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.


Cloud of Secrets said...

Very good points on Casanova's look, and the hypocrisy of Michael Kors! Casanova's look was my favorite. It's classy Grace Kelly resort wear -- apparently not, say, body-proud and revealing Heidi Klum resort wear. I'd be glad to wear it (in a richer palette, perhaps). The shapes were feminine and hip to this season's 70s shapes (see Chloe''s slacks and tops), with some sexy revelation of a woman's beautiful shoulders and collarbone. She could wear this to brunch, to cocktails on a yacht (no diving planned), to an early supper al fresco as you mention, even to cognacs at a ski destination if it were made in winter fabrics.

But, what do I know about all that. I've only become aware of "resort" collections over the past few months as I browse fashion blogs. I previously had no idea there was this third official season in the fashion world.

Andy: Thank you for using some color! I am reminded of the Venus Swimwear catalogue by the overt sexiness, but the fit and construction were great; as a hippy gal I appreciate the elegant long coverup skirt; I liked the purple ombre for added interest; and again, go you for not doing black and beige.

April: It did say dark babydoll lingerie to me more than anything. But again, the fit and construction were great, and the gothy asymmetrical shoulder and neck area was different and intriguing.

Christopher: Not much to say except that it looks like it walked right out of an Athleta or Eddie Bauer catalogue. Nothing wrong with those, but it was sporty and commercial, not elegant high design. This is what you pack for a hiking trip when you expect that you might end up at an afternoon winery tour and tasting along your route.

Gretchen: it's not for me, but I liked it for its lush simplicity. I appreciate it more with the necklace for texture and glint, though; would probably hate it on a hanger. It fits well with what I see as Gretchen's edgy forest elf aesthetic -- not Keebler elves, but Rivendell elves. The ones who might need to go into human cities from time to time.

Ivy: This was her episode to be edited as eeeeveeel, I guess. I wish she'd been axed rather than Casanova -- not for personality reasons, because she did have valid concerns -- and like you, Abs, I understand the tensions of being a disciplined perfectionist in a group work situation. Rather, she should have gone because her garment was boring and unflattering, and she didn't hold to her own initial vision, which might have been just as boring and unflattering.

Michael C.: Not bad, but I dislike anything that smacks of lame' cheapness. If he'd found a more expensive-looking matte silk or synthetic...

Michael D.: Another mass of all-black that's only interesting and festive if you really look at the details of the shoulder-area cutting work and the black trims. Is anyone going to do that at a resort, or just see a swath of forbidding black? I'm surprised there were no copycat accusations between Michael and April.

Mondo: Well-made, but like something out of the June 1991 issue of Seventeen magazine. Totally appropriate for a teen 1991. I could see it as the outfit in a Maybelline Waterproof Great Lash ad. Or Caboodles cases.

Valerie: Talk about matronly! The high-waisted bathing shorts were neither sexy nor classy, and the overcoat was oddly bulgy. The rather corporate matte camel fabric was not apropriate for the sporty racerback styling and little zip (hook?) fastening.

Ruth is a big Austin & Santino fan now. She was having a crabby morning today, and was cuddled up beside me for the end of Project Runway. As soon as she saw a glimpse of A&S's faces in their little preview snippet: "We will watch Austin-n-stannino soon, Mama? Oh thank you, Mama. It makes me feel better."

Abs said...

Oh! I love that Ruth loves Austin and Santino. It makes me feel better too, Ruth!
I couldn't agree more with, really, all of your assessments. It's funny you went Athleta with Christopher, because I went Title Nine, which is really the same thing. And your comparison to Caboodles for Mondo could not be more appropriate.
Others have been commenting on the PR judges' blind spot with black, as though anything that is black skates through unscalded. I'll be watching that in future.
I learned about resortwear from Victoria's Secret, when I'd get catalogs for two hundred dollar bathing suits and more springy colors for boucle sweaters. It's a weird sort of mixture to me. Kors pointed out the element of fantasy, but really the clothes just give you a dimension of mixing fall and spring stuff together in different colors, or selling things out of their proper season. It strikes me as very European, since they take bigger vacations than we do.