Oct 26, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway THIS SEASON? Finale recap

Friends, readers: sorry for the much belated post. But I put off viewing the season finale until last night, so I could enjoy it with friends over a taco feast. And as much as I love them (and love watching Project Runway....and tacos), I missed many of the episode's finer points because I was too busy enjoying their company. So of course I had to watch it again today.

Also, I just spent an hour creating this animated gif of Nina Garcia listening to Char make the longshot case for herself as winner of Project Runway:

That subtle widening of the eyes...what was she thinking?  We may never know. But we can sure as heck speculate! (Mind control? "STOP GROVELING...STOP GROVELING...STOP GROVELING..."). Anyway, onward...

If there's one thing we can learn from the final four's Fashion Week collections (and, truly, the entirety of the season) it's this: constraints beget creativity. Just like the restrictive 5-7-5 syllable structure of haiku forces beautiful brevity out of the writer, the most focused challenges in Project Runway are often the genesis of true genius. (Remember the rainway? Or the storage lockers?).

Meanwhile, give the designers four weeks, $9,000 and free reign to do whatever they want...and the results can be disappointing. Like Kini. Sweet, crazy talented, speed-sewing Kini. What went wrong?

I know. None of it is bad. Oh, except this. This was bad. Like, linebacker-in-a-thong bad.

Char, meanwhile, was thrilled to be there. Making it to Fashion Week was her goal, so mission accomplished. Her collection was hip, sexy and wearable, though there were a couple snores and a few oddball fancy chic pieces that didn't fit with her overall vibe. I loved that all the models got Char's haircut:

(Note to self: email picture of Char's hair to stylist).

Now, imagine if she had a mentor to help her shape her vision into a more cohesive, unique collection...oh wait. Hmm. Well, she will probably kick butt on All-Stars in 2015.

Amanda's collection earned a lot of praise from the assembled ladies (and my husband and daughter), as well as the judges. I think she took that one amazing dress from episode 12 and then rehashed it 10 times (each time in a less-appealing color). If I sound like I didn't care for it...I'm just feeling a little defensive on Char's behalf. Looking again at the collections, I think Amanda had one good look:

Fortunately, we all agreed, the worthiest designer took home the big prize — the opportunity to design an accessory for Red Robin (seriously, Lifetime?).

Oops. Sorry about that last one. Honest mistake.

So what did you think about the season finale of Project Runway? Did the right designer win? What was your fave look?

Oct 18, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week? Season 13, Episode 13

The penultimate episode of each season of Project Runway is always a favorite of mine: you get a preview of the designers' collections, you get a glimpse at their lives back home, and you get to see their new haircuts. (I reckon if I saw myself on TV, my first response would be to book an appointment with my hairstylist too).

Char is probably not going to win this season of Project Runway, but she should get a special award for this 'do, which I love:

Colder months are approaching in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Sean's winter coat is coming in nicely:

And we should thank the producers for keeping Kini around; otherwise, we would never have had the chance to see Tim Gunn do the hula — the highlight of his trip to Hawaii:

Well, the highlight for us. Maybe more awkward contractually-obligated humiliation for him:

Back to the designers: sure enough, in creating their final Fashion Week collections, they returned to this season's signatures:

(C'mon Char! Can't you sew a slit, vent, or kick pleat into a fitted skirt?! I gave you a pass in the regular season because time was always of the essence. But here, in the finals....not cool.)

There was one designer, however, who shocked us all: Kini. I'm hoping he'll redeem himself in the next episode (which inevitably will include a trip to Mood, a whole new look and the return of previously eliminated designers to help). But for now, his denim-heavy preview collection was a disappointment. It's like he took his least successful look of the season and built an entire collection around it.

Amanda and Sean, meanwhile went the other route — taking their biggest successes and then flogging them to .....death? We'll see next week, I suppose. How many of you are stoked to see Amanda's patchwork maxi in shades of blue? And how many of you think Nina will drop dead upon discovering the fact that EVERY SINGLE PIECE IN SEAN'S COLLECTION HAS FRINGE?

Oct 11, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week? Season 13, Episode 12

So many of you had kind, supportive words for me last week about my new gig and the struggle to balance work/family responsibilities/and a smidgen of personal time. I appreciated your empathy and wish I could invite you all over Thursday nights for the duration of this season! So much so, I woke up again too early for a Saturday — which means I have a few quiet moments to reflect on this week's episode of Project Runway! As always, have your say below.

