Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Back in the Kitchen

The Project Runway Web site was giving me trouble this evening, so a recap of Wednesday's episode will have to wait until Friday. Here's something to tide you over:

Project Runway
was a no-show for the holidays so I bravely sat through the Top Chef holiday special, in which contestants from all three seasons returned to compete for $20,000.

Before the special begins, host Padma "What have I been smoking?" Lakshmi tells us which cooks we'll be getting reacquainted with. From Season 3, there's C.J. (Yay!), Sandee (Meh) and Tre (Yay!) Returning from the loathsome depths of Season 2 are Josie (I totally forgot about her ... but it's better than having to see Ilan again), Betty (Kill me now) and Marcel (who I know I'm supposed to hate, but I can't. I feel sorry for him.) Apparently, the producers couldn't convince three chefs from Season 1 to come back, so we get to see Tiffani (Hiss!) and Stephen (tool and douchebag ... but only in the nicest way.)

We open on scenes of Christmas in Chicago (except that it's totally June.) Stephen arrives by SUV, brags about the restaurant he plans to open and lies about how cold it is. Tiffani is up next and she is also opening a restaurant. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, eternal runner-up Tiffani interviews that she's in it to win this time.

Tiffani and Stephen check out the ostentatiously-decorated Top Chef house and we learn that Stephen is Jewish (Yay!) Josie comes in next and reminds us how annoying she was when she got kicked off in the fifth episode of Season 2. Betty comes in screaming and bursts one of my eardrums. Marcel arrives wearing a natty scarf and shades ensemble. He and Betty hug and Betty cops to acting like a shrew to him during their season. Marcel, clearly a bigger person than I am, forgives her and says that Top Chef is his surrogate family. That's kind of sad considering the "family" in question tried to tackle him and shave his head.

Sandee comes in next and I really don't know why she's here, considering she was the second one eliminated last season and this is supposed to be a "best of" type competition. Plus wouldn't it have been awesome if they got Malarkey to come back? Tre (Yay!) is next. Oh Tre how I've missed you so. Tre reminds us that he got eliminated for making a crappy dessert and an old clip of C.J. reminds us that Tre was a great chef and totally got screwed.

Speaking of C.J. (Yay!), he's still freakishly tall and I predict that he's going to hang off the end of the bunk beds in the house. C.J. has started his own catering company. He shares in an interview that he's a Libra and likes the color blue and long walks on the beach. Sign me up.

The contestants lie their asses off some more about the time of year and pretend to enjoy the Christmas holidays. They receive gifts that allude to their Top Chef downfalls: C.J. gets some broccoli from Tom "I'm a Judge! Not a mentor!" Colicchio and Tiffani gets a T-shirt with the quote "I'm not your bitch, bitch!" (Where have you gone "Crying" Dave Martin?) C.J. seems amused. Tiffani, not so much.

Marcel, who looks rather fetching with his new goatee, says he's excited about getting to compete with a new set of contestants. They all concur and proceed to cook and eat dinner, enjoying one nice evening before being tortured by the judges.

The next morning, the group arrives at the Top Chef kitchen. Despite the fact that it's "Christmas" in Chicago, Padma is wearing a sleeveless dress. Way to keep up the illusion, Padma. She's standing next to Santa Claus, who keeps a low profile as Padma reveals the Quickfire Challenge: make a treat for Santa. Of course there's a catch: under the tree are wrapped gifts containing ingredients the chefs will need to use in their respective dishes. They draw knives to pick gifts and find out that they'll get the chance to steal each other's "gifts."

Tre gets cheeseballs. C.J. gets smoked salmon, which is stolen by Betty. C.J. gets truffles, which are stolen by Tiffani. C.J. gets walnuts and a nutcracker. He reminds us that he only has one of those other kind of nuts. Oh C.J., I find even your bathroom humor adorable. Sorry, back to the challenge. Marcel steals the truffles from Tiffani. Tiffani picks up some sweet potatoes. Sandee gets prosciutto. Stephen steals Tiffani's yams and Tiffani gets caviar. Josie is last and she steals the truffles. Marcel grabs another gift and gets turo. "Santa" turns out to be chef Eric Ripert (disclaimer: I love food but I am not a foodie by any means. So don't expect to read much fawning over the guest chefs. I'm sure they're all awesome but I really wouldn't know.)

Anyway, Ripert was on an episode of Season 3 and all the contestants are excited to cook for him. They burst into action. Tre laments his bad luck at getting stuck with the cheeseballs but resolves to work through the pain. Betty blathers about leeks and raisins and saffron orange vinaigrette and none of that really sounds good with her smoked salmon. Josie can't open her truffles because there's no can opener. She searches the kitchen for a while and then goes at it with a knife. It doesn't work until the last minute and hustles to finish in time. Josie isn't exactly exuding confidence here.

