Monday, April 1, 2013

Project Runway, Season 11, Episodes 9 and 10: Art and Commerce

Greetings, Project Runway fans!

I skipped a week due to family stuff but I'm back to recap the past two shows.

Week 9: Lord & Taylor Challenge

Week 9 was the Lord and Taylor Challenge.  The winning designer's outfit would be sold at Lord and Taylor department stores.  The price point was to be $250, which means the garment should be produced for much less than that.

You would think by now that the designers would have memorized the formula to winning a "sold in stores" challenge:

  • one item,
  • inexpensive material that looks expensive,
  • make a basic just a little different,
  • keep in mind that many types of bodies will wear your look,
  • let trim work drive the design/graphic element,
  • be cautious with prints.

Needless to say that few designers followed that formula.  Let's see how they did.

 Patricia and Stanley

I'm not a fan of Patricia's work, but Stanley is a solid sender each week and a designer to watch.  Teaming them up might have brought the best out in Patricia, but also may have sapped Stanley's creative juices.

Stanley's columnar dress seems way too standard for the win.  Patricia took a lot of risks with her two-piece outfit, but in the end, selling two pieces, particularly with shiny pants, at just $250 seems to be a bit of a stretch for the Lord and Taylor buyer.

I know what you're thinking.  "I could totally come close to Patricia's look for way under $250."  I could too.  But let's move along....

Layana, Richard and Samantha

Richard's indecision and poor time management make him another designer who saps the creativity from his teammates.  Layana has been flying high, week after week.  Samantha has been pretty solid, too, but mostly flying under the radar.

I was surprised to see designers going long for this challenge.  I don't know about you, but usually, when I'm walking into a department store, it is rarely to buy a long dress.  There's not as much of a maxi trend on the East coast as there seems to be on the West coast.  Long dresses are usually just for special occasions and then, they have to be pretty dressy.  So looking at Richard's two-tone outfit, I think it might have been more successful as a shorter dress.  It is well designed and very chic.

Layana's leather trim was a nice way to bring an expensive design element in at a nice price point.  However, the judges were not fond of her fabric print.  I don't think it was that offensive, but I do think that this was another example where a shorter dress might have won the challenge.

Unfortunately, that left Samatha, whose four-toned dress looked unusually junior compared to the other outfits on the runway.  It would be hard for Lord & Taylor to command $250 for a short, flirty dress, so not only was she unsuccessful this week, she was out.

Michelle and Daniel

I am getting less and less impressed with Daniel each week that passes, however, he is a very good technician.  Without drama, he can really shine.  Michelle needs a drama free partner.  Daniel can be very good at calming down his partner's freak-outs.  But this challenge, Daniel started to bite off more than he could chew: a top and a pair of shorts.  Michelle was able to talk him out of his bad ideas while not losing sight of her good ideas.

Daniel gave us his signature exaggerated shoulders.  Unfortunately, the rest of the dress was poorly sewn.  Puckering abounds. Even in this tiny picture, you can see the stitching in the slit.

Michelle's dress is deceptively simple.  A sheer, squared off top with a rounded back gives it a modern flair.  The silhouette is easy for a variety of body shapes to wear.  The neutral neckline and skirt make the unusual color accessible to more people for whom that particular shade of yellow would be deadly to wear.

Michelle was the winner of the Lord & Taylor challenge!  So what did Lord & Taylor actually sell?

Pretty close!

Week 10: Art Challenge

"Designers, for this week's challenge, we are at the Guggenheim Museum."
"This week's challenge is for you and your partner to make an art piece, inspired by the works of art in this museum, plus a ready-to-wear look, inspired by your art piece, plus you must use a textile that you have designed using our HP laptop/tablet computers.  Got all that?

It's a laptop....
...and it's a tablet.
I was expecting a surly guard to physically move Patricia away from the fine art, but perhaps they edited that out for the show.

And now for my diatribe on the fabric challenge.  We've had, what?  Four, five of these?  Here's my beef.
  1. The fabric that is produced by them is a cotton fabric and while cotton is versatile for most uses, it limits you, design wise.
  2. Designers always have trouble with the scale of the print.  Either your motif is large enough to see, but too large to translate into wearable fabric, or it's too small to see and the motif loses all its punch.
  3. This program produces, by design, a pattern that is set up in a geometric block.  This forces the designer to match up pattern pieces, which adds to the complexity of the garment.
Designers have tried to produce dots, random designs, etc.....and when they do, they still come out in repeated blocks because they do not have the time to randomize the edges.  We rarely get beautiful patterns.  What we do get is ego...


Seriously...while this might be nice for a purse...

...on pants, it was nuts.
....and crazy stuff.

I always have low expectations when those HP laptop thingies come out.

