Apr 27, 2013

Project Runway — What Did We Learn This Week, Season 11 Finale!

Y’know, I’m kind of relieved Project Runway is over for this season. I’m not sure how many more Lea Michelle L’Oreal commercials I can handle. (Also, I feel unfairly targeted by those ads for Riders by Lee Jeans. Sure, I could benefit from a tummy control panel, but I don’t want to be reminded of it while I’m enjoying my stories!).

Going into this week's big finale episode, I had a lot of questions: Would Michelle jettison her silly compass that everyone hates? Can Patricia get it together and send a cohesive collection down the runway? Would Stanley actually crack a smile if he won?

And would anyone be upstaged by Mondo's Shriner hat?

Lesson 1: Procrastination leads to puckered hems.

Years ago in university, I came up with my own favorite maxim: If you leave it until the last minute, it only takes a minute. I often treat my own work this way, telling myself I work best when the pressure is on. That means I often wake up early to write articles the very day they are due. (As a parent I’ve become even more accepting of procrastination. For example, you can start potty training your kid at age 2 and be done with it by the time she’s 3, many exhausting months later, or you can start when she’s 3 and be done in a day).

But when it comes to sewing, I never leave things until the last minute. After all, you might try on the skirt you just hemmed and discover that it's uneven or that the technique you used was the wrong one for that particular type of fabric. 

I don't think Stanley's procrastination did him in, but it certainly didn't help. Throughout the finale we heard countless times how much work he still had left, and indeed the day of the runway show he had sewers setting in sleeves backstage! The dude had more than four months to sew his 12 looks, and somehow he still needed a team of stitchers to get him runway-ready in less than two hours. Tim Gunn was seriously distressed.
I need to set in your sleeves? You're kidding right?! 

Nope. He wasn't kidding! 
I don't actually think his show suffered all that much for his harried, last-minute hemming and such. Nearly all of the clothes looked reasonably well-finished and expensive. But they definitely didn't hold up to the high standard set by Michelle. See the dress below, which was barely assembled just an hour before the runway show:

The shoulder seams are off, the hem is uneven, and it could stand to be better pressed. But it still wasn't the worst look in my estimation:

Lesson 2: When in doubt, DIY!

Continuing my anti-Stanley tirade, I thought it should be noted that he paid (in his words) "two little Russian ladies" to do $800 worth of beading and embroidery for him: 

Patricia, meanwhile, pounded out hundreds of sequins from mica (the mineral is traditionally used by her people to make pottery), and created numerous textiles for her collection.

And though Stanley's pieces were arguably more sophisticated than Patricia's, the judges appreciated her handiwork. They felt that just because Stanley had the budget to farm out the most painstaking details, he shouldn't have. Patricia's love for her craft shows, even if some of her garments looked like something you would see in the hippie store at the mall (Amanda's words, but I agree!).

Lesson 3: Sometimes the fabric shouldn't come first.

For those of us who sew, the question is often "what comes first: the fabric or the design?" I find that sometimes I'm inspired by a print or textile I just really want to use, and sometimes I begin with a pattern, trend, or overall look that I'm trying to create (and then search for the right fabric to achieve that end). And, in my experience, the most successful projects are not those that come from choosing a fabric first — and then trying to find some good way to use it.  In those cases, I sometimes end up using the fabric in a less-than-ideal way.

To that end, I think Patricia's allegiance to the fabric first is her downfall, and the reason why guest judge Michael Kors said her collection looked like "an art teacher on an acid trip." 

Each of those prints she created is lovely. But it's what she did with them that looks like a dog's breakfast. (That said, I would love to see a collection in which Patricia contributes the textiles and another designer creates garments from them. I bet it would be amazing).

Lesson 4: Quilting and sweaters? Sounds frumpy. Except, of course, in the hands of Michelle — who totally deserved to win! Witness her cool printed sweaters and quilted pants and jackets. I love the colors she used, the layering, the pleating in the skirts, the studs on the burgundy dress and yellow top, and the consistent use of the shoulder patch detail. I'm super inspired by Michelle's tendency to mix textiles: 

My faves

Not my faves, but still a lot to like.
(My apologies for the fact I distorted some of the pics above when laying them out; I'm trying to finish this post so I can go with my family to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for the day. It's Cherry Blossom time in NYC and miraculously my seasonal allergies are under control this year, so I can actually enjoy it!).

