Saturday, February 16, 2013

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 4

The designers' time in the workroom starts off with a none-too-promising setup - there are Glade candles all over the room. Yikes. Tim tells us that these are the new "2-in-1" candles, which each have both "Hawaiian Breeze" and "Vanilla Passion Fruit " For a heart-stopping moment, I thought each of the two teams would have to make a collection around one of the two scents. Fortunately, they don't go that literal. Since it's 2-in-1, the challenge is to use two different types of unconventional materials - flowers and hardware. Likely not coincidentally, those are the two most memorable of the previous unconventional materials challenges.

To make it more interesting, it's time to shake up the teams. They've grown lopsided enough that the Dream Team will get to poach two designers of their choice from Team KIR. Michelle vetoes Patricia because she can't stand her. (Foreshadowing!!) They decide on Stanley for his leadership and Layana for her ability to call out problems with others' garments. Stanley seems really fired up at the opportunity to try to turn the strugglers around, and Layana is sad to switch but flattered to be singled out.

And now the second twist - Team KIR gets to take one of the original Dream Team members back in exchange! Wah wah wahhhh. Inevitably, Michelle is chosen, and must trade fake smiles with Patricia. Apparently the cause of her dislike is that Patricia is very patronizing, which we'll have to take our word for because the editing hasn't shown it as far as I recall. (Of course, the start of each season always has issues with "telling" rather than "showing" simply because there are so many people to try to work in.)

This time, each team must present a collection of six looks that actually look like they go together, using both flowers and things you can get at a hardware store. Since Team KIR still has seven and the Dream Team now has six, there only has to be one pairing. Michelle and Richard get to be that pair since they both early on express a desire to make a huge standup collar. The Dream Team (or rather Stanley) immediately decide their main theme will be Christian Dior in the 1950's (for the non fashion versed, that means those super hourglass dresses with tiny waists and shaped hips). It sounds like Team KIR is going for Bjork and RuPaul meets Gilligan's island, but it turns out that was just Richard speaking for himself. The shopping at the florist and hardware store pass without remarkable incident.

Ben doubles down on his time management issues by constructing his own rudimentary loom and weaving string. Samantha is also digging herself into a hole by cutting out an intricate pattern from contact paper. Kate, free to be herself after having to be teamed up twice, makes a huge poofy confection of a tea gown that Tim worries looks too much like a craft project. Apparently it has all kinds of infrastructure underneath to hold it up, since she laughingly refers to it as a torture device for the model.

Team KIR avoids the whole question of how to make all their looks into a collection. Michelle describes it as looking like they were all made by crazy people, none of whom are in the same mental hospital. They finally manage to convince themselves that their silhouettes are varied enough that they'll make each represent a previous decade of fashion. Meanwhile, Amanda is struggling with her dress that she applied moss to. The moss is falling off. Patricia just shakes her head and claims that she told her to get rid of the moss the day before. There seems to be a lot of fuss about what to do with the dress, though it's of course hard to tell with the editing. Finally Joseph just pops over and suggests cutting off some panel apparently on the back and putting it on the front. I don't get it, but that seemed to have solved whatever the issue was. 

Speaking of Joseph, he forgot that he put a zipper in the back of his dress and made his model slowly, painfully shimmy into it from the bottom. Oops!

Team KIR's parade of decades has Kate's inflated confection for the 50's, Amanda's embellished sheath dress for the 60's, Patricia's garlands for the 70's, Daniel's way-too-high peplums for the 80's, Richard & Michelle's Venetian blind cage dress for the 90's, and Joseph's cocoon-shaped coat for, uh, "the future." Sure, that's the ticket, guys. The judges have rather baffled expressions as the collection heads backstage.

The Dream Team puts out a collection focused on yellow flowers and fibers. Matthew's has a black & white top with string from a mop, and Samantha's has a cool effect of leaves layered under screen door mesh. Tu makes a "sleeveless jacket" ("don't you mean a VEST??") out of raffia and a skirt from lilies, and Benjamin makes a dress striped with all different shades of yellow petals, with one shoulder that I think was made from  the stuff he wove himself. Stanley's dress is mostly of green leaves, and Layana makes a very delicate dress from some kind of fiber mat. 

The judges liked all of the individual looks, but name Dream Team the winners for having more cohesion. It was all fun, whimsical, and beautifully made. They especially like Samantha's, with the neat effect with the leaves - and she did complete her crazy contact paper mesh for the top, by the way. She is named the winner.

