Friday, August 26, 2011

PR: Good Idea? Bad Idea.

It's time for another Good Idea/Bad Idea.
Actually, it's not, because nothing about this week's Project Runway episode was a good idea, and judging from the responses I've seen, NO ONE thought this week was any good.
Let's explore the roll call of bad decisions.

1.Another Heidi Klum for New Balance challenge. As I blogged last October, last season's New Balance challenge was one of the worst in PR history, and the show itself was disappointing. Bullying, drab fabrics, and the return of past contestants...wait, am I describing this year's HKNB challenge? Because all three of those elements dominated this year, too. I'm not down on New Balance. I've worn their shoes. But HK's line is not really that interesting, despite its pricetag. Certainly not interesting enough for two challenges of a fashion-based TV show. And this year's materials? Denim and suede. Be still, my heart. Just because there is the possibility of a business tie in, that does not mean it should be tied in.

2. That Klum et al. then blamed the designers for uninspired and bizarre results is just exhausting. As Kors would say, "Listen": If more than once you get drab results, the problem probably really is you, not the designers. This is especially true when you consider the public reaction to last season's challenge, and all the ho-hums that came because of the line itself.

3.It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye--or falls down. Designers are not exactly stationary, but asking them to race? I have problems with this on several levels:

a. Sexism. Women can run fast, but on average, men can run faster. And designers would certainly be average across the board. Thus, males have a distinct advantage.
b. Ageism.
c. Safety. Asking inexperienced people to run a race for leadership is simply unsafe. Remember when they had the designers skate? That was silly but only slightly risky. A tottery skater is much less likely to do damage than a non-athlete running at full pace, without athletic supervision. Olivier's fall was inevitable, and the producers should be thanking whatever gods they pray to that it wasn't worse.

4. Finally, in what is supposedly "her" challenge, Klum gets overruled in the judging. Yet another instance of credibility issues in the judging, or at least the presentation of it to the public. Garcia conveniently chooses to judge based on past episodes--it's funny how that form of judging versus judging what's on the runway are interchanged, isn't it? We can't know what else went on during judging (and truly, the editing of the judging this week was weird in itself), but the effect was sounding like Garcia trumped Klum, whether or not that was actually the case.

The fashion itself was predictably bad, and the attitudes worse. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would wonder if Lifetime or another shadowy collective were trying to kill Project Runway.

Here are the current scores, for the curious, for Rate the Runway:
Anthony Ryan 1.36
Bert 3.11
Anya 3.32
Becky 2.08
Bryce 3.18
Danielle 1.71
Josh C. 2.69
Josh M. 2.79
Kimberly 3.29
Laura 2.28
Olivier 2.26
Viktor 3.82

Did Viktor deserve the win? I think so. While I question the type of jacket, it and the dress were clearly well constructed and appropriate for the sneakers, at least from a certain point of view (including mine--I favor a casual dress and sneakers on occasion).
Did Josh M. also deserve the win? No. The dress he won for was attributed to Anya, clearly. He was also praised for good leadership when he demonstrated many judgment lapses. For instance, dowdygate. I have praised Becky's looks on several occasions, and others of my friends have also expressed support for her. I am not "forty to death." Thus, Josh M. not only went out of his way to insult Becky, but he also insulted her legions of fans. I don't care for his aesthetic either, generally speaking.
And why split the win anyway? Viktor had a clearly viable outfit. Other pieces on the runway--Bert's top, Olivier's top, Kimberly's (?) jacket--were acceptable, but Viktor to me was the obvious winner for the challenge as a whole. To give anyone else a share of the win was perplexing, to say the least.

I don't know who all reads this blog. But if any producers come across this entry, please listen--not just to me, but to the vast PR Nation that has been loyal, even through struggles. This challenge was bad. It was bad last year, and it is still bad. Some circumstances of the show are out of your control, but this isn't. If you want this show to continue, and to rebuild a sense of being respected, then you need to take it back to the roots for creativity, not just the designers', but your own.

