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.
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 print...in 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.