Sunday, September 29, 2013

Project Runway Season 12, Episode 11: Double Jeopardy

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

This week, we learned a few things in real time.

Thing one: Ken is off his rocker.

Thing two: Helen alternates between being off and on her rocker.  

This season, the drama seems to come in layers, like an onion.

This week's challenge was the perennial HP make-your-own-fabric-pattern challenge and we learned a few things in Project Runway time.

Thing one: HP has totally abandoned the keyboard on its pad thingy.

Bradon checks out the new HP Karl Rove.  
Karl Rove: "Clearly, my namesake is inspired by my adept use of the whiteboard."
Thing two: Some designers figured out how to break out of the blocky pattern repeat during the HP challenge, which made me very very happy.

Thing three: This late in the competition is NOT the time to load the designers down with silly hoops through which they must jump.  This week it was HP muses....people who had invented something or were top in their field or may appear in future HP commercials.

What was the point of Alexander decorating the ugliest cake ever?
Thing four: I'm pretty convinced now that the show has crossed over with Breaking Bad because the judges were on something that compromised their ability to reason.

Skinny Pete: "You got a problem with my business?"
And finally, thing five: None of these designers have a future designing fabrics.

Let's dive in and take a look at the garments.


With all the over-the-top drama divas gone, things were getting a little too boring for Helen, so she decided to subject everyone to her creative block.

Helen:"See this design I drew?  It's a turd ball of epic proportions.  I'd need to start over but I don't know what to do."
Kate: "You're about to find out that I'm the wrong person to ask this week."
Helen: "See this pattern I designed?  It's a crime against humanity.  Call the UN Tribunal."
Helen: "I'm the WORST PERSON EVER!"
Dom: "If she ever lets me go, I'm calling security...."
I could see where Helen really struggled.  She designed fabric based on her artist who alters enlarged photographs.  How she got this pattern from that I'll never know.  The result looked a bit juvenile.

So she resorted to her comfort zone and pieced the fabric together with a cream material.

"I went for a minimalist look so that I could minimize my suffering."
From a distance, the pattern has an interesting shape to it.  The fit, unfortunately, is a little tight.  No mention of that from the judges, however....

Heidi: "It's PAAT-ri-o-tic!"
Nina: "You pieced the fabric with cream.  That makes it look vintage."
Zac: "Definitely vintage Americana."
Right!  Nothing says "vintage Americana" to me like an exposed midriff!

There's nothing overtly offensive about Helen's dress.  It's well constructed, even if the fit is a bit tight.  The shoulders and the midriff give it a sort of modern-minimalist vibe.  I'd give her credit for taking what could have been a very juvenile fabric, mixing her tears with the frustrations of her fellow designers, along with some cream fabric and coming up with a piece that "made it work."  Nina was right about one thing, the elements of this dress are horrible--the print, the cream fabric, the design.  However, all together, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  What helped Helen immensely is that midway through the season, she steered toward very simple piecing that allowed her a lot of time for the neatest stitching on earth.  In the close up shots on this dress, the stitching was impeccable.  There wasn't a single pucker, even though she had to stuff her model into the dress.


Oh my goodness, we almost lost Justin this week.  The pattern was....interesting.  It involved bubble shapes and an "I love you" in sign language (which is featured upside-down at the top of this swatch.)

The dress, as he designed it, had too many elements.

"My muse was Miss America, who likes to wear very low-cut tops when she works with her charity organizations.  I designed this gown so that she's be a little more covered up on top, but also communicate "I love you" in sign language."
The judges were really harsh.

Zac: "You tacked those chiffon panels on at the last minute, didn't you?"
Nina: "Your pattern isn't very beautiful, but you still covered it up, which undermines the challenge."
Heidi: "Why did you make Miss America a gown?  That is so expected.  She really could have used a sexy dress."
The bodice really was the best thing he's done in the competition.  The skirt, however, was a tacked-on mess.  I really thought (and he really thought) he was a goner this week, but he ended up safe.  Why?  Because the sign language interpreter in the back knows karate and isn't afraid to use it.

