Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers about last Thursday’s episode of Project Runway: Season 10, Episode 3, “Welcome Back (or not) to the Runway.” If you’re a fan of the show and you haven’t seen it yet — you stand warned.
In these Runway Recaps, I’m trying to focus on the designs and not the drama. But it’s going to be tricky this week. Having spent last week gushing over the shiny happy candy challenge and what an exciting batch of designers we had this season and how much I was looking forward to the rest of the competition, I now haz a giant sad. The designs this week were so vague, my eyes were having trouble focusing on them. The good designs were boring. The bad designs were boring. Only one of the middling designs wasn’t boring — and it was badly made enough to not really be worth commenting on. (Although, of course, I’m going to anyway.) This week’s designs were almost universally executed in shades of mediocrity. Like emptiness in disharmony.
Yes, I know: team challenges are tough, and it’s hard to get that blazingly unique vision thing when you’re forced to collaborate with someone who was randomly picked for you out of a hat. But then I think about Chris and Christian in Season 4, and that giddy, exuberant, magnificently artful, “made of silky sunset clouds and the essence of pure joy” piece they teamed up on, which years later people are still talking about. And I think about Jillian and Victorya, also in Season 4, and that lavish, bad-ass, magnificently elegant, “soldier in the army of awesome and every coat I’ve ever bought since has been an echo of it in my mind” coat they teamed up on, which would have won that challenge by a mile in any other season and only lost by the bad (and yet freakishly awesome) luck of being on the BEST SEASON EVAR.
Sigh. Sorry. Nostalgia for Season 4 over (for the moment, anyway). I think I’ve made my point… which is that “Team challenges are hard!” is a pathetically weak excuse. ([cough] Elena! [cough]) So let’s get back to the pathetic weakness.
I am totally baffled by this week’s winner. Yes, it was a very pretty dress. Beautiful, even. And it was a perfect dress for Kenley. But the challenge was not, “make a pretty dress for Kenley that will make her feel like a pretty pretty princess.” (Much as Kenley would have wanted it to be.) The challenge was, “Make a beautiful outfit for Kenley to wear to the Emmys.” I don’t care how hard the judges tried to sell their whole “sure, okay, I guess you could maybe wear that dress to the Emmys, if you didn’t care too much about who was photographing you” line. This was a day dress. Maybe a cocktail dress, with the right accessories. If they’d even made it tea-length, it could maybe have worked as an Emmy dress. As it was — please.
And as for the piece that came in second — are you freaking kidding me? It was poorly made in the belly. It was poorly made in the butt. Their client loathed it (although, to be fair, Irina isn’t exactly Miss Congeniality, and as they used to say in the Life cereal commercials, she hates everything.) And even if it had been flawlessly made… it was a white column dress. Snore. If it had been flawlessly made, I would have granted it “elegant” and given it a pass for being in the Top Two… but only because the other contenders this week were so very sad. I’m starting to wonder if Tom and Lorenzo have it right, and the judges are picking the top and bottom designs less on which designers make good clothing, and more on which designers make good drama.
And speaking of good drama…
If I’m going to watch tears and recriminations and a tangled web of lies on the judging platform, I want it to be over something more interesting than a sad brown ill-fitting pageant dress with a bunchy collar and a shitty hem. Damn. Even the losers were boring this week. I want the losers to be “go big or go home” moments: “I tried to do something ambitious and bit off more than I could chew” moments, “I had a fabulous idea that would have blown everyone away if I’d known how to execute it” moments, “I have a unique vision that nobody understands except the space aliens who are talking to me through my sewing machine” moments. ([cough] Kooan! [cough]) Not, “We were inspired by this beautiful print, but we let ourselves get talked out of it, so we slapped together a sad black prom dress that you couldn’t unload from the sale rack at Ross” moments. Not, “I don’t really know how to sew, even though I’m a freaking design teacher, but it doesn’t matter since I don’t actually give a shit about this competition and don’t care if I’m screwing over my partner” moments. Not, “My partner doesn’t know how to sew, and I don’t have the moxie to snatch the freaking dress out of her hands and make it myself, so I’m going to freeze in the corner like a trapped animal and weep quietly to myself” moments. I want the drama to be about something that matters. You know… to the degree that any of this matters.
(Inescapable side note on drama: I do think Christopher needs to grow a thicker skin and pull it together… but I was totally in his corner on this one. I actually wish he’d gone after Andrea harder on the judging platform. Especially if the teasers about next week bear anything like the freaky fruit they’re promising.)
So what would I have picked for Top Two?
Hm. Tricky. Again: shades of mediocrity. But I would definitely have gone for Buffi and Elena’s piece for Laura. No, it wasn’t the most interesting dress on this beautiful green earth. And the hair styling was appalling: stiff and matronly, bringing out the worst elements of the dress instead of the best. But it was a very pretty dress — and unlike the Top Two, it was both reasonably well-executed and appropriate for the event. Which makes me well up with sadness yet agan over how sad a this week this must have been, if “reasonably well-executed and appropriate for the event” is the highest praise I can come up with.
And I think I would have gone for Dmitry and Melissa’s silver thing for April. Yes, yes, it was bunchy and weird around the boobs and the belly. But so was Gunnar and Kooan’s white column thing. And unlike the white column thing, it was bunchy and weird around the boobs and the belly… and otherwise kind of gorgeous and unusual. All shimmery and silvery and fluid, like unicorn cum. And it was perfect for April. (Well, it would have been if they’d pulled it off. Note to designers: if you’re designing for anyone other than a flat-chested 20-year-old model, you cannot go backless. Regular women need bras!). It was pretty, but also edgy and a little freaky and alien, and the silver set off her lavender hair to perfection. They took a freaking risk: they worked with a notoriously difficult fabric, and while it didn’t quite pay off, it was no worse than Bunchy Boring Column Dress That Made The Client Snarl.
So yeah. I’m trying to find a way to wrap this up that doesn’t just trail off into a vague, “yeah, this kinda sucked, and not even in an interesting way” repetition of the theme. Although I suppose that would be appropriate…