Project Runway Recap: S9 E6

This week’s challenge: avant-garde, inspired by young artists’ paintings. What is avant-garde, you ask? That’s an interesting question – one that the Project Runway contestants, judges, and producers can’t seem to figure out.


I’ll start with the good: Anthony Ryan uses color better than most of his competitors, and he’s COLORBLIND. That canary yellow is what won him the challenge. The brushstrokes are actually beautiful; the way they’re spaced, the shape, the semi-cascading effect they have – it’s lovely, and it evoked the painting subtly.

However, and this is the issue that kept Anthony Ryan out of MY top three: the construction is a hot disaster. On TV, you can see threads hanging and unfinished hems EVERYWHERE. Like, on every single brushstroke. Pair that with the skirt, which does nothing for the look and is hideously sewn in the back, and that cutout keyhole, which is also poorly made – and there’s just a glaring lack of execution skills here. And I’m not sure what about this is supposed to be avant-garde. Furthermore, I’m once again feeling a little too much McQueen inspiration from Anthony Ryan. Maybe I’m missing the forest for the trees, but there’s too many mistakes for me to overlook. Luckily, the judges don’t have my high standards.


I think this was an impressive entry for Anya. She played with proportions and texture in a way that at least mildly evokes avant-garde (relative to her competitors, that is). The shape of that skirt is really interesting – not necessarily unique, but far from what she’s shown us so far. In the back, the hem isn’t quite perfect, but the top of the skirt is draped beautifully. The colors of those feathers are absolutely fantastic, and I love how they play off of some of the less-obvious colors in the skirt. The construction of the top, particularly the neckline, has some serious problems, but it looks flawless in the back. And the styling, as usual for Anya, was chic, fashionable, and exotic. Even the color of the model’s hair pops with this look.


Avant-garde is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, but I don’t understand why ANYONE would hear “avant-garde” and think, DENIM DRESS! With toddler’s toys glued to it! IT’S GENIUS! Becky got lucky that her competitors showed way more obviously terrible things, because this was embarrassing. When Tim approached her in the workroom, it was obvious she had no idea what she was doing in this challenge. Here’s a tip, doll – adding an asymmetrical skirt does not make something avant-garde. And that shoulder piece is mortifying.

BERT KEETER (Bottom 3)

Well, I’ll give Bert this much: His look was avant-garde. In 1985, that is. I saw a few bloggers and tweeters praising this because, unlike many looks on the runway, it had a point of view. Usually, I agree that having a point of view, even a bad one, is better than bland. But I make an exception for something this awful. There’s just nothing beautiful here, nothing that makes you want to look at it, nothing that evokes beauty or art or fashion or anything except Teletubbies and the widest, dumpiest hips you can possibly imagine.


Another lucky-to-be-safe contestant, Bryce seems to be operating under the impression that straitjacket-length sleeves make an otherwise disastrous dress worth our attention. Unfortunately, this is so poorly executed that even the most fabulous, fashion-forward ideas would be hard-pressed to save it. Look at the sleeves, the bagginess around the wrists and elbows; the hem attaching the red fabric to the black; that vertical seam down the center of her back. Aside from the extra-long sleeves, it could easily be a really ugly red carpet gown. Which is exactly what Tim told them NOT to do.


Yeah, there was no saving this one. Josh C never really found his stride on this show, and we all knew that wouldn’t change during his little hiatus. This plain-old sucks. Trashbag-tastic, wrinkled, with terrible proportions and even worse styling. Also, didn’t he make a similar little backpack-vest thing last week? Did he really think that gimmick was strong enough to whip out in consecutive challenges?


In defense of Josh “Eyebrows” McKinley: I enjoyed this look, particularly when it first came down the runway. It’s a bit of what Cher Horowitz would call a Monet – much more beautiful from afar than in close-up – but I thought the juxtaposition between the fiery orange top and the muted brown skirt made for a really dramatic runway moment. I loved the way he hand-painted that skirt; the effect of tree bark came out much better than I anticipated. And I really enjoy the shape of the top. It’s fun and silly and interesting. And if you hate the color combination, I don’t really blame you, but I think it’s at least intriguing and original, and more importantly, it brings a much-needed sense of drama to an otherwise bloodless runway show.

BUT – come on, there’s always a “but” – there are some glaring issues. The styling took it to a mallratty place – the shoes and belt are too plebian for an avant-garde look, and the hair and makeup just don’t feel modern. People hated on the crinoline in her hair, but I enjoy those funny little accessories, even if they feel a bit derivative.


I had this pegged as my favorite the second it came down the runway – and I think it was the first look! I love the shape and silhouette, even though multi-layered asymmetrical skirts aren’t usually my favorite. But I think she draped the skirt beautifully, and chose perfect shades of red. I could do without the little strip of beige, which doesn’t really work. But the feathers are simply fantastic. She used them beautifully, cascading around the model’s torso, and I liked the combination of dominatrix and party girl aesthetics. It made for something, if not avant-garde, then at least forward-thinking and aesthetically pleasing. I think it was the only look of the runway show to achieve both those things.


First thing I thought? Belle’s ball gown in Beauty and the Beast. I mean, it’s too perfect that Laura, our very own princess, would design such a Disney-fied gown. But the black boning underneath looked trashy and reminded me of Kayne’s “couture” gown from Season 3:

Gold dress? Check. Visible black boning in the bodice? Check. Lots of sheer, flowing, draped fabrics in gold and neutrals? Check. Anyway, I don’t dislike Laura’s gown – in spite of its dubious influences, I thought that with the exception of the shoulder piece, it was stunning. But as far as I’m concerned, it was FAR from relevant to the challenge. Belle is my homegirl, but avant-garde she was not. So using her and Kayne, Queen of the Beauty Pageant Gown as her sources of inspiration, whether accidentally or on purpose, was a rookie mistake on Laura’s part.


Terrible. Olivier scraped by on his fake accent and history of fainting when things don’t go his way. (I kid, dear readers. I love Olivier, in spite of this garment.) The colors are awful, like someone threw up all over the colors Anthony Ryan used for HIS gown. And I guess the bodice is okay from the back, but the front is a mess, the skirt is absolutely useless, and that SLIT! It’s downright vulgar. And when are we firing L’Oreal and replacing them with people who have actually worked with human hair before? Because clearly the current hairstylists have literally no idea what the fuck they’re doing.


This was a tacky mess, and I lamented it being in the “safe” pile just because it could have inspired so many Michael Kors zingers: ice skater by day, flamenco dancer by night! No, she’s the love child of Naomi Campbell and a drag queen! She came straight from the office of tacky fringe and merkins, and got her gown caught in the shredder! See? The possibilities are endless.

Judges’ Top 3: Anthony Ryan (winner!), Josh Eyebrows, Laura
Diva’s Top 3: Kimberly (robbed!), Anya, Josh Eyebrows
Judges’ Bottom 3: Bert, Olivier, Josh C (out)
Diva’s Bottom 3: Bert, Olivier, Josh C

All photos are courtesy of Lifetime via New York Magazine.

© Democracy Diva, 2011.
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