"Keep fooling yourself. Why do you think Peter Som isn't wearing any socks?  He's overheated from the meth.  Zac's wearing a stupid ascot because you can't tie a proper tie on meth.  Look at Heidi, covering up her arms with fabric this week.  The L'Oreal hair and make-up room needed a SWAT team to make these people good on camera."

This was safe.
"That's cuz it's my favorite outfit.  Very meth-head chic."
Ohh....NOW I get it!  Thanks for clearing that up, Skinny Pete.  I was scratching my head all week about this decision.


Inspired by chocolate, Alexander designed some very interesting fabric.

Unfortunately, the actual scale was a lot larger.  Had it been smaller, he could have played with the diagonal stripes it created and it could have looked like chocolate ribbons.

Instead, he was inspired by the blocks and....well...

"It's sort of a play on words with my last name, 'Pope.'"

Zac: "She looks like a cult leader."
Heidi: She doesn't look sexy at all.  I would not wear this dress."
Nina: "It looks like you put white tape on the dress."
It was Death by Chocolate this week for Alexander.


What happened to Kate?
"You see, the first time you take it, you think you can do, kill cops with your bare hands, make a beautiful dress with lots of gathers in less than a day..."
No Pete, since I simply can't imagine the beautiful Kate as a meth-head, I have to blame her muse, who was a computer geek who founded some sort of crowd-source funding website.  Kate got all "geek chick" on us and started talking about hidden binary code.

Binary code.
Hidden under the dress. 

And this week, it was control-alt-delete for Kate.  I thought she was going all the way.  You thought she was going all the way.  It was a shock, but then again, so was this dress.


Bradon proved two things were possible this week.  You can make a chic pattern on an HP Karl Rove tablet thingy and it is possible to make a chic dress out of tacky tube top material.

Bradon's muse was a championship BMX biker.  He made a jacket that no biker would ever wear using a pattern inspired by an urban grid pattern.  But what took this look over the top was the tube top material dress he designed underneath.  All the judges adored it.


This week, Dom FINALLY got her due.

Very Alexander McQueen, however with her point of view of bright colors and a fresh, urban/tribal look.  Zac declared it "runway ready."  She was inspired by her muse who runs and organization that brings peoples of different cultures together and the unified elements of the dress reflected that nicely.  This was the clear winner this week and very well deserved for Dom, who continues to impress me, week after week.

We're down to the final five.  Next week, the final four are chosen.  Until then!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Project Runway, Season 12, Episode 10: For the Fans

Greetings, Project Runway Fans!

This week's show is for you.  The contestants' tenth challenge was to dress and make over a fan of Project Runway.  I'm sure the fans were super excited and the designers were happy to see other people who understood what they must be going through, after watching 11 seasons.

Before I dive in, I have to say that this was a bad week for this particular episode.  There was drama involving Ken, Alexander and a hot iron which ended up in Ken's expulsion.  They made it look like he was voted off, but in reality, he was expelled.

I don't find the spectre and threat of violence very entertaining on what should be a show about creativity and skill.  On Monday, this happened just blocks from where I work.  This was not the week for me to watch someone blow up in a screaming fit of rage.

When Bunim-Murray took over Project Runway, I immediately became concerned that the show would turn into The Real World.  My fears are coming to fruition.  In my opinion, the production has FAILS if interpersonal drama trumps the design challenge, which it did again this week.

In any group of design contestants there will be trash talking and rudness.  Not everyone gets along, nor should they.  But this season, not one, but two contestants threatened and harassed the others repeatedly. Their combative temperments created a hostile work atmosphere, which I suspect, was Bunim-Murray's intention all along.  Not trusting the actual challenges to provide the drama, they resort to the cheapest tactic of all: making sure that difficult individuals are brought together so that the sparks can fly.  It's what they do best.

It was Real World San Francisco's Puck vs. Pedro Zamora all over again.  During that season, a ridiculous crazy person nearly derailed what should have been a very beautiful testament to the human spirit in the face of a terminal disease.  Likewise, this episode should have been a joyous celebration of a 12-year relationship between Project Runway and its fans.  Unfortunately, it was interrupted by a minstrel show.

Yes, a minstrel show. 

