The clouds have parted, the sun has come out, birds are singing, and all is right with the world: Project Runway has returned! After keeping up with the litigation, going through Tim Gunn withdrawal, and suffering through a certain knock-off, it is at long last time to find where Lifetime resides on my cable system and wait for the inner peace that will no doubt wash over me after mere minutes of basking in the glow of a brand new season.
Meet, greet, and drink!
Everyone knows, we’re not in New York City anymore, but in Los Angeles; despite the coast change, the digs at the designers’ apartments may as well be Atlas, as there really isn’t much difference, space and style-wise. As the designers arrive to their temporary new home, we get our first glimpses into what’s in store for this season. First up we meet Ra’mon from Chicago; he said he quit med school because, while he could be great at neurosurgery, he could have a passionate career in fashion. Sounds more like he wasn’t so much a neurosurgeon candidate but a neurosurgery test subject, to forgo that kind of salary. At the apartment, Ra’mon meets Logan from Seattle and Johnny from LA. Logan is quick to say he’s a guy’s guy and can fix a car as well as he can make a pattern. Logan is trying to fly the hetero flag a bit too high, methinks. Johnny informs everyone that he auditioned before for PR, but likely didn’t make the last two seasons due to a crystal meth addiction. Malvin, hailing from NYC and sporting something like Flock of Seagulls meets early Cyndi Lauper hair, also turns up in the men’s apartment.
On the ladies’ side, first to arrive is Gordana; she’s now from South Carolina but originally is from the former Yugoslavia. She has shed her potato farmer roots to become a fashion designer and boutique owner. Carol, also from South Carolina, arrives; she used to sell some of her “pixie meets cocktail party” designs from Gordana’s shop. Qristyl, of NYC and the bane of spell-checkers everywhere, and Shirin from Texas also arrive. Qristyl designs for all sizes—up to and including “plus-sexy”. Shirin tells us she likes to design clothes that have dual purposes, as in also including a concealed cape or jacket.
Next up, Nicolas, a/k/a the Feather Prince of NYC, turns up and does some fashion name-dropping. Mitchell, a young lad from Georgia, also arrives; he has a degree in fashion but has been working more on the marketing side. Finally, Epperson and Christopher arrive, but don’t say much. We do eventually find out Epperson is old enough to be the father of several of the younger guys and has spent the majority of his career dressing fashion windows.
The final group of ladies arrives. There’s Ari of Kansas City, Mo; apparently her fashion sense was deeply influenced by Frank Herbert, as she wants her clothes to also contain water purification systems. Althea from Ohio enters the scene along with Irina from NYC. Last but not least, Louise enters the apartment; she’s got a Louise Brooks bob and that’s all we know about her at this early stage.
An invitation to the traditional roof-top champagne toast arrives for the designers. Awash in the glow of the setting LA sun, Heidi and Tim toast to the new season, the talented designers, and being in Los Angeles. Tim lets the designers know they’ll be working out of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and then it time for the champers to flow. Heidi “delicately” notes that Louise doesn’t have big hair, despite being from Dallas. We learn a bit--and I mean just a bit—more about Louise; she says she likes vintage, but the way she’s rockin’ that bob, you’d have to be a stone-cold idiot not to know that. We also learn that Malvin favors androgynous looks; given the amount of eye makeup he’s wearing, it appears that Captain Obvious strikes again. Althea, a new fashion school graduate, flirts with Christopher over some champagne. Christopher is self-taught and believes it is now his time to become amazing. Tim and Heidi send the designers off to get some sleep and prepare for the first challenge.
Making it work for the Red Carpet.
Early to bed and early to rise: the next day dawns and the designers find themselves on the otherwise empty red carpet of the 60th Emmy Awards with Tim. He gives them the low-down on the first elimination challenge. Each designer will have to create a look for a red carpet event—anything from the Emmys, the Oscars, to the VMAs. The design must be innovative and represent each designer’s point of view. They’ll have thirty minutes to sketch at FIDM and $200 to spend in thirty minutes at Mood LA. The time constraint is pretty standard for early challenges: they’ll have the rest of the day once the designers return from Mood and the entire next day. And, of course, the winner will be immune from elimination in the next challenge.
