Darlings, last night began a new season of my beloved Project Runway, with my beloved Tim Gunn, and the fabulously deranged Heidi Klum back on my TV screen. Oh, and Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. Not that I don’t love them, but for me it’s all about Heidi and Tim. And the design. Okay, and some of the drama.
For those of you who don’t care and those who don’t want to be spoiled, here comes the cut. Follow it if you want to know who and what I’m snarking on.
The good: Overall, I’m impressed thus far with the level of talent I’m seeing. I’m excited that there are at least four designers (Christopher, Elena, Kooan, and Ven) are masterful at fabric manipulation. This is something that I love, so it makes me happy to know I’m going to see people going head to head with such a technically challenging aspect of garment construction.
There are also several designers who I know I’m going to enjoy watching because I find their personalities appealing. I want to hang out with Andrea, Fabio (though not eat at his house, since he’s a ‘freegan’ that’s a person who dumpster dives for their groceries on principal), Buffi, Melissa, and Nathan. They all strike me as the kind of people I could meet at a party and really have a conversation with. There are several others I think could easily fall into this category on slightly more exposure.
The Bad: It really looked like sewing machine hell last night. Machines appeared to be eating fabric and trying to take a bite out of contestants. I say they ought to have been fed (the machines, that is) before people sat down and got their hands and fabric chomped. Have these sewing machines and sergers been serviced properly of late? Or are we really looking at a bumper crop of people who know everything about sewing except how to run a machine successfully?
The Ugly: Two attitudes. Ven and Gunnar are possessed of two of the most obnoxious attitudes I’ve seen in many a yonk. Ven appears to hold the talents of all the other contestants in absolute contempt, which is annoying. But at least he seems to save most of it thus far for the one-on-one interview segments. Still, that’s the kind of attitude that seeps out of pores, so it’s not like the others won’t become aware of it soon. Gunnar, the youngest contestant this season at twenty-two, made the final twenty last season only to be cut before even getting to Parsons. This year his design sense has matured a great deal, but his attitude hasn’t progressed one iota.
I’ve known people just like him. They meet someone, project an attitude they want to fight onto that person whether it’s there or not, and proceed to engage in all out war with someone who – as often as not – has no idea they’re involved in a life or death struggle. Gunnar seems to have decided that Christopher is his nemesis… mostly because Christopher asked him a question about his influences. Now Gunnar is convinced that Christopher is a diva who is trying to outsparkle him, and that must never, ever be allowed to happen. Christopher, meanwhile, seems to me a fairly low-drama person who mostly wants to make pretty clothes and hopes to win a lot of money and prizes via his talent. Will Gunnar outgrow this particularly annoying personality trait? Judging by the other people I know who have shared it… I’m wishing rather than expecting.
Random Stuff It’s Good To Know: The accessory wall is by Lord and Taylor this year, and that’s who the exclusive line of the winner will be designed for. There are photographs of the winners of the previous nine seasons hung on the wall to inspire/intimidate the contestants. Tim Gunn is awesome.
So, the challenge this week was for each designer to bring one look from their audition, create a look that would fit in the same collection, and show both looks in a mini-fashion-show in Times Square. They were given one day and a hundred dollars to do this.
We discover along the way that Beatrice doesn’t really sew very much and is a little lost with it. Christopher’s model turns out to be significantly smaller than her measurement card read and he has to completely redo the entire dress he’s been making in about two hours – but he doesn’t then become angry at the model. Refreshingly enough, he simply treats it as a problem to be solved rather than a plot to get him. Raul picked a fabric the sewing machine finds particularly tasty and by the way it’s so sheer he has no idea how his model will wear it without exposing herself. As per usual, the group divides quickly into the quiet workers and the noisy workers with the quiet ones finding the noisy ones distracting and the noisy ones wondering why the quiet ones won’t play.
Eventually we reach Times Square and meet our judges. There are two guest judges this week: Lauren Graham and Patricia Field. For those who don’t know her, Field is a costume designer and stylist who holds the distinction of having been the very first guest judge on the very first episode of Project Runway all those years ago. She’s also fabulous. I find myself really hoping that we’ll stick to the two guest judge deal for the season. All too often in the past couple seasons, it’s wound up being Michael and Nina vs Heidi and the guest judge, and the whole thing seems to get decided when either Heidi or the guest judge gives in to get a little peace. Having a panel of five eliminates this kind of victory by steamroller vibe.
I won’t do the play by play because I’d still be writing when next week’s episode airs. Suffice it to say some really great design came down the runway, some quite good came down, and a couple serious goofs also made it down the runway… but I could tell almost immediately which three were going to be sitting on the chopping block, and I was right.
At the top of the heap sat Ven, Christopher, and Melissa. At the bottom were Kooan, Beatrice, and Lantie.
In the end, Christopher wins with a spectacular pre-game evening gown that took a frankly ugly, limp piece of silk and turned it into an elegant, flowing evening gown with row upon row of graduated mitered tucks. If Madeline Vionnet came back from the grave and started redesigning her classic early thirties evening wear, it would look just like that gown. It’s an amazing piece of design, and a thrilling feat of construction.
My one caveat about his win? Well… that little black strapless cocktail dress he made on site suffered a lot in the construction aspect. It was a good idea for a companion piece, and if it had been executed anywhere near as well, I would be shouting hosanna from the rooftops for a new fashion star is born unto us. As it was, I do wish we had seen at least one judge bring up the fact that the zipper down the back was so badly put in that it looked as though the model was smuggling Pulcinella’s hump on top of her rear end. Nina did make a vague mention of construction issues in the dress, but seriously, that did need to be mentioned a bit more strongly.
The fact that I think it isn’t a travesty that he won in spite of how the cocktail dress was constructed tells you just how much I think of his other piece.
Ven and Melissa are both told they did well and released from the runway. Kooan is given a pass and sent backstage. I felt this was good, because while Kooan’s clothes are definitely not for the faint of heart, and while the pieces he showed were juvenile in the extreme in both concept and styling, they do show both imagination and skill to accomplish. Even if I hadn’t seen some truly amazing work in his portfolio, I would still be able to see that he’s got something worth exploring further.
As for Lantie and Beatrice… Beatrice showed one kind of pretty knit dress that I personally would reach for often if it was in my closet… and then covered it up with a really tacky poncho. Her second look of a lackluster sleeveless top and cute enough but not all that interesting knit pencil skirt with a hi-lo hemline did nothing for me. Lantie’s first look took a vintage 3-D daisy fabric and paired it with python skin for no apparent reason. The second took a dull lining fabric, covered it with an ugly and heavily ruched tulle, and slapped a piece of python skin on it as a little dickie.
In short, both did poorly. But where one showed two completely unwearable and frankly bizarre yet dowdy pieces, the other showed four pieces, one of which was both intriguing and believable in a real life closet.
So naturally even after Nina called Lantie’s second look ‘horrifying’ and Patricia Field called her ‘somewhere between a stylist and a designer’, it was Beatrice who was sent home.
I disagree, but I don’t think Lantie will last long and I doubt Beatrice would have lasted long, so I actually consider the point almost – though not quite – moot.