Damn. Day-um. This season of Project Runway is like a rollercoaster. Last week’s episode had me kvetching about how it was a perfect example of everything that’s gone wrong with the show. This week’s episode was a perfect example of everything I love about the show: what makes it fun, what makes it compelling, what keeps me coming back week after week, hoping for its glory days to return. I’d thought that the “unconventional materials” challenges were a bit played out at this point… but the looks this week were fun, imaginative, well-crafted, exuberant, and in many cases surprisingly elegant considering they were made from flowers and hardware. There were a few mis-steps, but on the whole, I am totally with the judges on this one: This was the best overall runway show they’ve had in a long time. And that includes finales/ final collections.
What made the difference?
The extra day.
The designers had two days to complete their looks, not just one. They had time to fix problems; to re-think ideas; to start over if their first ideas didn’t pan out; to sleep on it and come back fresh; to lend each other a hand. Since this was a team challenge, they had time to consult on a coherent concept for their collections, which helped all the designs look stronger. (For the team that actually came up with a coherent concept, anyway, as opposed to the team that faked one after the fact.) And very importantly, they had time to execute more ambitious visions. With a one-day challenge, pretty much all you have time for is a pretty sheath dress or a pretty gown. With two days, you have time to go big — and to fix it, or start again, if your big idea doesn’t pan out.
So memo to PR producers: More two-day challenges, please! Your core audience is not that interested in hysterical drama. Your core audience is bored to pieces with slight variations on sheath dresses. Your core audience wants to see beautiful innovative fashion, and wants to watch the process that goes into creating it. More, please. kthxbye
Now, to the designs!
I am totally on board with Samantha getting the win. I don’t think it was quite as pretty or quite as well executed as some of the other looks on her team. But the “trapped leaves” thing was an idea I had never seen before, and it was a striking and effective and weirdly beautiful look. Like she was a walking greenhouse or something.
But I would have had no argument with Layana getting the win. This was stunning. Not as distinctive as Samantha’s, and the “pretty delicate feminine” vibe was a little more obvious given the challenge — but it was better executed, and more beautiful. And I think she got the balance of flirty and demure just right. Any more skin showing, and it would have been trashy; any less skin showing, and it would have been timid, either matronly or little-girlish or both.
And I would have had no argument with Tu getting the win. That woven top was nothing short of phenomenal. Lots of designers say that they take the looks of indigenous people and bring them into modern high fashion; Tu made it happen, brilliantly.
Ingrid and I adored this. I don’t think it deserved the win — it was a little stiff and chunky (although it moved surprisingly well on the runway) — but I’m a sucker for a black-and-white striped corset. What can I say: I have Dickens Fair damage. This was totally in our wheelhouse. And it went beautifully with the saffron skirt. Hard to do black and yellow without looking like a bumblebee… but there was not a bumble in sight.
I think Benjamin’s time might have been better used doing something other than making a loom, for crying out loud. But A for effort. I thought he was going to crash and burn on this one for sure; but he made a very pretty dress, very much within his team’s concept, and while it wasn’t hugely exciting, he didn’t let down the side.
A little bottom-heavy — I think it’s often a mistake to have all your lightness and visual interest down around the hem instead up up around the face — but well-executed and beautiful. And very much within the team’s concept. Unsurprising, considering that Stanley was the one who came up with that concept in the first place.
Speaking of which, can I just say: Is anyone else getting sick of Benjamin’s continuous self-appointment as the team leader and spokesmodel? Especially since he was in the bottom two weeks in a row. And double especially this week. He wasn’t the one who came up with the team vision, Stanley was, and hearing him leap in AGAIN to enunciate that vision made me want to scream, “Will you shut your white privilege up for ten seconds, and let the person who actually came up with the winning vision talk about it?”
I liked this. I liked how the shiny black set off the greenery and flowers. Like a lush garden behind a gate. But then, much like I’m a sucker for a black-and-white corset, I’m pretty much always a sucker for a fetish-wear reference.
And I liked this. Not the most imaginative idea in the world — “Make a pretty dress and glue flowers on it!” — but she executed it beautifully, and it was exuberant and joyful. Kate set out to make her model look like a cupcake, and she succeeded admirably.
Amanda got the shaft for this. She should not have been in the bottom: there were way worse looks than hers on that runway. Yes, the shape is a little off, and the moss looks a bit like it’s molting; but the basic idea is there, and it’s good. Color blocking is all the rage right now, and I like the use of nails and flowers and moss to achieve it. If she got stuck on the bottom because her teammates threw her there during the judging, then shame on her teammates, and shame on the judges for buying it. I think Bette Midler had it right during the judging: Once one designer said that Amanda sucked the most, nobody else wanted to stick their neck out and name someone else, so everyone else just piled on.
Not at all crazy about Daniel’s hip growths. To me, his model looked like she had some sort of weird alien sprouting out of her belly. But Ingrid is defending them: she says it looked to her like an exaggerated peplum, a la David Byrne’s big suit from Stop Making Sense, and she sees where Daniel was going with it. I can see her point. And he certainly executed it well. But I just can’t.
And speaking of big suits…
I absolutely can’t with Joe’s thing. I agree with Zac Posen: if you’re going to go oversized, you really need to run with it. You need to go super-exaggerated and huge. If you don’t, it just looks like a mistake. To me, this looked like a shapeless harlequin costume. And I can’t argue too hard for Joseph going home on it. But it wasn’t the worst thing on the runway.
Are you fucking kidding me?
I am entirely baffled as to why Patricia wasn’t on the bottom. I am even more baffled as to why the judges gave it any praise at all. This thing was a cold mess. It looked like seaweed and kelp draped on a burlap sack. It looked like a post-drowning Ophelia costume from an eighth-grade production of Hamlet. I don’t have a problem with the judges saving someone who’s done good work in the past and just had one bad week (although I wish they’d be honest about it) — but I literally do not see what they were seeing in this, at all.
Still. Great runway show overall. Lots that was extraordinary; plenty that was lovely; very little that totally sucked. More, please!