On Team KIR, there is a long discussion about Joseph's look. To me, it read like a sixties coat, but the judges didn't get it and thought it was just a too-big dress and would prefer that it have a fit closer to the body. Guest judge Bette Midler asks Joe what his vision of the future is, he fires back by saying he would want people to wear what's comfortable instead of flattering. Bette acts like she could take offense to this slight, passive-aggressive zing, but instead melts a little, and says it's sweet, "even a little spiritual." Such a nice lady!

Not so nice, they are asked to each name the weakest link. Everybody points to Amanda. Strangely enough I can't remember who Amanda said. Did they even ask her? The issue they all bring up is the big stress at the end over her dress that was never quite well explained, though Amanda thinks they're exaggerating. They end up eliminating Joe, leaving the stung Amanda to return to the team and "make it work," I suppose.

The episode ends with Tim telling them they have to go back to the runway for more instructions in 10 minutes. Dun dun dun!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 3

In last week's episode, the teams each had to make a set of outfits for Heidi to wear as part of her promotion for her new perfume, "Surprise" - four that could be worn in the TV commercial (which they got to see storyboards for) and two that could be worn at press events. I always think of the clothes (or "clothes") seen in perfume ads as being extremely cheesy, so we'll see how that plays into the various designers' fashion personas. (The fact that the colors are pink, black, and gold does nothing to decrease my expectation of cheesiness.) The Dream Team is down to six members, which at least means each designer can do a look by him- or herself. Since Team KIR still has eight, there will have to be two pairs.

The editors do their best to make us think the KIR juggernaut is in trouble by focusing on these pairs and making the most out of their conflicts. Amanda and Joe have totally opposite aesthetics! Layana wants to accent the black dress with gold but Kate wants pink! Not buying it.

We get to see a few examples of the team format actually increasing teamwork. At Mood, Layana and Kate go over budget, but enough of the other designers on team KIR are under budget that they can still get everything they want. Score! Plus, Daniel gets a key piece of black leather from Patricia to complete the contrasting trim on his dress. (It sounds like there is plenty of other material sharing going on as well, but that's the one the producers chose to showcase.)

Other notable storylines are Patricia making her own textile out of tiny squares of leather and Ben having an utter meltdown. Patricia seems like she's going to run out of time, and her whole team is privately doubting her, but she pulls through in the end and at least makes it look like she finished everything she intended to have. Ben, on the other hand, is having major confidence issues after last week's failure, and ends up having a dress that won't even stay up on the model's bust. Everyone who has a free hand is drafted into painfully cinching into place with a ton of straps while they wait backstage. (From what I understand, sometimes the producers allow that kind of last-minute sewing and sometimes they don't. So Ben definitely lucked out there. That poor model, though!)

The hair and makeup room montage is a hilarious sequence of the designers essentially telling them to make the models look like Heidi. At one point someone coins the word "Klumalicious."

Team KIR's press event looks are by Patricia and the pair of Joe and Amanda. Patricia has made a dress with her pieced leather so it has interesting texture, but still the same boxy no-shape she got dinged for in the first episode. Joe and Amanda make a serviceable black minidress accented with a print around the neck and down the front.

Daniel's look for the TV spot is a flowing beige gown with black leather trim. Richard's interpretation is a sequined minidress with a weird protrusion of ruffles in the back that nobody likes - not even Richard himself! Layana and Kate have made a very romance-novel-cover black gown with a pink corset. Stanley sends out a gold dress with a giant ribbon holding up one shoulder.

The Dream Team have Michelle and Matthew representing them for the red carpet dresses. Michelle has made a really nice, very "Heidi" black minidress (VERY mini) with a cool gold dotted print around the high neck. Matthew, who struggled throughout the challenge, has what I consider to be the funniest story arc of the episode. He feels like the fact that Heidi is a model and looks good in anything means that everyone is expected to nail the challenge, and he comes down with a major case of Fear of Success-itis. He finds the idea of making something for Heidi very intimidating. He ends up wanting to do something bondage inspired. Yes, he literally makes a dominatrix outfit for the woman inspiring his fear. Freud would have a field day!

