Episode 14: New York Fashion Week!
Posted by TimGunn 1:00am GMT
This is the last season in which Bryant Park will be center stage for New York Fashion Week. In spite of the fact that Bryant Park has been responsible for branding New York as "the Fashion Capital of the World," the New York City Parks Commissioner wants us OUT. His office maintains that Bryant Park is a public space, yet Fashion Week is an "invitation only" (i.e., private) event. Humph! Thanks to the tenacity and fortitude of IMG Fashion Executive VP Fern Mallis and her #2, Christina Neault, Fashion Week is carrying on in Lincoln Center, the ne plus ultra arts venue of NYC. So, effective in September, there we will be!
Back in February, at "Project Runway's" seventh finale, 10 designers showed collections, because 10 designers were still standing on the show. Actually, 11 designers were still standing. Anyone with their wits about them could figure out that it was Maya who didn't show. Consequently, there was understandable speculation that Maya must be the next designer to be auf'ed. Wrong. It was Maya's trepidation about the possibility of being a finalist and having to show at Fashion Week that triggered her early departure from the show. Ergo, she didn't show.
So, owing to the excessive number of designers who were showing, we reduced the number of looks in each collection from 12 to 10. The 20 fewer looks saved us close to 10 minutes of runway time, which in the scope of matters was a lot. And imagine the backstage, behind-the-scenes chaos: 100 models, 50 dressers, 80 hair and makeup artists, our production crew members, the producers and Lifetime executives, and … me. Laurie DeJong, who has produced our finale since Season 1, turned to me at one point and declared, "Promise me that we will never show this many designers again! I've never seen anything like this and never want to again!"
I was extremely proud of the six designers who weren't among the initial four finalists. I had visited Mila, Seth Aaron, Emilio and Jay to check up on their collections, but I hadn't seen the work of the others. It wasn't until they arrived for the finale week and were set up in a studio that was adjacent to the studio of the finalists that I was able to weigh in on their collections. They presented the strongest group of "decoy" work in the history of the show.
Many people, including the designers, assume that I know everything about what's happening or what will happen as it pertains to the show. Frequently, I'm as much in the dark as everyone else. Case in point: our finale guest judge. I didn't have a clue that it was the sublime Faith Hill until Heidi introduced her to our Bryant Park audience. She was fabulous. Thank you, Faith!
Seth Aaron WINS and makes "Project Runway" history as our Season 7 winner! Since the time of my visit to him six weeks earlier, he did, indeed, raise the bar for himself. He created a powerful collection that eschewed any reference to costume and exuded a wearability that I believe had been absent in many of the looks that he designed during the season. The looks in his collection demonstrated an unwavering point of view, spoke to qualities of innovation and embraced risk-taking. This is what he needed to do to surprise the judges and allow them to analyze his work from a fresh point of departure. There was no question that this was the work of Seth Aaron, but these designs possessed a higher level of sophistication and maturity than we had seen from him earlier. Please be assured that I am in no way trivializing his earlier work; I'm a huge fan! Rather, I write this to point out, metaphorically, that he found the answer to the riddle of the Sphinx. The challenge of figuring out how to mitigate the judges' previous perceptions of your work and surprising them while still being yourself is elusive to most of the designers across the many seasons of the show. Seth Aaron figured it out. And it was interesting to observe his stunning red dress on Kristina, because the longer it was observed, the more seductive and compelling it became. Hearty congratulations, Seth Aaron! Mila was Seth Aaron's top contender, in my opinion.
I loved her collection: She struck a powerful counterpoint in the proportions of the items within looks, she raised her neutral palette to a higher level by working with shiny versus matte surfaces, and she repositioned her nod to the '60s by placing it squarely in 2010. And I am forever grateful to Heidi, Nina and Michael for suggesting that she work on the overall styling of the collection in order to make it a little more rock 'n' roll. It needed that. Otherwise, it risked becoming too precious and staged, like the wardrobe of Marlo Thomas in "That Girl." And, indeed, Mila was successful roughing up her looks and giving the collection a biting edge. I was especially pleased that she put Brandise in the look with the superbly tailored coat, because it was one of her more ambitious looks and it would stand before the judges for several hours. I had no question that that particular look had strong staying power, as did most of the looks in her collection. Mila, congratulations on a stellar showing! Emilio continued to elude me with the designs in his collection
. As much as I tried, I failed to comprehend what he intended to achieve,
because I could only see styles and silhouettes that were familiar; that is, nothing said "innovation" or "experimentation."
He was confident that it was color that set his collection apart. I could agree with that statement, but only in a bad way. And that's not what he meant, of course. I must assert that I believe that his styling of the looks, the sequence of them on the runway and the overall impact of the collection showed it off in the best possible manner. I don't believe that the collection could have looked better, and I mean that in the most supportive way. But when Lorena stood before the judges looking so chic and sophisticated, I had to ask myself who else could pull off this look so successfully. Looking to Brandise on the left and Kristina on the right, I thought, Only Lorena. Emilio, be assured that you gave this your best shot.