Friday, August 19, 2011

PR: Nina's Day-to-Night Adventure

Confession: I did not actually watch all of this episode. I recorded it, but I managed to turn it on right when the runway show was about to start. Watching that last half hour was the most important part for this blog, especially since I read the other PR blogs on
Since my concern is generally the fashion results, I'm good to go.
The challenge was to design a look for Nina that she could wear all day, at the office and then at some industry event. There were a lot of prize components, and a lot of judges. Let's see how things came out (and once again I've listed the scores-to-date from Rate the Runway).

Anthony Ryan (2.86)--the fabric choice seemed on, but this look was kind of plain, and the shape too round, meaning it wasn't quite fitted enough. This black-and-white outfit would be better for a lunch out than day-to-night.
Anya (3.24)--I liked the top back of Anya's jumpsuit, and I'm glad for her that her dyeing came out well. However, I'm really not into jumpsuits in general and I cannot see Nina in this piece. It was just a bit too young--not that Nina is old, just that she'd look like a junior in this piece instead of a superior.
Becky (3.53)--I have to say, this is my favorite look. It's the only one that made me go, "Yes." Maybe it's not super fashion-forward, but it's not fashion-backward, either. I wish this would have gotten more love, because frankly I loved it and I thought it would have looked fun on Nina, too, but without beeing too youthful.
Bert (2. 63)--Two words: Crotch slit. Yes, there was some merit to the shape of the neckline and shoulders, but that crotch slit was absurd. I normall don't comment on references, but this dress seemed derivative to me, like a wannabe Holly Golightly.
Bryce (1.88)--Someone please tell me how Bryce did not get called out this week. Sewing problems don't always show up on the runway, but that hem stood out miles off. It also was very like dresses we've seen on the runway before, only in a less skilled version. Andy South had a similar shape in the couture vs. ready-to-wear show, and I pointed out that it was a little juniory. On top of all of that, it would be a disaster for Nina.
Cecilia (1.44)--Kind of surprised, like everyone else, that Cecilia didn't go home this week (although really it should have been Bryce). The dress had no shape. I mean, that yellowish fabric wasn't terrible. Something chic could have been made with it. Even that striped trim sort of idea could have worked with a better neckline. In any case, Cecilia sounded exactly like Fallene this week.
Danielle (1.94)--Danielle should have been safe this week, not in the bottom. Sure, there's nothing great about this outfit, but it is at least wearable, unlike Bryce's dress. No, Coles, it does not look like something a mother would wear in the kitchen while making babyfood. No, Kors, it does not look like the 80s. (These judges--honestly, it's like they live on the moon. They have no idea what the populace wears.) There was some design in the blouse that I could respect.
Josh M. (2.64)--Coral and grey. *sigh* The shape of this dress was good for Nina, and I can see why he thought it would appeal to her, but this was another look that fell in the middle. It's just a little too punk, not really for the challenge.
Julie (1.78)--As evidenced by the PR blogs and various other opinions, Julie's outfit was not that bad. I openly acknowledge that it didn't fit the challenge, and I was not at all into the creamsicle color of the sleeve. But the shape was cool on the wrapped-over side, and it does take some skill to block things together that way. It was flawed, yes, and it could have gone better, but it was not the disaster the judges made out, particularly in comparison to some others.
Kimberly (3.73)--I don't get it. She made a sci-fi top and she won. Even a slightly dated sci-fi top. The shape of the bottom of the top I like, the draping of the wraplook side. I also think I would have liked the top more if it had been in another fabric. Someone said it was gold brocade, but it doesn't look like it. The pants are very nice (they're navy, by the way), but that's what Kimberly does, just as Terri did. I will also admit that Nina looked nice in the outfit as a whole, and it photographed well. From the viewpoint of fitting the challenge, that's great for Kimberly. But that fabric...
Laura (2.66)--I liked this better on the runway than in the still photos. The idea of the dress was solid, but little flaws stand out, like the over-bunchiness at the waist, the shortness of the top skirt panel, and the fact it doesn't really say day to me. I guess in the end I want to like this more than I do.
Olivier (2.25)--Remember what I said about that line between subtle and too subtle? Yeah. Olivier lives there, and this time, he crossed the line into, "What is this?" The sewing didn't seem as skilled, but more than that this look doesn't meet the half of the challenge aimed at evening fashion events. This outfit, like some of the others, also indicated poor use of shoulder padding, or cuts that look like shoulder padding.
Viktor (2.81)--The shape here was good for Nina, but that black is kind of dull. It also made the exposed zipper very obvious. The skirt dart horizontally was kind of interesting. This outfit more than the others made me think of Nina, despite the color. It's also interesting to look at Viktor's outfit and Bert's side by side. This one is much more sensible.