Time's up and it's time for the tasting. Betty describes her dish using the royal "we," which is, of course, annoying. Ripert and Padma approach Josie who interviews that she had to leave two key ingredients out of her dish. Seeking sympathy, she shares the story of the missing can opener. To the shock of no one, Padma and Ripert don't really care. Josie hopes Ripert can overlook the lack of truffles in the dish. Yeah, that's totally going to happen Josie.

Stephen has made yam, mocha and lavender soup, which just sounds really weird. Ripert doesn't comment much before moving on to Tiffani and the caviar. Tiffani has made one of the ever-popular Top Chef "duo of (insert item here)," which if you recall was her downfall in the Season One finale showdown with Harold. Some people never learn.

Before naming a winner, Ripert rips on Stephen's wacky soup and says the dish tasted like soap. He also hated Tre's rice, which was the one part of his dish where he actually used the cheeseball. He also hated Josie's truffle-less truffle dish. Shocker.

Marcel scored a hit with Ripert, as did Betty. And the winner is -- C.J. (Yay!)

We don't find out what C.J. wins until after Padma explains the Elimination Challenge: make a three-course meal for nine diners. All of the food gets served head-to-head and the diners will eliminate two chefs after each course, leaving two finalists. The judges will then choose a winner. As the Quickfire winner, C.J. gets a "get of jail free" card for one course (not the final course.) Sandee interviews that, due to the lack of wacky gimmicks, the onus for screwing up the challenge falls on each chef's shoulders. Similarly, I can only blame Sandee for the unfortunate tie-dyed fisherman's cap she's wearing during this interview.

We get some shots of downtown Chicago (*Sigh*) before catching up with the chefs as they take a trip to Whole Foods to buy ingredients. They've got $350, 45 minutes to shop and three hours to cook. The chefs are relieved at the large variety of protein available at the meat counter. Sandee decides to buy her produce first and loads some pumpkins into her cart.

Betty annoyingly talks about how her Quickfire triumph has her feeling confident going into elimination. As the chefs, describe their menus, Betty is the first to reveal her intention to tackle that great Top Chef scourge: dessert. She's making baklava.

I'm a total food novice and the one lasting lesson I've gotten out of three Seasons of Top Chef is this: being a chef and a pastry chef are two different things. Also: when it comes to dessert, you can't win. Try it, and the judges slam you for cooking an unappetizing dish. Leave it out, and you'll get criticized for not being "brave" enough to attempt the course.

C.J. feels up a goose, Tre slams Whole Foods' celery root selection (and Stephen, for buying it) and they all head to check out. They arrive at the kitchens and Sandee and Tiffani discuss the need to cook all three courses simultaneously to come in under the time limit.

Tiffani also plans to try dessert -- butterscotch pudding. She can't get past the idea of a holiday dinner without dessert. Meanwhile, Betty is searching her station for yeast. Turns out she forgot to buy some and it's an essential ingredient for her first course. After self-flagellating at her workstation, Betty tries to borrow some yeast from another chef. Since they all have visions of $20,000 dancing in their heads, a loan is pretty much out of the question. Tre thinks she made a mistake by revealing a weakness, while Betty comes up with a solution that she tries to convince herself will be better than the original plan.

Tre plans to take his own advice about not showing weakness. He's not making dessert. He and Marcel are making the same third course, lamb chops. The chefs all talk some more about using their time wisely before Colicchio shows up to "judge" them. And by "judge" I mean "nitpick and insult."

(Time out for a sec: The whole "Colicchio is not a mentor" conceit is always truly fascinating to me. He's really in the kitchen to be a spy for the judges, but the contestants always seem to forget that and spill the beans about every mistake or problem they're having at the moment. I think they're so caught up in their own brains that it's too tempting not to unload on someone. I've definitely been there and it's awful when that kind of thing gets held against you. Especially when the guy doing the holding is a smug jerk like Tom Colicchio. Time in.)

Colicchio approaches C.J. first. C.J. describes his menu, ending with the goose. They talk about C.J.'s goosing experience. Don't worry Tom, he can practice on me!

Sorry, got sidetracked again. Next up for ridicule is Sandee. She describes her intent to make dessert (chocolate pecan pie.) It's only Sandee's second time making pie crust.

Next, Colicchio approaches his crush, Tiffani (I always thought he wanted her to win Season 1.) Tiffani shares that she's also working on opening a restaurant. Stephen kibitzes about his restaurant as well before admitting that he's a little rusty in the kitchen. Bad idea, Stephen. Show no weakness before the Colicchio!

Marcel's goatee distracts me and before I know it, Colicchio heads out. He interviews about Betty's dessert mishap. Apparently she plans to worry about her third course if she makes it that far. I couldn't be happier to join Judge Tom in doubting the effectiveness of that plan. Betty would have to come to my house and cook a five-star meal for me to forgive her ridiculous posturing against Marcel during Season 2. Yes, Marcel is annoying. But that's why you ignore him, Betty.

Colicchio shares that he doesn't think Stephen's heart is in the cooking. This does not bode well.

