Sunday, August 17, 2008

It's a jungle out there

The first team challenge of the season coincided with the first product placement. In this case, the "product" was Lipstick Jungle, NBC's horrid Sex and the City rip-off (NBC is Bravo's parent network.) The designers had to create a look for Brooke Shield's character, movie studio exec Wendy, to wear in an upcoming episode.

Jerell and Blayne are two of this season's strongest personalities but they worked well with their partners, Stell-vira and Leanne respectively. All the other teams were at each other's throats.

The issues between Korto and Joe and Terri and Suede seemed to result in more polished designs on the runway. Korto's jacket was described by Tim Gunn as a "giant sweet potato" and panned by Joe in the work room but the garment looked a lot more streamlined on the runway. Terri made Suede do-over their ruffly paisley top, which looked great in finished form.

Meanwhile, Kenley and Daniel further established themselves as this season's villains in the running.

Despite their differences, Kenley and Keith won the challenge, with this garment:

But Kenley spent most of the episode picking on other designers and generally trying to cause arguments. I cheered when Tim Gunn backed up Keith in panning the lurid flowered fabric that Kenley picked out at Mood. Kenley is very confident, but I don't think she quite has the talent to back it up. All of her designs (including the garments she wears on the show) are all about 1940s glamor and construction. We have yet to see proof that she can do anything else.

That said, Daniel kind of deserved Kenley's giggly outburst when he started bragging about his impeccable taste on the runway. His work has been completely forgettable so far and he was lucky to still be around after last week's disaster.

The design Daniel created with Kelly was definitely her aesthetic. But Daniel seemed to give up on the challenge as soon as Brooke didn't choose his design. I can't imagine that he was much help to Kelly, who proved her talent with a winning design in week 1.

Bye Kelly! I'll miss you, but this was awful:

Props to Blayne for taking responsibility for his design, rather than throwing Leanne under the bus. It looked fine but I think the outfit was more suited to a 20-something spending a day walking around New York City than for 40-something Brooke Shields playing a business executive.

Seriously, I think this entire look is for sale at Target:

I would have given the win to Jerell and Stell-vira. They made three pieces using a different prints and fabric for each. But the design looked completely pulled together on the runway. Kelly should have taken note of the skirt, which was a good example of animal-print done right:

Quotes of the week
On Kelly and Daniel's garment:
"Slutty, slutty, slutty" -- Michael
"It just looks so much cheaper than I thought it should look" -- Brooke

Next week: Designing for drag queens! I'm almost glad that Daniel wasn't kicked off because I'm sure he'll thumb his nose at this one.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Going for the 'Old'

Anyone who made it through the third grade knows that brains count for nothing if you don't read the directions before the completing an assignment.

Apparently, most of the Season 5 designers were asleep during this crucial grade-school lesson. In nearly every design challenge so far, at least a third have created looks that simply miss the directives of the given challenge. Either they aren't listening or they just don't care.

No matter what the reason, I'm underwhelmed with almost all of these people. The whole point of Project Runway is to challenge the contestants by forcing them to design outside their comfort zone. If the designers refuse to leave their respective niches, the competition is a wash.

The cluelessness continued this week as the designers were asked to create a look for the American team to wear during the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Tim took the contestants to the Olympic museum at New York's Armory Track and Field Training Center for inspiration.

Most of the group immediately latched on to photos of Olympic outfits from the 1940s and 50s and completely let go of the essence of the challenge -- creating a modern design that athletes could wear while representing America to the world. Instead they created looks that mostly seemed to represent wardrobe from old Doris Day movies.

Daniel was among the worst offenders. He claimed to have never watched the Olympics and I almost buy that. But the footage shown on TV indicates that the museum included photos from recent Olympics. Daniel must have seen these photos and chosen to ignore them.

The judges said his dress was perfect for an Olympic drinking competition. I think it looks like the dresses Lois Lane wears in old Superman comics:

Lucky for Daniel, Jennifer's dress was both unpractical for the Olympics and completely boring:

In her goodbye interview, Jennifer claimed that her "Surrealism" design aesthetic brought something different to the show. Too bad those comments were the only thing even close to surreal that Jennifer did during her tenure.

