Saturday, January 26, 2008

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A Word from Jay McCarroll

Cheer Up, Sleepy Jean(s) ...

... Ricky is Project Runway's Homecoming queen!

Except not really. But he does cry like a high school girl anointed to that coveted position. And he finally won a challenge this week. Not only did Ricky win, but I think this was the first time the judges haven't completely hated his design.

Why did Ricky win? Well that's another story. This week, the designers confronted a warehouse full of denim and were asked to create a look that celebrates the iconic Levi's 501 jean. Confronted with endless possibilities, Ricky created a tube dress with a button fly effect on the bodice. Yawn.

The dress was cute, but it wasn't particularly original. The judges praised the fit, but I agree with Tim Gunn: how hard could it possibly be to fit a tube dress? I didn't even think the dress fit that well; the garment was kind of bunched around the model's sternum as if it was too tight.

I've noticed that the judges seem to be really responsive this season to trendy silhouettes (i.e. babydoll dresses and tunics) and looks derived from current pop culture. Ricky won because he turned his model into Amy Winehouse:

I wonder if Ricky's win will give him a little more cache among the other designers. They all seemed a little disgruntled that he's still around while Kit, among others, was sent home.

Sweet P didn't turn her model into a troubled pop star, but she did create a youthful and sophisticated strapless dress -- my favorite look this week. I thought Sweet P was in major trouble when she started babbling about designing a denim wedding dress (her idea, however, did allow us to learn that Sweet P has a husband named Sage, which is adorable -- they're both named after herbs!) But she listened to Tim Gunn -- always a good idea -- and managed to change directions without going into a panic spiral.

This dress doesn't even look like it's made of denim:

Denim is a deal breaker. Worn right, it can be classic and fun. In the wrong hands, however, denim is dated and cheap-looking. Think mom jeans.

I think that's why most of the designers opted for the more polished-looking dark wash denim. Unlike Sweet P, most also created garments that stayed true to the basic construction and look of a pair of jeans. I could tell that's what Caroline Calvin, the guest judge from Levi's, wanted to see (speaking of: if you think you can do better than the designers, check this out.)

Given the emphasis on staying true to the 501s, I would have given Christian another win this week. His look, which used a denim jacket as the basis for jeans and a pair of jeans to create a jacket, was original and daring. The jeans made of jacket sleeves could have been a disaster but Christian turned the design into something I could easily see walking down the runway or folded and stacked on a shelf at the Gap.

Seriously, Christian should patent this design before Levi's steals it:

Like Ricky, Chris and Rami also made jean-esque denim dresses. Rami proved he's not a one-note by using zippers as a trim and creating a cute sailor-front effect with buttons on the skirt. Rami glued on the buttons, which made me fear shedding on the runway:

Chris' dress kind of reminded me of overalls, with the prominent strap that ran all the way around the model's body before buttoning at one shoulder. He made a mistake by leaving one frayed edge rather than fraying the entire dress or getting rid of that effect entirely.

Chris should have listened when Tim Gunn warned of trouble on the runway:

Good old Chris was also the source of this week's sagest piece of advice. As Jillian broke down over her ongoing time management issues, he advised: "If you don't understand the situation by now, you're refusing to learn."

That probably wasn't what Jillian wanted to hear, but it was what she needs to hear. Jillian is a great designer and she's definitely got her own voice. But her high-strung nature and overzealous perfectionism are going to kill her if she doesn't get it under control.

Jill's coat had promise but she (and Victorya) seemed to be blinded by the success of the coat they presented on the runway last week. The darker sleeves of Jill's coat were totally wrong for the rest of the garment and the Levi's labels marching down one shoulder were completely superfluous.

Jillian, if all you can say about a garment is that you "almost kind of like" it, that's a problem. Also, why did you show up for the runway show dressed to go salsa dancing?

Meanwhile, Victorya seemed to give up. Bad enough that she copied Jill's coat idea, Vic's garment was totally pedestrian. I've seen denim trenches like that in every mainstream store at the mall. To echo the other designers and judges: What the heck was Victorya doing with her time this week?

Bleh. I see this as definitive proof that Victorya was a one-note:

I'm sure Vic has a lot of free time now, because her lack of initiative got her kicked off. Only six designers remain and the competition is up in the air. Ricky needs to go, but I could see any of the remaining five making it to Fashion Week.

Quote of the week:
Christian: "Are we going to meet somebody fabulous today?"
Tim Gunn: "We are fabulous, we don't need to meet anybody."
Me: "Tim, you are fabulous. The jury's still out on the rest of these people."