The contestants race to begin plating the first course as the judges sit down to dinner. Gail, Tom, Ted Allen(!) and Padma are there, as well as chefs from past seasons. I know the contestants hate cooking for regular people, but I wish I could judge Top Chef. The food almost always looks great, although I have to take the judges' word for it on the taste.

The chefs describe their dishes and head back in to work on the second course. The judges toast and tuck into the food. They think Sandee's "creamy" mushroom soup is watery but enjoyed Marcel's "rustic" monk fish. Betty's duck baklava is panned for not really being baklava, while Stephen's gnocchi was apparently nasty. C.J.'s dish is given a resounding "meh," Tre's scallop gets a thumb's up and they're split on Tiffani's apple/bacon creation. Colicchio liked Josie's duck and butternut squash dish the best.

That's unfortunate because Josie returns to the kitchen to find that she's overcooked her second course, a turkey. Ugh. That turkey looks awful. Betty also overcooked her lamb.

Back at the table, the contenders for elimination are Stephen, Sandee, Betty and C.J. (No!) We have to wait until the cooks come out with the second course to find out who's out.

Sandee and Stephen are out and they go back to the kitchen with their food. I hope there was a backstage table full of crew members waiting to eat the food of the ousted chefs. It's a shame for all of that work to go to waste. Stephen interviews that the competition taught him that he needs to focus on opening his business, rather than Top Chef.

The judges dig in as the chefs begin preparing course three. Josie's turkey is panned, as is Marcel's dish. Tom gives C.J.'s goose a thumb's up, as does Padma. They also liked Tre's mac and cheese. Gail and Ted like Tiffani's duck. Betty's lamb is slammed for being overcooked and under-seasoned. Ted says the awfulness of the overcooked turkey pales next to Betty's lamb and whatever the heck Marcel made.

Back in dessert-land, Tiffani shares that she's been practicing her recipe. Betty decides to make an almond cookie for her last-minute third course. Marcel and Tre are both doing lamb for their final dish. Marcel interviews that he likes to keep his lamb half-raw, which isn't going to win him any prizes from Chicago's health inspectors.

The chefs roll out of the kitchen with their dishes. The overcooked twins -- Betty and Josie -- are out. Betty laments the lack of love given to her "beautiful" dessert.

Time to eat. I wonder how much time the judges spend eating the food. They must have to do it all in a day. That's a TON of food for one day, even if you only sample each dish.

Tre's lamb is lauded, while Marcel's half-raw technique proves to be his undoing. The judges rave about Tiffani's pudding. They liked C.J.'s dish but hated his presentation. The final four return to the dining room and Marcel and C.J. are out. C.J. laments because he needed the money. I'll miss you C.J.!

Tre and Tiffani are the final two. They enjoy a moment of zen, thinking that only judges table stands between a winner and the $20,000. Wrong! Padma shoos them back into the kitchen to cook another course. Tiffani is mad at herself for not seeing this twist coming.

The final two have 30 minutes to scrounge up leftovers in the kitchen to create a new dish. They enlist the others chefs to help out. Stephen, Sandee and Josie are helping Tiffani, while Betty, Marcel and C.J. help Tre. Tre has thrown out his leftovers and Stephen won't give up his veal because he has to help Tiffani, so Tre has little choice but to use Betty's discarded dessert items. Tiffani decides to dress up the concept of a leftover turkey sandwich.

Josie interviews that it's time for a female chef i.e. Tiffani to triumph on Top Chef. Marcel and C.J. cheer on Tre as he and Tiffani head for the dining room. The judges dig in. They liked both dishes. Gail praises Tre for successfully conquering dessert. Others prefer Tiffani and it's all up in the air as the four main judges head off to deliberate.

Back at judges table, Gail praises Tre and Tiffani for producing consistent, tasty meals. They all compliment the last-minute dishes and Padma reminds those living under a rock that $20,000 is a lot of money. Colicchio tells Tre that the scallops were his best dish and praises Tiffani for the butterscotch pudding.

After a few seconds of adieu, Tiffani is declared the winner. Tiffani seems to have grown up a lot since her Season 1 machinations, so congratulations to her for that and the win. Only a few months to go until Top Chef Season 4!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Canadian Project Runway

Meet Evan Biddell, the 24-year-old winner of Project Runway Canada, which is hosted by supermodel Iman.

I thought I would know if there was a Project Runway franchise, but apparently I am not up on my Project Runwayness. I am definitely going to search YouTube because, hey, Project Runway in Canada is still Project Runway, even if it lacks some of the awesome elements like TIM GUNN! accompanied by the snarky-funny comments from the Heidi-Nina-Michael Kors team. Maybe they just say things like "She looks like a fat Minnie Mowse, eh?" (I should talk--I'm originally from Minnesota!)

Saskatoon's Evan Biddell wins inaugural 'Project Runway Canada'

TORONTO - Self-taught Saskatoon designer Evan Biddell's raw talent "measured up" Monday night as he won the inaugural season of "Project Runway Canada."

