Mixing Old Fashioneds
Project Runway Recap: 9/6 Episode 309: The Couture Challenge
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From Bravo’s promo airing ad nauseam this week, we know that the designers are still in Paris. However, Vincent is stuck in Crazytown, which I’m guessing may be the twenty-first arrondissement. Last week Mélanges de Jubilé lost its founder and eau de cul was heavy in the air after Jeffrey gloated over his victory.
Austin Scarlett would have had an attack of the vapors if he had this challenge.
Immediately after Angela’s departure, Tim Gunn and Catherine Malandrino announce the next challenge: the designers must come up with a couture gown. As Tim and Catherine explain, the title of a “couture” designer is strictly regimented by the French government. “Couture” designs mean that the gowns are completely hand made with beading, lace, and other hand-applied details. Usually designs hundreds hours to complete with a team of six to eight people. The designers for this challenge will have two days and 300EUR (~375USD) to complete the challenge. Vincent in disbelief at the scope of this challenge: making a true couture dress under these circumstances is nearly impossible. To cap off their French experience, Catherine will host a party for the designers to show off their couture gowns.
Gratuitous scenic shots of Paris ensue.
After announcing the challenge, the designers are allowed to go to the hotel and get freshened up. They have been in their “jetsetter” outfits for a while now, and fresh clothes are undoubtedly needed. After a bit of a respite in the hotel, Tim takes the group out to dinner at, as Laura tells us, a French restaurant. Hmmm…here I was thinking they’d go to Mickey D’s. Tim raises a toast to success in this challenge and Kayne chimes in to toast for Jeffrey’s first win as well. Gotta love the typical southern “compliment”: on the surface, the toast looks well-intended, but anyone well versed in the language of backhanded compliments knows he’s saying, “Took you long enough, asshat.”
The next morning they get up and go to Sacre-Coeur, the highest point in Paris and sit around sketching for a while. Michael says he’s worried because he’s never done couture before. Vincent claims he was trained in couture, so he knows what it should be, and knows they don’t have the time for real couture.
Tim then takes them shopping for fabric at Reine, and, since this isn’t Mood, they have to take more time to find what they want. And, because couture fabrics are more expensive, they have to mind their Euros closely. Jeffrey is after some yellow plaid prints, which he says reflect a happy, joyous and free mood. He is using the Statue of Liberty as his inspiration and wants to become the only person with immunity to win a challenge. Uli is going for a darker grey/purple color to find a more sophisticated look; Kayne is after a whole lot of gold stuff; and Vincent is so complementary to the shop girl, it looks as though he is chatting her up .
No rush to get those applications into the French government.
Back at Parsons Paris, the designers set about putting their gowns together. Uli says she is trying to make her dress plain and simple to be more elegant. Laura is making a fairly plain black wool dress and is really going to “vamp it up” with a big white netting multi-layered collar that will stick up. Michael says he is going to make a basic dress and add the details on top of the simple dress.
In the sewing room, Kayne says he is imagining that he is making the dress for one of his best pageant girls, and Laura calls him on this, saying that it is couture, not pageant. He says he knows and he’s going to make it “couture-y.”
Vincent at some point has no shirt on beyond his undershirt, and it strikes fear in the heart of anyone who’d seen him in his boxers last week. He is fooling around with pattern pieces and doesn’t seem to make much progress. Laura, in a private camera interview, calls Vincent on what he does: he puts the pieces on the dressmaker’s dummy and steps back to admire them, then calls over someone else to get his or her “opinion” but really only wants validation on his project. And then we see a clip of Vincent doing just that.
Michael is not too happy either. He’s never done anything this complicated and is concerned that he will not get the detailing right. Laura asks him if he’ll be able to pull off the scalloped neckline he’s designed.
The designers work, work, work and then go back the hotel on the subway. On the morning of Day 2, Jeffrey annoys Vincent by using an electric shaver in the bedroom. Vincent yells at him and then Jeffrey goes out on the balcony to continue to shave. Wouldn’t the bathroom be a more appropriate venue for such action?
Maybe an atom bomb would be easier at this point.
