Let me get a few things out in the open; I am a true blue feminist and I LOVE FASHION. I love the history of fashion. I love the politics of fashion. Most of all I love the marriage of creativity with commerce that fashion encompasses, which explains why I heart "Project Runway."
For those of you who have inadequate cable systems, "Project Runway" is on the Bravo Network (which has the reputation of being "the gay network" although, reportedly, that wasn't the original intention). Every Wednesday a new episode debuts and then is repeated throughout the week. The show is hosted by "Victoria Secret" model, Heidi Klum (she is also one of the producers) whose English, thankfully, gets better with each passing season. Currently the program is in the middle of its third run.
Even if you don't like reality programming you might still like "Project Runway." For starters, it doesn't have an inflated idealism about examining the human societal condition under the microscope of a TV camera. It is a competition, but not one where contestants are competing with others as much as competing with themselves. Anyone who professes harboring a strategy for winning "Project Runway" in reality, just shoots themselves in their creative foot. Just ask Season 1 finalist Wendy Pepper. Since this competition is watched by fashionistas nationwide, it is poor judgment to want to come off as anything less than a cool customer with talent.
The major reason "Project Runway" works is the soul of it is based on testing creativity. The designers come from all walks of life and from different parts of the country. They are various ages, sexual orientations, and career development. Some need this show more than others. Careers can be made or lost depending on, not only the personal style of a designer, but also his or her personality – which is not far off from the reality of the fashion world.
At the beginning of every episode, the designers are given a task, a budget, and a time constraint. Throughout the show, they are interviewed as to their feeling about the challenge, the garment they are making, and their opinions about the work of others. In the end, their creations are strutted down the runway where they are judged by Michael Kors (American fashion designer) Nina Garcia (Fashion Editor for "Elle" magazine) Heidi Klum, and a guest judge.
Besides the creative aspect, the designers tend to be wittier and more articulate than the average reality show contestant. The last two seasons were dominated with people displaying great humor (much funnier than what you may find on sitcoms or other reality shows). If you happened to watch "Project Runway" in the past, you'll understand my hope that either Jay McCarrol (Season 1 winner) or Santino Rice (Season 2 finalist) will be given their own shows in the future.
This season there isn't a standout personality plus person, but the designers still have a lot to offer. The crowd favorite, Michael from Atlanta, designs clothing with an urban rapper flavor meets classic cut country club. Not only do I love Michael esthetic, he is respectful and supportive to the other designers without being overly cloying. He once explained a situation away by saying, "Captain Save-A-Ho." My money is on him for winning.
Laura, from New York, is a 40ish mother of five (she was in the early stages of pregnancy with number six while filming) and an architect by trade. In some challenges, she has been known to voice her opinion when not welcomed or warranted. Laura appears to be a very exacting woman, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, except every episode shows her audition video that featured her five sons running wild as she is staring out her high-rent apartment window oblivious to their destruction. Even for someone like me, who shudders at the idea of motherhood, I can't help but think, "Oh no, she didn't!" For instance, on learning she was pregnant again she admitted she wasn't happy about it, "but with such a large number of children one more doesn't make all that much of a difference. I'll throw it on the pile with the rest of them."
Laura's designs all have clean classic lines with a very feminine touch. She understands the different shapes and needs of women. She is definitely not a lady who allows a mere thing like motherhood to get in the way of her own style needs. She has pointed out, "For a mother of five, it is a short distance between a minivan and sweatpants; so I don't even go there." Patron saint of motherhood she ain't, but I'm hoping she will be a finalist.
Uli, German born but currently living in Miami, is brilliant with prints. She seems nice, but it is hard to gauge her personality. Many of her creations seem like the same dress with different fabric.
Kayne, from Oklahoma, runs a successful business designing pageant gowns. I like him. Kayne admittedly is "white trash," gay, and proudly small town. His designs can be over the top, and sometimes that works for him, sometimes not. His modern update of Marilyn Monroe was genius.