Joe, Korto and Terri came to the runway with an automatic leg up on the competition since they actually created the type of look the challenge required.

Korto won:

Her design was cute, but those linen pants would have been crazy wrinkled by the time the hours-long Opening Ceremony was over.

I would have given the win to perennial bridesmaid Terri. Her look was sophisticated and sporty. In addition, there were several different layers so the athletes could have bundled up or stripped down according to the weather conditions.

When are the judges going to reward Terri? She is the season's single design bright spot:

I can't believe I'm saying this, but Stell-vira is another of the season's (few) bright spots. Designwise, she is way out of her league and I want her kicked off as soon as possible. But her utter lack of tact and self-awareness cracks me up.

Here are some of the winning Stell-vira quotes this week:

On her decision to create an all-black Olympic ensemble:
"There's a lot of bikers in this country who watch the Olympics."
"It represents the country in a bad-ass way."

On her desire to win a challenge:
"Whoever gets immunity is really important because you get a chance to fuck up and not get fired for it."

Some of other quotes of the week:

Tim after learning that Blayne doesn't know who the Beatles are:
"Oh God, youth!"

Another exchange about Stell-vira's black design:
Jerrel: "So Stella, why are you using all black?"
Blayne: "Because we're going through a depression."

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Not Listening to Tim Gunn = Kiss of Death

This week, the designers were let loose on New York City. In a challenge similar to one from Season Two, the group took pictures of NYC at night and had to create a look inspired by one of their images.

Kenley won with this look:

I was surprised that Kenley came out on top. Personally I agreed with the comment by one of the judges that this is a look that would only look good on a tall, skinny model. Thus, this dress looks great coming down the runway but looks horrible everywhere else. The judges seemed to think the look was fashion-forward but does that really matter when no one can actually wear it?

I would have awarded the win to Terri, who made this:

I was concerned when Terri decided to use a graffiti photo as her inspiration. That decision did not serve Santino well in the Season Two NYC inspiration challenge. Wouldn't it have been hilarious, though, if Terri had chosen the same swirly graffiti fabric that Santino used in that episode? It would have been a three-peat, as Austin also used that fabric during Season 1.

Back to Terri -- she is the only designer who has really impressed me this season. Her designs are very polished and she really seems to be thinking about each challenge.

In other news, Leanne redeemed herself after last week's disaster by creating this beautiful dress, which was inspired by a tree grate:

The bottom two came down to Emily and Jennifer. It really didn't matter who got kicked off. Neither has a distinguishing personality or design aesthetic.

Emily ultimately emerged the loser. As well she should, because she committed the cardinal sin of Project Runway: not listening to Tim Gunn. Emily refused to listen when Tim said her ruffled design looked awkward.

She was fooling herself about this design right up until the exit interview:

The dress looks like it's vomiting fabric. I have one last nit to pick with the judges: if they hated Emily's work so much, why didn't they say anything to Blayne, who created a very similar design?

Blayne's neon dress captured the essence of his chosen inspiration, Times Square. But it also looked like a bad 1980s prom dress:

Somewhere there is a 30-something woman with this dress hanging in her closet.

Quote of the week: "Holla at cha boy!" -- Tim Gunn. He's so cute when he's trying to be hip.

Next week: Another Field trip!

All photos courtesy of Bravo's Project Runway web site.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It's not easy being green

Models have no taste. For proof, look no further than any Project Runway challenge that gives power to the skinny chicks in the black nighties.

Remember Season 1's wedding dress challenge? All of the models asked for "dream gowns" fit for the sale rack at Bargain Bridal.

This week, the designers were charged with creating a cocktail dresses made from "green" fabric or material made from natural fibers such as bamboo, hemp and jersey.

Most of the group was pretty excited about this -- until they learned that they would be staying at Parsons while the models went shopping for fabric with Tim. After that announcement, most of the designers looked nauseous.

And rightly so. The models came back with too little fabric, clashing colors and materials either too casual for a cocktail dress or difficult to sew in a limited time period.

The sorriest designers were two members of what Jerell dubbed "Team Ugly Brown Fabric." Stuck with silk the color of vomit and too little of it to boot, Wesley and Leanne tried to cover up their mistakes with pleats and loops and pockets and Peter Pan colors. They each created a Hot Mess (seen here, with Wes' dress on the right and Leanne's on the left):

Wesley's dress also didn't fit properly, so he was kicked out. Guess we'll never find out why he always wears short shorts.