At Parsons Paris for the second day of work on the couture gowns, things are really buzzing. Tim comes in to check on the progress of the gowns. He sees that Michael is overwhelmed by the detailing and has time issues. Laura’s dress is mostly completed; it a simple long black wool dress, with long sleeves with deep Vs in the front and back. Tim says that if the dress is mostly done (and it is) then she’ll have time to focus on making the collar, which is really the point of the dress. Tim also takes a look at the golden bodice Kayne is working on and does not like it at all. Kayne says he loves the dress and hopes his ideas will shine through.
With only six hours left, Jeffrey is still hand sewing the two bold yellow tartan plaids together on his mannequin. At least he’s following instructions. He does find the idea of making something that should, by French law, take hundreds of hours to make in two days, saying it is a bit like making an atom bomb in two days. There are cuts of other designers looking askance at him as he says this, but if you look closely at the stages of completion of dresses in the background you can tell these shots are taken from different times in the day. Bravo, your editing is getting sloppy!
Presumably while Kayne is out of the room, Laura states that she is worried about Kayne getting hurt on the runway. Jeffrey, ever compassionate, says he doesn’t care if Kayne gets told he is ridiculous again. Kayne tells the interviewing camera that he knows he has to pull it together, but he’s just going to deal with it.
With only himself and Jeffrey in the workroom, Vincent comments that Laura has made the “creature from the black lagoon” dress and he fids it terrible. Jeffrey says he’s doesn’t find it so lagoon-ish but just plain boring, which is seemingly worse in Jeffrey’s mind. I haven’t been shy about my dislike of Jeffrey, but the guy is right: Laura’s dress is boring.
We also see Vincent trying to give Michael advice about stitching in the rouching. Jeffrey “helpfully” says looks like what Malan was trying to do; Michael says he’ll take that as a complement, but he’s not to sure. Michael looks right to be nervous because the stitching on the rouching is pretty obvious.
Before Day Two wraps up, we see the beading details that Uli is putting on her dress by hand. Earlier, Uli was braiding long pieces of her fabric together as well. It would seem like she’s put a lot of effort into the detailing.
The first Seine of trouble.
On the morning of the third day, the models come in and the designers have two and a half hours to fit the Parisian models and then they are going to be going off to the party. There is a fair amount of rushing about to fit these girls because the designers only had the measurements on a card, and these new girls’ measurements don’t match the girls in New York, who will be wearing the dresses for the NYC runway show. Kayne made his a corseted back; while that is a good move fit-wise, corsets are tired now and this isn’t a dominatrix challenge. Plus, I’m pretty sure we’ve seen that diagonal tie corset back on something else fairly recently.
Vincent is busy putting his dress together. He spent what looked to be a day and a half cutting a pattern and then maybe half the day sewing the real thing. At the start of Day 3, he didn’t even have a skirt on the dress. Now that his model has shown up, he still has to put in the hem. The lack of hem concerns Tim, who asks him if he’ll have enough time. Vincent says he’ll have no problem putting in a hem by hand. We then see why: he’s gluing the hem in, and other parts of the dress together. And further proving that he’s not only a resident but the mayor of Crazytown, he glues a giant rosette thing on the back of the dress, right above the model’s butt. Maybe Angela dared him to do it.
So, off they go to Catherine’s party, but they don’t know the destination. The end up walking around and getting to the Seine where there is a big boat waiting for them to take a little trip up and down the river. But, before they arrive at the boat, some stupid kid pelts them with raw eggs from his perch in a third storey window. The only one who gets hit with the egg is Michael’s model and it gets on the dress. I hope the Bravo producers tracked that kid down and gave him a new pair of shoes…cement shoes. Michael is well aware his dress has issues and the egg toss does nothing to brighten his mood.
The boat ride with Catherine is lovely, and she makes her rounds talking to each designer about their creations. Catherine is sporting ree-di-cu-lously huge sunglasses that make her look like an alien. She first corners Jeffrey and asks him about his neck tatoo. He then tells her that the dress was inspired by the Statue of Liberty. She says that the design is audacious, and finds it unusual to use cotton in a couture gown.
