Thursday, October 04, 2012

PR: Final Five

Here we are, running through a garden and around a castle.  We get to make an avant garde piece, with $400. 
Oh, yeah, and it's the makeup challenge, and we each get a muse:
Enchanted queen (Fabio, and Christopher)
Seductive temptress (Sonjia)
Wise mystic (Dmitry)
Artsy muse (Melissa)
"Artsy muse"?  Really?  You have these grand archetypes and you can't come up with a more distinctive muse name than that?  If you're following some traditions, the fourth figure should be the faerie anyway.  That being said, I'm also disappointed that these are all sort of typically girly figures.  Where is the warrior?  The huntress?  At least a faerie would have the potential for different interpretations, rather than just "artsy." 
I was therefore annoyed with the challenge on two levels: The fact that this lush scenery was subverted in a challenge that was actually about makeup, and the lack of any balance in the figures presented, figures that are representative of stereoptypical male desires and gaze.  I know--Project Runway is probably not the first place someone should go to look for a balanced view of women, but they (and L'Oreal Paris) had an opportunity here and they missed it. 

Melissa--I'm intrigued by the skirt on Melissa's look.  The vest is kind of ho-hum, and I definitely don't respond to a leather shirt..  Her pieces were kind of flat, dimensionally.  It reminded me of modern furniture, which I'm not that big a fan of generally. 

Fabio--I could see what he was after, and there was some avant garde quality to it.  The big floofy hip, though, on that jacket, was kind of odd; I know it's meant to be reversible vertically, but it didn't thrill me. The way the bodice of the dress came out didn't live up to the original drawing.  It looked more craft than art.

Dmitry--His suit does have structure, it's true.  The slits in the sides were interesting, but the back one was ridiculous.  I was also disappointed that, to him, wise mystic evidently meant all black.  There were some dramatic, deep colors in the makeup palette, a lovely green, a blue, a lavender....why not bring that in somehow?  And the judges didn't say a word about it.

Sonjia--Her color is great, that apple green.  The dress is definitely daring.  I really thought she was onto something with that upper shoulder piece when it was on the mannequin, but then it went awry with that midsection piece, which wasn't integrated as smoothly as I'd hoped.

Chris--Chris's look is very him.  I'm into the feather arm decor, unlike Kors.  Again with the big hip, though, which in contrast to the bust, seemed even more odd.  I agreed with the judges who said the top of the dress was unflattering.

Now, what was interesting about the runway was not so much the clothes (as it should have been), but the judges' responses.  I have never seen them disagree so much, to be so absolutely polarized by the looks.  Zoe Saldana was a harsh judge, and Kors was grating as usual.  I was confused at first, but then I decided I kind of like it when the judges disagree.  It is more realistic, there is less "peer pressure" going on, and it gives the designers themselves more useful feedback.
So, they (just as I did) went to the designers' other looks through the season, and their strengths that would make one want to see a collection, which is really what the whole final challenge is about.
Looking at the five, Dmitry and Melissa are tops on my list to go to Fashion Week.  Then I sort of fall apart.  I reviewed my fashion opinions from past weeks, and I realize that the garments were kind of all over the place.  I liked several of Christopher's pieces, but there were some real clunkers.  Fabio's aesthetic I don't usually like, but I like that he is "thoughtful," as Heidi said, and he surprised me a few times.  Sonjia's colors have often been a blessing, but she sometimes has some really basic looks.
I'm not surprised they cut Sonjia, but I do wish I could see what her full collection would have looked like.
But wait...I can!  And you can, too.  That is what decoy collections are for.  You can check out all of the Project Runway designers at  Watch out, though...there are some awfully ugly looks in there, and some particularly ugly styling.  They aren't divided by designer, either, so go and have some fun guessing whose collection is whose!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

PR: "Those babies are really, really small."