To FIDM the designers go to work on their sketches and review their pre-selected models’ stats. Christopher knows right away what he wants to do—a sleeveless dress that is brought in at the waist and full at the skirt. He draws the majority of the dress as kind of black tiny filled in circles; the bottom has some pale-colored full-ish tiers under the black. Malvin begins to sketch something, but he professes he doesn’t see color when it comes to carpets—he just wants to make the wearer of his clothes feel cherished. Apparently he doesn’t want to make long carpets feel cherished, even if they’re the special red kind. Ari whines that she doesn’t know what to do, as she does not sketch and likes to let the fabric talk to her. In an obvious attempt to get blood to actually reach her brain, she uses the thirty minutes to do hand-stands against the wall.
Mood LA is pretty much the same as Mood NYC, except they’re short on fabric cutters. The designers run around, panic, and spend their money. Shirin searches for old Hollywood style fabrics and Qristyl becomes enamored with a very loud print. After that bit of mayhem is done, it’s back to FIDM for eight hours of sewing.
And thus it begins: the competition for the ever-coveted title of “Season 6’s Biggest Crier”. First out of the box is Ra’mon who tears up in confessional talking about his dream of having someone wear his design on the red carpet. Not to be outdone, Johnny steps up to the competition. He begins to second-guess his design, despite Qristal encouraging him to go with his first instinct. He’s starts freaking out, wondering what’s wrong with him, and goes back to his original design. He’s overwhelmed at the stress and takes a breather; he’s bringing his addiction issues into the situation and thinks he may have reached his limit. At this point, I almost felt the cold, dead “movie of the week” hand of Lifetime, Television for Women, but then I remembered the whole MERSA storyline with Jack back in Season 4 and shake off the chill. But who else can come in to save the day? No one but Tim Gunn, that’s who! Johnny says he may not be ready and he’s overly emotional. But Tim tells him that he’s talented and he can do it! With one “make it work” from Tim (screw you, Dr. Drew), Johnny pulls his stuff together and gets back to work without drama.
Now that the touchy-feely portion of the sewing segment is over, it’s time to actually look at what’s being produced. Carol is doing corded bodice to shape the torso of her gown. Melvin says there are no words to describe what he’s doing, but really, it’s simple pleating details on the top of the dress to just below the bust-line. Ari is allegedly trying to make texture out of her shiny silver fabric by making weird puffy hexagons.
At the start of the Day 2 of the challenge, Gordana checks out the cutting techniques of her fellow designers who went to fashion school. Christopher somewhat laments also not having had the opportunity to go to fashion school; he had no idea what Mitchell was talking about when he said he was smocking his dress and he now admits he doesn’t know what godet style skirts are. (Let me just put this out there as a public service announcement—unless you are a lanky size 2 or smaller or want your thighs to look bigger than they are, stay away from godet skirts. That being said, if anyone is interested in a hardly worn godet black skirt, PM me.)
Tim enters the workroom for his traditional visit to survey the
damageprogress. He first checks in on Christopher’s black and beige dress that looks nearly exactly like his sketch. Christopher says he likes to be young and funky, and Tim sees the polish and sophistication in the dress but cautions to be careful on the styling, lest his model end up looking like a cruise line cocktail waitress. Tim then checks out Ari’s table full of silver hexagons; he wonders what it is going to be, and after a moment of confusion at the question, she says that it’s going to be a halter dress with a silver hood. After Tim gives her a look of, “Are you out of your ever-living mind?” she says she’s not worried.
Ra’mon explains he is influenced by architectural elements, but is concerned about the possibility of the dress falling to make the model’s butt look huge. He’s working on that, as Tim agrees he should. Mitchell greets Tim with a timid, “Hi, Mr. Gunn” which Tim quickly corrects to the more casual salutation. Mitchell explains his design of the high smocked collar and smocking throughout the bodice of his gauzy gown. Tim thinks it looks a tad Victorian and suggest Mitchell think about how to make it look modern. Finally, Tim takes a gander at Qristyl’s purple and print gown. She says she was going to design for the Oscars but now it has to be the Emmys because the dress isn’t quite as dramatic as she wanted. Tim says it is dramatic, and she asks him if it is dramatic in a good way. After quite a long pause, she gets the idea he’s trying to put a positive spin on a negative reaction. He turns the question back on her and departs, but not before sending the models in for an one-hour fitting session.