Quote I will be incorporating into everyday life:
Christian: "Oh my God, I'm going to die of barfness."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I'm on Team Fierce

For the past four seasons, Tim Gunn has warned Project Runway contestants about designing "a float in a parade" -- his description of a garment so over-the-top that it can't be taken seriously.

Not that all of the designers listen to le Gunn, however. The "more is less" mistake felled many a designer, from Santino in Season 2 to Kayne in Season 3.

Both of the aforementioned designers must have felt like weeping this week, when Project Runway freed the Season 4 crew from the constraints of designing a wearable garment. The contestants were commanded to go all out to create avant-garde designs based on crazy hairstyles.

Of course there was a catch -- there is always a catch. The designers were working in pairs so Shruti and I spent an entire commercial break biting our nails and worrying that the twist was two designers getting kicked off this week.

Luckily, the reality involved pain for the designers but pleasure for the audience in the form of watching each team scramble to create a second look, a ready-to-wear version of the avant-garde piece.

This challenge was a gift for Christian and Chris M. -- Christian has worked for avant-garde designer Alexander McQueen and Chris M. creates bombastic costumes for a living.

"Team Fierce," as Christian called them, really delivered. Their avant-garde outfit looked like a wedding cake, with layers fabric standing in for icing. The collar was the size of a small planet bringing the entire piece in at a weight equal to that of all the models plus Heidi put together.

I thought Nina was going to cry, she was gushing so much over this outfit, the eventual challenge winner. And Nina doesn't even have feelings, other than cattiness and rage!

I wish someone would have explained why models of avant-garde designs are supposed to hunch over. This poor model looks like she's going to topple:

After the extravaganza of the layer cake dress, Chris and Christian's ready-to-wear design was a bit disappointing. The look was nice, but a little too Sears for me. This is Project Runway! I expect Bloomingdale's at least.

With one notable exception, all of the designers created relatively mundane ready-to-wear looks.
A boring dress was a victory for Victorya and Jillian -- for a while, it looked like they weren't even going sew a second look.

I was surprised that time management was the only conflict between Jill and Vic. Both are such intense perfectionists, I expected them to be at each other's throats.

Instead, they worked together and created an amazing avant-garde look. The coat was fabulous and the tartan details fit perfectly with the model's punk ponyhawk. Even more impressive? The fact that the riding pants and blouse underneath were more than an afterthought. Avant-garde or not, I would have taken that blouse home on the spot.

There is something very the Clash-meets-Jack the Ripper about this outfit. It's awesome:

Since Victorya and Jill weren't fighting, maybe Rami felt like he had to pick up the slack. He claimed the animosity toward partner Sweet P was due to her sloth at the sewing machine. But I think the real reason is Rami, the winner of two previous challenges, sees Bottom Two-prone Sweet P as beneath him as a designer (despite the fact that she did well last week.)

So it was sweet to see how the situation reversed itself. Rami thought Sweet P was going to bring him down, but his attitude was the killer here. Note to Rami: You can find women wearing pants under a dress on every street corner in America. That idea may have been avant-garde in 1942, but it's de rigour in 2008. Rami also proved once again that he's coasting on his draping skills. Even the judges noticed this week.

All of this look is 1942, not just the pants. It looks like something Lauren Bacall would have worn in her ingenue days:

Meanwhile, Sweet P did a great job with the ready-to-wear look. Hers was the only second design that didn't look like an afterthought.

I actually thought Kit's avant-garde look was better than Rami's; at least she tried to go over-the-top. Unlike the judges, I also liked the fabrics she and Ricky used. Their execution missed the mark, however.

The dress looks like a costume for actors on the Alice in Wonderland float at Disney World:

Too bad Ricky wasn't team leader. Kit probably wouldn't have made it to the top three -- she spent her entire run out of the spotlight, but I think the judges would have had taste issues with her eventually. But she deserved to outlast Ricky.

Ricky is shaping up to be this season's stealth underachiever. He's been in the Bottom Two multiple times. Each time, however, his errors haven't been as heinous as the other contender for ousting. I keep telling myself that Ricky's luck has to run out eventually. Then I remember that Wendy Pepper -- the world-famous, original stealth underachiever -- managed to make it to Fashion Week.

But lightning never strikes twice -- or does it?

Next week: The designers create looks using mystery materials stored in a New York warehouse.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sixteen Candles

I was totally jealous of the models this week -- how awesome would it be to have a prom dress custom-made by Project Runway? I bought my senior prom dress at the last minute -- it was $25 on sale at Kohl's. A cute dress, but not designer (or custom-made) by any means.

