Crafty Manolo » Picture Imperfect

Picture Imperfect

By Twistie

Okay, I don’t know what’s been up with WordPress the last few days. First it wouldn’t let me log into the blogs for days, and then when I finally manage to get back… I discover it didn’t publish this article when I hit the publish button.

So at long last, here’s friday’s article, with my apologies.

Last week on Project Runway All Stars: Designers learn ‘aerosol art’ techniques which they must use on fabric to create a piece of wearable art. Laura honks off everyone in the room with her judgmental attitude and general humorlessness. Andrae, for once, isn’t in the bottom three, much to his relief. Emilio wins with a rather fabulous suit with a huge collar, while Suede is sent packing for covering his dress in spray-painted polka dots. Who will win this week? Tune in to find out!

Runway: Carolyn introduces the first fan-interactive challenge on Project Runway ever. Well, she introduces the fact that it is the first fan-interactive challenge in Project Runway history. Joanna Coles will have the actual details for them in the workroom. Well, that was helpful. At least when Heidi does this you get a couple arch jokes and pointed references the designers can fear until they hear the specifics. One of these days she’s going to have them convinced they’re going spelunking for fashion.


Workroom. Joanna has a friend with her. It’s Sandra Micek, Senior Vice President in charge of Marketing for USA Today. Micek informs us that USA Today is in the forefront of presenting news as a picture book in newspaper form. Er… that is they take a visual approach to the news. In honor of this, USA Today asked readers from around the country and, indeed, around the globe, to send in photographs via Twitter for the designers to choose from for inspiration. Joanna Coles gives us the trivia that in publishing, there’s a saying: every picture tells a story. Really? That one’s just in publishing? Because I’ve heard it in a lot of contexts.

At any rate, each designer will pick one of the literally thousands of images sent in and use it as the inspiration for a design. Micek tells them to think about the headline they want paired with their work. Oh, and in addition to the bragging rights that come with winning this challenge, there’s another prize. The winning design and designer will be featured in an article in USA Today. That’s a pretty big prize. After all, as Kayne points out, USA Today shows up everywhere, right under your hotel room door!

Funny thing, yes it shows up under my door every time I stay in a hotel… but I never read it. Don’t get me wrong, I like pretty pictures and charts and graphs. I just don’t like quite so many in my newspaper.

Anyway, there are two computers set up with the entire library of images to choose from. Since Emilio won last week, he not only gets to be in the first pair to choose a picture, he also gets to choose who gets first crack at the other computer. He chooses Casanova, since he feels Casanova isn’t trying to run any strategy. He’s just a nice guy who’s doing his best. Off these two head to find pictures. Emilio falls in love with a portrait of a little girl named Sophie. He has nieces around the same age. Casanova lights on a photo that speaks to him of androgyny.

And back they go to choose the next two players. Casanova picks (no surprise here!) Ivy to go next on his computer. Emilio chooses Althea for whatever reason. Ivy picks a picture of a dead monarch butterfly to represent evolution and positive change. Okay. Althea chooses a picture of a Victorian Gothic train station interior because her husband proposed to her in a train station. Interesting reason, but I have to say I love the picture. The architecture is amazing, and the light coming in through the stained glass windows has  a warm, restful quality.

Uli and Kayne are up next. Uli finds a rather glorious picture of clouds taken from above, while Kayne falls in love with a pile of random vintage costume jewelry, bless him. Kayne sends Joshua off to pick and Uli chooses Anthony Ryan. Anthony Ryan finds a picture of a series of grids and bars that, to him, speak of going forward. I’m not sure I understand his interpretation of the message, but the picture is strongly graphic and I could see it inspiring something pretty awesome. Joshua falls in love with a picture of dials on a wall. The wall has an oddly watercolor effect in the paint with bright blue, canary yellow, and small streaks of red bleeding into one another. It’s a pretty picture, but I worry that it’s too easy to get bogged down in the details and miss any larger picture. Still, I guess we’ll see.

And that means Laura and Andrae are the last two who aren’t picked. Andrae is clearly not happy about this, but seems like he’s used to it. After all, I’m sure it’s been going on since his first PE class. Laura, of course, is terribly perturbed by being the last kid on the team. She reassures herself – and all of us – that it’s probably because either they hate her for no reason she can fathom, or else they believe that she has everything so they should give her nothing. After all, they (according to her) want her to talk like they came from the same place, but she’s from a super upscale background and she just  can’t bring herself down to their level.