Catherine then talks with Laura, and finds it weird that an evening dress would have long sleeves. That has to be the oddest criticism I’ve ever heard; has Catherine ever heard of the season called “winter”?
Catherine also speaks with Kayne, and she finds his back lace-up corset very daring. I’d find it hard to get into without some assistance. In reviewing Michael’s dress, she comments that couture has to be well-constructed and detailed, leaving the implication that his was not.
Then Catherine comes to Vincent, and he starts sucking up to her like a lobbyist at a political fundraiser. At some point in Vincent’s overwhelming amount of ass-kissing, I ended up looking away out of embarrassment for everyone involved. Vincent then asks Catherine to be honest and tell him if she thinks his dress is too much a throw-back of if it is modern. Catherine punts and says it is “interesting”, although she earlier said that the use of shoulder pads is not often to be found in modern couture.
Toward the end of the boat ride, Catherine has the models do a little runway show and scores the designs. Some of these models look more listless than a band of zombies, but Kayne was impressed by a few. Catherine turns over her score cards to Tim, who will hand them off to the judges in New York to combine the scores together. The designers spend the rest of the night cruising on the Seine and then jet back to New York the next day
And I do my little turn on the catwalk.
As much fun as Paris was, by and large the designers are happy to be back in New York. They show up at Parsons to fit their regular models for the runway show. Kayne’s and Michael’s New York models are several sizes larger than the Parisian models, which is probably why they carried themselves like the undead. Laura’s collar looks like it has been through a rainstorm then hung out to dry in the sun. It is very flat and droopy, not sticking up like it should. Since the collar makes the dress, she is worried. Vincent has to re-do some details for his model, and continues to fit his dress by gluing it.
Finally, it is time for the runway show. Heidi comes out in a stylish dress for a change. Perhaps with Angela gone, she can no longer crib from her wardrobe. She again says that there are benefits to winning this challenge that will be revealed in later challenges. The judges tonight are the usual: Goth Sonny Crocket; the Amazing Girl With No Chin; and some vagrant who needs a shampoo. Errr…I mean, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and Delta stewardess uniform designer Richard Tyler for the guest judge. (Seriously, Ricky, get some shampoo…the Tresemme Hair Salon is only feet away!) The runway looks are as follows:
Kayne shows his golden corset bodiced dress. The corset is very gold, and the skirt is a beautiful, long, flowing creation of earth toned silk chiffon and crepe wrapped satin fabrics. It has a princess in a fairytale vibe about it.
Laura sends out the aforementioned black wool dress with the poofy white netting collar and cuffs, albeit less poofy than in Paris. The dress looks a heck of a lot like the jacket she made in the very first challenge with the fake fur on the collar and cuffs
Uli shows a sophisticated variation of her usual sundress, but with a greater flow in the skirt and more detailing. And, of course, it’s all made of the grey/purply silken fabrics. She’s got these braided detailed shoulder straps on the top, which we’ve seen from her (and Santino, for that matter) before. Nina makes a kind of “smelled something awful” face at the dress.
Jeffrey shows his dress made of a couple of yellow plaid/tartans. The skirt is long but wide open in the front so you can see what the model had for lunch, as MK would say. Marilinda, the model, stomps down the runway like she’s trying to kill a thousand bugs or auditioning for the Ministry of Silly Walks.
Vincent’s dress defies logic. It is, as Catherine remarked, a dress with shoulder pads. Who the hell uses shoulder pads in this day and age? There really is no neckline; the two sides don’t really meet in the middle at any point before getting to the skirt, so there is a wide space of bare skin. The skirt is a fitted pencil skirt made out of the fabric that reminded Uli of upholstery fabric.
Michael sends out his blue dress with the rouching on the bodice. The top is a plain halter, but there are odd peaks of fabric that encroach into the neck line above the breasts, which may be the scallops from the drawing. The skirt is long and the fabric is light enough that it drapes well.
Haven’t we seen pretty much all of this before?
After the runway show, Heidi calls all the designers on the stage with their models and asks everyone questions.
Michael Kors and Heidi like Uli’s dress, and think it is a more toned down version of what she’s made before, but also more sophisticated. Richard Tyler loves the colors but thinks the dress looks unfinished. Uli says she wanted to hide all of the seams, so she put in a lot of details.
