Friday, September 24, 2010

PR: High Fashion or Just High?

There is so much going on today that I hardly know where to begin. I will just first get in a public Congratulatory Shout-Out to my dear friends Carrie and Paul, who are new parents as of this morning!

On to the Runway.
The Challenge:
I have to admit, I'm not really a big fan of the L'Oreal make-up challenges or the Garnier hair challenges. This one had big stakes ($20,000 is a lot of cash, and an advert is huge), but it seems like the designers' skills and styles really didn't coordinate with the demands.
Am I alone in feeling like none of the designers this year really have truly high-fashion, couturieresque skills? Maybe I have an inflated idea of high fashion, but it seems like this season everyone has either a casual style of some sort, or middle-end evening (hence some of the pageanty/prommy results). There isn't anyone with the Daniel V. craftsmanship and taste, or Kara Saun's razor-sharp tailoring with lush fabrics, or even Christian Siriano's slickness. Part of what made those contestants exciting is that, sure, they made blunders, but they could rise to the challenge of grandeur. And this disparity isn't a disparagement of the current designers; some have made truly unique pieces, and many wearable pieces. But their points of view don't seem to mesh with this challenge. Is it any wonder we had such anemic results?
As far as "step two" goes, did anyone else notice how half of the designers composed a ready-to-wear that was a basic dress with a strip of varying widths in the middle? Andy, April, Christopher, and Mondo. It was a little repetitive.

The Clothes:
Andy--His high-fashion look was high-fashion. It was also very costumey--creative, but costumey. It reminded me of a Borg fashion show. I did appreciate the fabric choices, though. The ready-to-wear dress was a little dull. While I like the layering of the textiles, the sleeves seemed kind of juniory. It didn't seem like a grown-up dress.
April--Very black and pointy. I was intrigued that she choose to add a little faux (hopefully) fur to give the look more texture. The back, though, with the pick-up bustle, was kind of messy. The fabric of the ready-to-wear dress was nice, but I hated the zipper up the side. From the front, the chiffon jacket looked all right, but from the back not so much--too much like wings. April certainly has an aesthetic, but I am so very tired of black jaggedyness, the same way I was with Siriano's black pants all the time.
Christopher--The high-fashion look was a mess. I thought I would like the appliqued lace, but the effect ended up being kind of 80s. The sleeve poof and the giant poof around the middle were entirely unflattering. It looked like he just hurled a bunch of things at the dress form and called it a day. The ready-to-wear was, by comparison, dull. It was daywear, so it had that going for it, but the fit of the top was questionable.
Gretchen--Her look was not very high fashion to me. I did like the back, and didn't mind the fabrication, but it said kind of boudoir robe rather than high-fashion clothing. The inset at the front was also very dull. I didn't dislike the look, could even see myself in it, but I thought she was going to get creamed, especially when the ready-to-wear came out. The relation between the looks wasn't very clear. The drape of the top of the skirt was nice, but the top of the top was unflattering. I don't know. I'm not sure what happened here.
Ivy--I actually liked Ivy's colors, as the designers seemed to, even if the judges hated it. I didn't mind the bottom part of the skirt of the high-fashion look and thought it flowy, but the top of the ready-to-wear would have been better with the skirt of the high-fashion, with some adjustments. The pieces were unfinished, and the skirt of the ready-to-wear was bunchy, just like Christopher's. As is, the first piece did look like a prom dress and the second looked like what it was--a dress with no time to construct it.
Michael C--He sure does love the weird hip shapes and extensions, doesn't he? I didn't see until the judges pointed it out that the high-fashion hem was wired. I don't think that quite worked. If you look at the picture of the garment, with the little magnifier circle over it, you notice other weird inconsistencies. For example, the dress is pretty grand in shape, but the bodice has a very strange and hasty-looking cup construction, and the sweetheart is very obviously and poorly pinched. The ready-to-wear was awful. Hip extentions, overly tight and bunchy bodice.
Mondo--Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice! Okay, just kidding (although Carol Hannah picked up the same thing in her blog). I also thought of Jeffrey Sebelia's tartan number from the couture challenge and his striped dress with zippers, like a combination of the two. And no, I'm not accusing him of copying, that's just what went through my mind (and as Laura Bennett remarked on this, too, in her blog, I am not alone). For once, Kors' snarky comments interested me, when he mentioned the Kentucky derby. It was a little jockey chic, but in a fun way. I didn't like the dress so much as I could see how it appealed to the judges. The ready-to-wear, on the other hand, I really liked. It was the most successful of the stripe-in-the-middle dresses.
Valerie--I actually liked the flow of Valerie's high-fashion, but recognized it as "too pretty," which the judges aren't that into. I liked the diamante, but not in a weird loop sticking out. With the ready-to-wear, I really didn't see much relation beyond a vague sort of angel/hellraiser thing. It certainly wasn't very crystalline.

