Apr 5, 2013

Project Runway — What Did We Learn This Week? Season 11, Episode 11

With just one episode left until the Fashion Week show, the end is nigh for Project Runway Season 11. That means these are the days in which even the most talented designers can be eliminated. (Or can they? We won't find out until next week! Ack!).

This week's challenge finally gave the designers the freedom to create their own work, free from meddling teammates with poor taste and even worse sewing skills. (Well, not for Patricia, but we will get to her later.)

The remaining five contestants were tasked with creating an "editorial" look for Marie Claire magazine, to be worn in a fashion spread starring actress Jordana Brewster — someone I have never heard of (nor did I know there are now SIX movies in the "Fast and the Furious" franchise. Barf!)  Judge Nina Garcia, who of course is fashion director at Marie Claire, gave them their marching orders, instructing the designers very specifically: no red carpet looks, no gowns, and no T-shirts and pants. To be considered "editorial," a look has to be bold in color, in shape/ silhouette, and be forward-thinking, she added. Did I mention they were told not to create a T-shirt and pants? Sigh. Oh, Michelle. 

Anyone who's seen more than one season of Project Runway knows the eliminated designers are going to come back at some point and play assistant to the remaining contestants. And it was clear from the outset that the drama in this week's episode would come at Patricia's expense; because no one wanted to be paired with Richard, she found herself stuck with him thanks to the dreaded "button bag." Awkward! 

But there was one other pairing that was surprisingly combative, and that brings me to...

Lesson 1: It pays to be an asshole.

Stanley had his pick of the lot, and he chose Tu, saying he was the best sewer in the bunch. But I think he chose Tu because he saw how effectively Kate bossed him around when they were paired up for the prom challenge.

Poor Tu. He was pretty unhappy working in Stanley’s sweatshop. But he took all the abuse, and kept sewing his heart out without complaint. In the end, Stanley won this challenge, and the judges even lauded his
 management skills (much to the amusement of the other designers, which was apparent from their raised eyebrows). I learned a lot about Stanley in this episode, chiefly about things he does not like (these are all direct quotes):
  • Losing
  • Mistakes
  • Things that are no good
  • Saying “please” and “thank you” 
  • Picking out stitches — especially out of leather
Though I hated the way he treated Tu (and also the word "culottes," which sounds too much like "clots"), I really liked Stanley's winning look:

I certainly wouldn't work for the guy, but I would buy his clothes. Even Daniel said he would wear these culottes.

Lesson 2: You don't have to know how to sew to be on Project Runway! 

The deadline to apply for Season 12 is April 8. Think you don't have what it takes, or that your skills aren't at par with triple-threats like Stanley and Michelle? Neither did Richard, and he somehow made it onto the show! (And he made it pretty damn close to the end too.)

In fact, I could namecheck at least two dozen of my readers whose skills far surpass that of Richard, who reluctantly returned to the workroom in this week's episode. To add insult to injury, he had to work with Patricia — his partner in the avant garde challenge for which he was eliminated. Though he was supposed to be her seamstress, Richard apparently doesn't know how to sew wovens, and Patricia had to teach him how to sew a French seam!  (Let's not forget he also was unaware that a men's shirt needs a collar stand, and didn't know how to insert an invisible zipper).

“I feel like I’m taking a class! You’re educating me so much,” said Richard to Patricia, whose eyes were so wide with disbelief at that point I thought they were going to pop out and roll across the workroom floor into a pile of shredded leather fringe. 

Richard, to his credit, just stood there and took it with grace as Patricia told Tim she had to change her look thanks to the fact he wasn't up to the task of sewing it. But still, we can't blame Richard for this tent-shaped, one-shoulder wonder, the saving grace of which appeared to be the fact that it had some visual interest (and wasn't a white T-shirt. Why, Michelle? WHY?):

(FYI: You can apply here for Season 12 of Project Runway).

Lesson 3: Zoom in. Closer. Closer still......Now: does your garment still look good on the page? If not, then it's not editorial. 

In the case of Michelle's white T-shirt, the answer was obviously a resounding no — and the result was perhaps the biggest upset in Project Runway history. (Or was it? We won't know until next week what her last chance will be. I can't stand the suspense! Also: I love Michelle).