The challenge:
Design an outfit for Heidi's line of children's gear, sold in Babies R Us.  Heidi's line is called Truly Scrumptious--a name I'm not that fond of--and I've been seeing commercials for it for weeks.  Heidi says the line is affordable (I checked.  It is, more or less.), and she is providing the designers with fabric and notions. 
The hilarious part of this one-day challenge is that the designers get babies to take care of, the type of baby they use for school projects.  This is so the designers understand what moms go through on a day to day basis.  Says Tim.  Really, it's so the producers can torture the designers for viewers.  Especially because, when they all squall at the same time, no one can tell which one is crying.
After Heidi's visit, there is another little "twist."  The designers have to make a companion piece for the mums, with an extra day to work.  The quote marks are because it's not really surprising. 
Oh, and by the way, there is one girl winner and one boy winner.  Good hedge there.

The fashion:
Fabio:  His baby and mama both looked super cute.  Cute patterned dress on mom, cute pattern blocking on the baby's collar and back of jacket.  The piping is a little too much, though.  It distracts from the rest of the look because it's two-toned.  I'm glad Nina stood up for the dress on mom.
Melissa:  The baby vest with the monster face is cute.  The dress was too short, or too stiff or something.  A pant would have been smarter. The mom's outfit is really dull.  Not convinced the drapey thing was the best idea, though I like the color.
Dmitry:  The baby's hoodie looked so super cute and elfin.  I had to laugh about Kors thinking the outfit was too costumey because of the cape, and the moms dropping that idea right away.  The pants were a little too tight.  It didn't look comfortable.  I honestly didn't notice the mom's outfit until the panel.  Baby is too sleepy to get a good look at it!
Sonjia:  I like the mom's dress and jacket.  The baby's fleece blazer is cute.  I'm not sure if I would have paired it with that print for the shirt.  Sonjia gets extra points from her baby's complete smiley adorableness.  Good job, Jude!
Christopher:  I really do think he did what the mom asked, but I also really do like the baby's dress and jacket.  Heidi's line does kind of need a formal look, which this is.  Not so much the mom's.  That print was not a solid choice (har har).  Maybe worked into something else, something solid to be less glaring, but not as a whole dress.
Elena:  The baby's jacket is super cute.  I love the detail.  The ruffles are not very practical for an affordable mass-produced item, but the detail is cute. Kids definitely are going to hide Cheerios in there. The pants are kind of meh, though I appreciate they are easy.  When the mom left the stage, I had no memory of what she was wearing, so that's not great.

Who is my favorite?  I have no idea.  I liked elements of many of these looks.  Melissa's looks were the weakest.  Thinking through it, I think Sonjia's looks were the best for the baby boy and for the mother.  Looking between Christopher and Elena...well, I dunno.  I think all together I have to give this one to Christopher.  (I wrote this during the commercial before the final judging.  I wasn't far off, but I was surprised Elena got the boot for this one.  I suspect that the judges were thinking back to the strength of Melissa's past work here.)
What's interesting is that the designers working for boys had the better results.  Anyone who has shopped for kids knows that it's hard to find really dear and interesting boys' clothes, whereas the girls' clothes are completely awesome.  I was surprised that the girls' looks were not as strong.  Come on designers of boys' clothes!  Step it up!

Friday, September 21, 2012

PR: Kick It!

The Rockettes, y'all.  In silver heels. 
The designers' job is to make a costume for these ladies.  This is huge.  Naturally, the director/choreographer is there to give some guidance.  The costume has to be wearable year-round, has to be special, has to be contemporary, and has to read well from the nosebleed section.  And some spandex wouldn't hurt.  the designers get to examine some previous costumes...they get to TOUCH them.  That alone would be enough for me! 
At Mood, we have more than the usual fracas.  Picking danceable fabric is tricky, no question.  We saw that with, for instance, the Sasha Cohen challenge.  It is also, as Elena found out, more expensive than you'd think. Later, we have a little twist:  More money, another trip to Mood.  Some decide to stay behind, some jump on the bus.  I am interested to see whether those decisions have any effect on the final results.
The workroom is kind of funny this week, at least for a while.  I like it when people get a little funny with feathers and sequins.  Also, "wine is working," according to Dmitry.  So, "Put some glitter on it."
Side note: I am jealous of the rotary cutters these people have.  Mine does not work nearly so well.
Another side note: When Tim entered for critiques, the closed captioning said, "Breezy Music" was playing.  That it was!