The colourful fashionista who has no design training beat two other finalists on the Slice TV show, with host and supermodel Iman declaring "his clothes have a new language."

"There's no map that I follow," the 24-year-old, who is often referred to by just his last name, said in an interview before the finale aired.

"I haven't been taught anything, so this is the way I've figured out how to make clothes."

Biddell, who was born in Medicine Hat, Alta., but grew up in Saskatoon, started stitching clothes as a teen when he and his friends needed funky pieces to wear to raves.

He sold some of his items but never went to fashion school or designed a full collection before the series, which also has a U.S. version.

Biddell was among the more outspoken and confident of the 12 contestants, who were mentored by designer Brian Bailey.

"I'm pretty loud and obnoxious, I think," he said, adding that watching himself on the show has made him realize how much he swears.

"I would really hate to be locked up for 30 days with a guy like me. That would drive me nuts. I totally don't blame (my competitors) for getting sick of me."

Biddell and the other two finalists - Marie Genevieve Cyr of Montreal and Lucian Matis of Toronto - presented their collections at L'Oreal Fashion Week in Toronto in late October. Their runway shows were taped for the finale and helped judges Iman, Rita Silvan and Shawn Hewson choose the winner.

Biddell's designs included sleek lines and colourful fabrics, and were inspired by Saturday morning cartoons. Iman and Hewson loved it but questioned whether Biddell had a clear vision.

"Why do I need to have a main focus? Since when can't I be a schizophrenic designer?" he said after raiding his suitcase for new accessories to wear during the interview at the Alliance Atlantis building (he chose black sunglasses adorned with little skulls, a waistcoat and a purple scarf).

"I've changed eight times today in order to keep you guys guessing, like, 'Who is he really? What is he really thinking behind those shades?' I like kind of playing characters and dressing up and going out and being whoever you want."

With the win, Biddell gets $100,000 to begin his own fashion line, a professional portfolio photo shoot, a retail mentorship with Winners and a cover and feature spread in Elle Canada magazine.

He plans to use the money to buy a studio and possibly create a collection in time for next fall's Fashion Week - and inject some identity into the Canadian fashion scene.

"When I think of American fashion I have something in my head," he said.

"When I think of London, there are cuts, there are shapes you see and Paris has the embellishment and Canada, it's like, um, hoodies and jeans? Which I love ... but it needs some experimentation going on. It definitely needs some oomph."

Friday, December 14, 2007


Check out this TVGuide.com interview with departed contestant Jack Mackenroth. Not only does Jack dish on a post-PR run-in with Sarah Jessica Parker, but he also reveals that he's dating former Top Chef contestant Dale Levitski.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

One day you're in and one day you're out ...

... and some days, you're back in. That's what happened to Chris March. After the departure of Jack due to a medical crisis, Chris got to unpack his things and return to the workroom. Jack's premature departure was unfortunate and made even sadder by the teary reactions from the other designers. But it's great to have Chris back, particularly since he didn't deserve to leave over Ricky last week.

Of course Chris' "welcome back" present was getting to pull an all-nighter to finish his design on time. And then he ended up in the bottom three again. Luckily he's still around, although I'm sure Steven, who got cut, doesn't agree.

This week, the designers were faced with the kind of challenge that strikes fear into the heart of Project Runway contestants -- making clothing for *shudder* real women! In this case, the women had recently lost significant amounts of weight and the designers had to use each woman's former favorite outfit, now too big, to create a new look.

Poor Steven ended up with the woman in the wedding dress as his client. Originally, I thought he was a little dire about the situation. At least the wedding dress was unique as opposed to say the black shirt and jeans favored by Christian's client.

I changed my mind once the judges started to go after him for not taking full advantage of his "good luck." Yes, Steven made a horrible mother-of-the-bride monstrosity that would have worked best as a Pilgrim costume in a community theater Thanksgiving play. But the way the judges went on and on about the greatness of the wedding dress you would have thought it was a Chanel, not a vision in polyester and puffed sleeves.

Here she is, Miss Sailed the Mayflower to America:

Personally, I think Steven considered himself defeated before he even started to design. Even though he should have used more fabric from the dress, mindset was his greatest downfall. When Tim told Steven his mostly black garment was "courageous" I knew he was screwed. But Steven did provide several quote-worthy sayings, including the term "death on a stick," which I plan to start incorporating into daily conversation.

Meanwhile, I was worried that Christian was going to blow up at his client after she pooh-poohed anything other than a spin on what she already had -- a black shirt and jeans. But Christian really pulled it off. His black tuxedo-style jacket could have easily crossed the line into fussy and costumey but the design instead looked cool, modern and structured.

Side note: Did Christian's model remind anyone else of contestants on TLC's What Not to Wear? Stacy and Clinton are always grappling with women who are afraid to break out of their fashion boxes. I'm sure they would love to throw out all of those black shirts and jeans and force the model into a skirt.