Joe, the other member of Team Ugly Brown Fabric, managed quite nicely, thus proving that the designers can't blame all of this week's troubles on the models:

The winner this week was Suede. His model chose this week's second most popular fabric, a silky champagne-colored material. With a little innovation (and a lot of cutting and weaving), Suede managed to create a dress that stood out from the pack -- and garnered endorsements from Heidi and guest judge Natalie Portman:

Extra props to Suede for working hard and finishing his dress on time. Tim Gunn lectured the designers en masse for a second time in as many episodes. What is up with these people? First, they shy away from innovation in the grocery challenge and this week, they failed to use their time wisely in the workroom. I don't think Tim has ever used tough love this early and often.

It seems like there are a lot of potential taste issues waiting to happen in this group, in addition to a dearth of designers unafraid to really innovate and take chances. As Tim would say, this concerns me.

For example, Stell-vira and Blayne need to get their own sitcom ("Moonstruck Meets My Name Is Earl") because they clearly should not be on Project Runway. Both had much improved designs this week, especially Stell-vira, but that's not saying much. Stell-vira's design asthetic is reminiscent of Season 3's Jeffrey. But Jeffrey seemed to enjoy the challenge of applying his point of view to unfamiliar styles. Stell-vira just wants to use "leathuh."

Blayne, meanwhile, needs to realize that becoming this season's catchphrase king will not turn him into Christian Siriano or Tim Gunn. I laughed when he was teasing Stell-vira because it felt natural; his constant use of "licious" feels so forced.

As usual my favorite design (also one of Tim's favorites!) was left out of the Top Three. Terri, you rock:

It helps that her model thought outside of the box when choosing fabrics. But Terri created a look that fits the model's body perfectly and the collar and belt are eye-catching, but understated.

Kenley's look (which did make the Top Three) was similar, but I thought the collar came dangerously close to resembling a lion's mane:

Random thought:

-- Korto and Leanne's tears during elimination put them in the running to become this season's Crier (think Season 2's Andrae or Season 4's Ricky.) Korto especially seemed heartbroken that the judges didn't appreciate her hard work. I hope she learns to keep it together because the comments are all downhill from here.

Quotes of the week:

"I think shiny, tight and short is the quickest way to look cheap."
-- Nina Garcia on Wesley's dress (actually this comment described a lot of this week's designs.)

"She's so tiny I could carry her around on my hand."
-- Suede on this week's guest judge, the elfin Natalie Portman.

Look of the week:

Tim's face after he found out that the seams in Korto's garment were to be on the outside of the dress.

Next week: Field trip!

All photos courtesy of Bravo's Project Runway Web site

The jackass of the nation ...

That's the title I deserve for flaking on this blog before Project Runway's finale last season. Vacation kept me from updating right after the premiere next week but I hope to update regularly from now on -- Promise!

The title of this post is also part of one of the best quotes from the Season 5 premiere. Punky Stella interviewed that she would be anointed "jackass of the nation" if she was the first designer kicked off. Stella did her best (or her worst) to earn it by spending too much time fretting over her poor choice of materials.

Luckily for Stell-vira, Jerry made a costume for a psycho killer and was the first out:

Thanks to bureaucratic nonsense, this season is to be Project Runway's last on Bravo. So it was fitting that the first challenge of the Season 5 was a throwback to the very first challenge ever: the designers had to create a look out of products from Gristede's, a New York grocery store.

Most of the designers managed to underwhelm both myself and the glorious Tim Gunn by choosing conventional materials -- tablecloths, shower curtains and paper towels -- rather than trying to create a wearable look out of conventionally unwearable materials.