Vincent, from L.A., cashed in his 401 K to re-emerge into the fashion world (having once been driven away for unspecified reasons). He is neurotic in a not so funny way – think Woody Allen meets metrosexual, which makes me feel asexual. Further, I swear, if he uses the word "kooky" again…
Finally, there is Jeffrey, also from L.A., a recovering drug addict and a designer I detest for his rudeness (he was abrupt and cruel to another designer's mother during a challenge) and his style – rock God meets Wal-mart clearance rack. I'm hoping he might have an accident in the workroom while running with scissors.
This season started off with sixteen designers and every week narrows the lot by one until only three are left. This season marked a "Project Runway" first, a designer broke the rules (had some fashion books within his private belongs) and was told he had to leave. In the end, the three designers still standing are then given an X amount of cash and about three months to make a collection in order to show on the runway at the Olympus (yes, camera) tent during New York fashion week. My picks are Michael, Laura, and Kayne.
Because of my love for fashion, I would watch "Project Runway" even if it was hosted by a Baboon in heat with feral children modeling, but luckily for the series it has Tim Gunn. ~sigh~ I feel no self-respecting fashionista can talk about "Project Runway" without gushing about Tim Gunn.
Tim Gunn is the Department Chair of Fashion Design at Parsons New School for Design (established 1896) located in the heart of Manhattan. It is the Parson's workroom where most of "Runway" is filmed. The thing you have to love about Tim Gunn (even if you don't give a flying fig about fashion) is his dedication to style as a practical art form. In all seriousness, those of us who love fashion know that there are other important things in the world, but just because there are, that doesn't make the knowledge of fashion frivolous.
Tim Gunn personifies the ideal of the consummate professional. He is the type of man who, if he was a news anchor, no one would ever question his integrity. Even now, I would think him a fine choice to monitor a future presidential debate. Unlike so many in pop culture, he is a figure that says what he means, means what he says, but never says anything to simply be cruel or for personal gain.
Each episode has him going around the worktables to assess the garments the designers are working on. Gunn tells them what he thinks but doesn't belittle or cajole. He says things like, "Make it work" and "Carry on." He inspires and directs. Frankly, he is a model for all of us.
One of the perks of the show is Tim Gunn's weekly blog, which proves he is as impeccable in his writing as he is in guiding the designers. Once again, he tells it as he views it, even to the point of sometimes questioning judging choices – all with respect to the individual judges. It is rare to read something about fashion that is actually intellectually stimulating.
I speculate, that although this competition started out as a reality show, Gunn knows that it can, and has, grown to something respectable. Out there in the audience are future fashion and lifestyle designers looking upon Parsons New School of Design as future lawyers look upon Harvard Law.
To be honest, the show winds itself down to the point where I root for all of the designers. Many have traveled a difficult road in getting there (last season's winner, Chloe Doe, was a child refugee and youngest of eight sisters) and there is something very intimate about watching a person's creative process unfold. Although there is a cash award, it is to be used to start a fashion line, not to go breezing off into the sunset. Unlike a lot of television, "Project Runway" it isn't about making dreams come true, but starting them.
While in Paris, the challenge was to make a courture gown for 300 Euros ($375 American) in two days. My complaint is the ridiculous time constraints for some of the challenges. Give the designers three or four days because I want to see what each of them can do. FYI, for a gown to be considered courture in France it HAS TO BE MADE by a licensed courtier with the state. Further, 85% has to be hand sewn.
Vincent is out!! Thank heavens, I thought my man Michael might have been asked to leave, but they just let him pass through. Maybe they felt sorry for him since the first part of the challenge took place in Paris and some man threw eggs at the designers and models as they walked by his upper level apartment. I know Americans are hated, I know President Bush is hated…but egging fashion is totally uncalled for.
The winner was Jeffrey. His gown did have the look of a fashion spread, and to his credit, he was less annoying now that Angela was been given the boot. I still don't like him, but no longer wish him a painful "scissors in neck" death.
Uli was a close second. Kanye was given a lot of grief for his gown, although I thought it was the prettiest of the group. Laura had to sweat it out with Vincent as the two waited to see which one of them would be axed. Although I thought her gown was a bit homely in Paris, during the judging segment in New York it popped when modeled by a black woman instead of a white one (black dress with long sleeves with white chiffon collar and wrists, accessorized with a pearl choker looked stunning accompanied with ebony skin).