The commercial looks are lead off by Cindy. She uses a gold-shot pink shantung to make a blah dress with a keyhole neckline. Samantha makes a cool-looking, though stiff, black dress with a S-shaped swath of illusion across the front. Tu makes a forgettable long black dress with a high neck and cutouts on the sides. Finally, Ben has his travesty of a strapped dress go down the runway, where it just barely hangs on to the model's upper regions.

Team KIR is named the winners for the third episode in a row! The dream team is crushed. Patricia, Kate & Layana, and Daniel are in the top. The judges love Patricia's textile but predictably wish it had a little more shape - well, at least some of them do. Heidi and Nina like the T-shirt silhouette this time. Daniel and Kate get the win - Kate apparently because she made the corset and that was the key to that look.

The judges also call out Stanley and Richard, and let them know they would have been in the bottom had their team not won. In the bottom for real are Matthew, Cindy, and Benjamin. Matthew's is too trashy & sexual to possibly be worn on the red carpet. Cindy's looks cheap, the fabric is wrong, and the fit is too loose. Benjamin gave his model "mushy boobs" and made her appear to be the victim of a shipwreck. In the end, even though Benjamin clearly has the worst execution, Cindy is given the boot for having the least appealing idea.

Next episode - looks like unconventional materials!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Skritchy skritchy skritchy

Due to the time of year, this week's contest was inevitably Valentine-related - specifically, love letters. I knew that there were going to be a ton of really great, super-appealing designs. And I wasn't wrong! But first, what I did.

I looked up "love letter" palettes on Colourlovers, and combined a few I liked into my own grouping:

Color by COLOURlovers

As for design, I used the blue on cream to make lines like lined paper in a notepad, then doodled hearts between all the lines in the remaining colors. I think it would make a pretty good blender.

Love in a notepad

This came in 253 out of 375 with 31 votes.

I had a real "Proust-madeleine" moment when voting for this contest. Scrolling through all the heart-based designs, I was unexpectedly transported back to my eleven-year-old self, organizing my sticker collection. Hearts made of flowers. Flowers made of hearts. Hearts made of collaged paper. Hearts in gradients. Painted hearts. Graphic envelopes. Cutesy retro things. That desire to collect and arrange every possible variation on a theme. How strange it is, as a thirty-something with a toddler sleeping a few rooms away, to suddenly jump into a headspace where acquiring a number of such illustrations was such a pleasing and fulfilling activity.

By far, my favorite entry was this papercut-style assortment of motifs - which is also quite sticker-like. That's the design that won the whole thing. I also liked this collaged typographical take that came in fifth, these intricate little valentines, and these silly/serious hearts with dimension markers.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Laissez les bon gâteau rouler

This week's theme - Mardi Gras! My take: king cakes. The closest I've been to a Mardi Gras was when my family stayed in the New Orleans-themed hotel area at Disneyworld. I hadn't even heard of a king cake until Cake Wrecks covered them. I found this more muted take on the traditional purple/green/yellow color scheme:

Color by COLOURlovers

I went for a pretty straightforward take, with little babies peeking out of the center of each one. I'm pretty happy with how the repeat turned out - it flows pretty well and, at least to me, there aren't any parts that jump out at the eye.

 King Cake

Consensus of those who chose to comment on my design (all of two them) was that the babies are creepy! I guess they kind of are, since they are just staring and not smiling. Maybe I'll upload a version that's just the cakes with no peeking dolls.

This came in 121 out of 152 with 37 votes. My favorite entry was this elaborate damask. Of simpler designs (that would be more usable in patchwork, probably), I liked these diamond confetti shapes, and of the many bead-inspired entries this was the best.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 2

Let's start off this recap with the most important fact about this episode: this challenge should rightly go down in history as the one in which Susan Sarandon learns there is such a thing as a skort. MIND = BLOWN! PSHEWWWW!

OK, so maybe this week was short of engaging moments. First off, the designers are crestfallen to find that they will be remaining on the same teams this week rather than reshuffling. I thought that was pretty clear from last week's episode, but it's not really a surprise to hear that the producers managed to confuse them at the time.

The challenge this week is to make new uniforms for a place called "Spin," which is apparently a chain of ping-pong nightclubs, owned by, you guessed it, Susan Sarandon. A ping-pong nightclub sounds pretty close to my own personal version of hell, but to each her own I suppose. We are treated to an array of shots of smiling people drinking and playing ping-pong. Insert snarky statements about product placement, celebrity schmoozing, back scratching, cronyism, etc.