I’m sure it has nothing whatsoever to do with the catty remarks she’s made to everyone in the room, or her constant insistence that people are stealing her ideas.

At any rate, she chooses a pretty fabulous photo of a drop of water hitting a larger body of water. Properly interpreted, this could be something very special. Andrae, well, he picks a moody photograph of a woman who he identifies with in a blue moment. It’s a very pretty picture, but I don’t think I would pick it as an inspiration for the runway. It doesn’t really have a lot to grab onto for the purpose. I groan inwardly. For all that Andrae is an amazingly odd duck, I have a lot of respect for him. And when he gets the hell out of his own way, he can have moments of true brilliance. Unfortunately, that’s not the game he brought with him in his suitcase. I have a bad feeling about this.

Designers sketch. Laura is making a gown in silk charmeuse, because that’s how you show everyone it’s water. Well, I can’t argue her fabric choice. Althea has decided it’s time to step up and make separates. Emilio is playing with the proportions of the dress the little girl in his photo is wearing. And we’re off to MOOD with a budget of $150.

Andrae has come up with an idea that is either going to turn out to be weirdly brilliant or get his tush canned in a nanosecond. It’s going to be spectacular… but whether that spectacular will be of the victorious or the crash and burn variety is yet to be seen. He plans to make modular panels of clothing that can be mixed and matched ‘like a Tinker Toy of fashion.’ It’s ambitious, and at least it isn’t an organza jacket… but I’m worried about the lad.

Joshua is trying to match the colors in his picture perfectly, so I’m a bit worried about him, too. I don’t like him as much as I like Andrae, and I don’t think he’s the best designer here by a long shot, but I think he has enough talent that if he sat back for a minute and had a chance to think, he’d realize he’s going down a kind of scary path.

Back in the sewing room, things have finally reached a point where there’s precisely one machine per contestant and they all start marking their territory. Literally. Anthony Ryan puts a little AR in tape on his machine. I’ve never seen this before.

As much as I dislike Laura as a person, I have to say she’s taking a very smart tack this week. She bought ivory charmeuse and several different colors of fabric dye and is creating a pattern on her fabric by a combination of dip-dying, painting, and splattering her fabric. It’s turning out gorgeous and gives a sense of fluidity without trying to slavishly recreate the photo.

While she dyes away, she takes a moment to complain to Joshua that some people aren’t ‘sincere’ and so they don’t want to be friends with her. Boo hoo, sister. Maybe if you once talked to one person in the room as if you didn’t consider them pond scum, you could make friends with them, too. Joshua assures her it’s just the people who weren’t in her season and don’t know her well – which is at this point every person in the competition – who don’t like her, and he tries not to hear what other people are saying about her… but he hears. Of course he then interviews that maybe if Laura didn’t say things in such a ‘harsh’ way, well, maybe someone would want to get to know her.  Laura is upset that people don’t want to hear about her fabulous homelife and don’t understand that they’re making her feel vulnerable.

Yeah. The people in that room who have faced real hardships are the problem. Maybe if she ever listened to someone instead of insisting that hers is the only story anyone needs to hear, they might not shut out her stories. But when you talk to people who have experienced real poverty, or who grew up behind the Iron Curtain, or who have been disowned by their families for their sexuality… yeah, nobody’s going to weep about that time you chipped your nail polish grooming your polo pony.

Meanwhile, Andrae reacts to his ‘outsider’ status by setting up an extra workspace under his workspace and doing a Gollum impression. Somewhere in the distance, I hear Andy Serkis giggling. Or maybe that’s me.

Joanna Coles arrives with USA Today Style Editor, Alison Maxwell, in tow. They are both going to do the rounds this time. They start with Andrae. Andrae explains his modular panels to the ladies. Joanna can’t decide whether the idea is ‘bonkers or brilliant.’ Andrae decides it’s bonkers, but brilliantly so.

Laura says what she loved about the photograph she chose was its ‘vulnerability.’ Since she mentioned feeling vulnerable with Joshua earlier, I’m guessing this was the word of the day on her page a day calendar, because she seems to be working it in everywhere, whether it fits or not. Joanna says the dress so far is beautiful, but asks when people wear long gowns. Laura assures Joanna and Alison that she wears them all the time. I really, really believe that. Joanna is unsurprised by that, but asks Alison when was the last time she wore a long gown. Seems that was a good long while ago. She suggests focusing on making something that will fit into more lives. Laura nods, but immediately interviews that she’s not trying to make things that are ‘accessible to the farmers of America.’ Honey, you do realize you have just called the editor-in-chief of Marie Claire magazine and the style editor of a major newspaper tasteless hicks? She says she wants to make clothes that are ‘fashion forward’ and ‘progressive.’ As opposed to the random rags Joanna Coles wears? And shows in her magazine?