Many of the designers expressed severe trepidation about designing for a gaggle of high school students from New Jersey. Clearly they've memorized Project Runway Challenge Rule #1: Designing a dress for any of life's milestones is bound to create major drama (see Season 1's wedding dress challenge.) And Project Runway Challenge Rule #2: The drama doubles if you're dealing with emotional teenagers (again, see the wedding challenge.)

Unfortunately not enough attention was paid to Project Runway Challenge Rule #3: Keep the drama off the runway. And Christian, I'm talking to you.

The biggest diva of all the designers, Christian got stuck with the most diva model, Maddie. With all her demands, Maddie seemed like a prime candidate for another popular reality show -- MTV's My Super Sweet Sixteen. There was no way she was going to be satisfied with anything Christian made for her. But that seemed to defeat Christian rather than motivate him to try harder.

Christian's creation really wasn't all that bad. The dress was cute and age appropriate, if a little busy. But he totally shot himself in the foot by trying to blame all of the problems on Maddie. Nina seemed more upset by Christian's actions on the runway than his actual dress. He was lucky to make it through this week.

Here's Maddie working it for the camera, even though she looks like she's got doilies covering her dress:

Meanwhile, Kevin was voted off, which is at the very least a loss in the personality department. Kevin projects a very likable, down-to-earth persona on screen and I'll miss him. But why or why did he not hem his freaking dress? I don't think there was a question in anyone's mind -- Kevin's included -- that the judges were going to slam him for it.

Nina and Co. also said the dress was cheap-looking and too old for the model. Not being there in person, it was hard to tell if the cheap comment was true. But the dress and styling made the model look like a pageant contestant from 1955.

In this photo, the dress also makes the model look really short and squat. Considering the judges' unflattering comments, do you think she and the rest of the Bottom Four actually wore their designs to prom?

Kevin pushed himself under the bus but I really wanted Ricky to go. All of Ricky's designs have been mediocre at best. Michael Kors mentioned that very fact during deliberations but the judges still opted to keep him around. Why? Don't they want to stop going through tissues at an alarming rate?

The runway was a weird place this week. Why didn't the judges name a third front-runner? Both Jillian and Chris made beautiful dresses -- particularly from the back. And Kit's design was very kicky and age appropriate (although the colors were a little 80s.) They definitely deserved to be in but I think at least one should have been allowed to stay on the runway for some praise.

I would have put either of these in the Top Three. Chris' dress is on the left and Jillian's is on the right. Has anyone noticed that Jill's model kinda looks like her?

After a lackluster showing last week, Victorya emerged the winner. Her dress was cute, particularly the color and the multi-colored crystals on the neckline, and the model looked great in the design. I thought she deserved to win but the dress also proved Victorya to be something of a one-note. The prom outfit had the same basic babydoll minidress design as Vic's Sarah Jessica Parker dress and her entry in the Episode 1 "Expensive fabric" challenge.

Here's some proof. This week's dress is on the left and the SJP dress is at the right:

Also treading on old ground this week was Rami. He was called out for making a dress that was too old for the model. He really should have gotten slammed for essentially recreating his entry in the "expensive fabric" challenge. Come on people -- change it up!

Again here's proof. Prom on the left, Episode 1 on the right:

Next week: Whatever it is, Christian's not happy. Again.

Now I'm angry.

OK, this is not going to be a full post cause I am too too tired to go through and download pictures, plus they are not yet online, but I am VERY VERY upset about the outcome of tonight's Project Runway.

First of all, I think Sweet P deserved the win over Victorya. I did like Victorya's dress, but in terms of talking about prom, why is it okay that Victorya's dress is short, when they criticized other designers' dress for being too short for prom? Cause she bedazzled the top? Seriously, it is a cute dress, but I also really want Sweet P to have a win. Sometimes I wonder if they think ahead, thinking "Sweet P may be next to go, so we don't want to grant her immunity."

Secondly. HOW could they keep Ricky when they had a chance to get rid of him? Over Kevin? WHAT do they like about Ricky? I don't like Ricky. Why is he always crying? And what is wrong with all his hat? And why do we keep letting him make sucky stuff like during the team challenge even though he doesn't add good drama to the show (let's not forget producer input on decisions.) He just sits and weeps.

When I heard the bottom three I thought "Oh Good, Ricky is going home." And when they said he wasn't, I knew instantly it was Kevin, cause Christian ain' going home anytime soon. And Kevin has done a lot of great stuff.