Christian, please bring this jacket to my local Target:

Still, Christian won the challenge because Kevin opted for the dreaded black leggings as a bottom for his design. Kevin's top -- a buttery yellow strapless shell with black details -- looked fabulous on his model and you could tell she agreed. Also, extra props to Kevin for being enthusiastic about designing for the everyday woman.

Kevin's model should model:

There were a couple of omissions from the Top Three and Bottom Three this week. First of all, Victorya's dress was almost as dowdy as Steven's. I realize her client was older, but Victorya's design aged the poor woman another ten years. To echo Shruti's sentiments of last week: Why are the judges giving Victorya all of these free passes to suck?

Sarah Jessica Parker is weeping right now Victorya:

On the other hand, Kit deserved a place in the Top Three for creating a fun, flirty cocktail dress for her client. Kit's dress was much more flattering on the model than Jillian's, which was part of the top trio. Jillian's design was OK, but the black seams of the dress were too close together. Instead of the slimming corset detail I assume Jillian was going for, the model looked like she was bursting out of the dress. Plus, Jillian didn't even use fabric from her model's old garment.

Compare/Contrast -- Kit's dress is on the left, Jill's design is on the right:

The most exciting news this week happened on Bravo's Web site: Tim Gunn's blog is back! One of my favorite parts of past Project Runway seasons was reading Tim's frank, witty recaps of each episode, complete with behind-the-scenes gossip. Now I'm just crossing my fingers that Tim's Project Runway podcast isn't far behind. Come on Bravo, make it work!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Trip in the Way Back Machine

Rachel's Take :
Now comes the point where Project Runway and I have to agree to disagree. Bottom line: I'd much rather have seen Ricky go over Chris. Chris was fun, seemed like a nice guy and his designs have been pretty impressive so far. Ricky comes off as a whiner and he's messed up some aspect of all of the initial challenges.

To make the cut more unkind, Chris went out designing around one of the worst fashion trends ever: shoulder pads. All of the designers had "fashion don'ts" to deal with this week. To add insult to injury, they had to form groups of three and create collections incorporating a trio of design missteps.

Although it was Chris' team that ultimately fell victim to an "auffing" by Heidi, the space inhabited by Team Ricky/Victorya/Elisa was clearly the most miserable corner of the workroom. Victorya herself said it best: she is a "bossy cow" and she should have asked to be in charge. Instead, she opted to be passive/aggressive. She and Ricky both came off looking bad in this challenge; they seemed incapable of having an adult conversation and their collection suffered because of it.

For the first time, I was happy that Elisa lives on another planet. She was spared all of her teammates' snippy backbiting and created the best dress in a collection that resembled court jester outfits or costumes from a third-rate staging of Moulin Rouge.

I call this "The Greatest Thing You'll Ever Learn ... is not to use circus colors as your theme.":

They ended up in second place with the judges but "Team Star" -- Jack, Christian and Kit -- appeared to be having the most fun. Their collection was polished and sophisticated but I had trouble picking out clear evidence of pleather and fringe inspirations in each outfit. The zoot suit was clearly there but, in trying to tone down the craziness, the trio eliminated the impact of the pleather and fringe details of their designs.

Jillian led the winning team and also proved to be a passive/aggressive leader. She spent an entire episode complaining to Rami about Kevin's slow pace. But we never saw her say something to Kevin himself. In the end, Kevin came through and their collection -- which combined the trends of overalls, "70s flare" and poodle skirts -- was really cute. The designs were fresh and springy and also very Ralph Lauren -- no surprise because Jillian works there.

Look up "preppy meets Dallas" in the dictionary and you'll see:

A final note: Steven's Tim Gunn impression? I knew Santino Rice's Tim Gunn impression. Santino Rice's Tim Gunn impression is a friend of mine. And you sir are no Santino Rice's Tim Gunn impression. The other designers were laughing, but they were the only ones.

Shruti's Take:
Now that the designers have been culled down to a more manageable 12, this episode was all about personality. As in Kit and Jillian finally got some ("the fringe would look like arm hair!"), Steven still has none, and Victorya showed her true one.

I would also include how Sweet P is the greatest, but it didn't work in the faux rhyming scheme I had above. And Christian has a lot of it.

Wednesday night I was just not in the mood for drama. I just wanted everyone to be happy butterflies and see lots of great fashion and have it be a tough choice because everyone is like little dragonflies. It's like I don't even KNOW me anymore. Of course, it was totally the wrong night because it was like DRRRRRAMA. (not to cross-reference, but I always hear Lo/Lauren/Kristen from Laguna Beach/The Hills saying this word in my head, all Drr---A-Ma!).

Seriously, I am so over Victorya. I mean, I can't even really be over her cause I was never with her in the first place. A black sack dress with a giant silver flower and a black sack dress with a vest is still two black sack dresses. WHY didn't Nina Garcia slay her in her tracks? Anyway, she was all "Ricky should've been a better leader" when she was really just attempting to take over, ignoring him and being a general B. She can't even claim its editing that made her look bad because a)she said those things and b) the editors even tried to redeem her right before runway, but she still is a B.

