Project Runway Recap: S9 E12

I can’t thank you enough for your patience, dear readers. Once in awhile, blogging takes a back seat to law school. But enough about me.

The Challenge: Using Governor’s Island as inspiration, and the sewing skills of previously-eliminated designers, create a three-look mini-collection that shows some range (i.e., don’t make three dresses).

Guest Judge: Zoe Saldana, looking fierce as usual in her red Michael Kors jumpsuit.

ANYA (Winner!)

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

As if we needed proof of Anya’s lack of sewing experience, this white hot mess spoke volumes about the subject. From the impossibility of getting the dress on the model in the right direction, to the shoddy way that this gown is put together, this was deserving of a lot more criticism than it got. At this point in the season, I should no longer be surprised that the beautiful and charming beauty queen need not defend her terrible execution skills before the judges who worship her. But in the challenge that is determinative (ish) of fashion week, I was truly offended that the judges had nothing to say about how stapled-together this dress looks. I understand that she was going for a Calvin Klein-meets-Celine sort of aesthetic, but unless you can execute your minimalism flawlessly, it’s going to look like a boring bag of crap.

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Anya making pants was the Chekhov’s gun of this episode for me. As soon as I heard her say “pants,” I knew that by the end of the episode, I’d be furious that her alleged separates actually showed no range in her collection whatsoever. And lo and behold, the Diva was right. I’m not sure these can even be considered pants – I mean, from the back, it’s a monk’s robe – and even if they could, the fact that Anya made an entire mini-collection that required her to tailor absolutely NOTHING infuriated me beyond belief. I think both Tim and the judges should have gotten on her case for not showing any range at all with this collection – even if you call your drapey, flowy fabrics pants, that doesn’t make them look any different than the drapey, flowy gowns and cocktail dresses you created. And to claim that these pants show your wide range of abilities is laughable, considering how little they resemble actual pants (i.e., how little construction they actually require). From the back, the top is something that a fashionable woman would probably wear, but I find nothing else of note in these silky potato sacks. Certainly nothing that would put Anya at the top of the pile, anyway.

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

There are two reasons why this garnering any praise at all was ridiculous: First, it is so obviously a Bert design, and not an Anya design. Second, it just isn’t an impressive dress.

I’ll give Anya this much: it was genius of her, with her lack of sewing experience, to pick the most experienced seamstress out of the bunch when it came to picking a designer to help construct the garments. But if you put this photo next to all of Anya’s work from the season, and then put it next to all of Bert’s work from the season, I think it’d be pretty clear whose aesthetic this really is. Anya was so proud of showing “range” because she didn’t use prints, but I don’t think you’re truly showing range when you’re resting on the laurels of another designer. And this is a mediocre entry at best, with the back looking a little uneven and sloppy, and the front making the model look strangely wide and broad-shouldered.

All I wanted for this challenge was for someone to require Anya to make a truly constructed jacket or pair of pants. I tend not to agree with the bullshit drama that the designers say backstage, but they were right to doubt whether she even knows how to sew sleeves. Because, let’s face it, we haven’t seen much proof that she can. To allow her to slide through a few challenges on styling and personality alone is one thing; to let her go an entire season without actually showing she can sew is quite another. I’m not saying Anya’s collection was the worst on the runway – what I am saying is that if the challenge required real sewing, there’s no way she’d be on her way to Fashion Week.

JOSH EYEBROWS (Top 3)

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Could that silver fabric look any cheaper or tackier? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen unitards at American Apparel made of that fabric, and that is not a compliment. The draping is fine, it’s just a lot more Lady Liberty than it needs to be. And I’m never a fan of a dress under a dress – if he had chosen a more expensive (less sheer) fabric, he wouldn’t have needed to make that little black sheath at all, and it would have been a much cleaner, more stylish-looking gown. And lets be honest, that giant hemline at the bottom is distracting and looks practically glued together.

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

This look made it all too obvious that Josh has no idea how to design for a woman’s body. If that skirt didn’t poof out awkwardly at her tummy, making even a model look poochy, it’d be something that young women would want to wear. But it’s too unflattering for a customer to want to go near it. The vest feels like an afterthought, and a poorly-constructed one at that. Like the skirt, it makes the model look miles wider than she is. And that shirt is like the cheapest, most low-brow McQueen rip-off I can imagine. Josh’s use of a gritty-meets-pretty, military-meets-girly aesthetic only shows how behind the times he is – that was all the rage a few seasons ago, but it’s pretty tired by now.

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

And this is just an ugly dress that doesn’t fit the model at all. I like the idea of what he did in the back, but it should have been rendered in a completely different fabric, and those bright white buttons were a rookie mistake. He tried to do a little twist on an ordinary cocktail dress, but it came out looking ordinary with a hint of fugly instead.

I know I rail a lot against Anya getting through the competition on good looks and charm, but that’s preferable to Josh, who made it through on obnoxiousness, bitchiness, and a total lack of self-awareness. Just needed to throw that out there. Feel free to get mad at me in the comments!