So--let's recap.
The judges' favorites:
Kimberly, Viktor, Anya
The judges' least favorites:
Julie, Cecilia, Danielle

The popular vote favorites:
Kimberly, Becky, Anya
The popular vote least favorites:
Cecilia, Bryce, Julie

My favorites:
Becky, Viktor (for Nina, not for me)
My least favorites:
Bryce, Cecilia

Friday, August 12, 2011

PR: Up High!

...also known as Project Awkward.

The Challenge:

I get what the PR producing team wanted to do--set forth a crazy, "What on Earth" kind of challenge, the kind where you can't help wondering how anyone could deal with such a bizarre set of parameters and produce anything fabulous. Often, as in the case of the women wrestlers (pic from Fashion Me Fabulous), you get some pretty sweet fashion. Other times, like this one, we get a serious misstep.

This was probably the awkwardest show in PR history, not just the first to have an outdoor runway. Stiltwalkers are known for their unexpected grace, their awe-inspiring freedom of movement, unbelievable walking with what should send them tumbling. But in addition to the costume drama on the runway, the movement itself, but...stilted. The ladies often ended up almost staggering, and looked uncomfortable, which ruined the effect of many of the garments in addition to the effect of the skill itself.

Thus, while this whole shebang could have ended up genius, I think that the risk was too much. There was too little chance for this to go right, and it really didn't.

As far as the ousting, I think Fallene's departure was inevitable. She had a crisis of confidence that was too great to surmount. ALL of the designers struggle with confidence at one point or another, but Fallene made the error of forgetting the skills she does have, and her little wink of humor, and not brazening through the more difficult moments (like the runway show). Just as she did last week, she put herself out the door, this time for keeps. I'm disappointed, because I like Fallene, and I hope that she finds her niche.

The fashion:

For fun, I've listed the current online score from Rate the Runway.

Josh and Julie (2.45)--There was a definite Mondo vibe with those pants, and I'm surprised the judges panned them as much as they did. I will admit they screamed, "I am a stiltwalker." I thought the jacket was cute on the bare-armed side, but I did note the whole thing was too costumey. If they'd stuck to the shape (but not the decor) of the bare-armed side with the other side and did a different fabric (less shiny) for the top, there would have been a more referential than literal matador feel, which would have been more relatable.

Bert and Viktor (1.63)--See below for my defense of damask. I defend the top in general, with reservations. The bottom, though, was a circus tent. Actually, there's a pretty trim pair of pants under that swoopdy stuff. Can you imagine a sleeker top, in perhaps a different color, with those pants, and perhaps a set of saucy panniers? I can. But this isn't Project Makover.

Bryce and Fallene (1.58)--Okay. You all know I love a tutu. What Bryce produced was not a tutu. It was a lump of tulle fastened together. Like last week's lump, it had no shape or viability as a graceful garment. It wasn't even a modern re-envisioning of a tutu. The tanktop, rightfully pointed out, looked like ballet warm-up clothes. Now, despite what I just said above, if we'd had a longer sweep of tulle, not lumped but draped, less obvious pants (obvious meaning they look like pants any stiltwalker could pick up at the local Tall shop), with a coy sweep of that burgundyish fabric folded in with the tulle skirt, we might have had something, particularly with that hat. We would have had a party frock, not a...whatever we have.