Another Project Runway blogger quit two episodes in after Ken's first tantrum.  She felt he was being stereotyped as an "angry Black man."  Did she know about this episode in advance?  Before this particular challenge got underway, Ken threw a fit about the other male contestants consolidating into his apartment.  Ken was wearing a white facial mask when his tantrum erupted.  He strutted about, yelling in the faces of the production staff, harrassing everyone in sight.

Minstrel show.
Lifetime showed that provocative image over and over and over again in previews this week.  Not cool.

After this display, it's going to take a lot of work on Ken's part to redeem his career.  I hope he has the courage and persistence to do it.  He is a talented designer.  His biggest mistake was not searching himself and his psyche more thoroughly before agreeing to be on the show.  Yes, we all have our free choices in life.  No one forced him to be on the show.  But sometimes, people make decisions to do things for which they aren't ready.  Sometimes, they bite off more than they can chew.

These folks end up becoming pawns on Bunim-Murray's chessboard.  No matter what happens to the contestants, Miramax, Weinstein, and Bunim-Murray will make their money.  Ken is left with nothing but his delusions that he had any control over the situation.

You see, while it looked like Ken was being eliminated for designing an ugly dress, in reality, he was being disqualified from the competition.  Fashion Week in New York was last week. Last week, during the runway production, he was still on the show and should have been one of the decoy designers.

He wasn't.  So, no, Ken, you didn't "throw the challenge."  Your die was cast the moment you started screaming at the production staff.  You should have just yelled at Alexander.  The producers might have kept you on another week.

There's no finger-wagging, self-satisfaction for me to watch someone who clearly can't handle the situation lose his composure.  There's no entertainment for me, either.

Sorry for the rant.  Sometimes it seems like I'm watching a fight and a fashion show breaks out.

So let's move on to the folks who should have been the stars of this week's show:  the superfans!

Hey there, lady.  Don't you know folks have been decapitated while standing up on the top of a doubled-decker, sightseeing bus? Please stay seated while the bus is in motion and do not stand up until it comes to a full and complete stop.

Tim took the ladies on a nice tour of the Parsons School of New Design studio and then told them they would be the models this week.

Overall, the contestants treated their clients wonderfully.  There were no shades of Ven this year.  No one was told she was too fat, short, tall, awkward...etc...  Designers struggled with body shape and coloring, as you'll see from the outfits.


Bradon's model was in shape and stylish.  The dress is beautifully fit and looks good, but that was no big task with this woman.  Safe, really.  He is capable of pushing the design further and he didn't, probably out of consideration of his client.


While it just seems like a simple, black dress with an embroidery design element on it, how many of us have been interested in a simple top or dress with a strong graphic statement?  I think the instincts were right here, but I would have gone bolder with the embroidery piece and simpler with the dress.  As it is, the gathers make her a little frumpy.  I think the waist is too high.  The embroidery gets lost in the folds.  He managed to produce a dress that was comfortable and safe for this fan to wear yet allows her to make an interesting design statement.


He started off on the right track--a separate top and skirt make it easier to fit a difficult body.  A little, strategic color blocking fools the eye in a critical place.  The result wasn't bad.

I think it would have looked even better had he taken a lighter shade of the grey into the skirt.  Also, the seaming seems a bit wonky.  Still, it was a very thoughtful design.


This, too, was another thoughtful design.  Alexandra's client does not have a challenging body, so she had an easier time of it.  She produced three looks and the fit is great.  However, the three-quarter length sleeves and short jacket seem to cut her off and make her look even shorter than she is.  With better proportions, this could have been a winner.


Kate put on her best poker face this week.  Her client is certainly not a standard size.  As one of the stronger designers, she could have been up to the challenge.  Fabric and design choices, however, took her down a weird path.

I'm all for a tunic top over skinny pants, but this handkerchief hem trend is starting to creep into everything.  This is a good illustration of one instance in which it doesn't work.  The delicate sheer material looked lovely on the top, but a straight hem would have kept her from looking like one of Robin Hood's band of merry men.


Dom was another big disappointment this week.  You're dressing a client in an impossibly short period of time and for once the client is well aware that your time is impossibly short!  You have time enough to design a simple dress with the print or design a complex dress with a solid, but you don't have time for both.