The model fitting is fairly standard for everyone but poor little smock-till-he-drops Mitchell. As it turns out, his model is quite a bit bigger than the measurements he was given, so the smocking is all too tight and he pretty much has to make a new dress. Mind you, there are only four hours on the clock for the day, so he’s up the proverbial creek. Ari flounces around the workroom in her weird little halter dress, which causes Qristyl to ask her if she’s going to make pants to go under the extremely short garment. A light bulb goes off in Ari’s head (it’s probably been too long between hand-stands), so off she goes to make something to go under the dress and avoid the dreaded “vulgar” criticism.
Finally the day of the runway show arrives, and it’s the usual mad-dash morning of sewing. Ari is already a bit defensive about people seeing her point of view; Irina interviews that Ari has a valid point of view, but there was a certain tone of skepticism in the way she said it. Qristyl is a bit nervous about her gown, but is pretty confident that it will work. Poor Mitchell is left sewing a whole new dress out of his “pantyhose”-like material on to his model; Nicholas comments that it may be a PR first—sending a naked model down the runway. The other models go down for hair and makeup with the designers’ input. For some reason Ari teases her model’s hair into a hot mess all the while saying she is trying not to damage her hair. The poor model looks on in horror; devotion to fashion or no, if I had that girl’s gorgeous red hair, I’d have slapped that comb right out of Ari’s hand.
One dubiously qualified judge, a few dubiously qualified designers.
With time up and Mitchell still worried bout his naked dress, Tim ushers everyone out for the show, irrespective of the “state of repair or disrepair” the garments are in. On the runway, Heidi introduces judges: Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and guest judge Lindsay Lohan, because not only is she famous for coke pants, but she’s also “designed” a line of clothing. Yeah, I bet she spends all her weekends slaving over her sewing machine trying to capture the pure essence of leggings.
There are more important things to talk about, though—it’s time for the runway show! First up is Althea’s old Hollywood sliver gown with a lacy halter-like top. Gordana shows a pale green dress, short and sleeveless with a three-dimensional detail at the bust line. Malvin, for all his self-professed weirdness shows a sleeveless V-neck short beige dress with some simple pleating details that you could probably find in any department store. Mitchell’s model is brave enough to walk down the runway in the full-length sheer Mrs. Roper caftan he created at the last minute.
Louise sends out a V-neck halter dress made of two shiny champagne colors; unfortunately the colors don’t contrast that well, but the full-ish skirt flows nicely in an early 1960s way. Christopher’s dress is the strapless garment right off his sketch pad; it has a three-dimensional texture to the top, dominant black portion, and has about three tiers of pale beige under the black, coming to just above the knee. Ra’mon shows a long deep grey gown with an asymmetrical top—it is jus a thin strap on one side and on the other is a fuller, to below the shoulder mini-sleeve on the other side. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the skirt didn’t seem to flow very well. Shirin presents a short dress with a capelet that folds down to transform the back of the skirt into a slight bustle with a beaded detail.
Epperson shows a long, sculptural black gown with a complicated collar and a bit of either dark purple or grey tulle at the bottom. (Sometimes the color is off on my tv…I should really think about HD one of these days.) Irina sends out a long, champagne-colored gown with such a full skirt at the bottom, she worries her model will trip on it. Ari’s hexagon-quilted halter dress over tiny shorts is out next; it kind of looks like a weird space suit. Johnny shows a red dress with a very low-cut (but well-fitted) back, with an asymmetrical hem line and a V-halter top.
Carol’s corded bodice on her peach and cream colored gown looks a bit “Marie Antoinette does the red carpet”. Qristyl’s purple gown fights with the print that is inserted on left front of the dress, though the back is quite dramatic and well-executed. Logan shows a long silver gown with a darker grey inset on one half of the bodice. Finally, Nicholas presents a short black dress with a criss-cross of grey and black ribbons interwoven on the bodice.
To check out the pictures of the dresses, refer to the photo thread here.