The assignment this week was to design a black and white cocktail dress for under $100.00. Two monkey wrenches (really three) were thrown into the mix. One the designers had to use all of the fabric they purchased thus insuring that they did not want to buy an inch more of material than necessary. The second surprise, two of the previously booted designers returned. Say hello to Angela and Vincent.
Throughout this season, Heidi has emphasized that there would be an advantage to winning challenges (something that had not happened during the two previous seasons) and that was to have a second chance as a contestant. To stay, Vincent and Angela would have to win the challenge or go home. Three people would be eliminated.
Laura, now looking really pregnant (which I find amazing since she was so flat stomached at the beginning of the competition – I suppose it takes longer to film the segments than I originally imagined) lost faith in her abilities. Since her couture dress received such a drumming on the runway last week, she even questioned if the fashion profession was for her. She is lucky to have a model that sees herself as part of a team and gave her some intelligent feedback about the overall look of the dress. Like all good chick flicks, after all of Laura's tears and self-doubt she rose like a Phoenix and won the challenge.
Neither Vincent nor Angela made much of a splash with their resurrections. I have no idea what Angela was trying to express in her early 20th century inspired Edwardian cocktail dress. Not only was her collar something out of a Shakespeare production, but it was in the form of a shrug. Yes, a shrug. Enough said.
Vincent had more than his share of bad luck. The clerk at Mood, the store where the designers buy their material, gave him an extra yard of material. Then the day of the show he was informed his model had been in an accident so a new model had been assigned to him. As fate would have it, the new model was bigger than the one injured, thus a zipper ripped. Although I'm not a Vincent fan, at least her first response upon learning the girl had been injured was to ask if she was okay. Yet, let's face it, we are talking about kooky vain Vincent, he never had a chance.
Once again, Michael was a contender for the win, and once again, he got on with all of his competitors. I love him.
I liked Uli's dress, but the sleeves were too long and the judges picked up on that. Honestly, her dress looked like it was the most comfortable one and I would have worn it in a heartbeat. I also liked the prints she selected for it.
Kayne and Jeffery were both on the cutting block, which we all know meant that Kayne was going home since Jeffery (even without immunity) did win the last two challenges. Kayne's black dress with one tiny white ribbon as trim in the back, did not technically fulfill the instructions for the assignment, but I thought if the thin ribbon had been a thick silk like ribbon (almost like a scarf) the whole outfit would have looked brilliant.
Jeffery's dress, to borrow words from the beloved Tim Gunn, "Was a hot mess." Leggings, mini skirt, a summer looking blouse; it looked more like a Halloween costume than a cocktail dress…or maybe it was Pippi Longstocking gets her groove on at the disco dress. Jeffrey's esthetic is so 1984 that even as a retro statement, its moment has thankfully passed.
Next week decides the final three so be sure to tune in!
As most PR fans are aware, last season, four instead of three designers showed at the Olympus Tent during New York's Fashion Week. One, the mousy woman originally from South Africa, whose name now escapes me, was a decoy so various internet sites wouldn't leak who the final three were (as they had done during the first season). If you look in Kitty G's archives, you will see that all four of the designers showed (a la season two) but the catch is…all four are in the game.
The producers made a smart choice in doing this. They knew the final candidates would be leaked, but instead of using a decoy designer they 'punked' the audience whom many have already seen pictures from the Olympus Fashion Show. Further, they have offered up a competition that includes four designers with vastly four different fashion styles, thus wetting the appetite for the finale.
The final challenge was for the designers to take two days on one outfit that would reflect the collection they plan to show. For $250.00, they could do anything, but in the end, they would have to sum up their fashion philosophy into three words.
Michael's game was shaken up when Uli took his model and his muse. He usually is a fast designer, but was still puttering with various design ideas after he had purchased his material from Mood. He went for a formal gown that was interlaced with cloth strips in both the front and back. On paper, the design looked good. I think because of time, Michael's execution was lacking. Overall, the dress looked fine, but wasn't stunning.
Laura played it safe, although Tim Gunn had told the designers to take it outside their comfort zone and show the judges something different. Laura believed that it was good strategy to do what she did best, a cocktail dress, but do it better than she had done before. Her dress was stunning and her execution flawless (as is the expectation from her) but even as a member of the audience I felt…yawn, I've seen this before from her. Even after the judges said they were afraid she was a one-note designer, she was the second contestant to get a pass.