Christopher created a New York skyline in silver, with a great deal of beading and sparkly mesh top.  The skirt isn't the greatest, but the top is a stunner.
Dmitry created a dark blue cut-out dress with fringed skirt.  The skirt is immaculate, but the top is a little see-through and the whole look is a bit too dark.
More on these two in a minute.
Elena's look is a disaster.  The fabric was not the cause; Elena couldn't get out of seeing it as a majorette's costume, and so the dress became that.  The skirt here draped poorly and the top fitted strangely also, though it had some merit.  The top in the back had a nice Art Deco thing going on that failed to make it through the rest of the garment.  My eye keeps returning to that skirt, which had no appeal at all.  Elena short-circuited herself here.
Fabio's outfit confused me.  I actually really liked his fabric, and that skirt had something going for it, very swingy and almost pleated looking.  The fabric of the shoulder/neck, though, was hideous.  Too thick, wrong color, and the straps were too thick and ropy over it.  I'm not clear on how someone can look at that fabric and think it would be all right for the sparkly Rockettes.
Melissa did that detached bodice thing again.  I really don't think it would work for a dance costume.  With the sweat, and the constant arm movement, it would ultimately get saggy and mashed up.  I like the graphic blocks Melissa was going for and also the fact that she picked a bright color.  There were, however, construction issues and, really, the hat and fascinator were the best part of the outfit.
Sonjia was going in a great direction with the feathers.  I know some will disagree with me on this, especially since feathers are tricky and also subject to sweat problems, but they are also classic dance girl material.  I admit I am a sucker for feathers, and they were purple!  Fun!  It's the bodice that bothered me.  It was slouchy and too modest for Radio City.  The fabric had potential, but the top ended up looking like an embellished pullover blouse or T-shirt, which is definitely not the Rockette way.
Ven's fabric was actually not bad at all, but his desire for simplicity made itself apparent from the start.  He avoided the origami technique, which was wise for would would become a full set of costumes, but the dress he ultimately produced was pretty, and only that.  There wasn't anything original to it that would make it special, onstage or off.  Ven ultimately goes home for this.

Now, the responses to the top fashions have been a little controversial.  Both would have needed some tweaking.  Some of my PR fellow fans feel that Dmitry's look would have been better from a distance, and Christopher's washed out.  I understand that viewpoint, but there are a couple of factors that make me feel that the right decision was made in giving Christopher the win. 
Dmitry's look is too dark, first and foremost.  It actually makes me think more of what should have happened in the aforementioned Sasha Cohen challenge.  A skater would look beautiful in this.  So would a Latin dancer.  If I were watching a kickline of Rockettes on the stage of Radio City Music Hall, or even my home theater, the Wharton Center, though, this wouldn't thrill me.  I would like to have one, just for fun, but if I were a Rockette (and I have actually danced with one in a workshop), this wouldn't give me the feeling of lift that I would want.  It would actually lower my center of gravity a bit.  I do think Dmitry could have sold this look a bit more with some fancier styling, but as is, it's not enough.
Christopher's look, on the other hand, has that feeling of special.  Yes, the body of the skirt is an issue to tweak, but the dress as a whole is much more on point as a Rockette's costume.  From the balcony of Radio City, yes, you would not necessarily see and recognize the skyline, but you would see some graphic shape and certainly sparkle.  In fact, this dress would look different but still pleasing at many distances.  That's pretty key.  It looks comfortable, it's well fitted, and as a dancer it would make me feel happy.  It also will work for yearround wear.  So, in the Rockettes costume challenge, Christopher's look met the conditions just a bit better.
A friend of mine raised a concern about the size of the Chrysler building for a bustier girl; that, however, is a matter for the costumers to size up as they put the dress into production, just like any garment.  It can be done!  This would be a similar situation to putting a more opaque backing in the top of Dmitry's.  Just something that has to happen to go from runway to stage!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

