Mar 30, 2013

Project Runway — What Did We Learn This Week? Season 11, Episode 10

Each season of Project Runway we can expect to see a number of the same challenges: the Unconventional Materials Challenge, the Ready-to-Wear Challenge, and the Challenge Where They Bring Back All of the Bitter Eliminated Designers So They Can Undermine the Work of the Remaining Contenders. (That's next week's challenge; I know I can't wait!).

And for several seasons now Project Runway has also featured the "HP Design Challenge," in which the designers have the opportunity to create their own printed fabric using state-of-the-art touch-screen technology. It may just be the greatest bit of cross-promotion ever attempted on TV: how many of us wish we could create our own perfect prints so easily in an hour without any special training? 

I love this challenge. I think it has produced some of the best garments on Project Runway. Remember Mondo's amazing HIV-positive-inspired pants?

How simple is that? It's just an outlined plus sign repeated ad nauseum. But the scale is perfect, and the contrasting colors work together to create something chic yet whimsical...if I were a Project Runway contestant I would be taking notes. 

This time around, the designers were given an additional consideration: their garments must be inspired by the Guggenheim Museum — and be avant garde. (What that means exactly is often a challenge for Project Runway contestants.) And because they are in teams of two, each pair also had to design a ready-to-wear companion piece. 

Head ready to explode yet? Poor Richard's was (and his cranium is unusually large, so I would caution his partner Patricia to stand back!). Doesn't he look like an angry lion?

We all knew from the outset that pairing Richard with Patricia was going to be a disaster akin to locking a fox and a badger in a room full of fabric. This combination even managed to somehow put Patricia in the unlikely position of clock-watcher as Richard dragged his feet on his garment, instead crafting a fiddly bracelet THAT DID NOT EVEN MAKE IT DOWN THE RUNWAY. 

I don't know if this can be corroborated, but Patricia even alleged Richard did not know how to install an invisible zipper. It seems unlikely that someone could make it on to Project Runway — and not be eliminated for nine episodes! — without first learning how to install a zipper. But this is the same guy who claimed to not know that men's dress shirts require collar stands, so I wouldn't put it past him. Not surprisingly, I can't find much to learn from his ready-to-wear look: 

It's not the worst thing I've seen on Project Runway. I would never wear a white skirt (too many tampon commercials burned into my brain, I guess). But how does it relate to Patricia's avant garde look? There's our lesson:

Lesson 1: If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. And in Richard's case that means falling right under the proverbial wheels of the reality show bus that is just waiting to crush you the moment you flinch.

Not having the use of your arms is pretty avant garde, isn't it? I think Patricia's look was quite pretty, though I generally prefer garments that don't totally ignore function in favor of form.

Since Patricia was handling the avant garde look, Richard felt he had to cow to her vision. But her visions apparently can't be explained, so what was the poor guy to do? As terrible as he is, you had to feel a little bad for the guy.  

Lesson 2: If you throw enough crap at the wall, some of it will stick. But if you just keep throwing, soon enough your wall is covered in crap. And is that what you really want? 

Layana, whose whining finally put me over the edge into the eliminate-her-now-please-NOW camp this week, threw a lot of crap onto her dress, which was supposed to be her team's avant garde look:

The judges described it alternately as "Eliza Doolittle," "Southern Belle," "Kentucky Derby," and the worst — that it looked like Daniel designed it. Ouch! This 19th century gown does not relate in any way to the modern print they created (which I think reads plaid from afar). But take all that crap and organza off this dress and what have you got? Something that's neither avant garde nor even all that attractive.

As for Richard, when he's good, he's very, very good (but when he's bad, he's abysmal). So....

Lesson 3: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. This week Daniel reprised his Joan Collins jacket (remember it last week in hot pink?!), but added an edge (which Layana took full credit for):

That jacket is inspiring. It's a case study of how the same design can be made with wildly varying degrees of success, depending on your fabric choice (how much do you love the sleeves and collar in leather?). Also, Richard has done those same shoulders five times now, so naturally they were perfect.

He also somehow made that ho-hum skirt out of the teeny scrap of fabric that Layana left for him. (Do you think she was spoiled as a child? I do.)