The designers are called on to the runway and Heidi asks Shirin, Epperson, Gordana, Carol, Logan, Althea, Nicholas, Irina, Malvin, and Louise to step forward. They are safe and now can head for the back room, relax, and live to see another day. This leaves Johnny, Ra’mon, Qristyl, Mitchell, Ari, and Christopher on the runway, representing the highest and lowest scores. Bring on the judges’ questions!
Qristyl explains her dress is for someone young going to the Emmys, like Miley Cyrus or Lindsay Lohan. She wanted to make it look youthful and powerful. Lindsay says the back is great, but the press will hammer anyone wearing it, given the crazy print. Nina thinks the seam on the front is pulling and Michael thinks it looks like two dresses came together in some kind of schizophrenic mess. Turning their sites on Christopher, he says his inspiration is the VMA red carpet. Heidi likes the hard and soft look, but isn’t crazy about the washed-out color of the bottom tiers. Michael finds the dress cute and edgy and Nina likes the dark romanticism of the dress. Lindsay’s only change would be to take away a few of the ruffles at the bottom.
Ra’mon’s Oscar dress is met with much praise from Heidi. Michael finds it chic, respectable and well-made and encourages him to take it to another level. Lindsay sort of echoes the sentiment, saying it is lovely in the back but over all, a bit safe. Heidi heaps the greatest praise—it looks far more expensive than $200 to her. Ari says her silver spectacle is something to be worn to the 2080 VMAs and the Nobel Peace Prize presentation, all on the same day. Michael is having none of this flight of fancy and calls the garment what it is: a disco soccer ball dress. He appreciates the notion of avant garde, but there still must be beauty in the oddity. Nina finds the dress a tad “out there” and while she appreciates Ari’s conceptual process, the garment must still be something people would buy. Lindsay also raises concerns about producing things that will actually sell to an audience.
Johnny says his dress is for a starlet going to her new movie premiere. Nina thinks the dress is seductive without being overly sexy. Lindsay loves the back but thinks the red is a bit too much. Michael concurs—the dress is so interesting, the red is overkill and would work well in black or dark blue. Johnny also gets praise for handling the slippery fabric so well. Finally, Mitchell straight-up tells them that his model measurement card was wrong and he didn’t have much time to throw a new dress together. Heidi chastises him for this error, noting that models always lie about their sizes. Nina says she likes the attitude of the dress and wonders what else he can do, even though the dress is completely un-wearable. Michael bluntly states that it is just a nightgown and can’t go anywhere outside the boudoir. The designers are dismissed so the judges can make their decision.
The judges quickly deliberate to choose the winner and loser. Ra’mon played it safe, but his dress was beautiful. Johnny delivered very cool shape and it would have been perfect in black. Christopher’s dress was youthful and elegant, but still had an edge to it. Qristyl’s dress was a nightmare in front and showed a questionable taste level. The judges couldn’t tell if Ari was being serious or took it all as a joke. Mitchell just sent out a naked caftan that no one could wear out of the house. With that well-edited discussion (Bunim-Murray, I had my doubts, but nicely done!), it is time to drop the axe on someone.
The designers file back in before the judges. Heidi tells Johnny he is safe, which should put a damper on the freak-outs for at least a week. She names Christopher as the winner for presenting a dress with a nice balance of edgy and pretty. Of course, Ra’mon is also in, as is Qristyl. The choice comes down to Mitchell and Ari; the judges couldn’t tell what was going on with Ari’s design and it was pretty clear she didn’t either. (Heidi curiously says that Ari aimed for something out of the box and missed it completely. This leaves me wondering if she did hit the box, because if she didn’t, it was definitely out of the box.) Mitchell, on the other hand, made an un-wearable, sheer nightgown and, despite the measurements being off, there are no excuses on Project Runway (but unlike baseball, there’s plenty of crying). A beat goes by and Heidi tells Mitchell he is in, leaving Ari to have the honor of being the first to go. She takes it well, saying that although taking risks can be good, she’s learned she needs to take responsible risks. Maybe now she’ll buy a helmet for all those hand-stands she does.
It’s official—Lifetime didn’t screw Project Runway up. But can we do something about those damn ads for their other original programming? Or is it just some insidious conspiracy with my cable company to compel me to get a DVR?