That's it for this week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Savage Kicks

Today, I wore these shoes, with a black knit dress I made forever ago and have never worn, and my red button necklace from Black Swamp.
I got more comments about my shoes today and more looks from strangers than I've ever had in my life. Justifiably so--they are certainly unusual, and you kind of have to look twice to figure out what's going on. As I told the checkout girl at Shoe Carnival, I bought them because they were ridiculous in a good way. They were not shoes I needed, or shoes that were part of a shoe base plan. But somehow, I could not leave the store without purchasing something so unusual in so mundane a setting. My students were in love.
Also, they are very tall.

Friday, September 17, 2010

PR: Remember, She's a Former First Lady.

Yowza, these PR reports roll around rather quickly, eh?

The challenge:

This episode was about style iconography. In this case, Jackie O. served as muse, or at least she was meant to. She's such a rich subject, but as edited the show was not. The first fifteen minutes were low on drama, which is okay with me except that even what should be highlighted, the fashion creation, was also flat. Granted, American sportswear is not heavy on bells and whistles, but I was still expecting a little more oohing and aahing. Our "surprise" came at roughly 9:25 by my watch--the creation of an outerwear piece. More drawing, back to Mood (and by the way, 15 minutes in a fabric store is simply ludicrous. Except when I have I needed, say, a zipper or a spool of thread, I have never spent under half an hour even in tiny JoAnn's.) Aside from the usual hasty finishing of some designers, even the creation of these jackets and coats was not that thrilling--a shame, since outerwear can be fun and certainly would be for Jackie O. She was married to the president! I don't think anyone really remembered that.

A nice site on Sportswear can be found at the Victoria and Albert. I've been there!

On the upside, I thought there were a few clearly successful garments.

The clothes:
Andy--Taking a risk is one thing. Taking a risk that falls completely outside the challenge is another matter entirely. Could I see Jackie O. in a pair of cargo pants? Never. And those boots--again, never. I can imagine a world in which she might wear the vest, but only with sleek, fluid pants--which Andy has successfully made before, challenge 2. I don't know what he was complaining about with the American sportswear problem. American sportswear is so called because it originated here, not because it doesn't incorporate other influences. In any case, this was a matter of Andy doing what he wanted to regardless of the challenge at hand, and that's never a good idea.
April--April designed a black, front-zip dress and a boudoir cover. It could be described as sportswear, but it was also just a bit too tight and flat. There wasn't anything glamorous about it, and it struck me as too night club to suit Jackie O.
Christopher--Christopher's look was not one I considered successful; yes, the dress was glamorous and sleek, but it wasn't sportswear. Not really. The point of sportswear is versatility; you could wear it for a dressy day at work and then move on to a cocktail hour. If you wore this look at work you would be in trouble. The tie-front fur cover was also ill-conceived. It was kind of cavewomanish; or, more Valkyrieish. None of it said Jackie O., either. I think this was pulled out as top 3 only because January Jones liked the dress.
Gretchen--This look seemed sloppy to me. The top was not very nice (again, another tiny tank top), and the coat and skirt together just looked heavy and droopy. The skirt was okay, it was certainly sportswear, but it was also a little shapeless. I would have liked that jacket in a different context, I think. The outfit didn't come together at all, especially with the styling, which is usually Gretchen's forte.
Ivy--Ivy was hands-down my favorite this week. I loved the cut of the top and the jacket both, and was not at all bothered by the jacket as the judges seemed to be. I was not a big fan of the see-through component of the bottom of the blouse, but liked the updated collar of the neckline. I don't like high-waisted pants all that much, either, but appreciated the way the pieces fit together collectively. I could see Jackie O. in this, it was modern sportswear, and it was uniquely Ivy, with an architecture that wasn't over-the-top but still eye-catching.
Michael C--The dress was nice and vivid, but I didn't see Jackie in it, and it, too, was not really sportswear. The coat didn't go at all with this outfit (and to his credit MC knew this). The coat was actually much more sportswear than the dress. There was simply no relationship between these two items.
Michael D--MD, last week was the resort challenge. Seriously, that skirt and top together were much more young, casual travel/resortlike (as in, a day at museums and a walk along an aqueduct, in different shoes of course) than Jackie O. I thought the jacket worked for the challenge but that was about it. And, indeed, the top of the skirt was much too heavy. That's not really how pleating works at waistbands.
Mondo--You kind of had to know that Mondo would win. It wasn't my favorite, but it was a modern Mondo version of Jackie O, and it had that urban feel that the judges are really going for this season. The silhouette was right, with a runway edge. Unlike Nina, I thought the pattern crossing was kind of tacky, but I understand the combination. I wouldn't wear it, because it's too urban in feel (too Sex & the City, maybe), but I understand why it won.
Valerie--I was afraid for Valerie. Yes, the pieces are interchangeable, but everything was soooooo dark and heavy, and really too casual. It was sort of LL Beanlike; when I saw that vest I thought, is Jackie O. going camping? Camping fashion is great, don't get me wrong, but not for modern sportswear for a style icon.