What did you think of the designers' respective collections? Will you be watching next week’s Project Runway Reunion Special? From the previews, it looks NASTY! 


  1. I loved he finale!! I just can't wrap my head around Stanley's procrastination. How? How? You had FOUR MONTHS and YOU FARMED OUT THE WORK! And it begs the question - if he had any other helper rather than Richard, would he have sewn it all in time? I'm guessing yes.

    Of course Michelle deserved to win, but I still stand behind Patricia in that I enjoyed watching her show BECAUSE WE HAVEN'T SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THAT BEFORE. would I even come close to wearing that? No. But I liked looking at it.

    I don't understand why they were crazy about the bleeding heart sweater. Would you really wear that? (Come to think of it, I live in Portland and yes, I could imagine seeing that on the street - but anywhere else??)

    Here's my last thought of the day and it occurred to me yesterday as I was reading somewhere how the whole "team" concept this season fell flat. I think the only way it would have worked is if they had brought ACTUAL teams in from the getgo. Think Dolce Gabana, Bagley Miscka (sp), Heatherette. All of these people work together on their own choice. They needed to audition teams and then cast teams instead of casting individuals and throwing them together. Brilliant, right? Why didn't they think of that and then do it?

    1. Yes! That is such a good point. There are lots of existing design partnerships. It would be interesting to see how they work together (and have the judges be other design teams like the ones you mentioned).

  2. Loved the finale, and loved the recap and couldn't agree more on all points.

    I think that Stanley really only has himself to blame. I *think* he was worried about getting too far ahead before the fittings, it's the only way I can understand how that robot didn't have anything finished.

    I'm so happy to see that the clear winner did win, and in a weird turnaround one of the judges favourite looks (no matter how gimmicky) actually was a team effort, since Michelle collaborated with Joe to knit it. I really hope they drop the team nonsense for next season though.

    Did anyone think that Michael Kors is clearly the only person who can disagree with Heidi, and she has any chance of actually listening?

    My dream project runway episode would be to simply give each of the designers $500, 2 hours at Mood and 3 days to make something. I would watch that shizz every week. It could be a stupid sponsored HP/Marie Claire/Loreal/Lexus challenge if need be, just give them time to put the damn zipper in!

    (Sorry about the super long comment)

    1. I think you are right:Stanley wanted the fit to be perfect, so he waited to sew everything (we did see after all what happened to both Michelle and Daniel with their too-tight leather pants!).
      I would also like to see the designers gey adequate time to shop. It takes me eons to make a decision at mood!

    2. Oh, and Tim noted that Michael kors hss a lot of sway on the other judges!

  3. I have no words for poor old Stanley. Everything kind of looked like it was finished when Tim came for a visit. I never get why after four months, the designers still have so much to do once they are there, but in fairness I guess if I had to do a whole collection and make it look amazing, it would probably take me longer!!

    If you go on PR facebook, there is overwhelming love for Patricia, and most people thought she should have won.
    Yes her silhouettes were simple, but that is what you do when you work with beautiful fabrics, I think. I know you really loved Michelle's work, and I will admit it was very well made, very cohesive, and all the colors worked. BUT haven't we seen this all before? I echo what a lot of commenters said on Facebook. It was all a bit too costume looking.(Hunger Games/ Steampunk)

    As for Patricia's collection looking hippy......Well, I lived in a whole community where there were many hippies, while I was in college, and if they were wearing anything like what Patricia sent down, I wouldn't have been have as grossed out as I was.
    My opinion is that I think it would have been nice for a departure from something that would be cookie cutter and fit in Marie Claire magazine. Since Marie Claire sponsors PR, you could see Nina's hand in the decision. I love how Zac and Heidi were loyal to Patricia and had some great things to say to her, unlike rude Nina!
    It all comes down to a matter of what appeals to you and that is why we are all unique I suppose.

    1. I grew up on Vancouver Island, where the Earth Mother look is always in vogue. I think all three designers created clothes that many, msny women would buy. But being "fashion forwaed"is a large part of the challenge, and I think only Michelle achieved that.