Anyway, personality isn't the point, RIIIGHT? It's the fashion!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Won't anyone think of the children?

Like all ProjRun superfans, Rachel and I kept up the chatter about what the "ZOMG! Hardest Challenge EVAR!1!" (notice a theme?) might be. Rachel had her fingers, toes, hair, internal organs, crossed that it might be children. CAN YOU IMAGINE? That would be the hardest challenge ever.

I was totally bored by the fact that it was menswear. So bored that I actually fell asleep right before elimination. Ok, so that last part is true, but its not necessarily because it was menswear. Also, don't we recall menswear from another season? Rachel, help me out here...

Although it wasn't kids, I liked seeing the designers leave their comfort zones for the world of menswear. It was interesting to see how making clothes for men was so much harder for these people than creating garments using flowers, home decorations, paper, etc. The only other time I can remember Project Runway delving into menswear was in Season 2, when the contestants had to dress each other. In her first attempt at dressing a guy, Chloe won with an awesome outfit she made for "Uncle" Nick Verreos.

Anyway, a"s much as I am bitching about the ZOMG Hardest Challenge EVAR!1!, I sort of love it when Project Runway shakes these designers out of their little fashion world. You know, the world that is populated by tall, stick-thin dolls that you can dress and undress even without the convenient snaps in the back. It's all "WHAT clothes go above size 2? Fat people wear clothes? Old women wear clothes? MEN wear clothes? WHAT?!"

Even better that the client is Tiki Barber:

You know whatever they made would not fit Tiki's "thick neck, skinny waist and BIG BOOTY." ok, so he didn't say that exactly, but you get the point.

Tiki Barber cannot lie -- he's got a big butt. Seriously, Tiki and wife Mrs. Tiki seemed to spend a lot of time thinking about ways to show off or hide Barber's rear end. It was all for naught, however, because none of the designers knew who he was. Tiki was just another customer. The vast difference in body type between a big, burly football player and relatively skinny male models made it difficult for me to picture Tiki wearing ANY of the designs. I'll have to Google for a pic of him wearing the winner on the Today show.

I personally liked Kevin's design best. He not only made an amazing outfit that totally met Tiki's specifications (What was with him all saying "I'll wear pink" during the interview, but switching and saying he would wear the outfit with a different shirt during runway? Oh Tiki.)

Kevin's design was great, although there was some definite weirdness going on about the purple shirt. At least we found out that Seal -- aka Mr. Heidi Klum -- wouldn't be allowed out of the house in a plummy shade. Too bad, because I think both Seal and Tiki could rock this color.

OHMIGOSH wait a gosh darn second here. How could I not mention the most important part of this episode? MALE MODELS. This is where we get to FINALLY objectify men.

The arrival of the male models was the best part of the whole episode. Loved how the editors included plenty of gratuitous underwear and abdominal shots. The level of awe among the designers made me wonder why more of them aren't menswear designers -- maybe they're afraid of getting too distracted by the eye candy?

Do you think Elisa just spit on her model's...pants seam?

Not much Elisa craziness this time, except for the scene where she turned her back as the model got undressed. Oh Elisa, if you can spit on clothing you can definitely handle the intimacy of looking at a half-clothed man.

Anyway, in the end Carmen went home cause, uhhh, she didn't even have a shirt on her model. Imagine if that had been a woman ... I have to say, for not having a shirt, she made the piece of fabric work.

Poor Carmen. I knew she was done for when Michael Kors called her out for crazy crotch action; anyone who saw Bradley's Cher outfit from Season 3's Icon challenge knows this area is one of Kors' pet peeves. I was shocked by how many of the designs were completed before the runway show because almost everyone seemed to have a ton of work to do with only hours to go.

He looks like Oliver Twist. Please sir, can I have a shirt?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"What planet are you from?"

Do you think all of the past Project Runway contestants were kind of jealous watching last week's episode? For years, designers speculated that Sara Jessica Parker would be that week's "surprise fashion icon" only to get stuck with Iman or Parker Posey instead.

SJP was a reward to both contestants and viewers -- watching the designers (and models) plotz over the "Sex in the City" star was a riot. There were more tears than a Barbara Walters special! I thought Chris was going to have a heart attack while trying to pitch his design.

The challenge was to create a look for Parker's Bitten line, which is sold at Steve & Barry's discount chain. The garment had to retail for less than $40 and the contestants had a KMart-worthy $15 to spend on fabric.

This was a team challenge so we also got our first taste of how these contestants work in groups. To the surprise of no one, Elisa and Sweet P's partnering created the most drama. Apparently Elisa doesn't know how to use a sewing machine and enjoys spitting on her fabric (to the absolute disgust of judges and contestants.) Poor Sweet P -- she was trapped in the Twilight Zone for the entire hour. Heidi seemed to sum things up for everyone when she hilariously asked Elisa: "What planet are you from?"