In other news, Santino singing on Austin & Santino? Absolutely priceless. It's absolutely stupefying how much more I like him now than I did when he was on the show. This is, I think, at the heart of why I hate competition and am myself overly competitive. The crucible of a reality show competition absolutely crushes people's character. In A & S, they're meant to be having fun, and though they're putting in a lot of work, they are also letting their personalities gleam. Shiny.

Friday, September 10, 2010

PR: What's a Resort?

The Challenge:
When I think of a resort, my mind never knows where to go. I've seen the Sandals commercials like everyone else, as well as Wheel of Fortune prize descriptions of "fabulous resort getaways." I've also seen the Victoria's Secret catalog for resortwear when it comes out. You have the spa element, the cruising around Capri, the long day on the beach, the evening at the bistro on the corner, even a hike through a jungle to a bay or a day spent gambling and gondola-ing around your hotel surrounded by neon. A resort has no pure meaning, beyond relaxation.
The challenge on Project Runway this week was similarly open--resort wear. Michael Kors even proferred a list of many types of clothing that could qualify, from swimsuits to evening gowns. Some designers worked well in these non-parameters and others didn't, but in the end I found myself disagreeing with the judges on many points.
This was clearest in the discussion of Casanova. Please, if you have a minute, travel to Michael Kors' Resort 2009. The judges harped on Casanova for dressing a matronly woman again. I have all kinds of problems with this. First, the look was not matronly. It was subtle and modest, certainly, but not old (as I suspect the judges are using the term). Second, even if the look was for an older patron, who cares? As Casanova correctly stated, resorts are full of a crowd who would like a modest yet still beautiful look. As far as I know, the challenge had no limit specifying youth. Finally, if you have in fact looked at Kors' Resortwear, you will have seen that nothing in the collection is "young" in the sense the judges seem to be applying. In fact, many of his garments look like they are for middle-aged ladies. I can't abide the judges applying criteria they don't use themselves.
Kors, Resort 2009

Casanova, Resort 2010

The other dimension of this challenge is random pairings, making a partner into a sample creator for your design. As Nick Verreos points out in his blog (and for once I agree), sample making is a completely realistic component of the industry, but, designers "also would NEVER HIRE a sample maker/pattern maker with subpar skills." I would further that comment by saying that a designer wouldn't hire a sample maker that doesn't have the traditional, shared knowledge of the industry. And that's why this challenge bothered me, in a nutshell. No matter how good your description is, someone who doesn't use the same sewing language that the industry uses is unlikely to produce the garment you want, even if he or she is a good sewer using self-produced techniques (as, in fact, I kind of do, being self-taught). The description-to-garment line was much too artificial as a result. This episode was such a game component, and I found that discouraging. Additionally, the judging parameters were unclear to me. Thus, in some ways I sympathized with Ivy's concerns; I agree that she dumbed down her design too far, but I can understand why she was having trouble making her industry vocabulary match Michael D's vocabulary. Truly skilled sample makers can make complete garments from a set of drawings. Yet that is not who these people before us are. One falls in the trap of who receives the criticism--the designer or the maker; the real answer is, the question itself is flawed.