Suddenly I have a flashback of a previous life Laura lived, wherein she played at being a shepherdess with Marie Antoinette and a herd of Limoges lambs until some unwashed peasant types insisted on introducing her to Madame la Guillotine and Madame Dufarge smiled quietly to herself over her knitting in the front row.

Emilio shows the picture of Sophie that inspired his work. When asked what the headline is, he says happily that it’s ‘Sophie’s Choice.’ Joanna Coles reminds him of what Sophie’s choice was, and he suddenly realizes that just because it puns nicely off the little girl’s name doesn’t make it truly appropriate.

Joshua has a painfully tortured bodice of red with layers of orange and yellow piled on top. It’s looking odd and bulky and overworked yet painfully simplistic at the same time. It is not his best work by a country mile. Joanna warns him to make sure the outfit doesn’t wind up looking ‘arts and craftsy.’

Alison is clearly smitten with what Uli is up to. She looks at the picture and at the soft, pink dress it’s inspiring and feels that Uli is definitely on the right track.

Joanna is not smitten with Kayne’s dress. She warns that the black lace cut out on the back of the red dress could read ‘hookery.’ She loves Casanova’s pants, but worries about the little brown fedora he’s got sitting on top of the mannequin.

Ivy blathers about caterpillars and butterflies and people making themselves better… and I honestly think she hasn’t noticed that the monarch in her photograph is a corpse. Still, Joanna feels Ivy has found a place where she feels strong.

Anthony Ryan explains that his headline is Always Moving Forward and talks about how this ties into his battle with testicular cancer. I can see Alison’s eyes light up as she recognizes a really meaty story that makes every reader feel good.

Joanna isn’t sure where Althea got that particular shade of taupe from in her photograph. I’m not sure where Joanna’s getting taupe from. I would call that color sand. Eventually, Isaac Mizrahi will call it khaki. Still quibbles about color names aside, Joanna is pleased to see Althea stretching herself, but wonders whether the suit is as special as the picture.

Alison’s parting shot as she and Joanna are leaving is to remind the designers that they probably felt some feeling when looking at the photos they picked, so make sure that feeling winds up in the final design. That would be bad for Andrae, considering how forlorn he was feeling when he picked his picture.

Althea decides that after Joanna’s warning she’d better add a draped detail to her pants.

And the models arrive for a fitting.

Ivy snarks about Althea’s design. Laura hates on Kayne’s tastelessness. Joshua berates himself for biting off more than he can chew and everybody sews feverishly, knowing they have to be finished in the morning.

In the Night hotel, Uli, Althea, and Laura share a glass of wine as Laura hilariously insists she doesn’t want to be part of any ‘drama.’ Why is it always the biggest drama queen in the room who complains about everyone else bringing the drama? And when I think you’re a bigger drama queen than Joshua? Yeah, not a good sign.

Morning, back in the workroom. Everyone gets down to brass tacks. Anthony Ryan interviews of Andrae that he’s always thinking ten steps ahead, but it’s a miracle he ever gets anything done. I have to say, I think that’s a fair assessment of Andrae. His mind is a weird place, but full of ideas that don’t quite turn out. Like I said, when he gets out of his own way, brilliance ensues… but he’s not getting out of his own way. He’s too busy thinking too far down the line. The best chess players can see ten moves ahead, but never lose track of what’s going on on the board right this minute.

Models get primped, designers run around like headless chickens trying to finish their designs, Anthony Ryan marvels at how quickly Casanova sews. Casanova hates Althea’s pants – which are driving me batty from the other side of the television – and Kayne’s entire design. Andrae wonders if Debra from Alabama, whose picture he chose, is a fellow creative spirit. I don’t know, but I think if she’s watching, she’s probably worrying about Andrae about now. Oh, wait a minute! That’s me!

Joshua, meanwhile, is probably making his fans sad, too. His ugly, tortured bodice doesn’t even fit correctly,  and it looks just plain strange with his skirt, which – for the record – is also bizarre and unfortunate. At least he knows he blew it. He’s mostly praying not to go home on this one.