  4. I think I stopped watching PR a couple of years ago when they basically started getting only one day to produce whatever the challenge was. I've really enjoyed reading your recaps, but have zero desire to watch the programme ever again. I may rewatch some of the earlier seasons because they used to show some astounding talent - but the newer seasons just seem to be all about the bitching.

    I don't understand why american (and british) challenge series seem to now want every single person to be completely unlikeable. I downloaded and watched The Amazing Race up until about two years ago when I realised that for the past couple of seasons I didn't care who won because I hated all of them.

    I don't mind it too much when someone is obnoxious but also incredibly talented (Christian Siriano) - but the producers of these series now seem to be choosing people based purely on their obnoxiousness, and their talent is a mere second consideration.

    1. I feel like on Project Runway, they make you hate everyone until the second to last episode, where Tim visits the finalists and their families. Then, you're like, "Why did I hate that designer? Look how great they are! And their families are so nice! And they have such pure reasons for wanting to win!" It messes with my mind every time!

  5. i couldn't believe that stanley dropped the ball like he did, i was certain (early on) that he would win. i really think he was pushed to greater creativity when working with others and/or under time constraints. on his own he was just not that exciting.

    i totally agree that patricia's fabrics would be a fantastic in the hands of another designer. there were a couple looks that i liked, but overall her fabric work was lost to mediocre design. it looked for a moment that she was going to get the win--i thought maybe heidi was getting nina back for the gretchen over mondo win a few seasons ago...

    michelle... i'm really glad she won! there haven't been too many female winners, no? she just hit every mark so perfectly that her win is completely deserved. loved her collection, especially how she used so many textiles. also i tend to avoid the color yellow, however now i'm reconsidering because the yellow in her collection just made everything stand out so nicely!

  6. Stanley had the talent and the aptitude to win however I don't think that HE beieved in himself. Why was his final designs so matronly and the gown is downright ugly, no design asthetic whatsoever. Patricia made evewrything from the ground up, fabric, trims etc. I think she was more artistic amoung the three of them. What fascinates me most about this show is the PROCESS they all go through. If a designer gets in a tizzy about the particular challenge, you can almost bet he/she will meet their self defeating vision and be "out,". Here's my take on Stanley, he did not have a unique vision and then decided to go VERY SAFE, and he knew it would not be enough to win so he overworked eveything somehow convincing himself that he didn't win because he wasn't able to complete his looks. I mean it was SO ridiculous to see all the dressers sewing by hand so many things at the last minute. He kept drilling himself into the ground with too much work so as not to feel the pain of defeat. Stanley, your design, your vision is different that anyone elses. If you do NOT put yourself out there and say this is what I think then NO amount of sewing,lining,will be able to compensate for your lack of courage to show what you think. I hope to see him on another all stars show. Mondo, get rid of the stupid nose ring and ridiculous hat. YOU DO NOT need to be showey because your ideas and work are amazing. Be the visionary not the clown.

  7. I finally watched the finale (we DVR everything - FYI, if you record/watch the reruns of the PR episodes when they re-air the whole rest of the week, they are cut to one hour! Way less drama to put up with), and I rushed over here to read your recap :)
    I absolutely agree that Michelle had the winning collection, frankly because hers was the only one that looked like a collection that could have been put out by a leading designer right now. (Do Michelle's designs remind anyone else of Cynthia Rowley, but actually tough instead of just styled that way?) I do think the judges were wrong to keep pushing Stanley "younger" in terms of his designs - he does have a strong point of view, it's just not young or current. That dude is going to go back to LA, open a boutique in Beverly Hills and make boatloads of money selling those "matronly" dresses to rich middle aged ladies. He'll be most successful of all of them, I bet. And I don't generally agree with Nina, but I think she hit the nail on the head when she said she didn't know who Patricia's client would be. I like Patricia's originality, but where does she go now?
    Anyway, good group of designers this year, actually. I didn't hate the team idea as much as I thought I would... but maybe that's just because Tim liked it and I implicitly trust everything Tim thinks.
    Thanks for your recaps, it's been fun!



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