The most important lesson from this week's episode of Project Runway can be summed up in one succinct Ron Swanson quote (presented to you here in poster form, created by the Etsy genius Creative Sobriety):

This week the designers were first tasked with creating a new look from one of the previously eliminated designer's losing garments — while also assigned with that designer as a helper. This challenge was surely designed by devious producers determined to cause some fireworks between Korina and Char. Though Char put on a good front, Korina huffily asked to be relieved of her contractural duties. Tim let her go (thank you, Tim!) and Alexander instead returned to help Char sew her look.

And as if that challenge wasn't enough, the designers were then asked to also create a look inspired by the streets of NYC — a perennial challenge that usually results in some of the funnest fashion on Project Runway.

But their divided attention (even with the aid of a previously eliminated designer/sewing elf) was their downfall. You just can't half-ass two things (in the same vein: I am unfortunately half-assing this blog post right now; my family woke up early too and now they won't stop talking to me, sitting next to me, reading over my shoulder...it's so hard to whole-ass something when there's breakfast to be prepared).

Amanda definitely whole-assed her street style maxi dress. I think we can all agree it was her best work so far this season (even though I shudder to think of actually walking the urine-stained streets of New York in a maxi that length):

Her re-do of Fade's Samsung dress...obviously an afterthought.

Char, meanwhile, paired a printed black and white bustier with a sculptural skirt in Radiant Orchid. I didn't really get the pocket either. But the ladies do love their pockets, don't they.

From afar, her re-do was pretty. But up close it seemed to have maternity gathering/kangaroo pouch. 

Emily's street style look was so Emily. I think it was successful, even if Heidi and Nina would only deign to wear it as pajamas:

Her re-do look....definitely half-assed. The judges said it looked like it wasn't even her...which I have to agree. That print is amazing though. I may have to stalk the aisles of Mood to secure some for next Spring's sewing projects...

The judges loved Sean's street style look, this white structured blouse and skirt with cut-outs and shaping. I thought it was interesting how his inspiration — a man wearing an all-white tunic and loose pants outfit — translated into this unique look. I wouldn't wear it, but if I saw someone pass me by wearing this in Soho, I would assume she worked in fashion. That's usually the measure of a winning Project Runway look.

Meanwhile his re-do....what could we expect when he had to refashion Sandhya's hideous kiddie jumpsuit? That color...more fringe. Ugh. Moving on.

Kini was the one designer who whole-assed the re-do challenge, turning Mitchell's failed red carpet look into this stunning gown:

His street style look was an unfortunate mashup...a result of taking Tim Gunn's advice too much to heart. Maybe the coat looks like Michael Kors off-the-rack, but it was so well done, and in an unexpected fabric...the judges loved it. Something spare underneath could have helped him win. 

So what do you think? Which challenge was the more difficult one this week? What happens when you try to half-ass two things?

Oct 4, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week? Season 13, Episode 11

Friends, readers, others, I have a confession to make: I started a new job this week and though I feel like my first few days as a full-time, working-out-of-the-home-and-commuting-3-hours-daily parent was a success (I wasn't the last parent at after-school pickup even once and I managed to get a vegetable on my kid's plate each night for dinner! OK, it might have been a pickle, but the bar is low after an hour and a half on the subway, people!), I have to face the facts. I don't have as much time anymore to do things like write long, thoughtful posts on Project Runway. But (BUT!) luckily for you, I have early-morning insomnia today, so I am using this quiet time to keep up my committment to you. I may not have the spare minutes to spellcheck (Saturday mornings are now for housekeeping, chores, and laundry, ugh), but I will keep this conversation going to the bitter end. If I miss something (and I will) please add your thoughts as usual in the comments below. I read every one, even if I no longer have the time to comment in return.

Last week Tim Gunn declared Alexander's plaid amoeba disaster "the most hideous garment he has ever seen IN HIS ENTIRE EXISTENCE" (emphasis mine). I beg to differ (I can remember much worse from previous seasons of Project Runway) but I think we can all agree that the ugliest thing to grace the runway this week was Korina's horrible entitled attitude during panel. 

If I wasn't already convinced she was a complete narcisscist...well, ugh. As the young people say, I just can't even with that girl. 