Becky and Kimberly (3.49)--Their collar got panned, but I liked the collar better than the sleeve. I think it gave the right life to the outfit, whereas the sleeve took it in an overly costumey direction. One or the other, not both. The pants were interesting, and impressive. Seaming them as Kimberly did was a smart move. The look gave me a Steampunk vibe, which I appreciated. Slap a gear watch on the girl, give her a cane, and she's ready to go. I actually like it even better now I look at it in the still pictures.

Olivier and Anya (2.69)--While I like subtle, this week was not the time for it. The garment did not read well on the runway at all, as the fabric choices were too muted. The skirt had a print with color, but in that quantity and outside, it looked muddy. Didn't they say they wanted to do something a little punk? I didn't see anything punk about this. It actually reminded me of an early-season Star Trek: TNG costume. I just had deja vu...I said something similar about April's outfit for Heidi's line.

Cecilia and Danielle (2.51)--My first thought was, "They made actual clothes." I actually liked the flow of the pants. In fact, I'm still trying to figure them out (see above re: how on Earth?). They worked out, perhaps miraculously. The color of the top I liked, but the shape--no. The shape was a little too something, or a little not quite something enough. No hairstyle would have taken away the high, folded and bejewelled collar and the tiny back.

Laura and Anthony Ryan (3.76)--I think, when it came out, we all knew this was going to be the best look. I'm a sucker for red, and Heidi was too this week. The look had good flow, and I loved the shoulder treatment, which took attention away from the length of the legs/stilts. They succeeded in distracting us from the extremity, which I think was kind of the point of the challenge. Their model rocked it, of course, which helps, but even with its flaws of fit this was still pretty clearly the most visually arresting (in a good way) ensemble. (Pic from

One final thought: I have noticed for ages that the judges are anti-anything that looks like damask. I know that it often is used for home furnishings, but I like damask, and refuse to budge on that point. I actually liked the top fabric of Bert and Viktor's garment, and I wish the judges would let go of their preconceptions about this. They let other fabrics slide without comment (did not Olivier's top last week look like it might be a rug?), and the same should be granted to damask.

Monday, August 08, 2011

PR: The Littlest Pet Shop

...also known as "when Laura agrees with me again."
I like unconventional materials, and I really think no challenge has come close to that first breathless scamper through the grocery store in season one. Pet stores have a lot of promise, though, and it got me thinking what other unconventional places Project Runway could commandeer. A bookstore? A Renaissance Festival? A school room? What zany ideas do you have?
I watched this episode with my mom and failed to ask her opinion on the pieces, as I was feverishly writing notes. I regret that. Sorry, Mom.