Carolyn introduces the two guest judges. First up is sixteen-year-old and highly influential fashion blogger Style Rookie… or Tavi Gevinson, as she’s known to her intimates. The other is fashion designer Charlotte Ronson, who has dressed celebrities like Blake Lively and Rhianna.

Let’s start the show.

First up is Kayne’s little red retro dress. It’s got a definite forties flair that echos the photograph he chose without trying to recreate it. It has a subtle Queen Anne neckline, almost cap sleeves, a form fitting skirt to the knees, and a diamond-shaped cut out filled with black lace at the back. It’s not the sort of thing that wins Project Runway challenges, but it’s a very pretty dress that I could easily see being a go to piece in a lot of wardrobes. Also, I appreciate that he sewed bra cups straight into the dress so that one needn’t worry about straps falling or the back of  the bra being visible through the cut out. Clever.

Next on the catwalk is Laura’s water gown of hand dyed silk charmeuse. That was definitely the right fabric, because it has an almost liquid quality when done properly.  The skirt is full without being bulky, but sadly stops right at the top of the model’s platform soles. That’s kind of an awkward length. It would have been better to either go shorter or go all the way to the floor. The bodice seems mostly composed of black illusion with a pair of panels of the charmeuse depending from the jewel neckline. It’s all illusion in the back down to the hips where there are two frankly kind of odd dentate dips. Not quite sure what that’s about. I have to say, though, that it’s a very good piece with a lot of potential to be actually great with some tiny tweaks. The dye job is fabulous, and it moves like a dream. I think we’re looking at a contender for the win.

Definitely not up for the win is Andrae’s interchangeable panel skirt and tube top. There’s a cute little boxy vest which the model takes off almost the instant she hits the runway. Unfortunately, this reveals what’s underneath. It’s mostly panels of kelly green jersey punctuated with panels in bright orange and mustard yellow. Unfortunately, with the heavy black zippers, the jersey is buckling in fifteen different directions at once. And aside from the panel concept, what you’re left with is a tight, short skirt and a tube top. Andrae’s chances of making it to the next challenge just pretty much dried up.

Casanova has made a pant suit with a very seventies feel to go with his photo of the gentleman in the piles of chains and the fox fur stole over his suit.  Casanova’s pants are beautifully draped and fitted palazzo pants in white with a large beige print that reminds me of fingerprints. I didn’t think I liked the fabric when he picked it, but the finished effect is kind of spectacular and I think Casanova is a definite dark horse contender for the season now. Over the pants, there’s a white sleeveless hip length belted top with a jewel neckline that suddenly takes a plunge to just between the breasts. Like Kayne’s design, I doubt it will wind up on top, but it’s exquisitely made and something I could see a lot of women wearing in real life, under the right circumstances. When the model turns around, I find myself less enchanted with the big cut out in back of the top. I tend to prefer it when the skin is shown either in the front or the back, not both at once. Still, the piece is skillfully made and shows promise overall.

Althea has wrought the ultimate Jeckyll/Hyde piece for this competition. Here’s what she did right: the jacket is nothing short of delicious. The cut is reminiscent of an 1830’s man’s coat, only with three quarter sleeves and an unexpected yet oddly elegant slouchy feel to it. The pretty teal shell. The styling of the piece. The capri length of the pants. And here’s what she got wrong: the choice of a shade of sandy tan that does nothing for her model’s coloring and thus makes her look kind of drab. And – far, far worse than that – the choice to make a draped bit on the pants. What could have been the aspect that made the look the hands down winner winds up being an eyesore of the first degree. There’s too much drape to ignore, but not enough to make it a good drape. As it stands, it just looks like she doesn’t know how to sew pants. While I think draping was a good idea, if this was how she was going to do it, she would have done better to have gone with her original idea of a skinny capri. As Yoda would say, Hammer pants or do not Hammer pants. There is no try.

And so we come to Joshua and his outfit of many colors. Look, you know I’m all about the color. I sometimes think if I see another little black dress I’ll scream. But it’s outfits like this that get color such a scary rep in the fashion world. The top is a vest that buckles down the front. The bottom layer is red, and then orange and yellow layers are placed on top of that with a wide strip of black at the bottom and binding the front. This is worn over a bright blue sarong skirt in what appears to be satin… to go with the cotton top. Even Joshua is aware that he’s laid a massive egg on this one. He’s just praying someone else screwed up worse than he did.