We'll get back to her later, because it's instructive to watch someone devolve into childish defensiveness (I hear "it's not my fault!" daily from a school-age child, so when a grown woman does the same, I have to resist the urge to order a timeout). For now, some other lessons:

Lesson 1: Trust your instincts and thou shalt be rewarded

This week's challenge combined two of my favorite reality TV shows: Project Runway and Storage Wars — which my husband and I watch chiefly for the thrill of treasure-hunting. The designers (in teams of two) were each given 500 fictional dollars to bid on the contents of five storage lockers — which would then be used as their raw materials. Like Storage Wars, they couldn't examine the contents up close, and had to assess each locker's potential fabric value based on what they could see from outside the locker. And lest you think these lockers would be full of end bolts and vintage trimmings...they actually looked pretty much like the contents of an actual storage locker, bed bugs and all:

(I was just kidding about the bed bugs. Maybe. Who knows. Watch the interview segments carefully for scratching.)

Anyway,  like the smartest Storage Wars cast members, the designers who looked past the big picture (plasticy kids toys? Yuck!) to the singular standout items were rewarded in kind. Amanda spotted a "psychedelic yeti" painting she thought could form the base of her and Kini's two-look collection (see it way in the back there?). And crazy as it seemed near the beginning of the episode, that split-second commitment (and a bag full of soccer balls) paid off for the pair:

I believe that model in the middle is actually being straddled by the psychedelic yeti, which is weird — but the graphic cropped top remains cool even on top of a hefty bag skirt. Meanwhile, Kini's soccer ball dress (at right) was the winning look (talk about painstaking work; only Kini could pull off such a feat in two days). The third look (far left) was created in the clutch after Tim Gunn dropped one of his "extra challenge" bombs on the designers and sent them to Mood to make a cohesive third look. 

Lesson 2: Everybody Loves a LBD (Little BLUE Dress)

If this season of Project Runway has a signature color, it's this:

I love this blue. I really do. And I wonder how many of Sean's looks in his Fashion Week collection will be in this shade (because let's face it, that dude is going to Fashion Week). 

Above left: the judge's loved Sean's coat made from one of those quilted blankets used to wrap your furnishings so they don't get scratched when your methed-up movers overload the elevator. I love everything quilted and blue...I'm actually kind of inspired to file this one away in my "to make" folder. 

Middle: Sean's winning look from the Emmy red carpet challenge. 

Right: Char's dress she made in ONE HOUR with the help of Sean (smart girl; when in doubt, choose blue!). This dress ultimately defeated Korina in a balls-out challenge between the two, which brings us to our last lesson...

Lesson 3: A gracious loser is better than 20 smug winners

I liked Korina and Emily's three-look collection even though it did have an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink quality to it. I guess it's because I love layers, Fall colors and covering up while still looking sexy. But the judges were not into it — and they singled out Korina for her Navaho-inspired look (above left), which they complained she kept doing again and again. 

So they challenged Korina and Char (who was also in the bottom two) to a sudden-death fashion challenge: create a whole new look in an hour from the remaining materials they had on hand. It's not surprising that Korina lost; she spent much of that hour complaining. Bitterness, my friends, does not lend itself to creating beauty: 

But the merits of this dress became secondary to the fact that Korina is an icky human being. After losing to Char she couldn't leave graciously — she had to have one last dig at a designer "who she didn't respect," pointing out that Char had already been eliminated once...and implying Char didn't deserve to be there. 

"That was five challenges ago, and I am still here," Char cooly replied (don't you LOVE this woman?).

At this point Tim Gunn enters the room and Korina attempts to make herself the victim: "Don't make this about you," she says to Char. 

"Girl, you lucky there's a camera on me right now because I could break you."

Tim Gunn's terse "It's time for you to clean up your workspace" made it clear he knew exactly what kind of loser Korina truly was (and the reason he brought back Char certainly had something to do with the fact that her character is the antithesis of Korina). 

The preview for next week's episode reveals that the previously eliminated designers will be brought back and these two women will be paired up. I don't even know if I can handle watching that, I am so mad on Char's behalf. Less drama, more dresses, Project Runway producers. 

So what did you think of this week's episode? Who made the best use of their storage locker contents? What did you think of Korina's sour grapes?

Sep 28, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week? Episode 10, Season 13

My apologies for the much-delayed post, but if you knew how glorious the weather in NYC has been this week, you wouldn't blame me for choosing to spend the day yesterday romping around with my family instead of writing. Friday, which is usually when I write my Project Runway posts, was Rosh Hashanah and a public school holiday here, so that's the other half of my rock-solid excuse. Thanks for reading and let's get to it!