PR: Know Thyseslf

The challenge:
It's the design-your-own-textile challenge!  With Mondo!
I love the textile designing.  I have lamented in the past the boring and uncolorful designs people have come up with.  I always hope they'll do something more vibrant, and bigger, meaning not the tiny, dizzying, or haphazard designs we usually see. 
The designers' friends and families pop in with slide shows, not so much to soothe and inspire as to distract and rattle, from the producers' standpoint.  That cynical view aside, I do enjoy learning more about the designers and seeing how the reminder of their past creeps into their work.
We see some colors this year!  Some of the images are still really tiny on the fabric, and thus kind of dizzying.  I wish Gunnar's print had been bigger. I really like Melissa's and Fabio's, though.  I'm intrigued by what Dmitry is doing.  I have no idea what Tim is thinking with Ven's look, describing it as an homage to a menstrual cycle...that's one of those things where Tim should probably have checked his reaction and said, as he does, "Shut up, Tim." 
It actually reminded me of a dear poet friend of mine whose work in workshop was often described as sexual, much to her bewilderment.  It became almost an expected reaction, even though the poems had little to do with sex.  Unlike Ven, however, she didn't change the poem just based on that reaction.

The results:
Sonjie's pant was reminiscent of Mondo's.  They're a little crispy, but still kind of fun.  I love the top she did, with the draped back.  I want that top.
I was actually kind of intrigued with Elena's top.  I liked the style of it, and the pockets.  The skirt was ho-hum, though.
Christopher dodged a major bullet this week.  His print was too muted by the organza over it, and the dress was kind of ill-fitted, especially in back, where it looked like it was sagging.
Ven also dodged a bullet; yes, the flower is part of his culture, but it's not that interesting a rendering of the flower, and the dress is not up to his usual standard, even though it uses his usual technique.  It was kind of obviously a backup plan.
I wasn't enthusiastic about Fabio's look at all.  The print is way too muted with organza over it, like Christopher's, and so little was used in comparison to the rest of what he made, which was blackblackblack.  It disappointed me.
I wish Melissa had made a sassier dress.  I like her print, and the dress is certainly passable, but she's capable of a much more interesting style.  There was a little too much of the sleeper in the dress this week.
Gunnar.  Oh, Gunnar.  I knew when it came out that he was in trouble.  I like his print, actually, though I do feel it's too small, but the jacket and dress reminded me very much of patterns one could get in a Simplicity catalog.  I was actually more interested in the first jacket he was working on.  The workroom consultation problem strikes again.  Second guessing everywhere!
Dmitry took some risks with the jacket.  Why isn't anyone doing that clear strip thing?  I love the floating bits in there because it's unusual and looks extra-skilled.  It was also a risk because it covered his print (which was too bright for me), though it was at least a little coy about it.

In the end, the judging results were unsurprising.  On to the next!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

PR: On the Streets

Self-fundraising.  Designers are in teams of 3, and are going to raise money to shop at Mood, selling T-shirts and whatever else they want on the streets of New York. 
The teams:
Sonjia, Christopher, and Gunnar
Dmitry, Elena, and Alicia
Ven, Melissa, and Fabio

I have to say that at 7 minutes in, I was already out.  I was not interested in what was going on.  I love arts and crafts, so I was briefly excited at the paints and glitter, but I really did not want to see these personalities clashing and struggling as they attempted to get strangers to give them money.  More importantly, I didn't want to hear them, so I put the show on mute, with the closed captioning on.  I also flipped back to the US Open frequently and didn't care that much about getting back in a timely fashion.  I also spent some time reading a book about Siamese cats who solve myseteries.

I'm not sure what exactly turned me off.  I hate team challenges.  I hate the blatant editing tricks that are so obvious they fall flat (Gunnar complaining about Christopher's voice).  I hate artificial hoops that aren't related to the results.  Yes, a designer has to be good with sales and gladhanding, but having them decorate--not design, but decorate--T-shirts and hawk them was another clunker.  It might have been interesting to see designers giving fashion advice, as Tim suggested, but the whole sequence, even on mute, made me look away.

I did turn the fashion show on, however, and this is what we saw:
Dmitry, Alicia, and Elena:
Shawl with fringe, dress with cross strap and weird darts.
Grey and green jacket with rounded shoulders.  Pants and top. 
Sonjia, Christopher, and Gunnar:
Green jacket and two-tone skirt with scarf.
Long asymmetrical coat and two-fabric dress.
Melissa, Ven, and Fabio:
Pink top and grey skirt with white jacket.
Pink tunic, grey coat, brown pants.