Uli definitely holds out no hope for Joshua. Her pale pink signature Uli dress with plunging necklines both front and back and a slight train (also, Laura should note the length in front for How It’s Done Properly) really does give an almost cloud-like feel. Funnily enough, the shade of shell pink she used? Is almost precisely her model’s skintone, making it kind of a glamorous nude. Seriously, it’s rare to see something that reminds one of fluffy clouds while also bringing the sexy like Lauren Bacall’s voice. On the downside, I don’t think the color photography in even USA Today will capture the pretty of the details of this one, so it’s kind of a non-starter for the win.

Ivy’s dead butterfly outfit is next, and in it she has faithfully reflected the orange and gold coloring of a monarch… if it was made of sherbet. If you know what the inspiration photo was, then you can see how she picked the sheer print from which she has wrought her palazzo pants. Unfortunately, she’s continuing her weird and unfortunate fondness for pairing completely sheer bottoms with spanky pants. I really don’t get that. Why not just line the damn pants? Anyway, on top of that is a cropped, sleeveless version of The Ivy Jacket in creamsicle orange banded in something narrow in dull copper. The pants also feature a cummerbund waist of the orange. If it weren’t for the spanky pants and the fact that this is the third iteration of the same exact jacket in four challenges, I would actually rather like it. But as it is, I can only agree with Laura (and shoot me now for typing those words!) and yawn dramatically.

Up next is Anthony Ryan with… yeah, I know it’s very well made, but I’m just not feeling this body conscious almost knee length dress. The skirt is white, there’s a black belt, and the empire bodice with almost funnel neckline is royal blue with a cut out filled with black illusion in front. I can appreciate the skill that went into it, but it frankly leaves me a little cold. Maybe it’s the super bare back with all the bands of black holding it on that still verges on threatening plumber’s crack. Still, it’s a pretty good representation of the photo, it would photograph well for a newspaper, and the judges do like Anthony Ryan (as do I, I must admit), so I’d say he’s got a good shot at top three at any rate. In fact, with the parade of clunkers on the runway, he’s got a good shot at another win.

Emilio has done a clever play on the little grey and white striped dress with yellow trim and sewing accessories that little Sophie wore in her picture. He’s made a hip-length swing bodice in bright sunshine yellow over a huge, poofy fishtail skirt in grey and white stripes. The skirt is lined in the yellow, and there’s a tiny flash of pink behind the knees that matches the measuring tape Sophie had around her neck. The jewel neck and armholes are banded in white. There’s a keyhole fastening at the back. I can see all the work that went into it. It’s beyond dramatic. It even gets across some of the deliciously joyful attitude shown by that little girl… and yet I don’t like it. I appreciate what he’s done, but I think there are maybe two women in the world who can get away with that look, and they’d both look a lot better in something else. And there’s my problem with it: it’s academically good, but it has no practical application.

On the top of the pile are: Laura, Anthony Ryan, and Emilio. These are actually the three I would probably have picked for this one, even though I have issues with all three designs and one designer. All three pieces would photograph well  and do a good job of representing the inspiration pieces. On the bottom, yeah, I think I would have had to pick Andrae, Althea, and Joshua, too. Every one of them managed to create something ghastly with all that bounty to choose from.

Of course, after the requisite grilling and mulling, there comes the pronouncement of fate. This week’s winner is:

Anthony Ryan! Yes, he gets the spread in USA Today.

Me? I would probably actually have chosen Laura’s design based on the look of it… but I’m still glad Anthony Ryan won because I can’t freaking stand Laura, so there.

Althea’s fabulous and much lauded jacket gets her off the hot seat quickly. She’s released to design another day. Just don’t let anything like those pants happen again. Isaac described the ‘drape’ as looking like a wound. Ouch.

And so it comes down to Joshua and Andrae and I know in my heart well before the tense music starts what the result will be. In four challenges, this is Andrae’s third trip to the bottom and Isaac can’t understand anything Andrae says to him.

Farewell, Andrae! I will miss your Harry Potter glasses, your odd takes on things, and your bizarre modern dances around the workroom. Meet me at the Red Lobster. I’ll bring Tim Gunn  and the macarons. And dear? I’ll always be interested to know what’s happening to you.

On a happier note, we leave the episode with footage of Anthony Ryan’s shoot for USA Today, which ran under the headline Everything Auld Is New Again on Project Runway All Stars.

Next time: Androgyny! Casanova has a headstart on that! Male models! Consternation! Jason Wu guest judges!

Tune in next time for all the drama, onstage and off.

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