This left Uli to win the challenge. Many friends, both here on the internet, and in my daily life, have commented, "Uli always does halter dresses!" At first, I was a Uli defender, saying such things as, "But they're cute." No more. The judges were all over her with praises on how she had stretched herself, but remained true to her esthetic. I was confused. SHE MADE ANOTHER HALTER DRESS PEOPLE! Okay, she shortened it. Wow, how innovative. True, she had the best model, and part of the challenge included taking a photo of their outfits as they might appear in a fashion spread, but in the end, it was a short halter dress.
This leaves my least favorite, but slowly growing on me, designer, Jeffery. I actually liked his dress. I confess, I find dresses with a red, white and blue color schemes tend to be patriotically corny - it is one step beyond flag waving, it is flag wearing. Yet, his dress would have been one I would have proudly worn on any occasion and especially for a Fourth of July picnic. It was just that damn cute. So, the only conclusion the judges could come to was tell him that they didn't like it, although they appreciated that he had stepped out of he had shown them something different.
In the end, it made little difference since both Michael and Jeffery, the two on the cutting block, were told both of them would be going to Fashion Week.
Next week is the reunion show, which promises to be interesting. Angela and Jeffery hash out his treatment of her mother, which most likely will put him back in my bad graces again. Dude, you don't treat people's mamas like that. If he dared say that to my Mama, he wouldn't be showing his collection in the Olympus tent, because he would still be in intensive care.
It will be fun to see the guy who was kicked off defend himself, remember he's a slick one. Laura will be more pregnant, which leaves me to ponder just how she manages to be a mother of five, pregnant with the sixth (hopefully, a girl or a future drag queen, because of the overexposure to fashion while in Utero), and design her first fashion collection for runway presentation. Love her or hate her, you have to give it up to her for demonstrating an iron will.
Last, but not least, sigh, even if Michael doesn't win the competition, it will be nice to see him win the cash for being the audience favorite.
See you next week.
It was the reunion show last night and I missed the first minute, but it didn't appear that the producers got the contestants all liquored up like they have in past reunion shows. Never mind, Vincent didn't alcohol to not make any sense. My goodness, the man's head is so big at times it is amazing he could actually fit inside a TV studio. Are the designers amateurs or not amateurs? That was the question posed. All the audience has to be aware of is that Vincent himself doesn't see himself as an amateur. What an amateur.
Speaking of amateur, Keith was back. I admit to return after being kicked off for cheating shows a lot of gumption on his part, but then he ruined my goodwill when he started making it sound as if his pattern books were planted on him by one of the producers. First he said that he didn't read anything about pattern books in the contract that all the designers had to sign, then he said something like, "They were confiscated and then returned to me." Yes Keith, it was magic!
Laura is now very pregnant and so is Heidi. Angela still defends her mother and Jeffery still won't admit that he was a jerk about the whole thing, WHICH MAKES HIM A BIGGER JERK. Alison seemed gracious although she was cut way too soon. Michael got his check, the most obvious surprise ever, and Uli is still German.
Tim Gunn talked about the variety of the challenges and I thought, wait a minute, what variety in the challenges? This season was the most under whelming season for challenges yet! I would rehash some of them, but I would fall asleep at the keyboard. Besides, the people who read these articles are Project Runway fans and I have a feeling I'm preaching to the choir.
Maybe it was because this season was rushed, debuting only a few months after the second season had ended, but I didn't feel as if there was the mix of personalities as there were the seasons before…nor really the talent. I still love this show for what is and the fact that creativity plays such a large roll in it, but this has been my least favorite of the seasons.
Probably the best part of the show last night, wasn't actually part of the actual episode, it was Jay McCarroll's commercial about his car. We see him buzz around New York. He talks about his upcoming show in Bryant Park as he is accompanied by his muse of the moment, a mannequin. We then see them sharing a romantic luncheon together. I miss Jay Bird.
Next week Tim Gunn goes to check on the designers' collection progress. Thus, we will see Michael's, Jeffery's, and Uli's cribs. Hopefully, when he visits Laura, her unruly brood won't attack, kill, and then eat his remains. If they do, at least we know it will make good TV.