(Please note:  All of this was writtten before the judges spoke--It's a little eerie to hear some of my thoughts so closely repeated on TV...usually I'm not that close to the judges' views.)
Heidi wasted no time in declaring Sonjia, Christopher, and Gunnar's group the winners, and I have to agree.  Their looks were interesting and structural, and stood out on the runway as thoughtful.  I really do like the green jacket and the collar in the camel coat.  I also love that they had the middle-sized budget.
For me, Melissa, Ven and Fabio fall in the middle.  I like that they went with lighter colors--winter white and pink are really beautiful and uplifting on cold days when everything gets so dark.  The first look was the most complete.  The grey coat and brown pants of the second look were a misstep, though.  There wasn't enough innovation there, and that look was kind of flat as a result.  This group definitely didn't look like they had the most money--$800 worth, in fact.
Dmitry, Alicia, and Elena were a disappointment.  Those outside darts looked balloony, and the rounded shoulders in the jacket were an Elena touch I've never been fond of.  On a design side of things, there wasn't much there.  On an execution side of things, there were clear flaws.  I won't even get into the lack of teamwork.

If I'm in charge, Sonjia wins and Elena goes home.  Alicia went home instead, and I guess I kind of expected that.  She wasn't given much designing to do, and her easy aesthetic definitely compounded the problem.

Next week is the design-your-textile challenge, and I'm already looking forward to it because I see more interesting designs and colors than in the past. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

PR: Lord & Taylor

We see at Lord & Taylor mannequins with looks by previous designers, which will become a collection, with one of our new designer's looks.  I like this.  I like the shout out to past designers and the practice in commercial design is important. 
The looks must be reproducible and will be sold for 200-300 dollars, and the fabric is coming from the production company, so no budget.  But still a one-day challenge. 
I appreciated seeing more of the sketches this week.  I wish they'd do this every week.  I like seeing a close-up during the show that I can remember and see how well the final look represents that initial vision.  It gives you a good idea of who can edit, who is doing too much of the same thing, and who has poor time management.
We had an awful lot of meltdowns this week!  On the other hand, dresses!

Fabio:  The dress was too simple, though it was sleek. I'm not a fan of the v back and glaring zipper.  I like the hang of the sheer on the skirt, but I wished for more.  Respect for Fabio wearing a garland, though. 
Melissa: This dress actually worked out pretty well.  It's a little off-kilter for Lord & Taylor but I appreciate that.  It's pretty, though still firm.  The asymmetrical hem is too long or too short...I can't decide. (Michael Kors agrees with me on this.)  I am kind of tired of that style of hem anyway. I also like that it's kind of coppery brown.  While that doesn't look good on everyone, it's a color that I'd like to see more. 
Gunnar loves that short and lace.  I appreciate that there are some sleeves.  The dress, though, didn't feel that special.  It has the shape of any number of black, lacy cocktail dresses.  (I wish to point out at this time that I wrote this comment before the judges' panel took place.  That they said exactly what I said was a little creepy.)
Elena: The fabric is a little strange structurally.  The shape is interesting, but the fabric seemed all wrong for the skirt.  Or perhaps it wasn't cut in a way conducive to its inherent structure.  In a different fabric, I think this dress would have worked better.  The construction also didn't seem strong, with some crazy seams.
Christopher:  You know I love ballet pink.  I would wear this dress, though I might have liked some sort of belt at the waist, something satiny, maybe.  Just something to give it some sheen.  I'm glad the judges liked the dress.  I actually think that they could get more than $300 for it at Lord & Taylor.  It was right for him to get called out for overusing a technique, though.
Alicia: I'm not a fan.  It is different, but it didn't look well crafted.  It actually reminds me of a dance costume I had once.  We were flappers, but our dresses were black with a little glitter, and a slashed skirt.  They looked a bit like garbage bags because they were, indeed, baggy, too much so to see the fabric had some glitter, which it needed more of.  Also, it had a high neck.  As soon as I saw Alicia's look, I went back to that recital.  She is not, however, Amish, Michael Kors.
Sonjie: Peplums.  Oh, peplums.  At the same time, it is a really simple dress, not one that has much to it.  I thought Sonjia might land in the bottom because of that oversimplified look.
Ven:  I might have liked this better if the top was a color.  A real color, like a stunning green.  I still like the pretty folding, and any number of women would love to wear this dress, but this technique is all he does, in much the same way.  I don't see Ven stretching himself.
Dmitry: This is a pretty good dress, sleek with some seaming detail.  The hem looks a little sketchy, though.  Not his best work in construction.