The uniforms specifically are for male and female servers, and the "ball boys" who go around collecting ping-pong balls gone astray from the tipsy clientele. The designers get a chance to go to one in person - where they have to act as the servers and ball boys. Queue the montage of glasses being spilled and broken, and ping-pong balls flying everywhere.

This is the first true team challenge, as each team gets $500 to make five looks - so there's no way to divide that up cleanly among either eight or seven people. So each designer gets to make one or two pieces for the outfits. They are also provided with, I believe, an on-site screen printer who can put various logos and slogans for the chain on their fabric.

Team "Keeping It Real" gets virtually no screen time this episode. The majority of the footage is devoted to "the Dream Team" utterly imploding. Ben tries to be a leader, but ends up coming across as a micro-manager, especially to the defensive and embattled Cindy. Also he ends up neglecting his own work. Patty ends up getting stuck with only a plain pair of leggings to make, fueling her fears of being called out for not doing any actual design. She tries to complicate them, but gets smacked down by the combined forces of Tim and the rest of the team.

And speaking of Tim's visit - he's pretty taken aback by what he sees. He urges them to change things up. Why is Matthew making a pair of jeans? What's the point - how could that be new? Michelle half-jokingly suggests a kilt instead - and they go for it. Ben's tank top doesn't go with Cindy's jacket, so he makes it a top for the ball-boy instead of the waitress. James again strikes out with his team and they make him completely start over the shirt he was working on. He again responds by sullenly agreeing publicly and complaining privately that he totally disagrees.

During the runway show, I tried to jot down my initial, gut impressions of the garments like I usually do, but Dream Team's provoked virtually no response. It was a parade of blah. The olive dress made by Michelle seemed a little nurse-y (though definitely of a piece with her dress from the first challenge). The other female server outfit of jacket & dress (by Samantha and Tu) was a bit on the tight side, and had slightly awkward peekaboo elements. Then there's James' t-shirt and DENIM CAPRIS for the male server, which as worn by their shaggy-headed blonde male model read wayyyyy too Cali beach bum. Then there was Cindy's pretty good jacket and Ben's nothing shorts, then the infamous female-then-male tank and denim kilt. The finishing blow for the kilt was that Matthew positioned a flap over the crotch that read "balls are my business." Yes, really. (That's one of the slogans they were provided - way to make the double entendre back into a single, guys!)

Team KIR's output didn't really make that much of a stronger impression. Daniel has made an asymmetrical jacket with bounce-parabola details, but I agree with Kate that it didn't really work and came across like something from a theme park. This is paired with Layana's apron-pocket skort. Then there was a black t-shirt with black pants from Stanley, who is pleased that Susan Sarandon (who is guest-judging, of course) smiles at this one. To be honest, it looked like a confused, pitying smile to me, but who can know? There's an over-complicated shirt from Kate over a little skirt and Pamela's leggings. Then Amanda makes an LBD, heavy on the "little." Joseph and Richard's ball boy outfit looks, to me, just as silly as the kilt confection from the other team - it's black pants, a black & white shirt colorblocked across the chest, and a harness to hold the ball-catching net-on-a-stick around the shoulders - but the gestalt to me looked like drop-crotch hayseed overalls. On further inspection of the individual pieces it did look better, though.

Surprising nobody, team KIR wins again. Back in the green room, James inexplicably spouts about how he "knows how teamwork works," and that their teamwork isn't working. Uh, James? The guy who is passive-aggressively producing things he knows are terrible the punish his team for criticizing his initial suggestions? Yes, James, please tell us more of "how teamwork works."

Some highlights of the judge's criticism:
  • A sleeveless shirt for male servers means visible armpit hair. Ewwww!
  • The capris made him look like a poolboy.
  • Ben & Cindy's outfit looks like a suburban hotel clerk. It seems that New Yorkers consider that an absolutely withering insult?
  • The kilt outfit is too silly and too busy.
Layanna is named the winner for her apron skort! And now someday she can tell her grandkids: I made the skort that introduced no less than Susan Sarandon to the very CONCEPT of skorts. Wow, gramma - you're cool!

James is out for his sloppy man-pri'd poolboy. He wishes that he had done more to take charge and just look after himself instead of listening to the team.

Next week - looks like it's the "make something for Heidi" challenge. It will be interesting to see how the team aspect plays into that one.