Dom probably should have chosen a print with a lot less beige and taupe in it.  The colors are incredibly matronly.  If she was deliberately making a high waist, the skirt should not have been as full.

The mullet jacket is an interesting piece and one that would be popular with a lot of woman.  I would have liked to see it in the blue or maybe a darker shade of taupe.  In the beige, it totally fades into the background.


Remember, Ken claims to have "thrown the challenge because he wanted to leave."

He was not crazy about the green, although it looked lovely on his client.

The dress really could have been a winner if the fit had been better.  Had he some good will with the judges, believe it or not, this could have been in the running because it really flatters her.  Dom might have been shown the door this week.  I think Ken knew the fix was in for him.  I wonder if he was surprised about not being included in Fashion Week?


She looks like Timothy's sister!

Go back and forth between the two pictures for a minute.  Now, you understand why Helen won the challenge.  She remembered the MAKEOVER part of it.  She managed to transform her fan model into something she was not: a stylish woman ready for the red carpet.  It's really every Project Runway fan's dream--to experience a one-on-one relationship with a designer and have a dress made to fit that makes you look like a million bucks.  Helen presented it on a platter.

Yes, this continues the real woman challenge pattern of having the woman with a model's body win.  This week, that could have been either Bradon or Helen.  But I still maintain that if someone could thoughtfully design for a fuller figure, they'd be the winner.  In that aspect, a lot of designers fell short.

Both Ken's garment and this episode had so much potential, but fell way flat in the execution.  

EDITED-- I removed the references to Ken being expelled from the competition because it turns out that he wasn't.  It also turns out that he is does not, still have his emotions in control.  He was at Fashion Week as one of the decoy designers.  He had a meltdown moments before the runway show and refused to show his garments.  The full story is here.

Again, Ken's appearance on Project Runway this season has been very disturbing.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Project Runway, Season 12, Episodes 8 & the Sweatshop!

Greetings, Project Runway fans!

I took a week off from blogging, so I need to catch up.  Since I last blogged, we celebrated a big 50 year anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

So how far have we come?

Fifty years later, people compete to be on a show where they design clothes for other people to sell in their stores.

That's real progress, don't you think?

Let's look at the first sweatshop show....

Tim Gunn needs to ask for a raise.  Seriously.

Taking a look at Heidi Klum's workout wear line for New Balance, you can see why she asked the designers for a bit of help.

The task was to produce a garment that could be added into the line.  The designers really struggled with this.

Kate seemed to think the brief was to design a new uniform for the Boston Red Sox.
I liked the jacket and the little thumb thingies in the shirt, but the tights and cowl were overdesigned.

Ken: "Where I come from, everyone wears clothes like this to work out."
Ken, same here, which is why you didn't win.  Next....

Jeremy says that women are tired of wearing black tights to work out.  No we're not.  We do not like having droopy crotches. Speaking of droopy crotches...

Alexandria tried to repeat her "droopy crotch" win with another droopy crotch look.  Thing is, her model couldn't spread her legs more than 6 inches apart.  Forget running sprints or downward dog.

Michael Kors: "Poopy pants!"
Heidi Klum: "But I like the 'poopy pants.'"

She really does.

But would she wear them to a workout?

When your model is in a hurry to rip off the jacket and wad it up into a ball, you're in a spot of trouble.  Sorry Alexander.
Bradon was designing for the Hungarian women's track team. It looked nice, but no way was Heidi going to be able to talk her third world supplier into sewing all that piping.  
Justin thoughtfully designed for the woman who is too hot for her sleeveless jacket.
Karen gave up and designed cropped sweats.  Goodbye, Karen.
Helen: "So that leaves me?  Really?"
Yes, Helen is the big winner this week with hooded, mesh jacket that covers the butt, cinches at the waist and can be produced cheaply in the third world.
That makes two in a row for Helen!

On to this week's sweatshop challenge.

"Hi.  I'm the head buyer for Belk Department Store.  We're the department store that serves the modern, Southern woman.  This week, the free laborers designers are to produce a look that I can sell and make a tidy profit.  It's an honor for these designers to have me make a tidy profit off of their hard work."
Before we dive in, I just want you to know that this week, I actually met a real, live, modern Southern woman.