Michelle's surprising failure to produce something that would send her on to the next challenge is actually instructive for those of us sewing bloggers who care about building an audience. Everyone loved her white T-shirt, and would want to buy it. But white T-shirts do not sell magazines, and they probably don't earn you page views either. Those of us who have attempted it know that sewing a really great T-shirt is not as easy as one might think. And Michelle's was superlative (though I think paired with those baggy green pants the outfit looked like something a mid-'90s raver would have worn paired with a soother on a chain):

Meanwhile Daniel's banana yellow shorts-suit set met the criteria of being interesting to photograph, though everyone agreed he should have paired his winged vest with a long flowy skirt. I think Daniel's thought process goes something like this: "Of course I'll do a jacket...with crazy shoulders...but how to make it young? I know! Short shorts!!"

Miss Chiquita 2050

Layana likewise nailed this challenge, with her armor-like pieced leather bodice inspired by the exterior of the Heart building. I don't love it, but you have to imagine it would jump off the page:

I got up early this morning to watch this episode online (because I don't actually have cable). And when Lucy woke, she joined me for the runway. At some point during the runway show I said, "I wonder who’s gonna win."  Lucy replied: "I wonder who’s going to cry." And then she totally predicted Michelle's elimination/Patricia's tears. So maybe she should be writing this thing? Either way, tell me what you thought! Any predictions as to Michelle's fate?


  1. I really love Michelle as well. If they get rid of her I will be pissed. Seriously. Patricia should have gone home a long time ago. I really don't get it.

    1. Funny, I have a totally different take on Michelle, I think she's a phony, a backstabber and not as fabulous a designer as she has convinced everyone to think she is. She also sucks up to Tim and he eats it up. That top and those pants were deeply average and looked something right out of The Sewing Workshop, a company that has been selling patterns with that look for years. Patricia on the other hand is a true artist and her work reminds of me a designer such a Alabama Chanin and that type of embellished work is not really well suited to a show Project Runway.

  2. Can I just say that I love these posts? It's all the important bits without actually having to listen to the silly drama for an hour! Also on the Michelle train though; I really hope they "miraculously" keep her.

  3. I totally agree about Michelle......why didn't anyone say, even in a snotty tone. "Nina doesn't want a t-shirt" helloo! Patricia shoud've left long ago, but she is interesting and he style is her own and it is a design show, not a sewing show (ps would love a sewing show)
    I think Stanley against Michelle would be a great battle if she can make it back into the fold.

    1. I think the other designers saw Michelle as the one to beat, so at this point they're not going to say anything to help her. Layana in particular looked so shocked!

    2. I know I was totally shocked.

  4. I'm going to stick up for Patricia here. You can also tell that Zac and Heidi like her, and I think for good reason, she makes interesting textiles. Michele's work looks like many, many design student work that I have seen. She is also quite mean and full of herself. I knew they were going to keep Patricia, because they kept over focusing (in the video room) how full of herself she was by saying harsh things against her fellow contestants. Michele has a degree in print making and took pattern and draping classes from her local community college. Patricia on the other hand has way better credentials, having gone to the Chicago Art Institute and worked for a tailor in Italy. I personally hope that Patricia makes it to the end. As mean as Stanley is, he is really good, and will most likely make it.
    My daughter has a fashion design degree from a very good art school, and is now in London working on starting her own line. Out of the blue, Project Runway contacted her to go the castings. She isn't sure if she is going to do it or not. It is interesting though that they solicit people as well as take applications.

    1. That's amazing! And you are right about michelle's snark in the interview room. When she called Stanley's jacket "turd brown," I thought something was up! The thing that strikes me about Patricia is how much better her portfolio is than her work on project runway

    2. She seems really detail orientated with her ideas, and given that they don't have a lot of time to execute them, her ideas aren't fully formed. Perhaps she just doesn't work well with short time constraints. This is why I wonder if my daughter will do it or not, because she has huge ideas that take a lot of time to execute, and I could see her end up like Patricia.