The Elisa/Sweet P collaboration ultimately produced the day's second highest scoring design. The cape was a beautiful color and very unique in its construction, particularly for the type of customer Bitten is marketed toward. But the teal color of the dress was pretty tacky.

Which brings me to Christian and Carmen's design, one of the night's worst. Also a teal monstrosity, the dress was unflattering even to the stick-thin model. The jacket was straight out of a bad 80s movie. Even Alexis Colby from Dynasty would have passed it by.

Victorya designed the winning outfit, a tunic-dress/vest combo. The sophisticated color palette -- navy and plum -- really made the dress stand out from the rest of the pack. I'm not sure how flattering the design would be on the average body type -- but the dress is currently available at Steve & Barry's stores so I guess the public can judge for themselves.

I wish the judges had given more time and praise to Ricky and Jack's pretty, wearable magenta dress and woven belt. The dress flared out from the body and the belt defined the waist, making the look accessible to a wide variety of women. Plus it was totally cute. Victorya won because her dress was more fashion-forward, but I think this look is more likely to stand the test of time.

Marion and Steven were judged the week's worst with Marion's fringed sweater tunic and skirt. The judges nailed the biggest flaws of the design -- the color made the garment look dusty and old and the look was very low-budget Pocahontas.

The departure of Marion was no great loss. He hadn't done much to distinguish himself from the pack and I think that the rest of the "bottom four" -- Carmen, Christian and Steve -- have a lot more to offer this competition.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Why I'm thankful for Project Runway

Forty-eight hours of sprained ankle-related discomfort + 24 hours of living every, single hellish airport-related cliche did me in last night. I went to bed early and missed Episode Two of Season Four. I know, I know -- Tim Gunn would be so disappointed.

I plan to watch one of Bravo's three million repeat showings in the next few days. Until then, I'm taking advantage of the holiday to list the Top Five Reasons I'm Thankful for Project Runway:

1. "Lighten Up! It's Just Fashion!" -- I'm not a big fan of most reality shows. Survivor, Big Brother, Kid Nation -- can't stand any of them because I hate the way producers exploit the contestants and their emotional/physical problems for ratings gain.

That's why Project Runway is so refreshing. The designers are, for the most part, talented professionals. Those who aren't entertain us with their sewing, rather than personal, foibles. While the show is a competition, it's also the chance to see the creative process at work.

2. "Make it Work!" -- Given the edict to design a dress out of flowers, recycled paper or home furnishings, I'd crack in two minutes over construction issues. But each week, the designers have to find a way to express themselves within the parameter of crazy challenges.

Sometimes they fail -- miserably (think Season 3 Kayne's recycled dress, which looked like an alien costume in a low budget science fiction movie.) And sometimes they create a garment so innovative that you can't believe it was made from coffee filters (i.e. Season 3 Michael's entry in the "Make an outfit out of the decorations in your apartments" challenge.) Either way, the materials' evolution from mere stuff to a (mostly) wearable garment is always entertaining.

3. "Designers? Gather 'round" -- I (and just about every other PR fan) can't say enough about the articulate joys of Tim Gunn. But Project Runway really hit the jackpot with the entire hosting/judging team. Heidi Klum is unexpectedly snarky, Michael Kors is appropriately whiny and Nina Garcia probably shouldn't be allowed in the proximity of wire hangers. But all four seem genuinely committed to the competition and to the contestants. Compare that to the judging/hosting team at Top Chef who seem committed to laughing at, rather than with, the cooks and you see how it makes all the difference.

4. "Where the Hell is my chiffon?" -- Project Runway features all of the fighting, backbiting and sniping you expect when a group of strangers are thrown together, deprived of sleep and made to compete. But producers have done a serviceable job of finding contestants with personality without delving into Jerry Springer territory (I'm looking at you Big Brother.) Yes, Season 3's Vincent was a nut but his biggest outburst was an entertaining, expletive-heavy freak out about his laundry. Season Two's Santino could be a jerk, but he is legitimately talented and that made his struggles with the judges and contestants compelling to watch.

5. "It's a matter of taste." -- As the models prepare to take the runway at the end of each episode, the competition is always up in the air. The garment Tim Gunn praised 20 minutes before could be torn apart by the judges. The freak-of-the-week ensemble could be deemed "Elle-worthy" by Nina Garcia. The model might trip, the dress seam might rip or a less-than-stellar dress could be sold with a killer runway walk. The PR runway is a trip to the mall dressing room amped up 100 watts. You never know which garment is coming home with a win.

That's all for now. Happy turkey-eating!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Who is the surprise guest?

The ZOMG BIGGEST GUEST JUDGE EVAR!!1!! on Project Runway tonight has all the blogs, fashion writers and tv columns abuzz. Who is this surprise judge?

According to the LATimes, we are supposed to think of celebrities with three-WORD names. I had been thinking of celebrities with three-letter names, so I was all "Chris is getting tearful over Eve?" But three word names...