Janie Bryant is the costume designer for AMC's Mad Men.  I made a special note of what she wore: very high heel pumps and a red dress with peplum and sequins.  Her favorite thing is a pair of Prada boots with Swarovski crystals.

So these designers have quite a challenge on their hands.

Swatch: "Hey Tim, buddy...I chewed up all the florals.  We only have plaids in stock now."
Swatch!  You're such a scamp!
This was another week where Project Runway proves that old adage that you get what you pay for.  When you don't pay the designers, this is what results.....

Alexander: "When I walked into Mood, this was the only fabric that wasn't chewed up.  I thought I'd make it modern by not using straps and making the hem uneven."
Alexandria: "No, that was MY idea! Only I used straps because a modern, Southern woman needs straps.  And because you didn't want to see another dropped crotch."
Bradon: "In the hands of a master, like myself, the plaid dress that the modern, Southern woman is craving has not only straps, but a collar and a placket with buttons, using the latest couture techniques."
Bradon is the big winner this week.  Hooray for Bradon!  

Wait, we're only three designers in.  This means there's more....

By the time the "modern, Southern woman" idea got to Justin, all that was left was the asymmetrical hem.

Helen knows that the modern, Southern woman secretly yearns for 1967, a much simpler time.  Right?
And Kate knows that modern, Southern women secretly yearn to go back to 1971.
These designers were safe.  The ones that weren't were given a second chance....for the first time in Project Runway history.... Actually, I think Project Runway could use an historian.  Designers have been sent back before.

Ken, helpfully, thought the modern, Southern woman needed a prom dress with an asymmetrical hem. The judges didn't agree. 
Belk Guy: "It reads 'bridesmaid' to me."

Oh, that's not good.  Ken is already being edited as the angry, Black man this season. we're 50 years from the March on Washington.  Can't a designer of color simply stew in his own juices for a moment without something being read into it?

They gave him a second chance.  And Kate, that judges' favorite, helped him out.

Is she helping or trying to sabotage?  We'll never know....
Hoo-chee-coo!  Way too short, which means that Heidi loved it.  Actually, in a weird turn of events, Heidi thought it was too short and Nina thought it was better than the first dress.
Zac Posen and the Belk Guy didn't get any of the judges' secret hallucinogen stash this week.
Dom: "The modern, Southern woman needs a two-toned gown with a slit up the thigh!"
Dom was also sent back to re-work her outfit.  She chose Helen to help out. 

She used the fabric she had originally wanted to use.  The look is ok...with that mullet hem that everyone seems to love so much.  The bodice is a bit too misshapen for my tastes.  Maybe modern, Southern women would like it.  Belk Guy?

Belk Guy: "They would like it and I love it!  I'm picking this as the second winner this week! And yes, I found that secret stash..."
Oh, I'll leave it to you to debate amongst yourselves over whether or not there should be two winners.  Just keep this in mind: the only thing Bradon and Dom won this week was the privilege of having someone else make money off of their work.  There was a time, once, when winning a challenge on Project Runway meant that you got a free trip somewhere, maybe a computer, maybe the use of a car for a year.  Now, all you get is to walk past the store and see your garment on the rack.  Maybe you'll stand there and point, "Hey everyone, I designed that!"

Your bank account is still as empty as it was when you started.  Yay!

The big loser this week was Jeremy.

Jeremy: "A modern, Southern woman needs a proper suit."
Perhaps.  In fact, I thought the idea was spot-on.  The judges mumbled about "matronlyness."  What.  Ever.  The real problem with the outfit was that the jacket was poorly designed and downright sloppy.  The color and texture of the fabric were a bit too heavy.  It's too bad he didn't have any more of the dress material.  I would have suggested a cardigan jacket out of the dress material to go with the dress.

But he had Alexander helping him and not me.

Alexander: "The asymmetrical hem worked for me..."

It ended up being the simplest of the three second chances and Jeremy was out.

I didn't have any of the judges' secret stash, so I think Ken should have been the one out this week.  But in the end, all of our designers after the eighth challenge end up being the big winners because they were all able to show at Fashion Week, this past week in New York.

Until next challenge....