    3. Yeah, the project runway constraints don't really let everyone shine to their full potential.

    4. I do think the judge with the time constraints in mind(or else how would some of these people still be here), but it would be nice if they did give them some things that they would have in the real world, like a sewer. Not all designers sew well and not all people who sew can design. And I actually like the teams thing....I wasn't sure I would. They will have to deal with allll kinds of personalities in the real world.

    5. Elizabeth, I am with you on this one. Patricia has remained committed to her vision and style sense from the beginning, and if anything, deserves kudos for making the best of the 2nd pairing with Richard in a way I don't think any of the other divas would or could have. While I realize this show is not won by compassion, Patricia deserves her props: She was selected to be on this show; she has not sought to win by stepping on the heads of others such as Layana and Michelle have; it was revealed that she dealt with discovery of a tumor(later found to be benign) as the competition was unfolding. She is an artist - she is invested and in true belief of her design, and she does not bend to the predictable and sometimes juvenile tastes of Ms. Heidi and Ms. Nina. Even as I watch my other fave, Daniel, sometimes crash and burn, perhaps in crazed pursuit of the approval of these 2, Patricia has my respect for being totally herself.

  5. Oh Elizabeth, how exciting for your daughter! You'll have to let us know if she appears on the show. And thank you for your input about Patricia. I didn't know about her past training, although she certainly has made some interesting creations. I will look at her with a different eye now.

  6. I really enjoy your commentary. I was extremely frusterated with last episode. Why could they have not brought back all of the eliminated designers. Mysteriously, Patricia's name was the last button pulled from the button bag. Darn the luck! Does anyone believe that was luck? Not me. I think her look was terrible, and deserved to go home. I believe she got a free pass after getting stuck with Richard. She would have done better telling him to go out and play in traffic while she worked alone. I never liked Michelle much until her Lord & Taylor dress. I liked her look last night, but it was exactly what Nina said that she did not want. It would not have photographed well at all. Her smack talk has driven me over the edge. I thought for sure they would have picked Layana's, but maybe it looked too Cosmo. Her white skirt was such a cobbled together afterthought. We did not see bratty Layana last night, but I've seen her enough that I don't root for her at all. I really did not mind the bright yellow of Daniel's outfit. Magazine covers usually feature crazy bright clothing. I think his shoulder were a bit too exuberant.
    Wonder what crazy task do they have for Michell's next week?

  7. i have definitely come around to appreciating patricia more than i did at the beginning. i really thought she wouldn't make it past an episode or two, so glad she has stuck around. i wish she would have just shoved richard aside and done her own thing. she could have created something respectable instead of that sad sack with fringe! richard... oh my gosh french seams? really?! that's basic sewing. really basic. at one point my husband turned to me and said "so you can do that, right?" um, yeah. that was one of the first things i learned how to do in my pre-serger days.

    i was surprised they liked layana's as much as they did; that flow-y skirt under the leather looked to me like she just ran out of time. michelle... why, oh why? i like her also, but she's had a few question marks throughout the season. when it comes down to it, i think stanley is the clear standout in terms of great looks and quality stitching. i really want his "turd brown" jacket--i would wear that every day. if he doesn't take the final prize i will be very surprised.

  8. Ugh, Stanley, what a jerkface who designs beautiful things. I also learned this week that he really is a robot. Woah. Patricia used to drive me crazy and I thought she was completely insane and a weird designer. Actually, I still think those three things but I also think she can do amazing, unique things. I agree with the other commenters that the time constraints don't allow her to showcase her best stuff. HOWever, she does have to step it up and has NOT done anything super awesome the last couple shows. Richard or no, you have to make it work!

    I think Michelle will stick around. That season with Anya they kept keeping her because they wanted to 'see more' even though she couldn't sew and had some real disasters. So I agree that you def don't have to know how to sew, and as the show goes on it becomes less 'one day in, one day out' if the judges see potential.

    I would love to see Stanley, Michelle, and Patricia at the end. Daniel needs to step it up. Layana can be somewhat more hit or miss so she needs to make sure she stays on her game.

    Thanks for the posts, Suzanne; I wish we could all have this 'discussion' over coffee instead of keyboards :)

  9. Just watched the episode last night and um, i've been sewing for less than a year and i can do french seams. how do they not know how to sew. they're on project runway! blows my mind. i guess he just serges all his knit dresses? hmmm.



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