The Clothes:
Andy--I loved this. It was my pick for the winner. Commercial? Maybe, but deceptively simple and also beautiful. Fluid, with a nice color choice of the silver and purple. The suit was a little dominatrixy, but it also fit immaculately thanks to Valerie.
April--speaking of dominatrix. The shape was well constructed, and I liked the top of the garment (though not the side loops hanging down on the arms). But I (like Nick Verreos) seriously thought this was a negligee. And that would be okay--you need lingerie at a resort, too--but when I discovered it was meant to be a dress of some sort...I liked it less. And Kristen Bell, I love you, but you would not wear that on a red carpet. The judges were really overstating things with this look.
Casanova--I like it, and I'm not going to apologize for my opinion. I liked the top, liked the lace and the neckline/sleeve shape, and thought this outfit would be perfectly suitable for a dinner at a cafe overlooking the water. I did not like the tie's design in back (a more ribbony tie would have been prettier), and there was a touch of construction trouble here and there, but I would wear this and feel comfortable traveling with it.
Christopher--I didn't like this. It looked kind of like the model was wearing a baby sling. There's nothing wrong with baby slings, but neither the top nor the short said resort to me, or seemed special or comfortable. I thought this would be called out for sure. It would have been prettier as a flowy dress out of the fact, wasn't it, at one point? Or did I misinterpret the mannequin? Anyway, "I did not respond well."
Gretchen--I didn't care for the baggy top, the high-waisted slouch of this jumpsuit. I did like the idea of the pant, though. It was sort of ripply and looked comfortable. But I can't get over that high waist and the whole look is kind of cluttered and drab. Basically, I like the bottom third and nothing above.
Ivy--Having defended her frustration above, I will criticize Ivy's design down here. This look was dull. It's not that it looks bad, just that it is reminiscent of "Project I-Don't-Mind-It." I don't actually mind the use of the light colors, either; pastels are fine with me. The look is just flat.
Michael C--This screamed 70s to me, and then it whispered "pajamas." I hate to say it, but if I saw a woman wearing this at a resort, I might roll my eyes. It's a bell-bottomed jumpsuit. I just can't see it as classy.
Michael D--The top of this look was interesting, but it got really flat and dull the farther down you went. Having worked with linen, I think the one he selected was too heavy for what he wanted to do. It ended up looking like a dress made of denim--shapeless and baggy, despite the interest to the top.
Mondo--It's cute, but kind of Target-y Spring Break Cancun. And again, there's nothing wrong with Target, and spring breaks happen at resorts, but it wasn't especially fashionable or classy. It was more hotel pool out back than resort lagoon.
Valerie--The shape from the back on this was kind of strange and bulky. It looked kind of dated to me, and I don't usually say that. And that chevron print with the high waist? I don't know, guys. I can't get behind this.

Friday, September 03, 2010

PR: Always a Bridesmaid.

This week was the editors' volte face on Gretchen. Vilifying her last week, this week they turned to showcasing her practicality with Tim and her family connections. I include this as a note only, for those who are following the usual drama.
The challenge was similar to the "old wedding dress" challenge, only this time with bridesmaids' dresses.
I have mixed feelings about the bridesmaids' dresses. I really don't consider them to be as ugly as the designers and judges constantly stated. Impractical, perhaps, but not hideous (in most cases--some of them did have truly strange design details). Designers were also complaining about colors that actually weren't bad--colors they and previous designers have used. It's just seeing them all together that makes them garish. Laura Bennett seems to agree: "The designers all roll their eyes, cover their mouths and claim the dresses are hideously ugly, but I don't see anything worse than what has been sent down the runway this season." And, indeed, on this very episode.
I have seen some bad bridesmaids' dresses in the shops and on the web, but I've also seen some very nice ones. Certainly, they are in unusual colors, but that's how weddings work. You match the colors the bride is using. And are Cynthia Rowley's dresses really that different? In some cases, maybe, but not really. I think it's just traditional to moan about your bridesmaid dress because you didn't pick it and therefore it must be hideous--a tradition I don't agree with at all. On top of this, these particular designers are known for overstating their case and harping on points (e.g. their attitude regarding Michael C.). Thus, I chose to disregard their disingenuous opinions of the original garments as I reviewed their garments.
The best part of this challenge was the Designer Showcase. I'm not a big fan of the voting in front of the designer concept, but I think getting glammed up was great for these ladies, and I appreciated the chance it gave the designers to have a "test run."