Anthony Ryan--I love the collar. The dress shape/fit (mainly the bottom half) wasn't so great, but the neck of the garment is eye-catching in a good way. It looks feisty and not vulgar.
Anya--The leash skirt was cool. I really wasn't a fan of the top. The look seemed complete (see note below re: styling), but the top looked a little too much like a craft project.
Becky--The top of this excited me when it emerged from behind the scrim on the runway. The dress as a whole, though, was too parrotlike. What might have been cool (and of course there was no time for this) was that top with a long, slim gown skirt, of deeper green leaves. But the point is not to make over a garment, is it?
Bert--The look was basically a boudoir babydoll made of actual fabric. I hate when a designer disdains a challenge, especially one that is part of the essence of the show. It's a challenge. I am hoping for Bert to get a wake-up call (despite Heidi's warning, I feel pretty sure he learned nothing) down the road, because I do want him to do well.
Bryce--If you want to make a floofy blue skirt, make a floofy blue skirt. But for heaven's sake, make it happy. This outfit was so heavy, top and bottom, and thus shapeless. I really thought Bryce would go on this one.
Cecilia--There is an interesting contrast between Cecilia and Olivier that I want to point out here and in Olivier's entry. Cecilia's piece was not transformational enough. It was more of "look what I pulled off"--a trick. There is no subtlety of color, and while the fit was good, the movement was not. Thus, this look ended up being a bit ugly, while Olivier's had a more intuitive style.
Danielle--The color sense for Danielle is better this week. The rope top was kind of interesting, but the look as a whole read merely competent rather than eye-catching. Something about it made me think of Gretchen from last season.
Fallene--I cry foul on Fallene's behalf (and here is where Laura Bennett and I agree). Her dress was not bad, and I don't agree that the palette was off-putting. It's a fall piece, sure, but it's not Halloweenish. One could argue that I've spent too long in Falcon country, but I actually think the dress is cute--and a much more appealing color option than, say, spring's lime green and lemon yellow. It also made me think of Gretchen, though more for color than shape. I do think Fallene short-circuited herself by not defending her look, especially because it wasn't bad. She should not have been on the bottom (also see below note).
Josh C.--Oh, Josh C. You got me again. The outfit seemed safe at first look--not intricate or particularly endearing, but, I thought, safe. Then I saw the puppies. Unlike the hurling clown of last week, the puppies did not function as a wry touch of something extra. Instead it was something I kind of wish I hadn't spotted. Even so, and even though the standards thus far seem a bit higher than last season, I didn't think it was Josh C.'s week to go home, especially since designers before have been in the bottom twice in a row and then ended up pulling out something amazing.
Josh M.--Bert is in the 70s and Josh M. is in the 80s. I am not a fan of neon at the best of times, but I did think this look had Heidi written all over it. I also give a nod to the fact that the look was shiny, which would not have been easy with the materials available. Anthony Ryan had his beading look, and Josh M. had his sequins. Even so, I did not prefer this look.
Julie--A few PR bloggers have praised Julie's look, but I do not. I love the child's book The Paper Bag Princess, but now was not the time for it. The draping just didn't work. I remember a few people doing better work with weaving in the past, and I was sorry that Julie didn't pull it off.
Kimberly--I liked the right side of the bust on Kimberly's top, the smoothly coiled side. The other side looked like a tangled boat line. I might have liked to see more of the coiled rope or chain or whatever, because in that electric blue it was really eye-catching.
Laura--What the what? The top's weaving wasn't quite tight enough, and the skirt ended up ho-hum in its final incarnation. Laura talks a big game, but this was not a very fulfilling look. It looked hasty. Thus, while it had a distinct concept, its execution was under par.
Olivier--Okay, now let's talk about Olivier. His look, unlike Cecilia's, felt deliberate. They had a similar theory, but O's style was stronger. The fit was bulbous, I'll grant you, which is why I favored Anthony Ryan. But there is something here that suggests subtlety (eyebrows aside) and art.
Viktor--I liked the color shading here. The dress was simple, but attractive, and it was, in a word, tasteful. It was my second favorite, I think.

Three further notes:

  • While I do not necessarily trust public taste, it is sometimes illustrative to go through the Rate the Runway pictures on and see the average ratings. At this point, the top look is Anthony Ryan, followed by Viktor and Anya. The bottom look is Bryce, just edging Bert, and then Julie. Fallene is in sixth place (of fifteen) and Olivier is in tenth. Thus, while I don't know how representative this is of America in general, or fashion gurus in particular, it is rather intriguing.

  • Has anyone noticed that the question, "Where is she going?" keeps popping up this season? I kind of hate that question. I understand its purpose, but it ignores the fact that there are events of all types, while insisting that there is a "right" thing to wear to a particular event. I would hate it less if it were acceptable for designers to spin a concise but creative scenario for the client. Take Fallene's dress, for example: I have a friend who is the wife of a country singer. She would look adorable in that dress at one of his concerts in a large bar, with some sweet boots. "Fashion" does not mean "urban" and Project Runway has made that mistake before.

  • I've also noticed how much emphasis there has been on styling so far. It escalated with Irina and Gretchen and seems to have come to the forefront. I'm undecided on this--I know it can sway an outfit's reception, and add to the above idea of the shadowbox of a character being created. Yet I don't want this to be too emphatic on packaging a woman.