Kayne explains that he wanted to make a non-traditional dress and that’s why you can see the boning. Richard Tyler says that the dress is very busy and Nina finds that Kayne just throws everything at the dress. Michael Kors likes the ombre silk of the skirt but is distracted by the tackiness of the corset top, so the skirt didn’t really make it to his consideration.
Jeffrey says his goal was to have people smile when they see his gown. Now that he mentions it, it is kind of the color of those yellow smiley faces from the 70s. Nina says Jeffrey took the most creative risk, and Michael Kors, demonstrating his lack of understanding of the various factions of goth culture, says that you don’t expect something this color from Jeffrey, but it still does reflect his personality. Richard Tyler says the dress isn’t perfect, but given that there were only two days to complete the challenge, it is good enough. Why any judge fails to point out that it is very much like 80s Vivienne Westwood tartan designs (and some of early 90s John Galliano and mid 90s Alexander McQueen) is beyond me.
They ask Vincent what he hand made, and, in his usual non-responsive way, says his fabrics were expensive. The judges clearly have some idea that he glued the dress together; maybe there’s an Elmer’s smell in the room. Nina tells him that the back of the dress should be in the front and Richard Tyler tells him that the rosette glued on the back is not couture.
Michael says his design was inspired by Parisian architecture. Nina says that there is a serious problem in the execution of the design and Michael Kors says it looks like when a dress has been returned after wearing by a celebrity. Michael tries to explain that his model was hit by an egg-throwing kid. The judges especially don’t like the scallop bust line; Heidi says it looks like bunny ears. He tucks down the scallops, and everyone appreciates the dress a bit more.
Finally, the judges question Laura, who says she designed a dress that an everyday woman would not wear. Nina finds the dress old and done by Yves Saint Laurent and Michael Kors says she coud shorten the skirt and make it look like a French maid outfit.
Old and tired.
The designers are excused, and the judges talk amongst themselves and discuss Catherine’s notes. Michael and Heidi like Uli’s dress and Catherine noted it was light and effortless. They all like Jeffrey’s dress, as did Catherine.
Catherine’s comments said that Michael’s dress had heavy draping; the judges don’t like it either and Richard Tyler doesn’t buy the egg excuse. After he shampoos his hair, he should check out the egg video. The dress is a mess, and Michael has said so all along, but there is no reason to doubt that the egg actually hit the dress and caused the stain on the skirt. Catherine’s notes showed she liked Kayne’s bodice but the judges in New York thought it was old, and Nina thinks that Kayne’s problem is a “question of taste level.”
The judges especially don’t like Vincent’s and Laura’s, calling them both old and tired—the designs, not the people. Or maybe the people. Who can tell. The judges universally agree that Vincent’s design was horrible, and his model looked topless. Catherine’s notes apparently say “No!” about five times; it could also be a reaction to that awkward complementing Vincent was doing. As for Laura, Nina finds her design obvious and old, and Michael Kors says the dress just died on the runway.
They call the designers back out. Heidi picks a winner first—Jeffrey. Why it is that Jeffrey wins with a blatant rip off of Vivienne Westwood’s tartan work whereas Laura gets blasted for recycling YSL, I’ll never know. But, at least Jeffrey’s was daring, mostly hand-made, and showed his range.
Heidi announces Uli, Michael, and Kayne are in. It comes down to Vincent and Laura. Heidi says to Vincent that couture is about finishing and detail, and he lacked both. Heidi tells Laura that her dress is old and predictable and she has done better in the past. Then she says Laura is in and Vincent is out. Laura’s dress my have not been that innovative, but at least they gave her credit for not gluing the damn thing together.
Vincent bids everyone adieu, and goes up to pack up his things. We cannot escape one more “eewww” moment with his aufing, because, as he’s packing up, he tells us in voice over that he had a really great time on Project Runway and it really “got him off.” A thousand years could go by, and I’d never need to know that.
Tune in next week when, according to the promo, the remaining five designers may be designing for the Olsen twins (the horror! the horror!) and Laura may have a breakdown.
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