The clothes:

Andy--He dyed his material from blue to black, but then made kind of a tarty/streetish shorts and bustier top. With chains, of all things. I liked the pattern in the top, but obviously didn't care for the rest. I couldn't believe I thought this, but I actually wondered if a romper might have worked better and looked cute for the model.
April--I really liked April's high-collared dress this week. I wasn't sure how I felt about the silver fan, but I liked the sleekness of the garment, the sleeve length, and the overall fit, though it was just a bit too short. Then again, I also liked the textile of the old dress.
Casanova--I liked the drape top and the color of the pant with it, but ultimately didn't like the pant itself. And that's all I have to say about the look.
Christopher--The judges went wild over his top. Yes, the one side was draped beautifully; but frankly, the other side looked like he didn't finish and the bra was hanging out. It looked exactly like the cup of a nude bra. It looks better close up, but to me this was a design flaw I couldn't overlook.
Gretchen--Grethcen is very into loose, shapeless, tiny tops, no? Her skirt is too short, and the girl is obsessed with boots. That said, I liked the painting and distressing of the outfit, and let's face it, her model looked chicly urban (again, like most of Gretchen's gear). The best that can be said for Gretchen is that her work isn't boring--it's engaging to the eye, unlike many of her cohorts.
Ivy--Ivy was kind of boring this week. The top was acceptable but kind of plain; though the back draping was pretty, that kind of shirt is not that difficult. The pants are dull, and I'm really so tired of capris and leggings.
Michael C--I actually disagreed a bit with Kors that the length of this dress was rightly proportioned for his model. I thought it was arranged at a place that made the gal's legs look wider. I also didn't care for the hair and makeup styling. I responded well to the top of the garment; I actually liked the puffed lace sleeve. The look as a whole struck me as a bit messy, especially for his model's shape, which seemed athletic and was made boxier by the poofiness of the skirt. It wasn't a bad garment, but not the winner for me.
Michael D--I wasn't big on the bright pink straps either, in line with Tim's comment. I did think the little jacket was cute, and the best part is that his model looked happy. That being said, I agreed with a comment by someone that he didn't do all that much with the dress. It was a makeover rather than a redesign, and thus not terribly innovative.
Mondo--This design struck me as very 80s, and then I heard him say his model was from Jersey City and it all made sense. Unlike Kors, I didn't like his pink stripe/"sleeve" cap, but I did like the shaping of the bodice. The dress suited the model. I thought this was going to be pulled out for the win on the strength of its suitability, even though I personally didn't love it...I am generally against "Jersey chic."
Peach--Nothing went right with this garment, and Peach knew it. The project looked kind of home ec-y and confusing. I couldn't agree more with the problemmatic peplum and there was no consistent style voice here. I was not surprised that Peach went home, but as everyone has stated, she will be missed.
Valerie--This won my WTF of the week. The whole thing looked misshapen and ill-constructed. Unlike with Peach, I think I know what Valerie wanted to do here. But nothing about the execution matches that idea I have amd think she had. It was the wrong design for her client altogether.

Can I be honest? I'm starting to dislike Heidi more than a little. Imagine you are a student who has produced a picture. Your teacher and her TAs come around and as he starts making snarky comments, the TA starts laughing. These people are both bullies. Bullying is unacceptable. So often, Heidi just laughs and laughs at Kors' stupid insults, which get campier and campier as we go. I've noted before their inability to be constructive, but now Heidi isn't even being verbal, just sycophantically giggling. I am "not responding positively" to this.