My fellow Ohioan, Kelly, got the win for a dress made of dyed vacuum cleaner bags, burned coffee filters and truly nifty closures made of notebook spirals. I thought the effect she created with the dye was very cool:

But I would have given the win to Joe, who reminds me a bit of Season 4's Kevin. Joe made a dress out of oven mitts and pasta. I'm not sure how his dress looked up close, but the pasta created a great pattern from my non HD TV's eye view:

Some other random thoughts:

-- So far, Blayne seems like a combination of Season 3's Vincent and Season 4 winner Christian. That's not a good thing -- at least not this week. His model looked like she bathed in glue and then rolled around in a dumpster:

-- I must have this T-shirt, worn by Terri (she's on the right.) It's super-cute:

-- Heidi said only three designers are going to Fashion Week. I wonder if they'll simply eliminate until three designers are left, ala Seasons 1 and 2, or do some sort of crazy walk-off ala Season 4.

-- Daniel looks like a greasier version of Danny V from Season 2.

Quotes of the week:
Suede: "Wackadoodle!"
Tim Gunn: "Innovate!"

All photos courtesy of Bravo's Project Runway Web site.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Yes, I know the "divas" who starred in this week's challenge are actually from the WWE. But that headline perfectly expresses my reaction upon hearing the task given our designers.

I would rather watch anything else on TV before watching wrestling. That includes golf, America's Funniest Home Videos, Barney and televangelism. Well, maybe not televangelism, but you get the idea. I feared this episode was destined to become my least favorite ever.

Luckily, my fears were unfounded. Not only did we get to hear Tim Gunn utter words like "divas" and "spandex," the challenge produced some fun interplay between designers and clients and a highly entertaining runway show.

The cherry on top of this tacky sundae was the long-awaited ousting of Ricky. I worried the Weepy One's lingerie skills would allow him to squeak into the Final Five but Ricky was reliably mediocre. The only surprise was that Ricky did not cry upon his departure.

I'm titling his look "Donna Summer poses for Hustler, circa 1977":

Like so many other challenges this season, the WWE assignment encouraged the designers to embrace absurdity. The contestants who went for it -- Chris, Jill and Christian -- succeeded. Those who held back -- Ricky, Sweet P and Rami -- missed the mark.

Sweet P just could not force herself to design the rhinestone-covered disco ball requested by her client. She seemed completely paralyzed by fear that the judges would bash her for creating something unsophisticated. Unfortunately, this challenge was essentially about creating a costume -- sleek and understated need not apply.

This look's title is: "Tim Gunn is always right! Even when he's advocating feathers!":

I thought the denim challenge was a sign that Rami was going to stop draping and learn to love multi-faceted design. Wrong! His "girl next door" outfit had many elements of his equally unsuccessful avant-garde design. The only original aspect of the look was the color -- and that was a very bad thing.

I call this "Frederick's of Hollywood Presents: Putrid Pink":

Rami wasn't alone in copying himself -- Christian did the same thing.

I'm starting to worry about this season's squeaky-voiced wunderkind. His leather-and-lace design was smokin' hot -- but the look was a close cousin of last week's denim trucker outfit and the black jacket he made for the weight-loss challenge. All of the similarities show Christian has already developed his own voice, that he can design a cohesive collection. Those are important qualities -- but so is versatility and an element of surprise.

I'm titling Christian's look: "Refugee from the Lost Van Halen Music Video":

Jillian designed for the "sporty" diva and she made the most of her assignment. Her look was a clever play on a football uniform. The little shorts were adorable -- I'd wear them if they didn't show 80 percent of a person's ass. Speaking of, I think all of the judges (especially Michael Kors) were a little verklempt at the sheer amount of bare skin parading down the runway this week.

I'm calling Jill's look "Friday Night Lights Gone Bad":

Last but not least: Chris wins! Chris is my favorite contestant this season and I was so happy that he pulled out a win, particularly in a challenge that was so tailor-made to his talents.

Chris' design was sexy and scary. The look reminded me of outfits worn by TV's ultimate superhero badass, Alias superspy Sydney Bristow.

That's why I'm calling his look "Best.Girlfight.Ever":

Next week: We head into the home stretch as the Final Four are chosen.

Create your own finale

Bravo has photos of the final five's Fashion Week collections up at Project Runway's official site.

I just couldn't make myself look. Not because I expect the collections to be poor. I want to judge the upcoming finale with fresh eyes and that's not going to happen if I peek early.

Of course, only four of these collections will actually get screen time on the show. One contestant is showing as a decoy, but we won't find out who until this Wednesday.

But don't let my personal ban stop you -- Check this out if you just can't wait!