Michelle and Stanley, meanwhile, are clearly headed for Fashion Week (argue with me in the comments below if you disagree!). Unlike the other teams, which failed to bring out the best in each other, these two hit the ground running with their original and inspired "woman on the verge" print and a shared silhouette inspired by a sculpture at the Guggenheim.

Lesson 4: Sometimes it's good to be judicious with a print:

See it used for the shoulders of Michelle and Stanley's avant garde look
And sometimes a whole bunch is just right:

Stanley's ready-to-wear dress, made from Michelle's print

What was your favorite look this week? Did you learn anything you can apply to your own creations?


  1. I fell firmly and irrevocably into the same camp (about Layana) as you did this week. Maybe partially because I am a Daniel fan, but also she is just unbearable. And I think you meant Daniel rather than Richard on Lesson #3? :D

    1. And I agree about the strong one! My husband called Michelle as this season's winner by the end of this week's episode. We'll see! :)

    2. Yes, you are right! Thanks for pointing it out (must have been a Freudian slip...I really was happy to see Richard go!)

  2. I thought Michelle would be the winner of this one, since she designed the print and made that coat and did all the hand-painting, etc, so I was surprised that Stanley got the $10K. The producers didn't focus on it, but I could sense Michelle's disappointment about that one. Not sure how I feel about their print design; from afar it looks like a bunch of floating peanuts. But up close it's pretty creepy, and I kinda like that.

    I still don't have a favorite designer, though I just want Patricia to go because I haven't liked a single thing she's done. I couldn't believe Layana's post-runway meltdown. I had 66% liked her before this episode, but now I'm just annoyed by her immaturity. Onto the next!

  3. spot on! i think you have the best PR review out there. you should get paid for it. :)

    layana... what a brat! couldn't believe her behavior on this episode. i had kinda liked her before, but she is firmly on my "needs to go" list also. props to daniel for not putting her in her place.

    i kind of think michelle was cheated out of the win here. all in all i think the judges simply preferred his design to her's, but without her print he may not have had the winning look.

    i haven't liked richard all season, and his departure was long overdue. i've been ho-hum on patricia, but i felt sorry that she was paired with such a deadweight for this challenge. richard was just begging to get kicked off.

  4. None of the textiles they designed really spoke to me. Everyone did the same thing,they created a stand alone motif and just repeated it - the results were boring and each print was over praised if you ask me. In fashion schools there are entire degree programs built around textile design and production. Also on a different note - one has ever said anything about those YSL pagoda shoulders that Daniel does - they are *very* difficult to make and yet he can whip them out beautifully week after week. I'm shocked that particular detail has never been noted favorably by the judges (especially Zac Posen who should know exactly what I'm talking about.)

    1. Its so true. Also, the fact they are in teams means we only got to see three prints developed...I would have preferred to see them each develop their own.

  5. I agree with yours and the others' assessment of Layana's behavior. *groan*

    In seasons past, haven't the judges railed against designers who don't use the fabric as a primary feature of their design? Did Michelle get a pass because she was doing the avant garde look? Just curious. I agree she definitely deserved the win, even though Stanley's look was my favorite. It's the second week I've been inspired to re-mix the Laurel - this time to make it a baby doll dress with pockets. They make a stellar team.

    At one point when Daniel was smiling and talking, he looked eerily similar to Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. I like Daniel.

    Your recaps are awesome. These discussions make me happy.

  6. You'd think that a designer would have to be able to sew a zipper to make it through 9 episodes? Maybe when it was still on Bravo, but not anymore. Have you forgotten that Anya won a few seasons ago and she couldn't even make a sleeve? The only time she had a zipper was when Josh helped her with one, if I recall correctly. The quality of the construction and the overall ability of the average contestant that makes it on now is not up to par with the average from the first 5 seasons.

  7. i really liked both michelle and stanley's designs this week. patricia's work isn't my style but i appreciate her creativity. richard totally should have been gone last week but i think they kept him around for the drama factor.

  8. i really like the project runway season 1-10 dvd show,it's give us the thoughts about the design and beauty.



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