't like jumpsuits. I can't disagree with his point that the jumpsuit might not be where fashion is going, but..." That's what I said last week because those were Christian's complaints about Rene and Chris' look last week. Flat and simple condemnation of the jumpsuit as a piece of fashion. And yet what did Chelsea make this week? A jumpsuit. And not only does that land her in the top three, it earns her a win. Why were jumpsuits verboten last week but lauded this week? 

Rene is sent home, and I can't help but to find that nonsensical. First off, his look is nowhere near as boring as A'kai or Tieler's, and it's not as sloppy as Chris'. You can't fall back on the excuse that he didn't get the day to night transition aspect of the challenge because none of them did. Instead, the judges complain that he's basically a one trick pony through four challenges. I'm sorry, but I simply don't think four challenges is a large enough sample size to claim that a designer only has one trick up their sleeve. How many challenges did Erin win at the beginning of last season employing the exact same techniques before we were all ready to call her on it? 

Rene has a unique and interesting aesthetic that's more mature than his age makes you think it should be. He's creating looks that are simultaneously tasteful and sexy in a way that I've continued to be impressed with. If we compare him to the designers who actually found themselves in the bottom with him, I think it's a very difficult task. I proclaimed all three of them as contestants to beat last week, and they've all put out dresses that were amazing. But I think this boils down to the question of bad ideas versus no ideas. Not that I think Cartier and Izzy have a lack of creativity, but I certainly think they both kind of phoned it in this challenge. I would have sent Izzy home this week. Rene tried, he thought of a way to design something for a woman who isn't his primary client and yet still kept his signature in it. Izzay pushed herself by picking a different fabric (which I'm not impressed by personally) and then folded when she couldn't think of anything unique to do with that fabric. In the end, she just made a boring dress. Rene's look is the one that had more design to it which I think should mean something in a design competition. 

But there you have it. On the one hand, the most undeserving contestant won, and on the other, the most undeserving contestant to be sent home was sent home. There's something about this that I simply cannot abide. It's not enough to make me stop watching this season, but it is enough to make me feel like I don't need to write about it any longer. 

Loose Threads

--There's one more aspect of the episode that left me feeling certain I don't need to keep writing up this show: the editing continues to be horrible. The runway at least hasn't been as bad as it was on the first episode, but the critique segment is really appalling. The music continues to be a distraction, and the way they're cutting those scenes leaves us with only enough time to get like one comment from each judge at best. So in the event that Christian even tried to offer up a "I know I said I hate jumpsuits, but..." kind of comment, we wouldn't know. Pure and simple, they don't know how to make an hour long episode. 

--In all of my shock and outrage over the results I forgot to mention the fact that Hawwaa got completely screwed in the offing. She totally deserved to win this week, and any other outcome is just a travesty

--Since I'll still be watching, I'll leave the possibility open that I'll chime in on a particularly great episode, assuming one exists out there somewhere. But without that, I doubt you'll hear much more from me until next season of Project Runway. If someone else wants to take over reviewing duties of this show, you're more than welcome. 

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