Near the beginning of this week's episode of Project Runway, my friend Lizzi texted me to comment on how crazy were all the people who turned down the designers seeking makeover models in Washington Square Park. 

But by the end of the episode we both agreed: we wouldn't say yes either. After all, would you want to be on national TV in a get-up like this:

Or have your semi-private parts exposed when a zipper bursts open pre-runway:

Also, if you're a Project Runway fan, then you know the winning designer of the "real person" challenge never has a short, stumpy model. And often (though it didn't happen this time) someone plus-size ends up in tears because there's a good reason why some of these designers are not yet a success: they can't fit clothes on non-model bodies — and their people skills suck. What if, I asked Lizzi via text, someone ignored my bottom-line and put me in a miniskirt and my cellulite was on national TV? 

"Oh damn," she replied. "What if they put me in COLOR?" (She only wears black, gray and blue, bless her heart).

Thankfully for the designers of Season 13, Washington Square Park is the kind of place where you can find tall, thin actress/ballerina/yoga teachers with time to spare and low expectations. Did the producers of Project Runway seed the park with the results of a "regular lady" casting call? Or are there truly that many attractive women with no prior obligations just lounging around the West Village on a sunny summer day? You and I will never know.   

Moving on to our lessons:

Lesson 1: Tough love from Tim Gunn will only get you so far

One minute, Tim Gunn is holding your hand and telling you that you are the most talented person he's ever met — and in the next he's doing the gentleman's equivalent of smacking the stupid straight out of you. 

This week Alexander nearly sent this cropped-top-and-high-waisted skirt ensemble down the runway. 

Tim intervened, calling it the "most hideous garment he has ever seen IN HIS ENTIRE EXISTENCE." Those are strong words from a man who mentored Timothy from Season 12:

Ah, memories
Sure, it may have resembled an oozing pizza monster costume, but "hideous"? Really? (I bet if Sandyha had designed it — and came up with a good justification, the judges would have eaten it up.) And did Alexander deserve to go home for his final toned-down cropped top and skirt look? How was that look (see the first picture above) any worse than Amanda's dress?

 No lie, I saw a better version of this dress on an extra in a Payless Shoes commercial yesterday (but my phone was out of battery so I couldn't snap a pic). If you are going to do chevron stripes, you gotta match everywhere (even Forever 21 can manage that much)....though even if she had nailed that, I think this dress would have been a clunker. It's too short and chevron...well, it's kind of dated now, isn't it? This belongs on a Pinterest fail board. SO WHERE WAS TIM WITH THE TOUGH LOVE ON THIS ONE?

Lesson 2: Side zips and short shorts are not a match made in fashion heaven

It was an apparent Project Runway first when Char was given a few extra minutes to resew a busted zipper into the flaming red booty shorts she made for a preschool teacher. Everyone else conceded she should get a break lest her model be mortified on the runway with her hip hanging out. (But of course they complained behind her back after the fact.)

I don't know. I hate wearing shorts and avoid them as much as possible, but a side zip? To me, that seems weird. I know an actual fly would take longer to sew...and a center back zip on shorts is tacky and gross (like the one sewn last week by Alexander, may he rest in peace). Maybe if they had more than a day for each challenge this season's designers could sew real-world closures for their real-world women.

 The lesson here: zippers are hard to sew and falliable too — even when you're a skilled seamstress like Char.

Lesson 3: Maybe Project Runway should be called "Project Would I Wear That?"

Too often, the most important measure for Heidi, Nina and the guest judge is "Would I wear that?" — which shouldn't be the only test for fashion supremacy. Zac is the one judge who cares more for creativity and vision than whether something would show off enough of Heidi's legs. 

How else to explain the fact that Emily's interesting look...

...lost to Korina's motorcycle jacket. 

Kini's look, meanwhile, did a great job of answering the challenge; he channelled his model's personal style into something cooler than she would have chosen on her own. Heidi would never wear this though, so sorry, Kini:

Meanwhile in real NYC this week I took my daughter to Mood in search of some Halloween costume fabrics. Guess what we spotted while we were there:

That's right! Char's fabric from last week. It's $18/yard and Oscar de la Renta. You can find it with the printed cottons. You're welcome.

Also: Did anyone see the commercial for "Project Runway Threads" — the kids Project Runway? After Master Chef Junior I knew it was only a matter of time before someone developed a Junior Project Runway. Anyway, can't wait to watch it with my kid!

What did you think of this week's episode? Were any of these outfits a game-changer for you?


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