Excuse this post written as I'm upset, tired, sick and gone through my entire vocabulary working nearly 12 hours today. And look forward to a probably really good post written by Rachel tomorrow.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

It's a marshmallow world ... for everyone but Elisa

About halfway through this week's episode of Project Runway, Bravo was kind enough to inform us that Thursday's edition was sponsored by Hershey's.

No kidding.

Shameless product placement was all over the place as the designers descended into real-life Candyland to create looks inspired by KitKats, Twizzlers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

This challenge reminded me a lot of the Season 3 recycling challenge and Season 2's flower challenge. All required the designers to use materials not meant to be bent, weaved and sewn into clothing. And all three challenges had the same potential pitfall -- striking the balance between "too safe" and "a float in a parade" (as Tim Gunn would say.)

The watchword for the judges this time seemed to be "joyous." Which was too bad for Elisa who admitted to going for just the opposite with her "macabre Gretel" outfit. There isn't much to say about her dress -- it was brown and the trim wasn't dynamic at all. The most objectionable part of the look were the weird silver detached sleeves. Christian compared them to a child's water wings and he was right.

I knew Elisa wasn't destined for the final four, but I'll miss her oddness. I thought her downfall would running out of time because she doesn't use a sewing machine and I'm sad we didn't get to learn more about her technique (spitting, hand-sewing, etc.)

We also found out what Christian the speed-sewer does with his free time -- walks around and annoys the other designers. Christian has actually grown on me since the first episode and I got the impression that the other contestants like him enough brush off his unwanted critiques -- at least for now.

Christian made his dress from the inner wrappers of Reese's cups. It was nice, but all I could think of was Michael Knight's coffee filter dress from Season 3. The difference is the coffee filters created a nice draping effect. The Reese's cups wrappers make the model look like she's covered in Play-Doh:

As the only designer to use actual candy, Jillian had the hardest row to hoe this week. I'm not sure how she affixed Twizzlers to her skirt and corset top, but they kept falling off (even during the judging, although not during the actual runway show.) The dress was super-cute and apparently smelled really good too.

You can see the missing Twizzlers in this photo. All of this week's looks are apparently being auctioned for charity. I feel kind of bad for whomever gets Jillian's outfit, unless the dress is sprayed with some major shellac.

Jillian is also growing on me. I had her pegged the first week as a snob, but she's just really intense and a perfectionist. Plus, her wardrobe is fantastic.

Rami won the challenge and I wasn't surprised. His dress was made from several different wrappers and candy-related swag. The level of detail and intricacy to the design was really amazing. I don't think Rami has made a misstep yet, so this challenge and the award of immunity next week puts him at the front of the pack.

I know the top of the dress was made from Twizzler swag, but I still can't figure out the origins of the skirt:

Chris got back on his feet this week after two mediocre weeks (one of which resulted in his demise, if not for Jack's illness.) I didn't notice the op-art effect of the two logos on his mini-dress until the judges pointed it out, but it was really neat. A costume designer, Chris also defied expectations of being the contestant who would go too over the top.

Chris' dress actually reminded me a lot of the offbeat yet sophisticated get-ups Serena van der Woodsen wears on Gossip Girl. Add some tights and a random hat and this model could move to the Upper East Side. XOXO:

Sweet P and Victorya joined Elisa in the Bottom 3. I felt bad for Sweet P. Her scuttled first attempt at a dress didn't look that bad to me. I'm not sure why she didn't simply try to tweak it a little (I hope it wasn't due to Christian's critique.) The second dress was very plain. I cracked up when Tim compared the skirt (made of the material used as the "tails" to Hershey's kisses) to a maxi-pad.

I think Tim meant that the skirt was similar to the cheap, paper labels packaged with maxi-pads. More than Jillian's dress (which was made of candy!) this outfit looks two minutes away from falling apart:

Meanwhile, Victorya's ruffled nightmare of a dress was extremely unflattering to her model. As her model is a toothpick, I take that to mean the look would be unflattering to anyone. The dress achieved the impossible feat of being busy and bland at the same time. Vic made the dress out of York Peppermint Patty pillows but she opted to use the white backing rather than the silver logo, thus robbing herself of the fun plays on patterns everyone else used to their advantage. Her incomprehensible story about the model as an ice princess didn't help. The model should have vetoed the accompanying weird robot Barbie walk.

I was so happy that the judges finally called out Victorya for being mediocre. I'm just not that impressed with her as a designer. I think her minimalist aesthetic -- or the tendency not to create a float in a parade -- was making it easier for the judges to ignore her faults.

The model wisely dropped the act for this photo:

Next week: The contestants design for some demanding clients. Thanks to my cable program guide, I know who they are and let me tell you, it's going to be good.