The judges did four up and two down this week...and the fourth up was unexpected.  I was really curious about what dress they would pick.  I think I'm glad they picked Christopher's.  It made the most sense for the challenge parameters: Pretty, marketable, makeable, expensive-looking, good for a window, good fit with the others...a logical choice. 
Then we got a surprise.  Gunnar is in, because "everyone met the bar of this challenge."  So we have solved the problem of having had two people disappear and only one cut designer come back, which sets us up for...
Teams next week.  Again.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

PR: Friend of a Friend

The Challenge:
Some "friends" are getting a fashion makeover for their friends.  Hair cut and color, and an outfit for the madeover client.
Early notes:  Ven got highlighted here, saying he was disappointed because this was nothing like designing for a model-- his client's proportions are all different.  I'll let you fill in your choice of annoyed sound here.  Really an immature attitude, and a disappointing, gaping hole in his skills and mindset.  The regular woman challenge always reveals the closet hater, doesn't it? 
Nathan's client seems a little confused on the meaning of sophisticated.  Sonjia did a good job asking questions and listening to her client.  Gunnar is actually into this challenge, which was a bit of a pleasant surprise.  Not surprising is Dmitry's ballroom dancing career.
"How's her figure?" Tim?  Really?  I don't know about asking that question in quite that way.  Good for Nathan, though, for his positive description.

The Clothes:
Nathan's black and blue dress was, I guess, okay for a music career in R & B, but it was too sexualized.  I know that's what the client wanted, but I also noted he couldn't really stand up to his client to steer her.  Also the sewing is a little questionable.  The side panel?  Not a good idea.  I think his inexperience showed here.  That being said, I don't think that the garment was as bad as the judges felt.
Elena's client looks very bouncy, which is a good sign.  The skirt did look cute.  The top was a good shape, but too short in the front ruffle at the waist.  It was appropriate, though, and gave the client something wearable.
Melissa's dress was kind of safe.  The detail with the asymmetrical bodice was nice, but there wasn't much else to it.  It was, at least, reasonably adult without being over-sexy..
Gunnar's client was exuberant!  I liked the skirt on her, but the bodice was not fitted quite looked crooked.  The sewing didn't look refined to me either, and both of those elements are on Gunnar.  That being said, I like the work he put into the skirt, and of course I'm proud of his attitude this week.
Alicia's dress was too short, and the bodice was too small.  I hate that cutaway thing that they work in sometimes at the waist.  The client seemed happy, but I was a bit surprised Alicia was safe.
Christopher's dress is really pretty, if simple.  I like the movement and I'm glad there is a jacket, though I would have liked a closer look at that, as he also wished for the judges. 
Ven's opinion of his outfit is curious.  He feels it's sophisticated, but there is a zipper unzipped halfway up her thigh.  What the what?  The look doesn't make any sense.  The judges responded to that also.
Dmitry's dress is a great color.  On the other hand, the midriff is too tight, and the dress is a touch short.  The top is very cute, a good shape, but I'd love to have seen it pencil down two inches longer.
Fabio!  I honestly like Fabio's dress the best this week.  Who knew?  It's cute and wearable, and his client is adorable in it.  I love the design in the blocking.  It was so clearly a winner! I would so totally wear this dress.  Really glad he won.  I've been so skeptical about him based on his portfolio, but this week he really impressed me.
Sonjia's dress is indeed a bit too short.  It's interesting that the theme is kind of similar to Christopher's, but his is more sophisticated.  And what is with this knot thing?  Knot dresses have been around for a couple of years now, so I'm a little surprised to see them popping up all over.

So, Fabio won and Nathan was out.  As I said, Nathan's inexperience was a problem here, but his attitude is a strong one.  I wish he could have stayed in longer.  He is positive and I hope that he keeps developing his fashion vision without losing his demeanor.
Ven, on the other hand...I will keep commenting on fashions objectively, but he is no favorite of mine.