Sep 13, 2014

What Did We Learn From Project Runway This Week? Season 13, Episode 8

Sponsorships have always driven some of the challenges on Project Runway (think of the perennial HP design challenge, in which the designers use touchable tablets to create their own textile design; I always look forward to that challenge and covet the opportunity to easily make a tessellated print with a few finger swipes).

And in this episode of Project Runway the designers were tasked with creating a look to walk the "rainway" — a runway topped by a movie set-style rainmaking machine that soaks the models as they stomp the catwalk. The looks had to be avant-garde — which was somehow inspired by Samsung's new curved TV — a demand that matched the unusual runway experience they were about to create.

You want me to do WHAT?

Now, the avant garde challenge is always a toughie for Project Runway designers. Very few people seem to have a good idea of what "avant garde" actually means. It's artistic, not really wearable, forward-thinking, larger-than-life...

There are usually a number of stick-a-bunch-of-crap-on-it looks, like Char's:

And usually a number of designers interpret "forward thinking" as futuristic, such as Emily and Korina's not-very-successful looks:

Welcome to the planet Xanadu

Very few designers can actually create something truly exciting and wholly new, and I guess it's no surprise that Sean and Kini were the only designers not to get soaked by this two-day challenge (the Project Runway Fashion Week show took place this past week, and I kept myself off the Internet so I wouldn't ruin the surprise of seeing the collections. I think it's safe to say those two are in the top 3).

In his critique, Tim Gunn said Kini's look was "like Schiaparelli" — high praise that foreshadowed runway success:

Ma'am, your umbrella is dripping on the floor
Kini's look was perfection. Inspired (obviously) by an umbrella, it was also perfectly executed — those folds perfectly draping across the hip and tapering down into a point. Yes, it's literal, which the judges normally HATE. But in an avant-garde challenge, it worked. Plus, the dude made gloves. Gloves! Is there anything this guy can't do?

Sean, meanwhile, created a look that didn't just reference the rainway — it made use of the new medium in a specific, necessary way. It was, as my husband said, "some next-level shit."

Painstakingly sewing RIT dye into the seams of his white dress, he gambled on the rain activating the color as the model walked the runway. The judges were suitably blown away as his dress quickly changed from all-white to an ombre-effect pink and yellow (how did that model keep herself from looking down to check it out as she walked the runway?).

Sean didn't just sew a lovely dress. He created a theatrical experience — one that could only happen in this very specific environment. That's avant garde. Somebody better save this dress, because the Met is going to want it for their Sean Kelly retrospective in 2034:

It reminded me of this Alexander McQueen dress/runway experience, in which model Shalom Harlow spun on a turntable as two robot arms equipped with paint sprayers doused her dress:

Like Sean's rainway experiment, this McQueen moment was exceptional in its singularity and the "what the F$%^ is happening?" factor. Sean's look was perhaps even more interesting for the fact that no extra technology was needed to make it happen; the element of water provided the catalyst to transform his simple white dress into a work of art.

Kini and Sean shared the win, which was only fair considering how superlative both designers' work was. Can you tell I was excited by this week's episode?

Here's what I was not excited by:

Sandyha's big top jumpsuit topped by a pinwheel vest. Not only are her designs childlike, she's also unbelievably immature. After the judges' critique, in which a number of designers' work was compared to McQueen, she told them all she should win because she's the only true original in the group. She's lucky this is a particularly restrained bunch of Project Runway competitors. Nobody said a thing, though you can see their "bitch, please" looks on their faces:

Girl, you better sleep with one eye open tonight
Poor Fade. He seemed to get a little lost in this challenge. It was confusing: they were told to be inspired by the TV's technology. Everyone else knew to let that one slide. He put an actual play button on his bodice:

What was your favorite look this week? We're getting close to the end: any predictions?


  1. The winners deserved to win. Holy cow those looks were AMAZING! Kini is so very talented. Sean is too but I'm a bit more into Kini's aesthetic.

    I wish Sandhya would just go already. Then Amanda. Gah.

    1. I really can't wait to (fingers crossed!) see what they both do in a full collection. Also, will Tim travel all the way to New Zealand!?

  2. I want to SEE how Kini makes this stuff. He is amazing. The judges got it right giving them both a win which is possible now since there is no more immunity. I hope Sandhya and her craft projects go before she starts attaching toilet paper rolls to her garment. Did anyone else think that Amanda's caterpillar dress didn't meet the challenge requirements in any way?

    1. Baha! Total caterpillar dress. I reckon she referenced the curves they were trying to push on the designers thanks to sponsor Samsung. It was fug.

  3. so glad Kini finally got the win! i think we'd see more of his process except that he's done sewing by the time the camera crew arrives... this was definitely a fun challenge (despite the dubious samsung sponsorship) and i was pretty stoked that they had two days to create. oh Sandhya... i was willing to give her a chance this season but i think her time is about up.

  4. I agreed with the winners and the loser this week. Both Kini's and Sean's looks were spectacular in their own way so I am very glad both won! I felt badly for Fade. I believe he is very talented but it seems he got "frozen" somehow in this challenge.

  5. I'm super excited by both Sean and Kini - they've been my favorites since the beginning (even when Sean was having a bad few weeks I was really pleased he didn't get sent home). I'm sorry to see Fade go (especially since I've seen images of his decoy collection and it looks really cool. I don't think it would have won, but I do like his aesthetic). I think Fade has done some amazing looks, and I don't think he was properly recognized for many of them. Would have rather seen one of the other designers leave, even though I don't think his look really responded to the challenge.

    I predict the top 4 will be Sean, Kini, Amanda, and Sandyha - they will do the thing where they "can't decide" and have to pick the finalists after they have made their collections. Then, just to break the hearts of Project Runway fans everywhere, Kini will get the boot, and everyone will become hardcore Sean fans in an instant. Then, just to make us all really depressed, Sandyha will get the win.

    1. Are you a witch? Did you see this in your crystal ball? NOOOOOOO!!!

    2. I hope your predictions are wrong, but they sound on par for the course. I really wish Fade would have stayed in. I like him far better than the blue haired girl in bad paisley (see, I care so little about her I don't even know her name).

    3. Lol, you guys are so funny! I'm supporting Sean and Kini all the way. I think the competition is pretty much down to the two of them. Whoever wins btwn the two of them I'll be happy for them. Sandya has used up all her fifteen minutes of fame; it's time for her to go already.

    4. oh nooooooooooooooo, I would hate to see that happen but the producers are thinking entertainment value. no, just no. like when Gretchen won....really?

  6. I really, really liked both winning looks. I'm really a huge fan of Sean's aesthetic, so I'm excited to see him rising to the occasion these last few weeks and making such great outfits. Kini's dress was exciting- it just feels so new and cool and fantastic!

    I feel like, at this point, we're just getting trolled with Sandhya. I did think that her outfit looked worlds better on the runway than it did close up (the impact of the stripes under the shine was kind of cool but OMFG THE PINWHEELS WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY), but she just doesn't know how to edit. Or not be crafty.

  7. I'd forgotten about the McQueen paint dress - thanks for the reminder. It makes me wonder why Zac Posen was quick to say that Kini's was very McQueen, but didn't say that about Sean's. Or did I miss something?

  8. Your blog is hilarious and wonderful. So glad to have discovered it.
    I'd love you to read mine if you get a chance & tell me what you think: It's my quasi-weekly ramblings about sewing, parenting, feeling good/feeling crappy, whatever.



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