KIMBERLY (Bottom 2)

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

I can’t take all this tacky silver metallic fabric, which makes even the cutest, most stylish garments look cheap as hell. But I do love the concept of this dress, even if the execution (like that dart popping out of the model’s left butt cheek) needs some work. It’s stylish, it’s commercial without looking too lowest-common-denominator, and you can visualize the customer who would wear it.

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

I really liked this when it came down the runway, but it’s been six days since then, and I’ve grown to hate it. I couldn’t see how bad the construction on this coat truly was until I saw it in photos, and now I’m thinking that giant scarf was added only to hide the fact that the collar was probably a disaster. That shade of orange is a little too picking-up-trash-on-the-side-of-the-highway for me, especially when you’re wearing that much of it. Every seam is puckered, the sleeves look minutes away from falling off the coat entirely, and the styling is just bulky and overwhelming.

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

The aesthetic, from the colors to the textures to that giant cleavage cut-out, reminds me so much of Michael Knight from Season 3, in both a good and a bad way. This is a little slutty and a little tacky, and the back of that skirt is clearly crying out for construction assistance, but I actually think the overall effect is fun and modern. If she had turned down the volume just a bit on every element of the garment – if she had used a less heavy, less shiny fabric for the skirt, a less prisoner-looking orange for the top, a smaller cleavage cut-out – this might have been a really sharp and chic look.

LAURA (Out)

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

It feels sort of clunky and old-fashioned, and on TV this really looked like black construction paper cut-outs over muslin, but in truth, it looks kind of cool in photographs. The construction here is much better than what Anya, Josh and Kimberly had to show, and she showed a sort of unexpected innovation from the concept to the execution of this gown. I wasn’t all about it at first, but it’s growing on me as a solid entry, especially compared to her competitors’ work.

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

This was a lot more problematic, though not completely without redeeming qualities. I love the sleeve length on that jacket, and although the collar makes it all way too busy (and again, kind of old-fashioned), I think a fashionable woman could conceivably wear this with jeans. But that sad little tacked-on skirt is such an afterthought, and from the back, it looks like a dress instead of separates, which is just too strange for me. Between Anya’s pants looking like a skirt from the back, and Laura’s blazer and skirt looking like a dress from the back, I’m starting to wonder if anyone spins their dress form around before the runway show, or if they just design the front and figure, well, the judges don’t really look at the back, do they?

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

I originally thought Laura’s biggest problem was choosing circles as her inspiration, which kind of shows a lack of imagination, but this decidedly circle-free dress was by far the worst part of her mini-collection. It was one of the worst garments of the entire season, easily. The fact that Laura dropped the ball this much was disheartening – she really just choked, there’s no other way to explain this dress. It’s all the stupid, cliched soundbites Michael Kors used, and so much more. Are those shoes ankle booties in the front and mid-calf boots in the back? If so, that’s a nightmare. And any kind of boot or bootie was a mistake with this babydoll dress, bringing it to a very My So-Called Life place, which is usually a compliment, but not in this particular context. It’s sewn terribly, it’s designed terribly, and it’s styled terribly. There was no saving Laura after this walked down the runway.

VIKTOR (Top 3)

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

His construction skills are just miles ahead than those of his competitors. It’s not exactly pushing the envelope, but it’s so clean and chic and well-made. And though “wearable” can sometimes be a dirty word, this outfit’s wearability is actually what makes it great. I like the draping of the skirt, the pop of color in the belt, the chicness of that plaid shirt, and the overall styling of the look. Clean and sharp, modern and functional. When you’ve got all that, is “fashion-forward” really necessary?

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Once again, Viktor showed just how excellent his sewing skills really are. While other designers gave up on pants and sleeves mid-way through the challenge, or made pants that resemble a pillowcase more than anything wearable, Viktor made a leather jacket with sleeves AND a fabulous skinny pant. I think such an interesting, complex jacket should have been pared with a simpler top, to make things look less cluttered and a little cleaner, but the shirt also kept the looks cohesive. The jacket is truly awesome, because he managed to make leather flow in a drapey way, but kept the sleeves hard and structured, combining softness and hardness in an interesting and beautiful way.

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

Photo: Tom & Lorenzo

This is what we like to call “phoning it in.” At this level of the competition, a weird-shaped LBD is an insufficient entry. But considering how much time he must have spent on the jacket and pants in the previous look, this was probably just a matter of time-management rather than design or construction problems. And I’ve seen my fair share of dresses that emphasize or enlargen a woman’s hips or thighs – but there’s a right way and a wrong way to emphasize those body parts that only size zero models want emphasized. Viktor’s unevenly protruding skirt is a prime example of what not to do. He should have started that poof-out a little higher, or made the transition between the poof-out and the flat part of the dress a little more gradual, because the model just looks like she’s wearing a hula hoop under her dress.

Judges’ Top 3: Anya (Winner!), Viktor, Josh Eyebrows
Diva’s Top 3: Viktor, Kimberly, Anya
Judges’ Bottom 2: Kimberly, Laura (Out)
Diva’s Bottom 2: Laura, Josh

Need more Runway? Catch up on all of this season’s recaps here!

Special thanks to my fairy blogfathers Tom & Lorenzo for the photos.


© Democracy Diva, 2011.
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