...well, this is not a spoiler, cause I don't actually know anything, but my guess is it has to do with a certain New Jersey rocker.

Rachel and I might be late in posting tomorrow, since I will be traveling in the morning and both of us will be stuffing our faces, but perhaps post-digestion we can digest the episode. And see if I was right!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Watching Project Runway with a contestant? awesome.

That's what Inky fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington got to do when she randomly ran into Jay McCarroll at Philadelphia University where he teaches a class. He, essentially, invites himself over to watch the preview and PRESTO! she has a lede about Jay McCarroll grabbing a slice of pizza while sitting on her couch. Like, in her house.


As a preview, this article is a bit late on our blog, but considering we started it the day after the show premiered, this is actually perfect timing.

A peek up the "Runway.'

Thursday, November 15, 2007


This is a double premiere--we are blogging about the premiere episode of Season Four of Project Runway AND we are premiering our new blog. We hope to become the Heather & Jessica of the Project Runway world, but let's see about that. I wish we could be Rich and make fancy gifs, but the best we can do is use pictures from BravoTV.com

Ok, enough name-dropping.

What did you think about the contestants? Elisa annoyed the crap out of me. I think everyone was being nice when they kept describing her as "spiritual." I think the word they left out was "pretentious." I'm sorry, but when you are "spiritual" like that, it just comes off as being fake and trying too hard to be "one with the earth." Other people may differ with me, but I think the one thing we can all agree on is the execution of her dress was HORRIBLE.

Elisa is CRAZY. I was actually sad she didn't go with her first idea, to create a dress out of fabric "enhanced" with grass stains. That said, I'm not surprised that she's still "in." The judges always pick "train wreck ... but risk-taking!" over "poorly made." Simone's baby-doll dress looked like it was held together with thumb tacks and the matching shrug didn't match at all. So she's gone and we get to laugh at Elisa's antics for a few more weeks.

Upon seeing the dress, my precocious boyfriend said "It looks like the dress is pooping fabric!" Of course, as we all know, moments later, Heidi confirmed the same thing. Except she sounded cuter saying it with her German accent. (Sorry honnnnneeey).

This episode reminded me how much I love Heidi Klum. Despite being a supermodel glamazon, she actually has a personality. The "pooping fabric" comment rivals last year's "Who would want to be a fat Minnie Mouse?" comment about Season 3 Alison's paper dress. In other judge news, the evil duo of Michael Kors and Nina Garcia didn't have much of note to say last night but their facial expressions as the various looks were coming down the runway were priceless.


Rami's dress was definitely beautiful, but I personally liked Christian's a little more. I think Christian took a risk while Rami went safe. Of course, as a normal human, I'd be more likely to WEAR Rami's, but when did wearability become something we use to judge fashion. Try NEVER.

I loved Rami's dress. Loved the color, loved the draping and I could live with the flower. His win echoed last year's premiere, when Keith "I didn't cheat" Michael came out on top for a very simple, but well-constructed, blue dress. Hopefully Rami doesn't meet the same fate as Keith.

I liked Christian's look. The top was beautiful and I haven't seen much like it out there. My only complaint was with the skirt -- the asymmetrical aspect made the bubble hem look unfinished. However, I may be nitpicking because I don't like Christian. All of that showboating -- plus a whiny voice that belongs in silent film.


Rachel and I both agree that we thought Victorya's dress was totally overrated. I don't understand the judges--she totally made an average dress and then tacked on a metallic flower...and they loved it! Previous seasons, they have seen right through that ruse, not fallen over themselves with love:

Boring ass flower of hell.

What is up with that flower? The dress actually looks cuter in the picture than it did on the runway. But, thanks to the weird shoulder straps, the model couldn't move her arms -- that pretty much knocks the dress out of contention for dancing, eating, playing basketball, rock-climbing and all other activities that require movement.

I personally found Chris' dress to be underrated. I mean, I guess it passed, but I thought he should've been in the top three instead of Victorya. This could reveal my lack of fashion knowledge, but I thought this dress was just gorgeous. Maybe a little safe, but gorgeous:
I loved Chris' dress as well. The skirt was a little boring, but the top was beautiful. Actually I just like Chris in general -- he's kind of a cuddlier version of Jay McCarroll. And I can't wait to see how he handles the crazy challenges considering his work as a costume designer requires making dresses out of salad fixings. I also liked Chicago Steven's black suit and Sweet P's dress (which I thought was really the same idea as Victorya's but less dressy.)

Also, wasn't the preview for the season like the longest preview ever? And what's with the poll? Wasn't it totally obvious that Tim Gunn is everyone's favorite thing about Project Runway. I mean, D'uh!

It was so good to see the divine Tim Gunn once again! And I love how the contestants were already hip to the Tim love, applauding his catchphrase use and writing "Make it work!" on the apartment chalkboard. Now I'm just dying to know what this year's challenges are going to be. My vote? Making outfits for kids. That could create all sorts of drama.