"But let's remember, people, we're making art.  So we have a table full of art supplies for you to use." 
Three different types of fabric glue!  Who could resist?

Not this guy!
The judges made a great show of meeting to rejigger the teams.  I'm sure someone had a great job writing that script.  The judges made it sound as if they actually said those lines.  Come to think of it, that scene alone may have won Project Runway an Emmy this year.

Speaking of judges....
Tracy Reece could be on every week and that would be fine with me.  She had such insightful things to say about each designer, each partnership and each outfit.

Let's see how our rejiggered design teams did for this challenge.

Layana and Daniel

This week, Daniel had all the patience of Job and Layana grated on his last nerve. Or perhaps she just grated on mine.  She insisted on doing the art piece.  She designed the textile pattern. She micromanaged Daniel.

I don't know about you, but this print says "Mad Men" to me.  Imagine my surprise when Layana started making princess dresses.

As if that wasn't enough, halfway through the challenge, she hated what she did and started over, whining all the way.  Daniel bolstered her as best as he could.

The result was not very good.

She threw everything she could at this outfit in an attempt to make this over the top.  This was not as much "art" as it was saloon girl, circa 1820 meets goth prom.  Her original design wasn't much better.  She built a huge under-dress for a large, princess skirt.  The problem was, she was going for pretty rather than thinking outside her comfort zone to find a compelling visual image.

Daniel fared better.  He pulled what visual elements she had together and came up with an extremely chic ready-to-wear outfit.

There was sophisticated piece work on the shoulders, a very smart, narrow collar, and a skirt that utilized both the pattern and a sheer overlay.

So Layana, who spent the entire challenge nagging her teammate owed her staying on to his high score.

Not so lucky, our next team....

Patricia and Richard

This was supposed to be Patricia's challenge.  After all, during every previous challenge, she took great pains to remind us that she is an artist, not a designer.  "I've made textiles, I've designed art pieces...I've done all that."

But one thing she hasn't done was manage Richard.  So as she created her object d'art, he puttered, muttered and sputtered.  "I can't do anything until I see what you're doing.  I don't understand what you're doing."

Um....didn't she draw her design out for you?

What she did do was design the textile.  Once that came in, Richard seemed to have a better sense of what he needed to do.

"Welcome to our club.  Can we take your coat?  Your seat is right over by the stage.  What would you like to drink?"
When I saw the huge scale of this, I began to worry.  I also started singing "Copacabana" to myself for no particular reason.

I know that I've been a major Patricia detractor this entire season.  Of the three "art pieces," this had the most to say.  She clearly approached this challenge as an artist.  Unfortunately, her statement was drowned out by three versions of her graphic design.  She created a variation of the print for the piece that wrapped around the model's arms.  She created a second variation that was tightly gathered around the model's midsection.  She used the third variation--the print--as an underskirt.  Nina said the whole thing looked like an circus tent.  She veil over the model's face, while attention getting and the sort of thing you'd expect from an artist with "something to say," seemed like an afterthought.

Was this to be a commentary on how bound up she is as an artist?  Women bound up in general?  Who knows?  Perhaps a stronger statement could have been made had the center piece been black.  What was the deal with the gathered middle?  Too much visual static got in the way of whatever message she was trying to send.

But the biggest problem I had with the piece was that it was just, plain sloppy.  There were threads and unfinished hems everywhere.  It looked totally slapped together.

Poor Richard.  He, too, failed to get the message that Patricia was trying to send.  He took his Copacabana fabric, took one look at her pleats and set off to combine the two in a ready-to-wear outfit. Alas, this may have been ready-to-wear in the 1980's.  The skirt was way too fussy.  Pleats in one direction might have been enough, but he had a trim at the bottom with pleats in the other direction.  And this was the good side.  The back was totally wonky.

Worst of all, once he centered the Copacabana fabric, it looked as if she was wearing suspenders.  She looked like a cheerleader with a wastebasket skirt.  It totally bound her up, so maybe Richard got the message after all.

Unfortunately, that message was Auf Weidersehn.

Michelle and Stanley

"Let's put the best designers together so that we can give the clear win to one team."
But they got off to a frightening start.

I don't care what spin Nina put on it.  This fabric is nightmare inducing.

Although it didn't deliver the strongest artistic statement, it was an example of incredible workmanship and thought.  Michelle made the avant garde jacket, with it's long, hand-painted train and swirly top (evocative of the Guggenheim itself.)  Stanley helped with the skirt, which was made of bubble wrap--extra points for using the materials on the craft table!

And Stan got even more extra points for creating a youthful and whimsical dress from the creepy print. Stanley is our big winner for this challenge.

Next week, we're narrowing down who gets to go to Fashion Week.*  The designers finally get to make their own pieces without being part of a team or partnership.

*Several designers get to go, but only the finalists get their collections shown on TV.

See you then!